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Kerala

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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30 bloggers from 29 countries begin two-week road trip in 'God's Own Country'

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Thirty influential online travel writers from around the world today began a fifteen day long exploration of Kerala, known as ‘God’s Own Country’.
 
State Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran flagged off the fourth edition of Kerala Blog Express from Bolgatty Palace here as part of a campaign to present the state to a wider international audience. 
 
“The Blog Express is an innovation that we have pioneered and we will continue to raise the bar for tourism marketing in the future,” the Minister said. 
 
"The initiative has definitely augmented the destination pull of Kerala and given an impetus to building and sustaining the tempo of tourism growth, a sector which is so crucial for Kerala’s economy," he said.
 
“I hope as participants you enjoy this trip and share the wonderful stories and culture of our land with international audience,” he added. 
 
The 30 bloggers this year represent 29 countries and all the continents, and were selected through a voting system with over 38,000 votes garnered online. They will traverse hills, beaches, backwaters and experience life in villages and cities, as part of the award-winning promotional campaign of Kerala Tourism. 
 
Besides the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain, travel writers from Europe this year include from regions such as Moldova and Gibraltar. The only Indian in the group is Dipanshu Goyal from New Delhi and the most experienced blogger is Carla Mota from Portugal who has travelled around 82 countries over the years. Most of the bloggers are visiting India for the first time. 
 
"With participants from around the globe, Blog Express 4 has already grabbed the attention of various social media platforms and online travel and tour forums," a press release from Kerala Tourism said.
 
KBE was piloted in 2014 as a social media campaign, familiarisation trip, bloggers meet and road trip rolled into one, with the aim of creating a pool of global brand ambassadors who have experienced Kerala at close quarters and have the ability to reach out to aspiring international travellers. 
 
Over the past three editions the KBE has shaped 87 such ambassadors, who have documented their journey, experiences and memories across conventional, digital and social media platforms in several different languages, taking the Kerala Tourism brand to ever wider audiences. 
 
KBE, which promises ‘the trip of a lifetime!’ in its tagline, selects participants through an online voting process. It has received more than 5,300 entries over the last four years and continues to grow in popularity. 
 
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The campaign itself has set new benchmarks in destination marketing. The third edition of Kerala Blog Express 3 last year won the Bronze for Social Media (Outreach) at the prestigious Abby Awards 2016. 
 
It generated more than 9,000 tweets, over 300,000 website visits, over 2,000 Instagram pictures and more than 100 blog articles. Kerala, as a travel destination, was covered on the Czech National radio, Polish radio, Bulgarian radio and TV show and local newspapers in New Zealand and Italy. 
 
A crew from Envoyéspéciall'été, the entertainment channel of France, flew down to Kerala to document French bloggers Arnaud Caillou and Céline Simon, who were part of KBE 3. They spent four days with the whole KBE 3 team and featured a documentary film on their channel, focusing on Kerala and its cultural richness. 
 
Kerala Blog Express 4 will travel through Alleppey, Kumarakom, Thekkady, Munnar, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasaragod before completing its journey on April 3 in the capital city Thirvananthapuram, where the guests will be given a grand farewell by the Tourism department. 
 
Mr. P G Shivan, Joint Director, Kerala Tourism and Mr.  V S Anil, Deputy Director, Kerala Tourism, also attended the function.
 
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Aspinwall House to become permanent venue of Kochi Biennale: Kerala Minister

Kerala Finance Minister T.M.Thomas Isaac viewing Yuko Mohri's installation 'Calls' at KMB 2016 in Aspinwall House,Fort Kochi on March 19, 2017
Kerala Finance Minister T.M.Thomas Isaac viewing Yuko Mohri's installation 'Calls' at KMB 2016 in Aspinwall House,Fort Kochi on March 19, 2017
In line with his budgetary allocation of a permanent venue for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), Kerala Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac said here today that the state government had decided to make Aspinwall House here the home of India’s only Biennale.   
 
“As an initial step, the government has cancelled the lease on a portion of Aspinwall House. Negotiations are ongoing to acquire the rest of the property in a time-bound manner by paying a reasonable amount,” Dr Isaac said, following a guided tour of KMB 2016’s primary venue.
 
“The Biennale will be maintained as a permanent art and culture asset for Kochi, which has become a fixture on the art map of the world. The city will join other big metropolises in housing an iconic international event. We can even utilise this space to conduct various art and cultural activities during non-Biennale years,” he added.
The Minister undertook a day-long tour of KMB 2016 venues in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, taking in the works on display and interacting with the Sunday crowds at Pepper House, Anand Warehouse and TKM Warehouse.
 
“When I first funded the Biennale six years ago as the Finance Minister of the previous LDF government, there was controversy about spending so much money on an art event rather than on art training schools. Today, there is near unanimity on the importance of the Biennale. It exposes Keralites to the best in contemporary art from around the world and it is good for Kerala’s artists as well. In its third edition, no opposing voices are being heard,” Dr Isaac said.
 
Noting that the Biennale had established itself as an important landmark in the socio-cultural map of Kerala, the Minister said, “Giving the public the opportunity to enjoy, firsthand, the artworks of internationally acclaimed artists and engage with them facilitates the creation of a cultural gathering of thinkers, writers, sculptors and artists. Art schools will benefit from this event, which strives to have greater linkages with art education in Kerala.”
 
“The government has allotted around Rs 60 crore for the promotional and marketing purpose of tourism in Kerala. Allotting Rs 2 crore for the Biennale in its off-year is likewise an investment for the upkeep of an established and important international event,” he added.
 
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Dr Isaac, who also holds the Coir portfolio, expressed appreciation for KMB 2016 participating artist Praneet Soi’s work using the traditional fabric in his Cut-Out Archive – Sculptures in Coir. He tried his hand at Turkish artist Ahmet Ö?üt’s installation Workers Taking Over The Factory – Version 2 and found Hungarian artist István Csákány’s Ghost Keeping “aesthetically pleasing”.
 
The Minister also praised the photography series Vanishing Life-Worlds on the ancient port town of Ponnani by artist K.R. Sunil.
 
“He has really captured Ponnani’s environment and atmosphere. I spent a few days walking through the living ruins of the once famous port. The decline and seeding of the place and yet still, the culture that still thrives there. In the last Budget, I have allocated funds to develop infrastructure in Ponnani for the conservation of the old town,” Dr Isaac said.
 
He noted the similarity in the setting of the Biennale. “It is very important we conserve the historical environment and inclusive spirit. While the Biennale is named after Kochi, it also refers to the cosmopolitan history of Muziris. The Biennale has spin-offs into the larger development process of Kerala,” Dr Isaac added.
 
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VR stories provide immersive 360° experiences to KMB 2016 visitors

Urgent, yet ignored, stories from India’s hinterland are presented in a newly installed 360° virtual reality experience courtesy award-winning filmmaker Anand Gandhi at the ongoing third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) in the city.
 
As many as four short documentary films by independent filmmakers are being shown in the immersive experience set-up by Gandhi’s ElseVR initiative at the architectural pavilion in Aspinwall House. 
 
ElseVR is a platform by Memesys Culture Lab – founded by the Ship of Theseus director – that combines virtual reality, non-fiction filmmaking and journalism.
 
The documentaries, 6-10 minutes each, cover a range of pressing issues. They include India’s first VR film, Right to Pray, which deals with the ban on women’s entry at Trimbakeswar temple; Caste is not a Rumour, which highlights the story of Dalits and Muslims being beaten up by so-called Gaurakshaks; When Land is lost, do we eat Coal? which narrates the story of 24 million Adivasis who were displaced due to coal mining activities in Chattisgarh; and Submerged, which moves through the devastated landscape and vulnerable villagers in Bihar after last year’s torrential floods. 
 
“The ability and the desire to transmit knowhow, intention, and insight to others around us have co-evolved with humanity itself. Mixed reality is a huge milestone in that human project of record keeping, perspective sharing, empathising, and merging with the ‘other’, a project that began with the first cave painting, or even earlier,” Gandhi said.
 
To facilitate this immersion, the ElseVR booth has a pair of virtual reality headsets attached to cell phones that screen the films via an app. The experience allows viewers to not only watch but empathise with the characters in the stories through the 360° storytelling method that will redefine the relationship between story and audience.
 
“What virtual reality does is it really allows the viewer to enter into the story. You associate with the issues more empathetically than the news. You connect to the people and issues far deeper in VR than in two dimensions,” said Abhishek Lamba, an ElseVR team member.
 
“We don’t just have stand-alone films. The stories are supported with news articles as well. All the films have full length articles written by filmmakers, journalists, artists, among others. We have also associated with some organisations, including Amnesty International,” Lamba said.
 
The ElseVR experience will run up till the conclusion of KMB 2016 on March 29.
 
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Malayalam film director Diphan passes away

Diphan Sivakumar
Diphan Sivakumar
Well-known Malayalam film director Diphan Sivakumar, who made a string of hits during a 14-year career as an independent filmmaker, passed away here at a private hospital here where he was undergoing treatment for cirrhosis of the liver and kidney-related issues, sources said.
 
He was 47. He is survived by his wife and two children. His body will be cremated in Thiruvananthapuram tomorrow, they said.
 
Diphan, who was also known as Deepan, was admitted to the hospital on February 26 undergoing treatment at the hospital since February 26 for cirrhosis of the liver and kidney-related issues, they said.
 
Diphan directed seven movies, including Leader, D Company, SIM and Dolphin Bar as well as Puthiyamukham and Hero, which featured popular actor Prithivraj Sukumaran.
 
His last film, Sathya, starring Jayaram and Roma in the lead roles, is in the post-production stage, the sources said.
 
"Will miss you Diphan chetan! Thank you for giving me one of the most important films in my career. Rest in peace now..rest in peace!" Prithviraj said on his Facebook page.
 
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Novel initiative will see school notebooks sport KMB 2016 artwork

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With colours as rich and layered as its mythology, the epic mural artwork titled ‘Parayi Peta Pantheerukulam’ by artist P.K. Sadanandan has turned heads and prompted questions over the ongoing third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB).
 
It will now inspire the same from students of Aided Mappila Upper Primary School (AMUPS) in Malappuram District. An image of a section of the wall art – illustrating the story of ‘Naranth Pranthan’ – will adorn the cover of a notebook to be distributed to 2,000 students at the school.
 
The diary, designed by Art by Children (ABC) – the unique art education initiative by the Kochi Biennale Foundation, was released on Saturday at the Pavilion in Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi. The function saw Sadanandan hand the first copy to an AMUPS student.
 
“Promoting art education, at a number of levels, has become one of the Foundation’s primary concerns. Launching a specially designed notebook cover is an engaging way to attract students and make them aware about art practices,” said KBF Secretary Riyas Komu at the function.
 
While some schools already bring out similar books, the pictures are limited to annual day gatherings or committee meetings, said Manu Jose, who heads the ABC programme.
 
“Every student today goes through a minimum of seven notebooks. If we print different artworks and introduce different artists through such books, that is a considerable art education effort. We can even introduce artists according to age groups,” Jose said.
 
Inside the book’s front jacket is a short biography about Sadanandan while the rear cover has an image of the wall art’s evolution over KMB 2016. The artist said that the initiative is a novel way to get children to engage with both the practice of mural painting and traditional stories.
 
“During my childhood, we would hear moralistic stories from our grandmothers or learn them in school. The narrations ignited the visual sense in us. Such practices have vanished, but the stories like Parayi Peta Pantheerukulam and their characters are significant even now. It is said that these 12 creeds encompass the whole of humankind and show how harmoniously they lived. Such stories should be taught to children to bring social integrity,” Sadanandan said.
 
“There is a reason for choosing the Naranath Pranthan story for the cover image as he crossed set boundaries and borders without caring about what people thought of him. Moreover, he was a philosopher. Children should know of him and learn about him,” he added.
 
The initiative reflects the continuing relationship between AMUPS and the ABC project, which conducted the first of its innovative art engagement workshops at the school in November.
 
Noting that the notebooks would be circulated to students from classes 1-7, AMUPS Headmaster T. Gopalakrishnan said, “This specially designed book will be a diary for the students, in which year-long activities and holidays will be listed. This will prompt the students to refer to the book for at least one year if not longer.”
 
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Kerala Congress chief V M Sudheeran steps down, cites health reasons

V. M. Sudheeran
V. M. Sudheeran
In a surprise move, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president V. M. Sudheeran today announced his decision to resign from his position, citing health reasons.
 
Mr. Sudheeran, 68, had suffered injuries when he fell from the stage at a function in Kozhikode recently and his doctors had advised him rest for some weeks.
 
He announced his decision to step aside at a press conference here today. "My personal problems should not affect the functioning of the party," he said.
 
According to sources, the injury had placed restrictions on his movements and he felt that his continuance in the post would not be correct.
 
"The Congress in Kerala is at a juncture where it needs constant attention, and I am not in position to provide that. The leader is not important, it is the party that matters," he said.
 
Mr. Sudheeran said he would send his resignation letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi today itself. He said he had not consulted any senior leaders of the party before taking the decision. He thanked Ms. Gandhi, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders for placing their trust in him.
 
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Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, who is the leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Assembly, said Mr. Sudheeran would continue to play an important role in the functioning of the party. "He has only resigned from his position as KPCC chief. He is still an integral part of the party and will continue to play a role in its functioning," he said.
 
Mr. Sudheeran, a former member of the Lok Sabha and of the State Legislative Assembly, had succeeded Mr. Chennithala as KPCC chief in February 2014, has had differences of opinion with several state-level leaders, including former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, but party functionaries were at pains to point out that these were all sorted out internally and there was no move at any level against him.
 
Mr. Sudheeran, who was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1977, had served as Speaker of the Kerala Legislative Assembly from 1985 to 1987 and as State Health Minister in 1995-96 before being elected in 1996, 1998 and 1999 again to the Lok Sabha. He lost the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and decided against contesting in 2009, saying younger politicians needed to be given opportunities.
 
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Two girls, driver dead after school van crashes into wall at Koothattukulam in Kerala

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Two schoolgirls and the driver of their school van died when the vehicle crashed into a wall near Koothattukulam in Ernakulam district of Kerala this morning, official sources said.
 
The deceased were identified as Nayana Dileep and Ann Maria Shiji, both aged 7, students of Marygiri Public School at Koothattukulam, and the owner-driver of the van, Jose Jacob. 
 
About 12 other students suffered injuries in the mishap and were admitted to nearby hospitals, the sources said.
 
According to them, the van was carrying the children to school when the driver apparently lost control over the wheel and the vehicle rammed into a wall at Puthuveli on MC Road, about 5 km from Koothattukulam, around 8 am.
 
Both the deceased girls were studying in Upper KG class at the school. The van was on a contract with the school for ferrying students from their homes to the school and back.
 
Local residents and officials, including police, rushed to the scene and helped extricate the children from the badly damaged vehicle and rush them to hospital, they added.
 
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Kochi Muziris Biennale has rejuvenated Kerala's contribution to visual arts, culture: Mukherjee

Artist P K Sadanandan explaining his mural 'Parayi Petta Panthiru Kulam' to President Pranab Mukkherjee at Aspinwall House at the ongoing Kochi Muziris Biennale in Kochi, on March 2, 2017.
Artist P K Sadanandan explaining his mural 'Parayi Petta Panthiru Kulam' to President Pranab Mukkherjee at Aspinwall House at the ongoing Kochi Muziris Biennale in Kochi, on March 2, 2017.
President Pranab Mukherjee today said the Kochi-Muziris Biennale had rejuvenated Kerala’s long standing contribution to visual arts and culture and cemented Kochi’s status as a cosmopolitan city brimming with potential and ideas.
 
“The Biennale, which is today known as the People’s Biennale, has become an integral part of the cultural calendar of our country,” he said at the inauguration of the Kochi Muziris Biennale Seminar on ‘Importance of sustainable cultural building’.
 
“Contemporary art is one of the most significant ways of expressing thoughts, emotions, concerns and ideas that are current, that are relevant to us in the time we live in,” he pointed out.
 
“The fact that Kerala, this land of history and tradition, now hosts the largest show of contemporary art in the region, and that too a show that was seeded by government, speaks to the unique ways of this state and its people,” Mr Mukherjee noteed.
 
Kerala has always been known for its secular approach towards art and culture. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is a proud symbol of this approach and the sense of oneness and inclusivity that exists here, the President said.
 
The Kochi Biennale Foundation has made a wonderful innovation in attempting to use art to link the historic legacy of present-day Kochi with the rich cultural influences of its predecessor Muziris, a financial and trade centre that was believed to have been vanished in floods in 1314 A.D., he said.
 
The event's resounding success can be gauged from the fact that it has so far attracted more than a million visitors, he added.
 
The collaborative nature of the partnership between the government and the Kochi Biennale Foundation, and the very successful result of that partnership, is proof of what can be achieved when a government invests in culture. Public funding for the arts provides support, offers certainty and the opportunity to touch the lives of vast numbers of people, Mr Mukherjee said.
 
“Public funds have the power to act as seed funding, giving others the confidence to invest in the creation and innovation of cultural organizations like the Kochi Biennale Foundation which, along with the Kerala government, is providing cultural stewardship and playing host to global artistic ideas on our own ground.
 
“When you partner that with innovative ideas and a unique point of view, the results can be staggering and beautiful,” he added.
 
“We need the Arts. All over the world cultural activities are easy targets for spending cuts. But if the state is to act as the catalyst then what must be its role? What institutions must be built up, and what confidence measures should be taken?
 
“The Kochi Biennale Foundation is a good case study of what is possible when differing agencies come together to pursue profound goals: to value culture, and the achievements of the human spirit, to celebrate the human imagination, and to make those achievements key markers of development,”Mr Mukherjee said.
 
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“But most important, this model should be replicated in different parts of the country. I hope the panelists can discuss and consider all these questions. I wish you all the very best and a meaningful discourse,” he concluded.
 
During his visit, Mr. Mukherjee took in the diverse array of artistic production on offer at the third edition of India’s only Biennale. 
 
He was accompanied by Kerala Governor Justice P. Sathasivam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Kochi Mayor Soumini Jain and State Minister for Tourism Kadakampally Surendran.
 
The President first visited the epic mural ‘12 stories (of the 12 Progeny)’ being worked on by participating artist P.K. Sadanandan. Taking an interest in the 15 m long and three m wide wall painting, he listened attentively as the master muralist explained the back story behind each panel of the artwork as well as his exclusive use of natural colours.
 
After looking over the space for theatre practitioner Anamika Haksar’s stage production ‘Composition on water’ and visiting artist Gauri Gill’s photo exhibition ‘Traces’, the President  listened in silence as KMB 2016 curator Sudarshan Shetty explained the intent behind Chilean poet-revolutionary Raúl Zurita’s installation ‘Sea of Pain’.
 
The group, together with KMB co-founders Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, concluded the tour with a visit to American artist Camille Norment’s sound art installation ‘Prime’.
 
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Ernakulam-Howrah Antyodaya Express, Sri Ganganagar-Tiruchirappalli Humsafar Express flagged off

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Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu today flagged off two trains -- the first Antyodaya Express between Ernakulam in Kerala and Howrah in West Bengal and the fourth Humsafar Express between Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan and Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu.
 
Antyodaya Express is a long-distance, fully unreserved, superfast train service, for the common man to be operated on dense routes. It will have facilities like  cushioned luggage racks which can serve as seats additional hand holds in doorway area, J-Hook near longitudinal luggage racks, multiple unit cables at both ends of the coach, vestibuled ends for internal movement of the passengers, drinking water dispenser, mobile phone charging points, fire extinguisher with anti-theft lock, FRP (Fibre Reinforced Plastic) modular toilets, toilet occupation indication display board, LED lights, anti-graffiti coating for exterior painting, and so on.
 
Humsafar Express is a fully air-conditioned 3-AC service with facilities like GPS-based Passenger Information System, Passenger announcement System, fire and smoke detection and suppression system, CCTVs, comfortable seats, mobile and laptop charging points, integrated Braille display, LCD display above compartment doors in the aisle, fire retardant curtains, and so on.
 
Mr. Prabhu said the Railways would soon launch Tejas and Uday Express trains also.
 
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Week after attack, actress returns to work, will attend identification parade of accused

As the popular Malayalam actress who was abducted and harassed on the night of February 17 prepared to return to work in Kochi on Saturday, top actor and her co-star Prithviraj Sukumaran urged the media not to "ambush" her when she reaches the sets.

Pulsar Suni
Pulsar Suni
As the popular Malayalam actress who was abducted and harassed on the night of February 17 prepared to return to work today, top actor and her co-star Prithviraj Sukumaran urged the media not to "ambush" her when she reaches the sets.
 
Meanwhile, the actress is due to attend an identification parade later today at the Kakkanad sub-jail here, where the accused in the case, including main accused Pulsar Suni, are being held.
 
Prithviraj said the first day of shooting for the film, Adam, in which he is co-starring with the 30-year-old actress, was a special occasion for various reasons.
 
He also said that a media appearance planned by the actress today had been put off. "If and when she is ready to make a statement to the media, she will do that," he said.
 
"Today, for my sake, for the sake of my colleague, for the sake of this film, for everyone's good, I request you not to create a 'media ambush' with 40 cameras when she arrives. I am confident you will respect this appeal. For this, I will be forever grateful to you," Prithviraj added.
 
"...today, as my dear friend walks in to the sets to kick start the shooting of her new film 'Adam', I once again bear witness to an extraordinary moment of courage from an extraordinary woman in my life!" the actor said on his Facebook page earlier this morning.
 
"Today..she makes a statement..a statement that will echo through time, space and gender..that no one or no incident has control over your life but YOU! A statement that will now be part of counselling sessions and pep talks around the world. A statement that you my friend..are making in a million unheard voices!
 
"And to those voices I apologise..for at an age and time when I wasn't wise enough..I have been part of films that celebrated misogyny..I have mouthed lines that vilified regard for your self respect and I have taken a bow to the claps that ensued. NEVER AGAIN..never again will I let disrespect for women be celebrated in my movies! 
 
"Yes..I'm an actor and this is my craft! I will whole heartedly trudge the grey and black with characters that possess unhinged moral compasses...but I will never let these men be glorified or their actions justified on screen.
 
"Once again..ladies and gentlemen..stand up and applaud for her! Behind the gutsy spunk, there is a vulnerable celebrity who knew well enough what this decision of hers would mean to a life under constant scrutiny. But she also knew..that she had to see it through...for that would set an example..light a torch that will show a path for many to follow!Today she makes a statement..
 
"A statement of extraordinary courage! Fanboy for life...dear friend..fanboy for life!" Prithviraj added.
 
Pulsar Suni, the prime accused in the sensational case which has sent shock waves through the film industry in Kerala and elsewhere, was arrested by the police in dramatic circumstances from the premises of the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) here on Thursday.
 
Suni and his alleged accomplice Vijeesh were arrrested when they managed to evade the policemen posted around the complex and sneak into the court to surrender before a magistrate. They reached there around 1 pm, during lunch hour, when the magistrate was not in the court, and the police swooped on them and dragged them to waiting vehicles and drove away, in full media glare as scores of onlookers watched.
 
The duo were taken to the Police Club at Aluva near here, where they were questioned before they were produced in court the next day.
 
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The 30-year-old actress was waylaid late in the evening of February 17 by three persons while she was on her way from her home in Thrissur to the house of another well-known actress.
 
She was travelling alone with the driver in a car sent by the production unit of a film she is working on when the car was intercepted by a van carrying the three men near Athani in Angamaly near here.
 
The three men then forced their way into her car and drove around for some time, during which they harassed her and also took photographs and a video of her, sources said. They finally stopped at at Padamugal, near Kakkanad, and fled in another car, sources said.
 
According to them, the actress then managed to reach the residence of a well-known film director in Kakkanad, on whose film she had been working. The director informed the police, who reached his residence soon and recorded the actress' statement.
 
The actress is understood to have told the police that one of the men was her former driver, known as Pulsar Suni because of a Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle he owned.
 
Apart from the driver who was driving the car she was travelling in on that night, police had arrested Manikandan, the third man in the group, some days ago from Palakkad.
 
In the last two days, the police have tried to retrace the route that the abductors took on the night of February 17 and also to find the mobile phone with which they took pictures of her. The accused claimed they had thrown the phone into a drain on the way, but the police have not been able to find it so far.
 
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Pulsar Suni, main accused in actress attack case, arrested from Kochi court premises

Pulsar Suni, the prime accused in the sensational abduction and harassment of a popular Malayalam actress last Friday night, was arrested by the police in dramatic circumstances from the premises of the additional chief judicial magistrate in Kochi, Kerala on Thursday.

Pulsar Suni
Pulsar Suni
Pulsar Suni, the prime accused in the sensational abduction and harassment of a popular Malayalam actress last Friday night, was arrested by the police in dramatic circumstances from the premises of the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) here today.
 
Suni and his alleged accomplice Vijeesh were arrrested when they managed to evade the policemen posted around the complex and sneak into the court to surrender before a magistrate.
 
They reached there around 1 pm, during lunch hour, when the magistrate was not in the court, and the police swooped on them and dragged them to waiting vehicles and drove away, in full media glare as scores of onlookers watched.
 
The duo were taken to the Police Club at Aluva near here, where they will be questioned in detail, sources said.
 
The 30-year-old actress was waylaid late in the night of February 17 by three persons while she was on her way from her home in Thrissur to Kochi for the dubbing of a movie she is doing.
 
 
She was travelling alone with the driver in a car sent by the production unit when the car was intercepted by a van carrying the three men near Athani in Angamaly near here.
 
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The three men then forced their way into her car and drove around for some time, during which they harassed her and also took photographs and a video of her, sources said. They finally stopped at at Padamugal, near Kakkanad, and fled in another car, sources said.
 
According to them, the actress then managed to reach the residence of a well-known film director in Kakkanad, for whose film she had been shooting.
 
The director informed the police, who reached his residence soon and recorded the actress' statement.
 
The actress is understood to have told the police that one of the men was her former driver, known as Pulsar Suni becasue of a Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle he owned.
 
Apart from the driver who was driving the car she was travelling in on that night, police had arrested Manikandan, the third man in the group, some days ago from Palakkad.
 
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Major fire breaks out in shops in Kozhikode's Mithayi Theruvu area

 
15 shops gutted as fire breaks out at SM street market in Kozhikode
A major fire broke out in a textile shop in the Mithayi Theruvu (Sweetmeat Street) area, one of the city's most prominent commercial centres, here this morning.
 
The three-storeyed shop, Modern Textiles, located near Radha Theatre, was gutted in the blaze, which also spread to some nearby shops, on either side of the building as well as in its rear portion, which is a maze of shops selling textiles, footwear, plastic products and such items.
 
The fire broke out around 11.30 am and scores of local people immediately began efforts to douse the flames even as several fire tenders and police reached the scene.
 
The narrow streets in the area and the thick smoke from the fire made the task of the fire brigade that much more difficult.
 
While goods worth lakhs of rupees were destroyed in the fire, no one was reported injured, the sources said.
 
In a heroic effort, fraught with risks, fire brigade personnel used a ladder and removed five gas cylinders stored on the upper floor of one of the shops even as the fire raged.
The fire was finally brought under control by mid-afternoon.
 
Employees and customers in the shops managed to come out before the fire spread, sources said. All shops in the area were shut down as soon as the fire broke out.
 
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‘Kochi Biennale artworks play with truth, perception’: Sanjana Kapoor

Actress Sanjana Kapoor viewing Orijit Sen's installation 'Go Playces' at Aspinwall House,Fort Kochi in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, in Kochi on February 20, 2017.
Actress Sanjana Kapoor viewing Orijit Sen's installation 'Go Playces' at Aspinwall House,Fort Kochi in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, in Kochi on February 20, 2017.
Observing a playful quality in the artworks on display at the ongoing third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), noted theatre practitioner and actress Sanjana Kapoor described India’s only biennale as a “beautiful” experience.
 
“There is a kind of playfulness to the works this time. It feels like the artists are playing with the ideas of what visitors can see, what they can perceive and what the truth is. There are so much more immersive and experiential exhibits this time,” said Kapoor, formerly the head of the famed Prithvi theatre in Mumbai.
 
A repeat visitor to the Biennale, Kapoor felt “at least three days are needed to experience this spectacle” in its entirety. Kapoor, who made her acting debut in the classic film 36 Chowringhee Lane – produced by her father Shashi Kapoor and starring her mother Jennifer Kendal, was disappointed to have missed out on the performances of the stage productions that are part of KMB 2016, but lauded the inclusion of theatre in the biennale space.
 
Of the performances she did manage to partake in during her visit to primary venue Aspinwall House today, Kapoor said Lundahl and Seitl’s ‘blindfold tour’ installation ‘Symphony of a Missing Room: An Imagines Museum’ stood out.
 
“The idea, the implementation and the way I was guided and instructed about what to hear and what not to see. The most fascinating part of that work is the trust that it demands. I had to put faith in the person who guided me, to trust the whole concept of the artist. For me, it is an important work at a time when people are cynical and sceptical about everything,” she said.
 
Kapoor, who was accompanied by Keli festival director K. Ramachandran on her visit, said, “Having the tour end at the ‘Sea of Pain’ was a mind-blowing experience. Raúl Zurita’s poetry installation is the most powerful work in the Biennale.”
 
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Kerala Tourism to organize travel event in Abu Dhabi

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan unveiling the logo of Explore Kerala in the presence Ashraf Ali MA, Executive Director, Lulu Group, Nandakumar, Chief Communication Officer and Biju Kottarathil, Media Secretary in Thiruvananthapuram on February 18, 2017.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan unveiling the logo of Explore Kerala in the presence Ashraf Ali MA, Executive Director, Lulu Group, Nandakumar, Chief Communication Officer and Biju Kottarathil, Media Secretary in Thiruvananthapuram on February 18, 2017.
The Kerala Tourism Department, in association with the Lulu Group, has organized a four-day long travel and tourism event, “Explore Kerala" at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to promote tourist destinations in the state and attract travellers from the Gulf nations.
 
The India Tourism Office in Dubai, Tourism India and Brand Kerala magazines are also part of the event, a press release from the Lulu Group said.
 
The logo of Explore Kerala was unveiled by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the presence Ashraf Ali MA, Lulu Group Executive Director, Nandakumar, Chief Communication Officer, Biju Kottarathil, Media Secretary and other officials.
 
The event will be held from February 22 – 25 at Mushrif  Mall in Abu Dhabi. Many leading hotels and resorts, including including The Raviz Hotels & Resorts, Uday Samudra Kovalam, Vythiri Village Wayanad, Somatheeram Ayurveda Resort  and two leading tour operators – Gateway Malabar Holidays and The Blue Yonder - from Kerala will showcase their products along with a presentation of destinations in the state.
 
A colourful Kerala cultural performance, including Kathakali, Mohiniyattom, Theyyam and Thayambaka will also be the part of the event.
 
“Kerala and Malayalees has always considered the UAE as their second home and Kerala Tourism identified  the potential of the ever growing UAE Tourism market.  Considering tourist arrivals to Kerala from the Middle East, UAE is the second biggest market after Saudi Arabia and followed by the Oman and Kuwait,”  Mr. Kadakampally  Surendran, Minister for Tourism, Government of Kerala, said.
 
“In 2015, there were 71,500 tourists from Saudi Arabia (65,048 in 2014 and 48,346 in 2013), 20,000 plus ( 18,264 in 2014 and  17,475 in 2013)  from the UAE and 17,924 from Oman, who visited the state. From the Middle East alone, we have more than one lakh visitors,” he added.
 
He said Explore Kerala@ Abu Dhabi would boost the tourism potential of the state, called "God's Own Country", in the Gulf and Middle East market.
 
"The Kerala government has already extended its support for this event and the synergy between public and private sector for the development of tourism infrastructure and marketing is highly commendable and we are committed to continue this relationship in future too," he said.
 
Mr. Ashraf Ali said similar events to promote Kerala as a destination would also be organised in Luly Hypermarkets and shopping malls in the Gulf states in association with the Kerala Tourism Department.
 
The four-day event will be officially inaugurated by Sultan Hamad Al Mutawa Al Dhaheri,  Executive Director of Abu Dhabi Tourism. Navdeep Suri, Indian Ambassador to UAE, Harib Al Muhairi, Etihad Airways Senior Vice President, IRV Rao, India Tourism  Director and many dignitaries will also grace the occasion.
 
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Popular Malayalam film actress waylaid, harassed in Kochi

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A popular Malayalam actress was waylaid by a group of about three unidentified persons while she was on her way home in Kochi late last night and harassed for some time before they fled, sources said.
 
The actress was travelling alone with her driver, on her way back from a film shoot in Thrissur around 10.30 pm yesterday, when her car was intercepted by a van carrying the three men near Athani in Angamaly near here, they said.
 
The three men then forced their way into her car and forced the driver to drive around for some time during which they harassed her and also took photographers and a video of her.
 
They finally stopped at at Padamugal, near Kakkanad, and fled in another car, sources said.
 
According to them, the actress then managed to reach the residence of a well-known film director in Kakkanad, for whose film she had been shooting,.
 
The director informed the police, who reached his residence soon and recorded the actress' statement.
 
The sources said the police are looking at the possible role of one of her former drivers in the incident. 
 
The police have also questioned the driver who was driving her car at the time of the incident to find out more details about what had happened.
 
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Kerala CM Vijayan writes to Modi, seeks enquiry into controversy around Ahamed's death

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an enquiry into the controversy surrounding the alleged delay in announcing the death of former Union Minister and IUML President E. Ahamed on Wednesday.
 
Members of Mr. Ahamed's family, his party and other Opposition parties have alleged that the announcement about his death was delayed for fear that it might lead to a postponment of the presentation of the Union Budget that was to be made in Parliament later that day.
 
They also said that Mr. Ahamed's family, including his son, daughter and son-in-law, who had flown in from the Gulf, were not allowed to see him.
 
Mr. Ahamed, 78, had suffered a cardiac arrest in Parliament on Tuesday and was rushed to the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital. The hospital has denied that it had tried to suppress the news of his death. It said Mr. Ahamed was alive when brought to the hospital and that they had tried to revive him, but he finally died at 2.15 am on Wednesday.
 
Drawing Mr. Modi's attention to the controversy, Mr. Vijayan, in his letter dated February 2, said the protocol of treatment provided to Mr. Ahamed and the manner in which his colleagues from Parliament as well as his family members were dealt with by the hospital staff had raised serious concerns. 
 
"Needless to say, the situation should have been handled in a humanitarian way.
 
"To allay the apprehensions of his family, colleagues and the people of Kerala, I request that the entire matter may kindly be enquired into. I would also like to suggest that steps may be taken to avoid such incidents in the future," Mr. Vijayan said.
 
He also appreciated Mr. Modi's gesture in paying his last respects to Mr. Ahamed by visiting his house.
 
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Kerala: Spurned youth sets girl, self ablaze; both die of burns

 
Jilted youth sets girl ablaze, kills self in Kerala
A young man who was spurned by a girl set her and himself ablaze and both succumbed to burn injuries later in an incident at the School of Medical Education (SME), affiliated to the Mahatma Gandhi University, at Kottayam in Kerala yesterday.
 
The youth was identified as Adarsh, 25, who was a student of the 2009 batch of the Bachelor of Physiotherapy programme at the SME and hailed from Puthenthura near Neendakara in the adjoining district of Kollam.
 
The girl was identified as Lakshmi (21), who was a student of the 2013 batch of the same course. She belonged to Chingoli near Haripad in the nearby district of Alappuzha.
 
College officials told journalists that Adarsh, who had to appear for a supplementary examination yesterday, came into the girl's classroom during the break and asked to speak to her alone, which she refused. He went away but returned a little later with a can of petrol, with which he doused her.
 
The girl ran out of the room, but the youth chased her, caught her and hugged her and warned her fellow students against approaching them and trying to save her. He then set himself and the girl ablaze using a cigarrette lighter he was carrying.
 
Both of them were rushed to the Government Medical College Hospital here. Even as doctors started treating them, their depositions were taken by the police in the presence of a magistrate. Doctors said Adarsh had suffered 75% burns and the Lakshmi 60% burns. Both were declared dead by late evening yesterday.
 
Two of the girl's classmates, who tried to save them, also suffered minor burn injuries, the sources said.
 
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IUML President and former Union Minister E. Ahamed passes away

E. Ahamed
E. Ahamed
Former Minister of State for External Affairs and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) national president E. Ahamed passed away at the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital here in the early hours of today after suffering a cardiac arrest in Parliament yesterday.
 
He was 78. He is survived by two sons and a daughter. His wife Zuhara Ahamed had predeceased him.
 
His funeral will be held at Kannur in Kerala tomorrow. His body will be kept at his residence here till noon today for people to pay their last respects after which it will be flown to Kozhikode this afternoon. The body will be taken to the Haj House at Karipur and then the League House in Kozhikode, sources close to his family said.
 
Born on April 29, 1938, Mr. Ahamed obtained a B.A. degree from the Government Brennen College at Telicherry and later took a degree in law from the Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram.
 
He was elected to the Kerala Legislative Assembly for five terms between 1967 and 1991. He served as the Chairman of the Municipal Council of Kannur in 1981-83 and as the Minister for Industry in Kerala from 1982-87.
 
Mr. Ahamed was elected to the 10th Lok Sabha in 1991 and was re-elected in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014.
 
He served as General Secretary of the IUML from 1995 onwards. He was appointed Union Minister of State for External Affairs in May 2004. He was elected National President of the IUML on September 14, 2008.
 
Between 2009 and 2011, Mr. Ahamed served as Minister of State for Railways and later as the Minister of State for External Affairs. He also served as the Minister of State for Human Resource Development between July 2011 and October 2012. He was elected to the 16th Lok Sabha in May 2014 for his seventh term in the House.
 
He has authored books such as One Foreign Journey and Numerous Memories;  A Story of Renaissance of Indian Muslims (in Malayalam);  The Leaders I know (in Malayalam); andIndia`s Voice at United Nations.
 
He was the executive director of the Chandrika daily newspaper and weekly in Kerala and also contributed articles to various journals. He was associated with several educational, cultural and social institutions.
 
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Infosys engineer found dead near her workstation in Pune

 
25-year-old Infosys engineer found dead in her office
A 25-year-old software engineer working for IT services major Infosys was found dead near her workstation on the ninth floor of the company's office in the Rajiv Gandhi Infotech Park in Hinjewadi here last night, police said.
 
Police officials said the woman, K. Rasila Raju, who hailed from Kerala and had come to the office on Sunday afternoon on her day off to work on a project, appeared to have been strangulated with a computer cable in an apparent case of murder.
 
A security guard posted in the building was arrested this morning from Mumbai in connection with the case, and the police will produce him in court where they are expected to seek his remand.
 
Sources said the police zeroed in on the suspect after finding that he was the only one who had accessed the floor during the period she was there.
 
Police officials said Rasila was working on a project along with two of her colleagues in Infosys' Bangalore office. She was in touch with them till around 5 pm after which they did not hear from her.
 
According to them, her manager had tried to call her repeatedly but did not get any response. The manager then contacted the security personnel and requested them to check if Rasila was at her desk.
 
Security guards who went to check on her around 8 pm found her lying on the floor near her workstation, the police said.
 
According to the sources, police think the murder took place  between 5 pm and 6.30 pm, when the guard left the office at the end of his duty hours. He later left for Mumbai, but his movement was tracked through his mobile telephone and he was nabbed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in the metropolis, from where he was apparently planning to board a train to his home state, they added.
 
The police have informed Rasila's family in Kerala and they are expected to reach the city later today.
 
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Illusion of freedom of speech among ways to stifle dissent: Tharoor

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The creation of an illusion of freedom of speech is among the more insidious ways to stifle dissent in society, according to former Union Minister, Shashi Tharoor who was part of a discussion at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) here yesterday.
 
“There are many ways dissent can be stifled. The old fashioned school of locking people up and sending them to concentration camps but the other way is getting employers to hound them for instance.
 
"The more insidious and sophisticated ways are more dangerous because they preserve the illusion of freedom of speech,”  the MP from Thiruvanananthapuram said.
 
He was part of a discussion, "Dissent and Discourse” organised by the BM Anand Foundation as a collateral of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The discussion aimed to explore the notion of dissent and its significance in public discourse, creativity and progress. 
 
Dr Tharoor was joined on the panel by KMB co-founder Riyas Komu, BJP leader Shazia Ilmi and art curator Alka Pande The discussion was moderated by biographer and writer Aditi Anand.
 
Given the context of the Biennale, the conversation focused on the art and the role of BM Anand, specifically the subaltern, within society and the civic and social power of art as a voice of dissent and a tool for advancing social justice.
 
Speaking from an artist’s perspective, Komu said dissent could be viewed in a multilayered manner and the Kochi Muziris Biennale has succeeded in creating “a site where many discourses can happen".
 
“For us as a foundation the focus is to celebrate the diversity and cosmopolitanism of the historic Muziris region. I think Kochi is sort of doing a cultural acupuncture which can benefit the nation culturally in the long run,” Komu said.
 
Referring to an anecdotal conversation with eminent historian K. N. Pannikar and  KCHR Chairman P. J. Cherian , who led the field team in Muziris excavations, Komu said, “Just like they used the metaphor that with every 1 metre of digging, they crossed the history of over 1000 years, we  as a biennale get energy to present voices of multiplicity and plurality".
 
Tharoor referred to Gandhi’s sense of justice where he was ready to accept the punishment meted out to dissenters but “today people want to dissent without the punishment.”
 
“Within any framework of freedom, dissent and dialogue are an essential part of society. I think like Leonardo da Vinci says nothing strengthens authority like silence so the need to speak out is important. Freedom and dissent are two sides of the same coin,” Ilmi said. 
 
Pande, who curated the first exhibition of BM Anand in New Delhi earlier this year, said the artist was “absolutely fearless in his language of art and never played to the market and was absolutely honest to his craft.”
 
The BM Foundation’s co-founders, Neeraj Gulati and Kriti Anand, who is the daughter of BM Anand, were also present at the function.
 
The selection of works being displayed as a collateral at the KMB features evocative, often apocalyptic pieces in diverse mediums. There are, in all, 10 scratchboards, 10 scratchboard sketches, three sets of 13 drawings, one ink and watercolour on paper and a single oil on canvas.
 
Curated by young researcher and writer Shruthi Issac, the exhibition is a sampling of the estimated 1,500 surviving works by BM Anand – from scratchboards, landscapes, watercolours and sketches to commercial illustrations for books, posters, newspapers and magazines.
 
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