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.
"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.

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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India’s seafood export soars to 2,51,735 MT worth Rs 9,066 crore in Q1

Spurred by soaring demand for its frozen shrimp and frozen squid in international markets, India’s marine products industry exported 2,51,735 MT of seafood valued at $ 1.42 billion (Rs 9,066.06 crore) in  the first quarter (Q1) of 2017-18, ended June, as against 2,01,223 MT and $ 1.17 billion dollars, respectively, a year earlier.
The United States and South East Asia retained their position as the major importers of India’s seafood, followed by the European Union (EU) and Japan, while the demand from China saw a healthy surge during the period, a press release from the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) said.
The release said frozen shrimp continued to be the top export item of marine products basket, accounting for a share of 50.66% in quantity and 74.90% of the total earnings in dollar terms. Shrimp exports increased by 20.87% in terms of quantity and 21.64% in dollar terms.
Frozen squid was the second largest export item, accounting for 7.82% in quantity and 5.81% in dollar earnings, registering a growth of 40.25% in dollar terms.
Besides frozen shrimp and frozen squid, India’s other major seafood product was frozen fish, which recorded a growth of 24.96 per cent, 17.55 per cent and 21.75 per cent in terms of quantity, rupee value and dollar earnings, respectively.
 “Healthy harvests of shrimp, drastic reduction in the rejection rate by the EU countries, sustained measures to ensure quality and improved infrastructure facilities for production of value added products were chiefly responsible for India’s surge seafood exports,” said Dr. A Jayathilak, Chairman, MPEDA. “What is satisfying is that growth in exports was achieved in the face of continued uncertainties in the global seafood trade.”
The USA imported 54,344 MT of Indian seafood worth $ 499.28 million, accounting for a share of 35.05% in dollar terms, with exports to that country registering a growth of 39.56%, 33.66% and 38.93% in terms of quantity, value in rupees and US dollars, respectively.
South East Asia continued to be the second largest destination of India’s marine products, with a share of 31.26% in dollar terms, followed by the EU (14.70%), Japan (6.68%), the Middle East (3.47%), China (3.06%) and Other countries (5.79%). Overall, exports to South East Asia increased by 50.37% in quantity, 28.84% in rupee value and 33.87% in dollar earnings.
The EU continued to be the third largest destination for Indian marine products with a share of 15.23% in quantity. Frozen shrimp was the major item of exports, accounting for a share of 38.85% in quantity and 53.17% in dollar earnings out of the total exports to the EU.
Japan, the fourth largest destination for Indian seafood, accounted for 6.68% in earnings and 7.26% in quantity terms. Frozen shrimp continued to be the major item of exports to Japan with a share of 39.49% in quantity and 73.32% in US dollar value out of the total exports to that country.
The overall export of shrimp during the first quarter of the current fiscal was pegged at 1, 27,521 MT worth $ 1066.97 million. USA was the largest import market for frozen shrimp (50,630 MT), followed by the South East Asia (41,934 MT), EU (14,893 MT), Japan (7,222 MT), the Middle East (3,753 MT), China (2,804 MT) and other countries (6,285 MT).
The export of Vannamei shrimp, a major seafood delicacy, improved from 82,193 MT to 92,341 MT in April-June 2017, registering a growth of 12.35%in quantity. In value terms, 51% of total Vannamei shrimp was exported to USA, followed by 25.99% to the South East Asian countries, 9.87% to the EU, 4.26% to Japan, 2.23% to the Middle East, 1.58% to China and 5.08% to other countries.
Japan was the major market for Black Tiger shrimp with a share of 49.12% in value terms, followed by South East Asia (23.84%) and USA (17.77%).
Frozen shrimp continued to be the principal export item to USA with a share of 95.83% in dollar terms while Vannamei shrimp to that country showed an increase of 35.20% in quantity and 36.44% in dollar terms.
As for exports to South East Asian markets, Vietnam was the biggest importer with a share of 84.45% in dollar terms, followed by Thailand (7.33%), Taiwan (3.13%), Malaysia (2.01%), Singapore (1.76%) and South Korea (1.11%). Vietnam alone imported 69,988 MT of Indian seafood, the quantity being much more than that of any other individual markets like the US, Japan or China.
Export of frozen cuttlefish showed an increase in quantity terms, rupee value and dollar terms by 5.07%, 20.84% and 25.51%, respectively.
Indian ports handled a total marine cargo of 2,51,735 tons worth Rs 9066.06 crore (1424.46 million dollars) in the first quarter of FY 2017-18 as compared to 2,01,223 tons worth Rs 7699.61 crore (1166.59 million dollars) in the corresponding period  of the previous fiscal.
Vizag, which handled marine cargo of 43,315 tons worth Rs 2,481.03 crore, was the leading port, followed by Krishnapatnam (19,917 tons, Rs 1096.33 crore), Kochi (29,630 tons, Rs 1,027.39 crore), Kolkata (21,433 tons, Rs 993.74 crore), JNP (37,011 tons, Rs 971.77 crore), Pipavav (49,334 tons, Rs 831.83 crore), Tuticorin (10,986 tons, Rs 582.50 crore), and Chennai (11,300 tons, Rs 516.09 crore), the release added.

UDF's K. N. A. Khader wins Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala bye-election

K. N. A. Khader, the candidate of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), has won the Vengara seat in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, defeating his nearest rival, P. P. Basheer of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), by a margin of 23,310 votes in the bye-election held on October 11.
Counting of votes was taken up in the constituency today, and Mr. Khader, a member of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), polled 65,227 votes against 41,917 secured by Mr. Basheer, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
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.

Help fellow human beings achieve their potential, says Kovind

The greatest service we can render to our fellow human beings is to help them achieve their potential, President Ram Nath Kovind has said.
Speaking at the initiation of various welfare programmes organised by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math here yesterday, Mr Kovind lauded Kerala as one of the leading spiritual homes of the country and its composite society.
“The flame of spiritualism shines brightly in Kerala and has done so for thousands of years. Revered people such as Adi Shankaracharya, Sri Narayana Guru and Ayyankali did much to unite our country with a common sense of spiritualism – as well as to push for much-needed social reform,” he pointed out.
The President said Kerala’s spiritual consciousness is beyond faith and religious distinctions. The Christian community here is one of the oldest not only in India but anywhere in the world.
The first mosque to be built in India is in Kerala. The state also has a rich Jewish heritage. These historical instances reflect the mutual accommodation and understanding of different faiths and religious communities.
This is a state where one community has willingly given space to another. This is a history that we cannot forget and must learn from. This is a fine example of accommodation and understanding that is at the essence of spiritualism.
Praising Mata Amritanandamayi for her social work, Mr Kovind said she represents the enlightened spiritual tradition of Kerala.
Like Adi Shankara or Ayyankali, she sees her spiritual mission as a contribution to nation building. She recognises, as only the truly spiritual can, that the greatest service to the Divine is service to fellow human beings, he said.
"And the greatest service we can render to our fellow human beings – especially to those less privileged than us – is to help them achieve their potential.
"This includes building their capacity in health and education and ensuring that they get equal opportunities," he said.
The Mata Amritanandamayi Math, the President noted, has worked precisely in these areas.

President Kovind to visit Kerala on Sunday

President Ram Nath Kovind will visit Kerala tomorrow when he will attend the launch of various welfare programmes organised by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math at Amritapuri, Kollam.
The programmes include unveiling of Amrita clean water initiatives for rural India and distribution of certificates of official open defecation free (ODF) status to 10 villages adopted by Mata Amritanandamayi Math, an official press release said.

Witness rocket launch, visit Science Museum at VSSC during World Space Week

People will be able to get a close look at the functioning of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) here, including witnessing a sounding rocket launch, from October 4-6 as part of the World Space Week celebrations.
Since the United Nations declaration in 1999, World Space Week has grown into the largest public space event on Earth. More than 2,700 events in 86 countries celebrated the benefits of space and excitement about space exploration in 2016. This year’s theme is “Exploring New Worlds in Space”.
September 4 marks the anniversary of the launch of the first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, opening the way for space exploration. On October 10, 1967, the UN treaty for the peaceful uses of outer space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies was signed.
The broad goals of World Space Week Celebrations are to provide a unique leverage in space outreach and education and to create awareness among the people about the benefits that they receive from space. 
It would encourage greater use of space for sustainable economic development, demonstrate public support for space programmes and create excitement among young people about science, technology, engineering, and math. It would also foster international cooperation in space outreach and education.
In Kerala, World Space Week is celebrated every year under the auspices of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) and ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU), Thiruvananthapuram, since 2001. 
During WSW, events and educational programmes with special focus on Space are organised within and outside VSSC, based on the theme declared by UN.
This year, the programme will be held at Dr. Srinivasan Auditorium from 09:00 hrs-16:30 hrs. After the welcome address, the World Space week theme will be introduced followed by an hour-long technical talk on "Space Technologies to the common man." It will be followed by the Sounding Rocket Launch, visit to Space museum, address by Director, VSSC followed by interaction with senior scientists.
An interactive programme for school students with eminent space scientists is also planned along with the inaugural function. The Open House program will be conducted on October 4-6. As part of the Open House Program, people will be allowed to enter the campus to witness the RH-200 launch and visit the Space Museum.
For witnessing the launch and to visit the space museum, visitors should register the details as an individual or as a group, an announcement on the VSSC website said.

Bye-elections to be held on October 11 for Gurdaspur LS seat in Punjab, Vengara assembly seat in Kerala

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has said that it will hold bye-elections on October 11 to fill a casual vacancy from Gurdaspur, Punjab in the Lok Sabha and another in the assembly constituency of Vengara in Kerala.
The notifications for the bye-elections will be issued on September 15 and the last date for filing nominations will be September 22.
Counting of votes will be taken up in both constituencies on October 15, an official press release said.
The Commission said it had decided to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter verificable paper audit trail (VVPAT) units in all the polling stations in these bye-elections.
"Adequate numbers of EVMs and VVPATs have been made available and all steps have been taken to ensure that the polls are conducted smoothly with the help of these machines," the release added.
The bye-election in Gurdaspur has been necessitated by 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 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The bye-election in Vengara has been necessitated by the resignation of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader P. K. Kunhalikutty, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Malappuram seat that fell vacant following the death of former Union Minister E. Ahamed.

Kovind, Naidu, Modi greet people of Kerala on eve of Onam

President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the people on the eve of Onam today.
“On the occasion of Onam, I offer my greetings and good wishes to the people of the country, particularly to our brothers and sisters from Kerala," Mr. Kovind said in his message.
"Coinciding with the beginning of the harvest season, Onam celebrates the hard work and toil of our farmers. May this festival be an occasion for celebration and sharing joy with our families, while not forgetting to reach out to those in need. Let us work unitedly to promote harmony and fraternity in our society," he added.
Mr. Naidu said Onam marked the beginning of the harvest season in various parts of the country.
"Celebrated with traditional gaiety and enthusiasm, Onam reflects the central role of agriculture in Indian society. Onam celebrations spread over ten days across Kerala are marked by diverse activities ranging from boat races, dance events to floral designs and martial arts competitions. 
"May the festival usher in peace, prosperity and happiness in our country," he said.
“Onam greetings to everyone. May this auspicious festival enrich our society with happiness, harmony and wellbeing," Mr. Modi said on microblogging site Twitter.

Railways to run Onam Special trains from September 1-10

Indian Railways will run several Onam Special trains from September 1-10 for the convenience of the people planning to participate in the Onam festival in Kerala.
These special trains are being run in keeping in view the pattern of traffic, commercial viability, operational feasibility and availability of resources, an official press release said.
Indian Railways have planned to operate 41 such trips of special trains for clearance of extra rush of Onam in various parts of the country, an official release said today.
The special trains for Onam include  06575/06576 Yesvantpur Jn (YPR)-Kochuveli (KCVL) on September 1 and in the reverse direction the next day (already notified).  Another train, 06547/06548 Yesvantpur Jn (YPR)-Ernakulam Jn (South) (ERS) on September 5 and in the reverse direction the next day are planned.   
Another pair of trains, 07119/07120 Secunderabad Jn (SC)-Kochuveli (KCVL) has been notified to be run on September 1 and in the reverse direction on September 6.
The 07505/07504 Hazur Sahib Nanded (NED)-Ernakulam Jn (ERS) on September 1 has been notified with the service in the direction on September 4.  
Another pair of trains between Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT)-Thiruvananthapuram Central (TVC) on September 6 and in the reverse direction on September 9 has been planned.
Service of train number 04426 Hazrat Nizamuddin (NZM)-Kochuveli (KCVL) has been extended on September 2 and 9. The service in the reverse direction 04425 Kochuveli (KCVL)-Hazrat Nizamuddin (NZM) will be on September 4 and 11.
Train pair 02508/02507 Howrah Jn (HWH)-Thiruvananthapuram Central (TVC) has been notified to run on September 2 and in the reverse direction on September 5, the release added.

Supporting young entrepreneurs will be top priority for Kerala government: Vijayan

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said here on Saturday  that his government would focus more strongly on promoting young and budding entrepreneurs with policies and all other necessary support.
Interacting with students at the IEDC Summit 2017, billed as India's largest such event for young student entrepreneurs, he encouraged them to set their sights on innovation and excellence.
“The students have exhibited a number of prototypes as part of the event that proves the ability of these youngsters. I am sure that you can stretch beyond these. The state government has always been a staunch supporter of the start-up ecosystem and will give you full-fledged support henceforth,” he said.
The Chief Minister also launched a startup venture, Traffitizer – a novel solution to help ambulances stuck in traffic. Traffitizer- Emergency Response System (T-ERS) is a centralized Internet of Things (IoT) based system, with artificial intelligence at different levels, that enables automatic switching of traffic lights to green for ambulances to pass through.
Kochi City Police Commissioner M P Dinesh also spoke on the occasion. “The product would help the police to manage emergency situations,” he said.
Ms. Aruna Sundararajan, Union Telecom Secretary, appreciated the efforts of the state government and the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) in nurturing the startup ecosystem in the state.
“I am overwhelmed when I see youngsters like six-year-old Saarang Sumesh who has developed a humanoid that can fire bullets. India is full of challenges and when I look at the crowd at IEDC 2017, I am sure that these youngsters will convert those challenges to opportunities,” she said.
Kerala IT Secretary M Sivasankar said a number of schemes in the pipeline for supporting the startup ecosystem. “Kerala is the first state to have startups in colleges and the only state which provides incubation and grounding facility for budding student entrepreneurs,” he said.
He lauded KSUM for working towards promoting entrepreneurship among youth on behalf of the state. He also released the KSUM status report during the event.
The event saw participation from around 200 Innovation Entrepreneurship Development Centres (IEDCs) – small incubators set up in engineering, technical, management and arts and science colleges – to help students pursue innovative ideas and embrace the entrepreneurial spirit.
Kerala Technical University Vice-Chancellor Kuncheria P Issac,  in his keynote address, highlighted the availability of opportunities to recreate the Silicon Valley in Kerala.
“The KTU has been introducing a number of schemes to promote entrepreneurship. We are even set to introduce a minor degree in entrepreneurship, which is probably the first of its kind in the country. There is a favourable eco-system to recreate the Silicon Valley here in Kerala,” he said.
KSUM CEO Saji Gopinath presented the IEDC report. He noted that KSUM is on the path of extending the IEDC programme to 500 colleges in the coming year.
“IEDC’s major role is to evangelize students, promote innovations and incubate the ones with potential. However, extending the service, we also seek students to support the innovators who have not attended college education,” he said. 
Mr. Scott O’Brien, CEO and co-founder Humense, a Sydney-based company specializing in Virtual (VR), Mixed (MR) and Augmented Reality (AR), stressed the need for start-ups to move to scale-ups for progress. "The first thing you need to possess is knowledge about the industry and later learn new things,” he said.
Google India Vice-President Rajan Anandan said that India is witnessing a revolutionary change in the digital platform.
“Gone are those days, when India lagged behind in technology. India’s start-up companies are making big revolutions across the world,” said Mr. Anandan.
Kerala witnessed its first ‘Bitcoin Airdrop’, joining in a worldwide initiative that sees cities, Fintech organisations and educational institutions in 11 regions mine and distribute free bitcoins to grow their local digital currency communities. KSUM also signed different agreements with investors as part of the event. 

Crowdfunding campaign launched to save 1,000 years old theatre art in Kerala

Guru Margi Madhu Chakyar (R) and his son Nepathya Sreehari Chakyar help Koodiyattam student Nepathya Yadukrishnan get ready for a performance
Guru Margi Madhu Chakyar (R) and his son Nepathya Sreehari Chakyar help Koodiyattam student Nepathya Yadukrishnan get ready for a performance
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help protect one of the world’s oldest known theatre art forms from dying out for want of patronage and interest in the modern world.
The Nepathya Centre for Koodiyattam in Kerala is being supported by Sahapedia, the online encyclopedia of Indian arts and culture, in its goal to raise Rs 20 lakh via the crowdfunding platform BitGiving, to train a new generation of artistes in what constitutes the only surviving form of ancient Sanskrit theatre in the world.
Koodiyattam, a performance art that draws on the plays of Sanskrit dramatists of antiquity, is believed to have followed an unbroken tradition for more than 1,000 years in the state of Kerala. 
A highly stylized art form, Koodiyattam (Kutiyattam) evolved its unique theatre grammar over centuries with its own complex conventions, gestures and expressions, which require many years of arduous training to master.
Once limited to temples, Koodiyattam emerged on to performance stages and international audiences in the 1950s, thanks to the efforts of celebrated gurus such as Mani Madhava Chakyar, Painkulam Rama Chakyar and Ammannur Madhava Chakyar.
Today there are only around 50 practitioners of this art form and institutions such as Kalamandalam, Margi and Ammannur Gurukulam in Kerala impart training in Koodiyattam.
Nepathya, a school based in Moozhikulam in Thrissur district, is focused exclusively on Koodiyattam and is trying to preserve the most difficult of its traditional repertoires which need more time to master and which are not as popular as others because of their scholarly content. A not-for-profit institution, it was started 15 years ago to train a new generation of actors exclusively in Kutiyattam.
Nepathya’s founder and guru Margi Madhu says the lack of public awareness is one of the reasons for poor financial support and dearth of young artistes keen to learn. The crowdfunding drive is also doubling up as an awareness campaign.
“Nepathya has been struggling to raise funds for the past 12 years,” he says. “Currently, we are at risk of losing our trained artistes. Training a new student takes almost a decade and each time an artiste leaves, we go back to square one. We only have three senior students (and two young ones) and four drummers left because of lack of funding.”
These senior students — Rahul Gopinath, Yadhukrishnan K R and Vishnuprasad K R — aged around 20, have been training at Nepathya since the age of seven. They have undergone the preliminary stages of training and are now ready for the rigours of the more scholarly repertoires.
Margi Madhu says the funds raised on BitGiving will support the training of the three in Anguliyankam, the sixth act of the play 9th Century play Ascharyachudamani (The Wondrous Crest Jewel) by Saktibhadra.
It is an extremely difficult sequence to learn, needing up to three years of comprehensive study of the manuscripts, choreographic texts, and acting principles; and takes a full month to perform on stage. There are only three or four artistes in Koodiyattam today who can perform it in its entirety and only one or two artists who know its drumming patterns.
Nepathya will use the funds to enable its student artistes and drummers to dedicate more of their time and efforts to learning.
Rahul, Yadhukrishnan and Vishnugopal are about to graduate from engineering colleges and under pressure to take up full-time jobs to earn a living. Margi Madhu says their families are supportive, but Koodiyattam will not sustain them unless it finds both aficionados and patronage.
“The real depth of the art lies in its ability to elevate the minds of the viewers. To do that the artistes themselves have to experience the pleasure of the art, and explore the depths of the performances,” he adds.  “They cannot do so if they are burdened by the prospect of looking for paying jobs, which is why we need funds to support them.”
UNESCO has declared Koodiyattam as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.
“It would be a tragedy and a shame if an art form that has survived for a thousand years dies on our watch,” says Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan, the Executive Director of Sahapedia, “We are wholly behind Nepathya’s efforts to save and popularize this ancient art. Koodiyattam is intimately connected to the cultural history of Kerala and the great traditions of Sanskrit literature, we have to preserve it whichever way we can. Supporting Nepathya is one step in that direction for all of us.”
The architect of the crowdfunding campaign, Neha Paliwal, Sahapedia’s Director, Projects says the campaign, which was launched on at the end of July and will run for two months, has so far raised Rs 1.02 lakh from ten patrons. “Such campaigns offer platforms for public participation in culture conservation efforts. It will also, hopefully, enable more people to see the beauty and value of art forms such as Koodiyattam that have historically been accessible to smaller communities.”
She said Sahapedia will use both its online portal as well as social media and other digital platforms to introduce Koodiyattam to a wider audience.          

Shashi Tharoor allots Rs. 36 lakh from MPLADS for ventilators at Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram

Dr. Shashi Tharoor, the Congress Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram, has alloted Rs. 36 lakhs for the immediate purchase of ventilators for use at the Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, out of his MP Local Area Development Schme (MPLADS) funds.
The MP has allotted Rs. 18 lakh for the purchase of a ventilator at the college in view of the difficulties reported by it in providing prompt medical attention to patients due to the lack of sufficient number of ventilators.
This is in addition to the Rs. 18 lakh that had already been sanctioned for the purchase of one ventilator in May, 2017.
"It has also been decided to allot maximum fund for the purchase of medical equipments for the Government hospitals in Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency on a priority basis," a press release from Dr. Tharoor's office said.

Kerala CM apologises to family of accident victim who died without receiving medical aid

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today tendered an apology on behalf of the State and its people to the family of Murugan, a native of Tamil Nadu, who met with a road accident and died without receiving proper medical treatment after being denied trauma care by some hosptals in the State on Monday night.
"We join them in their grief. The Government will take necessary measures to ensure that such happenings are not repeated," he said.
"The shameful incident is a serious blot on Kerala. Such incidents should not be repeated," he said in the legislative assembly today, adding that, if required, new legislation could be considered for the purpose.
Murugan, 46, a native of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, had suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident near Chathannoor in Kollam district late in the night of August 6. He battled for his life for nearly seven hours in an ambulance as it drove from hospital to hospital in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts before finally breathing his last in the vehicle.
The police have registered a case of medical negligence against some of the hospitals involved, media reports said.

Adoption of Codex standards for pepper, cumin, thyme major victory for India: Spices Board

The Spices Board has said that the decision of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the international food standards-setting body jointly set up by the FAO and the WHO, to adopt three Codex standards for pepper, cumin and thyme, at its just concluded meeting in Geneva, is a recognition of India’s stellar role to benchmark and harmonise global spices trade.
The decision could also herald the entry of more spices and herbs in the list for universal trading of safe and quality spices in various countries, Spices Board Chairman A. Jayathilak said.
Dr. Jayathilak, who convened a meeting of the officials and delegates involved with the work and functioning of the Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) at Bolgatty Palace here yesterday, said the historic decision of the CAC signalled the fact that spices had been included for the first time as commodities having universal standards.
“This feat was achieved after India’s relentless efforts to set up the CCSCH, which conducted its three sessions at Kochi (2014), Goa (2015) and Chennai (2017) to create a common standardization process for global spices trade,” he noted.   
Lauding the efforts of the officials and delegates for this major recognition of India’s initiatives to forge a universal agreement on identifying quality spices in various countries, Dr. Jayathilak said the Codex standards for black, white and green pepper, cumin and thyme were adopted by consensus with an overwhelming support from the member-countries of the CAC.
Dr. Jayathilak countered the arguments of those delegations that were not in favour of the final adoption of these standards by presenting India’s stand before the CAC.
In the meeting at Kochi, he briefly traced the history of the CCSCH committee, which was the first new committee to be approved by Codex in the past 25 years, and outlined the strategic moves that convinced the member-countries to vote for approval of the new committee. 
“This triumph of CCSCH is the harbinger of a lot of hard work ahead. The number of spices and culinary herbs is very large – although only 109 spices are notified in the ISO list, their actual number, as used in various countries, would be much higher,” he said.
It was in 2013 that the need for Codex standards for spices and herbs became a matter of concern, owing to the increased level of issues in spice trade. At that time, there was no Codex committee exclusively for spices and culinary herbs. Thus, the first step in development of Codex standards was the establishment of a dedicated Codex committee for spices and herbs.
With the approval of the Central government, Spices Board India submitted to CAC a proposal for such an exclusive committee for spices and culinary herbs. After completing the background work, it sent delegates to a series of Codex committee meetings all over the world, making a forceful plea for the need for a committee on spices and herbs.
The 36th session of CAC, which met in Rome from July 1-5, 2013, deliberated on this proposal from India, and later approved it with unanimous support of the member-countries. It heralded the creation of CCSCH, with India as the host country and Spices Board as the Secretariat. This was the first new Codex commodity committee to be approved in the past 25 years.
Historically, the developed countries, being the major importers of spices, have always insisted on unreasonably strict standards, which have had adverse effects on spice trade. This is an issue that the Codex, jointly formed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), seeks to address.
Spices Board India, the flagship organization of the Central Government for export and promotion of spices from the country, has always been concerned about this aspect, and hence has taken keen interest in harmonizing the disparate standards for spices which exist all over the world, a press release from the Board added.

CCI holds Container Trailer Owners Coordination Committee in Kerala guilty of anti-competitive conduct

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has found the Container Trailer Owners Coordination Committee (CTOCC) and its four participating associations -- Cochin Container Carrier Owners Welfare Association (CCCOWA), Vallarpadam Trailer Owners Association (VTOA), Kerala Container Carrier Owners Association (KCCOA) and Island Container Carrier Owners Association (ICCOA) -- to be in contravention of the provisions of the Competition Act, 2002.
In a reference filed by the Cochin Port Trust, it was brought to the notice of the Commission that these associations, under the garb of ‘Turn System’, have indulged in unilateral fixation of prices, an official press release said.
It was alleged that, during the Turn System, the users and container trailers were obliged to book services only through this centrally controlled system and that CTOCC was restraining outside transporters from lifting the containers which was impeding the ability of the users to hire trailers of their choice.
Following a detailed investigation by its Director General (DG), the Commission has found that CTOCC, along with the participating associations (CCCOWA, KCCOWA, ICCOA and VTOA), has resorted to price fixing under the garb of the Turn System, the release said.
"In terms of Section 3(3)(a) read with Section 3(1) of the Act, the presumption arose against the said arrangement leading to AAEC, which was not satisfactorily rebutted by these associations, despite being given ample opportunity. Thus, the Commission held them to be in contravention of the provisions of Section 3(3)(a) read with Section 3(1) of the Act. However, on the allegation pertaining to limiting and restricting the provision of services under Section 3(3)(b) read with Section 3(1) of the Act, the Commission found the evidence to be insufficient to hold CTOCC or any of its participating association responsible.
"Through this Order, the Commission has unequivocally clarified that though forming an association for furthering the legitimate trade activities does not fall foul of the Act, transgressing the legitimate boundaries and indulging in anti-competitive activities does. When the trade associations are used as a platform to promote anti-competitive ends, it becomes necessary for the Commission to intervene, for penalising the anti-competitive conduct. 
"Further, the Commission also mentioned in its order that though ‘Turn System’ may have efficiency justification in a particular trade, no such efficiency or redeeming virtue were shown by CTOCC or any of its sub-association in the present case.
"The Commission has thus held CTOCC, CCCOWA, KCCOWA, ICCOA and VTOAto be in contravention of the provisions of Section 3(3)(a) read with 3(1) of the Act. Further, the Commission has also found 10 of office bearers of CTOCC, CCCOWA, KCCOWA, ICCOA and VTOA, responsible under Section 48 of the Act, on account of the positions of responsibility held by them in these associations during the period of contravention.
"Accordingly, CTOCC, CCCOWA, KCCOWA, ICCOA and VTOA and their office bearers have been directed to desist from indulging in the anti-competitive conduct found to be in contravention of the provisions of the Act. But considering certain mitigating factors, the Commission decided not to impose any monetary penalty on any of the parties," the release added.

CCEA okays doubling of railway line with electrification between Thiruvananthapuram, Kanniyakumari

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved the construction of double line with electrification between Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Kanniyakumari in Tamil Nadu.
The total length of the line will be 86.56 km.  The estimated cost of the project will be Rs. 1431.90 crore and completion cost of Rs. 1552.94 crore with 5% escalation per annum, an official press release said.
The project is likely to be completed in four years by 2020-21.  The project will generate direct employment during construction for 20.77 lakh mandays, it said.
The project would not only speed up the operation of goods and coaching trains, but also provide additional capacity for meeting the increase in traffic in future, the release said.
The release said the section is heavily passenger oriented and also serves the goods traffic from nearby ports. Operations from Vizhinjam port are likely to start by 2019 and 30% of its gateway traffic is likely to be handled by the Railways.  
The Present line capacity of Thiruvananthapuram-Nagercoil section of this route has already saturated which is causing heavy detention to trains moving towards Kanniyakumari and Chennai.   
"Line capacity of this route needs to be enhanced to meet the demands for additional trains and smooth movement of trains through the route.  Hence, doubling of Thiruvananthapuram-Kanniyakumari line needs to be taken up," the release added.
The CCEA also approved the doubling and electrification of the line Vanchi-Maniyachchi-Nagercoil line via Tirunelveli and the Madurai-Vanchi and Maniyachchi-Tuticorin lines.
The total length of the Vanchi-Maniyachchi-Nagercoil line will be 102 km. The estimated cost of the project will be Rs. 1003.94 crore and completion cost of Rs. 1114.62 crore with 5% escalation per annum. 
The total length of the Madurai-Vanchi and Maniyachchi-Tuticorin lines will be 160 km. The estimated cost of the proejct will be Rs. 1182.31 crore and completion cost of Rs. 1272.51 crore with 5% escalation per annum.
The projects are likely to be completed in four years by 2020-21, the release added.

GAIL commences construction work in Kerala stretch of KKMBPL Project

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

Goel advises AFI to honour Kerala High Court directive on P U Chitra

Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel today advised the Atheltics Federation of India (AFI) to honour the Kerala High Court directive to ensure the participation of athlete P. U. Chitra in the 1,500 metres race in the IAAF World Championships to be held in London from August 4.
A statement from the Ministry of Sports said here that Mr. Goel talked to AFI President Adille Sumariwalla on the issue and advised him not to contest the directive given by the Kerala High Court as Chitra is otherwise a wild card entry for the World Championship.
The Kerala High Court had yesterday directed the AFI to include the Kerala runner in the team for the World Championships.
Chitra had won the 1,500 m gold at the Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar, Odisha earlier this month, clocking a personal best of 4:17:92. She had clocked 4:28 in the inter-state meet. The entry standard for the London event is 4:07.
The AFI had said earlier that the runner was not included in the 24-member team because she had not met the qualifying mark set by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). In her writ petition before the High Court, Chitra argued that her Asian championship win made her an automatic choice for the London meet.

Kerala: Well-known Gandhian and freedom fighter K. E. Mammen passes away

K. E. Mammen
K. E. Mammen
Well-known Gandhian, freedom fighter and social worker K. E. Mammen passed away at a private hospital in Neyyattinkara near here today.
He was 96. 
He had been under treatment at the hospital for issues related to old age for the past three months.
Mammen, who had taken part in the Quit India movement and in the agitation against Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, the then Dewan of the erstwhile Travancore state, was also actively involved in the anti-liquor campaign in the state in recent years.
Born on July 31, 1921 into the renowned Kandathil family to K. C. Eapen and Kunjandamma, Mammen got involved in the freedom struggle from an early age. He practised Gandhian principles and led an austere life. He remained unmarried.
A man who owned no house, car or other worldly possessions, Mammen was staying with his brother's son for the past many years.

Kerala NCP president Uzhavoor Vijayan passes away

Uzhavoor Vijayan
Uzhavoor Vijayan
Mr. Uzhavoor Vijayan, the president of the Kerala unit of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), passed away at a private hospital here today after a brief illness.
He was 60. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
According to sources, Mr. Vijayan had been admitted to the hospital on July 11 for treatment of liver-related ailments. His condition took a turn for the worse early today and he breathed his last around 7 am, they said.
His body will be taken to Kottayam, where it will be kept at the Police Ground for people to pay homage. The funeral is scheduled for tomorrow at Uzhavoor.
Mr. Vijayan who entered politics through the Kerala Students' Union (KSU), the students' wing of the Congress, was admired for his oratory and caustic humour.
He had served as the chairman of the Kerala State Handicapped Persons' Welfare Corporation and Secretary of the State Pollution Control Board.
He had lost to Congress (M) chairman K. M. Mani from the Pala constituency in the 2001 assembly polls -- the only election he contested. Later, he left the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and joined the Congress (S).
Mr. Vijayan had also appeared in a couple of movies and television serials.
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