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Bar Scam: Excise Minister takes back resignation

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Thiruvananthapuram: K Babu, Kerala’s Excise Minister, who had resigned, took back his resignation on Sunday. A court had ordered a case against him for allegedly accepting a Rs 50 lakh bribe to permit bars to continue to function.

The opposition CPI-M termed it a “perfectly scripted act” by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Babu got a reprieve on Thursday when the Kerala High Courtput on hold the lower court directive.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) leadership also asked former Finance Minister K M Mani, who quit in November last year over an allegation that he took a bribe from bar owners to reopen closed bars, to return as he too got a favourable order from the High Court.

However, Mani said he was “in no hurry to return”.

Talking to reporters in Kochi, Babu said “I became an MLA on a Congress ticket and then became a Minister in the UDF government headed by Oommen Chandyin 2011.

“As soon as my name surfaced in the Thrissur vigilance court about a baseless bribery allegation, without even waiting to read the judgment, I put in my papers and vacated my official residence and returned my official car.

“I also attended a farewell given to me by my staff, but today (Saturday), my party and the UDF said the situation that prevailed during my resignation no longer exists, hence I am taking back my resignation, because that’s what my party and the UDF wants,” Babu said.

Babu resigned on January 23, soon after the vigilance court ordered a case to be registered against him after the vigilance department asked for a month’s time to submit a verification report.

Whistleblower bar owner Biju Ramesh had earlier filed a complaint that he gave Babu Rs 50 lakh as bribe to permit bars to continue to function.

Earlier this week, on Babu’s petition, the High Court not only suspended the Thrissur vigilance court order for two months but also pointed out that the lower court appeared to be in a hurry, as the case was also being heard in the High Court.

Babu was forced to reconsider his decision at a leadership meeting of the UDF held at Chandy’s official residence on Saturday.

The UDF leadership meeting also asked Mani to return, but he refused.

“I am thankful to the UDF for reposing absolute faith in me, but at the moment, I am in no hurry to return. I will discuss this new request in my party,” Mani told reporters in Kottayam.

CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said what people were seeing was a “perfectly scripted act” by Chandy.

“He knows that he (Chandy) is tainted, so he wants Babu to return. The High Court has not exonerated either of them, it has only stayed the lower court’s order for two months,” said Balakrishnan.

The bar scam first surfaced in October 2014 when Ramesh alleged that the then Finance Minister Mani was given Rs 1 crore as bribe by Kerala’s bar owners to facilitate reopening of the 418 closed bars in the state. Later, he alleged Babu too had taken a bribe.(IANS)

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UAE Expats Worry Over Resurfacing of Nipah Virus in Kerala

A total of 311 people from Thrissur, Paravur in Ernakulam district, and Thodupuzha in Idukki were also under observation

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UAE, Expats, Nipah Virus, Kerala
A fruit and vegetable vendor in the UAE, on the other hand, decided to stop importing produce from Kerala until the scare subsides. VOA

UAE-based Malayalis have expressed concern for their loved ones back home, as a Kerala youth tested positive for the Nipah virus, leading to a number of traders and travellers taking precautionary measures, the media reported.

Besides a Kerala youth being treated for testing positive for the Nipah virus (NiV), state Health Minister K.K. Shailaja on Wednesday revealed that three nurses who treated him, a friend and another person have been kept in isolation.

A total of 311 people from Thrissur, Paravur in Ernakulam district, and Thodupuzha in Idukki were also under observation.

Sharjah resident Sridevi Rajendran, who is from the same town as the infected victim, told the Khaleej Times: “He was in the same school as my son. We are very worried about the situation back home, and my son is there as well. Since there is no clarity as to where the virus has originated, people are generally tensed.”

UAE, Expats, Nipah Virus, Kerala
UAE-based Malayalis have expressed concern for their loved ones back home. Wikimedia Commons

The Nipah virus is transmitted from animals to humans; through contaminated food; or directly between people. It infects a wide range of animals and causes severe disease and death in people, making it a public health concern, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In 2018, a Nipah scare resulted in a temporary ban on Kerala fruits and vegetables in the United Arab Emirates, and a travel advisory to the South Indian state was also issued.

A fruit and vegetable vendor in the UAE, on the other hand, decided to stop importing produce from Kerala until the scare subsides. However, no official ban has been implemented yet.

“We have temporarily stopped the import of fruits and vegetables from Kerala, which make up 25 per cent of our total produce,” said PC Kabeer, founder and CEO of FarmChimp, a company that sells source-traceable produce.

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Kerala-bound travellers told the Khaleej Times that their trips would go as planned, but they would be taking “extra precaution”.

Marketing professional Anand Rajiv, who is flying to Kochi, said: “As long as I am not having local water or food from outside, I should be okay. Of course, I am worried about my health as it is not a joke.” (IANS)