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Relief operations in full swing as water levels of Krishna, Panchganga rivers remain high; National Highway 4 linking Mumbai with Bengaluru via Kolhapur shut for traffic

Two extremes: A villager gets back to work as floodwater recedes at Haripur village in Sangli district on Sunday; and people queue up near a water tanker in Kolhapur. Jignesh Mistry Deepak Kumbhar

With floodwaters receding in Sangli and Kolhapur districts, five more bodies were discovered on Saturday in connection with the boat tragedy in Sangli’s Brahmanal village, taking the toll to 17. With this, the total number of deaths in floods or rain-related accidents across western Maharashtra has touched 40.

Pune Divisional Commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar said, “Nineteen people have died in Sangli, of which 17 were killed in the boat accident while one person is still missing. Six have died in Kolhapur with one is missing in the district as well. There have been seven rain-related deaths in Satara and Pune districts, and one casualty in Solapur.”

Earlier this week, at least 30 people on a boat belonging to grampanchayat of Brahmanal, which was cut off by floodwaters, were trying to move to safe quarters, when it capsized. While nine bodies were recovered immediately, three more were found on Friday, and five more on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mhaisekar said 4.41 lakh people across the five flood-hit districts of Sangli, Kolhapur, Satara, Pune and Solapur have been shifted to shelters till now.

Of them, 2.45 lakh from more than 50,000 families have been evacuated in Kolhapur, while 1.58 lakh from over 29,000 families have been rescued from rising water levels in Sangli.

“Of the 4.03 lakh evacuated in these two districts, 1.19 lakh belonged to the 42 worst-affected villages in Kolhapur and Sangli, which were cut off by the floods. Presently, these people are housed in 305 temporary shelters in these two districts,” he said.

Relief operations are still on at full strength in Sangli and Kolhapur as water levels of the Krishna and Panchganga rivers remain high. The Panchganga is flowing at 51 feet in Kolhapur while the Krishna is at 53 feet. The Krishna is still way above its danger mark of 45 feet and nearly the level at which it flowed at the time of the 2005 deluge in Sangli.

With evacuation and rescue operations nearly complete, NDRF teams and other relief agencies are now wading through the waters to supply those who have chosen to remain in their residences.

There are a total of 104 rescue and relief teams, including the National and State Disaster Response Force (NDRF and SDRF), Army, Navy and Coast Guard units, which are distributing food packets, drinking water, medical supplies, candles and other essential items. The 770-odd NDRF jawans and Army and Navy personnel are using 180-odd boats.

Road communications within the districts and to other parts of the State remain paralysed owing to high floodwaters, with the National Highway (NH) 4 that links Mumbai with Bengaluru via Kolhapur is shut.

“Until water fully recedes on the highway, the NH4 cannot be reopened for regular traffic. Then too, priority will be given to heavy vehicles like oil tankers carrying essential supplies to flood-hit areas,” Abhinav Deshmukh, Superintendent of Police, Kolhapur, said.

The immediate challenge before the administration is the health of the flood-hit people and the need to prevent the outbreak of any epidemic.

Mr. Mhiasekar said at present, there are 302 medical teams working round the clock in Sangli, Kolhapur and Satara districts. “All hospitals are providing free medical aid in Sangli and Kolhapur districts, while Gokul dairy is offering free milk throughout the day.”

Help has poured in from individuals, social organisations and charitable trusts. The Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan Trust on Saturday declared it would give ₹10 crore to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, while the Bharatiya Jan Sanvidhan Manch in Kolhapur is providing meals twice a day to the flood-hit in both the districts.

Increased outflow triggers panic among residents of low-lying areas

LED lamps light up the water gushing from the KRS in Mandya, Karnataka, on Sunday. M.A. SRIRAM

The Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) near Srirangapatna, a major dam in the Cauvery basin in Karnataka, is expected to attain full reservoir level (FRL) by Monday as it has been receiving a record 2,07,852 cubic feet per second (cusecs) inflow from upstream dams and catchment areas.

The augmented discharge of 1,53,769 cusecs from the reservoir has caused panic among residents of low-lying areas along its course with the water entering agricultural fields.

According to the Cauvery Neeravari Nigam Ltd. (CNNL), the last time the KRS witnessed such copious inflow of two lakh cusecs was in 1991-92.

The level of the KRS, the main water source for Bengaluru and many major towns in Tamil Nadu, stood at 121 ft. at 6 p.m. on Sunday, as against the FRL of 124.8 ft.

Storage in the reservoir has significantly increased to the near FRL in just 11 days. The live storage (LS) in the reservoir was 4.384 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft.) at 6 p.m. on August 1. But, it recorded 35.943 tmcft. on Sunday evening, CNNL sources said.

Fields submerged

The heavy discharge from the KRS and a huge flow in the upstream Hemavati river (a tributary of the Cauvery) have inundated hundreds of acres of farm land in K.R. Pet, Pandavapura, and Srirangapatna taluks.

The swollen Cauvery has affected villages of Doddapalya, Chikkapalaya, Hangarahalli, Mahadevapura, Doddegowdana Koppalu, Srinivasa Agrahara, Karekura, among others. Agricultural lands were also inundated in Srirangapatna.

Laser-based directed energy weapons can disable missiles without debris

G. Satheesh Reddy

Directed energy weapons or DEWs are among the next bunch of military technologies that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is working on, Organisation Chairman G. Satheesh Reddy said on Sunday.

Laser-based or microwave-based high-power DEWs can quietly disable enemy drones or missiles temporarily or permanently without leaving physical debris. In contrast, the ASAT or anti-satellite missile that the DRDO tested on March 27, killed an orbiting Indian target satellite and left hundreds of small pieces as debris for a few months.

Dr. Reddy, who is Secretary, Department of Defence R&D, said DEWs would play a major role in future warfare. “DEWs are extremely important today. The world is moving towards them. In the country too, we are doing a lot of experiments. We have been working in this area for the past three to four years to develop 10-kW and 20-kW [weapons],” he said.

Hyderabad hub

The DRDO's Hyderabad-based lab, Centre for High Energy Systems and Sciences (CHESS) is the node for all related activities.

Dr. Reddy said technology planning for the military should start at least 10-20 years in advance. “If we also have to be a technology leader we need to lay our futuristic technologies roadmap clearly, put a good amount of resources into it and also work towards those technologies. Otherwise we will remain just technology followers,” he said, delivering the 12th annual Air Chief Marshal L.M. Katre memorial lecture.

The talk was organised by the Air Force Association Karnataka in honour of the former air chief who also was the chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

Apart from its current fighter plane projects — the LCA and advanced medium combat aircraft or AMCA — India would look at pilotless hardware such combat drones or UCAVs (unmanned combat air vehicles), as well as swarm drones that fly in tandem for surveillance, attack or intelligence gathering. Any UCAV programme could also use the Kaveri as its engine.

CWC puts officials on high alert; people prevented from venturing into Cauvery

Agricultural fields in the water-spread areas of the Mettur dam are getting submerged in water as the inflow to the Stanley Reservoir increased.E. Lakshmi Narayanan

With the inflow into the Mettur dam expected to rise to 2.4 lakh cusecs on Monday evening due to increased discharge of water from the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) and Kabini dams, the Central Water Commission (CWC) on Sunday advised the District Collectors and respective departments in the region to take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of people in the downstream areas.

The inflow at the Mettur dam on Sunday crossed 1 lakh cusecs. In a press release, the CWC said the combined discharge of approximately 1.5 lakh cusecs of water from the KRS and Kabini dams would reach Mettur by Sunday night and expected to touch 2.4 lakh cusecs on Monday evening.

According to officials here, 1.7 lakhs cusecs of water from KRS dam and 50,000 cusecs from the Kabini dam was released on Sunday evening, taking the combined release to 2.2 lakh cusecs of water.

At 8 p.m. the inflow at Hogenakkal was 1.80 lakh cusecs and 1,25,000 cusecs at the Mettur dam. The level in the Mettur dam was 73.6 ft, against its full capacity of 120 ft. The stored capacity of water in the dam was 35,873 mcft.

Warnings issued

The outflow from the dam was maintained at 1000 cusecs. Since Sunday morning, the level at the dam increased by about 6ft. Revenue officials said that they are monitoring the situation and taking necessary precautionary measures.

Officials said that police personnel have been deployed at coracle points in Mettur and people were prevented from fishing or venturing into the waters.

Police issued warnings to villages in the area regarding the rising water level. Three teams of 38 personnel who have undergone disaster management training are in a ready state in case of an emergency.

In Hogenakkal, tourists have been banned from entering the falls area. Officials said residents are being evacuated from low-lying areas and warnings being issued asking the public to move to safer places.

In Dharmapuri, Minister for Higher Education K.P. Anabazhagan and District Collector S. Malarvizhi reviewed the precautionary measures taken at Hogenekkal and nearby areas.

21 years too late, says the court

The court said that there was no case for comparison with other villages.

The Supreme Court has rejected a plea by farmers for ‘fair compensation’ for land acquired from them. It said the villagers came to court 21 years too late.

A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M.R. Shah applied the Doctrine of Acquiescence on the farmers. Thus, once the agriculturists acquiesce to certain terms, even if the terms are found wrong, they lose their right to come back and complain.

Land was taken from the villagers of Gulsitapur and Tilpta, near the Noida-Dadri Highway in Uttar Pradesh, in the late 1980s under the Land Acquisition Act. They were given ₹20-22 per square yard at the time.

However, the farmers later came to know that their neighbours in Kasna, hardly four km away, were given ₹65 per square yard. The rate of compensation for the villagers of Kasna was finalised in 2016 by the Supreme Court.

Spurred by Kasna’s victory, the farmers of Gulsitapur and Tilpta also decided to take the Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC) and the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority to court.

The farmers argued that “delay should not defeat their valuable rights to get fair compensation.” They were ready to waive the interest and other statutory benefits under the Land Acquisition Act to balance out the factor of delay.

But the Allahabad High Court saw differently and the Supreme Court followed suit to dismiss the case.

During the hearings before the Supreme court, the land authorities argued that, besides the ‘inordinate delay’ in coming to court, the villagers of Gulsitapur and Tilpta cannot use a subsequent deal with Kasna as the touchstone for their petition for enhanced compensation. The authorities said the compensation payable to Kasna villagers was settled four years after the Gulsitapur-Tilpta acquisition deal.

But the farmers complained that their acquired lands in Gulsitapur and Tilpta were better located and abutted the national highway.

The Supreme Court agreed with the authorities, saying the villagers of Gulsitapur and Tilpta cannot seek higher compensation on the basis of what was later done in the ‘entirely different village’ of Kasna.

The court agreed that a change in compensation now would have a cascading effect. The acquired land has been developed and allotted decades ago. The rate of allotment was based on the cost of acquisition. If the cost of acquisition was increased, it would have to be recovered from the allottees after decades of allotment, the court reasoned.

Vice-President suggests setting up of special judicial tribunals and a Supreme Court Bench in Chennai

A chronicle: Union Home Minister Amit Shah releasing a book written by Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu in Chennai on Sunday. M. VEDHAN

Strongly advocating reforms in the judiciary and stressing the need for revisiting some aspects of the law dealing with defection among politicians, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday suggested setting up special judicial tribunals and a Supreme Court Bench in Chennai.

At the release of Listening, Learning & Leading that chronicles his two-year tenure in office, Mr. Naidu underlined the heavy pendency of cases in various courts and suggested ways to streamline and make justice delivery more effective.

He said election petitions, criminal cases and disqualification proceedings under the anti-defection law were not decided even until the entire term of the legislators, defeating the very purpose of these laws.

“The anti-defection law is not implemented in letter and spirit and because of the inaction of the Speaker or Chairman, the legislators continue in the new party and, in a few cases, even become Ministers in the government. This kind of travesty of justice should not be tolerated,” he said.

The country should have special judicial tribunals which will decide the cases within a reasonable time.

Expanding the Supreme Court Bench and having separate Benches in different regions and at least one in Chennai on a trial basis, enhancing the number of judges in the apex court, division of work into Constitutional Division and Courts of Appeal and raising the age of retirement of judges were also highlighted by Mr. Naidu.

Media’s role

He also called upon the media to be a “dispassionate watchdog, an honest messenger, a friendly adviser and a wholesome entertainer”.

Mr. Naidu spoke against legislators disrupting the Parliament proceedings. “As I have repeatedly emphasised in my public speeches, I would like legislators to “discuss, debate and decide” not ‘disrupt’,” he said.

Kashmir, Ladakh situation likely to dominate his talks with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has arrived in Beijing to prepare for the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, apart from familiarising his hosts about New Delhi’s decision to revoke special status for Jammu and Kashmir.

Ahead of his arrival, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had taken exception to India’s decision to create Ladakh as a separate Union Territory, saying the decision could alter the status quo along the China-India border.

‘Unilateral decision’

Referring to Ladakh, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Tuesday the Indian side had “continued to damage China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally modifying the form of domestic law”. She said this practice was “unacceptable” and would not have any effect.

On Article 370

On the revocation of Article 370, the Chinese position has been shifting. On Tuesday, Ms. Hua counselled the “parties concerned” to “exercise restraint and act with caution, especially to avoid actions that unilaterally change the status quo and exacerbate the tension”.

She stressed that China was “seriously concerned” about the situation in Kashmir, but, without making any reference to the United Nations, proposed that India and Pakistan should resolve relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation and safeguard regional peace and stability”.

However, the Chinese stance shifted after Thursday’s “urgent” visit of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Beijing.

Following talks, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi opened the door for UN intervention, apart from proposing that the “bilateral agreement” — a veiled reference to the 1972 Shimla accord — should be the template for resolving the Kashmir issue.

Mr. Wang stressed that the Kashmir issue “should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement”, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry readout.

After concluding his visit to China, Mr. Qureshi told a press conference in Islamabad that he shared Pakistan’s intent to take the latest situation in Kashmir to the United Nations Security Council.

“I want to tell the nation that they [Chinese leadership] have assured us of their complete support. Not only that, they have also issued instructions to their New York representative to remain in contact with our representative and to keep their consultations ongoing,” Mr. Qureshi quoted as saying in the Dawn newspaper.

He also said the Foreign Ministries of both countries had named a focal person at the director general-level responsible for coordinating “a joint strategy”.

It is unlikely that the Indian side will not raise the “internationalisation” of the Kashmir issue through the UN route during Mr. Jaishankar’s talks in Beijing.

On Monday, Mr. Jaishankar is expected to meet a Chinese leader, but neither the Chinese side nor the Indian Embassy in Beijing has given details of this engagement.

Later, the visiting Minister will participate with Mr. Wang in the second meeting of the India-China high level people-to-people exchanges mechanism.

Varanasi summit

While the focus of this mechanism is on people-to-people exchanges and culture, all topics of India-China ties, including detailing of the Varanasi summit between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi, will be covered, except for trade and commerce, highly placed sources told The Hindu.

The high-level mechanism is only the third ministerial level channel between India and China and the Special Representatives on the boundary question.

Two groups say Article 370 dilution disregards democracy

The dilution of Article 370 and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories have made two extremist groups in the northeastern region come together and give a call to boycott the Independence Day celebrations on August 15.

The two groups are the Coordination Committee, or CorCom, an umbrella organisation of six Manipur-based extremist outfits, and the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent, which formed the United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia with several non-Manipuri groups in the region four years ago.

“The outrageous scrapping of Article 370 of the Indian constitution and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir without the consent of the people of the State show India’s arrogance and blatant disregard for democratic principles,” the two groups said in a statement.

“Shutting down of the State machinery and the house arrest of prominent leaders portend the kind of... policies that would be applied to the people of the northeastern region as well. Freedom from India’s colonial yoke is the only way to save ourselves from being swallowed by Hindustan,” the statement said.

‘Enhanced Hinduisation’

The two groups said the political control of India by the BJP has “enhanced the Hinduisation process rapidly”.

The “Modi government is bent upon re-introducing” the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill to forcibly “make the northeastern region a part of the Hindutva empire,” they said.

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