Saturday, March 20, 2010

Golden Chariot luxury train arrives in Kerala

TPURAM: EnviroTPURAM: In a boost to the tourism sector in Kerala, the Karnataka-based Golden Chariot, one of Indias luxury trains, pulled into the railway station here Saturday.

The inaugural run of the luxury train on the seven nights/eight days Southern Splendour itinerary covering Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala, commenced March 15 from Bangalore.

Alighting from the train, 42 tourists were taken on a city tour followed by a visit to Kovalam beach and dinner at Taj Green Cove resort.

The train proceeds to Alappuzha, popularly known as the Venice of the East, Sunday morning. The tourists would be taken on a houseboat cruise on the backwaters of Kumarakom.

The final stopover is in Kochi, which would include a tour of the Jewish town, the Dutch Palace, the Chinese fishing nets followed by a sunset cruise and a Kathakali performance.

V.Venu, secretary, Kerala Tourism, said the new itinerary combines some of the best that Kerala and South India have on offer and it will be an unforgettable experience for the passengers.

Keralas inclusion in the tourism circuit of Golden Chariot will benefit the states tourism sector immensely as it opens up the state to luxury travellers. We also look forward to welcoming another new Golden Chariot package that is still in the pipeline, which will take in Kochi, Alappuzha and Thiruvananthapuram via Mangalore, he added.

nment Minister Jairam Ramesh tried to sabotage Keralas Athirappilly h

Jairam Ramesh used PMO to sabotage project: A.K. Balan

TPURAM: Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh tried to sabotage Keralas Athirappilly hydro-electric power project by invoking the Prime Ministers Office (PMO), state Electricity Minister A.K. Balan Saturday said and sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs intervention in the matter.

Balan, who through the Right to Information Act secured the copy of a note - written by Ramesh that he could not sanction the project as the PMs Principal Secretary T.K.A. Nair was opposed to it - alleged that the minister violated the constitutional norms by dragging the Prime Ministers Office in a project earlier cleared by the environmental expert appraisal committee.

The Kerala minister read out Rameshs note at a press conference here. Ramesh wrote, as Balan read out, said: Many people have spoken to me regarding this project and its deleterious consequences. T.K.A. Nair is one of them. I would like environment committee clearance revoked as soon as possible since Im very familiar with the project site.

Balan said the ministers note was corrected by his officials who went through the file.

A minister cannot unilaterally revoke the environmental clearance which has already been given by the expert appraisal committee. He is trying to sabotage the project, Balan said.

So, they decided to issue a show-cause notice to the Kerala government, Balan said.

\'State no longer immune from terror as in past\'

TPURAM: Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said here that state could no longer claim to be immune from terrorism as in the past and the state was as much a target of terrorists, as any other place.

The Minister wanted media to refrain from putting out stories on terrorism based on untruths or half truths.

Though Kerala had not lost any life due to terrorist act it was a serious matter that many youths were arrested for their involvement in anti-national and subversive activities from within and outside the state.

The co-operation of the people as a whole was a critical factor in fighting terrorism, he added.

Forest Dep. opposed Athirappally Project: Jairam Ramesh

NEW DELHI: Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh Saturday stated that many departments in Kerala including Forest Department had sent their reports opposing the Athirappally Project for it invites serious environmental problems.

An officer who was the former Chairman of the State Electricity Board and is the present Principal Chief Forest Conservator had also wrote against the project, said Ramesh. He also revealed that Bio-Diversity Board, Panchayat and NGOs too opposed the project.

Ramesh said the central team would visit Munnar before April 12 to monitor whether any violation of Forest Conservation Act took place.

Action will be taken against corruption: Jose Thettayil

TPURAM: Action will be taken against officers high or low in rank if corruption is detected, said Minster for Transportation Jose Thettayil.

He was responding to queries of media persons who pointed out the statement of Chief Minister that there was massive corruption in the State Transport Department.

The minister also said there is corruption in other departments also including Revenue and Police

Sabari fest begins, water cruch grim

SABARIMALA: Pilgrims have begun arriving in hundreds as the 10-day summer festival of the famous hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa began here Saturday.

A severe water crunch at the base camp Pampa and the temple uphill, however, is posing difficulties to the devotees, most of whom are from the neighbouring states.

The holy river Pampa, where pilgrims take a dip before starting the uphill trek, is totally dried up.

Taking a dip in the Pampa is an essential part of the pilgrimage. Unfortunately there is no water in the river, a devotee from Tamil Nadu said.

The temple sources said they have urged the irrigation department to open check dams upstream to ease the situation.

The temple management had imposed some restrictions in allotting accommodations at Sannidhanam in view of the situation.

The Travnacore Devaswom Board had urged devotees to return home soon after offering worship instead of camping at the temple premises.

The festival began with the thanthri-- traditional high priest-- hoisting the temple flag.

NPR coastal areas census to be soon extended all over country

KOCHI: The National Population Register census would commence in 3331 coastal villages of nine states and four union territories in April and would soon be extended to cover 120 crore people all over the country, Union minister of state for home Ajay Makkan said here Saturday.

This exercise will start with the census operations from April 1 this year, which means this huge exercise of data entry and creation of NPR, confined to 1.20 crore people now, will be extended to 120 crore permanent residents of the country, he told reporters here.

Of the around 1.22 crore people in coastal villages, 80 lakh would be those aged above 15 years, for whom biometrics would be collected, along with their names and other requirements in the NPR. Anyone above 18 years of age will be provided with a Smart Plastic Card, he said.

The massive exercise is also being linked to UID numbers, he said, adding that the government, through the UID authority, intended to give such numbers to permanent residents whose names are in the NPR.

He said Centre would spend around Rs 6,000 crore for the exercise and claimed creation of NPR was one of the biggest exercise in the world ever to have taken place.

Makkan, who has come here to oversee the ongoing NPR census in coastal areas of Kerala, said the state government has completed data entry for 78 per cent of the coastal areas in Kerala, covering about six of 10 districts.

In Tamil Nadu, the exercise has already been completed and the success rate there has been over 98 per cent, he said.

Centre grants Rs 50 crore

THRISSUR: Kerala Finance Minister Dr T M Thomas Isaac Saturday said the Centre had granted Rs 50 crore, inclusive Rs 3.5 crore sanctioned earlier, for the Muziris Heritage Project (MHP) stretched in the Ernakulam and Thrissur districts.

He told reporters that the total outlay for the project would be Rs 170 crore.

The funds granted by the Centre would be utilised for the rejuvenation of archaeological monuments in the project area approved by the Archaeological Survey of India and re-organization and modernisation of markets there, he said.

Several proofs had been recovered following excavations from Pattanam near Muziris (Kodunglloor) where export and import trade was flourished even Before Christian Era, the minister said.

Isaac said that the State Government would bear the cost of construction of roads and canals network, construction of a cultural complex at the Kodungalloor Kunjukuttan Tamburan Memorial Government College and setting up of 20 heritage museums.

He said that the Union Governments Cultural Department would also extend financial assistance for setting up of proposed museums. The contents of the proposed museums have already been finalised and the design work would be completed in a few months, he said.

Cooperative sector banks play a key role in development: CM

KOCHI: Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan Saturday said Cooperative banks contributed a lot for the development of Kerala.

Speaking after inaugurating the new building of Edappally Service Cooperative Bank Limited he said this sector was in the forefront in the education, agriculture, industrial and health sector.

He said price rise was controlled to a certain extend in Kerala due to various efforts taken by of SupplyCo and Cooperative sector institutions.

Earlier, Achuthanandan also laid foundation stone for the new campus of National University of Advanced Legal Studies at the nearby Kalamassery.

For the renewal of libraries in the higher education sector institutions, government had earmarked Rs 30 crore in the budget, he said.

Government had initiated projects for upgrading infrastructure facilities in colleges and had earmarked a record Rs 121 crore in the budget for the higher education sector alone, he said.

The Central University which was allotted to Kerala has already started in Kasargod and land acquirement process was in progress for starting Aligarh University campus at Perinthalmanna, he said.

He said steps have already been taken for starting the Information and Communication Technology Institute at Thiruvananthapuram. The project cost is Rs 14 crore, he said.

Govt\'s goodwill runs employees into tax problem

TPURAM: Kerala Governments goodwill gesture to disburse salary for April before the last week of March in view of Easter have run IT paying employees into trouble as they will have to pay 13 months tax if they drew their salary in advance.

Kerala Finance Minister T M Tomas Isaac, however, clarified Saturday that the Government would not impose the decision as the choice was theirs to take the pay home earlier or not.

Those who want to wait till April first, they could do so, Isaac said in Thrissur.

A couple of days back, he had said that the salary for employees and teachers would be disbursed between March 22 and 24 in view of the Holy Week and Easter.

While Easter is on April four (Sunday), the preceding Thursday (Maundy Thursday) and Friday (Good Friday) are holidays for the state employees.

This was one reason that made the Government to give away the salaries in advance, Government sources said.

However, only a section of the government employees would be coming in the IT bracket.

Firoz turns approver

KOZHIKODE: Shammy Firoz, one among the accused in the Kozhikode twin blast would turn approver. Firoz submitted an application regarding this before the special CBI court in Kochi Saturday.

The court would record the testimony of Firoz on 23. Firoz, who was arrested Friday has so far co-operated with the investigation process and claimed he was not involved in terror network.

Firoz is believed to have confessed to NIA officials that he had accompanied Thadiyantavide Nazir, alleged South Indian commander of LeT to the bus stands in Kozhikode to plant the bombs. NIA zeroed in on the role of Firoz in the blasts following some e-mail messages send by the accused to his brother and friend.

Firoz says that Nazir had contacted him a day before the blasts, seeking phone numbers of some government offices, which he couldnt provide. On the day of the blasts, Nazir arrived in a nearby mosque with two plastic bags.

Firoz claims that he knew the plan to plant bombs only at that moment. He admits following Nazir to place the bombs and describes hearing the sound of blasts. Nazir informed those accompanying him that the act was in revenge against the delay in trial process of those accused in second Marad riots.

Firoz is believed to have made the same confession before the NIA officials also. A native of Parappanangadi, Firoz was employed in an IT firm at Abudhabhi

Shammy Firoz remanded to judicial custody

KOCHI: CBI Special court in Ernakulam, dealing with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) cases in Kerala, Saturday remanded Shammy Firoz, a key accused in the Kozhikode twin blast case, to judicial custody for 15 days.

CBI Special Court judge also ordered to produce the accused before the court on March 23.

National Investigation Agency (NIA), probing various terror related cases in Kerala, had arrested Firoz when he arrived at Kochi International Airport by an Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi Friday.

The blasts occurred in two crowded bus stations in Kozhikode district on March 3, 2006.

KSEB recommends for restrictions on Industrial consumers

KSEB recommends for restrictions on Industrial consumers

TPURAM: The experts in Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has decided to prepare a detailed sketch, which puts restrictions on the industrial consumers, with the consent of the board and State government in order to submit before the Electricity Regulatory Commission.

According to the sketch, KSEB is mulling over the idea of levying ordinary charges for the 80 % of Industrial consumers� average power consumption and higher charges for the rest 20 % consumption. Restrictions are also on their way for those consumers who do not want electricity for high tariff.

The sketch is expected to be implemented from 1, April onwards with the consent of Electricity Regulatory Commission.

KSEB will submit the detailed recommendation before the Commission on March 25.

Sami is back in action

Director Sami is a busy bee these days. The Mirugam director, who is in Palakkad, is leaving no stone unturned to make sure his next venture, Sindhu Samaveli, comes out perfectly. �I will start filming from March 25 and release it by the end of June, he says.

So, whats Sindhu Samaveli all about? �This is my fourth film after Uyir, Mirugam and Saritthiram. Sindhu Samaveli is a civilisation that existed on the banks of river Indus 2000 years ago and is considered one of the earliest civilisations in the world,� says Sami.

Members within CPM against Amitabh Bachchan becoming brand ambassador for Kerala

Around fifteen days back, Balakrishnan gave an offer to Big B, in written, to endorse brand Kerala as a hot tourism destination.

The iconic film star accepted this offer by the state, almost seven days ago. But now, a section in the CPM is opposing the ministers decision.

The political partys argument is that since Amitabh Bachchan is already the ambassador for the state of Gujarat and thus it implies that he is supporting BJP leader Narendra Modi so he can not endorse Kerala tourism.

Bachchan in his defense said that he is endorsing Gujarat as a state and not any political party or leader.

The tourism minister Mr. Balakrishnan is still confident about making Amitabh the brand ambassador of the state, despite all the opposition.

The Kerala government officials revealed that talks with Mr. Bachchan are on for the issue and if both the parties agree to the terms and conditions, Big B will soon be appointed the brand ambassador of the state.

In hot Kerala, captive elephants lose cool

Captive elephants in Kerala are feeling the heat of temple festivals. Often working overtime, without sufficient food and water in this hot season, they are going berserk on a daily basis.

In the past two weeks, several elephants have gone berserk. Elephants are overly stressed, especially in the months from March to May when temple festivals are at their peak, elephant expert Jacob Cheeran told IANS.

The black skin of the elephant and its huge body are factors that increase thermal stress.

Kerala has around 800 captive elephants. Even though there are rules that no elephant should be allowed to perform any sort of activity from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m, the guidelines are not followed as the animal is most sought after during this season for temple festivals and is a major source of income for elephant owners.

State Forest Minister Binoy Viswam agreed that there are problems.

The real villains are the elephant brokers, who take these elephants on rent from the owners and even though they say they will take care of them, it unfortunately does not happen because they are transported from one temple to another, he said.

Kerala oracles and devotees sing filthy songs on Hindu deities

Kodungallur (Kerala), Mar 20 (ANI): Devotes and oracles gathered at the Kodungallur Bhagavathy Temple here to celebrate the Bharani festival, where they sang filthy and vulgar songs

about Hindu gods and goddess with the belief that it praises their main deity.

Buzz up!Devotees here are free to sing any kind of songs but should be a vulgar one followed by ta-naro-tanro and throw turmeric, coconut on to the temples sanctum sanatorium roof, while the oracles dressed in red attire holding sword with bells on their belly take a full round of the temple.

Sometimes most of them hit themselves on their forehead with their sword in praise to their deity.

Surendran Kumar, a Hindu devotee from Coimbatore, who comes here every year with his entire group to celebrate, said that he has been following his father and brothers even mother to take up as an oracle.

Kumar further said it is the power of goddess, which draws him to do it every year without any fail.

I have been coming here for the past four years now. We are altogether 166 people. We have been becoming oracles as a family traditional from my forefathers, all my brothers and even my mother comes here every year, said Kumar.

Only because of this our life is safe and secure we are very happily living. There is nothing like any pain or any break on our foreheads even we do not know why we are smashing ourselves we are not aware that time, he added.

The pilgrimage undertaken to the shrine on this occasion is believed to safeguard and bring lots of wealth to their families.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Minority schools bound by KER: court

Kochi: A Full Bench of the Kerala High Court on Friday held that even minority schools were bound to follow the provisions in the Kerala Education Rule (KER) relating to appointment of headmasters of U.P. schools.

The Bench of Justice K. Balakrishnan Nair, Justice P.N. Ravindran and Justice S.S. Satheesachandran Nair held that only in the absence of a graduate teacher with required qualifications, could a teacher with SSLC and TTC be appointed as a headmaster of an upper primary school, even if it was a minority institution as per the rules exiting prior to January25, 2008.

The Bench, however, clarified that as per the 2008 amendment brought to Rule 45, the manager of a minority school had the right to appoint an under-graduate as headmaster of an aided upper primary school, even if there was a senior graduate teacher.

The amendment had deleted the provision relating to graduation for appointment as headmaster in an upper primary school, it said.

�Kavutheendal\' observed

Thrissur: �Kavutheendal ceremony was observed as part of the Bharani festival at the Kodungalloor Bhagavathy Temple on Friday.

�Komarams, participants in the ceremony, brandished ceremonial swords and sang earthy songs in praise of the Goddess. Clad in red, they hurled sticks at the temple. Around 4.30 p.m., thousands stormed into the temple signifying Kavutheendal. Singing songs, they worked themselves up into frenzy

University appeals against university

MALAPPURAM: In a curious case involving the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar, the University of Calicut has filed an appeal in the High Court against the university.

The Chancellor and the Registrar are the second and the third respondents respectively of the appeal filed by the Registrar and the Vice-Chancellor. The appeal has been moved against a recent verdict of a High Court Single Bench and an order by the Chancellor upholding the appointment of B. Karunakaran as professor of Sanskrit in 1989.

The order of the court in November 2009, followed by the Chancellors in February 2010, had dealt a blow to the university, especially as the loser in the case was T.K. Narayanan, who at present holds charge of Registrar.

The court found the 1989 appointment of Dr. Karunakaran by the selection committee as �valid and proper. The selection committees decision was rejected by the Syndicate, which favoured Dr. Narayanan to the post of Sanskrit professor.

Although the Chancellor annulled the Syndicate decision, Dr. Narayanan moved the court in 1990. Even though the court in 1999 dismissed Dr. Narayanans petition as �infructuous, he was appointed professor when the university renotified the post in 1997. And his appointment was subject to the courts final order.

It was Dr. Narayanans 1997 appointment that Dr. Karunakaran challenged in court later. Delivering the final verdict, the court in November last year upheld the 1989 appointment.

Drive to bring down accident rate

KOLLAM: Ginger-flavoured black coffee and water will be offered to vehicle drivers from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. on the National Highway at Mylakkad Junction by the police.

The gesture is part of a move by the police to bring down the accident rate along the Kollam-Kovalam stretch of the National Highway

Software firm to enter Japan

Thiruvananthapuram: InApp, a software services company with operations on the Technopark campus here, has announced plans to start a subsidiary company in Japan.

The subsidiary named �InApp Japan K.K. would be based at Misuzugaoka Aobaku, near Yokohama. It will offer services such as software development, testing, migration, porting, maintenance, multimedia and smartphone solutions to small and medium enterprises in Japan. The Japanese operations will be headed by Hideto Morishita.

A pressnote issued by the company said the incorporation of the subsidiary would be completed soon.

Amarnath Raja, CEO, InApp India said, �Opening the Japanese subsidiary is an exciting milestone for InApp. We hope to leverage the changing business climate in Japan to bring out global solutions.

InApp has offices in California, North Carolina, India and Japan. InApps offshore development centre in India is located on the Technopark campus here.

City police arrest gang of migrant thieves

Thiruvananthapuram: The city police have arrested a gang of migrant thieves suspected to be responsible for the theft of bags from passengers inside parked cars at Statue junction and Thampanoor early this month.

Investigators said the accused are professional thieves hailing from Ramji Nagar in Trichy district of Tamil Nadu. The thieves had duped the car passengers by scattering currency notes on the road near the parked vehicles.

They then suggested to the occupants of the parked vehicle that the money possibly belonged to them. The moment the passengers stepped out of the cars to verify the claim, the thieves decamped with whatever was kept inside the vehicle. The suspects had used the same attention diverting technique for robbing car passengers in Kochi.

City Police Commissioner M.R. Ajith Kumar launched an undercover operation to arrest the elusive thieves. On March 5, they had stolen gold ornaments weighing 40 sovereigns and Rs.12,000 in cash and a mobile phone from a woman at Thampanoor.

The suspects started using the stolen mobile after changing the SIM card. The police kept track of the mobile phone using its unique International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. Subsequently, Mr. Ajith sent a team to Chennai and detained the gangs kingpin.

Privileges Committee summons SCIC

TPURAM: The Privileges and Ethics Committee of Kerala Assembly has summoned State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) to be present before it on March 30 on a privilege issue, to explain his insistence for a video clip of a members speech during an assembly session.

The committee presided by V J Thankappan has summoned SCIC Palat Mohandas and also asked retired Commission member P N Vijayakumar to be present before the committee to hear his version, a member said.

The assembly had recently refused to part with a video cassette of a speech made by a member, despite an order by the State Information Commissioner.

The SIC had then sent a showcause notice to the Assembly information officer asking why an action should not be taken for not providing the video cassette of a speech by T M Jacob during the previous assembly session while participating in a non-confidence motion.

3 held for bid to sell govt-sponsored life jackets

KOCHI: A three-member gang was arrested here Friday for allegedly trying to sell life jackets, which were distributed in the tsunami affected areas of Tamil Nadu by the state government with Central assistance.

Police also seized 250 jackets and one Yamaha outboard engine valued at Rs 60,000 and a car used for transporting the goods to Kerala, Special Branch Assistant Commissioner Shamsu Illickal said here.

The arrested were identified as Mariadasan (43) and Stephen (38), both from Kanyakumari, and Ratheesh (29), the middleman in the racket, he said.

Police under the guise of purchasing the jackets had contacted Ratheesh and asked them to come to a specified place where the three were nabbed, he said

Enquire into construction of Srikovil, says HC

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court Friday directed Devaswom Ombudsman to enquire into the allegation over construction of the Srikovil of Poornathreyisa temple at nearby Tripunithura.

A Division Bench, comprising Justices C N Ramachandran Nair and P S Gopinathan directed the temple Seva Sanghom to give details regarding income and expenditure before the Ombudsman.

The estimated cost for renovation was Rs 135 lakh.

The order was issued in a writ petition filed by Santha thampuran of Tripunithura.

Land encroached for party, says Chandy

TPURAM: The land is being encroached in Wayanad for the party, said opposition leader Oommen Chandy.

The government should take the initiative and evict the encroachers, he said.

The encroachment is taking place violating court order. The UDF will continue to stage agitations against the encroachments.

The encroachment shows the failure of the government, he said.

Cong, BJP slam Kerala govt on Bachchan fiasco

TPURAM: Congress and BJP Friday came down heavily on the Kerala government for insulting Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan by backing out from a proposal to make him the state�s brand ambassador after inviting him. The government should not have insulted Bachchan after inviting him to promote state tourism, Congress leader in the state assembly Oommen Chandy told reporters.

Keralas tradition is to show affection and respect towards all. The government should have avoided a situation which amounted to humiliating a great artiste like Bachchan, Chandy said in Kochi.

BJP state president V Muraleedharan said the reversal of the government�s stand once again betrayed the CPI-Ms Stalinist face. The government should have asserted itself on the issue by upholding the democratic tradition that its commitment was to the people as a whole and not to the party alone, he told a party meeting here.

The stand that Bachchan was not acceptable to Kerala because he also happened to be brand ambassador of Gujarat under Narendra Modi ran counter to the spirit of democracy, he said. The CPI-M central leadership had Thursday halted the government�s move to make Bachchan the brand ambassador since he had accepted the Modi government�s invitation.

Allowance by 8% : will cost the government an additional Rs6,970 crore each year

The government on Friday raised the cost of living allowance for its employees and pensioners by 8%, a Cabinet minister told reporters.
The hike will cost the government an additional Rs6,970 crore ($1.5 billion) each year, Ambika Soni said at a briefing after the Cabinet took the decision.
The dearness allowance (DA) is linked to the percentage rise in the 12-month average of the consumer price index (CPI) and is revised twice a year.

Govt hikes dearness allowance by 8%

The government on Friday raised the cost of living allowance for its employees and pensioners by 8%, a Cabinet minister told reporters.
The hike will cost the government an additional Rs6,970 crore ($1.5 billion) each year, Ambika Soni said at a briefing after the Cabinet took the decision.
The dearness allowance (DA) is linked to the percentage rise in the 12-month average of the consumer price index (CPI) and is revised twice a year.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Decision on Comtrust soon, says Karim

KOZHIKODE: A decision on the fate of Comtrust Textile factory, which is facing closure because of financial problems, is expected shortly, it was announced in the State Assembly on Monday in reply to a question from A. Pradeep Kumar, MLA.Industries Minister Elamaran Karim said in answer to the question raised by the MLA that the government was fully seized of the historical importance of Comtrust factory, one of the remnants of contributions made by Basel Missionaries to North Kerala. The government was keen on taking a decision about its future and its employees, the Minister said in his reply.

CPI-M against making Big B as Kerala tourism brand ambassador

TPURAM/NEW DELHI: The state governments move to rope in Amitabh Bachchan as the states brand ambassador hit a road block Thursday with the CPI-M central leadership coming out against the idea as the Bollywood megastar happened to be the promoter of Gujarat tourism.

The state government will take a final decision in the matter. But I am sure that the Left Democratic Front government will not use the same tourism ambassador who is being used by Narendra Modis government in Gujarat, Politburo member Sitaram Yechury told reporters in Delhi.

He said no final decision has been taken in this regard by the CPI (M)-led government and I am sure that something like that will not happen.

After Bachchan recently expressed his interest in promoting tourism in Kerala, Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan wrote a letter to him for further discussions on the issue. Bachchan responded to the invitation positively paving the way for discussions.

Earlier in the day, highly-placed state government sources said the proposal would be taken forward by sending a senior official to Mumbai to hold discussions with Bachchan.

Bachchan, in a recent interview had said he did not see anything wrong in being the promoter of tourism of the two states simultaneously. He also said he represented only Gujarats tourism and not its politics.

Assembly panel asks Coca Cola to pay damages

TPURAM: A day after an assembly panel suggested curbs on the Pepsi plant in Kerala, another House committee Thursday asked government to ensure compensation to the people at Plachimada in Palakkad district from Coca Cola for the losses they suffered from its plant in the area.

The Petitions Committee of the Kerala Assembly, which looked into the environmental pollution and water shortage allegedly caused by the plant, wanted the government to take steps to get compensation from the multi-national giant for the losses suffered by villagers, majority of whom are tribals and other weaker sections.

Addressing the media after tabling the report, Committee Chairman V Surendran Pillai said the report had suggested conducting of an experts study to ascertain problems caused by the plant to the health of the people and farming.

A state Assembly committee on irrigation and power had in its report Wednesday asked the state government to restrict use of water by Pepsi plant at Pudussery in Palakkad district at 3.4 lakh litres a day.

The Assembly panel report on Coca Cola plant has come at a time when a high-level committee set up by the state government to assess the socio-economic damage caused by the plant is expected to submit its report today.

Adhere strictly to norms: HC

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court has directed the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) that appointment of boat drivers and supervisors should be strictly in compliance with the provisions of the Kerala Public Canals and Public Ferries Act.

The court criticised the KTDC for appointing a non-qualified person as boat supervisor by relaxing the norms. �If this is the way the KTDC is making appointments, there is no wonder that a boat tragedy occurred in the lake at Thekkady, the court said.

Justice S Siri Jagan issued the directive while disposing of the petition filed by Kuruvila Joseph a boat srank with the KTDC, challenging the promotion of boat driver N Thevan as boat supervisor.

Kuruvila, a boat srank with the KTDC at Aranyanivas, Thekkady, is a holder of Boat Masters Certificate issued under the Kerala Public Canal and Public Ferries Act. In the petition, he alleged that Thevan did not have the required qualification and his appointment as boat supervisor was illegal.

The KTDC was of the opinion that there were no rules regarding the appointment of boat supervisor and Thevan was promoted as he was the senior-most employee in the feeder category.

Finding that Thevan�s appointment was illegal, the court said it was surprising to see that a person who does not have any qualification was appointed the master of the boat by relaxing all three required qualification.

�Driving a boat is the job of an expert and qualified person.

Safety of the passengers is in the hands of boat driver,� the court said.

The court quashed the appointment of Thevan as boat supervisor. However, the court said that Kuruvila, the petitioner was not entitled to be appointed as the supervisor as he did not have service qualification as stipulated by the Rules.

The court directed the KTDC that those who do not have required qualification should be terminated from the service or shifted to other sections.

UDF Opposition protest over leakage commission on kerosene

TPURAM: Congress led UDF opposition in Kerala Thursday walked out of the assembly alleging irregularities in the sanction of one per cent leakage allowance to kerosene dealers even as government maintained that it acted in accordance with a High Court order on the matter.

Replying to a notice for an adjournment motion sought to be moved by Aryadan Muhammed (Cong), State Food and Civil Supplies Minister C Divakaran said LDF government actually reduced the leakage allowance from One per cent to 0.02 per cent.

However, government restored the old rate following an order passed by High Court in a petition filed by Kerosene Dealers Association. The leakage allowance was not a creation of LDF government, he said adding it was there while it came to power.

Divakaran also said that LDF government did not increase the commission of the dealers to avoid a hike in the price of kerosene supplied through raton shops.

There was no irregularities in sanctioning leakage allowance, he added. After the reply of Divakaran, Speaker K Radhakrishnan refused leave for the motion.

Opposition disputed the contention of the minister and said high court had only directed the government to hold discussion with the Kerosene dealers association and settle the issue.

Court had not stayed the government order of reducing the leakage allowance to 0.02 per cent, Opposition leader Oommen Chandy said before the walkout.

UDF partner Kerala Congress (M) leader K M Mani sought a judicial probe into the whole affair.

Taking up the issue, Muhammed said sanctioning of one per cent leakage allowance in August last year caused a loss of Rs.5.82 crores to the exchequer.

Secret move to append 3 taluks in Idukki to TN

KUMALY: The three taluks�Devikulam, Udumbanchola and Peerumede�in the Idukki district of Kerala have been under the secret scanner of Tamil Nadu to facilitate the appension of the three to Tamil Nadu, highly placed sources say.

The Tamil supporters are eying to allure Malayalis in the taluks which houses about 60 percent of Tamilians so as to compel them to raise the demand to merge the taluks with Tamil Nadu. Through this move, Tamil Nadu is also trying to own Mullaperiyar Dam (located in Peerumede), which is believed to be prime objective of them.

To realize their conspiracy, the Tamil backers offer Malayalis a long striking list that includes providing 20 kg of rice for one rupee, 35 kg rice for Scheduled Tribes, free electricity for agricultural purposes to farmers, irrigation facilities, cheap loan conditions, free medical treatment up to Rs 2 lakhs for the poor having severe diseases, pregnancy allowance of Rs 10000, marriage help of Rs 25000, free LPG connection and colour television, central governments salary for government employees, reduced bus fare (28 paise per kilometer), free journey for students, free bicycles to students up to 12th standard and so on. The �allure list contains about 22 items.

LDF to step up struggle against price rise

TPURAM: The CPI (M)-led ruling LDF in Kerala would launch protests across the state as part of the Lefts national campaign against price rise, holding the Centre responsible for the serious situation.

Thousands of LDF volunteers would picket select central government offices in all the 140 assembly segments in the state, LDF Convener Vaikom Viswan told reporters.

The LDF state committee, which met here, asked its district units to chalk out the agitation programmes, he said.

The policies of the UPA Government were responsible for the situation. Even in allotment of foodgrain from the central pool, the states requirements were not taken into account, resulting in open market prices soaring, he charged.

Admiral Verama chairs review meeting of Naval exercise Tropex

KOCHI: A review meeting of the recent annual Naval exercise Tropex 2010 was held at the Southern Naval Command here Thursday.

The meeting was chaired by Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma, official sources said.

Commanding-in-Chiefs of the three Naval Commands, senior Navy officers and Commanding Officers of the ships that participated in the Tropex 2010 attended the meeting, they said.

Admiral Verma concluded his two-day visit to Kochi with the meeting, they said.

Two boys drown in Periyar river

KOCHI: Two boys, part of a group of six who had went for a bath in Periyar river near Eloor near here drowned Thursday, police said.

The deceased Dhanush (14) and Aswin (14) hailed from Eloor area, they said.

The bodies of the two were fished out Thursday evening.

Some delights, some duds

It was a bold step by the Kerala Department of Information and Publicity to hold a Modern Dance festival at Kozhikode, for unlike the comfort zone of familiarity with classical dance, this unknown field in this part of India is one where even angels would fear to tread. For some unknown reason which even the organisers in the many inaugural speeches confessed to being ignorant of, the festival was called �Saundarya Lahiri!

The group from Samudra based in Thiruvananthapuram led by Madhu Gopinath and Vakkom Sajeev, the main catalysts behind this festival, provided the curtain raiser with their �Cosmic Dance of Siva�. Built round the rhythms of the universe symbolised in the dancing Shiva, Anandatandava manifesting in cyclical energies of creation, destruction, preservation, salvation and illusion, was captured through many scenes.

The start with a powerful formation, the Ardhanariswara representing the complementing contrasts of Yin and Yang integrated in one identity, the alingan sequences, and some of the raw power of what was conceived as a tribal force of the universe, were all rendered by strong dancers � particularly the male half of the troupe.

Where the effect paled was in overstretching the production, the extreme physicality of the dance in the latter stages becoming more a padding for spectacle than purposeful. If editing is the need of the hour, so is the music in need of a more sensitive, soothing, melodic touch.

Kerala Assembly panel asks Coca Cola to pay damages

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A day after an assembly panel suggested curbs on the Pepsi plant in Kerala, another House committee today asked government to ensure compensation to the people at Plachimada in Palakkad district from Coca Cola for the losses they suffered from its plant in the area.

The Petitions Committee of the Kerala Assembly, which looked into the environmental pollution and water shortage allegedly caused by the plant, wanted the government to take steps to get compensation from the multi-national giant for the losses suffered by villagers, majority of whom are tribals and other weaker sections.

Addressing the media after tabling the report, Committee Chairman V Surendran Pillai said the report had suggested conducting of an experts study to ascertain problems caused by the plant to the health of the people and farming.

CPM rejects Amitabh as Kerala\'s brand ambassador

NEW DELHI: The central leadership of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) on Thursday said Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan cannot become the brand ambassador of Kerala Tourism as he is already promoting Gujarat, which is governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Left front government in Kerala will not have the same brand ambassador (who has already been appointed by the Narendra Modi government), CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury told reporters here.

He was reacting to the Keralas CPM-led Left Front governments move to appoint Bachchan as brand ambassador of state tourism.

Bachchan was in the state for a few functions last month. It was during an interview to a TV channel that the actor said he would gladly accept the offer to become Kerala tourisms brand ambassador.

Soon after, the Kerala Tourism wrote to him and also received his acceptance letter.

Meanwhile, Kerala Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told IANS Tuesday that a few social and cultural personalities have expressed their displeasure in inviting Big B to promote Kerala tourism.

Stiff opposition to this has also come from Delhi and that has surprised many of us, the minister said.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nod for initial works on Kochi metro

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Cabinet on Wednesday gave the green signal to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to start preparatory works for the Kochi Metro Rail Project.

Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan told the media after a Cabinet meeting that the DMRC would undertake works such as widening of roads and construction of road over-bridges for the metro now. It would be paid six per cent of the cost of the works as its fee.

The Chief Minister said the project had received general clearance from the Centre. Some specific clearance could be obtained in due course.

Mr. Achuthanandan announced that the income limit for the dying-in-harness scheme would be raised to Rs.4.5 lakh a year. Married sons and daughters of employees dying in harness would also be included among persons eligible for jobs in government service under the scheme, subject to certain conditions.

He announced that appointments in Kerala Feeds Limited would be entrusted to the Public Service Commission. The wages of daily workers in the Fisheries Department would be raised from Rs.120 to Rs.180 a day

�LeT has 2 support groups in Kerala�

KANNUR: Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) has two support groups in Kerala, according to Thadiyantavide Nazeer. He made this disclosure during his interrogation by the police team here on Wednesday.

Going by the revelations made by Nazeer, who is now under the custody of the police here, he was in charge of the support group of LeT in north Kerala.His main assignment was to recruit youths for terrorist activities. He also told investigating officials that LeT had given him Rs 75,000 during his stay in Bangladesh after four Malayali terror suspects were killed in Kashmir. The funds for the Kerala operations came from Gulf countries, according to police sources. The interrogation of Nazeer and Shafas, another suspected terrorist remanded to police custody by the court on Tuesday, will continue for some more days

CPM recoils at Big B bond

New Delhi, March 17: The CPM has opposed a decision by the party-led Kerala government to appoint Amitabh Bachchan as its tourism ambassador because the actor had praised Narendra Modi.

The state unit of the party fears that the perceived association between Bachchan and Modi could provoke a backlash from minorities in next years elections. The minority community holds considerable sway in several districts of Kerala, where the CPM is fighting anti-incumbency, though on a lesser scale than in Bengal.

Bachchan, who is also a brand ambassador for Gujarat, had clarified earlier that he was promoting a state and not any individual. However, the actor�s generous praise for Modi, who is anathema to the CPM after the Gujarat riots, appears to have prompted the party to put its foot down.

The Kerala tourism department has not yet given up hope, though. �The gesture was made at a time we were desperately trying to overcome the drop in foreign tourist arrivals because of the global downturn by concentrating on domestic tourists. We all were excited when Big B said �yes� to our proposal,�� said a state tourism official. �We still hope that everything will work out fine.

Priyanka joins Rahul on Kerala election trail

NEW DELHI: She has managed campaigns for her mother and brother in the dust and grime of eastern Uttar Pradesh over the past few elections. But in a first, Priyanka Vadra turned at her brothers side at a polling centre for local Youth Congress office-bearers in Trichy on Wednesday.

Rahul Gandhi and she had been in Thrissur in Kerala to attend a wedding in the family of a close family aide. In the afternoon, the two reached Trichy in neighbouring Tamil Nadu to boost what was billed as an attempt to rebuild Congress at the grassroots decades after it ceased to be a major factor in the states sharply polarised politics.

Only a few months ago, Rahul had travelled extensively in Tamil Nadu to encourage the membership drive of the partys youth wing. As a Congress general secretary, he is in charge of YC and student front NSUI.

Mullaperiyar: TN�s petition forwarded to Bench

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Wednesday forwarded to a Constitution Bench the Tamil Nadu governments review petition against a Constitution Benchs order to constitute a high-level empowered committee to go into the Mullaperiyar issue including the dams safety aspects and raising the water level beyond 136 ft.

While, Tamil Nadu had refused to participate in the five-member committee, the Kerala government appointed retired judge KT Thomas to represent the state

Accused escapes from police custody

THRISSUR: A prisoner accused of robbery escaped from police custody in Irinjalakuda. The accused identified as Babu (35) and a native of Tamil Nadu was taken into custody ten months before for robbing 45 sovereigns of gold, Rs 40,000 in cash and a mobile phone from a house in Pulloor. Search operations are continuing to find him.

14 convicted in Marad riot case

KOZHIKODE: A Special Court here Wednesday convicted 14 persons, including Hindu Aikyavedi state unit General Secretary T Suresh, and acquitted one in the first Marad violence that claimed five lives in the coastal village in Kozhikode, nine years ago.

Apart from Suresh (54), Special Judge K P Prasanna Kumari found Thekkethodi Sreedharan (50), Korantakath Vibeesh (34), Thekkethodi Shaji (36), Choyichantakath Ranjith (39), Choyichantakath Kalesh alias Krishna Kumar (30), Kelappantakath Ranjithan alias Sajeevan (34), Apathanpurayil Vijeesh (32), Thekkethodi Prahladan (36), Kelappanthakath Rajesh (35), Eecharantepurayil Sasi (43), Cheriyapurayil Vinodan (27), Arayachantakath Manikandan (34) and Thekkethodi Vijith (30) guilty of murdering Thekkepurath Aboobacker in the wee hours of January 4, 2002.

The five among the 14 were convicted under IPC 326 for grievously injuring him and the remaining under IPC 326 for murder, the judge said in her ruling.

However, the court acquitted Kothantakath Suresh as the prosecution failed to prove charges against him.

Quantum of punishment in the case would be pronounced on March 19, the court said.

The Judge had earlier awarded different quantum of punishment to many people in separate cases in this connection.

As a sequel to the first violence, nine people were killed in the second Marad riot in the predominantly fishermen inhabited village a year later.

Global downturn did not hit state very seriously: Minister

T�PURAM: The global economic downturn did not hit the state as badly as it was thought initially, according to Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac.

The recession did not have its grim fallout on agricultural and industrial sectors, though it battered tourism, commerce and real estate trade, he said in reply to a question in the state assembly Wednesday.

Initially, it was thought Kerala would be the worst sufferer in the event of the crisis persisting, he said.

A study by the Centre for Studies, conducted when the crisis began to grip Western economies, had forecast that the impact of the recession on the Kerala economy would be serious since income from export of cash crops and marine products forms a major source of its revenue.

It was also feared that if the crisis prolonged, it would trigger large-scale return of expatriates, with real estate and construction sector in the Emirates like Dubai crashing.

But subsequent studies showed that the downturn did not result in large-scale repatriation from the Gulf, where over two million Keralites are working, or led to a sharp fall in remittances from non-resident Keralites.

Rahul, Priyanka and Wadhera arrive to attend marriage

KOCHI: Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, his sister Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra made a flying visit here Wednesday afternoon to attend the wedding of a close aides son.

They attended the wedding of Deepak, son of Madhavan Bhattathiripad who works in the office of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Rahul, wearing a white kurta and pyjama, and Priyanka, in a green saree, spent nearly 45 minutes at the wedding venue. They had lunch and went back to Kochi to fly back to Delhi.

Seeing the VIPs, some enthusiastic Congress leaders started shouting slogans. Rahul intervened and asked them not to shout slogans as it was a private affair.

State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala, who also attended the wedding, told reporters that since this was a personal visit, Rahul did not meet any party leaders.

Five suffers sunstroke in Pathanamthitta

PATHANAMTHITTA: Five persons including four school students suffered sunstroke in Pathanamthitta. Those suffered sunstroke have been identified as Shruti, a sixth standard student of Gurukulam School of Aangamoozhi in the district, Senani, a first class student, Aathira Rajenran, fourth class student, Shruti of fourth standard and her mother Suja.

Munnar: Kerala submits report

NEW DELHI: Kerala Wednesday submitted an interim report before the Central panel on Munnar land encroachments. In the report Kerala asserts that hitherto 12372 acres of encroached land has been evicted.

The State has also promised to submit a detailed affidavit after studying the report of Ministry of Forest and Environment.

The Supreme Courts high power committee has postponed considering the case pertaining to this to April 26.

The central panel would visit Munnar in the first week of April.

Kerala nod for taking up infrastructure work for Kochi Metro

TPURAM: Kerala Cabinet Wednesday accorded sanction to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to take up the work of infrastructure connected with Kochi Metro rail project.

Talking to reporters after the cabinet meeting, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan said DMRC had been permitted to take up the work of road widening and construction of overbridges as part of the Metro project.

The Centre was yet to give full clearance to the Kochi Metro Project, mooted by the state government to ease the traffic problem of the commercial capital of Kerala. The state had selected DMRC to execute the project.

Kerala was expecting an early clearance for the project, Achuthanandan said to a question. The project has to receive sanction from some more departments of the Union Government, he added

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Naval Chief to visit here today

KOCHI: Chief of the Naval staff Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma will visit Kochi today.

He would attend a review meeting of some recent naval exercise, naval sources said.

Title deeds for farmers in Idukki, says Chennithala

IDUKKI: All farmers in Idukki will be given title deeds if the UDF Government assumes power in the state, said KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala. He said this while inaugurating a Karshaka Raksha march led by UDF in the district.

Murali apologises for �Aluminium Patel�

NEW DELHI: K Muraleedharan Tuesday apologized to Ahamed Patel, political secretary to Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, for calling him Aluminium Patel. He apologized to Patel in New Delhi.

Talking to reporters here, Murali said that due to the then political situation, he used that phrase. He said that he had apologized to Patel during the talks held between the two.

Murali who reached Delhi Monday held talks with union ministers E Ahamed, K V Thomas and Mullappally Ramachandran.

Balagopal, Seema file nominations

TPURAM: LDF candidates K N Balagopal and T N Seema filed their nominations for the Rajya Sabha elections Tuesday. They filed the papers before Kerala legislative secretary P D Rajan in the assembly complex.

Balagopal and Seema are both members of the CPI (M) state committee.

Balagopal is at present political secretary to Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan. Seema had given up her teaching career to become a full time politician. She was a member of the team of leaders who were part of the Nava Kerala Yatra led by CPI (M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.

Defence minister A K Antony had filed his papers for the Rajya Sabha seat Monday. The three vacancies arose as the present term of Antony, V S Vijayaraghavan (CPI-M) and P V Abdul Wahab (IUML) is ending.

Adv Rajendran Babu to be Kollam mayor

KOLLAM: V Rajendra Babu of the CPM will be the new mayor of Kollam Corporation. Babu replaces N Padmalochanan, who resigned from the post following the controversy over attending a function of the RSS.

In the elections held here Tuesday, Babu defeated George D Kattil of the Congress by 19 votes.

Babu, an advocate by profession was the leader of the SFI. He was also elected chairman of the Kerala University Union. He represents the Uliyacoil East Division in the council and is the chairman of the standing committee on tax. Babu received 34 votes and Kattil 15.

Meantime, a member of the LDF voted for a congress representative. The votes of two RSP members turned invalid.

Woman commits suicide

TPURAM: A 20-year-old woman committed suicide at the paid and use toilet of the Museum Grounds in the capital city. She has been identified as Sheeja, native of Chirayankeezh.

She entered the toilet, doused kerosene on her body and set herself ablaze. The body was charred to death even before the Museum police reached the spot. The reason for the suicide is not known. The body has been shifted to the mortuary of the medical college hospital.

\'Jewel of Muscat\' crew visit school

KOCHI: The Captain and crew of the Jewel of Muscat, a wind powered vessel reconstructed on the lines of a 9th century trading vessel, Tuesday visited the Rajagiri Christu Jaynathi Public school here.

The members of the ship were given an insight into Keralas and Indias rich cultural heritage by the students who performed Thiruvathirakkali, Vallanmkalli, Punjabi dance, Dhandiya.

A Yoga demonstration was also held.

The 17 member crew, along with their captain Salah Ai Jabri, arrived here Monday after they embarked on their journey from Oman on Feb 16. They would also be visiting the INS Tarangini and visit the Naval museum.

A seminar to showcase the investment opportunities in Oman would be held here today. Oman Ambassador to India Humaid Ali Al-Maani will be among those participating.

After a few days of rest, the ship will leave for its onward journey to Sri Lanka, Malayasia and Singapore

Rain occurred at isolated places in Kerala

TPURAM: Rain occurred at isolated places in Kerala. Dry weather prevailed over Lakshadweep.

According to meteorology sources here, Kannur and Thalassery recorded 1 cm rainfall each. Punalur recorded the highest maximum temperature of 40 degree celsius. Kannur recorded the lowest minimum temperature of 24 degree celsius.

Maximum temperature rose appreciably above normal in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram district.

Forecast valid until the morning of March 18, rain or thunder showers will occur at isolated places in Kerala and mainly dry weather will prevail over Lakshaweep. Outlook no significant change.

No state take-over of royal temple, says Govt

TPURAM: The Kerala Government has made it clear that the takeover of the magnificent Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in the state capital from trusteeship of the Travancore Royal house is not on its agenda.

The Government stated its position in a statement filed in a local court Monday in connection with a private petition, seeking the state-take over of the grand temple and its invaluable jewels and moveable properties.

The petitioner had sought a direction from the court to the state government to seize reins of the temple and wanted the officials of its present administration to be restrained from entering the inner chambers of the complex, where rare jewels, gold vessels and other precious items are believed to be kept.

In the statement filed before the Principal Sub-Court here, the Government said it did not have any plan to take the reins of the temple, since there have been no complaints against the present set-up.

An architectural splendour, the sprawling temple with its rows of carved pillars, engravings, huge portals and pagoda like tower, the temple was built by Marthanda Varma Maharaja in 1729 in place of a small, ancient temple.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Summer special trains to clear rush

MANGALORE: In order to clear extra rush of passengers during summer, Konkan Railways has decided to run summer special trains on Dadar-Ernakulam, and Dadar-Kochuveli via Konkan Railway route.

The details of these trains are as under:

Train No. 0165 Dadar-Ernakulam will leave Dadar every Wednesday at 12.45 pm and reach Ernakulam at 6 pm the next day. Its scheduled departure from Dadar are on April 7, 14, 21, 28, May 5, 12, 19, 26, and June 2. Train No. 0166 Ernakulam-Dadar will leave Ernakulam at 11.20 pm every Thursday and reach Dadar at 4.35 am on Saturday. Its scheduled departure from Ernakulam are April 8, 15, 22, and 29, May 6, 13, 20, 27, and June 3.

The above trains will halt at Thane, Panvel, Roha, Khed, Chiplun, Ratnagiri, Kankavali, Kudal, Sawantwadi Rd, Pernem, Thivim, Karmali, Madgaon, Karwar, Ankola, Kumta, Honnavar, Bhatkal, Mookambika Road Byndoor, Udupi, Surathkal, Thokur, Mangalore junction, Kasargod, Kanhangad, Payyanur, Kannur, Tellicherry, Vadakara, Kozhikode, Tirur, Kuttippuram, Shoranur, Trichur, and Aluva.

Antony files papers for Rajya Sabha polls

Congress leader and Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Monday filed his nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha elections. He filed three sets of nomination papers for the lone seat that the United Democratic Front can win before Legislature Secretary P.D. Rajan, who is the returning. Each set of papers was signed by ten MLAs each.

A large contingent of UDF leaders, including Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala, IUML leader P.K. Kunhalikutty, Kerala Congress(M) leader K.M. Mani, UDF convener P.P. Thankachan, and CMP leader M.V. Raghavan were present to receive Mr. Antony when he arrived at the Assembly complex. After filing his nomination papers, Mr. Antony called on Speaker K. Radhakrishnan.

Mr. Antony is seeking re-election for a fourth term. Earlier he was Rajya Sabha member from 1985 to 91, 1991-95 and 2005-2010.

Meet of milk cooperative societies from today

KOCHI: A series of meetings to discuss the issues faced by the dairy sector will be convened by Ernakulam Regional Cooperative Milk Producers Union Ltd., the regional wing of Milma, from today. The primary cooperative milk producers societies in the districts of Thrissur, Ernakulam, Kottayam and Idukki belong to the Ernakulam-based regional wing. The district-level meeting of presidents of the primary societies in Thrissur will be held on Monday. The meetings in Kottayam, Ernakulam and Idukki districts will be held on March 22, 23 and 24, respectively. The regional union has decided to provide a grant of Rs.20, 000 each for construction of buildings to select primary societies.

Torture of complainant: rights panel takes up case

KOZHIKODE: The State Human Rights Commission has suo motu taken up a case in connection with the police torture of a complainant in the case of a hidden mobile phone camera being used to capture images in the womens toilet of a restaurant here on Thursday. The State Womens Commission also took up a case. A Sub-Inspector (SI), G. Sunil Kumar, involved in the torture was placed under suspension pending inquiry. Taking cognizance of reports that appeared in the media, commission member K.E. Gangadharan, on Friday, directed Mahesh Kumar Singla, Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP), North Zone, to submit a detailed report within two weeks on the incidents at Sagar Hotel and the Nadakkavu police station. The complainant, Rahul, was stripped and beaten inside the station allegedly by police personnel led by Nadakkavu Principal Sub-Inspector K.K. Biju and SI Sunil Kumar when he refused to hand over the mobile phone to the police team that arrived at the hotel.Rahul had insisted that he would hand over the device containing video images of several persons to the Commissioner of Police or to the Womens Cell.

SSLC examinations to begin today

KOZHIKODE: As many as 44,536 students from the district will appear for the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) examinations beginning Monday. Officials of the Education Department said preparations had been completed for the examinations. The examinations will begin at 1.45 p.m. on all days except Fridays and Sundays, which will be holidays. The examinations will conclude on March 27.Vadakara educational district will present the most number of 15,638 candidates. Kozhikode has 14,271 candidates and Thamarassery, 14,627. The district has 187 examination centresMJK Higher Secondary School, Elettil, in Thamarassery educational district is presenting the highest number of 815 students. Memunda Higher Secondary School in Vadakara educational district comes second with 743 students. The school with the lowest number of 18 students is Government Higher Secondary School, East Hill. Deputy Director of Education K.V. Vinod Babu said that in view of the hot weather, students would be allowed to take drinking water bottles into the examination halls.

Govt warns \'knee-jerk\' reaction from Maoists following debacle

KOCHI:Rubber wood does not require pass for transporting and therefore no Porperty Mark Registration is required for transporting rubber wood and rubber wood products, according to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, T M Manoharan.

Rubberwood is an exempted species under Rule 4(4) (a) of the Kerala Forest Produce Transit Rules 1975, he stated in a letter to his counterparts in other states.

Dealers in rubber wood and rubber wood products had complained that their consignments of rubber wood and its products such as packing cases sent from Kerala to Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra were retained in those states and fine imposed on them since it was not accompanied by Form IV passes issued by the holders of Property Mark Registration or by any pass issued by Government agencies, he said

Bodies recovered

KOZHENCHERRY: The bodies of two youths, who were missing after they went for a bath last evening at the Pampa river, were recovered on Monday. They have been identified as Shins (21) and Bijoy (22).

Vaishak and Savithri Rajeev bag Kamala Surayya Puraskaram

THRISSUR: Vaishak and Savithri Rajeev bagged this years Kamala Surayya Puraskaram instituted by the Trust in the poetess� name.

Vaishak bagged the award for his story Silencer and Savithri for her collection of poems named Kavithakal.

The award was announced by noted critic and orator Dr Sukumar Azhikode.

The award carries a cash prize of Rs 51,000 and a citation. The award would be presented on March 31 at a function held at the Sahitya Akademy.

Ernakulam District Co-operative Bank wins award

KOCHI:The Ernakulam District Co-operative Bank Limited, has won the Banking Frontiers national award instituted for the best District cooperative bank, for its impressive performance during the last fiscal.

The bank was chosen for the award for its attractive deposit schemes, new loan schemes and also for the fruitful utilisation of the new technology, a bank release said.

The cooperative bank was targetting a business turnover of Rs 3,600 crore during this fiscal, the release said.

Guitarist Prakash dies in accident

KILIMANOOR: Noted guitarist Prakash Krishnan (36) of Muttada, was killed when the van in which the ganamela troupe were travelling overturned and fell into a lake after hitting an electric post.

Munch Star Singer fame Athira Murali too was in the van. The incident happened when the troupe was returning back after a ganamela.

The condition of four out of the twelve injured including Athira Muralis mother is stated to be serious. They have been admitted at the Gokulam Medical College Hospital in Venjaramoodu. Athira Murali escaped without any injuries.

The incident happened early this morning at 4.45 am on the MC Road in Kilimanoor when the troupe was returning to the capital city after a ganamela at Kattappara Mahadeva Temple in Thiruvalla.

Investors meet on Vizhinjam port next month

TPURAM: An investors� meet will be held next month for the proposed Vizhinjam port in the state and work on the project will start during the tenure of the Left government, Ports Minister M Vijaya Kumar told the assembly on Monday.

He said the meeting would help identify the investor for the proposed port.

By November-December, we are confident that the investor would be identified and construction of the port will begin during the tenure of this government itself, the minister said. Assembly elections are due in the state in May 2011.

The Vizhinjam port is to come up near the famed tourist destination of Kovalam and the proposed site has a natural depth at 24 meters, one of the deepest in the world and hence requires no dredging. It will be located close to a busy international shipping route, and is envisaged to handle 4.1 million containers annually.

The project has been hanging fire for nearly a decade.

It had got the necessary clearances for the second time last year but Hyderabad-based Lanco Kondapalli, which had won the bid to build the port, withdrew from the project, citing indefinite delays and possible legal tangles in the project.

The project cost was then envisaged at Rs.53.48 billion.

The state government has committed to develop the basic infrastructure, which includes rail and road connectivity to the port site, and has set aside Rs.450 crore for the purpose.

This would be undertaken by the government-run Vizhinjam International Sea Port Ltd.

Park Hotels foray into leisure segment

Hospitality group Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels on Monday said it has inaugurated its luxury lake cruiser in Vembanad Lake (Kerala), marking its formal foray into the leisure segment.

This is the groups seventh property in the country and it also the first time it has ventured out of the business hotels segment, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels said in statement.

�We are excited about our latest venture in Kerala which marks our entry into the leisure segment, The Park Hotels Chairperson Priya Paul said.

The new eight-cabin �Apsara� luxury cruiser is complimented by a 10-room luxury resort, The Park on Vembanad Lake.

The Park Hotels currently operates six five-star boutique hotels in Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai and Visakhapatnam.

The group had earlier said it will open a 270 room hotel in Hyderabad this year and also plans to build properties in Jaipur, Pune and Kolkata.

Meet Kerala\'s Super Dancer! \'I was never confident about the solo performances\' \'At the end of the Wild West round, Kala master gifted me Rs 100\' \'The greatest thing I learnt was getting along with others\'

Aswin J Kumar in Kochi

It was Midhun Lals incredible resemblance to legendary Michael Jackson that first struck the judges and viewers of Amrita Super Dancer 2.

As the show progressed, his incredible twists and twirls on the stage made him a hot favourite for the title among the 16 contestants.

When the curtains of Amrita Super Dancer 2 came down on March 7, it was again this 19-year-old lad from Thiruvanathapuram who had the last laugh as he walked away with the much coveted title Amrita Super dancer 2010.

Popularly known as Midh, Midhun was simply spell binding throughout the show and on the final stage he seemed almost invincible compared to the other three finalists.

The eldest son of Devarajan and Thankam, Midh believes that he would not have done it but for the almightys grace and the support of his parents and friends.

Lakshadweep and Kerala feel the heat

MUMBAI: Are Kerala and neighbouring Lakshadweep islands becoming the first victims of global warming and climate change? In the last one week, temperatures across all districts in Kerala have risen to an unprecedented high.

Due to the heat, 10 people from the northern districts of Palakkad, Kannur and Thrissur suffered severe burn injuries and were hospitalised for emergency first aid care.

K V Premadas working at a dam site at Kanjirapuzha in Palakkad district had skin from his hands and legs peeling off due to sun burns. Mohammed, a paddy field farmer from Thrissur, fell unconscious in the heat. He had burns all over his body. Another eight students from a school in Irikkur in Kannur suffered heat stroke and burn injures.

This is not the usual heat wave.

Temperatures are definitely on the rise compared to last 50 years, K Santhosh director of Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) Trivandrum, told TOI on Sunday.

IMD data show that there has been a rise of over one degree in February and March this year compared to the last 50 years. Environmentalists said that the state governments do not take punitive action against large scale destruction of mangroves, deforestation and mining of rivers.

Panel recommends Coke to pay Rs 200 crore to Kerala

There is trouble for Coca Cola as a nine-member expert panel has recommended that the government should make the multinational company pay Rs 200 crore as damages caused by its plant in Keralas Palakkad district.

There are allegations that the sludge produced at the Coke facility and supplied to farmers as fertilizer contained dangerous levels of cadmium and lead.

The company was forced to close down its unit in the village after a historic struggle by the villagers.

1.3 million students taking Kerala school exams

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Over 1.3 million students of Classes 10, 11 and 12 in Kerala are appearing for the state school examinations beginning Monday, officials said.

All arrangements are in place for the smooth conduct of the exams for Class 10 and the Higher Secondary and Vocational Higher Secondary courses for Class 11 and 12, said Director of Public Examination A P M Mohammed Hanish.

While the Class 10 examination is slated for the afternoon, the other two would be held in the forenoon.

More than 4.5 lakh students are to appear for the Class 10 exam, 3.84 lakh in Class 11 and 4.15 lakh in the Class 12 Higher Secondary exams. Close to 50,000 would answer the Class 11 and 12 Vocational Higher Secondary course papers, officials said

Sunday, March 14, 2010

District sizzles in the sun

KOZHIKODE: With daily maximum temperatures holding steady between 35 and 36 degrees Celsius for the past one week, causing much discomfort to the people, it will possibly come as no surprise that the months of December 2009 and January and February this year have been the hottest in the district in the past 26 years.Temperature data that the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM) has been collecting since 1984 show a 2-3 degrees Celsius rise in temperatures between 1984 and 2010.While the mean maximum temperature in February 1984 was 32.7 degrees, it was 34.9 degrees in February 2010, a rise of 2.2. degrees C. The mean maximum temperature in January 1984 was 31.7 degree and in January 2010, it was 33.9 degrees Celsius, a rise of 2.2 degrees C.

Torture of complainant: rights panel takes up case

KOZHIKODE: The State Human Rights Commission has suo motu taken up a case in connection with the police torture of a complainant in the case of a hidden mobile phone camera being used to capture images in the womens toilet of a restaurant here on Thursday. The State Womens Commission also took up a case. A Sub-Inspector (SI), G. Sunil Kumar, involved in the torture was placed under suspension pending inquiry. Taking cognizance of reports that appeared in the media, commission member K.E. Gangadharan, on Friday, directed Mahesh Kumar Singla, Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP), North Zone, to submit a detailed report within two weeks on the incidents at Sagar Hotel and the Nadakkavu police station. The complainant, Rahul, was stripped and beaten inside the station allegedly by police personnel led by Nadakkavu Principal Sub-Inspector K.K. Biju and SI Sunil Kumar when he refused to hand over the mobile phone to the police team that arrived at the hotel.Rahul had insisted that he would hand over the device containing video images of several persons to the Commissioner of Police or to the Womens Cell

Sunburn: 5 hospitalised

Thrissur: Five persons � a construction worker, three fishermen and an autorickshaw driver � were hospitalised with sunburn at Kodungalloor on Sunday. Karuppadanna Siraj, 36, Anvar, 20, Sabir, 20 and Mohammed, 36, of Azhikode, and Pullur Thankappan, 56, were admitted to hospital with rashes on their skin. Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran visited them in hospital.

Girl\'s death: report indicates rape

PALAKKAD: The post-mortem report of an 11-year-old schoolgirl who was found hanging at her house at Kalleppully, near here, on January 18 indicates that she was raped before her death.

The report by P.B. Gujaral, police surgeon of Forensic Medicine at District Hospital here, said, �There is evidence of recent vaginal penetration on the body of the child. The vaginal mucosa hymn recently ruptured and almost completely lost except for the remaining injured edges.

There were also injuries on her body, including both the upper and lower lips.

The police surgeon has sent her vaginal swab for further examination.

The parents and relatives of the girl have demanded a thorough inquiry into the alleged killing of the girl, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste .

SSLC: 12,381 to write exam in Idukki

KATTAPPANA: A total of 6,868 students will write the SSLC examination from the Kattappana educational district. From Thodupuzha, 5,513 students will write the exam, which will begin on Monday.

In all, 36,156 students will appear for the SSLC and the first and second year Higher Secondary and Vocational Higher Secondary exams from the district. The Higher Secondary and Vocational Higher Secondary exams will be held in the morning and the SSLC exams in the afternoon.

In the Vocational Higher Secondary stream, 1,309 students will appear for the second year exams and 1,289 for the first year exams. VHSE exams will be held in 16 centres.

Higher secondary

A total of 7,996 students will appear for the second year Higher Secondary exams at 64 centres. In the open school category, 1,663 students will write the exams.

In the scheme second category (2006-2009), 1,191 students and in the scheme third (up to 2006) category, 60 students will write the Higher Secondary exams.

A total of 8,262 students will write the first year Higher Secondary examinations.

87.37 million new jobs by 2015: study

KOCHI: A study undertaken by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) has projected 87.37 million new jobs by 2015, of which a significant share of 32 per cent will be of the manufacturing sector followed by trade and construction.

The study on emerging future jobs says the trade sector is expected to generate 24.24 million new jobs and construction, 15.13 million.

The report says that agriculture, which accounts for a major share in total employment now, is likely to be a minor contributor to new employment. Financial services will almost double its employment size, though it still has a small share (3.4 per cent) in total employment.

Within the manufacturing sector, textile products, food products, beverages, transport equipment, metal products, leather products and machinery are expected to contribute the major part of increase in employment, the report says. Employment in information technology (IT) and IT-enabled-services sectors is expected to grow fast from 1.62 million in 2007 to 3.28 million by 2015.

New building norms for panchayats mooted

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The regulations in constructing residential and commercial buildings, already in force in Corporation and municipal limits, are proposed to be extended to panchayats with an urban nature.

Local Administration Department sources told The Hindu that the draft Kerala Panchayat Building Rules prepared by the Town and Country Planning Department is understood to have mooted the extension of the floor area ratio (FAR), setback and parking norms to the panchayats which have registered an impressive growth surpassing even that of the Corporations and municipalities.

As per the draft proposals, the FAR in the urbanised panchayats is likely to be 2:75. This will vary in the case of semi-urban and rural panchayats.

Panchayats identified

As many as 150 panchayats such as Kazhakuttam in the capital, Maradu and Thrikkakara in Kochi, Kottarakara, Pandalam, Munnar panchayat and its adjoining areas which witnessed substantial growth had been identified as urbanised civic bodies. But the development of infrastructure facilities is far from satisfactory. The new norms in force in urban areas will be applicable to these 150 and other urbanised panchayats

SMS bomb threat at 5 places turns out to be \'hoax\'

KOCHI: An SMS warning about explosions at five places in the city, including two railway stations, turned out to be hoax after searches in all the areas failed to yield anything, police said on Sunday.

Extensive searches were carried out in all these places by a bomb disposal squad, aided by sniffer dogs, but they did not find anything, a top police official said.

He said police had traced the origin of the SMS and found that three college students had sent it, but without any ulterior motive. The trio, on being questioned, said they had sent the SMS just to warn people, he said.

The SMS said bombs would explode at five places -- Oberon Mall in the outskirts of the city, Ernakulam South and North railway stations, Greater Cochin Development Authority office and another mall at Menaka in the heart of the city -- before March 16.

The message was received by an officer, who passed it on to the police official. Earlier reports had said police were alerted by a journalist, who was informed of the threat by a woman who received the SMS.

Kochi and surrounding areas have been put on high alert and security increased in important areas and installations after an intelligence input of a LeT threat.

Govt will try to avoid power cut, says minister

KOTTAYAM: The government will take all steps to avoid power cut in the state, said Power Minister A K Balan. Talking to reporters in the district, Balan asked people to use less power.

He said the use of electricity has been increased due to the present temperature. The government will do everything to avoid power cut.

The minister said the government is considering buying power from outside in order to solve the crisis

Senior police official hurt in road mishap

KANNUR: A senior police official, who is part of the ongoing probe into terror related cases involving suspected Lashkar operative T Nazir, was injured in a road mishap in the wee hours Sunday, police sources said.

P P Sadanandan, Circle Inspector of the Town Police station here, has been admitted to a hospital in Mangalore with fracture injuries, they said.

The mishap occurred around 12.30 am when he was returning from the Mangattuparamba campus of the Kerala Armed Police (KAP) Batallion in a jeep which dashed against van while trying to save a motorbike coming from the opposite side, police said.

Nazir, describing himself as the South Indian Commander of the LeT, was said to be confined in the KAP campus for interrogating in connection with the tracing of an explosive near the busy Stadium corner on Sept 25, 2008 here after he was remanded to 11 days custody of Kerala police on March 12.

The ultra said to have planted a detonator in the busy spot in a bid to prevent Muslim women from coming out and shop on the occasion of Id-ul-fitr as he considered it was against Islamic traditions.

Kerala to net Rs 1000 cr a yr by selling sand from reservoirs

PALAKKAD: Kerala is expected to net Rs 1,000 crore a year through sale of sand and silt removed from beds of reservouirs, state Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac said here Sunday.

This would be a major source of non-tax revenue for the state exchequer in the next 10 years, since the demand for sand by construction sector had been steadily on the increase, he told reporters here.

From Malampuzha dam alone, sand and silt worth Rs 400 crore was expected to be removed and auctioned off before the close of this summer season, he said.

A portion of sand removed from dams would be made available to housing schemes for poorer sections at a subsidised rate of Rs 950 per truckload. For the open market, the rate would be Rs 2,300 per load.

Part of the revenue by way of the programme would be provided for development schemes of local bodies in respective areas from where the sand was removed, he said.

The programme of removing sand was launched in view of the severe crunch for construction standard sand in Kerala

Water supply yet to be restored

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Delay in interconnecting a pipeline laid as part of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-aided drinking water scheme with the existing pipeline network on the Vellayambalam-Kowdiar road caused most parts of the city to go without water for the whole of Sunday.

Work on interconnecting the pipelines, which began on Saturday, was to be completed by Sunday afternoon. However, even by midnight on Sunday, the work of welding the newly-connected pipelines was yet to be completed. Normal supply of water to all the affected areas is expected only by late Monday morning.

Sabarimala facing severe water crunch

TPURAM: The famous hill shrine of Sabarimala is facing severe water scarcity, forcing temple authorities to put in place certain restrictions in allotting accommodation to pilgrims visiting the Lord Ayyappa temple during the summer season.

The Travancore Deveaswom Board (TDB) Sunday made an appeal to pilgrims coming for the monthly poojas to return home after offering darshan, instead of camping at the Sannidhanam atop the hillock, a TDB press release said here Sunday.

The temple management is compelled to enforce these restrictions in view of the seriousness of the situation and devotees are expected to co-operate with them, the release added.