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Kerala

10 dead in Kerala, TN, several fishermen missing as cyclone Ockhi heads for Lakshadweep

Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands on Friday.

 
Cyclone Ockhi: 8 killed, several fishermen missing
Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands today.
 
Four people were killed in south Kerala and five in south Tamil Nadu in rain-related incidents yesterday even as the authorities mounted a massive search and rescue operation for scores of fishermen reported missing at sea.
 
One fisherman, who was among those rescued today, died in hospital here today, taking the toll in Kerala to five, official sources said.
 
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a warning of a very severe cyclone for Lakshadweep Islands this evening and said the system was likely to intensify further in the next 24 hours.
 
In a Red message issued at 1730 hours today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the system, now over the Lakshadweep  area and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea, continued to move west-northwestwards with a speed of 15 kmph during the past six hours and intensified further into a "Very Severe Cyclonic Storm".
 
It lay centred at 1430 hours IST today near latitude 9.1º N and longitude 73.0º E, about 90 km north of Minicoy and 220 km south-southeast of Amini Divi. 
 
"The system is very likely to intensify further during next 24 hours. It is very likely to continue to move west-northwestwards across Lakshadweep Islands during next 24 hours and then move north/ northeastwards during the subsequent 48 hours," the bulletin said.
 
The IMD warned that, under the influence of the system, heavy to very heavy rainfall was very likely at most places over Lakshadweep area during the next 24 hours, with isolated extremely heavy falls. There could be isolated heavy to very heavy falls during the subsequent 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin also said that rainfall was very likely at many places over Kerala during the next 24 hours, with heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
According to it, gale winds, with speed reaching 120-130 kmph, gusting to 145 kmph, were very likely over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and gradual decrease thereafter.
 
Squally winds, with speed reaching 45-55 kmph, gusting to 65 kmph, were very likely along and off Kerala during the next 24 hours and along and off Karnataka coast during the next 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin said sea conditions would be phenomenal over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and very high during the subsequent 24 hours.
 
Sea conditions would be high to very high along and off the Kerala coast during the next 24 hours and along and off the Karnataka coast during subsequent 24 hours.
 
The cyclone could cause damage to power and communication lines due to breaking of tree branches and uprooting of large avenue trees; major damage to thatched houses, huts and kutcha houses; some damage to pucca roads; flooding of escape routes; and damage to banana and papaya trees and standing crops.
 
Storm surge of about one metre above astronomical tides was very likely to inundate low lying areas of Lakshadweep Islands, the bulletin said.
 
Fishermen along and off Lakshadweep Islands were advised not to venture into the sea during the next 48 hours. Similarly, fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off the Kerala and Karnataka coasts during the next 48 hours.
 
Ships and aircraft of the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) were involved in the rescue efforts at sea while teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were deployed in the affected areas in the two states and units of the Indian Army were on standby to come to the aid of the civil adminstration, if necessary.
 
Official sources here said more than 220 people had been rescued from the sea by the Navy, ICG and IAF. Many of them were admitted to hospitals here for treatment, they said. 
 
Some of the fishermen were rescued by a Japanese cargo ship in the area. As many as 37 people were rescued by Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) of the Indian Navy which flew between Thiruvananthapuram and the sea.
 
The ICG said it had deployed nine ships and two Dornier aircraft in the area and rescued as many as 52 fishermen so far.
 
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The International Safety Net (ISN) had been activated to advise Merchant Traffic to render assistance to stranded fishermen, it said.
 
Among others, Indian Naval Ships Sagardhwani, Jamuna and Nireekshak were in the affected areas in the Arabian Sea. INS Sharda and Shardul are also sailing out soon to augment the search effort. Both ships were in final stages of embarking HADR items for assistance at Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands, Indian Navy sources said.
 
In Poonthura, a coastal village near here, angry groups of fishermen and their families staged protests, alleging that the government had not acted in time and not done enough as far as the rescue efforts were concerned. 
 
Former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, both senior leaders of the Congress, visited the area today to listen to the woes of the villagers.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told newspersons that the state government had received an alert about the cyclone only on Thursday afternoon. He said the rescue efforts were also hampered by the bad weather conditions.
 
Mr. Vijayan said all possible efforts were being made to locate and rescue the missing fishermen. He said the state government had urged the Ministry of Defence to deploy more aircraft for the search and rescue operations.
 
In Lakshadweep, the authorities had issued orders for the evacuation of people from low-lying areas in Kalpeni, Minicoy, Kavratti, Agatti, Androth, Kadamath and Amini islands.
 
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Congress wrests Gurdaspur in Punjab from BJP, its ally IUML retains Vengara in Kerala

In a morale booster for the party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat from the BJP by a huge margin and its ally, the IUML, retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.

 
Congress' Sunil Jakhar wins Gurdaspur LS bye-election
In a morale booster ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha  seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by a huge margin and its ally, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.
 
Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar drubbed Mr. Swaran Singh Salaria of the BJP by a record margin of 1,93,219 votes in Gurdaspur.
 
In Vengara, Mr. K. N. A. Khader, the candidate of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), who is a member of the IUML, won from Vengara, defeating his nearest rival, P. P. Basheer of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), by a margin of 23,310 votes in the October 11 bye-election.
 
Counting of votes was taken up in both constituencies this morning, and the results were out by noon.
 
Gurdaspur had fallen vacant following the death on April 27 of well-known Hindi film actor Vinod Khanna, who represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha as a candidate of the ruling BJP.
 
Mr. Jakhar polled 4,99,752 votes against the 3,06,553 votes secured by Mr. Salaria. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Suresh Khajuria got just 23,579 votes.
 
Considering the fact that Mr. Khanna had won the seat by an impressive margin of 1.35 lakh votes in 2014, the bye-election ended up being a cakewalk for Mr. Jakhar, 63, the Congress Punjab unit chief and son of late Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar.
 
In between, in March this year, the Congress won a resounding victory in the elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly and its leader Amarinder Singh returned as Chief Minister of the state. The bye-election had turned into a battle of prestige for both sides.
 
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had ended up on the losing side in all the nine Assembly segments in Gurdaspur. Mr. Jakhar has managed to turn this around, winning from all the nine segments this time.
 
Gurdaspur was considered a Congress stronghold for long years, with its candidate Sukhbuns Kaur Bhinder winning the seat five times in a row from 1980 to 1996 before the BJP brought in Khanna, a top Bollywood actor, as its candidate in 1998. The actor-turned politician was re-elected from the seat in 1999, 2004 and then in 2014. In 2009, former Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa by a thin margin of 8,359 votes.
 
Mr. Jakhar described the bye-election result as a "referendum" on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's government at the Centre and said the people of the constituency had sent a "strong message of resentment" over its policies.
 
"Congratulations to @sunilkjakhar ji for his impressive win in #Gurdaspur bypoll, it's a victory for @INCPunjab policies & development agenda," Mr. Amarinder Singh on microblogging site Twitter.
 
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"Assure people of #Gurdaspur that every single promise made by @sunilkjakhar will be fulfilled and all development works will be fast-tracked," he added.
 
Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu said, "This is a beautiful Diwali gift, packed with a red ribbon, for our would-be party president Rahul Gandhi."
 
In Vengara, Mr. Khader polled 65,227 votes against 41,917 secured by Mr. Basheer, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the main constituent of the ruling LDF in the state.
 
Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) candidadte K. C. Naseer ended up third with 8,648 votes while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee K. Janachandran  Master, finished fourth with 5,728 votes in the results announced today.
 
The bye-election in Vengara was necessitated by the resignation of IUML leader P. K. Kunhalikutty, who was elected to the Lok Sabha on April 12 from the Malappuram seat that fell vacant following the death of former Union Minister E. Ahamed.
 
While the UDF celebrated the victory, the LDF drew satisfaction from the fact that they had reduced the IUML candidate's victory margin from 38,057 votes in the 2016 Assembly elections, when Mr. Kunhalikutty had won, to 23,310 votes in this bye-election.
 
Today's results have come just three days after the Congress swept the municipal elections in Nanded-Waghala in Maharashtra, considered a stronghold of the party. The party won 67 of the 81 seats, while the BJP won four and its ally Shiv Sena got just one.
 
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Mukherjee says tragic to see universities caught in vortex of violence, disquiet

Declaring that there should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday that the country's premier institutions of higher education must resound with creativity and free thinking.

President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ at Kochi in Kerala on March 2, 2017.
President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ at Kochi in Kerala on March 2, 2017.
Declaring that there should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian, President Pranab Mukherjee today said the country's premier institutions of higher education must resound with creativity and free thinking.
 
"Those in Universities must engage in reasoned discussion and debate rather than propagate a culture of unrest. It is tragic to see them caught in the vortex of violence and disquiet," he said while delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ in Kochi.
 
"India was a world leader in the field of education when our Universities like Nalanda and Takshshila were at the height of their glory. Nalanda and Takshshila are not mere geographical expressions but representations of the idea for free thought which flourished in these great Universities of the past.  Our premier institutions of higher education are the vehicles on which India has to propel itself into a knowledge society.  These temples of learning must resound with creativity and free thinking," he said.
 
"There should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian.  India has been since ancient times a bastion of free thought, speech and expression.  Our society has always been characterized by the open contestation of diverse schools of thought and debate as well as discussion.   Freedom of speech and expression is one of the most important fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution. There must be space for legitimate criticism and dissent," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee began by speaking about Kerala, which has been the gateway to India for traders and religious missionaries from different parts of the globe. He said the people of Kerala were known for their progressive thinking and the State's impressive achievements in the field of literacy, education, health, gender equality, tourism and culture had brought it global acclaim.
 
Turning to the topic of the lecture, India@70, he said that for 50 years before independence in 1947 the economic growth rate of India was 0% to 1%. "In the fifties, our growth rate rose to 1 – 2%, the sixties 3 – 4% and in the 90s, with economic reforms, to 6 to 7%.  In the last decade, our growth rate has averaged around 8%, making us the fastest growing large economy of the world," he said.
 
"India’s population in 1950 was 360 million. Today, we are a 1.3 billion strong nation.  Our annual per capita income has gone up from Rs. 7,500 at the time of independence to over Rs. 77,000. GDP growth rate has risen from 2.3 percent to 7.9 percent in 2015-16.  Poverty ratio has declined from over 60 percent to less than 25 percent.  Average life expectancy has gone up from 31.4 to 68.4 years. Literacy rate has gone up from 18 to 74 percent. Food grains production has gone up from 45 million to an estimated 272 million tonnes in 2016-17," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee spoke about the progress achieved by the country in the field of food and industrial production, as well as in areas such as space, information technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. He said that, in the last 70 years, India had transformed itself from a poor, under-developed nation into the third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.
 
He said equally important was India's success in consolidating the unity of its nation and democracy in the midst of extraordinary challenges and tremendous diversity.  
 
"We have firmly established within our country the rule of law, an independent judiciary and vibrant media as well as civil society.  We have also created strong institutions like the Election Commission and the CAG who stand as pillars of our political system.  Every known religion in the world, over hundred different languages used in everyday life, 1600 dialects and multiple cultures are united under one flag and one Constitution. Around 553 million people voted in the 2014 General Elections, an exercise matched in scale and scope by none else in the world," he said.
 
The President said the most important legacy bequeathed to the nation by its founding fathers was its Constitution.
 
"A Constitution is a charter for the governance of a nation. The notion of what is good governance must be defined by the need of the times and enriched by the experience of the decades. Yet, the Constitution enshrines certain timeless values that should never be compromised. It is against the touchstone of these values that we must constantly measure our performance," he said.
 
"The Preamble records the resolve of the people of India to secure to all citizens justice - social, economic and political as well as liberty, equality and fraternity.  It also establishes the principle of secularism. Justice - social, economic and political - is in the life of any nation a journey more than a destination. To achieve social justice requires not mere governance but a recasting of mindsets and the transformation of social ethos.  That is the job not just of the legislature, the executive or the courts, but of each one of us.
 
"The ultimate goal of any democracy is the empowerment of the individual, irrespective of his economic, religious or social standing. This may appear to be a utopian dream for many, but the strength of a system lies in its capacity to ceaselessly work for its accomplishment.  The goal of political justice requires the continuous empowerment of marginalised sections of our society. We owe ourselves to create a system in which access to politics is not limited to a privileged few but an average Indian also feels empowered enough to contribute," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee said economic development was vital to good governance but stressed that this must be imbued with the principle of equality on which there could be no compromise.
 
"An egalitarian society can only be created when growth is inclusive. It is important to ensure that there is justice and equality of opportunity and the state does not create conditions in which the privileged few gain at the cost of the multitudes who suffer endemic poverty. A sustainable society can only be based on the principles of equity and justice," he said.
 
He said democracy required constant nurturing and at no cost should the exploitation of fault lines be allowed. In this context, he underlined the importance of protection and safety of women and children.
 
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Mr. Mukherjee said the country's leaders and political activists must listen to the people, engage with them, learn from them and respond to their needs and concerns. "Our law makers must never take the people for granted. They must focus on the fundamental task of law making and raising of issues of concern to the people as well as finding solutions to their problems," he said.
 
"Legislation is the first and foremost responsibility of a Parliamentarian. It is most unfortunate that time devoted towards legislation has been gradually declining in our Parliament," he said, citing figures for time lost due to interruptions and adjournments.
 
"No one who holds any elected office has been invited by the voters to occupy that office.  Each one has gone to the voters and pleaded for their votes and support.  The trust placed by the people in the political system and those elected should not be betrayed. Our Legislatures and Parliament must not turn into arenas for combat.  Floor tests are not meant to be muscle tests.  The opportunity to represent the people is not a right or entitlement but a moral obligation and duty.  Our elected representatives owe it to the people of our country to act as models of exemplary conduct," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee said Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies were central pillars on which the edifice of democracy   rested. 
 
"They are the supreme institutions comprising of members directly elected by our people.  It is through them that governments are held accountable by the people.  If they become dysfunctional, it results in not just paralysis of those institutions but creates an adverse impact across the system.  The debate and discussions which ought to take place in the open in the House of Parliament and Assemblies cannot be replicated elsewhere.  When they cease to function effectively, issues spill out onto the streets.  The very basis of our democracy gets undermined," he said.
 
The President said the time had come for collective efforts to re-discover the sense of national purpose and patriotism that alone can lift the nation on to the road of sustained progress and prosperity.
 
"The nation and the people must always come first.  Let us strive to arrest the moral decline in our society and ensure that our core civilisational values find firm root.  Let us exert ourselves to strengthen India’s pluralism and diversity.  Let us be uncompromising in rooting out violence, prejudice and hatred.  
 
"Let us strive for rapid progress but even as we do so, ensure that the benefits of economic progress percolate down to the poorest of the poor and those living in the furthest corners of our country.  Let us make the poorest in our land part of the story of a rising India.  Let us embrace education, skill development and innovation which will enable us catapult India into the future and build a knowledge economy, riding the technological wave of the 21st century.
 
"I see a very bright future for India. Our Constitutional values, young population and entrepreneurial abilities as well as capacity for hard work provide us the fundamentals required for rapid progress as well as the building of a caring and compassionate society. India has changed dramatically in the last 70 years.  I am confident that in the next ten years, we will see even greater progress as we steer our nation, focused on further strengthening our open, democratic and inclusive society," he added.
 
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Kerala: Court orders probe against CM Oommen Chandy, Minister Aryadan Mohammad

A Vigilance Court in Thrissur on Thursday ordered registering of an FIR and initiating a probe against Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleague Aryadan Mohammad on the bribery allegations raised against them by Saritha S Nair, main accused in the "solar scam".

 
Kerala solar scam: FIR ordered against CM; protestors lathicharged
 
A Vigilance Court here today ordered registering of a first information report (FIR) and initiating a probe against Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleague, Electricity and Transport Minister Aryadan Mohammad, on the bribery allegations raised against them by Saritha S Nair, main accused in the "solar scam".
 
Saritha and her associate Biju Radhakrishnan are accused of having cheated several businessmen and non-resident Indians (NRIs) of large sums of money promising them partnership in a company floated by them, Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions Pvt Limited, which offered solar energy solutions to institutions and households. 
 
They had also boasted of close connections with Mr Chandy and other ministers and even produced letters on official letterheads to support their claims. The scam came into light when an NRI, Sajad, filed a police complaint accusing them of having defrauded him of Rs 40 lakh. Subsequently, 33 cases were registered against them on various complaints.
 
Saritha, while deposing before the Justice Sivarajan Commission in Kochi yesterday, had alleged that she had paid a bribe totalling Rs 1.90 crore to an aide of the Chief Minister and Rs 40 lakh to Mr Mohammad. Both have denied the charges.
 
However, Inquiry Commissioner and Special Judge S S Vasan, taking cognisance of a private complaint, asked the Vigilance Director to file an FIR and complete the probe as early as possible. The court rejected the contention of the government counsel seeking a quick probe into the allegations before initiating proceedings against the Chief Minister. Justice should be equal for all, for the common man as well as Chief Minister, the court observed.
 
The judge said he was not looking into the merits of the complaint against the Chief Minister which is to be considered by the investigating officer. The report is to be submitted to the court on April 14. The court also rejected the submission of the state counsel regarding jurisdiction of the court since the alleged bribery took place in Thiruvananthapuram. However, the court upheld the contention of the complainant P D Joseph, a social activist, that it had also occurred in Kochi, which fell within the purview of the court.
 
Reacting to the court order, Mr Chandy told reporters in Kozhikode that he was prepared to face any inquiry and rejected the opposition demand for his resignation. “My conscience is clear and both of us have done nothing wrong,” he said, speaking on behalf of his ministerial colleague, too.
 
In a related development the Kerala High Court stayed the Thrissur Vigilance Court order of registering an FIR against Mr K Babu, who had resigned his post as Minister following the court order. 
 
Passing the order, High Court Judge P Ubaid observed that the vigilance court had acted in unnecessary haste without waiting for the order of the division bench of the High Court. The stay will be applicable for two months. In the meantime, the court directed the Vigilance Director to conduct a quick probe and submit a report within ten days.
 
Earlier, on January 25, Mr Chandy had deposed before the judicial commission. The deposition, that went on into the night, was completed only in the early hours the next day. He reportedly told the commission that he had met Saritha only three times and came to know about the financial dealings only after her arrest. He had acknowledged receipt of a contribution of Rs 2 lakh to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund in a letter drafted by his office under his letterhead. The letterhead was later found to be misused. He also denied that he had met Saritha in his office along with Sreedharan Nair, a quarry owner and one of the complainants in the scam, as stated by Intelligence ADGP A Hemachandran.
 
The Chief Minister later told reporters that he had refused to undergo a lie-detector test as he had not lied or acted against his conscience. Neither has the state exchequer incurred any loss nor the accused obtained any monetary advantage, he added. 
 
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Kerala: Four female rowers attempt suicide in SAI hostel; one dead, three hospitalised

A 15-year-old rower died and three female athletes were hospitalised in a serious condition after they consumed poisonous fruit on Wednesday in an alleged suicide attempt at their hostel at the Sports Authority of India's Water Sports Centre at Alappuzha in Kerala.

 
Kerala suicide attempt: DG SAI says priority to save lives of girls
A 15-year-old rower died and three female athletes were hospitalised in a serious condition after they consumed poisonous fruit yesterday in an alleged suicide attempt at their hostel at the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) Water Sports Centre at Alappuzha in Kerala.
 
The decased was identified as Aparna Ramachandran, a resident of Avalookunnu in Alappuzha district, official sources said. The three others are also from Kerala, they said.
 
The four athletes allegedly consumed the fruit of cerbera odollam (Othalanga in Malayalam) sometime during the afternoon yesterday and were rushed to the Alappuzha Medical College Hospital, about 150 km from here, in the evening after they started showing symptoms of food poisoning.
 
While Aparna failed to respond to treatment and breathed her last around 4 am today, the other three girls were said to be in a serious condition.
 
The reason for the extreme step taken by the rowers could not be ascertained immediately, but parents and relatives of the girls said they were subjected to mental and physical harassment at the hostel in recent times.
 
The hostel authorities, however, denied these allegations and said there were no complaints of any harassment. Media reports quoted them as saying that the girls had recently been caught consuming beer and were questioned about it, and they must have resorted to the extreme step fearing further action.
 
The State Government as well as the Sports Authority of India have ordered inquiries into the incident.
 
Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chenithala told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that he had asked Inspector General of Police (Kochi Range) M R Ajithkumar to conduct an inquiry into th incident and the officer would reach Alappuzha later today.
 
In Delhi, SAI Director General Injeti Srinivas said SAI had taken an extremely serious view of the incident and he had submitted an initial report to Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. He said SAI would conduct a probe into all aspects of the incident.
 
Mr  Sonowal said in a statement later that he had asked the Director General of SAI to rush to the spot and give a factual report on the incident.
 
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“I am deeply aggrieved by the incident that has happened in Kerala. The young girl who has died was a very promising sportsperson. It is a big loss to the country in general and Sports Authority of India and sports fraternity in particular. I convey my condolences to the bereaved family. We will give all possible help to the bereaved family," he said.
 
"Three girls are still undergoing treatment. I pray for their speedy recovery. To provide them the best possible treatment is our top priority," he said.
 
"Local police is investigating the matter. I have also directed the Director General of SAI to rush to the spot and give me a factual report. I have specifically directed him to ensure that the best possible treatment is made available to the three girls who are undergoing treatment. 
 
"While law will take its own course, at this stage I would only like to say that if anyone from Sports Authority of India is found guilty in connection with this tragic incident, strictest possible action will be taken against him or her," he added.
 
Mr Srinivas told newspersons in Delhi that it was the most shocking and tragic incident in the three-decade-old history of SAI, which is tasked with nurturing sports talent in the country.
 
He said he had been informed of the incident around midnight last night and has been in touch with Kerala government and local SAI officials since then.
 
"Our immediate priority is to deal with the medical emergency, to save the lives of the three trainees" he said. He said he had been told that there was no real antidote for the poisonous fruit and that, since the entire matter came to light only after some hours after they had consumed the fruit, the poison appeared to have entered their bloodstream and complicated matters.
 
Mr Srinivas said the four girls had reportedly left a suicide note jointly signed by them. One of the three girls in hospital, who is conscious and is able to speak, has deposed before the sub-divisional magistrate, he said. "All these matters will be investigated," he added.
 
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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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Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit resigns, may return to Delhi politics

Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit said on Tuesday she had resigned from her position, amid reports that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre was planning to shift her to the North-East and indications that she might return to active politics in Delhi.

 
Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit resigns
Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit today said she had resigned from her position, amid reports that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre was planning to shift her to the North-East and indications that she might return to active politics in Delhi.
 
Ms Dikshit, 76, who was Chief Minister of Delhi for 15 years over three consecutive terms, had taken over for a five-year term as the 22nd Governor of Kerala only on March 11 this year after she and her Congress party suffered a humiliating defeat in the December 4, 2013 elections to the Delhi Legislative Assembly.
 
She had lost in her own constituency of Gole Market by a huge margin to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, who went on to serve as Chief Minister of Delhi for 49 days before he resigned. The Congress had managed to win only eight seats in the 70-member house.
 
Ms Dikshit was among the Governors appointed by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre who had refused to heed clear signals from the new Modi government, which assumed office on May 26, that they should hand in their papers.
 
There were also reports in the media suggesting that she might be shifted to a North-Eastern state if she refused to quit.
 
Ms Dikshit met President Mukherjee and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh here yesterday. 
 
"I have only one thing to say. The news flashing on television channels is correct. I have submitted my resignation yesterday," she told newspersons.
"This is what I wanted to say, and I wanted to say it myself."
 
"I don't have anything more to say right now. After my resignation is accepted, I'll say whatever I have to say," she said.
 
To repeated queries about her views on the way the Modi government had handled Governors and about her future plans, Ms Dikshit said that she would not like to say anything further.
 
"Let my resignation be accepted, after that I promise you that I will talk to you," she added.
 
Asked if she had been under pressure from the Modi government to resign, Ms Dikshit said, "I have nothing to do with all that. I did what my heart told me to do."
 
She is now expected to plunge back into active politics in Delhi, where Assembly elections may be held in the next few months if it is not possible to form a viable government within the present Assembly in which no party has a clear majoirty.
 
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With this, eight of the Governors appointed by the previous government have resigned so far, while two were sacked.
 
Soon after the new government started nudging them, five Governors -- B L Joshi in Uttar Pradesh, M K Narayanan in West Bengal, Ashwani Kumar of Nagaland, Shekhar Dutt of Chhattisgarh and Bharat Vir Wanchoo of Goa, all of whom are former police officers -- resigned.
 
Mr Vakkom Purushothaman, a senior Congress leader from Kerala, who was shifted from Mizoram to Nagaland after then Gujarat Governor Kamala Beniwal was moved to Mizoram, resigned in protest against the manner in which he was transferred without consulting him.
 
Ms Beniwal, who had a few run-ins with then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is now the Prime Minister, was sacked on August 6. Earlier, on July 11, Mr Virendra Kataria had been removed as Lt Governor of Puducherry.
 
On Sunday, another senior Congress leader from Kerala, Mr K Sankaranarayanan, resigned after he was transferred as the Governor of Mizoram from Maharashtra.
 
The Governor of Uttarakhand, Mr Aziz Qureshi, has meanwhile filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that he had received calls from the Union Home Secretary suggesting that he resign. He contended that only the President could remove him.
 
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Nipah fever under control in Kerala, no cause for panic: Nadda

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Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare JP Nadda today said the Nipah fever at Perambra, Kerala, appears to be a localised occurrence and urged the people not to believe in rumours posted on social media and spread panic.
 
Mr Nadda is closely monitoring the situation arising out of reported cases and deaths due to Nipah Virus in Kerala. He reviewed the situation with Secretary (HFW) Preeti Sudan and DG (ICMR) Dr Balram Bhargava and has directed for all support to be extended to Kerala in its prevention and management, an official press release said.
 
Following directions of the Minister, a multi-disciplinary Central team from National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is at present in Kerala constantly reviewing the situation. The Central team includes Dr Sujeet K Singh, Director, NCDC; Dr S K Jain, Head Epidemiology, NCDC; Dr P Ravindran, Director, Emergency Medical Relief (EMR); Dr Naveen Gupta, Head Zoonosis, NCDC; Dr Ashutosh Biswas, Prof Internal Medicine, AIIMS; Dr Deepak Bhattacharya, Pulmonologist, Safdarjung Hospital, along with two clinicians and one expert from Ministry of Animal Husbandry.
 
The NCDC team visited the house in Perambra from where the initial death was reported.  The team found many bats housed in the well from where the family was drawing water.  Some bats have been caught and have been sent for lab examination to confirm whether they are the cause of the disease.
 
Some 60 different samples have been collected from the spot and sent for examination. There are two confirmed cases with history of contact with the index case. They were admitted in the Calicut Medical College Hospital and died due to fever caused by the Nipah virus.
 
The Ministry has mobilized a public health team from NCDC Branch Kozhikode to assess the extent of problem, for risk assessment and risk management.  They are assisting the State Level Team already deployed at the epicentre.  So far, seven patients have been admitted in Baby Memorial Hospital and in the Government Medical College at Kozhikode and at the Amrutha Medical College, Ernakulum.
 
The field team has advised hospitals to follow intracranial pressure (ICP) guidelines, use personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and sample collection; assist in enhancing active fever surveillance in the community; strengthen contact tracing in close contacts of cases, relatives, health care workers; ensure isolation facilities, ventilator support and hospital infection control practices; and coordinate with animal sector and enhance surveillance for unusual illness and deaths in animals.
 
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The Ministry has ensured availability of diagnostic kits, personal protective equipment and risk communication materials. High quality personal protection equipment has been provided to health care personnel.
 
A total of nine individuals are currently under treatment. Isolation wards have been opened in many hospitals in Kozhikode. Hospitals in public and private sector have been provided with personal protective equipment. Appropriate steps to contain this virus have been taken among domestic animals such as pigs.
 
"Since all the contacts are under observation and steps to avoid exposure through animal vectors have been taken there is no reason for people to panic. This appears to be a localised occurrence," the release said.
 
With early and efficient containment measures undertaken jointly by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and Government of Kerala, the outbreak is unlikely to spread. The Virus Research Diagnostic Laboratory at Manipal Hospital and the National Institute of Virology, a premier institute for research in virology, are geared up to meet any diagnostic challenges that may arise, the release added.
 
NNN
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Nipah virus claims 10 lives in Kerala, two serious

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The toll due to the Nipah virus, presently identified in Kerala's Kozhikode and Malappuram, rose to 10 on Tuesday even as the Central and state governments scrambled to contain its outbreak.
 
State Health Minister K.K. Shailaja, who is now based at Kozhikode and shuttling to Malappuram, told the media that till Tuesday, 18 samples have been sent for investigation.
 
"Of these, 12 have been identified - of which 10 sufferers have died and two are serious. The medical professionals are doing their best, even as two patients with this virus passed away today (Tuesday) morning," said Shailaja and added that 11 in Kozhikode are under observation.
 
The virus first claimed the lives of two brothers and their aunt in Perambara near here.
 
Even though Nipah virus, spread by direct contact with infected fruit bats, pigs or from other infected persons, infects both animals and humans, Central Animal Husbandary Commissioner S.P. Suresh, who is part of the Central team here, said that after their examination of animals in the affected areas, no incidence of virus in animals has been identified and instead it is the humans that have been affected.
 
"No domesticated animals so far have been affected. Other aspects should be now probed as this has been now found in only human beings," he said.
 
National Centre for Disease Control Director Sujeet K.Singh, who is also part of the Central team, told the media that all technical assistance and support is being extended by to the state.
 
"With regards to the financial assistance, that is not decided by me. The second team of ours is reaching here tomorrow (on Wednesday) and things are well under control," he said. A team of medical professionals from AIIMS Delhi is expected to arrive here on Wednesday.
 
Meanwhile Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday said that he welcomed all those medical professionals who are willing to come to the state to take part in controlling this virus.
 
"There was a request from one doctor - Kafeel Khan from Uttar Pradesh - that he wish to serve the people who are suffering in Kozhikode. I wish to state that all professionals with a mind to serve the sufferings are more than welcome and they can get in touch with the Health Department here who will make the necessary arrangements," he said.
 
Meanwhile, the tourism industry represented by the Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry (CKTI) led by E.M.Najeeb, in a statement issued here, said they wish to convey to all that the concern now projected was larger than the reality.
 
"All the tourist locations and the state in general are safe as usual for holiday activities. Tourism industry partners in the state are more vigilant and equipped to provide a hassle-free holiday to the visiting travellers. The airports, railway stations, hotels and places of visit all are following the right protocols and are free of problems as usual," he said.
 
IANS
 
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Northern Kerala being promoted as major tourist attraction

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Are Kovalam and backwaters the first things that come to mind when thinking of Kerala? All that's set to change as more places will soon be added to the bucket list from 'God's Own Country' -- at an outlay of Rs 500 crore.
 
The Kerala Tourism Department is taking new initiatives and expanding its horizons, not just in the southern belt but also the northern zone with new "must visit" destinations.
 
"Kerala has seen a strong tourism sector since two decades and we have been doing well domestically and internationally. 
 
"We are starting new destinations in different geographical areas. We are widening our canvas and including new destinations," P. Bala Kiran, Director, Kerala Tourism told IANS.
 
He added that the northern parts of the state like Wayanad, Kannur, Kozhikode, Thissur, Malapuram and Palakad are on the list of new tourism destinations.
 
"This will be a separate circuit which will be complementing the existing tourism circuit in south Kerala," Kiran stated.
 
While the peak season for visiting the state is mainly November to February, the Tourism Department is also chalking out plans to attract tourists round the year.
 
And for that, the department has pumped in almost Rs 500 crore in the area for tourism and infrastructure development.
 
"We are also planning out new ventures like introducing river cruise facility in Malabar, making a Kameshwari heritage project, Jatayu Earth Centre which will feature world's largest bird sculpture and offering plethora of adventure and rejuvenating activities and others," Bala noted.
 
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The department is also focusing on alluring young tourists by offering multiple adventure activities -- water-based sports like river rafting and kayaking as also trekking, paragliding.
 
Recently, Kerala also bagged 'Best destination for families' award through an online poll which was conducted by Lonely Planet magazine.
 
Bala added in the past one year, Kerala has witnessed tremendous growth in tourist arrivals -- both domestic and internatinal.
 
"In 2017 we had 1.09 million international tourists and 14.6 million domestic tourists which is roughly translating into a growth of 11 per cent in the last year," he added.
 
Asked about the major challenges being faced by the Tourism Department, Bala pointed out that ensuring safety and security of tourists were the first priority followed by providing world class amenities to the visitors and streamlining the waste management system.
 
"Kerala government is setting up a Tourism Regulatory Authority which will be a statutory body with full legal powers to intervene and execute orders whenever there are complaints on tourist-related activities," Bala noted.
 
IANS
 
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All arrangements in place to tackle Nipah virus: Kerala Minister

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After three confirmed deaths due to the Nipah virus (NiV), and reports on eight other patients awaited, Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shailaja on Monday said things are under control and there is no need to panic.
 
"All the periphery hospitals of the Kozhikode Medical College hospital are fully equipped to tackle the fever. All those who have fever need not rush to the medical college itself.
 
"At the moment, eight patients are currently in treatment. Their samples have been sent to Pune and results are awaited," said Shailaja.
 
Nipah virus (NiV), spread by fruit bats that infects both animals and humans, has claimed the lives of two brothers and their aunt in Perambara within a few weeks, and now eight more people are under close observation. 
 
Transmission of NiV takes place through direct contact with infected bats, pigs or from other NiV-infected people.
 
"The health officials visited the house of Sabith and his brother, who passed away due to Nipah virus, and found there was a well in their house that was unused but had lots of bats. 
 
"The authorities have sealed the top of the well to ensure that the remaining bats do not come out," said Shailaja.
 
She also added that people were being educated to ensure that they do not eat any fruits that fall down from trees.
 
"Awareness programmes have already begun and more and more medical teams from the Centre, the Indian Medical Association and private hospitals are being readied.
 
"The first Central team has already arrived and another one is arriving tomorrow (Tuesday)," said Shailaja and added that all patients coming down with fever must not panic.
 
The state government has sanctioned an emergency fund of Rs 20 lakh to the Kozhikode Medical College to tackle the present fever outbreak.
 
IANS
 
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Cause of deaths in Kozhikode family yet to be ascertained: Minister

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Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shailaja on Sunday said the cause of death of three members of a family here remains to be ascertained and urged people not to spread false news about a rare virus being responsible.
 
She also termed as baseless and unconfirmed the messages on social media that the deaths of two brothers and their aunt in Perambara within a few weeks was due to the Nipah virus (NiV), spread by the fruit virus and causing severe disease in both animals and humans.
 
"The samples were first sent to a laboratory in Manipal and it suggested that it was a rare virus... after that for detailed tests, the samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune and the results are awaited. Health officials are doing their job," Shailaja told media at Kochi.
 
The three seemed to be suffering from what seemed to be common fever but it aggravated quickly, leading to their deaths. Two other members of the same family are now being treated at the Medical College hospital at Kozhikode, while six people from the same village who exhibited similar symptoms are now under medical observation.
 
Transmission of Nipah virus takes place through direct contact with infected bats, pigs, or from other NiV-infected people and people have been also cautioned that they should not consume fruits that have fallen on to the ground.
 
IANS
 
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UAE-based Aries Group to produce film using CSR funds

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UAE-based Aries Group on Saturday announced it will use its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds to produce 1,000 regional films in the next five years under its "Project Indywood".

The project will be launched with the pooja of a film titled "Aickkarakonathe Bhishaguaranmaar" at Punalur near here on Sunday, said Aries Group Chairman and CEO Sohan Roy.

"'Aickkarakonathe Bhishaguaranmaar” will mark the launch of Project Indywood's ambitious plan to produce 1,000 regional movies in India in the next five years. Besides prominent actors from the industry, twenty talents discovered through the national-level auditions conducted by Indywood Talent Hunt will play important roles in the movie," he told media here.

Biju Majeed will direct the film, whose script is written by K. Shibu Raj. P.C. Lal will wield the camera and Biju Ram will compose the music for the film, which would be shot in Kerala and completed in one schedule.

Roy, a Kerala-born marine engineer-turned-film director, shot to international acclaim in 2011 with his film "DAM999" which was selected for the Oscar race that year in three categories - Original Song, Original Score and Best Picture.

Though "DAMA999", which tells the tale of a cracking dam built during colonial rule and how it impacts nine characters, failed to secure a place in the final nomination list of the 84th Academy Awards, it bagged two honorary awards at the Global Music Awards held at California.

IANS

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Now Kerala is bringing literacy to tribals, migrant labourers

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It has been billed as a state with 100 per cent literacy. But people here know they had an unfinished task. Having actually reached an overall literacy rate of 93.94 per cent, Kerala has now embarked on a programme to bridge the small gap in its achievements by training illiterates among tribals, scheduled castes, transgenders and the migrant labour communities.
 
Stock-taking of the activities in the past two years of the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA) revealed that 11,000 students -- mostly from Wayanad and Palakkad districts -- are at various levels of equivalency exams among the tribal community. There are also 5,300 migrant labourers, 2,000 from the scheduled castes and 145 transgenders whose literacy levels are now being raised.
 
"The main reasons for the programme to have got a good response was because the trainers (teachers) are drawn from these communities themselves, leading students to immediately correlate with them --the oldest of whom is a 90-year tribal woman in Wayanad," Director of KSLMA, P.S.Sreekala, told IANS.
 
"We have 601 tribal teachers who are supporting us, besides retired teachers and colleges students. We have set out a timetable of 100 hours of classes where the basics of maths and Malayalam are taught to these illiterates and neo-literates. Our aim is to enable them to integrate themselves into the society, wherein they need not feel any sort of complex that they do not know to read or write," said Sreekala.
 
While the fee for the 100-hour classes till the equivalent 7th is free, students have to pay Rs 1,950 to Rs 2,250 from Class X and above. For SC/ST students it is fully free. With the scheme picking up, the respective local bodies are supporting the students by paying their fees.
 
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Twenty-six-year-old Sunitha, who hails from a tribal settlement at Peringottukunnu in Wayanad district, told IANS that she had just written the 4th equivalency test.
 
"Our son in the new academic year will be in Class 1 and I am happy that I can teach him to the best of my ability, from what I learned. Before I went for my classes I could not read, but now I am able to slowly read even a newspaper. I now want to attend classes for the next level. I wish to do it because then I will be able to at least guide our son," Sunitha said.
 
The KSLMA has been supported by successive state governments and for the current fiscal has been allocated Rs 17 crore, up from Rs 15.50 crore in the previous fiscal. Of this, Rs 12 crore has been set aside for the literacy programme.
 
Speaking to IANS, P.N. Babu, the coordinator of the programme in Wayanad, said that it was a huge experience not just for students but also for the educators.
 
"There are around 2,975 tribal colonies here and we have touched 300 colonies where we got the students to attend the basic course in literacy. We held classes once a week and everyone who attended has carried the message back to their colonies. Hence, not only are we going to get more students from these colonies but are also starting classes in another 200 colonies," Babu added.
 
The state is well on its way to be truly called a literate one.
 
IANS
 
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Kerala seeing advanced demographic transition: Report

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Kerala is currently experiencing an advanced demographic transition as the mortality and fertility levels have come down and so migration plays a critical role in shaping the future demographic scenario, said a report released here on Monday.
 
The report, titled 'Impact of mortality and fertility transitions in Kerala on migration and its implications for state's economy', was put together by a team led by noted demographer S. Irudaya Rajan of the Centre for Development Studies here.
 
"Kerala was the first Indian state to achieve Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) below 25, in 1989, while the state further reduced the IMR to 10 in 2016. But with an IMR of 34 in 2016, India has a long way to catch up with Kerala," said Rajan.
 
The study showed that significant strides were also made by Kerala in improving life expectancy at birth.
 
During 1951-60, the male and female life expectancies at birth for Kerala were 44.2 years and 48.1 years, which advanced to 72.2 years and 78.2 years, respectively, during 2011-15.
 
"With the significant fall in levels of mortality, the fertility levels have also come down considerably. Kerala was the first Indian state to achieve below replacement level fertility in 1987, while India is yet to achieve this demographic milestone even during 2015-16 while Kerala's Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has further dipped to 1.6," said Rajan.
 
The combined effect of the reduction in mortality and fertility rates in the state has been a decline in the natural growth rate of the population.
 
However, the population of Kerala has doubled from 16.9 million in 1961 to 33.4 million in 2011.
 
In the past six decades since the formation of the state, age-specific growth rates too have significantly declined in line with the overall population growth rates, with an exception of population of 60 years and above.
 
The study pointed out that negative growth rates were observed in the case of young population (0-14 years) during the past three decades.
 
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Rajan said the mortality and fertility changes accompanied by a host of social determinants facilitated this inward and outward migration.
 
International migration from Kerala was initially directed towards a few South Asian countries.
 
By 1960, Keralites found a place in the British colonies such as Malaysia and Singapore, countries in the African region and had also moved to developed countries in North America and Western Europe.
 
The oil boom in the Middle East triggered heavy migration from Kerala to countries in this region. The number of international migrants peaked during 2013 with 2.4 million migrants from Kerala living outside the country and then declined to 2.2 million in 2016.
 
During 1961-81, most of the migrants from Kerala moved within India as there was a significant outflow of persons from Kerala to Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and other places.
 
"As a consequence, there will be a further decline in the international migration from Kerala to the traditional destinations. The ageing of the population and decline in the number of people in the migration-prone age groups are also likely to accentuate this downward trend.
 
"The rate of growth of Kerala's native population will start declining within a decade or so. The fertility and mortality indicators of the native population have already reached near saturation levels. Migration is the only component that can significantly alter the emerging population scenario in Kerala," said Rajan.
 
IANS
 
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Malayalam actor Kalashala Babu passes away, aged 68

Kalashala Babu
Kalashala Babu
Veteran stage, TV and Malayalam film artiste Kalashala Babu passed away here in Kerala early on Monday at a private hospital, family sources said. He was 68.
 
Apart from donning the grease paint in close to 150 films, mostly in small character roles, the multifaceted Babu was also a hugely popular stage artiste, who began his own drama group in the mid 1970s.
 
Babu was not keeping well since the beginning of the year. He breathed his last just past midnight.
 
Born to Kathakali maestro Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair and Mohiniyattam exponent Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, Babu was a naturally gifted artiste.
 
He started his acting career soon after his graduation in the early 1970s and since then had ensured that he was a presence in the cultural milieu of the state be it through, stage, TV and films .
 
What surprised many was that despite his parents prominence in classical arts, Babu did not take it up.
 
He is survived by his wife and a son and a daughter who are both abroad.
 
IANS
 
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Kerala Police rapped for negligence in child exploitation case

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The Kerala police found itself in the dock on Sunday over its lackadaisical attitude in a child sexual exploitation case, despite receiving a complaint along with documentary evidence.
 
In visuals played by a TV channel on Saturday, a businessman Moideen Kutty was seen sexually exploiting a 10-year-old girl and at times, getting close to her mother as well, at a movie hall in Edapal in Malappuram. 
 
The incident took place on April 19 following which the movie hall manager complained to the Child Line and also presented the visuals. The Child Line approached the Changaramkulam police station on April 26.
 
However, the police got into the act only on Saturday following a furore after the airing of the visuals. Within an hour, Kutty, who has business interests in the Middle East, was arrested before he could leave on Saturday night.
 
The police also faced criticism for trying to take action against the Child Line officials as they gave the visuals to the media, which aired it.
 
On Sunday, police took into custody the victim's mother and after detailed questioning, a case under POCSO was registered. The woman used to stay on rent in a building that belonged to Kutty.
 
Kutty was taken for a medical check up and is expected to be presented before a magistrate soon.
 
The girl's statement was recorded by a magistrate and she was sent to a state-run rescue home.
 
Sub-Inspector K.G. Baby has been suspended for dereliction of duty. 
 
According to sources in the know of things, Baby had approached his superior officer soon after receiving the complaint from Child Line but there was no action from the higher ups.
 
P. Sreeramakrishnan, Speaker of the Kerala Assembly, who hails from Malappuram, said the case has shamed everyone.
 
"The manner in which the police acted is a serious matter too, as they should have taken immediate action. I have asked for appropriate action against those who have erred," Sreeramakrishnan told the media.
 
State Women's Commission Chairperson M.C. Josephine said that the police failed to rise to the occasion.
 
"It's shocking that all this happened with the knowledge of the mother and an appropriate case should be registered against the mother too," said Josephine.
 
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala demanded strict action against the police officials for not acting on time. "Criminal cases should be registered against all the erring police officials," he said.
 
Reacting to the criticism, Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra told the media that strict action will be taken against those who failed to do their job.
 
IANS
 
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Father dies of heart attack as son writes medical entrance exam in Kochi

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The father of a Tamil Nadu youth who was writing the medical entrance examination in Kerala's Ernakulam district died of a heart attack on Sunday, said an employee of the hotel where the two had checked in a day earlier.
 
Hailing from Tiruvarur district in Tamil Nadu, around 340 km from here, Krishnaswamy and his son Kasturi Mahalingam checked into the Airlines Hotel on Saturday morning.
 
"Our staff got an auto-rickshaw for the boy to reach the exam centre in the morning. Later, the father called the reception complaining of ill health and was taken to a hospital," a hotel staffer told IANS over phone from Ernakulam.
 
An official of City Hospital told IANS: "Krishnaswamy came to the hospital around 8.20 a.m. and his sugar levels were high. He was conscious and oriented. Unfortunately, he collapsed soon after that. We could not revive him."
 
The official said police were informed and later the body was handed over to the relatives.
 
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami said a solatium of Rs 300,000 would be paid to the family of Krishnaswamy.
 
In Kochi, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said police will make arrangements to send back the body.
 
Calling it a sad incident, he said the Kerala authorities will accompany the body till the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.
 
MDMK leader Vaiko said around 5,600 students were made to write the medical entrance exam in states like Kerala and Rajasthan.
 
IANS
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Collegium's recommendation should not have been rejected: SC Judge

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The Central government should not have rejected the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium on the appointment of a judge as this has never happened before, an apex court judge said on Sunday.
 
Justice Kurian Joseph, a member of the apex court collegium which recommended the elevation of Uttarakhand Chief Justice K.M. Joseph to the Supreme Court, told mediapersons that it should be ensured that such a thing does not happen in the future.
 
"Since this happened, there were lots of discussions... Such a thing should never happen again," he said.
 
The Central government returned Justice K.M. Joseph's name to the collegium for reconsideration. The collegium, which has met since, has deferred a decision on the matter.
 
IANS
 
 
 
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Two held for rape-murder of Latvian woman in Kerala

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Two men were on Thursday arrested on charges of raping and murdering a Latvian tourist who went missing from Kovalam last month, Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra said.
 
Accused Umesh and Udayan are relatives and were working as unregistered tourist guides, the Director General of Police (DGP) told the media. 
 
Behra cautioned the media against reporting the woman's name since she was a rape victim.
 
"This is an unfortunately brutal crime and should not happen to any person. An innocent woman, for no fault of hers, lost her life... the police investigation team will be rewarded for their good work," Behra said.
 
Inspector General of Police Manoj Abraham, who led the probe team, said that the accused will be presented in a court here on Friday for remand.
 
"The woman was lured away by the accused and supplied with narcotics. She was later sexually assaulted and attacked when she resisted. The probe will continue as we want to find out if there are more people involved in the crime," said Abraham.
 
A day earlier, the Latvian's sister told the media here that the funeral of the 33-year-old deceased will be performed at the public crematorium here on Thursday and ashes taken to her home country.
 
She had also met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at his office.
 
The victim, her partner Andrew and Ilzie had arrived in Kerala for ayurvedic treatment at a facility on Thiruvananthapuram's outskirts when she went missing on March 14. 
 
The victim was last seen hiring an auto-rickshaw to Kovalam. She was not carrying her passport or mobile phone with her when she went missing. On April 20, her highly decomposed body was found in a marshy area near the famed Kovalam tourist destination. An autopsy pointed to strangulation.
 
Once murder was confirmed, police questioned several area residents and had taken four of them in custody. 
 
State Bharatiya Janata Party President Kummanem Rajasekheran demanded that the body be buried and not cremated just in case another post-mortem was required. 
 
IANS
 
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Kerala announces sops for custodial death victim's family

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The Kerala cabinet on Wednesday decided to give compensation of Rs 10 lakh and a government job to the wife of 26-year-old Sreejith, who died in police custody in March.
 
Sreejith's wife, Akhila, who holds the police "primarily responsible" for how their family was "decimated", has welcomed the development. 
 
"The steps taken by the government is good. The police are solely responsible as my husband was innocent," she said.
 
The victim's mother Shyamala said the government must bring officials responsible for her son's death to justice. "Each and every one who did this to my son have to be brought before the law."
 
"We have approached the high court seeking a CBI probe. All those police officers who did this to my son must be taken to task. None should be allowed to escape," the mother said.
 
Trouble started for Sreejith after 56-year-old Vasudevan hanged himself after a group of men barged into his house and threatened him.
 
A special squad of the police took Sreejith, father of a two-year-old, and nine others into custody on April 7 and charged them with abetment to suicide and rioting. 
 
Subsequently, Sreejith was taken to a hospital where he died on April 9.
 
Following a huge uproar on the social media, the Pinarayi Vijayan government went on the defensive and a Special Investigation Team of the police-led by Inspector General S. Sreejith was given the probe.
 
The probe team has arrested three policemen who first took Sreejith into custody on April 7 night.
 
Sub-Inspector Deepak and Circle Inspector Crispin Sam have also been arrested. According to informed sources Ernakulam Superintendent of Police(Rural) A.V. George might also be summoned for questioning.
 
George was transferred after it came to light the three policemen taken into custody were directly under his control.
 
The case has become a major campaign issue in the crucial Chengannur assembly bye-election slated for May 28.
 
IANS
 
 
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Rajnath attends 100th birthday celebrations of Bishop Chrysostom

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Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh yesterday said religion is a personal choice and should always remain free from any coercion or allurement.
 
Speaking at a civic reception to honour Bishop Philipose Mar Chrysostom, the emeritus Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, on completion of 100 years of age, Mr. Singh said Prime Minister Narendra Modi runs a government at the Centre which firmly believes in taking every section of society along and building a New India. 
 
The goal is development with unity and the dream of making the nation great again could be realised only when the people of India stand united, he said.
 
The Home Minister said that India has been united not because one religion or some theological thought held the political power or exercised control over the system. 
 
"This great nation is united because it provides space to peaceful coexistence of multiple thoughts and theologies. The problems faced by this country had always been addressed through a unique interplay of ideas and the biggest living proof of this interplay of ideas is our Constitution," he said.
 
Mr. Singh said that the ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav’ should be maintained in the country and continue cementing the pillars of united India. He said unity is the country's strength and everyone must work to strengthen the bonds of unity, amity and harmony in society.
 
"This should be our resolve today when we are celebrating the birth centenary of Mar Chrysostom," he said.
 
The Union Home Minister said the life and work of Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan is an inspiration not only to the people of Kerala or to the 
 
"Christian community, but to the entire nation. His life is a shining example of how God can be worshipped through selfless service for the society and the humanity. Mar Chrysostom has endeared himself to all sections of Kerala society through his inspiring words and works. The basic quality of Mar Chrysostom Metropolitan is his attitude of universal goodwill and his concern for the development and wellbeing of the entire community of citizens, transcending any narrow sectarian consideration. Considering his valuable contributions to Indian society for well over six decades, the Government of India has conferred Mar Chrysostom by awarding the ‘Padma Bhushan’ this year. By felicitating him with ‘Padma Bhushan’, the Government has not only shown respect towards him but also recognised his tremendous contribution," he said.
 
While remaining true to his own faith, Mar Chrysostom has been able to raise himself above all sectarian considerations and divisions. He has motivated all sections of society to love each other for the common good, he said.
 
Mr. Singh pointed out that Mar Chrysostom is a man of prayer and he also works as a social reformer. His contribution towards the empowerment of weaker sections of society is also noteworthy. He has dedicated his life to God through service of fellow human beings.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan presided over the function. Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Prof. P.J. Kurien, Kerala Minister for Tourism and Co-operation Kadakampally Surendran, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, Lok Sabha Members Shashi Tharoor and V. Muraleedharan (MP), Mayor V.K. Prashanth and a host of other dignitaries were present on the occasion.
 
Mar Chrysostom, 101, is the longest-serving Bishop in Christendom, having been consecrated as Episcopa on May 23, 1953. He was designated as Suffragan Metropolitan in May 1978.
 
After Alexander Mar Thoma stepped aside as Metropolitan in March 1999 due to ill-health, he was designated as Officiating Metropolitan. he was installed as Metropolitan on October 23, 1999 when Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan was made Valiya Metropolitan (Senior Metropolitan).
 
Bishop Chrysostom has served as the president of the National Council of Churches and attended the World Council of Churches at Evanston in 1954 and Uppsala in 1968. He also attended the Second Vatican Council.
 
He resigned as the head of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church due to ill-health on August 28, 2007. 
 
NNN
 
 
 
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Kerala: Dalit woman set ablaze in public by husband dies

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A 29-year-old Dalit woman set ablaze by her estranged husband in public view here on Sunday died early on Tuesday, police said.
 
The husband, who is on the run, may have committed the crime as the woman sought divorce over compatibility issues, according to police.
 
The incident took place on Sunday when Jithu emerged from the Kudumbashree meet -- a women's meeting. Viraj approached her and set her on fire by pouring petrol over her, according to a witness.
 
"The Kudumbashree workers and the local village council member were present at the spot but no one came to her help. All of them stood as mute spectators as the woman was being burnt," said the witness.
 
Her father tried to save her and took her to a hospital. He also suffered burn injuries.
 
The couple, who had no children, separated sometime back as they used to have frequent fights. The divorce proceedings were about to start, said police who suspect that Viraj is now in Mumbai.
 
IANS
 
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Cricketer Chris Gayle takes break, goes fishing in Kerala

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After setting the cricket pitch afire with batting pyrotechnics in the IPL, swashbuckling West Indian Chris Gayle is cooling down, literally. Enjoying a holiday with his family here, he preferred a wet pitch to test his talents -- fishing in the Kerala backwaters.
 
However, he was not quite lucky with the fish as he has been with the runs, not netting many fish in the process. Evidently, luck is not on his side when he is on a new pitch altogether.
 
Housed at a luxury hotel near here, Gayle is accompanied by his wife, daughter, and his mother-in-law.
 
A hotel official, while confirming to IANS that the big-hitting Jamaican was a guest, did not give out much details due to privacy issues.
 
"He checked in yesterday (Sunday) and will stay for the next few days. That's all I can tell you," said the official.
 
On Monday, Gayle -- who is making news with his cricketing exploits with Kings XI Punjab -- along with his family went for a joyride on a boat in the backwaters.
 
He is also attending yoga classes at the hotel, besides trying out the world famous ayurveda massages of Kerala.
 
The swashbuckling southpaw is also trying out many Kerala dishes, feasting on pearl spot -- a fish found in the state's lakes.
 
He is slated to return to the cricketing pitch on May 3, when he will fly to Indore to rejoin his IPL team that plays their next match on May 4 against the struggling Mumbai Indians.
 
IANS
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Vice President Naidu rides on Kochi Metro

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Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu on Monday took a ride in the Kochi Metro.
 
Passengers were surprised at the Maharajah station when Naidu boarded a train to the Edapally station. During the ride, he spoke to some passengers and Kochi Metro officials. 
 
The Vice-President arrived here on Sunday.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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