Saturday, February 13, 2010

CAT order on commuted leave

The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Ernakulam, has held that commuted leave on the basis of medical certificate cannot be denied to a Central government employee who is about to retire. The sanctioning authority cannot refuse leave at its whims and fancies. The tribunal made the observation recently while allowing an application filed by Elsy John, retired supervisor at the Accountant General’s Office. The tribunal directed the Union government and the Accountant General to regularise the applicant’s leave for 43 days as commuted leave and disburse the withheld amount for the days with an annual interest of 9 per cent from June 1, 2008 till the day of payment within 15 days.

R. Kanakarajan - Scientist of the Year Award

R. Kanakarajan, associate director of the Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL), Kochi, has been awarded the ‘Scientist of the Year Award’ by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Defence Minister A.K. Antony will present the award at a function at DRDO Bhawan in New Delhi on February 23. K. Ajith Kumar, Scientist ‘C’ of NPOL, has been selected for the ‘Young Scientist Award’ of DRDO for 2009. The award will be handed over to him in New Delhi on February 22.

Foreign equity in insurance opposed

The premium collected by the public sector insurance companies last month is more than the premium income collected by the private insurance companies in the whole year. In spite of a situation like this, the Union government’s move to increase foreign investment in general insurance needs to be seen as an act of malice, said J. Gurumurthy, the standing committee secretary of All India Insurance Employees’ Association. Addressing the 35th annual conference of the General Insurance Employees’ Union (GIEA), Gurumurthy said that while the premium income of public sector companies rose last year, the private companies’ premium income has gone down. The State president of the union K. Ajayan presided over the function.

Work begins on water project for Vypeen

The drinking water augmentation project for the people in Vypeen Island yesterday started. This was the beginning of the much delayed Rs. 32-crore project that was planned at least three years ago for the islanders. With this project, Kerala Water Authority plans to augment water supply to Elamkunnappuzha, Njarackkal and Nayarambalam grama panchayats, where the shortage of water could not be solved even after a HUDCO project was completed. The Goshree Island Development Authority had sanctioned the funds to improve the water supply network to realise the full potential of the HUDCO project. The region has a severe supply-demand gap because of the poor network of pipes that are old and small in size. However, this project, expected to be completed by May 2011, will double the water supply.

Thousands perform rituals on the banks of the Periyar

Maha Sivarathri celebrations were conducted at the Aluva manalpuram in an atmosphere of religious fervour yesterday. The sandbanks of the Periyar river attached to the Mahadeva Temple wore a festive look, as thousands of people from various parts of the district and beyond converged on the manalpuram. Bali tharpan was offered at over 250 bali tharas arranged by the Travancore Devaswom Baord (TDB) for the occasion. People had reached the manalpuram by Thursday evening. The board had made elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the bali tharpan. Chennas Parameswaran Namboodirpad, Chennas Narayanan Namboodirpad, and Melsanthi Mullappally Subramanian Namboodiri led the rituals. The board also distributed appam, aravana, koottupayasam and vella nivedyam to the devotees.

Good prospect for India in Asian trade

India is yet to achieve its full potential in world trade the weight of which has been showing a marked shift from the west to the east over the last few decades, according to K.P. Kannan, Professor of Development Economics, Centre for Development Studies (CDS). Delivering the keynote address at an international conference on ‘Asian Trade: The Way Forward,’ organised by the Asian Development Dialogue (ADD), a shared platform of policy makers, academia and decision makers in the public and private sectors, here on Saturday, Prof. Kannan said with appropriate policy initiatives, the country could become a major player alongside China and Japan in trade in merchandise goods and services in the Asian region.

Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, C.H. Nagaraju book those who extort money from the public

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, C.H. Nagaraju, yesterday ordered the city police to book those who extort money from the public under any pretext, chiefly the organising of festivities in connection with local religious events. Chairing an interaction between police officers and representatives of residents’ welfare associations in the city, Nagaraju sought an urgent report on a complaint that a police officer was harassing his neighbours in the Jagathy East Resident’s Association area.

Draft safety rules for boats

The State government has published the draft of Kerala Inland Vessels Rules, which, among other specifications to ensure safety of boats and other vessels, stipulates the carrying of life-saving appliances on board all vessels operating in the inland water bodies in the State. For the purpose of the rule relating to life-saving appliances to be carried on board each vessel, the draft notification classifies ‘vessels’ into four categories.Class I constitutes passenger vessels, ferry launches and boats. Such vessels should carry on board life rafts or buoyant apparatus that could support at least 50 per cent of the passengers and crew. They should also carry with them life jackets that could cater to the need of the remaining 50 per cent of the passengers and crew.

Develop the Kazhakuttam railway station and allow long-distance trains to stop

The Railway Development Action Council has urged the Ministry of Railways to develop the Kazhakuttam railway station and allow long-distance trains to stop there. A press note quoting action council general convenor John Vinetius alleged that a section of railway officials were trying to sabotage decisions taken at the Thiruvananthapuram Divisional Office.

For what Rs 2.63 crore was spent

The finance surveillance wing of the State government has found out misuse and irregularity of fund granted as advance for doing research and training in the field of education. There is no clear picture of the amount spent.

The fund of Rs 2.63 crore spent through State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT) during 1998 and 2008 period remains obscure and an unsatisfactory amount recorded was that of Rs 25000. The fund was intended to be spent for research and training in the field of education.

Sources say that misappropriation and corruption might have taken place.

CPI (ML) faction encroaches land in Wayanad

A CPI (ML) faction forcibly occupied parts of the Harrison Malayalam Plantations land here Saturday adding a new dimension to the issue of encroachment of private land in Wayanad district.

CPI (ML) faction leader K N Ramachandran accused CPI (M) led LDF Government of showing 'laxity' in addressing issues faced by landless tribals.

CPI (ML) had lost trust in ruling CPI-M and opposition Congress as these parties were not sincere in their efforts to address the issues of tribals, he told reporters.

The activists forcibly occupied plantation land at Mundakai Saturday morning and began erecting huts. As many as nine huts were erected on the encroached land.

Additional forces were deployed in the locality, police said.
A senior police official here was holding talks with CPI (ML) leaders to get activists to vacate the encroached land.

Last week, pro CPI-M outfits had encroached land held by the HMPL and Shreyams Kumar, MLA, and George Pothan, leaders of the M P Veerendra Kumar led JD (S) faction, which had joined UDF headed by Congress after the Lok Sabha elections following differences with CPIM-led LDF over seat allotment. Opposition party men termed the "sudden" moves as a ploy by CPI-M to humble its political rivals.

Kalabhavan Mani gets bail

The Chalakudy police granted bail to five persons including actor Kalabhavan Mani in a fight case. Bail was granted to Kalabhavan Mani, Dileep, Deepak, Binu and Shiju. A fight broke out when employees of the Dream World Water Theme Park refused free admission to the actor and his friends.

Youth dies after chased by police

A youth, who ran fearing police, died after falling into the well. He has been identified as Murali alias Kunjumon (40). The incident happened early Saturday morning when the police tried to chase a gang involved in gambling during a temple festival.

Land encroachment: All party meet at Wayanad today

An all party meet has been convened today at District Collector’s office at 11 am to sort out problems related to land encroachments in Wayanad. Representatives of all the political parties will attend the meeting.

PAP water: VS’ intervention sought

The Deesheeya Karshaka Samajam has urged Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and Minister for Water Resources N.K Premachandran to take steps to solve the water crisis in the Chitturpuzha irrigation ayacut area by taking up the matter with their Tamil Nadu counterparts.

In a statement here on Saturday, Samajam general secretary Muthalamthode Mani said the availability of water from the Parambikulam Aliyar Project (PAP) was not adequate for the standing paddy crops. More water should be released by Tamil Nadu from PAP, he said. He said the government should take steps to get the pending 8,210 mcft water from Tamil Nadu to Chitturpuzha from PAP. This water should be made available in instalments in the coming years.

RSS does not have control over BJP: Gadkari

Rejecting charges that all major decisions concerning the BJP are being taken by the RSS, party president Nitin Gadkari Saturday asserted that control over the BJP rests with him.

Speaking at a meeting of party leaders here, Mr. Gadkari said he was proud to be associated with the RSS but BJP’s control was with him, party sources quoted him as saying.

He said the party should make inroads into the base of weaker sections of society and try to remove misunderstandings about the BJP among minorities.

Mr. Gadkari asked party members to work on strengthening the BJP in Kerala, saying the political climate in the state was in favour of the party.

Party state president V. Muraleedharan, former Union minister and senior party leader O. Rajagopal, and former party state presidents and other leaders attended the meeting.

BJP blames PM for foodgrains price rise

T’PURAM: Continuing its tirade against the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre for the rise in the price of essential commodities, BJP Saturday alleged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has failed to lead the nation in the right direction.

At an anti-price rise rally organised by the state unit here as part of the party's nation-wide stir, BJP president Nitin Gadkari said Manmohan Singh was an economist but had failed to check inflation and price rise.

Alleging that wrong economic policy of the Congress was the root cause of inflation in the country, Gadkari alleged whenever the party ruled the country, "inflation and price rise were high".

It was a shame that the suicide rate among farmers and the poor in the country was on the rise due to the policies pursued by Congress, he alleged.

Leaders, stars attend wedding ceremony of Vijayan's son

Kerala CPI (M) secretary Pinarayi Vijayan went by the party rule book by conducting a simple ceremony for his son's marriage here Saturday which was attended by a galaxy of political leaders and film stars.

Those who attended the ceremony included Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, his cabinet colleagues, Opposition leader Oommen Chandy, KPCC President Ramesh Chennithala, former CPI-M leaders K R Gowri Amma, M V Raghavan, Union Ministers E Ahmed, Mullappally Ramachandran and SNDP leader Vellappally Nateshan.

Films stars included Mammootty, Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi, and Oscar winner Resul Pookutty.

The marriage was over in a few minutes with Vijayan's son Vivek Kiran exchanging garlands with the bride.

There was no feast and the dignitaries were served only 'Payasam' (a sweet delicacy).

Vijayan had abided by the CPI-M leadership's resolve barring party men from hosting lavish functions.

There were traffic snarls as hundreds of people thronged the area.

Scientific evaluation of yoga’s effects on health stressed

Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala University for Health and Allied Sciences K. Mohandas has said the university will set up a centre for interdisciplinary studies within two years.

He was addressing a meeting here on Saturday to inaugurate a yoga training course for journalists conducted by the Thrissur Press Club and the Thrissur District Yoga Association. The session focussed on stress management through yoga.

“The centre will carry out research on alternative systems of medicine and try to evolve disease management protocols. The objective of the university is not only to streamline the medical courses examinations but also to promote health and medicine-related research. The State’s achievements in the health sector are noteworthy, but its performance in the area of medical research leaves much to be desired,” he said.

He observed that yoga, an integral part of the Indian systems of healing, was said to be effective in prevention and management of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. “But scientific evaluation and validation of the effects of yoga are needed.”

He noted that yoga beneficially affects the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS (or visceral nervous system) acts as a control system functioning independent of consciousness and controls visceral functions. The ANS affects the heart rate, digestion and other functions.

Joy Mannur, president, Thrissur Press Club; K. Parameswaran, secretary; T. S. Balaram, Yoga Association president; K. K. Chandran, secretary; and Gopinath Edakkunni, vice-president and course director; spoke. A demonstration of Yoga asanas by Balakrishnan Pallath, Aparna Krishnakumar, Ajith K. Menon and K. C. Saneesh was conducted.

Heavy rush at Sabarimala temple

The Sabarimala Sannidhanam witnessed a heavy rush as hundreds of devotees climbed the holy hills to offer prayers at the Ayyappa temple on the first day of the Malayalam month of Kumbhom on Saturday.

The rituals began with Tantri Kandararu Maheswararu performing Ashtadravya Ganapati Homam in the morning.

T.K.A. Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, accompanied by his wife, Chandralekha, son and grandchild, reached the Sannidhanam in the evening.

Mr. Nair offered a feast, Pampa Sadya, to the devotees at Pampa at 1 p.m., before undertaking the trek. Devaswom Commissioner P.V. Nalinakshan Nair and other Devaswom officials received Mr. Nair at Pampa.

He is camping at the Sannidhanam and will return after darshan on Sunday morning. Reliance ADAG chairman Anil Ambani and his mother, Kokilaben, reached Pathanamthitta by 6 p.m. on a private helicopter and proceeded to Pampa by road.

Arrangements in place for Maramon convention

The Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association (MTEA) attached to the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar has made elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the 115th week-long annual religious retreat that begins at Maramon, near Kozhencherry, on Sunday afternoon.

A large thatched shed to accommodate as many as one lakh people has been erected on the riverbed of Pampa. According to MTEA general secretary C.K. Mathew, various missionary units of the Mar Thoma Church and agencies such as the Christian Agency for Rural Development-Krishi Vigyan Kendra and the Department of Sacred Music and Communications will open stalls at the venue from February 14 to 21.

A committee chaired by Thiruvalla Revenue Divisional Officer has been constituted to ensure better coordination among various government departments. The meeting will come to a close on February 21.

Mar Thoma Metropolitan Joseph Mar Thoma will inaugurate the convention at 2.30 p.m. on Sunday. Zacharias Mar Theophilus Suffragan Metropolitan will preside over the function and Philipose Mar Chrysostum, senior Metropolitan, will lead the prayer. Martin Alphons, evangelist from the U.S., will deliver a religious discourse.

The police have opened special outposts at Maramon and Kozhencherry town. The Health Department will deploy a mobile medical team during the convention period.

Rs.5-crore project for Kanjikode development

The State government has sanctioned a Rs.5-crore project for the modernisation and development of the Kanjikode Industrial Development Area in the district.

The government has released a sum of Rs.3.5 crore and the remaining Rs.1.5 crore will be shared by industries in the area.

An amount of Rs.4.67 crore will be spent for reconstruction of internal roads, providing side drains, for retaining walls and construction of two culverts.

A sum of Rs.23.3 lakh has been sanctioned for providing street-lights; Rs.2 lakh for road maps and signboards; Rs.4 lakh for two arches and Rs.3.2 lakh for a bus waiting shed.

Kanjikode Industries Forum president K. Pankajakshan, in a statement here on Saturday, said the modernisation and development of the industrial area would go a long way in overall growth of this industrial town.

The Kanjikode industrial belt was on the path of development. The Integrated Textile Park coming up on 350 acres of land, the BEML project coming up on 400 acres and the Rail Coach Factory planned on 500 acres of land would make it a major industrial area in the country, the statement said.

The construction of a 110-kV substation at Walayar and a 400-kV substation at Elappully would solve the power problem.

These steps would go a long way in attracting more industrial units to Kanjikode, it said.

Stage events add to verve of university fete

Competitions in the inter-zone arts festival of the University of Calicut became intense and livelier with the inauguration of stage events by A. Vijayaraghavan, MP, on Saturday evening. The off-stage events had begun on Friday.

Sharat Kumar, film actor, who was the chief guest, called upon the youth not to be apolitical in an age of challenges. He said the youth had the responsibility to react to social injustices. “You should react,” he told them.

He said people should be able to rise above parochial confinements of language, caste or religion. Similarly, art should cross all borders, whether cultural or geographic.

Mr. Sharat Kumar said the issue of Mullaperiyar dam should be resolved through discussions between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Competitions in Thiruvathirakkali, Bharatanatyam and other classical dances followed the inauguration of the stage events.

The following are the winners of some events held on Saturday in the order of first and second positions:

Elocution (Urdu): K. Abdul Rasheed (Farook College, Feroke); T. Abdul Naseer (WMO Arts and Science College, Muttil, Wayanad).

Elocution (Tamil): M. Princia (Government Victoria College, Palakkad); Avudaiappan (Government College, Chittur, Palakkad).

Elocution (Sanskrit): P.S. Priya (PTM Government College, Perinthalmanna); M. Sruthi (Jyothi Engineering College, Cheruthuruthi).

Elocution (Arabic): K. Abdul Rasheed (Farook College); E.K. Mansoor (SAFI Institute of Advanced Study, Vazhayur).

Elocution (Hindi): Roshni Nair (IES College of Engineering, Chittilappilly, Thrissur); Sasindra K. (Government Engineering College, Thrissur).

Elocution (English): Vaishakh Shashi Menon (NSS College of Engineering, Akathethara, Palakkad); Mayadevi Chalisseri (Vimala College, Thrissur).

NIT-C set to host Ragam

The National Institute of Technology, Calicut, (NIT-C), is getting ready for another edition of Ragam, an annual inter-college cultural festival that has been attracting widespread participation from across the country.

The festival is scheduled to be held from March 24 to 27. This year’s festival, christened Ragam ’10, plays on the theme of ‘hue’manity, linking the campaign against climate change with the colours of youthful hope and determination.

“The students of NIT-C have decided to take their fight against global warming to the streets,” an organiser of the event said on Saturday, while announcing that Ragam ’10 would be launched with two rallies. The first was an impressive show on Saturday and the second one would be held on Sunday.

The rally on Saturday was kicked off around 4 p.m. from the Mananchira Square, with the beach as the final destination.

Tile factories in Feroke smart from clay shortage

An acute shortage of clay has triggered anxiety in the tile industry, forcing the manufacturers and their employees in and around Feroke to appeal to the State government to take quick action to avert closure of the factories.

The tile factories in Thrissur district suspended production on February 1 owing to the shortage, with the government not giving clearance for clay-mining.

M.A. Abdurahiman, president of the Calicut Tile Manufacturers’ Association, said here on Saturday that unless the government acted quickly to ensure the availability of clay, the main raw material for making tiles, the factories in Kozhikode also would be forced to suspend production. A joint meeting of the manufacturers and the representatives of the workers’ unions here on Friday decided to launch a joint agitation if the government did not gave clearance for mining by February 17 when the next Cabinet meeting was due.

Mr. Abdurahiman said the delay in granting the clay-mining licences would further dampen the prospects of the tile industry, which had been struggling for survival because of the decline in demand for tiles in construction sector.

The industry has plunged into a crisis because of the sharp decline in demand for tiles with concrete roofs becoming the norm.

But it has been showing signs of revival in the past few years because of a renewed interest in tile as a roofing material.

Mediation organised by the District Legal Services Authority at Kottayam

Supreme Court Judge, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan has stressed the role of professional mediation in resolving disputes which otherwise would have been taken to courts. He was inaugurating the training programme for mediators being organised by the District Legal Service Authority.

Taking the disputes to the courts would not only be a drain on the valet for both the parties, but also would result in inordinate delay in getting justice, he pointed out. While not all disputes could take the mediation path, there are a number of disputes which can be resolved by mediation, he pointed out.

Mr. Radhakrishnan also stressed the role of the judges who according to him, should take the initiative in convincing the parties of moving the mediation centres, those cases which could be resolved through mediation.

The biggest advantage of mediation was the fact that it helps not only to resolve the existing dispute, but also ensures that it does not leave hatred among the parties once the dispute was resolved.

To play an effective role, the mediators should be well-trained and should be knowledgeable. However, to be successful mediator one should be humane in his approach, Mr. Radhakrishnan said. District judge and district legal services Authority chairman R. Jyotheendranath presided over the inaugural function. Chief Judicial Magistrate Amir Ali, Kottayam Bar Association president Shivamoni Kaimal spoke on the occasion. Eminent experts Laila Ollappally, Sheila Krishna, Shanta Chellappa led the classes.

Thirty persons selected from the various courts and Thaluk Legal Services Committees participate in the training programme which will conclude on Wednesday, February 17.

Tourist arrival picks up in Thekkady

Tourism in Thekkady has picked up with more domestic tourist arrivals, especially from North India and Tamil Nadu.

Though the accurate number of visitors during this season will be available only by the end of it, official sources say there is not much decline in the number of visitors from that last season.

There is a decline in the number of tourists from some countries affected by the global economic crisis and the tour packages arranged by companies for its employees have fallen in number considerably, show the data available with travel agencies.

“This is not confined to Thekkady alone, but other tourism destinations in the country as well,” says Sabu Joseph, manager of a travel agency at Kumily. He says the suspension of the boat services in the wake of the boat tragedy on September 30 last year has caused an economic slowdown in Kumily, but now it is slowly recovering.

Rony James, manager of an Internet cafe in Kumily, which mostly cater to the tourists, says there is an increase in the arrival of tourists, including those from abroad. “Because of rising mercury levels, more visitors from low-range areas of the State are expected,” he says.

“However, such visitors usually come on one-day trips; they arrive mostly during vacations and holidays,” he says. Thekkady witnessed high tourist turnout during the past three days.

CPI(ML) activists evicted from estate

A group of people were evicted from a piece of land at Mundakkai, near Mepadi, in Wayanad district hours after they encroached upon it on Saturday, the police said.

They are activists of a faction of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and its feeder organisation Bhoo Samrakshana Vedi, the police added.

The land is said to be under the possession of the Sentinel Rock Estate of Harrisons Malayalam Plantations Ltd.

B. Balakrishnan, Circle Inspector of Police, Kalpetta, told The Hindu that the encroachers erected five huts on the land. By noon, two of them were arrested and then the others moved out, he said.

Vijayakumar and C.K. Baputty, both of Mundakkai, are the arrested.

Sam P. Mathew, district secretary, CPI-ML, said the land was encroached upon as it was under the illegal possession of the company after its lease tenure had expired.

He said the workers of the estate were leading a wretched life in the labour lines of the estate, without basic amenities. They had a right to the land as their families had sweated there for many generations.

He said the land agitation in the district would be intensified.

The land agitation by the Adivasi Kshema Samithi and the Kerala State Karshaka Thozhilali Union of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) continued in 19 localities where their activists had encroached upon lands.

As many as 1,200 families have been occupying the lands.

PTI adds: K.N. Ramachandran, CPI(ML) faction leader, accused the State government of showing laxity in addressing issues faced by the landless tribal people.

He told presspersons that the CPI(ML) had lost trust in the ruling CPI(M) and the Opposition Congress as these parties were not sincere in their efforts to address the issue.

Thilakan alleges threat to his life

Film actor Thilakan lodged a complaint about threat to his life with the Alappuzha South police station on Friday.

According to the police, Thilakan lodged a complaint at 9.45 p.m. on Friday stating that he had received a call at 9 p.m. from a number suspected to be from the United Arab Emirates warning him against raising allegations against Mammootty. He claimed the caller said that ‘quotation’ (contractual agreement) had been given to an Ernakulam-based known offender, Thamannam Shaji, to kill him within a week.

The Alappuzha South police have registered a case. They said the information had been passed on to the Cyber Cell in Thiruvananthapuram. The caller is yet to be traced.

PTI adds: The Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) had served a show-cause notice on Thilakan for his remarks against superstars and warned him of disciplinary action if his reply was not satisfactory.

Thilakan said he was drafting a reply to the AMMA notice.

“It is ironic that they gave me the notice after deciding the punishment,” Thilakan said.

Student’s death: headmistress removed

The headmistress of the St. Marys High School, Vattayal, where a 12-year-old student, Fathima, was electrocuted on Wednesday, has been suspended pending enquiry by the Corporate Management of Schools of the Diocese of Alappuzha.

The school is one among those managed by the Alappuzha diocese of the Latin Catholic Church here.

According to a press release issued by Corporate Manager Fr. Xavier Kudiyamssery, the headmistress Letitia was being suspended till further enquiries following the allegations that the tragic incident had occurred because of dereliction of duty by school authorities.

A committee had also been set up under the leadership of local manager Fr. Stephen J. Punnackal to take adequate steps to ensure the safety of the students.

All local managers and principals of all the schools under the diocese had also been instructed to submit a report within 48 hours on the arrangement of security and safety measures for students, Fr. Kudiyamssery said.

In a separate release issued by Alappuzha Bishop Stephen Athipozhiyil, the diocese expressed its condolences to the student’s family.

Calling for the cooperation of the public to re-open the school and to continue classes in a peaceful atmosphere, the Bishop said proper enquiries would be conducted to find out whether the incident was the result of the carelessness of any particular person and that appropriate action would be taken.

Two get summons - seizure of diamond-studded ornaments made in January

The Customs officials have issued notices to a high official in the organising committee for the Commonwealth Games 2010 and the wife of a former Ranji Trophy player in connection with the seizure of diamond-studded ornaments made in January.

The Customs air intelligence unit at the Nedumbassery airport had arrested K.D. Mani of Chavakkad after he came by an Air Arabia flight, G9 427, from Sharjah on January 29 and attempted to take diamond-studded ornaments estimated at Rs.28 lakh through the green channel.

The ornaments, made of white gold and platinum and studded with diamonds, were found concealed in his pocket during a body search.

It is learnt that Mani had brought in eight sets of ornaments, of which three were for the Delhi-based official and three for the woman based in Chennai. Based on his statements, summonses have been issued to them.

Anti-Submarine School wins regatta

In a keenly contested boat pulling regatta that was held in the Ernakulam channel on Saturday, the team led by the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) School came up trumps, winning with 14 points the coveted trophy traditionally called ‘Cock’.

The air warriors of INS Garuda, losing by a whisker, were declared runners-up. Six teams with representation from all the naval units in Kochi vied with one another in as many categories in the prestigious annual regatta.

The race was held over a distance of 1.7 km from the new Venduruthy Bridge to the north end of the North Jetty in the Naval Base. Traditional naval boats—27-ft-long whalers—were used for the event.

Besides the ASW School, the winning team was also represented by the Diving School, INHS Sanjivani, survey ships and the Command Clearance Diving Team. The team led by INS Garuda comprised additional units and air squadrons. While the team led by the Signal School walked away with the ‘Godavari’ trophy for coming overall first in sports during the year, the team led by INS Dronacharya was adjudged the ‘best spirited team’.

Vice-Admiral K.N. Sushil, who was the chief guest at the prize distribution function, complimented the teams for their tremendous spirit. The Seamanship School of the Naval Base conducted the regatta.

City graduates upbeat as IT firms step up hiring

Engineering graduates in the city seem to be in an upbeat mood thanks to the resurgence of hiring by information technology companies.

Youngsters have now started receiving call letters from companies after a long gap in recruitments sparked off by the impact of the global financial meltdown.

According to industry estimates, a revival in hiring occurred following the double-digit growth projection for the Indian IT industry in the next financial year.

Suresh Ramachandran, who had no option but to work for a start-up company in Kochi, is elated, as he has received the call letter from a leading IT company at Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram to join by the end of this month.

For Simi Paul, the New Year seems to have started on a positive note. After working in a start-up at Infopark here for more than eight months, she is all ready to join a better company at Technopark next week. Even though companies have started recruiting students, the entry-level salary packages have gone down by at least Rs. 5,000 compared to the offers made before the recession.

Plans for a tree-lined road in city

The Kowdiar-Peroorkada pipeline road would be restored and converted into a green avenue, Law Minister M. Vijayakumar said on Saturday.

He said Rs.30 lakh had been sanctioned from the MLA’s Local Area Development Fund for the first phase of the project to be executed by the Kerala Water Authority, Social Forestry Department and the Corporation.

The road has been designed to provide a green cover for pedestrians and parks will be created on the stretch.

The road could be used as a venue for exhibitions and meetings.

The project is to be implemented by the Habitat Technology Group.

Pongala on February 28 2010

The 10-day Pongala festival at the famed Attukal Devi temple here will commence on February 20. The Pongala, marking the climax on the penultimate day of the festival, will take place on February 28, Sunday.

Various cultural programmes will be held on all days of the festival at the two venues inside the temple complex.

Actor Jayaram is scheduled to inaugurate the cultural programmes on the first day of the festival. The traditional Kappukettu will take place on February 21.

As many as 2.5 million women are estimated to have participated in the event.

The temple trust said the registration for Kuthiyottam would close on February 22.

Special trains for summer

Southern Railway will run special trains from April 1 to June 18 in the Bangalore-Ernakulam and Chennai Central-Kochuveli sectors to clear the rush during the summer months.

The 0631 Chennai Central-Kochuveli weekly superfast special will depart from Chennai Central on Wednesdays at 11.30 p.m. to reach Kochuveli at 3.40 p.m. the next day. In the return, the 0632 Kochuveli-Chennai Central weekly superfast special will depart from Kochuveli on Thursdays at 8.10 p.m. to reach Chennai Central at 12.20 noon the next day. It will operate via Kottayam. The days of operation from Chennai Central will be on April 7, 14, 21, 28, May 5, 12, 19, 26, June 2 and from Kochuveli on April 8, 15, 22, 29, May 6, 13, 20, 27 and June 3.

The 0651 Ernakulam Junction-Bangalore weekly special will depart from Ernakulam Junction at 6.50 p.m. on Mondays to reach Bangalore the next day at 8.30 a.m. The 0652 Bangalore-Ernakulam Junction weekly special, in the return, will depart from Bangalore at 5.15 p.m. on Tuesdays to reach Ernakulam Junction at 4.20 a.m. The days of operation will be April 5, 12, 19, 26, May 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 and June 7 and 14.

The 0653 Ernakulam Junction-Bangalore weekly special will depart from Ernakulam Junction at 9.15 p.m. on Thursdays to reach Bangalore at 10 a.m. the next day. The 0654 Bangalore-Ernakulam Junction weekly special will depart from Bangalore at 6.50 p.m. on Fridays to reach Ernakulam Junction at 6.30 a.m. the next day.

Police to crack down on extortion

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, C.H. Nagaraju, on Sunday ordered the city police to book those who extort money from the public under any pretext, chiefly the organising of festivities in connection with local religious events.

Chairing an interaction between police officers and representatives of residents’ welfare associations in the city, Mr. Nagaraju sought an urgent report on a complaint that a police officer was harassing his neighbours in the Jagathy East Resident’s Association area.

The complainant said the policeman had a tiff with his neighbour, a doctor, and he resorted to illegal means, including bullying and riotous behaviour, to settle it. He said the Poojappura police had not acted on the doctor’s complaint so far. Another resident said that the Police Control Room had not heeded his request to act on a complaint of unauthorised parking. He had called 100 at around 11.30 a.m. on February 11 and received an indifferent response from the control room officer who took the call. The DCP said he will enquire into the matter.

Some complained that the police were penalising two wheeler riders for not wearing helmets. They requested that senior citizens should be exempted from wearing helmets while riding two wheelers. The DCP said the police were bound to impose the helmet rule and none could be exempted. He said senior citizens could move the High Court for an exemption from the rule.

The police were inquiring into a complaint that a religious preacher’s house was set on fire in Peroorkada. The DCP said he could not reveal details. He ordered the removal of confiscated vehicles dumped on the public parking area near the Transport Bhavan at East Fort.

The residents complained about the piling up of construction material on roadsides. At Muttathara, two cinema star fans associations were competing with each other by erecting huge hoardings of their respective favourites. The hoardings impeded the vision of motorists and were proving to be a traffic hazard. The DCP ordered the immediate removal of the boards.

New tool to check noise

The city police will use the latest sound measurement devices in a move to prosecute those who cause noise pollution.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, C. H. Nagaraju, said the newly acquired hand-held decibel meters would help the police to accurately gauge the decibel level of sound emanating from loudspeakers and determine whether it was within the permissible limit sanctioned by law.

According to the law, amplified sound transmitted through loudspeakers should not be more than 55 decibels during day and 45 decibels during night. Loudspeakers should not be used between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. However, the laws are observed more in the breach.

Most sound system operators use the banned cone-shaped type of speakers by concealing the devices inside commonplace loudspeaker boxes.

Students’ public examinations coincide with the festival season in the district and they are among those most affected by noise pollution.

Deafening music is played round-the-clock in festival areas. Usually anti-social elements extort money from the public on the pretext of organising the festivities. For them, the best way to show that the money is well spent is to play ear-splitting music. Most people are reluctant to report noise pollution to the police fearing retribution from the bullies.

A residents’ association office-bearer said the police should be restrictive in issuing permits for using loudspeakers in public places. “The use of speakers for advertising should be prohibited. Those who play amplified music in public without the permission of the copyright holder should be booked. Those seeking sanction to use loudspeakers should be made to deposit at least Rs.2,000 for each speaker. If the norms are violated, the deposit could be forfeited from the offender,” he said.

Noise above 70 decibels slows the reflexes of motorists, particularly two-wheeler riders. Exploding of firecrackers on roadsides is a major reason for motor accidents.

K. Sadasivan, a public minded citizen, in his book on the ill-effects of sound pollution states that noise destroys efficiency, safety and health of citizens.

It aggravates the condition of those suffering from high blood pressure, coronary disease, ulcer, fatigue, insomnia, irritability and headache. Noise impedes concentration, learning and analysis. It also affects the health of pregnant women.

Central aid for Pangode fish market - Rs.22.43 crore package

The development of the wholesale fish market at Pangode here is expected to pick up momentum with the release of Rs.2.25 crore as assistance from the National Fisheries Development Board, City Corporation functionaries said here on Saturday. The assistance is part of a Rs.22.43 crore package announced by Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas on Friday for the development of the fisheries sector in the State.

The Corporation has already secured Cabinet clearance for the transfer of 39 cents of land from the Revenue Department to start work on the Rs.8-crore project that has remained bogged down in litigation for the last five years. Work on an effluent treatment plant has already commenced.

The protracted litigation over the market began when four residents’ associations and two temple trusts at Pangode filed a petition seeking relocation of the market, citing environmental and health hazards caused by the unsanitary conditions.

After the market was shifted from Palayam to Pangode in 1986, residents of the locality have been protesting against the pollution and stench from rotten fish waste.

They complain that in the absence of treatment facilities, the waste is dumped into the Killi river without treatment.

Last year, the High Court directed the local body to shift the market, after repeated efforts to initiate a modernisation project got stalled due to the land issue. The Corporation later appealed to the Supreme Court, maintaining that it was impossible to relocate the market.

Although the Corporation, along with the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, had formulated a Rs.2.25-crore market modernisation plan in 2001, the project did not take off for want of takers for the work.

Later, another plan also ran into trouble following a dispute with the State government in 2005. In 2008, the government approved a Rs.8-crore project to modernise the market and provide it with effluent treatment facilities.

The blueprint for the project includes the construction of auction lots for wholesalers, retail shops, ice-crusher units, delivery docks for fish trucks, effluent-treatment plant, refrigeration facility, sand shops, dormitories for workers, office rooms, conference hall and a food court. The complex would cover 81 cents.

According to the financial estimate prepared by the consultants, the Corporation would foot the operational and maintenance costs of the market with the revenue generated from entry and parking fees for vehicles, rental of auction lots, offices, shops, cold storage and ice-crusher units, usage fee for unloading bays and dormitories and charges for billboard display.

Chairman of the Corporation’s standing committee on Health G.R. Anil said the waste disposal system for the market would follow the guidelines issued by the Pollution Control Board. He said the complex was designed on the lines of the Jurong fish market in Singapore.

Thilakan lodges complaint

Actor Thilakan lodged a complaint with the police that a person told him over phone that ‘quotation’ had been given to kill him within a week.

Vivek Kiran, son of CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan got married

Prominent personalities in the political, cultural and literary fields attended the wedding of Vivek Kiran, son of Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, here on Saturday. Deepa was the bride.

Among those who attended the marriage ceremony and felicitated the newly married couple were Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala, Union Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran, Union Minister of State for Railway E. Ahamed, Ministers Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, P.K. Sreemathy, T.M. Thomas Isaac, Kadannappally Ramachandran, Elamaram Karim, Paloli Mohammad Kutty and Benoy Viswom.

The wedding ceremony took only a few minutes with the bride and bridegroom exchanging garlands. There was no customary wedding feast. The invitees were served payasam at the reception that followed.

Vetiver cultivation may soon reach Afghanistan from Malappuram

Vetiver cultivation may soon reach Afghanistan from Malappuram.

A five-member team from Afghanistan which visited Malappuram on Saturday was apparently impressed by the way the district administration had used vetiver to control soil erosion in different parts of the district.

The team visited parts of Nilambur and a vegetable garden maintained by District Collector M.C. Mohandas at his camp office here.

District administration officials said the team reached Malappuram as part of its country-wide visit to learn the methods of agricultural development adopted by India.

Afghan authorities are reportedly on a mission to replace opium cultivation with various other crops.

Mr. Mohandas showed the team the fruit trees and vegetable plants cultivated at his camp office. The garden maintained by the Collector was in news not only for its novelty but also for the various fruits and vegetables grown.

Mr. Mohandas grows different varieties of plantains and vegetables in his camp office, which is virtually a green mansion within Malappuram town.