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Kerala

SC opens Sabarimala gates to women of all ages

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

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit said on Tuesday she had resigned from her position, amid reports that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre was planning to shift her to the North-East and indications that she might return to active politics in Delhi.
 
Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit resigns
Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit today said she had resigned from her position, amid reports that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre was planning to shift her to the North-East and indications that she might return to active politics in Delhi.
 
Ms Dikshit, 76, who was Chief Minister of Delhi for 15 years over three consecutive terms, had taken over for a five-year term as the 22nd Governor of Kerala only on March 11 this year after she and her Congress party suffered a humiliating defeat in the December 4, 2013 elections to the Delhi Legislative Assembly.
 
She had lost in her own constituency of Gole Market by a huge margin to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, who went on to serve as Chief Minister of Delhi for 49 days before he resigned. The Congress had managed to win only eight seats in the 70-member house.
 
Ms Dikshit was among the Governors appointed by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre who had refused to heed clear signals from the new Modi government, which assumed office on May 26, that they should hand in their papers.
 
There were also reports in the media suggesting that she might be shifted to a North-Eastern state if she refused to quit.
 
Ms Dikshit met President Mukherjee and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh here yesterday. 
 
"I have only one thing to say. The news flashing on television channels is correct. I have submitted my resignation yesterday," she told newspersons.
"This is what I wanted to say, and I wanted to say it myself."
 
"I don't have anything more to say right now. After my resignation is accepted, I'll say whatever I have to say," she said.
 
To repeated queries about her views on the way the Modi government had handled Governors and about her future plans, Ms Dikshit said that she would not like to say anything further.
 
"Let my resignation be accepted, after that I promise you that I will talk to you," she added.
 
Asked if she had been under pressure from the Modi government to resign, Ms Dikshit said, "I have nothing to do with all that. I did what my heart told me to do."
 
She is now expected to plunge back into active politics in Delhi, where Assembly elections may be held in the next few months if it is not possible to form a viable government within the present Assembly in which no party has a clear majoirty.
 
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With this, eight of the Governors appointed by the previous government have resigned so far, while two were sacked.
 
Soon after the new government started nudging them, five Governors -- B L Joshi in Uttar Pradesh, M K Narayanan in West Bengal, Ashwani Kumar of Nagaland, Shekhar Dutt of Chhattisgarh and Bharat Vir Wanchoo of Goa, all of whom are former police officers -- resigned.
 
Mr Vakkom Purushothaman, a senior Congress leader from Kerala, who was shifted from Mizoram to Nagaland after then Gujarat Governor Kamala Beniwal was moved to Mizoram, resigned in protest against the manner in which he was transferred without consulting him.
 
Ms Beniwal, who had a few run-ins with then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is now the Prime Minister, was sacked on August 6. Earlier, on July 11, Mr Virendra Kataria had been removed as Lt Governor of Puducherry.
 
On Sunday, another senior Congress leader from Kerala, Mr K Sankaranarayanan, resigned after he was transferred as the Governor of Mizoram from Maharashtra.
 
The Governor of Uttarakhand, Mr Aziz Qureshi, has meanwhile filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that he had received calls from the Union Home Secretary suggesting that he resign. He contended that only the President could remove him.
 
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Booked for rape, Binoy Kodiyeri asked to appear before Maharashtra Police in 3 days

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The Maharashtra Police has asked Binoy Kodiyeri, son of Kerala CPI-M Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, to appear before it in three days, after a rape case was filed against him last week.
 
In her FIR, a 33-year-old Mumbai-based woman, who hails from Bihar, has alleged that Binoy sexually exploited her for several years on the promise of marriage and they have an eight-year-old child. She registered a complaint at Andheri's Oshiwara police station on June 13, after she came to know that he was already married.
 
According to her complaint, she entered into a relationship with Binoy while working at a dance bar in Dubai in 2008 and now has an eight-year-old child with him. She alleged that till 2015, Binoy even used to send her money every month.
 
The victim has handed over some crucial documents, including pictures, to the police.
 
According to the victim, she filed the FIR two months after she wrote about the matter to the CPI-M national leadership but failed to get a response from them. 
 
The CPI-M leaders now maintain that the case has nothing to do with the party. "A case against an individual needs to be defended by him," party's Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat said in New Delhi. State Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty repeated the statement on Wednesday.
 
State BJP spokesperson B. Gopalakrishnan questioned the silence of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and veteran legislator V. S. Achuthanandan on the case. "Binoy should present himself for a DNA test and the CPI-M state secretary Balakrishnan should step down in the wake of this serious charge against his son," said Gopalakrishnan.
 
Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala wasn't as scathing. "Let the police probe the case but something is happening in the CPI-M, which does not augur well for them," said Chennithala.
 
IANS
 

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Doctors on strike in Kerala over assault on counterparts in Bengal

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Doctors in Kerala from both private and state-run hospitals went on a token strike on Monday in the wake of the recent assault on their counterparts in West Bengal.
 
While medicos from the private sector opted for a day-long strike with just the casualty services to be made available; those in the government sector would remain off duty for two hours from all out-patient services from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
 
At the state-run Medical Colleges, teachers would be on strike for an hour from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
 
All private clinics including dental clinics have also been asked to down their shutters for the day, a medical official said.
 
The protests are against the attack on two junior doctors in Kolkata by the family members of a dead patient in the NRS Medical College and Hospital that took place late on June 10. Doctors across the West Bengal and later across India had stopped work.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala policewoman stabbed, set ablaze by male colleague

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A Kerala policewoman was on Saturday brutally murdered by her male colleague, who first knocked her down on the road with his car, then stabbed her and finally set her ablaze, police said.
 
The incident occurred at Mavelikera, near here, around 3 p.m. when Soumya Pushapakaren, 32, was going from her home to her work place at the Vallikunnu police station. 
 
Her friend and colleague Ajaz, who is posted at the Aluva Traffic police station, then came in his car and hit Pushapakeren, who was on her two-wheeler.
 
As she got up and tried to flee, Ajaz slashed her with a sword and after she fell down again, doused her with petrol and set her ablaze.
 
A terrified Pushapakeren ran into a nearby home where she collapsed and succumbed to her injuries. Ajaz, who himself suffered burn injuries, was taken into custody and is now admitted to the Medical College hospital near here.
 
Pushapakeren is survived by three children and her husband who works in the Middle East.
 
Top police officials have now reached the place and the matter is being investigated.
 
It is not yet known what prompted Ajaz's murderous attack.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala medicos on strike demanding hike in stipend

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Over 3,000 post-graduate medical students and house surgeons across state-run medical college and hospitals on Friday went on a token strike demanding increase in their stipends.
 
Services at the outpatient and in-patient departments at hospitals came to a standstill following the strike.
 
However, the doctors clarified that the strike had got nothing to do with the nationwide day-long strike by medicos to express solidarity with their Kolkata counterparts.
 
"This is just a token strike and if the state government does not take up our demands seriously, we will go on an indefinite strike from June 20. Even as we are on strike today the normal functioning of the casualty services and the intensive care units are not affected," said the striking junior doctors.
 
The stipend of medical students and house surgeons was last revised in 2015.
 
IANS
 

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Doctors across India on day-long strike in solidarity with Kolkata medicos

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The doctors' strike that started in Kolkata earlier this week has now spread across India with the doctors' association of AIIMS showing full support to their West Bengal colleagues.
 
After the entire healthcare system in West Bengal was crippled over the past four days, now doctors in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities in India especially AIIMS hospitals in the national capital, Raipur, Patna and Punjab, are observing protest shutdown.
 
Resident doctors in several government hospitals in Kerala and Hyderabad also staged protests as they started their 'cease work' demonstrations in respective cities.
 
Around 4,500 members Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) stopped attending to patients in all the 26 government hospitals in the state simultaneously on Friday.
 
MARD General Secretary Deepak Mundhe told IANS the doctors will keep off all routine duties between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and the hospital administration has been informed to ensure all other services are not hampered or patients inconvenienced.
 
A large number of doctors gathered outside the KEM Hospital with banners and posters to express solidarity with the doctors who were assaulted in Kolkata on Tuesday following the death of a patient in a state-run hospital.
 
Similar protests were also being held in Pune, Aurangabad and Nagpur by MARD members who are demanding adequate protection for their counterparts in West Bengal.
 
Senior and junior resident doctors of several government hospitals in the national capital on Friday also went on the one day token strike and boycotted work. Except for emergency services, there will be full shutdown of all outpatient departments (OPDs), routine operation theatre services and ward visits, the AIIMS association said. 
 
Resident doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Safdarjung hospitals carried bandages on their heads in a symbolic protest and suspended all non-emergency services. Only follow-up patients with a prior appointment were being registered at the OPDs.
 
Diagnostic services were also functioning in a restricted manner. Several resident doctors also held a protest at the Jantar Mantar against the brutal attack on a Kolkata intern.
 
Condemning the violence in Bengal, the AIIMS Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) has urged all the RDAs across the country to join the token strike. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also asked members of all its state branches to stage protests and wear black badges on Friday.
 
Junior doctors in West Bengal are on a strike since Tuesday after two of their colleagues were attacked and seriously injured at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata.
 
In the wake of the strike, the AIIMS has instituted contingency measures to take care of the admitted patients, including those in the ICUs and wards.
 
IANS
 

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Low pressure area over Arabian Sea likely to intensify into cyclone: IMD

A low-pressure area has formed over southeast and eastcentral Arabian Sea and Lakshadweep Islands and was likely to intensify into a depression and then into a cyclonic storm in the next two days, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said.
 
"It is very likely to intensify into a depression over Southeast & adjoining Eastcentral Arabian Sea during next 48 hours. It is likely to move north-northwestwards and intensify further into a cyclonic storm during subsequent 24 hours," a bulletin issued by IMD yesterday afternoon said.
 
Under its influence, heavy rains are likely over some parts of Kerala, Lakshadweep, coastal Karnataka, south interior Karnataka and Konkan & Goa during this period.
 
The bulletin also said that strong winds, with speed reaching 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, were very likely to prevail over southeast and adjoining Lakshadweep and eastcentral Arabian Sea, Kerala and Karnataka coasts today.
 
"Wind speed is very likely to increase gradually and become squally wind speed reaching 55-65 kmph gusting to 75 kmph over eastcentral & adjoining southeast Arabian Sea on 11th June 2019. It is very likely to be 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph over Lakshadweep area, Kerala, Karnataka & south Maharashtra Coasts on the same day. Sea conditions are likely to be rough over the above areas.
 
"Wind speed is very likely to increase further becoming gale wind speed reaching 70-80 kmph gusting to 90 kmph over eastcentral & adjoining northeast Arabian Sea on 12th June 2019 and become 90-100 kmph gusting to 110 kmph over north Arabian Sea on 13th June 2019. It is very likely to be 45-55 kmph gusting to 65 kmph over Gujarat & Maharashtra coasts on 12th and 55-65 kmph gusting to 75 kmph over entire Gujarat and north Maharashtra coasts on 13th June, 2019," the bulletin said.
 
Sea conditions are likely to be very rough to high over these areas during this period and fishermen have been advised not to venture into the sea.
 
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Rare reunion: Rahul meets Rajamma, his delivery nurse

Congress President Rahul Gandhi hugging Rajamma, who was his delivery nurse at a hospital in Delhi way back in 1970, in Wayanad, Kerala on June 9, 2019
Congress President Rahul Gandhi hugging Rajamma, who was his delivery nurse at a hospital in Delhi way back in 1970, in Wayanad, Kerala on June 9, 2019
It was a reunion after a gap of almost 49 years when Congress President Rahul Gandhi hugged Rajamma, who was his delivery nurse at a hospital in Delhi way back in 1970.
 
Rajamma told Gandhi it was neither Rajiv Gandhi nor Sonia Gandhi, but she who first cuddled him. Hearing this Gandhi hugged her again.
 
Rajamma met Gandhi on Sunday at the place where the Congress President had put up for the night in Wayanad. The moment was captured and Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala posted the picture on Facebook.
 
Chennithala is accompanying Gandhi in his constituency on the roadshows which entered the third day on Sunday.
 
The Facebook post said Rajamma was a nurse at the Holy Cross hospital in Delhi where Gandhi was born.
 
Rajamma after her retirement, is now settled in Gandhi's constituency and had expressed her desire to various Congress leaders that she would like to meet him. That became a reality on Sunday.
 
IANS
 

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Modi won Lok Sabha polls by lying: Rahul

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi said here on Saturday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the Lok Sabha elections by telling lies.
 
"Modi won the election by telling lies and spreading hatred. But we will deal with him with truth, love and affection," Gandhi said while addressing a rally here in his parliamentary constituency of Wayanad, which he won with the highest ever margin recorded in Kerala.
 
He began his constituency tour by visiting the Wayanad Lok Sabha member's office at the Collectorate office where he spoke to several people.
 
"My doors are open to all the people in Wayanad and it's my responsibility to solve the issues of the people here," he told the people.
 
Gandhi was seen interacting with the people who came to see his road show at Kalpetta.
 
He arrived in Wayanad on Friday to thank the electorate. Gandhi will hold two more road shows on Saturday.
 
The Congress President is being accompanied by state party President Mullapally Ramachandran, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and AICC General Secretary (Organisational) K.C. Venugopal.
 
IANS
 

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Southwest monsoon arrives over Kerala a week late

Dark clouds over Kochi, Kerala (File photo: IANS)
Dark clouds over Kochi, Kerala (File photo: IANS)
The southwest monsoon set in over Kerala today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said, signalling the arrival of monsoon over over the Indian sub-continent a week later than normal.
 
The normal monsoon onset over Kerala, and representing the beginning of rainy season over the region, is on June 1.
 
An IMD press release said that, in view of the enhanced cloudiness, strengthening of westerlies and persistent cyclonic circulation in the lower and mid-levels over Lakshadweep area and neighbourhood, the Southwest monsoon has further advanced into some more parts of South Arabian Sea, most parts of Lakshadweep area, some parts of Kerala and south Tamil Nadu, remaining parts of Comorin – Maldives area, some more parts of Southwest, Southeast & Eastcentral Bay of Bengal and some parts of Northeast Bay of Bengal.
 
"Thus the Southwest monsoon has set in over Kerala, today, the 08th June 2019, against the normal date of 1st June," it said.
 
"The Northern Limit of Monsoon (NLM) passes through lat. 11 0N/ Long 60 0E, lat. 11 0N/ Long 70 0E, Amini Divi, Kochi, Madurai, lat.110N/ Long 86 0E, lat. 16 0N/ Long 910E, and lat. 200N/ Long 94 0E on today, the 8th June 2019," it said.
 
According to the release, conditions are favourable for further advance of Southwest Monsoon into the remaining parts of South Arabian Sea, Lakshadweep area & Kerala, some more parts of Tamil Nadu, Southwest, Southeast, Eastcentral & Northeast Bay of Bengal and some parts of Central Arabian Sea and Westcentral Bay of Bengal during the next 48 hours.
 
Conditions are also becoming favorable for advance of Southwest Monsoon into southern parts of Northeast India during the next 48 hours, it said.
 
The release said fairly  widespread rainfall occurred over Lakshadweep area and parts of Kerala, during the past three days. Westerly winds have strengthened in the lower levels (up to 20 knots) and deepened (up to 4 km) over the southern latitudes. Westerly/West-southwesterly winds were observed up to 600 hPa (approximately up to 4.5 km) over the South Arabian Sea.
 
"There is persistent convection (cloudiness indicated by Outgoing Longwave Radiation values <200 Wm-1) from 3rd June.
 
"In addition to the above features, the following developments are also noticed.
--An off-shore trough at mean Sea level runs from south Maharashtra coast to Kerala coast.
--A cyclonic circulation extending up to 4.5 km. above mean sea level lies over Lakshadweep area and adjoining Southeast Arabian Sea. Under its influence, a low-pressure area is very likely to form over Southeast & adjoining Eastcentral Arabian Sea during the next 48 hours. It is very likely to move north-northwestwards and intensify gradually," the release added.
 
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Modi offers prayers at Guruvayoor temple in Kerala

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday offered prayers at the famed Sri Krishna Temple here, where he was given a traditional welcome by priests at the doorsteps of the shrine.
 
He flew into Guruvayoor from Kochi earlier in the morning and arrived at the shrine at 10.20 am, dressed in traditional temple attire.
 
The Prime Minister was accompanied by Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan, State Devasom Minister Kadakampally Surendran and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.
 
Modi, who entered the temple with folded hands, will participate in various rituals, including reading of the 'Vishnu Sahasaranamam', which could take about an hour.
 
According to temple authorities, Modi will be offering various items including ghee, a special variety of red plantain (kathali), a 'tulabharam' with lotus flowers, which alone costs Rs 22,000 among other things.
 
Modi had visited the temple in 2008 soon after he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat for a second time.
 
After completing his visit to the temple, Modi will address a public rally near here.
 
IANS
    
 

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Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja meets Harsh Vardhan

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Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja met Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan here today to discuss the status and preparedness of the State for containment and management of Nipah Virus Disease (NVD).
 
Dr Harsh Vardhan has been reviewing the status regularly in the wake of detection of one case of fever caused by the Nipah virus in Kerala. He has assured Kerala of all support from the Central government in tackling the spread of the disease.
 
Teams of experts from the Health Ministry and ICMR are already stationed in Kerala supporting the State in investigations and management of the NVD.
 
The condition of one positive case is stable. There have been no new cases. The earlier seven suspected cases have been confirmed to be negative, the Health & Family Welfare Ministry said in a release.
 
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Six test negative for Nipah in Kerala

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Samples of six patients suffering from fever have tested negative for Nipah virus, Kerala Health Minister K. K. Shailaja announced on Thursday. She said there was no need to panic as the situation was under control.
 
Speaking to the media here, Shailaja said all those who were tested negative were in direct contact with the youth who tested Nipah positive early this week. 
 
"All these patients are under close observation and continue to be in the isolation ward of a hospital. The youth who tested positive is also recovering well," said Shailaja.
 
High alert across the state will continue and whenever necessary, samples of suspects will be sent to the concerned laboratories including the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, she said. 
 
"I am told that two people who came seeking treatment for fever at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College are under observation and their samples also would be sent for testing," said Shailaja.
 
She said the hospital has got the special medicine for Nipah patients.
 
"Two of our doctors have got training from the Indian Council of Medical Research in administering this medicine that has come from Australia. In case this medicine has to be administered, the doctors will have to seek the permission from the patient's relatives," added Shailaja.
 
The youth who has been confirmed with the Nipah virus is from Paravur in Ernakulam district. He was studying in Idukki's Thodupuzha.
 
Last month, he came with 16 other classmates for a student internship in Thrissur and later developed fever.
 
The Minister said a team of experts was trying to identify the source of the virus by visiting places the youth belongs to and has visited.
 
At present over 300 people from Thrissur, Paravur in Ernakulam district, Thodupuzha in Idukki and in Thiruvananthapuram continue to be under observation.
 
The Nipah virus claimed 12 lives in May last year, with 22 positive cases reported from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts. 
 
IANS
 

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Kerala: Man dies as three hospitals refuse admission

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A 62-year-old man died here on Wednesday after three hospitals, including one run by the government, refused to admit him citing lack of ventilator, the distraught family said.
 
Jacob Thomas, suffering from H1N1, was transported to the Kottayam Medical College Hospital from Kattapana in the Idukki district in an ambulance after his condition worsened.
 
"We reached the emergency and casualty department of the Kottayam Medical College Hospital. But the PRO told us they cannot admit my father as there was no ventilator available. Despite passionate pleas, not even a doctor came to see him," Reny Jacob, daughter of Thomas told media here.
 
"We then took him to the Caritas Hospital, which also refused to admit him. We then took him to the Matha Hospital. There also, he was not admitted. As we were left with no option we sought help from the Kottayam Hospital again. But no one attended my father. He died lying in the ambulance." 
 
The family of Thomas has filed a complaint of medical negligence with the police. 
 
State Health Minister K.K. Shailaja has asked the Directorate of Medical Education to conduct a probe into the matter.
 
IANS
 

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Nipah: 5 in isolation in Kerala, 311 under observation

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A Kerala youth who tested positive for Nipah virus (NiV) is stable, State Health Minister K. K. Shailaja said on Wednesday, adding that three nurses who treated him, a friend and another person have been kept in isolation.
 
He continues to be treated at a ward at the Kalamassery hospital near here.
 
"A total of 311 people are being closely observed and barring four, all the rest are being looked by health professionals in their homes only. The officials are trying to find out how many of these 311 had any direct contact with the youth, who has tested positive," said Shailaja.
 
"The samples of the five (in isolation) have been sent to various laboratories and the final result is expected either tomorrow or day after. The preliminary findings of these five, do not point to anything serious but we will wait till the final results come," said Shailaja.
 
It was on Tuesday that the youth tested positive and since then the state Health Department has launched a massive programme to ensure that adequate advisories are issued. 
 
People have been asked not to panic, but seek immediate medical attention if fever develops.
 
Shailaja said that a central team of professionals was already here and their main objective was to identify the source of the outbreak.
 
IANS
 

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Harsh Vardhan assures all support to Kerala to manage Nipah virus

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Following confirmation of a suspect case of Nipah virus disease in Kerala by the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, Union Health & Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan spoke to State Health Minister K K Shailaja on Tuesday and assured all support from the Centre.
 
The Health Minister had convened an urgent meeting at his residence yesterday. The meeting was attended by Ms Preeti Sudan, Secretary (HFW), Dr Balram Bhargava, Secretary (DHR), Sanjeeva Kumar, Addl. Secretary (H), Dr S Venkatesh, DGHS, Dr Sujeet K Singh, Director, NCDC and Dr Gangakhetkar, Scientist G and Head ECD, ICMR.
 
A Central Team with six officers has been deployed and has reached for epidemiological investigation protocol, contact tracing for early detection of suspects, testing protocols for suspects and review of isolation facilities.
 
A control room has been set up and the NCDC Strategic Health Operations Center (SHOC) has been activated. The phone number of the control room is  011-23978046.
 
A team from National Institute of Virology, Pune (ICMR) with Monoclonal Antibodies is being sent to Ernakulam.
 
A team from NIV for conducting/testing bats for Nipah virus was due to be sent yesterday.
 
The State has already initiated contact tracing and surveillance through standard capacity building for health functionaries, ambulance fleet drivers and others. 
 
A help desk at Medical College Ernakulam has been established. Dedicated trained doctors, nurses, paramedics have been deployed at hospitals. Vigil has been activated in all districts besides awareness generation.
 
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Kerala honours veteran film star Sheela with J C Daniel Award

Sheela
Sheela
Veteran actress Sheela, 76, has been honoured with the prestigious J. C. Daniel Award in recognition of her contribution to the Malayalam film industry.
 
This award is the Kerala government's top film award for a film veteran.
 
The award, which includes a cash prize of Rs 500,000 and a citation, was announced, here on Tuesday, by State Minister for Culture and Cinema A. K. Balan. It will be presented next month. 
 
Sheela, still active in the industry, along with late actor Prem Nazir holds a world record for acting in the largest number of films -- 110 -- together as heroine and hero in the 1960s and 1970s.
 
Even though she began her career in the Tamil film "Paasam" opposite M. G. Ramachandran, Sheela reigned supreme in the Malayalam industry in the sixties and seventies alongside giants such as Sathyan, Nazir, Madhu and Jayan. 
 
In the latter part of her career, she shared screen space with present-day superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal.
 
After almost a two-decade break, Sheela returned to the screen in 2003 with Malayalam film "Manassinakkare". In 2005, she won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film "Akale".
 
In a career spanning more than five decades, she has acted in close to 500 films in South Indian languages besides trying her hand at direction.
 
IANS

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Kerala youth tests positive for Nipah virus: Minister

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Kerala Health Minister K. K. Shailaja on Tuesday confirmed that the youth being treated in a hospital near Kochi has tested positive for Nipah virus (NiV). 
 
She also assured the people that elaborate arrangements have been made to tackle the situation and there was no need for panic
 
"The test results have come from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune and it is positive for Nipah. The health authorities have made elaborate arrangements and the medicines for this are also in stock and NIV authorities will be handing over the medicines that have come from Australia," said Shailaja.
 
She added that Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had already pledged full support from the Centre.
 
The youth is a student who first sought treatment at two private hospitals in Thrissur, where he had gone for student internship.
 
"In the past two days, the health authorities have prepared a list of 86 people who have come in contact with this youth and are under observation. Of these 86 people, two have fever and one of them is being kept in isolation. Also, two nurses have fever and are under observation," said Shailaja.
 
"The condition of the youth is stable. He is now out of any sort of support and is fine," added the Minister.
 
Shailaja asked people to be careful about picking fruits as bats have been identified as a carrier of this virus.
 
She also said that any mischief to create panic on social media would be dealt with strictly.
 
The sample of the youth was first tested at the Virology Institute at Allapuzha and, after it was confirmed positive, the final confirmation came from NIV, Pune.
 
"From now on, there would be a high alert and three samples (blood, urine and throat) from every person who shows symptoms of Nipah will be taken and sent to NIV Alappuzha, Pune and Manipal Laboratory," said State Health Secretary Rajan Khorbagade.
 
He said that experts from the Indian Council of Medical Research were in constant touch with health authorities in the state.
 
In May last year, a Nipah (NiV) virus attack claimed 12 lives, with 22 positive cases reported from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts that created a huge scare.
 
The Kerala government has brought in a special team of medical professionals and administrators who successfully helped combat the previous outbreak in Kozhikode. They will be helping the medical professionals in Kochi on how to go about handling the fresh outbreak.
 
NNN

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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