Hello, this is your daily dose of news from Onmanorama. I'm your host, Vishnu, and these are the major news stories of the day:
1. Rains abate, red alert withdrawn in Kerala
2. Actor assault case: Trial shifted to district court, no change in judge
3. Karuvannur loan scam: Kerala HC stays payments, seeks action plan
4. Kerala HC orders proper audit of KSRTC assets
5. India logs 17,135 COVID-19 cases, 47 deaths
Let's get into the details:
1. The India Meteorological Department on Wednesday withdrew the red alert issued in Kerala as the intensity of heavy rains came down in various parts of the state.
Eleven districts in the state were placed under orange alert on Wednesday, including Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Kannur.
The remaining districts – Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kasaragod – were issued a yellow alert.
Earlier in the day, red alert was issued in the districts of Kottayam, Idukki and Ernakulam and orange alert in the remaining districts barring Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kasargod, according to an IMD district rainfall forecast.
A red alert indicates heavy to extremely heavy rains of over 20 cm in 24 hours, while orange alert means very heavy rains from 6 cm to 20 cm. A yellow alert means heavy rainfall between 6 and 11 cm.
Meanwhile, the state government, in a release, said that 166 relief camps have been set up in various districts and 4,639 people have been relocated there from disaster-hit or disaster-prone areas.
Revenue Minister K Rajan said that people should strictly avoid going to areas which are inundated or flooded as part of a growing trend of "flood tourism" and warned that police would be used to remove such persons.
The weather office informed of an atmospheric depression that has formed over Kerala. The influence of a cyclonic circulation over the Bay of Bengal near southern Andhra Pradesh and northern Tamil Nadu could see Kerala receiving isolated heavy rainfall between August 3 and 7. So far, the state has lost 13 persons to rain fury, besides widespread damage to properties.
2. The trial in the 2017 actor assault case will be shifted to the Principal District and Sessions Court from the special CBI Court.
However, the same judge will continue to hear the case. Principal Sessions Court Judge Honey M Varghese, in charge of the CBI court, has been hearing the case.
The High Court shifted the case after Judge Varghese was recalled from the CBI court following the appointment of Additional District Judge, Thiruvananthapuram, K K Balakrishnan to the special court.
In a separate but related development, the Crime Branch approached the High Court against the trial court's decision rejecting its petition seeking the cancellation of the bail granted to the eighth accused, actor Dileep. In its petition, the Crime Branch said it has evidence to show that Dileep had violated the bail conditions. The High Court, while granting him bail earlier, had prohibited him from influencing the witnesses and destroying evidence.
3. The High Court of Kerala has ordered the Karuvannur Cooperative Society Bank to stop all payments to depositors until the government comes up with a roadmap, prioritising the repayment of deposits.
While issuing the order, Justice T R Ravi exempted payments for emergency purposes from the temporary ban but said it should be reported to the High Court. The Karuvannur Cooperative Bank has been at the centre of a multi-crore loan scam.
Observing that the deposits were being returned without any criteria, the court directed the government to seek ways to avail loans to tide over the crisis. It also sought the audit report of the bank and observed that a scheme should be drawn up to return the deposits.
The High Court issued the order while considering a petition by a group of depositors, who sought a directive to the bank to return their deposits. The petition would be considered along with other pleas, and it would be taken up for further hearing on August 10.
Special government pleader P P Thajudeen submitted that the government has been trying to avail loans from other financial institutions by mortgaging the bank's property. He also sought two weeks to submit the details of the government's efforts to solve the crisis.
4. The Kerala government should conduct a proper audit of the assets of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation and construction works taken up by Kerala Transport Development Financial Corporation on KSRTC's land, the High Court of Kerala has ordered.
The court also granted the government a month's time to decide on means to clear the KSRTC's debts and on auditing. Reminding the KSRTC management, employees and government of the corporation's bleak future, the court asked them to act accordingly.
Referring to KSRTC's submission that the salaries could be distributed by August 10 if the government helps it, the court wondered how long could the corporation be spoon-fed.
The high court was hearing writ petitions filed against the delay in the payment of salaries to KSRTC staff.
The court noted that the KSRTC has to repay more than Rs 30 crore each month to a consortium of banks. The Rs 30-50 crore from the government has been utilised to repay the loan, the court observed.
KSRTC should tap revenue sources other than ticket sales to stay afloat. Despite having assets such as landed property, buildings, offices and shopping centres, the corporation has not been profitably utilising them.
The court further observed that unscientific construction works contributed to the majority of the KSRTC's financial burden. The petitioners have pointed out that the buildings constructed by Kerala Transport Development Financial Corporation do not have takers since they were of sub-standard quality.
The petitioners alleged that the government owed KSRTC a huge amount after free tickets were included in many of the government projects. The court asked the KSRTC to explain the dues.
The court directed the corporation to distribute the July salaries of ordinary employees by August 10. The court took on record the KSRTC's submission that the salaries for the month of June would be distributed by August 10.
The government, meanwhile, informed the court that it has no plans to wind up KSRTC or to make it a department under it. Additional Secretary (Transport) K S Vijashree submitted that efforts were on to increase the productivity of the corporation, and the chief minister had convened meetings to discuss the issues.
5. With 17,135 new coronavirus infections reported in a day, India's infection tally rose to 4,40,67,144, while the active cases have declined to 1,37,057, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Wednesday.
The COVID-19 death toll has climbed to 5,26,477 with 47 new fatalities. A decrease of 2,735 cases has been recorded in the active COVID-19 caseload in a span of 24 hours.
While the daily positivity rate was recorded at 3.69 per cent, the weekly positivity rate stood at 4.67 per cent, according to the health ministry.
The 47 new fatalities include five from Maharashtra and Rajasthan, four from West Bengal, three each from Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Uttarakhand, two each from Himachal Pradesh, Manipur and Punjab, one each from Chandigarh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Pondicherry and Uttar Pradesh. Additionally, 12 deaths have been reconciled by Kerala.
That brings us to the end of this episode. Be sure to come back tomorrow. As always, thanks for listening to Daily News Dose.