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Kerala

Kerala flood toll hits 67; over 2.54 lakh in camps

The heavy rains that lashed Kerala over the last few days have lessened in intensity, even as the toll rose to 67 while over 2.54 lakh displaced people were in relief camps, the state government said on Sunday.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The heavy rains that lashed Kerala over the last few days have lessened in intensity, even as the toll rose to 67 while over 2.54 lakh displaced people were in relief camps, the state government said on Sunday.
 
All the 14 districts in the state, except Kollam, have people taking shelter in over 1,600 relief camps. Malappuram district with over 54,000 people has the largest number of people in the camps.
 
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media that compared to last year's floods which ravaged the entire state, the intensity this time is not that bad and has affected fewer districts.
 
"In a big relief to those engaged in rescue efforts, the rains today appear to have come down," he said.
 
The worst-affected areas are Meppadi in Wayanad and Kavalapara in Malappuram. Various rescue teams are working hard to recover bodies of those trapped.
 
"As of now, eight people are still missing in Meppadi and with the rains subsiding, the rescue works are going on well. However, more rains are predicted in the coming days. All should be on high alert and be receptive to warnings," Vijayan said.
 
Earlier in the day, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who is the MP from Wayanad, reached Kozhikode and drove first to Kavalapara and visited a church where 360 people were taking shelter. He listened to their woes and assured them of all possible help.
 
Gandhi will be touring Wayanad on Monday where he is expected to visit a few relief camps and affected areas.
 
Meanwhile, Vijayan expressed anguish at the manner in which some sections are spreading rumours about contributions to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.
 
"This fund will be used only for the needs of the affected and not for anything else. Knowing well about this, it's unfortunate that some negative campaigns are currently on... what we have found out is that the origin of this is from outside our state. The media also has a role in this to ensure that these anti-social measures are curbed," he said.
 
"We have not yet asked for funds from the Centre and they are providing us all the support for the ongoing relief and rescue work," added Vijayan.
 
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told the media that he has called on everyone to contribute to the fund generously.
 
The maximum deaths --  18 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, and Kozhikode have also reported casualties.
 
"Today (Sunday) there is a red alert in Kannur, Kasargode and Wayanad and orange alerts in six other districts," Vijayan said.
 
The Chief Minister said despite heavy rains, the water level had increased only in three dams while water level at dams in Idukki and Pathanamthitta continued to be low.
 
Even as a few long-distance trains were cancelled for the day, Railways were able to operate short-distance ones in several sectors while in a few other sectors, operations are expected to begin soon.
 
The Cochin International Airport that was closed a few days back, was also opened for service Sunday afternoon when the first flight landed.
 
"Operations have resumed and passengers can come for check-in according to the schedules," said an airport official.
 
IANS
 

60 killed in Kerala flood; 2.27 lakh in relief camps

Even as the heavy rains that lashed Kerala in the past few days abated, the death toll stood at 60 on Sunday, according to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Even as the heavy rains that lashed Kerala in the past few days abated, the death toll stood at 60 on Sunday, according to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
 
Compared to last year's floods which ravaged the entire state, this time it is not that bad and has affected fewer districts, Vijayan said soon after chairing a meeting of the disaster response team that functions from near his office here.
 
"The rains today appear to have come down and have been a big relief for those engaged in the rescue and relief operations in the worst affected areas. Today there are 1,551 camps operating in which 2,27,335 people are housed," said Vijayan.
 
The worst affected places are near Meppadi in Wayanad and Kavalapara in Malappuram districts and those are the places where the various rescue teams are working hard to recover bodies of those trapped under a huge pile of mud.
 
"As of now, eight people are still missing in Meppadi and with the rains subsiding, the rescue works are going on well. The forecast, however, appears that more rains are predicted in the coming days and hence all should be on high alert and the need of the hour is all should be receptive to warnings and alerts and should listen to what authorities ask," added Vijayan.
 
He also expressed anguish in the manner in which some anti-social elements are taking to social media spreading canards about contributions to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.
 
"This fund will be used only for the needs of the affected and not for anything else. Knowing well about this, it's unfortunate that some negative campaigns are currently on and what we have found out is that the origin of this is from outside our state. The media also has a role in this to ensure that these anti-socials are curbed," said Vijayan.
 
"We have not yet asked for funds from the Centre and they are providing us all the support for the ongoing relief and rescue work," added Vijayan.
 
The maximum deaths -- 18 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, Kozhikode have also reported casualties.
 
"Today there is a red alert in Kannur, Kasargode and Wayanad and orange alerts in six other districts," he said.
 
The Chief Minister said despite heavy rains, the water level had increased only in three dams while water level at dams in Idukki and Pathanamthitta continue to be low.
 
Even while a few long-distance trains were cancelled for the day, they were able to operate short-distance ones in several sectors while in few other sectors, operations are expected to begin soon.
 
The other good news was that the Cochin International Airport that was closed a few days back, was opened for service Sunday afternoon when the first flight landed.
 
"Operations have resumed and passengers can come for check-in according to the schedules," said an airport official.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala floods toll 55, over 1.5 lakh shifted to relief camps

The Kerala floods death toll has reached 55 and over 1.5 lakh people have been shifted to around 1,300 camps across the rain-battered state even as the Meteorological Department has predicted more rains in the coming days.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The Kerala floods death toll has reached 55 and over 1.5 lakh people have been shifted to around 1,300 camps across the rain-battered state even as the Meteorological Department has predicted more rains in the coming days.
 
The maximum deaths -- 15 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, Kozhikode were other badly-hit districts, officials said here on Saturday. A red alert for Sunday has been issued in Kasargode, Kannur and Wayanad. More rain is predicted in a few other districts.
 
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday took stock of the situation. Officials informed him that the maximum number of relief camps had been set up in Kozhikode, followed by Wayanad.
 
Vijayan had earlier said 80 landslides had been reported from eight worst-hit districts. "Authorities are yet to ascertain the actual number of missing in the landslides at Meppadi in Wayanad district and Kavalapara in Malappuram district.
 
According to unconfirmed reports, 41 were missing in Kavalapara, he added.
 
Stating that no aerial survey could be conducted due to inclement weather, he said as soon as the weather cleared ups the aerial survey could be carried out.
 
The Chief Minister said despite heavy rains, water level had increased only three dams and continued to be low in Idukki and Pathanamthitta. 
 
Floodgates of the Banasura dam, which was overflowing, were opened as per the announcement and no damage was reported as those living downstream had been shifted to secure places.
 
He said all the government officials and departments engaged in relief works would be working on holidays as well. "Cellphone towers on wheels are being set up in areas where communication has snapped," said Vijayan.
 
The railways were working overtime to start trains' operations and army's help had been sought for inspection of bridges, he said.
 
Earlier in the day with rain subsiding in Ernakulam, water receded from the Cochin International Airport and air operations are likely to start on Sunday. But officials are keeping their fingers crossed as rain started again on Saturday afternoon.
 
Emirates Airlines on Saturday announced that it would operate additional flights from Thiruvananthapuram airport, following cancellation of flights at Cochin airport over the past few days.
 
Meanwhile, while former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is expected to arrive at Kozhikode on Sunday to proceed to Wayanad, his parliamentary constituency, senior BJP leader V. Muraleedharan said Kerala had no funds shortage as around Rs 1,400 crore provided to the state as part of the Rs 2,047 crore flood relief last year had remained unused.
 
IANS
 

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SC opens Sabarimala gates to women of all ages

The Supreme Court on Friday opened the gates of the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala dedicated to Lord Ayyappa to women of all ages, lifting the prohibition on women in the age group of 10-50 saying it was violative of their fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees.
The Supreme Court on Friday opened the gates of the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala dedicated to Lord Ayyappa to women of all ages, lifting the prohibition on women in the age group of 10-50 saying it was violative of their fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees.
 
In a majority 4:1 judgment, the top court also read down the provision of Kerala laws that protected the prohibition and said it could not be covered under practices essential and integral to religious practice. 
 
Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman judge in the five-judges bench, gave a dissenting judgment.
 
Chief Justice Dipak Misra reading out the judgment, also on behalf of Justice A. M. Khanwilkar, said that subversion of women's rights under the garb of physiological phenomenon cannot be allowed.
 
"All devotees are equal and there cannot be any discrimination on the basis of gender," Misra said.
 
Justice Rohinton F. Nariman in a separate but concurring judgment said that people of all faiths visit the temples -- worshipers are not of separate denomination.
 
"Religion cannot become a cover to exclude and deny women their right to worship," Justice D.Y. Chandrachud also said in a separate but concurring judgment.
 
Holding that the Sabarimala temple is not a denominational temple peculiar to any sect, the court said that the Ayyappa temple belongs to Hindus and does not constitute a separate entity. 
 
The apex court also read down the provision of Kerala laws that protected the practice of prohibiting the entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years.
 
Justice Indu Malhotra said: "What constitutes essential practices of religion is to be decided by worshippers and it is not for the judiciary to adjudicate.
 
"It is not for courts to decide if such practices should be struck down. Rationality cannot be used to judge faith. All followers must be allowed to follow their own faith as per their own beliefs in a secular polity."
 
IANS
 

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

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

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

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

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

A 15-year-old rower died and three female athletes were hospitalised in a serious condition after they consumed poisonous fruit on Wednesday in an alleged suicide attempt at their hostel at the Sports Authority of India's Water Sports Centre at Alappuzha in Kerala.
 
Kerala suicide attempt: DG SAI says priority to save lives of girls
A 15-year-old rower died and three female athletes were hospitalised in a serious condition after they consumed poisonous fruit yesterday in an alleged suicide attempt at their hostel at the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) Water Sports Centre at Alappuzha in Kerala.
 
The decased was identified as Aparna Ramachandran, a resident of Avalookunnu in Alappuzha district, official sources said. The three others are also from Kerala, they said.
 
The four athletes allegedly consumed the fruit of cerbera odollam (Othalanga in Malayalam) sometime during the afternoon yesterday and were rushed to the Alappuzha Medical College Hospital, about 150 km from here, in the evening after they started showing symptoms of food poisoning.
 
While Aparna failed to respond to treatment and breathed her last around 4 am today, the other three girls were said to be in a serious condition.
 
The reason for the extreme step taken by the rowers could not be ascertained immediately, but parents and relatives of the girls said they were subjected to mental and physical harassment at the hostel in recent times.
 
The hostel authorities, however, denied these allegations and said there were no complaints of any harassment. Media reports quoted them as saying that the girls had recently been caught consuming beer and were questioned about it, and they must have resorted to the extreme step fearing further action.
 
The State Government as well as the Sports Authority of India have ordered inquiries into the incident.
 
Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chenithala told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that he had asked Inspector General of Police (Kochi Range) M R Ajithkumar to conduct an inquiry into th incident and the officer would reach Alappuzha later today.
 
In Delhi, SAI Director General Injeti Srinivas said SAI had taken an extremely serious view of the incident and he had submitted an initial report to Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. He said SAI would conduct a probe into all aspects of the incident.
 
Mr  Sonowal said in a statement later that he had asked the Director General of SAI to rush to the spot and give a factual report on the incident.
 
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“I am deeply aggrieved by the incident that has happened in Kerala. The young girl who has died was a very promising sportsperson. It is a big loss to the country in general and Sports Authority of India and sports fraternity in particular. I convey my condolences to the bereaved family. We will give all possible help to the bereaved family," he said.
 
"Three girls are still undergoing treatment. I pray for their speedy recovery. To provide them the best possible treatment is our top priority," he said.
 
"Local police is investigating the matter. I have also directed the Director General of SAI to rush to the spot and give me a factual report. I have specifically directed him to ensure that the best possible treatment is made available to the three girls who are undergoing treatment. 
 
"While law will take its own course, at this stage I would only like to say that if anyone from Sports Authority of India is found guilty in connection with this tragic incident, strictest possible action will be taken against him or her," he added.
 
Mr Srinivas told newspersons in Delhi that it was the most shocking and tragic incident in the three-decade-old history of SAI, which is tasked with nurturing sports talent in the country.
 
He said he had been informed of the incident around midnight last night and has been in touch with Kerala government and local SAI officials since then.
 
"Our immediate priority is to deal with the medical emergency, to save the lives of the three trainees" he said. He said he had been told that there was no real antidote for the poisonous fruit and that, since the entire matter came to light only after some hours after they had consumed the fruit, the poison appeared to have entered their bloodstream and complicated matters.
 
Mr Srinivas said the four girls had reportedly left a suicide note jointly signed by them. One of the three girls in hospital, who is conscious and is able to speak, has deposed before the sub-divisional magistrate, he said. "All these matters will be investigated," he added.
 
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10 dead, 50 hurt as Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-City Express derails near Hosur

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

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

There was no shortage of entertainment as Kerala Blasters FC and Jamshedpur played out a 2-2 draw in a Hero Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Friday.
 
Kerala had the better chances to score but it was a Piti (38') penalty that broke the deadlock. C K Vineeth (71') added the visitor's second before Raphael Messi Bouli scored a brace (75', 87') to pull his team level.
 
With the spoils being shared, Jamshedpur are third with 13 points from eight matches while Kerala sit seventh with seven points.
 
Mario Arques, who was deemed fit to start after a lengthy layoff, nearly got his team off to a splendid start. Seityasen Singh nicked the ball on the right flank and cut inside to deliver a threatening cross that was headed straight at the goalkeeper by the Spanish midfielder at the far post.
 
The visitors were careless in possession early in the game, with Jeakson stealing the ball off Aitor Monroy to set Raphael Messi Bouli free, but the Cameroonian striker couldn't keep his shot on target.
 
With the game nearing half-time, the referee penalised Vlatko Drobarov's manhandling of Tiri inside the box from a corner conceded by a Seityasen backpass. Piti calmly slotted home from 12 yards to put Jamshedpur ahead.
 
Kerala spurned a well-worked chance to equalise after the restart. Seityasen drilled a low cross into the box from the right flank for Arques who failed to connect at the near post. The loose ball fell perfectly for Sergio Cidoncha whose powerful strike from inside the box flew wide.
 
Sahal Abdul Samad's introduction in place of Cidoncha in the second half gave the hosts a much-needed spark in midfield. In the 66th minute, the Kerala-born midfielder danced his way past the Jamshedpur defence before getting a shot away. Tiri was well-positioned to block the strike and keep his team in the lead.
 
Five minutes later, on his return to Kochi, substitute CK Vineeth struck Jamshedpur's second. The forward played a one-two with Farukh Chaudhary before dribbling into the box and finding the gap between Rehenesh and the near post.
 
Kerala Blasters pressed high up the field as an emergency response and worked the ball well to find a goal in the 75th minute. Sahal produced a delightful chip from inside the box for Messi who nodded in at the far post to provide a ray of hope for his team.
 
With three minutes left for the end of regulation time, Kerala found an equaliser. Seityasen Singh dribbled into the box and was brought down by Robin Gurung. Messi stepped up and converted from the spot to complete his brace and a late comeback for Kerala.
 
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CAB won't see the light of day in Kerala: CM

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In a scathing attack on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday said, "Come what may, it's not going to see the light of day in Kerala".
 
"The CAB is absolutely undemocratic and against the basic tenets of the Constitution. For the world outside, the CAB is a shame for India. This is nothing but the agenda of the RSS to make the country a Hindu Rashtra," said Vijayan.
 
"We will not accept it", he said, adding "it won't take shape in Kerala."
 
"It's quite certain that the Bill will not pass judicial scrutiny as the very essence of our secular character has been affected. When the Partition took place, lots of Muslims opted for India as they did not want to live in a religious country. The RSS is now trying to do what was done in Pakistan then. But this will be opposed," added Vijayan.
 
Of the 33 million Kerala population, Muslims account for around 20 per cent and Christians around 18 per cent.
 
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed by both the Houses of the Parliament earlier this week.
 
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Football: Kerala look to end winless run as Jamshedpur eye top spot in ISL

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Kerala Blasters will be after that elusive second win of the Hero Indian Super League season when they take on Jamshedpur FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Friday.
 
The Blasters, after their opening matchday win over ATK, are winless for six games now. With three draws and as many losses in these six matches, the Blasters find themselves at the wrong end of the table in the eighth position.
 
However, they won’t have it easy against fourth-placed Jamshedpur FC who can go to the top of the table with a win in Kochi.
 
However, the form graph is interesting. Kerala Blasters played out two consecutive draws (against FC Goa and Mumbai City) coming into this match and so have Jamshedpur FC (against NorthEast United and Chennaiyin FC). Kerala coach Eelco Scahttorie and Jamshedpur manager Antonio Iriondo will want their sides to register a much-needed win. 
 
Kerala have themselves to blame for the mess they find themselves in. The team looked on course for victory against both FC Goa and Mumbai City, only to concede late and settle for a point. The concentration in the latter part of matches has let the team down. Add to the mix the fact that Jamshedpur FC have scored 4 of their 9 goals in the final 15 minutes of games, Schattorie’s side have to be concerned. They have also shown a vulnerability while dealing with set-pieces.
 
“That (conceding late goals) has to do with the quality that you have in the team. One of the first things in team meetings at my previous clubs, one thing I keep repeating is that there has to be a mindset to have double alertness,” said the Dutchman.
 
“Last week we had some mismatch during set-pieces. You have to find a solution, in this case, I tell my players to be a bit smarter, a bit meaner, to be street-smart,” added Schattorie.
 
Though Raphael Messi Bouli has shone in attack of late, the absence of Bartholomew Ogbeche will weaken their frontline which has not exactly been on fire. The Men in Yellow have scored just six goals which is the second-lowest in the league.
 
But the return of influential midfielder Mario Arques will be a relief for Schattorie, though it is unsure if he will be fit enough to start.
 
Jamshedpur FC, on the other hand, have shown fighting spirit and tactical flexibility in plenty so far. They love having the ball but are equally deadly on the counter, thanks to the pace they have on the wings. The likes of Farukh Chowdhury, C K Vineeth and Aniket Jadhav have all impressed down the wings.
 
Also, Iriondo has a knack of getting his substitutions to work. This season, substitutes have helped Jamshedpur FC win crucial points when losing or have given them the lead when things were at a stalemate on numerous occasions.
 
However, the absence of star striker Sergio Castel and midfielder Piti is bound to affect the team’s gameplan and come as a relief of sorts to Kerala.
 
“I don't know how Kerala’s winless run is going to affect the team but Kerala are a good team. They have not been lucky in the first part of the season due to factors like injuries. They try to play football, they have a good style. In this kind of short leagues, you don't have too much time,” said Iriondo.
 
“Maybe Sergio and Piti were important for the team. Maybe if they were in the team, it would be different. We are missing them a bit now,” he also admitted.
 
Kerala Blasters have never beaten Jamshedpur in four encounters between the two so far and they have won only two out of their last 10 home games. Will they improve both records with a win or will Jamshedpur continue their march to the top?  
 
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Kochi Design Week to be held from Dec 12-14 with focus on sustainable infrastructure

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Experts and enthusiasts from across the globe will discuss the latest trends in design and architecture will gather for the second edition of Kochi Design Week (KDW) that will be held here for three days from tomorrow.
 
The participants at the biggest such annual event in the country will explore ways of building sustainable infrastructure, a press release from the organisers said.
 
The event, being held on Bolgatty Island here, will feature exhibitions, installations and contests besides cultural shows and a unique food fair.
 
Among other things, the participants will look at ways to use futuristic technology and architecture to deal with natural calamities more effectively, the release said.
 
It said the event would chart a long-term development mission for Kerala through futuristic technology and architecture that goes beyond mere replacement of lost infrastructure or creation of new facilities. 
 
Being organised chiefly by the state government’s Department of Information Technology in association with Asset Foundation, the KDW provides creative minds a platform to brainstorm on the newest facets of design and architecture.
 
Close to 100 speakers will address sessions and lead workshops as well as masterclasses at the event that will bring together 3,000 design professionals, architects, interior designers, thought leaders, policymakers and government officials besides the general public. 
 
Studded with expos, summits and workshops on design as well as architecture, it will also host an international blockchain summit and an inclusive platform, titled Design Open, that makes design accessible to all.
 
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will address the valedictory function of KDW on December 14. The inaugural session will have industrialist S D Shibulal as the main speaker in his capacity as the chairman of the High Powered IT Committee under the state government. 
 
The debut edition of KDW, held last year, had showcased technology options of use in any rebuilding phase as installations for various stakeholders to experience them. “This time, we have an array of independent events with design as the common thread,” said  M Sivasankar, Secretary (IT), Government of Kerala. 
 
“KDW facilitates inquisitive individuals to interact through workshops, panel discussions, keynote speeches and exhibitions. It’s a great opportunity to learn more from the industry experts on the future of design," he said.
 
KDW 2019 special officer Arun Balachandran, who is Kerala Chief Minister’s Fellow (IT), notes that the event has come amid a general realisation about the need for sustainable ecosystems. “The huge success of the first edition of KDW has made everyone realise the criticality of the role ‘design’ plays in revamping our cities and societies,” he adds.
 
Among the speakers at KDW will be International Council of Design President-elect Johnathon V Strebly, World Design Organisation CEO Srini R Srinivasan, CRG Architects founder-partner Carlos R Gomez, ARG Design CEO-architect Gita Goven, its Managing Director Alistair Rendall, Habitat Technology Group architect G Shankar and architect-academician Kavita Marugkar.
 
The list of speakers also includes Oscar-winning sound designer Resool Pookutty, contemporary artist Bose Krishnamachari of Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF), Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy, IxDA president Alok Nandi of Architempo, Amazon senior manager Shibu Damodharan, Microsoft Country Head Lathika S Pai, Accenture MD Charulatha Ravi Kumar, Titan Company Chief Design Officer Revathi Kant, Thomas Garvey of Carleton University, Biren Ghose of Technicolour India, Lydia Thornley of ISCA London, David Ludlow of University of West England, Marta Piekarska-Geater of Hyperledger, Robby Schwertner of Austria’s CryptoRobby and Jane Thomason of Fintech Worldwide.
 
Some of the other prominent speakers, besides Sivasankar and Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose, are former National Institute of Design (NID)director Pradyumna Das, IIT-Mumbai Industrial Design Centre head G V Sreekumar, Kerala Startup Mission CEO Saji Gopinath, and Asset Homes MD V Sunil Kumar.
 
While the Blockchain Summit, titled Block Hash Live, will discuss the business potential of the technology-driven new age, Design Open is being curated with IxDA Global as partner.
 
The KDW will host alongside it Maker Fest 2019, facilitating the country’s largest congregation of youngsters with an innovative mind. Conceived as the Indian continuation of Maker Faire held in the US, the fest brings together makers, innovators, technologists, enthusiasts and artists from different parts of the country. It will showcase their collaborations and share the delegates’ ideas, projects, products and activities.
 
There will also be cultural programmes on all the three evenings. A programme fusing traditional Kerala arts in a way that appeals to new-age sensibilities will be staged on December 12 evening, while Pragathi Band and Thaikkudam Bridge will present music shows on December 13 and 14, respectively. Another attraction will be a food festival, with focus on design as much on variety, tastes and cultures.
 
Further, the KDW is holding a competition for students in Kerala to come out with creative ideas towards rebuilding the state’s infrastructure in the wake of floods this monsoon and last year. The candidates of the ‘Kerala Design Challenge’ will express their vision through write-ups, posters, paintings, photographs and short films to vie for cash awards totalling Rs 1 lakh, according to International School of Creative Arts that is organising the contest as a creative education partner of the KDW.
 
A highlight of KDW 2019 will be the charting of an exclusive ‘Design Island’ for the hosting of the annual event and setting up of design installations across Kochi’s high-visibility areas, including shopping malls and the airport, besides laying special tracks for design architecture and interior designs.
 
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Boxing: Railways dominate with 8 boxers in finals at 4th Elite Women’s National Championships

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Defending champions Railways dominated the proceedings as eight of their boxers, led by World Championships silver medalist Sonia Chahal (57kg) and India Open Gold medalist Bhagyabati Kachari (75kg) stormed into the finals of the 4th Elite Women’s National Boxing Championships at the Mundayad Indoor Stadium here in Kerala today.
 
2016 National Champion Sonia showed her experience and composure as she faced the challenge of young boxer Ritu from Chandigarh. The lanky boxer from Haryana took advantage of her height and relied on counter-punches to win the bout unanimously. Sonia will face Youth World Champion Sakshi in the finals.
 
“My strategy was to maintain distance and counter-attack my opponent. I played with the same strategy throughout the match and didn’t face much trouble. I have defeated Sakshi once before and know what to expect from her. I will be up for the challenge tomorrow,” said Sonia after the bout.
 
Youth World Champion Jyoti, representing Railways, had an easy outing as she controlled the bout and defeated Manipur’s Soibam Devi 5-0 in the 51kg category.
 
One of the best bouts of the day was played between two-time World Championships bronze medalist Kavita Chahal (81+kg) and Himachal Pradesh’s Monika with both the boxers in a tooth and nail battle right from the first round in a highly entertaining bout. Seasoned Kavita displayed her experience and reigned supreme in the end with a 3-2 split verdict in her favour.
 
Meenakumari Devi (54 kg), last year’s gold medallist, continued her title defence with an easy 5-0 win over Divya Pawar of Madhya Pradesh. Last year’s silver medalist Bhagyabati Kachari (81kg) continued her fine run and showed her class against Lalfakmawii Ralte of All India Police to notch up a 5-0 win.
 
Kerala’s Indraja (75kg) scripted one of the upsets of the day as she defeated last year’s bronze medalist Imroz Khan 4-1 in the semi-final. Spurred on by the home crowd, the local girl set the ring on fire with her relentless attacking approach. She will face last year’s silver medalist Nupur of Haryana in the final.
 
“Indraja is a good boxer and her bout was quite impressive,” said Indian Women’s Boxing team head coach Ali Qamar who is in Kannur to keep a watch on the performances and on the lookout for fresh talents.
 
Former Youth World Champion Ankushita Boro (64kg), representing Assam, was at her attacking best against Uttar Pradesh’s Aradhana Patel and won via RSC in the 2nd round. She will fight for the coveted gold medal against fellow Assam boxerPwilao Basumatary, who is representing Railways.
 
Former Asian Championships silver medalist Pavitra (60kg) continued her fine run on her comeback as she trounced Maharashtra’s Poonam Kaithwas 5-0. She will face 2017 World Youth Champion Shashi Chopra from Haryana in the final on Sunday. Shashi blanked All India Police’s Rekha Tewatia 5-0 earlier today.
 
The finals will witness eight boxers from the Railways and five from Haryana vying for the top honours.
 
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Mob attacks former rape accused in Kerala

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A former accused in the infamous Walayar rape and murder case was attacked by a mob here on Saturday. He was admitted to a hospital after he suffered injuries on his face, the police said.
 
M. Madhu was the third accused in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl at Walayar near here in January 2017, but in October this year he was let off by the court for want of evidence.
 
According to an eyewitness, Madhu got into a heated argument with a few people over the recent shooting incident in Hyderabad where four rape and murder accused were killed in a police encounter. The argument turned violent and he was beaten up badly which led to injuries on his face.
 
Madhu's mother alleged that the attackers were BJP activists. Police said they were yet to identify the attackers. An investigation is on.
 
The Walayar case surfaced in January 2017, when an 11-year-old girl's body was found by her nine-year-old sister in her house. Two months later, the younger girl was also found dead in her home in similar circumstances.
 
Though the police arrested five persons, the accused were, let off by the court for lack of evidence as the prosecution failed to prove the case against them.
 
IANS
 

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Rahul says 'India the rape capital of world'

File photo of Rahul Gandhi
File photo of Rahul Gandhi
Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Saturday that the prevailing situation in the country, according to international media, is such that India has become the rape capital of the world.
 
Addressing a public meeting on the third and last day of his constituency tour, Rahul said the numerous reports of attacks on women and children are a cause for serious concern.
 
"Many questions are being asked abroad on why women and children are not safe in India. In Uttar Pradesh even when a legislator is involved in a rape case, the Prime Minister has not yet spoken a word about it. Today the situation is such that India has become the rape capital of the world," said Gandhi.
 
He also said the country is ruled by someone who believes in violence and in dividing the country. "There is a complete failure of leadership in the country," he said.
 
IANS
 
 

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Boxing: Sonia, Meenakumari Devi in semi-finals at 4th Elite Women's National Championships

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World Championships silver medalist Sonia Chahal (57kg) and Cologne World Cup gold medalist Meenakumari Devi (54kg) confirmed medals as they stormed into the semi-finals of the 4th Elite Women’s National Boxing Championships at the Mundayad Indoor Stadium here today.
 
Chahal, who won the 57kg gold in 2016 and the bronze in 2017, had to fight hard against Himachal Pradesh’s Vinakshi on her way to a gritty 3-2 win. All India Police’s Meenakumari Devi got closer to the defence of her 54kg title with a dominant 5-0 victory over Jharkhand’s Sabiha Khanam.
 
Fresh from winning the coveted gold medal at the 2019 World Police and Fire Games, Arjuna awardee Kavita Chahal (+81kg) brought that sterling form to the Nationals to continue her winning spree. The two-time Women’s World Boxing Championships bronze medalist moved one step closer to the top podium when she landed a flurry of punches to knock out Rajasthan’s Barbara Sampson 5-0.
 
Former youth world champion Shashi Chopra (60kg), hailing from Haryana, also put up an emphatic performance in her quarter-final bout with Chandigarh’s Manju, inflicting a 5-0 blow on the latter. Fellow former youth world champion Ankushita Boro of Assam set the ring on fire with an assured display in 64kg that saw her easily defeating Mizoram’s Abisak Vanlalmawii by a similar scoreline.
 
India Open champion Bhagyabati Kachari (81kg), too, was at her aggressive best and the referee had to stop the contest in Round 1 against Telengana’s Saara Qureshi.
 
While Rajasthan’s Lalita and Delhi’s Anjali progressed in 69kg, Haryana’s Nupur (75kg) emerged a Referee Stop Contest (RSC) winner in Round 1 over Uttarakhand’s Neha Chauhan to continue her comeback since playing the Asian Championships.
 
India Open runner-up Vanlal Duati (51kg) too faced no hassle in progressing into the last-four with a 5-0 win over Madhya Pradesh’s Deepa Kumari while Chandigarh’s Ritu (57kg) shone with a 5-0 demolition of Delhi’s Jyoti.
 
Punjab also had quite a few pugilists winning with Parminder Kaur (81kg), Minakshi (48kg), Mandeep Kaur Sandhu (57kg) all entering the semi-finals.
 
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Football: Mumbai, Kerala play out 1-1 draw in ISL

Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters FC played out a 1-1 draw in their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) encounter at the Mumbai Football Arena here on Thursday.
 
Raphael Messi Bouli (75') put Kerala in the lead but Mumbai hit back with an Amine Chermiti strike (77') to share the spoils. Mumbai and Kerala are without a win in six matches and find themselves at sixth and eighth spot on the table, with one point separating them.
 
Chasing their second win of the season, Kerala Blasters showed plenty of intent but lacked an end product as they dominated the early stages.
 
A 12th minute Raju Gaikwad throw-in found its way towards Seityasen Singh who shot wide from a one-on-one with Mumbai goalkeeper Amrinder Singh.
 
Raphael Messi Bouli, who led the Kerala Blasters attack in the absence of Bartholomew Ogbeche, was a handful for the Mumbai defence. Midway through the half, the Cameroonian striker pulled off a brilliant overhead effort from inside the box off Jessel Carneiro's cross from the left, but was denied a goal-of-the-season contender by Amrinder, who kept the shot out.
 
Mumbai slowly regained control in midfield and threatened before the break with Rowllin Borges and Moudou Sougou combining to carve out two good chances. Borges did well to find Sougou out wide and the forward's cross for Chermiti was punched away by TP Rehenesh, before a similar cross from the same combination saw Mohammed Larbi head over the bar.
 
The game evened up after the change of ends, with Mumbai turning more aggressive in their approach.
 
The Islanders were brilliantly denied twice by Rehenesh who kept Kerala Blasters in the contest. The goalkeeper was quick to rush off his line to get to Chermiti's dangerous long pass before the intended target, Bipin Singh, could receive it inside the box.
 
Minutes later, Borges split the Kerala defence with an excellent through-ball that released Bipin into the box. The Kerala Blasters custodian sprinted out of his area and blocked the forward's shot.
 
After impressing throughout the game with his movement upfront, Messi Bouli broke the deadlock for the visitors in the 75th minute. Jeakson Singh dribbled into the box and forced a save off Amrinder but Jessel delivered the rebound across the goal on a plate for the striker whose left-footed strike found the back of the net.
 
However, the away side's celebrations didn't last long as Chermiti came up with an equaliser two minutes later. Paulo Machado headed a Sarthak Golui cross into the path of an unmarked Chermiti who beat Rehenesh on his second attempt following a scramble inside the box, ensuring the two teams share the spoils.
 
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Boxing: Bhagyabati Kachari, Ankushita Boro in QF of 4th Elite National Women's Championship

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India Open gold medalist Bhagyabati Kachari and former world youth champion Ankushita Boro stormed into the quarter-finals with commanding performances at the 4th Elite Women’s National Boxing Championships held at the Mundayad Indoor Stadium here today.
 
Assam pugilist Kachari, representing RSPB, was on song and hardly broke a sweat in ending the challenge of Madhya Pradesh’s 2018 bronze medalist Jigyasa Rajput 5-0 in 81kg. 
 
Kachari’s statemate Boro (64kg). too, had it easy in her pre-quarter-final bout against Himachal Pradesh’s Earika Shekhar, whom she trounced 5-0.
 
Haryana’s Nupur, also last year’s silver medalist, was sharp right from the beginning of her 75kg bout against Himachal Pradesh's Sandhya. The latter had absolutely no answer to Nupur’s flurry of punches and conceded a 0-5 defeat. 
 
Nupur is making a comeback to the ring for the first time since the Asian Championships. Also breezing into the quarters was All India Police’s Lalfakmawii Ralte, who pummelled Kerala’s Seethal Shaji 5-0 in 81kg.
 
Mizoram was put on the winners’ column by Abisak Vanlalmawii after she emerged victorious by Referee Stop Contest (RSC) in Round 1 against Tamil Nadu’s R. Priyadarshini in 64kg.
 
Madhya Pradesh’s upcoming talent Nisha Yadav (64kg) was one of the biggest casualties on Day 4 of the tournament. Uttar Pradesh’s Aradhana Patel was declared the winner of that contest by dint of RSC in Round 2. 
 
Ladakh, which had participation for the first time, too had a setback as Farina Llyas went down to Kerala’s Ansumol Benny, who emerged the victor by RSC in Round 1.
 
Delhi had a good day in the ring with both Anjali (69kg) and Shalakha Singh Sansanwal (75kg) progressing into the last-eight. While the former dominated Punjab’s Gagandeep Kaur 5-0, the latter dashed the hopes of Maharashtra’s Manisha Oza by a similar scoreline. 
 
From Andhra Pradesh, Gompa Geya Rupini (81kg) made it to the last eight via an RSC in Round 1 victory. Telangana too had a winner in Saara Qureshi, who got a walkover from Haryana’s Nirmal in 81kg.
 
The knock-out stages will be starting from December 6, with the final matches to be played on December 8.
 
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Class XII girl steals the show at Rahul Gandhi's event in Wayanad

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi speaking at a higher secondary school at Karuvarakundu in Wayanad, his Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala, with a Class XII student, Safa Febin translating his speech for the audience, on December 5, 2019.
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi speaking at a higher secondary school at Karuvarakundu in Wayanad, his Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala, with a Class XII student, Safa Febin translating his speech for the audience, on December 5, 2019.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who represents Wayanad in the Lok Sabha, always attracts the limelight, but here on Thursday a Class XII girl student stole the show.
 
He had arrived at the state-run higher secondary school in Karuvarakundu, near here, to inaugurate a science laboratory built by using Congress legislator A. P. Anilkumar's MLA fund.
 
As soon as Rahul Gandhi started speaking, he asked if anyone could translate his speech into Malayalam. To this, Safa Febin raised her hand amid huge applause by her schoolmates.
 
Gandhi too encouraged her by shaking her hands. She translated his entire speech in a copybook manner to another round of applause. Gandhi congratulated her for the translation.
 
Normally, senior Congress leaders translate his speech in local languages.
 
Gandhi said he was there to inaugurate the laboratory built at a cost of  Rs 5 million and asked the audience to put pressure on the legislator to get more funds.
 
Later speaking to the media, Febin said when Gandhi spoke about translation, she she wanted to go, but kept mum. She took up the challenge only when her friends spurred her.
 
"I had not done any such translation before. When I walked to the dais, for a moment, I felt I was dreaming. But soon I gathered my confidence and was able to do it well," said Febin.
 
"If he (Gandhi) wishes, I am ready to translate all his speeches, whenever he is here," she said.
 
Gandhi arrived at Kozhikode on Thursday morning. He will be travelling through his constituency, spread over three Kerala districts Kozhikode, Wayanad and Malappuram for the next three days.
 
Gandhi has a packed schedule. He will be taking part in political meetings, inaugurations of small projects, temple festivals, commemoration meeting of former Congress MP M. I. Shanawaz, before returning from Kannur airport on Saturday.
 
He is being accompanied by AICC General Secretary (Organisation) K.C. Venugopal and several Congress-led UDF legislators.
 
IANS

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Kerala HC declines to ban dismissed nun's autobiography

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The Kerala High Court on Wednesday declined to ban the dismissed nun, Sister Lucy Kalapurakkal's autobiography titled "Karthavinte Namethil (In the name of Christ)".
 
The high court, which heard the petition filed by Sister Lisiya Joseph seeking a ban on the book, said if the petitioner has any complaints about the contents, she can approach the appropriate authority.
 
Sister Lucy, who belonged to the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC), was in August dismissed from the order for disobeying church authorities, as she had supported the nuns' strike in the state last year, demanding the arrest of rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who headed the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar.
 
Mulakkal was later arrested and is now out on bail and the trial in the case is all set to start.
 
Since then, Sister Lucy has been speaking out against the church authorities and in her book, she speaks about the sexual abuse and harassment that nuns silently undergo.
 
The book, which is published by DC Books, is to be officially released next Tuesday and hence the petitioner wanted the court to ban the book as it shows the nuns, Church and the laity in poor light.
 
Veteran seven time legislator P. C. George, however, slammed the former nun for her book, and asked her why she had not complained when the incidents took place.
 
IANS
 

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Boxing: Sonia, Jyoti in quarter-finals of 4th Elite Women’s National Championship

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World Championships silver medalist Sonia Chahal (57kg) and Youth World Champion Jyoti Gulia (51kg) stormed into the quarter-finals as Nandini (81kg) bowed out in the 4th Elite Women’s National Boxing Championships at the Mundayad Indoor Stadium, Kannur, Kerala on Wednesday.
 
Chahal, who won the 57kg gold in 2016 and the bronze in 2017, endured some stiff resistance from All India Police’s Sandhyarani Devi in 57kg but rebounded to complete a 4-1 victory.
 
“I started slow but was able to go on an all-out attack in the third round. Overall, I am happy with my performance. Getting the gold here is important for me as it will give me the confidence to play the trials for the Olympic qualifiers. I hope to give my best and get the gold,” said Chahal after the bout.
 
Youth Olympian and Youth World Champion Jyoti Gulia (51kg), representing the Railways, however, had a much tougher time in the ring. Chandigarh’s India Open silver medalist Monika proved to be quite a challenge for Gulia, who needed to dig deep to edge out her opponent for a tight 3-2 victory.
 
Cologne World Cup gold medalist Meenakumari Devi, who is also the defending champion in 54kg, did not need to exert much effort as she was declared the winner by RSC (Referee Stop Contest) in Round 3 against UP’s Kanika Chaudhary.
 
Cologne World Cup silver medalist Pwilao Basumatary also made an impressive start to her gold medal quest in 64kg against Delhi’s Aarti Rawal. The Assam pugilist, representing RSPB, emerged the winner by dint of RSC in Round 3. 2019 President's Cup (Indonesia) gold medalist Monika landed a strong flurry of punches in her 48kg bout to record a commanding 5-0 win over Himachal Pradesh’s Jyotika Bisht.
 
Punjab and Chandigarh’s boxers put up a dazzling display as usual. Minakshi (48kg), Riya Rani (54kg), Manu Badhan (75kg) and Parminder Kaur (81kg) put Punjab on the winners’ column. Chandigarh’s Ritu progressed in 57kg via an RSC in Round 2 win over Jammu & Kashmir’s Neha Bhagat while Neema (64kg) emerged a 5-0 victor over Maharashtra’s Simran Mendon.
 
One of the biggest upsets of the day, however, was the exit of Chandigarh’s promising Nandini in 81kg. Nandini, who was a part of the 2019 Women’s World Boxing Championships squad, was knocked out 4-1 by Uttar Pradesh’s Shaily Singh.
 
Punjab and Chandigarh’s boxers put up a dazzling display as usual. Minakshi (48kg), Riya Rani (54kg), Manu Badhan (75kg) and Parminder Kaur (81kg) put Punjab on the winners’ column. Chandigarh’s Ritu progressed in 57kg via an RSC in Round 2 win over Jammu & Kashmir’s Neha Bhagat while Neema (64kg) emerged a 5-0 victor over Maharashtra’s Simran Mendon.
 
The knockout stages will start from December 6, with the final matches to be played on December 8.
 
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Boxing: Chandigarh’s Rituz puts up a dominating show in 4th Elite Women’s Boxing Championships

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Chandigarh’s Rituz began her campaign emphatically as she defeated Ladakh’s Dechen in a one-sided affair in the light fly-weight category, with the referee stopping the contest in round one itself, on the opening day of the 4th Elite Women’s National Boxing Championship at Mundayad Indoor Stadium here in Kerala on Monday.
 
Earlier, spurred by the home support, Kerala’s Anchu Sabu (48 kg) sprung the surprise of the day as she landed a string of power-packed punches on Manika Kumari from Bengal and bagged the bout with an RSC verdict in round 2.
 
However, the most exciting bout of the day was played between Assam’s Priya Gorh and Madhya Pradesh’s Anjali Sharma, again in 48 kg. Both the boxers fought neck and neck in all the three rounds as Priya prevailed at the end with a split 3-2 verdict going in her favour.
 
A total of 23 matches were played on the first day with Punjab’s Minakshi (48 kg) displaying superb control and movement to defeat Meghalaya’s Eva Marbaniang 5-0. 
 
The fourth edition will witness some of India’s topmost talents as well as some of emerging boxers -- World Championships silver medalist Sonia Chahal (57 kg), Junior Youth Champions Jyoti Gulia (51kg) and 2017 Youth World Champion Shashi Chopra (60 kg), President’s Cup gold medalist Monica (48 kg), Cologne World Cup gold medalist Meenakumari Devi (54 kg) and India Open gold medalist Bhagyabati Kachari (81kg) -- vying for the coveted National crown.
 
The pugilists will be competing in all the ten weight categories -- 48kg, 51kg, 54kg, 57kg, 60kg, 64kg, 69 kg, 75kg, 81kg and +81kg.
 
As many as 235 boxers from 33 teams are participating in this championship.
 
Last year, Haryana finished at the top of the podium followed by Railways who came second.
 
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