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Karnataka

Jayalalithaa acquitted in corruption case, paving way for her return as TN CM

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was on Monday acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in Bangalore in an 18-year-old corruption case, clearing the way for her return to the top job in her state.

File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was today acquitted by the Karnataka High Court here in an 18-year-old corruption case, clearing the way for her return to the top job in her state.
 
The High Court allowed Ms Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
 
Reading out the operative part of the judgement at 11 am in the court, Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy said the appeals by Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused had been allowed and that they were acquitted of all charges.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa, 67, had also been barred by the special court from contesting elections and that verdict had meant that she had been disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and ceased to be the Chief Minister of the state.
 
Today's acquittal means that Ms Jayalithaa, supremo of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), can return as Chief Minister.
 
After she had stepped down, senior AIADMK leader O. Panneerselvam was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on September 29 last year.
 
Mr Panneerselvam, 63, had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. She was later cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa, a film star-turned-politician, and the three co-accused persons were accused by the prosecution of amassing assets valued at Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income from 1991-96 during her first term in office.
 
The special court had sentenced the co-accused -- her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew Sudharakan, who is Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi -- also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
 
Jayalalithaa acquitted by Karnataka HC in corruption case
Celebrations broke out among Ms Jayalalithaa's supporters all across Tamil Nadu as well as outside the high court here, where they had gathered in large numbers.
 
Hundreds of people who had congregated outside her Poes Garden residence in Chennai since early morning burst firecrackers, danced and distributed sweets as soon as news of the verdict by Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy ame in.
 
Mr Panneerselvam and many of his Cabinet colleagues also turned up to congratulate her.
 
On October 17 last year, Ms Jayalalithaa had been granted bail by the Supreme Court in the case after the Karnataka High Court had turned down her application.
 
Along with her, the apex court also granted bail to Ms Natarajan, Mr Sudhakaran and Mr Ilavarasi.
 
The case was filed in 1997 by the Tamil Nadu government's Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) during the tenure of Ms Jayalalithaa's rival and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi as Chief Minister.
 
The Supreme Court ordered the case to be transferred to a special court in Bangalore in 2003 on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan, who had expressed doubts about a fair trial in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister.
 
The prosecution had alleged that Jayalalithaa had just Rs 3 crore when she took over as Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 and had taken a token salary of just Re 1, but her wealth and that of her three co-accused had grown to Rs 66.6 crore during her five years in office, vastly disproportionate to her known sources of income.
 
The alleged wealth included 2000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and thousands of sarees. She was also accused of spending more than Rs 5 crore on her foster son's wedding in 1996, though she had claimed that the expenditure was borne by the bride's family.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa had all along maintained that the case was an act of political vendetta by the DMK. Among other things, she had agued that her previous assets were undervalued, her property was overvalued and her income from various sources were not taken into account.
 
In 2011, Jayalalithaa had appeared in the Bangalore court for four days to answer more than 1390 questions posed by the judge.
 
In the Lok Sabha elections last year, the AIADMK had made a near clean sweep in Tamil Nadu, winning 37 of the 39 seats from the state.
 
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10 dead, 50 hurt as Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-City Express derails near Hosur

At least ten passengers died and about 50 others suffered injuries when the 12677 Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-city Express derailed on Friday morning near Anekal Road, close to Hosur in Tamil Nadu, official sources said.

 
10 dead, 50 injured as Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-City Express derails
At least ten passengers died and about 50 others suffered injuries when the 12677 Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-city Express derailed this morning near Anekal Road, close to Hosur in Tamil Nadu, official sources said.
 
The mishap occurred at around 7.45 am between Anekal Road and Hosur stations on the Bangalore-Salem section of South-Western Railway, they said.
 
Prima facie, the derailment occurred after the train hit a boulder that had rolled down onto the tracks in the ghat section, the sources said.
 
The train had left Bangalore at 6.15 am for Ernakulam in Kerala. Nine coaches and the engine of the train went off the rails, and one coach in particular, D8, a second class chair car, was badly affected, they said.
 
The derailed coaches included two air-conditioned chair cars and six second class chair cars, but they did not suffer much damage.
 
A pantry car and four second class chair cars were not affected by the derailment, the sources said.
 
South-Western Railway spokesperson Chandrasekhar Gupta told NetIndian over the telephone that ten bodies had been extricated from the mangled coaches.
 
He said 18 of the injured passengers had suffered severe injuries and were undergoing treatment in the Narayan Hridalaya, Sparsh and Anekal General hospitals nearby.
 
Police and emergency personnel, including railway officials and staff, from nearby areas in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka rushed to the spot with ambulances and medical equipment. The Railways rushed medical vans and accident relief vans to the spot.
 
Efforts were being made to restore rail traffic on the section at the earliest, the sources said.
 
In Delhi, Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu said he was rushing to the scene of the accident and that he had directed the Chairman of the Railway Board, the General Manager of South-Western Railway and other senior officials to reach the spot.
 
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He said all possible help would be rendered to the affected passengers and families. He also announced an ex-gratia amount of Rs 200,000 for the next-of-kin of each of those killed in the accident, Rs 50,000 for the grievously injured passengers and Rs 20,000 for those with minor injuries.
  
Union Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, a former Minister for Railways and former Karnataka Chief Minister, was among those who reached the scene of the accident. 
 
"I am personally monitoring it and in touch with State and local administration. All Sr rail officials are directed by me to be on job," Mr Prabhu said.
 
"Condolences to all the  unfortunate members of the families who lost lives. Directed to provide best possible medical care to the injured," he said.
 
"Ordered enquiry to fix responsibility and for corrective action to prevent such unfortunate accidents. Monitoring action regularly," he added.
 
The Railways have set up the following helplines to provide information and assistance to victims and their relatives: 0948090599,  08022371166, 09731666751.
 
Besides, the Railways have set up the following helpline numbers in Kerala:
 
Trivandrum: 0471-2321205, 2321237, 09746769960
Ernakulam Jn.: 0484-2100317, 0813699773
Ernakulam Town: 0484-2398200
Trichur: 04877-2424148, 2430060
Aluva: 0484-2624143
 
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SC grants bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa

The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who was convicted by a special court in Bangalore on September 27 in an 18-year-old corruption case and sentenced to four years in prison and asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.

File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
The Supreme Court today granted bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who were convicted by a special court in Bangalore on September 27 in an 18-year-old corruption case and sentenced to four years in prison and asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
 
Along with Ms Jayalalithaa, 66, the apex court also granted bail to her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew and Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son Sudhakaran and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi, who were also convicted in the case and sentenced to four years in prison and fined Rs 10 crore each.
 
The Karnataka High Court had, on October 7, rejected Ms Jayalalithaa's bail application. While doing so, Judge A V Chandrashekhara recalled that the Supreme Court had made it clear in the past that corruption cases should be put on the fast track. He pointed out that the apex court had taken a tough stand in such cases and had described corruption as a "violation of human rights".
 
Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused persons were accused by the prosecution of amassing assets valued at Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income from 1991-96 during her first term in office.
 
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo had moved the Supreme Court for bail on October 9.
 

 
Jayalalithaa granted interim bail by SC in DA case
The apex court today suspended her sentence and granted her bail after imposing some conditions, including that she would have to submit her paprs for the appeal against her conviction within two months, that is by December 18, and that she would not seek any adjournment of the hearings. 
 
As soon as news of the court's decision to grant her bail came, hundreds of supporters of Ms Jayalalithaa in Chennai and elsewhere broke out into rapturous celebrations.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa, who has been held in prison in Bangalore since September 27, is expected to be released on bail later today or tomorrow. She will remain confined to home in Chennai while she is on bail.
 
The court fixed December 18 as the date to satisfy itself if she had complied with its order.
 
Her counsel Fali Nariman assured the court on her behalf that there would be no act of lawlessness by her party's workers in Tamil Nadu. She had sought bail on the grounds that she was suffering from various ailments and that she was a senior citizen and a woman.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa stood disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly after her conviction and sentence and had to resign as Chief Minister. She is also barred from contesting elections for six years after she completes her four-year sentence.
 
The case was filed in 1997 by the Tamil Nadu government's Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) during the tenure of Jayalalithaa's rival and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi as Chief Minister.
 
The Supreme Court ordered the case to be transferred to a special court in Bangalore in 2003 on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan, who had expressed doubts about a fair trial in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister.
 
The prosecution had alleged that Ms Jayalalithaa had just Rs 3 crore when she took over as Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 and had taken a token salary of just Re 1, but her wealth and that of her three co-accused had grown to Rs 66.6 crore during her five years in office, vastly disproportionate to her known sources of income.
 
The alleged wealth included 2000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and thousands of sarees. She was also accused of spending more than Rs 5 crore on her foster son's wedding in 1996, though she had claimed that the expenditure was borne by the bride's family.
 
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The court held that the prosecution had been able to prove that she possessed disproportionate assets of about Rs 53 crore. 
 
Ms Jayalalithaa had all along maintained that the case was an act of political vendetta by the DMK. Among other things, she had agued that her previous assets were undervalued, her property was overvalued and her income from various sources were not taken into account.
 
In the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, the AIADMK had made a near clean sweep in Tamil Nadu, winning 37 of the 39 seats from the state and emerging as the third largest party in the House.
 
Elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly are due in 2016 and unless her conviction is overturned by a higher court, Ms Jayalalithaa cannot contest them.
 
After Ms Jayalalithaa stepped down, senior AIADMK leader O. Panneerselvam was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on September 29.
 
Mr Panneerselvam, 63, had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa was later cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.
 
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1 dead, 14 hurt in twin blasts on Bangalore-Guwahati Express at Chennai station

A 24-year-old woman was killed and 14 others suffered injuries in twin blasts which occurred in two coaches of the 12509 Bangalore-Guwahati tri-weekly express train minutes after it pulled into the Chennai Central station on Thursday morning.

 
Chennai train blasts: 14 injured passengers stable
A 24-year-old woman was killed and 14 others suffered injuries in twin blasts which occurred in two coaches of the 12509 Bangalore-Guwahati tri-weekly express train minutes after it pulled into the Chennai Central station here this morning.
 
Southern Railway sources said two of the injured had suffered serious grievous injuries while the others had received minor injuries.
 
Southern Railway General Manager Rakesh Mishra told reporters at the scene that the "minor intensity" blasts occurred in sleeper coaches S4 and S5 at about 7.15 am, some ten minutes after the train arrived on platform number 9.
 
Three coaches of the train -- S3, S4 and S5 -- were affected by the two explosions, the sources said.
 
The deceased passenger was identified as Ms Swati who was travelling from Bangalore to Vijayawada on her way to her home town of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, he said. Media reports said she was an employee of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
 
Sources said the blasts appeared to have been caused by some devices placed under seat 70 of coach S4 and seat 30 of coach S5.
 
Mr Mishra said the train was running slightly late and had arrived at the station at 7.05 am instead of its scheduled time of 5.45 am.
 
The injured were rushed immediately to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital near the station.
 
Minister of Railways Mallikarjun Kharge has sanctioned an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the next-of-kin of the deceased passenger, Rs 25,000 for each of those with grievous injuries and Rs 5,000 for each of those with minor injuries.
 
Police officials, accompanied by dog squads and bomb disposal squads, rushed to the scene of the blasts immediately and platform number 9 was cordoned off.
 
The entire train was checked by the police and it later resumed its journey to Guwahati, Assam after the affected coaches were detached and replaced with new coaches.
 
Mr Mishra said the entire train was being checked and it would resume its journey to Guwahati, Assam an hour later after the two affected coaches are detached.
 
The Railways have set up a helpline at Chennai on telephone number 044-25357398 to provide information to relatives of the passengers of the affected train.
 
Operations on other platforms as well as on the nearby suburban section continued to remain normal, Mr Mishra added.
 
A team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Hyderabad will reach Chennai later today to probe the incident.
 
Security was intensified at Chennai Central railway station after the incidents.
 
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Among the seriously injured passengers, one was identified as Sumantho Devnath (37, Male), while the other was an unidentified male.
 
Those with minor injuries were identified as follows:
 
1. Shaiful Haque – 27 years Male
2. Anjanedu– 29 years Male
3. Vimal Kumar Das – 43 years Male
4. Shagun Kumar Rai– 23 years Male
5. Altaf Khan – 17 years Male
6. Uma – 35 years Female
7. Jitendra Mohanto Deka – 58 years Male
8. Sari – 21 years Male
9. Murali – 27 years Male
10. Bijoy Kumar – 14 years Male
11. Sudanchand Debnath – 64 years Male
12. Surendra Varma– 31 years Male
 
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Prabhu inaugurates various railway initiatives pertaining to Karnataka

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Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu inaugurated various initiatives pertaining to Karnataka through video-conferencing from here yesterday.
 
These include commencement of work of Hotgi-Kudgi-Gadag doubling; commencement of work of Gadag-Wadi New Line; inauguration of doubling of Tinaighat-Londa-Shivthan section in Hospet-Tinaighat-Vasco doubling; Doubling of Banapur-Koppal in Hospet-Tinaighat-Vasco doubling; construction of new station building & extension of platform shelter at Chikkodi Road station; extension of platform shelter at Rayabag station; and laying of foundation stone for the new foot overbridge (FOB) at Mangalore Central station.
 
Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain was present on the occasion. Member Engineering, Railway Board Aditya Kumar Mittal, other Railway Board Members and senior officials also attended the ceremony.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Prabhu said, “Karnataka is an important state for Indian Railways, we have allocated highest ever funds in the Budget for developing railway Infrastructure in Karnataka. Indian Railways have formed a joint venture (JV) with the State Government."
 
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44 Gujarat Congress MLAs return to home state from Bengaluru resort

The 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs, who were taken by the party to a resort near Bengaluru for about two weeks to prevent alleged poaching attempts by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of tomorrow's crucial Rajya Sabha elections, returned to their home state early Monday morning.

 
Gujarat Congress MLAs return home from Bengaluru resort
The 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs, who were taken by the party to a resort near Bengaluru for about two weeks to prevent alleged poaching attempts by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of tomorrow's crucial Rajya Sabha elections, returned to their home state early this morning.
 
All the MLAs travelled together on an Indigo flight from Bengaluru and reached here around 4.45 am amidst heavy security.
 
Apart from the police, who were present in large numbers, there were also a large number of Congress and Youth Congress workers at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport when the MLAs landed.
 
As soon as the MLAs came out of the airport, they boarded waiting buses and left for a resort near Anand in Central Gujarat, about 80 km from here.
 
The Congress had shifted the 44 MLAs to Karnataka, that is ruled by the party, apprehending efforts by the BJP to lure away some of them ahead of polling day tomorrow in the Rajya Sabha elections.
 
The move to shift the MLAs to Bengaluru came after six MLAs resigned from the party -- three on July 27 and three more on the next day. The first three joined the BJP on July 27 itself.
 
The resignation of the six MLAs has come as a setback for the Congress, which has again fielded senior party leader Ahmed Patel, Political Adviser to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, for one of the three seats for which biennial elections are being held.
 
With the resignation of these MLAs, the strength of the Congress has come down to 51 in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, whose effective strength has come down to 176. 
 
This means that Mr. Patel, who is seeking a fifth consecutive term in the Rajya Sabha, will need at least 44 votes. As speculation rose about the possibility of more desertions from the Congress camp, the party leadership decided to take preventive steps and move all of them to Bengaluru.
 
The latest developments have also come only a few months ahead of the elections to the State Assembly, expected to be held late this year and just a few days after former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who was leader of the Opposition in the state legislative assembly, parted ways with the Congress on July 21.
 
The six MLAs who have resigned include Mr. Balwant Singh Rajput, who was the Congress' chief whip in the assembly and is now the BJP's third candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections from the state, the other two being party president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani.
 
Mr. Shah is seeking entry into Parliament for the first time, while Ms. Irani is looking for a second consecutive term in the Upper House. Given its numbers in the Assembly, the BJP can easily get two of its candidates elected. Similarly, if there is no cross-voting, the Congress can also get one candidate elected.
 
While dissociating himself from the Congress at a function to celebrate his 77th birthday in Gandhinagar, Mr. Vaghela, a former Union Minister, had made it clear that he was not joining the BJP. He claimed the party had actually expelled him the previous day, something which the Congress denied.
 
"They expelled me 24 hours ago because they were not sure about what I would say here today...Vinashkale vipareet budhdhi," he had said on that day. 
 
"I am freeing myself from the Congress. I have resigned as the Leader of the Opposition. I will resign as Congress MLA after the (August 8) Rajya Sabha elections," he told the cheering crowd.
 
The former Chief Minister said he had assured Congress President Sonia Gandhi that he would not betray her trust. He said he had told her that he would not join the BJP.
 
Mr. Vaghela, who had turned a rebel within the BJP nearly two decades ago, had floated his own outfit, the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), which he finally merged with the Congress 17 years ago. 
 
The Congress said Mr. Vaghela had wanted to be appointed as the Gujarat Congress chief, a demand that the party could not accept. 
 
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Mr. Vaghela's move had come just a day after the results of the Presidential election, which indicated that about 11 of the 57 Congress MLAs in the state then had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and against the Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
 
By fielding Mr. Rajput, a relative of Mr. Vaghela, as its third candidate for the Rajya Sabha, the BJP is hoping to attract some votes from the Congress MLAs and try and prevent the re-election of Mr. Patel.
 
Mr. Patel is counting on the support of two NCP MLAs and one of the Janata Dal (United). Apart from his four terms in the Upper House, he has also served three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha.
 
The Congress has accused the BJP of using "money and muscle power" to engineer defections of its MLAs and complained to the Election Commission about the events in Gujarat.
 
The MLAs' stay in the Eagleton resort was not without drama. On the one hand, the BJP mounted strong criticisim of their travel outside the state when it was reeling under heavy  floods. On the other hand, Karnataka Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar, who tasked by the Congress to look after the MLAs, found himself being raided by Income Tax officials. The Congress protested, saying the raids were politically motivated, while the Income Tax Department insisted they were part of an ongoing investigation against Mr. Shivakumar.
 
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GAIL commences construction work in Kerala stretch of KKMBPL Project

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The public sector GAIL (India) Limited today said it had started construction work on the Kerala stretch of the Rs. 3,263 crore Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru-Bengaluru Pipeline project after some initial hurdles.
 
The pipeline will form part of the National Gas Grid and it will go a long way in fulfilling the vision of the Government of India towards building a gas-based economy, a press release from the company said.
 
The release said the construction activities are under full swing and will gain new momentum with the award of contracts for pipeline laying works of the remainning section of 111 km falling in Malappuram, Kannur and Kasargod districts at a cost of approximately Rs 160 crore. 
 
As a part of Phase-II of the project, the pipeline section from Kochi-Koottanad (in Kerala) to Mangaluru (in Karnataka) (438 km) is being executed. 
 
"With today’s award of contracts, the entire stretch of 438 km Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline will be in construction phase," the release said.
 
Mr. B C Tripathi, Chairman and Managing Director, GAIL said,  “Looking into the substantial progress in the laying works already awarded with the help of State Government in providing statutory clearances and permissions and Right of way, GAIL is commencing laying activities in the  remaining 111 kms stretch of the pipeline. The  project activities in 100%  of the pipe length will gather full momentum after the monsoon. With the continued support of the State Government and the people at large, GAIL is confident of completing the entire Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline by December 2018.”
 
The release said the project would give a major economic boost to Kerala by way of facilitating environment-friendly industrial development. In Phase-I of the project, around 41 km pipeline had already been commissioned during 2013 to transport natural gas from Kochi LNG Terminal.
 
Currently around 2.6 MMSCMD of gas is being supplied to various consumers in and around Kochi city, the release added.
 
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Income Tax Department conducts raids on Karnataka Minister D. K. Shivakumar

The Income Tax Department on Wednesday carried out searches at the premises of Karnataka Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar at various locations as well as at a resort near Bengaluru, where 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat are staying ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections from their state.

D. K. Shivakumar
D. K. Shivakumar
The Income Tax Department today carried out searches at the premises of Karnataka Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar at various locations in Karnataka and in Delhi as well as at a resort near here, where 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat are staying ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections from their state.
 
The raid at the Eagleton Resort was confined to a room which Mr. Shivakumar was occupying and was not related in any way to the presence of the MLAs from Gujarat, the Income Tax Department said.
 
According to official sources, raids were being conducted at 39 premises in all belonging to Mr. Shivakumar and his family.
 
The Congress shifted about 44 of its MLAs in Gujarat last week to the resort in a bid to prevent poaching by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the crucial August 8 elections to the Rajya Sabha.
 
The move came after six MLAs resigned from the party, three on Thursday and three on Friday. The first three joined the BJP later on Thursday.
 
The move to shift the MLAs to Bengaluru came after six MLAs resigned from the party -- three on Thursday and three yesterday. The first three joined the BJP on Thursday itself.
 
Mr. Shivakumar had been tasked by the Congress leadership to look after the MLAs. The Congress, which had accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of using money and muscle power to force its MLAs to resign and defect, said that the timing of the raids raised serious questions.
 
"The Karnataka Investigation Wing of the Income Tax Department is conducting searches in the case of a Karnataka Minister," a press release from Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Bangalore said.
 
"The search under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act is an evidence gathering exercise which is being carried in compliance with all statutory requirements. The search is the continuation of an investigation which has been in progress for a considerable period of time," it said.
 
"The timing of the search was decided well in advance. The events involving certain MLAs of another state being brought to Karnataka were unforeseen and unpredictable events," the release said.
 
"The Minister being searched was staying at a resort near Bangalore where some MLAs from another state are put up. Hence the Minister’s room alone is being searched. The search team has no concern with the MLAs and there has been no contact with MLAs  and the search team.
 
"It is again reiterated that the Income Tax search is only on one Karnataka Minister," the release added.
 
The Congress raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha and alleged that the BJP-led NDA government was misusing Central agencies for its political purposes. Congress leader Anand Sharma took up the issue during zero hour, following which Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the leader of the House, sought to clarify that the raids were only against Mr. Shivakumar and had nothing to do with the presence of the MLAs at the resort.
 
He said the Income Tax officials had raided the room occupied by Mr. Shiva Kumar, as part of searches at 39 locations, and had not searched any other room at the resort. He asserted that the fact that Mr. Shivakumar was staying at the resort did not confer any immunity on him.
 
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad accused the Government of using foul means to force Congress MLAs to defect to the BJP. He said the Government had failed in its duty to ensure that elections were held in a free and fair manner and without fear.
 
As Deputy Chairman P. J. Kurien moved to other issues, the Congress members trooped into the well of the House and raised slogans.
 
The depletion in its strength in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly has come as a setback for the Congress, which has again fielded senior party leader Ahmed Patel, Political Adviser to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, for one of the three seats for which biennial elections will be held on August 8.
 
After the resignation of the six MLAs, the strength of the Congress has come down to 51 in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, whose effective strength has come down to 176. 
 
This means that Mr. Patel, who is seeking a fifth consecutive term in the Rajya Sabha, will need at least 44 votes. As speculation rose about the possibility of more desertions from the Congress camp, the party leadership decided to take preventive steps and move all of them to Bengaluru.
 
The latest developments have also come only a few months ahead of the elections to the State Assembly, expected to be held late this year and a few days after former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who was leader of the Opposition in the state legislative assembly, parted ways with the Congress on July 21.
 
The six MLAs who have resigned include Mr. Balwant Singh Rajput, who was the Congress' chief whip in the assembly and is now the BJP's third candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections from the state, the other two being party president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani.
 
Mr. Shah is seeking entry into Parliament for the first time, while Ms. Irani is looking for a second consecutive term in the Upper House. Given its numbers in the Assembly, the BJP can easily get two of its candidates elected. Similarly, if there is no cross-voting, the Congress can also get one candidate elected.
 
Mr. Vaghela's move had come just a day after the results of the Presidential election, which indicated that about 11 of the 57 Congress MLAs in the state then had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and against the Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
 
By fielding Mr. Rajput, a relative of Mr. Vaghela, as its third candidate for the Rajya Sabha, the BJP is hoping to attract some more votes from the Congress MLAs and try and prevent the re-election of Mr. Patel.
 
Mr. Patel is counting on the support of two NCP MLAs and one of the Janata Dal (United). Apart from his four terms in the Upper House, he has also served three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha.
 
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Former Karnataka Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh passes away

N. Dharam Singh
N. Dharam Singh
Former Karnataka Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh passed away at a private hospital here this morning after suffering a cardiac arrest, official sources said.
 
He was 80.
 
Mr. Singh served as the 17th Chief Minister of the State from May 2004 to February 2006 at the head of a Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government.
 
Born on December 25, 1936, Mr. Dharam Singh was elected to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly for seven consecutive terms. He also represented Bidar in the 14th Lok Sabha.
 
He had begun his political career as an independent councillor in Kalaburagi. He started out as a socialist before joining the Congress in the late 1960s and remained loyal to the party since then, a factor that led to his elevation as Chief Minister in 2004.
 
He had also served as a Minister under various Chief Ministers such as Devraj Urs, R. Gundu Rao, S. Bangarappa, M. Veerappa Moily and S. M. Krishna, handling diverse portfolios. He also worked as president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee in the 1990s.
 
The coalition government headed by him collapsed in February 2006 and he was succeeded by JD (S) leader H. D. Kumaraswamy at the head of a coalition government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Mr. Dharam Singh then served as the Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.
 
"Shocked to hear the demise of our former CM & one of Karnataka's tallest leaders Shri N Dharam Singh. My heartfelt condolences to his family," Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"Today, Karnataka has lost a well respected, affable and beloved leader. And I have lost a dear friend," he added.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condoled the demise of Mr. Dharam Singh.
 
“Saddened by the demise of former Karnataka CM Shri N. Dharam Singh. My thoughts are with his family & supporters in this sad hour.
 
"Shri N. Dharam Singh had rich experience in Karnataka & national politics. His dedicated service towards society will be remembered," he said on Twitter.
 
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Eminent space scientist and former ISRO Chairman U R Rao passes away

Prof. U. R. Rao
Prof. U. R. Rao
Renowned space scientist and former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman Udupi Ramachandra Rao passed away at his residence here in the early hours of today, ISRO officials said.
 
He was 85. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter. His last rites will be held here later today, they said.
 
Prof. Rao was respected for his original contributions to the development of space technology in India and its extensive application to communications and remote sensing of natural resources.
 
He was the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) at Ahmedabad and the Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Science and Technology at Thiruvananthapuram. 
 
Born on March 10, 1932 at Adamaru in Karnataka, he strudied at Christian High School, Udupi, Government Arts and Science College, Anantpur, and  Banaras Hindu University. He completed his Ph. D. at Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) under the guidance of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.
 
Prof. Rao started his career as a cosmic ray scientist, and worked under Dr. Sarabhai, which he continued at MIT. He also worked as Assistant Professor at University of Texas at Dallas where, in association with the JPL Group, he was the first to establish the continuous nature of the solar wind and its effect on geomagnetism using Mariner 2 observations.
 
His experiments on a number of Pioneer and Explorer spacecraft led to a complete understanding of the solar cosmic ray phenomena and the electromagnetic state of the interplanetary space. 
 
Prof. Rao returned to India in 1966 as Professor at PRL, Ahmedabad. Convinced of the imperative need to use space technology for rapid development, Prof. Rao undertook the responsibility for the establishment of satellite technology in India in 1972. Under his guidance, beginning with the first Indian satellite "Aryabhata" in 1975, over 18 satellites including Bhaskara, APPLE, Rohini, INSAT-1 and INSAT-2 series of multipurpose satellites and the IRS-1A and IRS-1B remote sensing satellites were designed, fabricated and launched for providing communication, remote sensing and meteorological services.
 
After taking charge as Chairman, Space Commission and Secretary, Department of Space in 1984, Prof. Rao accelerated the development of rocket technology, resulting in the successful launch of Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) rocket and the operational Polar Sattelite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launch vehicle, which can launch 2.0 ton class of satellites into polar orbit. 
 
Prof. Rao initiated the development of the geostationary launch vehicle (GSLV) and the development of cryogenic technology in 1991.
 
He was responsible for successful launch of INSAT satellites during his stint at ISRO, which gave a big thrust to communications in India, during the 1980s and 1990s and led to the IT boom in the country.
 
Prof Rao had published over 350 scientific and technical papers covering cosmic rays, interplanetary physics, high energy astronomy, space applications and satellite and rocket technology and authored many books.He was also the recipient of D.Sc. (Hon. Causa) degree from over 25 Universities including University of Bologna, the oldest University in Europe.
 
He was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the nation's third highest civilian honour, by the Government in 1976 and the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour, in 2017.
 
He was the first Indian space scientist to be inducted into the prestigious “Satellite Hall of Fame” at Washington DC, USA on March 19, 2013. Earlier, he had become the first Indian to be inducted into the International Astronautics Federation (IAF) Hall of Fame on May 15, 2016 at Guadalajara, Mexico.
 
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Orange County unveils new resort in Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Orange County Resorts & Hotels Ltd., an experiential resort company, has launched a new property at Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Karnataka.
 
Called the ‘Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace’, the new luxury property features 37 suites across three classes and nine private pool villas called Jal Mahal and stands out with its Vijayanagara styled architecture and theme-based design.
 
Developed at a cost of Rs. 70 crore the new resort is expected to drive tourism to the temple town, a press release from the company said.
 
Orange County Resorts and Hotels Ltd. has also announced that they will be rebranding all their properties to be called ‘Evolve Back’ henceforth. 
 
The release said the rebranding is in line with the company's  aggressive growth plans in India and overseas. The company currently operates three resort properties in Coorg, Kabini and Hampi, in Karanataka, India and felt the need to rebrand themselves to a more suitable brand name that reflects the core essence of what they represent, which is to provide exquisite holiday experiences while preserving and showcasing the purity of nature and culture of the land.
 
Mr. Jose Ramapuram, Director Marketing of Orange County Resorts and Hotels, “We are planning several new resort projects in the coming months. In fact, work will begin shortly in Madhya Pradesh for our next upcoming luxury property. We believe that Evolve Back as a brand name better represents the brand’s core promise of creating signature experiences that bring the local nature,culture and tradition to life in every one of our distinctive properties and delivering all these with the best in comforts and luxuries.”
                                                                                                    
Hampi, based in the Deccan Plateau region in South India was the capital of the erstwhile Vijayanagara empire. 
 
"Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace in Hampi is inspired by the grandeur and magnificence of the 14th century Vijayanagara empire and is located four kilometres from the historic ruins of Hampi. Kamalapura Palace complements its surrounding by adding to its beauty and splendour, while enthralling its guests with its luxurious offerings.
 
"The Evolve Back property in all its resplendence is a glorious tribute to the hey days of the Vijayanagara empire. The entire project has been designed after the promoters spent many months with the locals and in studying the history of the region. Special care has been taken to weave in the cultural and traditional aspects of Hampi into the architecture, the theme, the interiors and other aspects of Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace. Visitors to the property will get to soak in a slice of history though the myriad elements that make a play for one’s senses during their stay," the release said.
 
Mr. George Ramapuram, Managing Director and Head – Architecture and Design at Evolve Back, the creator of the property, said the architecture of the Vijayanagara Empire can be broadly divide into two forms, temple and secular architecture, both of which have been incorporated in the Kamalapura Palace.
 
"The resort has a fort like entrance which is inspired by the Anegundi Fort, the principal fort in the area. The rounded fortifications are typical of Islamic fort architecture, designed to withstand canon fire. The driveway is inspired by the stone paved main boulevards that used to lead to the ancient temples of Hampi. The interiors incorporate various elements, from the Indo – Islamic style arches, the aqueduct fed temple tanks to the open to sky central courtyard. The suites and common guest areas have the more elaborate, almost feminine arches while the corridors have a more utilitarian style of arches that are typical of the military architectural style of Hampi. The boundary walls are modelled after the seven stone walls that provided the fortifications of the ancient city of Hampi," he said.
 
Facilities at the resort include a multi-cuisine restaurant, Tuluva, and a specialty restaurant, Bahmani. Other attractions include historic walks and visits aimed at engaging tourists in various aspects of Hampi’s history, mythology, architecture, commerce and political life, which come alive through its striking monuments, magnificent temples and soul-stirring landscapes.
 
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CCEA nod for four-laning of Solapur-Bijapur section of NH-52 in Maharashtra, Karnataka

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The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) yesterday gave its approval for the four-laning of the Solapur-Bijapur Section of the new National Highway (NH)-52 (formerly NH-13) in Maharashtra and Karnataka. 
 
The project, involving four-laning of about 110 km, is estimated to cost approximately Rs. 1889 crore, including the cost of land acquisition and pre-construction activities, an official press release said.
 
At present, the existing road is a two-lane one and passes through congested towns of Solapur, Takli and Nandani in Maharashtra and Zalki, Horti and Bijapur in Karnataka. It connects Southern India with Northern India and its development will serve as an alternative route to North South Corridor of the National Highways Development Programme, the release said.
 
The project will have bypasses at Solar and Bijapur and involve construction of six flyovers, it said.
 
The road is part of the high-density traffic corridor Banglore-Chitradurga-Bijapur-Solapur-Aurangabad-Dhule-lndore-Gwalior.
 
The provision for two by-passes will ensure decongestion of the urban areas of Solapur and Bijapur. Similarly, the six flyovers would facilitate fast movement of traffic in Solapur, Mandrup, Zalki and Bijapur towns while simultaneously decongesting the areas. The two trucks lay-bys will facilitate smooth movement of freight traffic. The truck drivers would also benefit from the amenities in the two rest areas being developed. On both sides, provision for service roads in 14 km of the project stretch, slip roads in about 40 km and bus shelters at 24 locations will benefit safe, comfortable and smooth movement of long distance commercial traffic as well as movement of local traffic in inhabited/urbanized areas.
 
Tourists will also get benefit of better connectivity to nearby important tourist places of Bijapur, Hampi and Chitradurga, the release added.
 
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Mukherjee condemns attacks on doctors when they are unable to save patients' lives

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President Pranab Mukherjee today spoke out against the increasing number of cases where relatives of patients turn violent and attack doctors when they are unable to save the lives of patients and said such incidents should be avoided.
 
Speaking after laying the foundation stone of a Super Specialty Hospital of BRS Health & Research Institute at Udupi, Karnataka, he condemned this "uncivilized behaviour" and said people should trust doctors who try their best to save lives and cure patients.
 
Mr. Mukhjeree said there remained a huge gap in the country in terms of access to medicine and health care despite the fact that advances in modern medicine and investment in health infrastructure had made many diseases such as cholera, small pox, plague and tuberculosis curable and eradicated others.
 
He said this brought up the larger and more question of the skewed nature of health care in India -- both in terms of infrastructure and pesonnel.
 
Against the international norm of one doctor per thousand population, we have one doctor for 1700 people in our country. The ratio thus stands at 0.7:1000. The situation is all the more alarming in the vast hinterland of rural India, he said.
 
The President said that only a healthy mind and a healthy body could be the abode of God. He appreciated Mr. B. R. Shetty and his wife for their efforts in establishing the hospital. He stated that providing accessible and affordable medical facilities should be the objective of healthcare in the country. 
 
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GAIL's City Gas Distribution project in Bengaluru takes off

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The City Gas Distribution (CGD) project in Bengaluru to supply eco-friendly natural gas to households, industries and transport sector was inaugurated by Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Chemicals & Fertilizers Ananth Kumar here today.
 
The project marks a new chapter in the development of Bengaluru, India's IT capital, a press release from GAIL (India) Limited, which is implementing the project, said.
 
Union Minister for Statistics & Programme Implementation D. V. Sadananda Gowda and Union Minister of State for Petroleum & Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan were also present on the occasion.
 
The Bengaluru CGD Project is being implemented by GAIL Gas Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of GAIL (India) Limited, at an investment of Rs, 6,283 crore. The project will cover 4,395 sq km in urban and rural Bengaluru, broadly covering eight sectors - Nelamangala, Dod Ballapur, Devanahalli, Hosakote, Bengaluru East, Bengaluru North, Bengaluru South and Anekal.
 
The project will provide economical, environment friendly, uninterrupted, safe and convenient energy to 106.12 lakh residents of Bengaluru by supplying piped natural gas (PNG) for households, industries and commercial units, the release said.
 
This will significantly add to people’s convenience as there will be no hassles of booking, advance payment, storage, handling of heavy weight cylinders and monitoring of cylinder delivery. Billing will be done once in two months based on consumption, it said.
 
Moreover, with the setting up of 60 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations, the project will provide cheaper fuel for the transport sector and also facilitate a healthy lifestyle by creating a pollution-free environment.
 
The inaugural ceremony was marked by a live streaming from a house where a PNG-powered burner was lit, followed by another live streaming from a CNG Station of GAIL Gas at Leggere, Prem Nagar, Bengaluru.
 
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During the event, GAIL Gas Limited also launched a mobile app that will provide a one-stop solution and a user-friendly platform to customers to view and pay their PNG Bills, locate CNG stations, know about the benefits of CNG, PNG, and get emergency instructions.
 
According to the release, 66 kms of steel and 452 kms of MDPE pipeline have already been laid in Bengaluru. Infrastructure has been laid for PNG connections to 34,500 households, out of which 23,300 houses are ready for conversion and approximately 3,000 houses are already using PNG.
 
The CNG station in Laggare has been commissioned and three CNG stations at BMTC bus depots at Sumanahalli, Hennur and Peenya are ready for commissioning, it said.
 
As many as nine industries have been connected with PNG, including Intel, Bosch, BHEL and Apotex Pharmachemicals, Adcock Ingram Ltd., Garuda Polyflex GTR Aluminium, Exclusive Overseas and Toyota Industries Engine India Ltd.. Also, 22 commercial units have been connected with PNG.
 
GAIL Gas has been authorized by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) for implementing City Gas Distribution projects in Dewas (Madhya Pradesh), Kota (Rajasthan), Sonepat (Haryana), Meerut (Uttar Pradesh), Taj Trapezium Zone (Uttar Pradesh) and now Bengaluru.
 
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Mukherjee dedicates Metro Phase-I Project to people of Karnataka, Bengaluru

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President Pranab Mukherjee dedicated the Metro Phase-I project in Bengaluru to the people of the city and the entire state of Karnataka at a function here today.
 
Speaking on the occasion, the President said that, originally known as the Garden City, Bengaluru had slowly transformed itself into the Silicon Valley of India. As per global rankings, it has been rated as the most dynamic city of the world ahead even of the Silicon Valley. 
 
Mr. Mukherjee said that, in warming up to and finally adopting Metro as a viable mode of public transport, people in India were late by several decades. 
 
The first metropolitan railway started in London in the year 1863. By early 20th century, almost entire Europe, North America and countries in South America had metro rail networks in all their large cities. 
 
"We started with the first metro network in Kolkata in 1984 and then, once we started in Delhi in the year 2000, there was no looking back for Metro in India," he said.
 
The President said that the first phase of ‘Namma Metro’, totaling 42.3 km in length, started in the year 2008 and 31 km have been opened in different phases in the past. Today, the last section, measuring 11.3 km is being opened. The project has been built with major contributions coming from Government of Karnataka, Government of India, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Agence Francaise De Development (AfD)- France, he said.
 
He said credit should go to the people of Bengaluru, who have cooperated to the fullest extent and endured discomfort during the construction of the world class infrastructure facility. He said that he was happy to note that Phase-2 of the Namma Metro Project is already under implementation and this would add another 72 km to the existing 42 km of Phase-1.
 
He said that he had been informed that there is further plan to expand the Namma Metro network by proposing connectivity to the Bengaluru International Airport and a metro corridor along the Outer Ring Road. 
 
Mr. Mukherjee said that the construction of the mega project must have posed various challenges, and he was happy that because of the sincere work and dedication of engineers and workers, this project is being dedicated to the nation today. 
 
"Construction of a metro system in a living city has many challenges. Working in thickly populated areas, making tunnels through the hard rock of the Deccan Plateau, proximity to water table, handling modern technologies, are some of the areas, which our engineers must have dealt with, and overcome. As we complete the first phase of the project, one can be satisfied that as in other places the Metro in Bengaluru has proved to be a long term and viable solution to urban public transport," he said.
 
The President complimented the team of the Bengaluru Metro Rail Project for their excellent work. He also congratulated the Ministry of Urban Development, the people of Karnataka and the State Government for their efforts and thanked the Government of Japan and the Government of France for their financial assistance for this project. 
 
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Gem & Jewellery Training Institute to be set up in Udupi

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Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today laid the foundation stone for the Indian Institute of Gems & Jewellery (IIGJ) in Udupi in Karnataka that is expected to boost the sector in the southern region.
 
Being set up in association with the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, the training centre will be among a series of Training Institutes & Facility Centres set up by GJEPC (Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council) across India.
 
With IIGJ Udupi, GJEPC is foraying into the education and training field in southern India for the first time.
 
Addressing the function, Ms Sitharaman said that, across the globe, the best of jewellery pieces are handmade. Global retail giants like Cartier, Boucheron or Van Cliff command premium prices for their handmade jewellery.
 
India, whose forte lies in crafting the most intricate handmade jewellery should capitalise on this opportunity by building the necessary infrastructure, she said.
 
By setting up institutes like IIGJ and other facility centres, GJEPC once again has come forward to further equip Indian Gem & Jewellery sector and make it globally competitive. IIGJ in Udupi will aid in providing exciting career opportunities to the youth of surrounding regions in this sector, she added.
 
Joint Secretary Manoj Dwivedi said with over 100 retail stores and a workforce of more than 5000 people, Udupi boasts of a rich jewellery lineage. By setting up the IIGJ, GJEPC envisions to productively use the talent available here by providing required training and guidance.
 
GJEPC has joined hands with NID to ensure that the best of jewellery and manufacturing courses are offered to the enrolled students, he added.
 
GJEPC Chairman Praveen Shankar Pandya said the IIGJ in Udupi is one of the ambitious projects taken up by it to tap the unutilized potential of youth in this region and thereby giving a significant boost to Indian G& J sector.
 
He said the institute strongly embodies the Prime Minister’s Make in India initiative and is yet another step towards the pursuit of Skill India.
 
The institute will provide training to the youth in various aspects of hand-crafted jewellery making. It will also aim at enhancing the skills of the existing workforce already engaged with the industry. Creation and upgradation of such trained work force will in turn help in fostering the development of the local jewellery industry.
 
The institute will focus on three levels of skills, namely, in developing skills in those who have no prior domain learning/working knowledge of jewellery, upgrading skills of those already in the sector and provide design and technological orientation to the local industry to be competitive in the Indian and world market.
 
With these objectives, the Institute will offer Manufacturing & CAD designing courses on jewellery. The Indian Diamond Institute, based in Surat, and IIGJ have been involved on behalf of GJEPC to collaboratively develop the programme curriculum with NID, an official press release added.
 
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Mukherjee to visit Maharashtra, Karnataka on June 17-18

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President Pranab Mukherjee will pay a two-day visit to Maharashtra and Karnataka from June 17 to 18, an official press release said here today.
 
Tomorrow, Mr. Mukherjee will address the convocation ceremony of the passing out Engineering Graduate Courses of College of Military Engineering, Pune. 
 
On the same day, he will attend a function for dedication of the Metro Phase-I Project to the citizens of Bengaluru at Bengaluru, Karnataka.
 
On June 18, the President will lay the foundation stone of the Super Speciality Hospital of BRS Health & Research Institute at Udupi, Karnataka.
 
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A responsible press needed to hold power to account, says Ansari

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Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari today said that, in an open society like in India, a responsible press was needed to hold power to account.
 
Addressing an event to launch the commemorative edition of the National Herald here, Mr Ansari said the history of journalism in India is closely linked to the history of the freedom struggle. The press played an important role in educating, convincing and mobilizing the people, he said.
 
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala, Chief Minister K Siddaramaiah and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi were among those present on the occasion.
 
“Conceived by Jawaharlal Nehru, the National Herald began its publication from Lucknow in 1938 and soon became the voice of our independence movement. Its banner of ‘freedom in peril’ has an abiding relevance.
 
“This is the 70th year of our independence and the National Herald’s return to active media space with a commemorative edition is worthy of being celebrated,” Mr Ansari said.
 
The Vice-President began his speech by saying, “Today is a memorable occasion, the resurrection of a happening in our freedom struggle, a reminder to a younger generation of the role that media in the hands of people committed to a cause could do to motivate the public.”
 
He said Nehru had envisioned a free, unfettered and honest press and he watched over the interests of mediapersons in independent India. The Working Journalists Act, which tried to give a degree of protection to journalists, to ensure freedom of press, was largely his doing.
 
“In this age of ‘post-truths’, and ‘alternative facts’, where ‘advertorials’ and ‘response features’ edge out editorials, we would do well to recall Nehru’s vision of the press playing its role of a watchdog in democracy and look at the ethos and principles that powered his journalism,” Mr Ansari said.
 
“Our Constitutional framework provides for required intervention by the State to ensure smooth working of the press and the society. The laws provide that such intervention should only be in the interest of the public at large,” he added.
 
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“In an open society like ours, we need a responsible press to hold power to account. This is why freedom of press under Article 19 (1)(A) of the Constitution, is subject only to reasonable restrictions in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, decency, contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence,” he pointed out.
 
“The Supreme Court has held that ‘freedom of speech and of the press is the Ark of the Covenant of Democracy’ because public criticism is essential to the working of its institutions,” he added.
 
“A free media is not only beneficial but necessary in a free society. If press freedom is attacked, it will result in the jeopardising of citizen’s rights. When faced with unjust restrictions and the threat of attack, self-censorship in the media can have the opposite effect, aiding the covering up of abuses and fostering frustration in marginalized communities.
 
“Our Constitutional framework provides for required intervention by the State to ensure smooth working of the press and the society. The laws provide that such intervention should only be in the interest of the public at large. By the same token, the State shall not impede the free flow of information that will go a long way in protecting and promoting citizen’s rights,” the Vice-President added.
 
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Jaitley dedicates Aeronautical Test Range to nation

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Defence Minister Arun Jaitley inaugurated the newly built Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) of the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) at Chitradurga in Karnataka today.
 
Addressing a gathering of eminent scientists and other defence personnel on the occasion, the Defence Minister said facilities such as the ATR would help in creating conditions for research which will, in turn, develop the type of human resource in the country required in the field of aeronautical testing. 
 
Complimenting the vital role of the DRDO towards self-reliance and promoting ‘Make in India’ efforts, Mr. Jaitley said the development of the test range would cater to the needs of DRDO for testing of indigenously developed aeronautical systems. He said the facility would also contribute to the development of the region in which Chitradurga is located. 
 
The ATR is the first of its kind in the country, exclusively meant to conduct flight-tests of indigenous unmanned and manned aircrafts developed by the DRDO, including the naval and trainer versions of the Light Combat Aircraft, the unmanned air vehicles- Rustom-I and Rustom-II (Tapas); the Airborne Early Warning & Control Systems (AEW&C), Air-to-Ground weapons, parachutes and aerostats, and so on. 
 
This outdoor testing and evaluating facility has been set up by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), one of the premier laboratories of the DRDO. 
 
Spread across 4,029 acres, the 28 kilometre perimeter strategic test range envisages a two-kilometre runway besides other tracking and control equipment. A rail link to the facility has also been planned. 
 
The state-of-the-art Range Control Centre (RCC) houses the Air Traffic Display System with remote control of radar operations, ATC RF Voice communication system, Ground Telemetry system, Mission Video Distribution and Display System and Range Operational Communication System. The radar centre houses Primary Radar and Secondary Surveillance Radar (MSSR). About 200 acres of land outside the technical area is earmarked for a township with a shopping complex, school, hospital and transit facility. 
 
The event was attended by Mr. S. Thippeswamy, MLA, Molakalmuru and Mr.  Janardhana Swamy, former MP, Chitradurga , Dr S. Christopher, Chairman DRDO, along with a large number of officers of the DRDO and the Armed Forces, civil administration and other invitees. 
 
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Prabhu flags off weekly train to Varanasi, daily service to Mysuru from Hubbali

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Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu flagged off two trains -- 17323/17324 Hubballi - Varanasi - Hubballi Express (Weekly) and 17325/17326 Hubballi - Mysuru - Hubballi Express (Daily) -- through video conferencing from here today.
 
Railway Board Chairman A. K. Mital, Member Traffic Mohammad Jamshed and other senior officials were present on the occasion.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Prabhu said Hubbali in Karnataka was coming up as an important training centre. He said the train to Mysuru, also in Karnataka, would be named as Vishwa Manav Express.
 
The Hubballi - Varanasi Express will serve pilgrims going to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, he said.
 
The Hubbali-Varanasi Express will have commercial stoppages at Gadag, Badami, Bagalkot, Almatti, Bijapur, Solapur Jn, Daund Jn, Ahmadnagar, Kopargaon, Manmad, Bhusaval, Khandwa, Itarsi, Pipariya, Narsinghpur, Jabalpur, Katni, Maihar, Satna, Manikpur Jn, Chheoki and Mirzapur.
 
The Hubbali-Mysuru Express will have commercial stoppages at Yalvigi, Haveri, Byadgi, Ranibennur, Harihar, Davangere, Chikjajur, Ajjampur, Birur Jn, Kadur Jn, Arsikere, Tiptur, Tumakuru, Yesvantpur, KSR Bengaluru City, Kengeri, Bidadi, Ramanagaram, Channapatna, Maddur, Mandya, Pandavapura and Shrirangapattana.
 
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Joint HADR Exercise commences at Naval Station Karwar in Karnataka

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The Annual Joint Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercise, involving multiple agencies and being conducted by Indian Navy’s Western Naval Command, commenced at Naval Station Karwar in Karnataka yesterday morning.
 
Named as "Karavali Karunya", the exercise, which involves both both professional exchange and actual disaster response mechanisms, is set on a Tsunami disaster scenario and will continue till May 20, an official press release said.
 
In his keynote address, Rear Admiral K J Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding Karnataka Naval Area, welcomed the delegates from India and abroad and stressed on the requirements of coordination and synergy between civil-military agencies in the event of a disaster. 
 
Highlighting the requirements for preparations to tackle a tsunami disaster, he apprised the audience of the tsunamis in the Indian sub-continent with the last recorded on the west coast of India on 27 November 1945. He also highlighted the reduction in number of causalities during disasters post enactment of the Disaster Management Act 2005. 
 
Two first-hand accounts of actual Tsunami relief operations, in 2004, were presented by Rear Admiral Suraj Berry and Colonel Vikram Sharma, both from Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy), bringing out the real scenario of 2004 tsunami-hit areas in Sri Lanka and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, respectively. 
 
Speaking on the occasion, Lieutenant General N C Marwah (Retd), from National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) apprised the delegates on the role of NDMA and developments in the field of disaster management. He stressed on the importance of general knowledge among the citizens on basic natural disasters and first aid. He also apprised the audience of available standard operating procedures (SOPs) already laid out for various contingencies. 
 
The proceedings of the day also included setting up of Internally Displaced People camp and static display. The camp at Rabindranath Tagore Beach will be open to public from 3:00 pm today, the release added.
 
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Aurangabad-Hyderabad passenger train derails near Bidar, no casualties

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The 57440 Aurangabad-Hyderabad passenger train derailed near Bidar in Karnataka in the early hours of today, but there are no casualties, official sources said.
 
The derailment occurred at 0149 hours between Kalgupur and Bhalki stations in the Secunderabad Division of South Central Railway (SCR), they said.
 
The sources said the engine and four coaches of the train had derailed. They said no injuries had been reported and the affected section had been cleared for normal movement of traffic.
 
SCR sources said the eight unaffected coaches at the rear of the train had been moved to Kalgupur by 0545 hours. Some Karnataka State Transport buses had also been arranged to move the passengers of the derailed train to Kalgupur, they said.
 
Senior officials, including the SCR General Manager, had left for the scene of the mishap, they said.
 
A high-level committee, consisting of the SCR Chief Safety Officer,Chief Track Engineer, Chief Motive Power Engineer and Chief Traffic Manager, has been constituted to probe the derailment, the sources said.
 
The Railways have set up the following helpline numbers of providing information to the passengers and their relatives:
 
Hyderabad- 040-23200865
Parli-02446-223540
Vikarabad-08416-252013 
Bidar-08482-226329 
Aurangabad-02402342034
Bhalki-084842622209, 07899930073
 
Some trains were diverted, delayed, cancelled or partially cancelled as a result of the derailment, the sources added.
 
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This is the third train derailment in the past four weeks on the Indian Railways. On April 15, eight coaches of the 22454 Meerut-Lucknow Rajya Rani Express derailed near Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, and at least two passengers suffered injuries.
 
On March 30, eight coaches of the Jabalpur-Hazrat Nizamuddin Mahakaushal Express had derailed near Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh, injuring at least 13 people.
 
At least 39 passengers died and 50 others suffered injuries when nine coaches and the engine of the 18438 Jungarh Road-Bhubaneswar link train portion of 18448 Jagdalpur-Jungarh Road-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express derailed in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh in the night of January 21.
 
At least 61 passengers suffered injuries when as many as 15 coaches of the 12987 Sealdah-Ajmer Express derailed near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh early in the morning of December 28, 2016.
 
On November 20, 2016, more than 120 people died and more than 200 suffered injuries when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed in Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh.
 
These incidents have underlined the challenges that the Railways face on the passenger safety front.
 
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Ramanagara region of Karnataka

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, shook the Ramanagara region, about 50 km south west of Bengaluru, in Karnataka this morning.
 
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 12.6 N and longitude 77.4 E, occurred at 0736 hours at a focal depth of 33 km.
 
Media reports said tremors were felt in Bengaluru and areas such as Mandya, Tumakuru and Kollegal.
 
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Mukherjee to visit Karnataka, Maharashtra on April 14-15

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President Pranab Mukherjee will pay a two-day visit to Karnataka and Maharashtra from tomorrow.
 
On April 14, the President will lay the foundation stone of Bengaluru Dr. BR Ambedkar School of Economics at Bengaluru in Karnataka, an official press release said.
 
On April 15, Mr. Mukherjee will award President’s Standard to Armoured Corps Centre and School Ahmedngar, Maharashtra, it added.
 
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Drought & cyclone relief: Centre releases Rs. 1,712.10 crore for TN; Rs. 1,235.52 crore for Karnataka

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The Central Government has sanctioned Rs. 1793.63 crore to Tamil Nadu for drought and cyclone relief and Rs.1,782.44 crore to Karnataka for drought relief from the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF).
 
An official press release said the step followed the receipt of detailed memoranda from these states. It said Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCT) were deputed to visit the drought affected areas for on-the-spot assessment of the calamity.
 
The High Level Committee (HLC) had recommended the quantum of assistance to the States based on the extant norms of assistance and the report of the IMCT.
 
A sum of Rs. 1447.99 crore has been released to Tamil Nadu after adjusting Rs. 345.64 crore available with the State as balance in the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
 
For Karnataka, after adjusting Rs. 96.92 crore available with the State as balance in the SDRF and earlier release of Rs. 450 crore by the Central Government, sum of Rs. 1,235.52 crore has been released.
 
The release said the HLC had also advised the State Governments to take utmost care and ensure that all the individual beneficiary-oriented assistance are disbursed only through the bank account of the beneficiaries.
 
Further, the Central Government has released Rs. 264.11 crore from NDRF for providing the Central assistance to Tamil Nadu for the cyclonic storm ‘Vardha’ during December, 2016. This amount has been approved by the HLC on the basis of the report of the Inter-Ministerial Central Team sent by the Central Government to assess the damage.
 
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These releases are over and above the releases made to States as devolution of 42% of Central Taxes as per the recommendation of the 14th Finance Commission. For the year 2016-17, a sum of Rs. 6.08 lakh crore has been released to all States as devolution of Central Taxes. Tamil Nadu has received Rs. 24,538 crore and Karnataka has received Rs. 28,750 crore under devolution formula during 2016-17.
 
During 2016-17, the Central Government has also provided Rs. 48,869 crore to all the States as grant for Rural and Urban Local Bodies to primarily meet the requirement of basic necessities for people living in these areas.
 
For the benefit of farmers, Rs. 13,240 crore has been provided under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojana (PMFBY) in 2016-17.
 
Also, Rs. 2,45,435 crore has been provided under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) for transfer to the States from the Central Government during 2016-17. This includes Rs. 47,499 crore for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) which is used for employment generation and water conservation works.
 
In view of onset of the summer season, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has instructed that, in the next three months, all the States should focus on water conservation related works by utilizing the funds available under various Schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) and MGNREGS.
 
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