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Kerala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan arrived here on Sunday from the United States after completing his treatment for an undisclosed ailment.
 
He left the state on September 2 along with his wife Kamala Vijayan and was treated at the famed Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
 
His trip was originally scheduled for August 19 for a period of 17 days, but it was postponed due to the heavy rains and subsequent floods that ravaged the state.
 
Before returning from the US, he had a meeting with the Kerala community and told them that he expects Rs 150 crore as contribution towards the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 

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Nun rape: Bishop sent to 2-day police custody

 
Kerala nun rape case: Bishop sent to police custody till September 24
 
 
Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been arrested for raping a nun, was on Saturday refused bail by a Kerala court and sent to two days in police custody.
 
The bishop would be kept at the Kottayam Police Club till Monday, when he would be again produced at a court in Pala, near here, a police officer said.
 
Mulakkal, who headed the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, Punjab, was arrested on Friday in Tripunithura after three days of questioning in a sexual abuse case filed by a nun who accused him of repeatedly raping her between 2014 to 2016.
 
The bishop's counsel told the court that his client's blood sample and saliva were forcefully taken.
 
The police said that Mulakkal would be taken to the convent near here, where he is alleged to have raped the nun. He would also have to undergo a potency test.
 
Police had a tough time on Saturday controlling the crowd as people jeered at Mulakkal, who became the first bishop in the country to be arrested for rape.
 
Mulakkal was to be produced in court on Friday following his arrest. However, after he developed chest pains on the way to Kottayam from Tripunithura, he was admitted in the Kottayam Medical College hospital, where he stayed overnight.
 
He was discharged early on Saturday and produced in the court in the afternoon.
 
One of the five nuns who took to the streets in Kochi in an indefinite protest demanding the bishop's arrest, on Saturday told the media: "This protest would not have taken place, had our church authorities taken our complaints seriously."
 
"We never did this for our benefit, instead we wanted to ensure that there would never be another bishop like Mulakkal who would turn a tormentor," the nun added. The protest were called off on Saturday.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala Catholic bishop Franco Mulakkal arrested over nun's rape

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After three days of questioning, the Kerala Police on Friday arrested Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who heads the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar and has been accused of repeatedly raping a nun, police said.
 
He was taken for medical examination and will be produced before a court on Saturday.
 
This is first time in the country that a bishop has been arrested for rape.
 
Addressing reporters here on Friday night, after Mulakkal was taken out from the Crime Branch office where he was questioned, Kottayam Superintendent of Police Hari Sankar said all paper work for the arrest has been completed.
 
"He has been charged for illegal confinement, rape, unnatural sex and criminal intimidation. The arrest was made on the grounds of reasonable suspicion, which is enough for effecting an arrest. He was also given reasonable time to defend himself. 
 
"The arrest has come after analysing all the evidences collected in the past two months of probe. The conspiracy angle that came out was also looked into," said Hari Sankar.
 
"The arrest came after multi-level discussions and we will be looking into more evidences. Also, the investigation officer will look into if there were more people involved," he added.
 
Mulakkal was taken to the Tripunithura Taluk Hospital for the medical examination.
 
From there, he was taken in a police vehicle to Kottayam, about 60 km from here.
 
"Tomorrow (Saturday) he will be produced in a court," said Hari Sankar.
 
The arrest came after the bishop was questioned for three consecutive days at the Crime Branch office near Tripunithura here.
 
Mulakkal has been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing the nun between 2014 and 2016. She raised her complaint against the Bishop in June.
 
The news of his arrest was received with shouting of slogans at a venue where five nuns have been on an indefinite protest along with the public for the past 14 days demanding his arrest.
 
"We still can't believe that he has been arrested. We are overjoyed," exclaimed a nun.
 
"We are extremely happy. This happened only because we got the support of public and also the media," said another nun.
 
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The arrest became a certainty on Friday morning when a police official came to the victim, who is staying at a convent near Kottayam, to take statements for the seventh time when she first raised the issue in June.
 
The official took about half hour and passed on the outcome to the investigation officer who was questioning the bishop.
 
The nuns in Kochi protesting for the past 14 days demanding his arrest also secured widespread support from the civil society.
 
Like the past two days, on Friday too the bishop accompanied by his counsel and a few priests arrived for the questioning under heavy police escort around 10.45 a.m.
 
With Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the US for medical treatment, Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, the de facto Chief Minister, said earlier that the probe was progressing in the right direction.
 
"The government has always been with the victim and whosoever does a wrong, the wrongdoer will be taken to task," he said.
 
Hari Sankar early on Friday met Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhre, who is heading the probe team.
 
Now with the bishop's arrest, his anticipatory bail plea filed before the Kerala High Court on September 25 has turned infructuous.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala Catholic bishop arrested over nun's rape

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After three days of questioning, the Kerala Police on Friday arrested Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, who has been accused of repeatedly raping a nun, police said.
 
This is the first time in the country that a bishop has been arrested for rape. "Given the stature of the accused, the police left nothing to chance before arresting him," said a police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
 
The arrest came after the bishop was questioned for three consecutive days at the Crime Branch office near Tripunithura here.
 
The police will now take Mulakkal, who has maintained that he is innocent, for a medical examination and then produce him before a magistrate in Kottayam as the crime took place in that district.
 
Mulakkal has been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing the nun between 2014 and 2016. She raised her complaint against the Bishop in June.
 
The news of his arrest was received with shouting of slogans at a venue where five nuns have been on an indefinite protest along with the public for the past 14 days demanding his arrest.
 
"We still can't believe that he has been arrested. We are overjoyed," exclaimed a nun.
 
"We are extremely happy. This happened only because we got the support of the public and also the media," said another nun.
 
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The arrest became a certainty on Friday morning when a police official came to the victim, who is staying at a convent near Kottayam, to take statements for the seventh time since June, when she first raised the issue.
 
The official took about half hour and passed on the outcome to the investigation officer who was questioning the bishop.
 
The nuns in Kochi protesting for the past 14 days demanding his arrest secured widespread support from the civil society.
 
Like in the past two days, on Friday too the bishop accompanied by his counsel and a few priests arrived for the questioning under heavy police escort around 10.45 a.m.
 
With Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the US for medical treatment, Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, the de facto Chief Minister, said earlier that the probe was progressing in the right direction.
 
"The government has always been with the victim and whosoever does a wrong, the wrongdoer will be taken to task," he said.
 
Kottayam Superintendent of Police Hari Sankar early on Friday met Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhre, who is heading the probe team.
 
Now with the bishop's arrest, his anticipatory bail plea filed before the Kerala High Court on September 25 has turned infructuous.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent, giving an unprecedented jolt to the community.
 
IANS
 

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First trial flight operations begin in Kannur airport

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The first trial flight operations began at the Kannur airport on Thursday which is slated to soon become Kerala's fourth international airport.
 
An Air India Express 737-800 flew in from the state capital and successfully completed its trial operations at the Kannur International Airport Ltd (KIAL).
 
Speaking to IANS, V. Thulasidas, Managing Director of the KIAL, said this was the first trial as per the guidelines of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
 
"As far as we are concerned, we are ready with all the mandatory tests. Once today's tests are done, tomorrow (Friday) we are getting another aircraft. Once the DGCA gives the license, then it's the role of the Airports Authority of India (AAI). We expect the tests to be completed by the end of this month," said Thulasidas, who is also a former chairman and managing director of Air India.
 
But he did not specify when the commercial operations would begin.
 
"Even though the trial flights have begun, during the time when floods ravaged several districts of the state in August, Naval aircraft engaged in rescue and relief operations had used this airport," added Thulasidas.
 
The Rs 1,892 crore airport is located at Mattanur and is spread over 2,000 acres of land.
 
With this, Kerala will be the only state in the country to have four international airports with the others at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode.
 
The first trial operation at the airport took place in February 2016 when an Indian Air Force aircraft landed and was received by then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
 
The airport will have parking bays for 14 Code E aircraft or 20 Code C aircraft and will be able to handle 2,000 passengers at a time. 
 
The KIAL is slated to serve more than 1.5 million international passengers annually.
 
This airport will start off with a runway of 3,050 metres and in another 18 months after it opens, it will see its runway length increase to 3,400 metres and eventually it will touch 4,000 metres.
 
IANS
 

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Nun rape: Bishop questioning enters Day 3

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The Kerala Police began questioning Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a nun, for the third consecutive day on Friday, even as demands for his arrest grew.
 
Mulakkal has been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing the nun between 2014 and 2016. Nuns have been protesting in Kochi for the past 14 days demanding his arrest.
 
The bishop, who belongs to the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, Punjab, has been questioned for seven hours each on two days starting Wednesday near here at a Crime Branch office.
 
He was accompanied by his counsel and a few priests as he arrived for the questioning under heavy police escort around 10.45 a.m.
 
With Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan leaving for medical treatment to the US, Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, the de facto Chief Minister, speaking to the media, said that the probe was advancing in the right direction.
 
"The state government has always been with the victim and whosoever does a wrong -- the wrongdoer will be taken to task," he said.
 
Kottayam police chief Hari Sankar, who leads the police probe team told the media on Friday that at the moment they were unable to say anything about the arrest.
 
"It will only be decided after the interrogation is over. It is completely the prerogative of the investigating officer. And there is no need for him to take any permission from anyone. We have already consulted legal experts," said Hari Sankar .
 
He also met Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhre, who is heading the probe team.
 
For the past two days, K. Subash, the deputy superintendent of police, was the investigating officer. He was also the first one to meet the bishop when he questioned him in Jalandhar in August.
 
The Kerala High Court will be hearing the bishop's anticipatory bail plea on September 25.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent. 
 
IANS
 

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Mullappally Ramachandran appointed Kerala Congress chief

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The Congress on Wednesday appointed former Union Minister and Lok Sabha MP Mullappally Ramachandran as the president of the party's Kerala unit, replacing M. M. Hassan.
 
The party also announced the appointments of K. Sudhakaran, M. I. Shanawaz and K. Suresh as working presidents and K. Murleedharan as the chairman of campaign committee for its Kerala unit.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Kerala Police questions rape-accused bishop for 7 hours

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Kerala Police on Wednesday questioned Bishop Franco Mulakkal accused of raping a nun for seven hours and asked him to report back on Thursday morning, said a police official.
 
The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, accompanied by his counsel and a few priests, arrived in a car around 11 a.m at the Crime Branch office in Tripunithura near here.
 
Around 6.30 p.m, the bishop was allowed to leave for the day.
 
Addressing the media soon after the bishop left, Kottayam Superintendent of Police Harishankar said the first phase of interrogation is over.
 
"He has been served a notice to appear before the probe team tomorrow (Thursday) at 11 a. m. here. He is cooperating with us. Since the questioning is going on, at the moment, we won't be able to share what the bishop had to say," said Harishankar.
 
Ahead of the questioning in the morning, top police officers -- Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhre, Harishankar and his deputy K. Subhash -- held a meeting at the IGP office in Kochi.
 
"We are under no pressure. We have conducted a detailed probe which was spread across five states. There is no directive that the bishop should not be arrested," said Harishankar.
 
The police ensured that the media could not get close to him or even take his picture.
 
According to them, Tripunithura on the outskirts of Kochi was chosen as the venue to avoid the protests underway in Kochi for the last 12 days.
 
The bishop on Tuesday got a relief from the Kerala High Court which agreed to hear his anticipatory bail plea on September 25.
 
The court also asked the state government to file an affidavit.
 
A Kerala nun has accused Mulakkal of repeatedly sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
Earlier, Mulakkal was questioned by the police team led by Dy. SP Subhash in August at his Jalandhar office.
 
IANS

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Kerala Police questions bishop accused of raping nun

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The Kerala Police on Wednesday started questioning Bishop Franco Mulakkal accused of raping a nun, even as a top police officer said there is no restriction on his arrest.
 
Ahead of the questioning, top police officers -- Inspector General Vijay Sakhre, Kottayam Superintendent Harishankar and his deputy K. Subhash held a meeting at the IG office in Kochi.
 
"We are under no pressure. We have conducted a detailed probe which was spread across five different states. There has been no directive that the bishop should not be arrested," said Harishankar.
 
The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, accompanied by his counsel and a few priests, arrived in a car earlier to the Crime Branch office near here. 
 
The police ensured that the media could not get close to him or even take his picture. 
 
According to the police, Tripunithura located on the outskirts of Kochi, was chosen as the venue to avoid the protests underway in Kochi over the last 12 days.
 
The bishop on Tuesday got a relief from the Kerala High Court which agreed to hear his anticipatory bail plea on September 25.
 
The court also asked the state government to file an affidavit.
 
A Kerala nun has accused Mulakkal of repeatedly sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
Mulakkal was questioned by the police team led by Subhash in August at his Jalandhar office.
 
IANS

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More EU aid for flood-hit Kerala

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The European Union has allocated an additional 1 million euros in emergency aid for flood-devastated Kerala, an EU delegation to India said on Tuesday.
 
According to a statement, this comes on top of the initial assistance of 190,000 euros announced last month and channelled through the Indian Red Cross.
 
"The EU assistance will complement the national response and reach the most vulnerable communities whose livelihood, homes and belongings have been swept away by torrential rains," Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said. 
 
"This additional contribution is a gesture of solidarity coming from European citizens who stand by the Indian families affected by the dreadful blow," Stylianides said in the statement.
 
The worst floods to hit Kerala since 1924 have claimed hundreds of lives and caused widespread destruction.
 
"The assistance will be channelled through the EU humanitarian partners who are already working on the ground, and will take the form of essential relief items, water and sanitation, hygiene, and health-promotion activities to counter the insurgence of water-borne diseases," the statement said.
 
IANS
 

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Nun's rape: Bishop's anticipatory bail hearing on September 25

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The Kerala High Court on Tuesday agreed to hear an anticipatory bail plea from Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a nun, and posted the matter for hearing on September 25.
 
The court also asked the state government to file an affidavit.
 
The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar filed the petition earlier on Tuesday before Justice V. Raja Vijayaraghavan. 
 
The bail plea came ahead of Mulakkal's appearance before a Kerala Police probe team on Wednesday.
 
Mulakkal has asked the court to see that he was not arrested till the anticipatory bail plea was disposed. He reiterated that the complaint against him was false, concocted and meant to harass him.
 
A Kerala nun has accused Mulakkal of repeatedly sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
Mulakkal was questioned by the police in August at his Jalandhar office.
 
Meanwhile, an indefinite protest against the bishop entered its 11th day on Tuesday. 
 
"We have faith in the judiciary. Tomorrow the bishop has to appear before the police. We will wait for what happens," said one of the five protesting nuns. 
 
IANS

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Nun rape case: Bishop moves Kerala HC for anticipatory bail

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Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been named in a sexual abuse case by a nun, on Tuesday moved the Kerala High Court seeking an anticipatory bail.
 
The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar would be appearing before the police probe team on Wednesday.
 
The bail plea would be heard by Justice V. Raja Vijayaraghavan later on Tuesday.
 
Franco has asked the court to see that he is not arrested until the anticipatory bail plea is finally disposed.
 
He said the complaint against him is false and a concocted one, meant to harass him.
 
A Kerala nun has accused Mulakkal of repeatedly sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
Franco was also questioned by the police in August at his Jalandhar office.
 
IANS
 

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Migration from Kerala declined 11% in 5 years: Study

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Factors like the declining population in the 19-25 age-group and stagnant wages in the Gulf countries could be responsible for migration from Kerala declining 11 per cent between 2013 and 2018, a new study says.
 
"Of the 2.1 million emigrants (from Kerala in the Gulf and elsewhere), 15.8 per cent are females. However, there is a reduction of 3 lakhs migrants, which is one-tenth of the number of migrants in 2013. In 2018, we reached a stage where migrants figures showed a negative growth of 11.6 per cent," S. Irudayarajan, who led the Kerala Migration Survey (KMS) 2018 told reporters here on Monday.
 
The survery is the eighth in a series of studies on migration undertaken by the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) since 1998. CDS is an internationally renowned, self-governing institution known for its cutting edge research in applied economics and topics germane to socio-economic development. It was established in 1971 by the late Professor K.N. Raj, considered the archistect of India's First Five-Year Plan (1951-56), and a former Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University, with whom he was associated for 18 years.
 
Explaining the reason for the decline Irudayarajan said it could be due to the cumulative effects of the demographic advances which have decreased the population in the migration-prone age-group (15-29 years) as Kerala attained replacement fertility level in around 1987.
 
"Wages in the Gulf economies have not improved after the global economic crisis. This has led to lower savings, de-motivating them to migrate. Another reason is wages in the domestic economy have increased compared to other states," said Irudayarajan.
 
Explaining further he said the price of oil, on which the Gulf economy is based has been declining since 2010.
 
"Although the last one year has seen a slight increase in oil price, the growth of the Gulf economy has suffered a major setback. Due to nationalisation policies such as Nitaqat and recently introduced family taxes in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) economies appear to be not that conducive for current and prospective migrants," Irudayarajan noted.
 
The study was conducted through a survey of 15,000 households from January 1-March 31 and was funded by the Kerala government's Department of Non-Resident Keralites' Affairs.
 
The study notes that 89.2 per cent of the total migrants from Kerala are in the Middle East countries.
 
In 2013 while there were 20.70 lakh migrants in the Middle East, the figure fell to 18.93 lakh in 2018.
 
The remaining 10 per cent of the emigrants are concentrated in the other countries like the USA, the UK, and Australia.
 
In 2013 there were 8.9 lakh in the UAE while in 2018 it stands at 8.30 lakh, followed by 5.22 lakhs in Saudi Arabia and falling to 4.87 lakh in 2018.
 
In Qatar, there has been an increase from 1.06 lakhs in 2013 to 1.86 lakhs in 2018 but in Bahrain there has been a fall from 1.49 lakhs in 2013 to 0.81 lakhs in 2018.
 
The study found that one in every fifth household in Kerala has a migrant, while among religious groups, one in every third household is a Muslim, one in five household is a Christian and one in 10 households is a Hindu.
 
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The estimated total annual remittances to Kerala have been placed at Rs. 85,092 crore.
 
"Of the total remittances at state level, Malappuram district receives 21 per cent, followed by Kollam (15 per cent), and Thrissur (11 per cent)," added Irudayarajan.
 
Concluding his findings, he said the long history of migration from Kerala to the Gulf is in its last phase.
 
"However, remittances to the state have increased. This is due to the fact that Keralites' in the Gulf have climbed the social ladder and are earning higher wages, allowing them to remit more. Thanks to the weakening rupee, families remit more. The KMS 2018, has also confirmed that the migration from Kerala is falling and return of migrants is on the rise," added Irudayarajan.
 
On the study of return migrants as estimated by KMS 2018, it is 1.29 million, which is about 60 per cent of the number of emigrants.
 
"The KMS 2018, would be an invaluable pointer for further policy formation in terms of international migration and also employment schemes of the government. The last 20 years of KMS proved that almost 40 per cent of total remittances to the state were used by emigrants in land, housing and its assets. 
 
"With the recent devastating floods, and the massive loss of physical capital and land value, migration can be conjectured to increase at least in the short run. We expect the trend will change after the floods as migration will play major role as a livelihood option for the New Kerala, where we expect further migration and remittances. This requires another quick assessment by the Government of Kerala," said Irudayarajan.
 
IANS

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Well-known Malayalam actor Captain Raju passes away

Captain Raju (Photo by Sivahari/Wikimedia Commons)
Captain Raju (Photo by Sivahari/Wikimedia Commons)
Well-known Malayalam film actor Captain Raju passed away at his residence here this morning after a brief illness. 
 
He was 68. He is survived by wife Prameela, and son Raviraj.
 
During an illustrious career, Raju appeared in nearly 500 films in Malayalam and other South Indian languages Tamil, Telugu and Kannada as well as in Hindi.
 
Some of his stand-out roles were in movies such as "Nadodikattu", "Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha" and "CID Moosa". His last apperance was in the Mammootty-starrer "Masterpiece" which released last year.
 
In late June, Captain Raju had fallen unconscious after suffering a stroke while he was on a flight to Dubai, en route to the United States to attend his son's wedding. The flight was diverted to Muscat in Oman, where he was hospitalised for about a week.
 
Later, on July 2, he was shifted by his family to Kochi for further treatment.
 
Born as Raju Daniel, in Omalloor in Pathanamthitta district, he had quit the Indian Army when he was a captain, and then worked briefly as the marketing chief of a private company in Mumbai. During that period, he acted in several plays in Mumbai. He began his film career in 1981. His first film was Raktham. 
 
Some of his other notable vilms were "Rathilayam", "Aavanazhi", "August 1", "Pazhassi Raja", "Mumbai Police".
 
The movies he directed were "Itha Oru Sneha Gadha" and "Mister Pavanayi 99.99", in which he reprised his character Pavanayi from Naadodikattu.
 
He was often cast as a villain because of his height and towering personality. He has also featured in character roles and in TV serials. In recent years, he also did some comic roles, which were widely appreciated.
 
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After floods, Kerala Tourism gets first international charter

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The money-spinning Kerala tourism industry celebrated quietly on Sunday after receiving the first chartered flight of tourists this season following the devastating floods.
 
The flight with 46 tourists from Australia landed at the Cochin International Airport here on Saturday night.
 
The heavy rains and unprecedented floods that shattered the state, leaving hundreds dead and thousands homeless and causing widespread destruction, led to numerous cancellations by tourists.
 
"Our efforts have already started paying off. Most of our tourist destinations are ready to welcome the visitors from India and abroad. The state government has accorded top priority to restoring roads leading to tourist places," said Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran.
 
Kerala's total direct earnings from the sector in the last calendar year touched Rs 26,000 crore, up from Rs 23,098 crore, a growth of 12.56 per cent.
 
Speaking to IANS, E. M. Najeeb, who heads the Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry (CKTI), said it was a friend who organised the charter flight from Australia.
 
"They have planned a 21-day trip to India and had cancelled the three-day Kerala leg. When I came to know of it, I promised that they will have nothing to worry about in Kerala.
 
"By now 90 per cent of the damaged infrastructure has been put back to place," said Najeeb.
 
Meanwhile, the 10th edition of the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) will be held here from September 27 to 30.
 
"The response has been huge. Close to 400 overseas buyers and 1,095 domestic buyers have registered to take part," said Baby Mathew, President, KTM Society.
 
IANS
 

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Law should take its course in nun rape case: Bishops' body

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Denying that it wanted a Bishop accused in the rape of a nun to step down, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) on Sunday said that law should take its course in the matter.
 
"(Our) silence should in no way be construed as siding with either of the two parties. We have learnt of certain statements attributed to our President, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, that (accused) Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar diocese should step down," CBCI Secretary General Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas said in a statement here.
 
"We wish to clarify that he has made no such statement and wishes to disassociate himself from any such statement. Bombay Archdiocese spokesman's comments are in his personal campacity and have to be taken as such. 
 
"We reiterate what we said earlier: The CBCI has no jurisdiction over individual Bishops. Besides, a police probe is on. One party has approached the Kerala High Court... Church authorities will take a decision once police file a definitive report after investigations," the statement added.
 
He said they were expressing their "distress" regarding developments regarding accusations against Mulakkal.
 
The CBCI statement comes after Kerala Police asked accused Bishop Mulakkal to appear before a probe team on September 19. 
 
Mulakkal stepped down as Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese on September 15, handing over temporary charge of the diocese to Father Mathew Kokkandam.
 
A Kerala nun had accused Mulakkal of repeatedly raping her between 2014 and 2016. Five other nuns of the congregation have supported her claim and along with a section of the laity are holding a protest at Kochi, which continued for the ninth day on Sunday.
 
An FIR was registered against the Bishop, with the nun and other convent inmates giving detailed statements running into 114 pages.
 
Mulakkal has denied wrongdoing and termed it a "conspiracy" against him.
 
IANS
 

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NCPA to hold specially curated events to raise funds for flood-hit Kerala

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National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai will stage specially curated events from September 28-30 to raise funds for flood-hit Kerala.
 
The events include Kailash Kher in a live concernt on Septembr 28 and a multi-dance presentation, "Samapravaaha...A dance confluence" by eminent classical dancers on September 30, a press release from NCPA said.
 
The earnings from these events will be donated towards the cause, the release said, adding that the artistes will be performing free of cost.
 
In addition to the events, NCPA will also donate its box office earnings of "Shyam Rang" by Parthiv Gohil and two Wester music recitals for Kerala, it said.
 
"NCPA also appeals to its members and patrons to come together in support of the cause in form of donations. NCPA staff has volunteered to donate part of their salaries towards the cause.
 
Mr. Khushroo N Suntook, Chairman NCPA said, “We all are well aware of the current state in Kerala. Our hearts go out to those families who have lost their homes and dear ones. Kerala has given us many established artists and continues to do so. As an organization, it is our duty to help them re-build their lives and we will do so through all possible efforts. On behalf of NCPA, I would like to thank our artists, members and audiences who have come forward to help us with the cause.”
 
NNN
 

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Kerala nun rape case: Relief for Bishop Mulakkal

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Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been named in a sexual abuse case by a nun, got a breather from the Kerala High Court on Thursday as it said "arrest is not the issue".
 
Expressing satisfaction in the ongoing probe, the court observed that, since it was an old case, the probe and the investigation will take time and "not the arrest but final punishment of the accused is more important".
 
Apart from hearing two petitions on the case, it also heard a third petition seeking a Central Bureau Investigation (CBI) probe into it, and said that at present that would not be granted and posted the matter for next hearing on September 24.
 
Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar has been served a notice to appear before the probe team on September 19.
 
The nuns supporting the victim expressed their disappointment with the court's observation.
 
"We now feel that the probe might be swept under the carpet. Even the court is also denying us justice," said a nun after hearing the court's observations on Thursday.
 
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A Division Bench headed by the Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy after going through the affidavit of the Kerala Police probe team said that it was not proper to put pressure on the police as it could create hindrance to a free probe.
 
A Kerala nun has accused Mulakkal of repeatedly sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016. There are five other nuns of the same congregation who have supported her claim.
 
On Thursday, Kottayam Superintendent of Police Harishankar who is leading the probe told the media that variations and contradictions have been found in the statements that have been taken from several people connected with the case.
 
"I would not say that this has been done on purpose. However, taking into account that the case is four years old, it might be difficult to recall things correctly. 
 
"There are discrepancies in documents and facts that have now come up and hence we have expanded the probe team," said Harishankar.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
However, Mulakkal has denied any wrongdoing and termed it a conspiracy hatched against him.
 
IANS

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