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.
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.

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. 

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.
“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.
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.
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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Kerala’s social progress has set stage for lift-off into economic progress: Ansari

Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari today said Kerala’s social progress has set the stage for its lift-off into economic progress that is socially and environmentally sustainable.
Mr. Ansari was addressing the International Conference on ‘Inclusive Quality Education: Towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 and Lessons from Kerala Model’, organised by the Institute of Social Sciences on the occasion of the Bicentenary of Royal Rescript on June 17, 1817 in Travancore, Kerala.
It was on this day that Uthrittathi Thirunal Rani Gouri Parvathi Bai, Maharani Regent of Travancore from 1815-1829, announced that universal education was necessary to ensure progress of the state as a whole at a time when it was not practised in most countries, including those in the west.
It stated that the state should defray the entire cost of the education of its people in order that there might be no backwardness in the spread of enlightenment among them, that by diffusion of education they might become better subjects and public servants and that the reputation of the state might be advanced thereby. The Queen's proclamation of 1817 is hailed by all educational historians as the Magna Carta of education in Travancore.
“Whatever may have been the motivations for the then ruling royalty to undertake mass education, its results were spectacular. While the elite may have believed that by propagating education, they might have a more malleable population, but as Robert Merton described it, ‘the unanticipated consequences of purposive social action’ were diametrically opposite to what was perhaps intended.
"Ironically, the very educational reforms that were structured to make the populace easy to govern; helped inform the social movements that swept Kerala in the later years," he said.
The State intervention in making education more accessible was the precursor to the unleashing of progressive forces against backwardness, superstition, conservatism and casteism in Kerala. Education became a social movement thanks to the efforts of reformers like Sree Narayana Guru, the Nair Service Society, the Muslim Educational Society (MES) and Christian missionaries, he added.
Kerala's politics, especially after the 1950s, continued in the same leitmotif of combating social inequalities through public activism and spread of education. The elected governments have, in deference to the popular will of the people, pursued policies that have been aimed at enhancing the access to education.
The Kerala Education Act of 1958 was a landmark legislation and provided for the better organisation and development of educational institutions in the State. A noteworthy provision in the Act was free and compulsory primary education, a precursor to the National Right to Education, which was adopted across India only in 2010.
Central Government data indicates that Kerala was the best-performing state in terms of the decadal growth of population at 4.9 percent and had a sex ratio 1084, the best among the Indian States. 
Infant Mortality rate (IMR) was the lowest in Kerala at 12, against the Indian average of 40. The State had a birth rate of 14.7 compared to Indian average of 21.4. These figures have their roots in the high literacy levels.
High literacy has also had an impact on other, more recent, socio-economic parameters. The percentage of households availing banking services, for example, was 74.2 in Kerala compared to a national figure of 58.7. Similarly, the percentage of households with toilets, something that the central government has been pushing strongly under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, in Kerala was 95.2% compared to India’s average of 46.8%.
The investments made in education bore fruits in the early 2000s with the state witnessing a remarkable growth- taking advantage of both its highly skilled and educated people and the opening up of the Indian economy to a fast globalising world. 
By the end of 2010, even as the entire Indian economy expanded rapidly, Kerala’s per capita income stood at 34% above the Indian average.
The Vice-President said Kerala will have to focus on economic activities which make use of its unique strengths - an educated workforce, democratic institutions, and a favourable natural environment.
The requirement for the transition of the state into a true knowledge society is more education in ‘21st-century skills’, like critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and digital literacy. Robust, inclusive and high-quality education systems – underpinned by qualified, professionally trained, motivated, and well-supported teachers – will be the cornerstone of this effort, he added.

Modi inaugurates Kochi Metro, calls for paradigm shift in urban planning

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that there was need to bring about a paradigm shift in urban planning in the country, by adopting a people-centric approach and integrating land-use and transport.

Modi flags off Kochi Metro, takes brief ride
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said there was need to bring about a paradigm shift in urban planning in the country, by adopting a people-centric approach and integrating land-use and transport.
"Towards this end, the Government of India issued a National Transit Oriented Development Policy in April 2017. This policy seeks to transform cities, from being transit dependent to being transit oriented. It aims to create compact walkable communities and bring public transport closer to transit," he said in an addresss at a function at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here to dedicate Kochi Metro to the nation.
Earlier, Mr. Modi inaugurated the Kochi Metro at Palarivattom junction, and travelled briefly on the new metro line, accompanied by Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, Urban Development Secretary Rajiv Gouba, Kerala Chief Secretary Nalini Netto, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Principal Adviser E. Sreedharan and Kochi Metro Rail Limited Managing Director Elias George.
Mr. Modi said that, over the last three years, his Government had placed special focus on overall infrastructure development of the nation. 
"Railways, roads, power have been our priority areas. In PRAGATI meetings, I have personally reviewed nearly 175 projects worth more than eight lakh crore rupees. We have resolved bottlenecks and significantly improved the average rate of implementation in these sectors. Now, we are also focusing on next generation infrastructure, which includes logistics, digital and gas," he said.
He said a number of initiatives had been taken by the Government to enhance public transport particularly in the cities. Foreign investment has been invited in this sector. Fifty cities in India are ready to implement metro rail projects, he said.
Mr. Modi said the economic and social benefits of metro rail systems are well-known. 
"We have speeded up policy formulation in this sector. Recently, the Government of India has standardized the specifications for rolling stock and signalling systems of metro rail. This will encourage manufacturers to set-up manufacturing facilities in India with a long-term perspective. In line with the 'Make in India' vision, efforts are being made to promote domestic manufacture of metro rolling stock," he said.
Congratulating the people of Kochi on the occasion, he said the city, the queen of the Arabian Sea, was an important spice trading centre. "Today it is known as the commercial capital of Kerala. Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourist arrivals in Kerala. Hence it is fitting that Kochi should have a Metro rail facility," he said.
Mr. Modi noted that the city's population had been rising steadily, and was expected to reach 23 lakh by 2021. Therefore, a mass rapid transport system is essential to address the increasing pressure on urban infrastructure, he said, adding that it would also contribute to Kochi’s economic growth. 
He said KMRL is a 50:50 joint venture of the Government of India and the Government of Kerala. The Union Government has so far released over Rs. 2000 crore for Kochi Metro. The phase inaugurated today will operate from Aluva to Palarivattom. It will cover 13.26 kilometres and eleven stations. 
Mr. Modi also noted that the metro project has several significant features. It is the first metro project to be commissioned with a modern signalling system called the “Communication Based Train Control Signalling system”. The coaches reflect the “Make in India” vision. They have been built by Alstom of France, at their factory near Chennai, and have an Indian component of around 70 percent. 
He said the Kochi metro integrates the city’s entire public transportation network into a single system. This system will have a common time-table, common ticketing and centralised `command and control’. It also focuses on improving last mile connectivity and non-motorised transportation systems in the inner city. 
The Kochi Metro has also pioneered an innovative PPP model for ticketing. Indian banks and financial institutions are being invited through a bid process to invest in an Automated Fare Collection system. The selected bank will co-brand the Kochi Metro Fare Card and App with the bank’s name. 
"I am informed that this Kochi-1 Card is a multi-purpose pre-paid contact-less RuPay card which can be used to travel in the metro and also like a normal debit card. Kochi will be one of the few cities in the world and the first in India to have a modern open-loop Smart Card, which can be used with other modes of transport like buses, taxies and autos as well. 
"I am also informed that the Kochi-1 Mobile app has been developed with a long term vision. The mobile App has an Electronic-wallet integrated to it, which is linked to the Kochi-1 Card. Initially, it will enable citizens of Kochi to avail of metro services. In future, it will fulfil all their travel related requirements, regular payment needs and provide city and tourist information. Thus, it is a good example of an e-Governance digital platform. 
"Another noteworthy aspect of this project is that nearly one thousand women and twenty-three transgenders are being selected to work in the Kochi Metro Rail System. 
"The project is also an example of environment friendly development. It plans to meet nearly twenty five percent of the entire energy requirements from renewable sources, particularly solar energy. The long-term plan is to become a zero-carbon emitting urban transit system. Every sixth pillar of the metro system will have a covered vertical garden, which will substantially use urban solid waste.
"It is heartening to note that all stations as well as the Operation Control Centre of Kochi Metro have achieved platinum rating which is the highest certification level given by the Indian Green Building Council," he said.
Mr. Modi complimented the Union Ministry of Urban Development led by for having formulated a Value Capture Finance Policy Framework. This provides a mechanism to capture the increased land value. 
"Let me conclude by congratulating the citizens of Kochi, the Kochi Metro Rail Corporation and the Chief Minister of Kerala for achieving this important milestone. Kochi was selected as a Smart City in Round One of the challenge process in January 2016. I hope it will do even better in the days to come," he added.
Kochi Metro will start revenue operations on June 19, from 6 am onwards. The trains will start from Aluva and Palarivattom from 6 am simultaneously and will finish the day's ride at 10 pm at Aluva.
The headway will be 8.20 minutes and there will be 219 trips between 6 am and 10 pm from June 19 onwards.

Kerala CM voices concern about reported move to privatise HLL Lifecare

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concern about the reported decision of the Government of India to privatise the public sector HLL Lifecare Limited, saying that such a move would affect not only more than 5000 employees and their families but also society at large.
"The pro- active role so far played by the company in the programmes of the Government of India relating to population control, immunisation and healthcare, I am afraid, will become thing of the past," he said in the letter, dated June 16.
"The Government of Kerala, which has been looking forward to further consolidation and expansion of the activities of HLL, providing job opportunities and ensuring a sound system of healthcare, is really concerned at the proposed move without taking the State Government into confidence," he said.
Mr. Vijayan noted that the company, originally called Hindustan Latex Limited, was incorporated in 1966 under the control of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. The company was set up in Kerala primarily because of the easy availability of the basic raw material, ‘latex’ required for the manufacture of condoms, in the State.
"I may also add that the State Government had played a participatory role by handing over nearly 19 acres of land at prime locations free of cost for establishing the units of HLL Lifecare Ltd. in the state," he said.
He said that, during the course of nearly five decades, the company has expanded its operations to reach out to the States of Karnataka, Haryana and Madhyapradesh, in addition to Kerala. The company is engaged in wide range of activities and is recognised as a corporate health care delivery company in major health care programmes of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. HLL has an excellent record of continuous profit making.
"In Kerala, HLL has been engaged in a series of activities to make health care accessible and affordable to the common man. This has been possible because it is a 100% Government of India Company, deeply committed to national policies and goals. The fact that the Government of India has retained HLL as a strategic partner all these years speaks eloquently of its track record and commitment," he said.
Mr. Vijayan urged Mr. Modi to intervene in the matter and advised the concerned Ministry not to go ahead with the move to privatise a profit making and socially committed public sector undertaking.
"I further request you that any decision in the matter may be taken only after effective consultation with the State Government which has high stakes in the continued functioning of the HLL in the public sector," he added.

Modi says sports can contribute to economy, create jobs

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that sports, as a full-fledged ecosystem, could contribute immensely to the country's economy and create lots of employment opportunities and called for continuous efforts to create a mass base for sports.

Modi inaugurates synthetic track at Usha School of Athletics
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that sports, as a full-fledged ecosystem, could contribute immensely to the country's economy and create lots of employment opportunities and called for continuous efforts to create a mass base for sports.
Inaugurating through video-conferencing the synthetic track of the Usha School of Athletics, set up by renowned athlete P. T. Usha in Kerala, he said the sports industry sector provided opportunities in different segments such as professional leagues, sport equipment and surfaces, sports science, medicine, support personnel, apparels, nutrition, skill development and sports management among others.
"Sports is a multi-billion dollar global industry propelled by enormous consumer demand. The global sports industry is estimated at around US dollars 600 billion. In India, the entire sports sector is estimated at US dollars 2 billion only," he said.
"However, India has huge potential in sports. India is a sports loving country. The passion with which my young friends watch the ongoing Cricket Champions Trophy is the same with which they will see the EPL football or the NBA basketball fixtures and the F1 Races.
"And, as I said earlier, they are also getting drawn on to sports like Kabaddi. Our playgrounds and stadiums should be utilized to the maximum.  Holidays should also be about going out and playing a sport. Grounds of schools and colleges or the stadiums with modern facilities in the district may be utilized," he said.
Mr. Modi said the synthetic track was an important landmark in the development of Usha School and would provide modern facilities to the trainees.  
"I take this opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of our own Payyoli Express, ‘Udan Pari’ and 'Golden Girl' of India P.T. Usha ji for the development of this school. P.T. Usha has been a shining light of sports in India. She endured several challenges in life and went on to enter Olympics final, missing a medal only by a whisker. In the history of Indian athletics very few have achieved a track record like hers.
"Usha ji, the nation is proud of you. What is even better is that Usha ji has continued her association with sports. Her personal attention and focused approach have started bringing about good results and now her trainees like Miss Tintu Luka and Miss Jisna Mathew have already made their mark at the international level," he said.
"Like Usha ji, Usha School is making the best use of every opportunity by utilizing simple and limited resources," he said.
He also congratulated the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, the Sports Authority of India and the CPWD for having completed this project, which suffered various hurdles resulting in delays.
Underlining that sports is closely linked with the human resource development of a society, Mr. Modi said that, in addition to keeping the body healthy, sports also transforms the personality, bringing about holistic development. It instills discipline and ethos of hard-work.
"It provides learnings for life, which enrich our thought process. The sports field is a great teacher. One of the best things one learns on the sports field is equanimity -- to face victory and defeat -- as a part of life. We learn to be humble in victory and at the same time, not to be bogged down by defeat. A defeat is not the end, in fact it is only the beginning to rise up again and achieve the desired results.
"Sports enhance teamwork. It also brings a spirit of openness and powers us with the capability to accept others. It is essential that we adopt sports as a part of the lives of the youth in our country. To me, sports includes the following attributes. I will expand the word sports to share them: S for Skill; P for Perseverance; O for Optimism; R for Resilience; T for Tenacity; S for Stamina.
"Sports creates a spirit of sportsmanship, which matters both on and off the field. That is why I often say – Jo Khele, Vo Khile- those who play, shine," he said.
Mr. Modi said that, in this inter-connected and inter-dependent world, a nation’s soft power was vital. In addition to a nation’s economic and military strength, a nation’s soft power is seen as central to its identity and sports has become an important part of soft power, he said.
"Given the global reach and fan following of various sports and sports-persons, a country can carve its own niche in the world through sports. Achievers in any sport are global sources of motivation. Youngsters draw inspiration from their success and struggles. During every major international competition, be it an Olympics or a world cup or any other such forum, the entire world takes joy in the achievements of other nations, however big or small they are.
"This is the uniting power of sports.  Sports and culture have a transformative potential in enabling stronger and deeper people to people ties.  Even at home in India, a single player catches the imagination of the whole country. His or her performance acts as uniting force - every one prays for him or her when he or she is on the field.
"The popularity of these athletes lives on beyond their times too. For years, sports, just like the pursuit of knowledge, is a part of Indian culture and tradition. Sports activities like Archery, Swordsmanship, Wrestling, Malkhamb, Boat-Racing are known to have existed for ages. In Kerala, sports such as Kuttiyumkolum, Kalari, have been popular. I am also aware of how popular mud football is.  I am sure many of you know about Sagol Kangjei, which is originally from Manipur. It is said to be older than polo and also played by a wider cross section of society," he said.
The Prime Minister said that it must be ensured that traditional games did not lose their popularity. He said indigenous games too must be promoted as they have evolved organically from people's ways of life.
"People take to these games naturally and playing them will have huge positive impact on the personality and self-esteem of growing minds. Their roots will become stronger. Today the world is taking renewed interest in Yoga. Yoga is being seen as a means to fitness and wellness, a means to lower stress. Our athletes should also consider making Yoga a regular part of their routine and training. The outstanding results will be for everyone to see.
"Being the home of Yoga, it is our added responsibility to make Yoga even more popular across the world. And, like Yoga has become popular, we must think of ways to make our traditional sports popular globally.
"In recent years, you have seen how games like Kabaddi first became a part of international competitions, and now even in the country, large scale kabaddi tournaments are being organized. Corporates are sponsoring these tournaments and I am told these tournaments are being seen widely.
"Just like kabaddi, we have to bring other local indigenous sports from various corners of the country to the national level.   In this, along with the government, other sports related bodies and the society also have a major role. Ours is a country with rich and diverse culture which has almost 100 languages and more than 1600 dialects, different eating habits, dresses and festivals. Sports plays an important role in uniting us.
"Continuous interaction, travel for competitions, matches, training etc gives us the opportunity to understand the culture and tradition of other regions of the country. This strengthens the feeling of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat and contributes immensely to National integration.
"We have no shortage of talent.  But we need to provide right kind of opportunity and create an eco-system to nurture the talent.  We launched a programme Khelo India. Under this programme, competitions will be held in various disciplines from the school and college level to the national level.  Focus will be on identifying talent and then nurture it by providing support," he said, adding that Khelo India also supported sports infrastructure.
Mr. Modi said women had made the country proud by their achievements in all fields, more so in sports. He said people must specially encourage their daughters and provide them with opportunities to take up sports. He said that it was most gladdening to see Indian players putting up their best performance so far at the Paralympics.
He said that during earlier decades there was an environment in which sports were not pursued as a career, but this thinking had begun to change and the results would soon be evident on the playground. "A strong sporting culture can help the growth of a sporting economy," he said.
Mr. Modi appreciated the contribution made by Kerala in the field of sports and games and congratulated all players who had played for India. "I salute the determination of sportpersons who toil for excellence," he said.
He hoped the Usha School would contribute to India's preparation for major international sports events, including the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
"I also urge the sports community to decide on a set of goals in sports when our nation marks 75 years of freedom in 2022 and pledge to realise them.
"I am confident that Usha School will produce more champions in track and field events at Olympics and world events. Government of India will fully support you and will provide all possible help in achieving excellence in athletics," he added.
Death toll in London high-rise fire rises to 17
The death toll in the devastating fire that engulfed a 24-storeyed building of apartments in West London in the early hours of yesterday has risen to 17, with the recovery of five more bodies, official sources said today.
The number is expected to increase as emergency services personnel go through the building, floor by floor, to look for victims in the coming days.
As many as 79 others were admitted to different hospitals in London for treatment of a range of injuries.
According to some sources, there were about 500 residents in the building, Grenfell Tower, on Latimer Road in North Kensington in West London, which had about 130 flats, but there was no estimate about how many were actually in when the fire broke out. Most of those present in the building would have been asleep when the blaze started at around 0045 hours yesterday.
"Sadly I can confirm the number of people that have died is now 17. We do believe that that number will increase," Metropolitan Police Service Commander Stuart Cundy told journalsits.
"From my colleagues in the health service, there are still a number of people who are receiving treatment in hospital. There are 37 people receiving treatment, of which 17 are still in critical care," he said.
"Today is about those who are waiting for news about their loved ones. Our thoughts remain with those so deeply affected by the events over the last 24 hours," Mr. Cundy said.
"Yesterday was a very difficult day, clearly it was challenging overnight particularly for colleagues from fire. Today the work really starts in earnest to ensure that we do the appropriate recovery of everybody from those premises.
"Like we explained yesterday, our absolute priority is identifying and locating those people who are still missing. It would be wrong for me to get into numbers that I do not believe are accurate," he said.
"Our Casualty Bureau number is 0800 0961 233. If you have reported somebody missing and you now know they are safe and well please contact that number so we can identify those that we're still trying to find.
"My heart goes out to those families still trying to find their loved ones. Rest assured, please get in contact with us through the Casualty Bureau and our specialist trained officers will be in touch with you to support you through this," he said.
Mr. Cundy said the recovery operations were going to take a considerable period of time, and the building needed to be made structurally safe so that they could do their job and investigate the incident.
"A large team of specialist detectives will be investigating under Detective Chief Inspector Matt Bonner, alongside colleagues from the fire brigade. But I reiterate again, it is going to be a lengthy process," he said.
London Fire Brigade said they received the first calls about the fire at around 0054 hours yesterday and as many as 40 fire tenders and 200 firefighters reached the scene soon.
The firefighters battled the flames, which spread very quickly and engulfed nearly the entire building, from the second floor to the top floor, leaving many people, epsecially those on the upper floors, with not much time to escape.
Police said they were called at 01:16 hrs to reports of a large fire at a block of flats at the Lancaster West Estate, W11 and officers were rushed there. Emergency services evacuated as many residents as possible from the tower block in extremely difficult circumstances.
The entire area around the building was cordoned off by the police and around 30 adjacent flats to the tower block were evacuated as a precautionary measure. People were advised to avoid the area.
The cause of the fire is not known at this stage. The building had undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment recently.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told journalists at the scene yesterday that, in her 29 years with the London Fire Brigade, she had never seen a fire of this nature. “This is an unprecedented situation, with a major fire that has affected all floors of this 24 storey building, from the second floor up," she said.

Foundation stones laid for Mega Food Parks at Palakkad and Alappuzha in Kerala

Giving a big push to the infrastructure development for food processing in Kerala, foundation stones were laid for two Mega Food Parks, one at Palakkad and another at Alappuzha in two separate ceremonies yesterday.
Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA) is developing the Park at Palakad and by Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) in Alappuzha.
At Palakad, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union Minister of Food Processing Industries laid the foundation stone in the presence of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The foundation stone for Mega Food Park at Alappuzha was laid by Mr Vijayan.
On both the occasions, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Minister of State for Food Processing Industries and Mr A C Moideen, Kerala Minister of Industries, Sports & Youth Affairs, were present. 
Mr. P. Thilothaman, Minister for Food & Civil Supplies, Kerala, participated in the ceremony at Alappuzha.
Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Badal said her Ministry is focusing on boosting the food processing industry so that agriculture sector grows exponentially to become a major contributor in doubling the farmer’s income and ‘Make In India’ initiative of the government.
To give a major boost to the food processing sector by adding value and reducing food wastage at each stage of the supply chain with particular focus on perishables, the Ministry is implementing Mega Food Park Scheme. Mega Food Parks create modern infrastructure facilities for food processing along the value chain from farm to market with strong forward and backward linkages through a cluster based approach.
Common facilities and enabling infrastructure is created at Central Processing Centre and facilities for primary processing and storage is created near the farm in the form of Primary Processing Centers (PPCs) and Collection Centers (CCs). 
Under the scheme, the Government provides financial assistance upto Rs. 50 crore per Mega Food Park project.
At Palakad, Ms Badal said the Mega Food Park is being set up in 78.68 acres of land at the cost of Rs. 119.02 crore. The facilities being created by KINFRA at Central Processing Centre (CPC) of this Mega Food Park include Pack house (Sorting grading packing) of 10 MT/hr, Warehouse of 12000 MT, Silos of 6000 MT, Multi Product Cold Storage of 5000 MT, Spices & Condiments Processing including Mechanical Dryer of 15 T/day, Ripening Chamber of 120 MT, Cashew Roasting of 2MT/day and other food processing facilities.
In addition, 4 PPCs at Ernakulam, Thrissur, Malappuram and Wayanad having facilities for primary processing and storage near the farms, are also being set up.
The Mega Food Park at Alappuzha is being set up in 68.18 acres of land at a cost of Rs. 129.15 crore. The facilities being created by the KSIDC at Central Processing Centre (CPC) of this Mega Food Park include Cold Storage of 3000 MT, Deep Freeze Unit of 3000 MT, Deboning and Canning Unit of 50 tonnes/day, Warehouse of 1000 MT and other food processing facilities. Five PPCs at Thoppumpady, Vypeen, Munambam, Aroor and Neendakara having facilities for primary processing and storage near the farms are also being set up.
The Minister said both the Parks will also have common administrative building for office and other use by the entrepreneurs. 
Modern infrastructure for food processing created at the Mega Food Parks will benefit the farmers, growers, processors and consumers and prove to be a big boost to the growth of the food processing sector in the state. The Mega Food Parks will benefit not only the people of Palakkad and Alappuzha but also the people of their adjoining districts of Ernakulam, Thrissur, Malappuram, Wayanad, Kochi and Kollam, she added.
Each of the Mega Food Parks will leverage an additional investment of about Rs. 250 crore in 25-30 food processing units in the park and generate a turnover of about Rs. 450-500 crore annually. Each of the Parks will also provide direct and indirect employment to 5000 people and benefit about 25000 farmers in the CPC and PPC catchment areas.
The government has made Food Processing a major thrust area of ‘Make in India’ initiative. She also highlighted the newly approved SAMPADA Scheme of the ministry and exhorted the farmers / Farmer Producer Organizations / Self Help Groups (SHGs) and entrepreneurs to take advantage of the scheme for fuelling growth of food processing sector in Kerala.

IMD annnounces onset of southwest monsoon over Kerala

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said that the southwest monsoon had set in over Kerala today and also advanced into some parts of  northeastern states -- some parts of Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
The onset of southwest monsoon over Kerala signals the arrival of monsoon over the Indian sub-continent and represents beginning of rainy season over the region. The normal monsoon onset over Kerala is on June 1.
A press release from IMD said widespread rainfall had occurred over Kerala during the past two days. It said 78% of the monitoring stations for monsoon onset over Kerala had reported rainfall for the last 48 hours.
Westerly wind has strengthened in the lower levels (upto 20 knots) and deepened (upto 4 km) over the southern Latitudes. Westerly/ Westsouthwesterly winds were observed approximately upto 4.5 km over the south Arabian Sea (equator to Lat. 10oN and Long. 55oE to 80oE).
"There is persistent cloudiness from 27th May onwards. The Satellite (INSAT-3D) derived Outgoing Long wave Radiation over the region is less than 200 W/m2," it said.
In addition, the release said an offshore trough at mean sea level runs from north Maharashtra coast to Kerala coast. The severe cyclonic storm Mora over the Bay of Bengal made landfall over Bangladesh coast in the forenoon today.
Giving details of the Northern Limit of Monsoon (NLM) as on today, the release said the southwest monsoon had further advanced into some more parts of south Arabian Sea, remaining parts of Maldives-Comorin area, southern parts of Lakshadweep area, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, some more parts of southwest Bay of Bengal, remaining parts of southeast Bay of Bengal, some parts of west central Bay of Bengal, most parts of east central and northeast Bay of Bengal and some parts of Nagaland-Manipur-Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
It said the NLM passes through Lat. 10oN / Long. 60oE, Lat. 10oN / Long. 70oE, Kochi, Tondi, Lat. 14oN / Long. 87oE, Lat. 17oN / Long. 90oE, Lat. 20oN / Long. 91oE, Aizwal, Kohima and Deomali.
The IMD said conditions were favourable for further advance of southwest monsoon into remaining parts of south Arabian Sea, Lakshadweep area and Kerala, some parts of central Arabian Sea, coastal & south interior Karnataka, some more parts of Tamil Nadu, southwest, west central & east central Bay of Bengal, most parts of northeast Bay of Bengal and some more parts of northeastern states during next 3- 4 days.
The IMD had, on May 17, said that the southwest monsoon was likely to set over Kerala on May 30 with a model error of +/- 4 days.

Pinarayi writes to other CMs, urges them to unitedly oppose new cattle trade restrictions

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today wrote to his counterparts in other States about the new restrictions imposed by the Centre on cattle trade and urged them to convey their objection to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and request him to withdraw the rules introduced without any consultation with the States.
"Unless we stand together and oppose this anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular move, it may mark the beginning of a series of similar measures aimed at destroying the federal democratic fabric and secular culture of our country," he said in the letter, a copy of which was posted on the Chief Minister's Facebook page.
"I would therefore fervently appeal to you to convey your objection to the 2017 Rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to the Prime Minister, and to request him to withdraw the Rules introduced without any consultation with the States. Since the matters dealt within the Rules squarely fall within the purview of State Legislatures, the State Governments may be allowed to formulate necessary policies and laws to suit the socio-cultural and economic milieu of the State.
"I have already brought these matters to the kind attention of the Prime Minister in a letter dated May 27th, 2017. A copy of the letter is attached for your kind perusal," he said.
Mr. Vijayan said the notification containing the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on May 23 imposed a number of restriction on cattle trade which would have serious repercussions on the livelihood of millions of people, especially those in the agricultural sector, in our country.
"It appears strange that the Rules are promulgated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 since they have nothing to do with the objects of the Act. Neither are the Rules covered by the express delegation of legislative powers contained in the Act. Hence it is nothing but a covert attempt to usurp the powers of State legislatures in the guise of rules under a Central Act. The subjects covered by the Rules belong to entries 15 and 18 of the State List in the Constitution. This impermissible encroachment into the domain of the State Legislatures is a clear violation of the spirit of federalism, which is acclaimed as one of the basic features of the constitution.
"The Rules, by imposing unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to carry on any trade or occupation under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution, will not stand the test of constitutionality. They also violate the basic right of a person to freedom of choice regarding his food," Mr. Vijayan said.
He said it was rather unfortunate that such a drastic measure, producing serious consequences, was introduced in exercise of the rule making power, surpassing the elected representatives of the people and avoiding any public debate.
"This is nothing but a negation of the democratic principle, which is indisputably accepted as forming part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
"Apart from the Constitutional and legal infirmities of the Rules, the disastrous consequences which are likely to arise if these Rules are brought into force make one shudder. It will definitely produce a chaotic situation in the rural agricultural economy in all the States," he added.

IIM Kozhikode to incubate 12 start-ups under its IIMK Live Business Incubator

IIMK LIVE, a business incubator launched by Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode (IIMK) in early 2016, has offered admission to 12 start-ups in its first job creation programme.
IIMK LIVE (Laboratory for Innovation, Venturing and Entrepreneurship) is a business incubator and entrepreneurship development centre established by IIM Kozhikode with the support of Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. 
Responding positively to the proposal submitted by IIMK in early 2016, DST sanctioned a grant of Rs. 3 crore to set-up the business incubator, a press release from the institute said.
IIMK has made available required space and facilities on campus and is developing a series of programmes and products that would ensure long-term sustainability of LIVE. As a government recognized on-campus incubator, DST would continue supporting it in various ways including it acting as an important element of its Seed Support System, the release said.
"Over last two decades, IIM Kozhikode has always taken initiatives that contribute to national development goals and LIVE is in response to the prime minister’s call - ‘Startup India, Standup India’. LIVE seeks to emerge as national center of excellence in promoting innovation, new business venturing and entreprenuership among student community on campus as well as greater community," Prof. Kulbhooshan Balooni, Director In-charge of IIMK, said.
“LIVE would gain immensely from the faculty members, knowledge base, students, alumni, international linkages and other institutional networks of IIM Kozhikode and is in turn expected to contribute to the institute’s various programmes and activities,” he added. 
Of the 12 start-ups offered admission to LIVE in first round that concluded recently, five are founded by IIMK alumni. The selected ventures in this group are across a range of sectors but many are based on digital technology. 
LIVE registered under Indian Societies Act in June 2016, hopes to support start-ups not just founded by IIMK’s own students/ alumni but also any idea owner with innovation that is believed to have commercial potential.
“While we have some thrust areas to focus in mind, in the beginning we are sector agnostic. Also, while we want more and more of our own students taking to entreprenuership, we do not limit supporting only them," Dr. Keyoor Purani, Executive Director, IIMK LIVE and professor of marketing at IIMK, said.
Justifying such an approach, he said, "The start-up environment in India is fast evolving and our
startegy with regard to the sectoral and other focus areas would evolve over a period of time.” 
“IIMs and other B-schools have job placements deeply entrentched in many of their programmes as traditionally that has been the sole career track MBAs looked for. Over the years, newer models would evolve that would facilitate entreprenuerial risk taking by MBA students despite burden of educational loans. We are working towards that but as of now I am happy with the response," he added.
The 12 start-ups were selected from about 100 applications received for the year-long incubation in the first round of admission. Applications for the programme are invited round the year and enrolments are expected to take place every six months or so. Under the incubation programme, start-ups ready with the proof of concept will work with mentors to develop go-to- market startegy, build team and prepare itself for funding. 
Apart from mentorship, training, professional services and a collaborative work space, LIVE hopes to help many of the incubatee companies with seed support funds to help translate innovative idea into a commecial venture, the release added.

Passing out parade held at Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala

At an impressive Passing Out Parade (POP) held at Indian Naval Academy (INA), Ezhimala in Kerala today, 272 cadets of Indian Navy, 66 cadets of Indian Coast Guard and two International cadets – one each from Benin and Tanzania – passed out of the hallowed portals of INA on successful completion of their training.
The passing out cadets belonged to four different courses of Spring Term 2017 -- 92nd Indian Naval Academy Course (BTech), 92nd Indian Naval Academy Course (MSc), 23rd Naval Orientation Course (Extended) and 24th Naval Orientation Course (Regular).
Also graduating and marching shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts were 25 female cadets from the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard.
The parade was reviewed by Chief of the Sri Lankan Navy Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne. The presence of the Sri Lankan Naval Chief marks a new chapter in consolidating strong bilateral naval relations between India and Sri Lanka and to explore new avenues for naval cooperation, an official press release said.
Naval cooperation between India and Sri Lanka has been traditionally strong, encompassing a wide range of issues, including operational interactions through bilateral exercises, training, port calls, hydrographic co-operation, capability building and capacity augmentation initiatives.
Two Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessels (AOPVs) are presently in their final stages of construction for the Sri Lankan Navy at Goa Shipyard Limited. Indian Naval Ship (INS) Darshak, a survey ship, also recently successfully completed a two-month survey deployment off Sri Lanka.
Vice Admiral Wijegunaratne, following the ceremonial review, awarded medals to nine meritorious cadets. In his address, he congratulated the cadets and urged them to constantly challenge their physical and mental limits to be a successful naval officer.
Vice Admiral AR Karve, Flag Officer Commanding–in–Chief, Southern Naval Command, Vice Admiral SV Bhokare, Commandant, INA, Prof. Anil D Sahasrabudhe, Chairman, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), New Delhi and other senior officers were present on the occasion.
The Passing Out Parade was also witnessed by the proud parents and guardians of all successful cadets, as well as by a large number of local and outstation dignitaries, media personnel, cadets of Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), Dehradun and school children.
The ‘President’s Gold Medal’ for the Indian Naval Academy B Tech course was awarded to Midshipman Akshay Sarveswaran. The ‘Chief of the Naval Staff Gold Medal’ for the Naval Orientation (Extended) Course was awarded to Sub Lieutenant Arpan Mondal. The ‘Chief of the Naval Staff Gold Medal’ for the Naval Orientation (Regular) Course was awarded to Assistant Commandant Ravinder S Ramola.
The glittering ceremony culminated with the successful cadets forming up in two columns and marching with their gleaming swords, held in salute, past the Academy’s Saluting Dias known as the Quarterdeck, in Slow March, to the traditional notes of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, the poignant farewell tune played by all Armed Forces around the world when bidding adieu to colleagues and comrades.
As they marched past the sacred quarter-deck, the passing out cadets were bid farewell by cadets of the Junior term who manned the mast.
On completion of the parade, the ‘Shipping of Stripes’ ceremony was conducted. The proud parents and guardians of the Passing Out cadets shipped the Naval and Coast Guard epaulettes, popularly known as ‘Stripes’ on the shoulders of their wards, thus symbolising their transformation from ‘cadets’ into commissioned Naval and Coast Guard officers. The Reviewing Officer and other dignitaries shipped the stripes of the medal winners and congratulated all the trainees for their successful completion of the rigorous training. 
These officers will now proceed to various Naval and Coast Guard ships/establishments, to further consolidate their training in various fields, the release added.

Kerala CM writes to Modi, seeks repeal of restrictions on cattle trade

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to intervene and repeal the newly imposed restrictions on cattle trade which, he said, would have a serious impact on the livelihood of millions of Indians.
He said the restrictions must be repealed so that the lives and livelihoods of millions of people could be protected, while safeguarding the fundamental principles of the Constitution.
Mr. Vijayan noted that the notification issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change regarding the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 mandates that cattle can be traded only by those who have valid documentation that the cattle will be used only for agricultural purposes. 
"Of the millions of farmers in our country, only a miniscule number of them have documentation to prove that they are engaged in agriculture. Therefore, it would be extremely difficult for the vast majority of our farmers to legally procure draught animals used for agriculture and other domestic purposes," he said.
The Chief Minister said the rules also envisaged the constitution of District Animal Market Monitoring Committees and Animal Market Committees. 
"The constitution of such committees to monitor cattle trade will also jeopardise the free hand trade of cattle between farmers in our country. Legitimate fears are also being raised if they would take upon themselves the role of Gau Rakshak Samitis which have conducted attacks on cattle traders and transporters in the recent past.
"May I also remind you that meat is the primary source of protein for millions of poor and ordinary people in this country, particularly the Dalits. Such restrictions being imposed on the eve of Ramzan, would certainly appear to certain communities of our country as a direct attack on them. People of all faiths consume meat in our country, not just the minorities. 
"Once the prohibition comes into effect, it will not only deprive them of adequate nutrition, but also prevent the availability of raw material for the leather industry. More than 2.5 million people work in India’s leather industry and most of them are Dalits, especially those engaged in skinning the carcasses. Hence, this prohibition will severely affect our disadvantaged sections, in terms of both their lives and livelihoods," he said.
Mr. Vijayan also said that India had a thriving meat export industry and that it was the global leader in the field.
"The prohibition of sale of cattle for slaughter will have a cascading effect on Indian industry as a whole, especially because of an insurmountable deficiency that will occur in our foreign exchange because of the drop in meat export. Several state owned meat processing industries across the country, like Kerala’s Meat Products of India Ltd., would become unviable because of the new regulations and hence would be forced to shut down," he said.
The Chief Minister said that in Kerala the vast majority of the population consumed meat and so was the case with all the other South Indian states and North East Indian states. Even in states like Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal, non-vegetarians out number vegetarians, he said.
"Therefore, the new rules should have been introduced in consultation with the states. The absence of efforts to take the states into confidence on such a drastic move with far reaching consequences is detrimental to our democracy. I am afraid it amounts to an intrusion into the rights of the states in our federal structure. The introduction of such restrictions in a hasty manner would certainly prove to be a challenge in upholding our plurality, the essence of our nation. It would also be against the principles of secularism and federalism enshrined in our constitution," he said.

Manju Warrier denies reports about incident during shooting for Udaharanam Sujatha

Manju Warrier
Manju Warrier
Leading Malayalam film actress Manju Warrier has denied some recent online media reports which suggested that some  people had threatened her during the shooting for her latest movie Udaharanam Sujatha at Chenkalchoola, Thiruvananthapuram.
"I am shooting for my latest movie, Udaharanam Sujatha, at Chenkalchoola, Thiruvananthapuram since the first week of May. From the first day of shoot, the people of Chenkalchoola have provided unprecedented support for me and team for the movie. They have given me lots of love and respect and I will remain indebted to them for the consideration and concern that I have received from the people," she said in a statement here.
"However, during the last few days, I have been noticing a few attempts in several online media to alienate and antagonize the people of Chenkalchoola against my colleagues and me. This has been effected by the unnecessary exaggeration of an event where nobody from Chenkalchoola was involved. During one of the days at the location, a group approached us and invited me for a book distribution event. They insisted that I attend the event even when I had regretted after informing them about the requirement for the movie and make-up related details. When we found that the group is adamant, we explained to them that it’s not possible because of the requirements of the special make-up that I need to keep on through the day. I had spoken to them personally and conveyed the message through my colleagues. When the group understood that we are conveying the truth, they left the location amicably," Ms. Warrier said.
"It is this incident that has been exaggerated as one where people pointed knives at me and threatened to kill me. The perpetrators of the news added masala by saying that it is an attempt by someone in the field of cinema. I am saddened at the baseless allegations that are being leveled against my colleagues. There has been no incident of anyone pointing their finger at me in Chenkalchoola, let alone daggers.
"I apologize for the discomfort caused by me and team Udaharanam Sujatha to the people of Chenkalchoola, Thiruvananthapuram," the statement added.

Kerala law student chops off genitals of swami who sexually exploited her

Kerala girl chops off genitals of alleged rapist
A 23-year-old law student allegedly chopped off the genitals of a 54-year-old self-styled godman at her house in Kannammoola near here last night after he had been allegedly sexually exploiting her for about seven years.
Reacting to reports about the incident, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said it was brave of the girl to take such a step. "It is a strong and courageous act by her," he said.
The man was identified as Swami Ganeshananda or Hari swami, as he is also known, a former member of a well-known ashram in the adjacent district of Kollam.
According to various sources, the girl told the police that the swami first assaulted her when she was 16 when her mother invited him to their house to pray for her ailing father. The visits continued over the years and he would assault her whenever he got the opportunity, she said.
Last night, when the man arrived at their house again and tried to force himself on her, she grabbed a knife in the house and cut off his genitals. Later, she called the police and informed them of the incident, the sources said.
The swami was brought to the Medical College Hospital here a little after midnight with nearly 90 percent of his genitals severed. Doctors conducted a surgery on him immediately and his condition was stated to be stable.
The police have registered a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act against the swami and are investigating the matter. 
Meanwhile, media reports said the swami had told the police that he had cut off his genitals himself because they were no longer of any use to him.

IMD forecasts onset of southwest monsoon over Kerala on May 30

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said the southwest monsoon was likely to set over Kerala on May 30 with a model error of =/- 4 days.
"The statistical model forecast suggests that the monsoon onset over Kerala in this year is likely to be close to the normal date," a press release from IMD said here yesterday.
The onset of southwest monsoon over Kerala signals the arrival of monsoon over the Indian sub-continent and represents beginning of rainy season over the region. The normal monsoon onset over Kerala is on June 1.
The IMD started to issue operational forecasts for the date of monsoon onset over Kerala from 2005. For this an indigenously developed statistical model with a model error of +/- 4 days is used. 
The model uses six predictors: Minimum Temperatures over North-west India; Pre-monsoon rainfall peak over south Peninsula; Outgoing Long wave Radiation (OLR) over south China Sea; Lower tropospheric zonal wind over southeast Indian ocean; Upper tropospheric zonal wind over the east equatorial Indian Ocean; and Outgoing Long wave Radiation (OLR) over the south-west Pacific region.
The release noted that the forecasts of the monsoon onset issued during the past 12 years (2005-2016), except 2015, were proved to be correct.
The southwest monsoon advances over the Andaman Sea normally around May 20, with a standard deviation of about one week. Formation of a cyclonic circulation over the Andaman Sea has resulted into strengthening and deepening of cross equatorial southwesterlies and persistent convective activity and rainfall over the region during the last few days.
As a result, the southwest monsoon has advanced into some parts of southeast Bay of Bengal, Nicobar Islands, entire south Andaman Sea and parts of north Andaman Sea on May 14. As on May 15, Northern Limit of Monsoon (NLM) passed through Lat.5°N/Long.86°E, Lat.9°N/Long.90°E, Hut Bay and Lat.14°N/Long.98°E. 
"Conditions are now becoming favourable for the further advance of southwest monsoon into some parts of southwest Bay of Bengal, some more parts of southeast Bay of Bengal and remaining parts of Andaman Sea, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and some parts of east central Bay of Bengal during the next 48 hours. 
"Past data suggest that there is no association of the date of monsoon advance over the Andaman Sea either with the date of monsoon onset over Kerala or with the seasonal monsoon rainfall over the country," the release added.

Ace athlete P T Usha all set to start Athletics Academy in Kerala

Noted athlete P T Usha called on Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports Vijay Goel here today to invite him to the opening ceremony of Usha School of Athletics set up by her at Kozhikode in Kerala on June 15.
The academy to train budding athletes, spread across 30 acres, is constructed at a cost of Rs. 8.5 crore sanctioned by the Centre. 
The key feature of the academy will be an 8-lane synthetic track. Other features include a mud track, a 40-bed hostel and a gymnasium. The academy will have a team of trained coaches, physiotherapists and other key officials to assist the athletes.
Mr. Goel promised all possible support to Usha so that the academy finds the best talent to represent India at the world stage, an official press release said.

Kochi Metro to get Rs. 15.2 crore per annum from semi-naming rights of five stations

Oppo Electronics (Kerala) Private Limited has won the tender for semi-naming rights of Edappally and M. G. Road stations of Kochi Metro to have the right to carry its brand name at selected locations in these stations. 
The stations will be displayed as Edappilly Oppo station and M.G.Road Oppo station, respectively, a press release from Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) said.
Similarly, Muthoot Fincorp succeeded in bidding for the semi-naming rights for the Aluva, Kalamasserry and Kaloor stations of Kochi Metro project.
For providing the semi-naming rights for five stations on the Aluva-Maharajas stretch of the project, KMRL will earn Rs. 15.2 crore per year. The contract is for three years, the release said.
Apart from displaying their names on the entry-exit structures, these two brands will also get an average of 2500 square feet space inside and outside of each station for their branding.
Only five out of 16 stations were available for providing semi-naming rights. KMRL got the highest quoted amount for Edappally station and lowest for Kalamassery, the release added.

GAIL awards pipeline laying work contracts for another 131 km in Kerala

The public sector GAIL (India) Limited has awarded contracts for pipeline laying works for another 131 km section from Areacode (Malappuram) to Kurumathoor (Kannur) of the Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline at a cost of approximately Rs 200 crore. 
A press release from the company said contracts for the remaining 111 km stretch in Malappuram, Kannur and Kasargod districts will be awarded by July 2017.
Construction works from both the ends of the pipeline project -- that is in the 91 km Kochi – Koottanad section as well as in the 105 km Perole (Kasargod) – Mangaluru section are already in full swing.
With the latest award of contracts, over 75% of the Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline will be in the construction phase, the release said.
"GAIL has been able to make substantial progress in acquisition of Right of User due to the continued support of the State Government, Administration, Police and the public at large. The Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline is likely to give a major economic boost to the state of Kerala by way of environmentally benign industrial development," the release said.
GAIL is targeting to complete the entire Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline by December 2018, the release added.

Kochi Metro Rail Ltd enables formation of company by autorickshaw unions

As part of efforts to create a seamless integrated public transport system in the city, the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) has succeeded in enabling all autorickshaw unions of the GCDA and Goshree area to arrive at a consensus to form a company or society.
The company will bring all the autorickshaw unions under one roof, with 15,000 autorickshaws of the city joining the scheme and working as a single professional operating unit, a press release from KMRL said.
The company will be managed by the District Autorickshaw Union Co-ordination Committee, comprising major unions forming a governing body, which will be responsible for the rules, regulations, bye-laws and also the smooth functioning of the system. 
The unions have decided to hold meetings with the local units to pass on the basic vision behind this initiative and present the various perspectives to their fellow owners before May 10, the release said.
“Kochi has more byroads and service roads than the main roads. The best way to bring people to public transport through these roads is to use autorickshaws. Connecting autos to our public transport system would bring a revolutionary change in the city traffic,” Mr. Elias George, Managing Director, KMRL, said.
Once the company is formed, the new system will be capable of enabling GPS Tracking, Mobile Journey Planner and Smart Card Ticketing, all of which would make the journey hi-tech, safe and easy for commuters.  To proceed further in the matter, the unions will hold meetings with KMRL and the technical partners on May 2, the release said.
Another task taken up by the Co-ordination Committee is to deliberate on the list of feeder routes to be finalized for Kochi Metro, Water Metro and Feeder buses with the help of their local units and the technical help of the students of SCMS College.
The Auto rickshaw Co-ordination Committee will hold further discussions to decide as to whether to create a society or register as a company before May 30, it said.
The Auto rickshaw Co-ordination Committee will also conduct competitions among autorickshaw drivers for creating a name and logo for the company, the design of the auto and the uniform for the drivers.
"Auto Integration will help commuters to avail three types of services: ‘Hire Auto’, which is the normal service taking people from A to B, ‘Smart Auto’, the auto that comes to the doorstep and can be booked through an app, and finally ‘Feeder Auto’, which will pick people from feeder routes," the release said.
It is also a social inclusion project which will provide a working environment as an "employee & owner”, under a professional operating unit (a society), the release added.

Prabhu dedicates new freight terminals to nation; flags off three freight trains, passenger train

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu dedicated new freight terminals under Mission 100 and flagged off a passenger train along with three freight trains, including a high axle load train, at different locations across India through video conferencing from Rail Bhavan here yesterday.
Flagging off Train No 16791/16792 Palaruvi Express from Punalur to Palakkad in Kerala yesterday, the Minister said, “Kerala is a state with high population density with not much urban rural divide, so demand for public transport is high. Providing inter=city transport is important. This new train would cater to the needs of the people. Stoppages and timings of this train has been taken care of based on the suggestions from the representations from the state.”
About freight terminals, he said for the Railway, freight is also an important segment. Change in freight policies are always required. “These new 45 freight terminals are a next step of changes in freight policy. The high axle load train is a customised rolling stock based on need of customers. Challenge for Railways is to run passenger and cargo trains on same track and maintain the punctuality. Our traffic has grown 65 times and handling capacity has just grown four times. To maintain punctuality is a challenge, we are working for it,” he added.
While presenting Rail Budget for the year 2016-17, the Minister had announced that Indian Railways would develop and commission at least 100 freight terminals on private investment in the next two years.
During the year 2016-17, 45 freight terminals (30 Private Sidings & 15 PFTs) have been commissioned. These freight terminals were dedicated to the nation and freight trains from three terminals -- Kila Raipur in Punjab (Northern Railway), Tandur in Telangana (South Central Railway) and Khemli in Rajasthan (North Western Railway) were flagged off yesterday.
The high axle load steel coil carrying rake is a specially designed 22.9t axle load wagons with V-Groove and rubber liners for movement of Cold Rolled Steel coils which are susceptible to damage in ordinary wagons and require special design. These wagons will have approximately 19% higher payload of 64.89t.
The newly introduced Punalur-Palakkad ‘Palaruvi’ Express daily services will have stoppages at Auvaneeswaram, Kottarakara, Ezhukone, Kundara, Kilikollur, Kollam, Perinad, Munroturuttu, Sasthankotta, Karunagapalli, Ochira, Kayankulam, Mavelikara, Cheriyanad, Chengannur, Tiruvalla, Changasseri, Kottayam,Kuruppantara, Vaikom Road, Piravam Road, Mulanturutti, Tripunittura, Ernakulam Town, Aluva, Thrisur and Ottapalam.

Anita Dube named curator of Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018

Anita Dube
Anita Dube
Well-known contemporary artist Anita Dube was today named as the curator for the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) -- India's only biennale and the largest celebration of contemporary art in South Asia -- that will begin here in December 2018. 
The selection is in keeping with the Biennale’s long-standing tradition of being an artist-led exhibition, a press release from the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF), the organisers of the event, said.
The announcement, made by Kerala Culture Minister A. K. Balan during the closing ceremony of KMB at Durbar Hall here yesterday evening, followed the unanimous decision made by a high-powered panel of renowned artists and prominent personalities to bring Dube’s unique artistic insights and sensibilities to the Biennale, it said.
“Through three editions, the KMB has gained a reputation for being one of the most important exhibitions of its kind around the world. It is an honour and a very big challenge to be declared curator of this wonderful platform. I am delighted that the jurors thought I can deliver. I accept the responsibility with excitement and humility. It is early days yet and my thoughts will no doubt undergo several changes going forward, but I view this as an opportunity to do something special,” said Dube, who was present at the function.
Dube takes over from Sudarshan Shetty, whose vision for the third edition of India’s only Biennale saw 97 artists from 31 countries showcase their production – across a variety of forms, styles and disciplines – over a 108-day period starting December 12, 2016. Spread out across 12 venues, KMB 2016 received more than six lakh visitors.
Based out of the National Capital Region, Dube is renowned for her conceptually rich, politically charged works. An art historian and critic by training and a visual artist in practice, she has been widely exhibited across the Americas, Europe and Asia, including at the first edition of the KMB in 2012. Dube’s practice uses found objects and industrial materials, photography and ‘word architecture’ to critique contemporary socio-political realities.
Her aesthetic idiom, in many ways, reflects her background as a member of the Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association – a short-lived but hugely influential collection of artists and art students who rebelled against what they perceived to be the commodification of art in India.
In fact, Dube’s selection comes nearly three decades after she wrote the manifesto of the group’s seminal exhibition ‘Questions and Dialogue’ held in 1987 in the western state of Gujarat – that called for an explicitly radical, socially and politically conscious approach to art making. The group focused on inexpensive materials and found objects to produce works that resisted commercialisation and connected with working-class audiences.
Describing Dube as a ‘thinking artist’, KMB co-founder Bose Krishnamachari said, “Anita’s sensitivity towards materials, incorporating everyday objects derived from informal, craft and industrial sources and spaces, is profound. As is her wordplay and use of mediums, gestures and imageries – all of which will make for varied experiences and resonances in a space as adaptive and accommodating as the Biennale. Her oeuvre features both knowledgeable consideration and skillful melding of the sensibilities and styles of abstractions with real, contemporary concerns. This will doubtless be reflected in her curatorial vision.”
Krishnamachari, who is also President of the KBF, was part of the ‘Artistic Advisory Committee’ that selected Dube as curator. The other panelists were KBF Secretary Riyas Komu, Velu Vishwanadhan, Sarat Maharaj, Ravi Agarwal, Dayanita Singh, Sadanand Menon, Kavita Singh and V. Sunil.
“Anita’s selection not only reinforces our commitment to having artists at the helm, but also our mission to address contemporary social-political-cultural concerns. Anita is a strong proponent of making art accessible to the public through effective political and social engagement. This is precisely what the Biennale tries to do,” Komu said.
Dube is also a board member at Khoj, an international artists’ association she co-founded in 1997 in New Delhi. Over two decades, the initiative that began as a modest annual workshop has become one of the most important platforms shining a global spotlight on South Asian art, organising and hosting international ‘itinerant’ workshops, residencies and exhibitions.
Besides KMB 2012, she has been represented in various national and international biennales and festivals such as ‘Biennale Jogja XI’ (Indonesia, 2011), ‘Against Exclusion’ 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2009), ‘iCon: India Contemporary’, Venice Biennale (Collateral event, 2005), ‘Yokohama Triennale’ (Japan, 2001) and the ‘7th Havana Biennial’ (Cuba, 2000).
Dube was also a participant in the groundbreaking 2009 exhibition, ‘Indian Highway’, an itinerant collective show curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Julia Peyton-Jones and Gunnar B. Kvaran, which represented the growing importance of the sub-continent’s creative panorama – especially the vibrancy of its contemporary art scene – and the economic, social and cultural developments in the region over the past 20 years.

CCI finds conduct of four Malayalam film bodies in contravention of Competition Law

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has, in the matter of a complaint made by a filmmaker, found the conduct and practice of four Malayalam film bodies -- Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA), FEFKA Director’s Union, FEFKA Production Executive’s Union and their five office-bearers to be in contravention of the Competition Law.
An official press release said the informant, T. G. Vinayakumar, a movie director, had approached CCI alleging anti-competitive conduct by the associations. 
According to him, on different occasions, the associations allegedly tried to force various actors, technicians, producers and financiers not to work or associate with him in any of his projects due to his efforts to streamline working conditions of artists and for the initiative ‘Cinema Forum’, which envisaged collaboration between filmmakers and distributors to make low budget movies with new actors. 
"Consequent upon detailed investigation by Director General, Competition Commission of India (CCI) found that FEFKA as a mighty organisation in the Malayalam film industry consisting of 17 sub-unions engaged in different facets of filmmaking and due to the ban imposed by FEFKA and AMMA on the Informant, many of the artists and technicians were not able to deal with the Informant or any other non-member.
"Such anti-competitive practise was held to have an appreciable adverse effect on the Malayalam film industry," the release said.
Accordingly, the Commission found the impugned decisions and practice of AMMA, FEFKA, FEFKA Director’s Union, FEFKA Production Executive’s Union and their five responsible office bearers -- Innocent, Edavela Babu, Sibi Malayil, B. Unnikrishnan and K. Mohanan -- to be in contravention of  Section 3(3) of the Competition Act, 2002, it said.
Apart from asking the organisations and the office-bearers to cease and desist from indulging in anti-competitive conduct, the CCI has imposed a penalty of Rs. 4,00,065 on AMMA, Rs. 85,594 on FEFKA, Rs. 3,86,354 on FEFKA Directors' Union and Rs. 56,661 on FEFKA Production Executives' Union. The amounts were calculated at the rate of 5% of their average income, the release said.
Further, the CCI also imposed fines of Rs. 51,478 on Mr. Innocent, Rs. 19113 on Mr. Babu, Rs. 66,356 on Mr. Malayil, Rs. 32,026 on Mr. Unnikrishnan and Rs. 27,737 on Mr. Mohanan, the release added.
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