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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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Kerala: Man immolates himself at BJP Sabarimala protest venue, party calls for shutdown

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A 50-year-old man early on Thursday set himself on fire at a BJP protest venue here and died at the state-run Medical College Hospital in the evening, police said.
 
Venugopalan Nair poured kerosene on his clothes, set them on fire and ran into the protest venue in front of the state Secretariat.
 
At the venue was former state BJP President C. K. Padmanabhan, who is on an indefinite fast against the manner in which the Kerala government is handling the Sabarimala temple issue after the Supreme Court ruled in September that all women can enter the shrine.
 
Nair was rushed to the hospital. He had suffered 90 per cent burns and breathed his last on Thursday evening.
 
Following the death, the BJP called a dawn-to-dusk shutdown in Kerala on Friday.
 
While the police are yet to ascertain the reason for the immolation, the BJP is linking it to the Sabarimala temple issue.
 
But in his dying declaration, Nair has said he does not wish to live any longer and is ending his life and made no mention of the Sabarimala temple.
 
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Kerala's one-film wonder Ajayan passes away

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Ajayan, who shot into fame with the only film that he directed "Perunthachen" (master carpenter), died here on Thursday, said his colleague and veteran character actor Nedumudi Venu.
 
Ajayan breathed his last at a private hospital here after a cardiac arrest, Venu said.
 
He is survived by his wife and two children.
 
Venu said it was always a mystery that Ajayan failed to make more movies.
 
"He was certainly immensely talented but do not know what and where he got stuck. He was my junior in college and we have had a very long association."
 
State Culture and Cinema Minister A. K. Balan condoled Ajayan's death and said that the impact of his only film will continue for a long time.
 
Son of the legendary Malayalam playwright, screenwriter and film director, Thoppil Bhasi, Ajayan began his film career under his father and later worked as associate director to legends like Padmarajan and Bharathan.
 
It was in 1990 that Ajayan turned a full-time director with "Perunthachen", which was a runaway hit and one that won rave reviews and numerous awards.
 
Ajayan won the Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director, Kerala State Film Award for Best Debut Director, in 1990.
 
The film also won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Popular Film in 1990 and was nominated for the Golden Leopard Award at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1992.
 
IANS
 

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Women's Wall: Kerala Assembly in turmoil, MLAs come to blows

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Kerala MLAs came to blows on Thursday inside the Assembly after the opposition called the proposed Women's Wall event on New Year's Day meant to take forward gender equality, "nothing but a communal wall that will be dismantled".
 
The Assembly session, which concluded on Thursday, has been facing turmoil right from the beginning of the 13-day session, coinciding with the ongoing Sabarimala pilgrimage amid prohibitory orders. 
 
The opposition Congress-led UDF has been up in arms against the Pinarayi Vijayan government for turning Sabarimala into a police fortress, causing innumerable hardships to the pilgrims.
 
On Thursday, as the question hour ended, Deputy Leader of Opposition and senior Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) member M. K. Muneer sought to move an adjournment motion to discuss the Women's Wall programme of the state government.
 
Vijayan responded saying that the event was being held to take forward the ideology of gender equality and uphold the dignity of women.
 
"If you (the opposition) are against this, please say that. We assure the House, no government money is being spent for this programme. The state government is just taking part to see that the ideology of great reformer Sree Narayana Guru is taken forward," he told the Assembly. 
 
Vijayan asked the opposition: "How can you all say that this is a communal event?" His speech was greeted by the treasury benches by thumping the desk. 
 
Then, Muneer got up to speak. He said: "Like in West Germany, if the Berlin wall was dismantled, the Women's Wall, which is a communal wall would be dismantled."
 
That was all that he could say, and the entire treasury bench was up on their feet, sloganeering.
 
They trooped to the Speaker's podium, forcing P. Sreeramakrishnan to adjourn the house.
 
When the house met again, Muneer said: "Why is that when I say the word communal wall, you go berserk, when others use the same word, there is no issue. I stick by what I said that this is nothing but a 'communal wall'. 
 
"You (Vijayan) say that this wall is part of the renaissance movement, but what right do you have to speak about renaissance. 
 
"It's just not the Hindus who took part in the erstwhile Renaissance Movement, Christians and Muslims also took part and we wish to ask you what wall are you now going to build without the Christians and Muslims," said Muneer.
 
Following which the sloganeering from across the benches increased, forcing the Speaker to rush through the listed business of the day.
 
The sloganeering and trooping of both benches' MLAs almost led to a clash, with P. K. Basheer of the IUML and V. Joy of the CPI-M coming to blows.
 
State Agriculture Minister V. S. Sunilkumar forcefully took away Joy, while Basheer was also taken away by others.
 
With the session coming to a close, Congress' Ramesh Chennithala said: "Vijayan knows that he has been caught on the wrong foot on the 'communal wall'. This is a communal wall and we will oppose it." 
 
The three protesting UDF members moved out of the foyer to take the protest outside the Assembly, as it was closed.
 
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SC reverses its own orders, commutes death sentence to life imprisonment for two

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed its own decisions and commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment of one M. A. Antony from Kerala and that of Rajendra Prahladrao Wasnik from Maharashtra, citing socio-economic background of the Kerala man for relaxing the sentence.
 
In the case of Wasnik, the court said that probability of his getting reformed, rehabilitated and re-integrated into the society was not considered.
 
The death sentence of both Antony and Wasnik were commuted to life imprisonment by the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Deepak Gupta by two separated judgments.
 
While in the case of Antony, the court ordered that the death sentence is "converted into a sentence of imprisonment for life", in the case of Wasink, the court ordered that he "should not be released from custody for the rest of his normal life".
 
Antony was convicted for eliminating a family of six by killing all of them on the night of January 7, 2001 in Aluva Town of Ernakulam Adistrict in Kerala.
 
In the case of Wasnik, he was convicted for the rape and murder of a three-year-old girl in the intervening night of March 2 and 3, 2007 in Amravati district of Maharashtra.
 
In both cases, they were convicted by the trial court and sentenced to death, which were upheld by the high courts and also the Supreme Court. In both cases, the review petitions, too, were rejected by the top court.
 
They were given a fresh hearing of their review petition in the wake of September 2, 2014 top court constitution bench observation that the hearing of a plea against death sentence would be done by a bench of three judges and there would be a limited open court hearing of the review petitions as well by a three-judge bench.
 
The top court by its September 2, 2014 judgment had said that in all the cases where review petitions have been rejected by the top court but death sentence has not been carried out, the convict can apply for reopening the review petition within one month from the date of decision rendered by the constitution bench.
 
Commuting the death sentence of Anthony to imprisonment for life, Justice Lokur said: "The socio-economic condition of the appellant (Antony) was a significant factor that ought to have been taken into consideration by the trial court as well as the high court while considering the punishment to be given to the appellant."
 
While the socio-economic condition of a convict is not a factor for disproving his guilt, the court on Wednesday said: "It is a factor that must be taken into consideration for the purposes of awarding an appropriate sentence to a convict."
 
Commuting the death sentence of Wasnik to imprisonment for rest of his normal life, Justice Lokur said: "We are of opinion that for the purposes of sentencing, the Sessions Judge, the high court as well as this court did not take into consideration the probability of reformation, rehabilitation and social re-integration of the appellant into society."
 
"Indeed, no material or evidence was placed before the courts to arrive at any conclusion in this regard one way or the other and for whatever it is worth on the facts of this case."
 
The prosecution, the court said, was "remiss in not producing the available DNA evidence and the failure to produce material evidence must lead to an adverse presumption against the prosecution and in favour of the appellant (Wasnik) for the purposes of sentencing."
 
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Kerala: Senior Congress leader C.N. Balakrishnan dead

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Senior Congress leader and former Kerala Minister C. N. Balakrishnan died at a private hospital here due to pneumonia, party sources said on Tuesday. He was 87.
 
He died on Monday night, the sources said.
 
A long-standing aide of former Kerala Chief Minister K. Karunakaran, Balakrishnan was the Thrissur district Congress committee president for 17 years and was also the treasurer of the state unit for long.
 
It was in 2011 that Balakrishnan first contested the polls and went on to become the state Cooperation Minister in the Oommen Chandy cabinet.
 
He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
 
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Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 to feature works of 94 artist from across world

As many as 94 artists' works will be on display at the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale -- South Asia's biggest contemporary art event -- that will begin here on Wednesday.
 
The 108-day event, that will go on until March 29, 2019 and will be held at ten venues here, will be inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
 
Curated by eminent artist Anita Dube, the event will also feature seminars, workshops, lectures, film screenings and performances.
 
What’s more, the curatorial theme of ‘Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life’ will encourage visitors at the Biennale to participate in its course beyond being viewers. For that, the Biennale pavilion will double up as a public space for conversation.
 
“The pavilion will have no hierarchies over who could speak on what, how long, when and in which language,” said Dube. “It is energised by the interactions between works, the dialogue sparked between artistic voices and practices. The audience is invited to share, to listen, and even to challenge the space.”
 
This emphasis on interaction will be a defining feature of the festival, according to Bose Krishnamachari, president of the Kochi Biennale Foundation. He said Dube has been credited with curating the first biennale anywhere in the world to have women totalling more than half of the participating artists.
 
On the evening of December 12 in Fort Kochi, the Chief Minister will declare the festival open. The function at Parade Ground, slated to begin with a Chenda Melam orchestra led by Peruvanam Kuttan Marrar will also be addressed by Yusuf Ali, Chairman and Managing Director of LuLu Group International, Nilima Sheikh, artist and Feroze Gujral, director, Gujral Foundation and trustee of the Biennale. 
 
The inauguration will be followed by a live performance by the Bangalore-based Vasu Dixit Collective.
 
Earlier that day, the Biennale flag will be hoisted at Aspinwall House, the main venue of the festival. This will be followed by a walk with the curator. The afternoon will see two artist performances — one by Mexican Tania Candiani (Aspinwall) and other by Netherlands-based Rana Hamadeh (MAP Project Space).
 
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Lucknow-born Dube, who studied Art Criticism at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, has conceived the Biennale following a year-long travel around the globe. That engagement, defined by intense research and diverse dialogues with artists, led her to shortlist the artists for the Biennale.
 
The event will be held across heritage venues in the twin towns of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, as well as in downtown Ernakulam. The venues are: Aspinwall House, Durbar Hall (Ernakulam), Pepper House, Cabral Yard (site of the Biennale Pavilion), David Hall, Kashi Art Café, Kashi Town House, Anand Warehouse, TKM Warehouse and MAP Project Space.
 
A highlight of the Biennale is a team of 20 dedicated ‘art mediators’ who will be residing in Kochi through the event and giving guided tours every day free of charge. Another novel addition is the idea of infra-projects, which is a set of four art projects put together by external curators in alignment with the broader curatorial theme.
 
There will also be a Students’ Biennale, featuring 200 student-artists, belonging to private and public art schools from across India and parts of South Asia. Other ancillary events include the Let’s Talk series, presentations and discussions by artists and thinkers, Artists’ Cinema, which presents curated packages of films, and the Music of Muziris concert series, showcasing a wide range of traditional and contemporary music acts.
 
The Foundation’s ‘Art by Children’ (ABC) runs as an endeavour that offers resources for artistic experimentation. Integral to it is the ‘art room’, a learning project at Cabral Yard, aiming to introduce people to art making from a young age. Also, there is a two-month Graffiti Residency on till December 20.
 
Materials used for the Biennale's Pavilion will be subsequently repurposed to construct a dozen houses for those affected by the August floods and landslides in the state. In January 18 next year, select paintings, sculptures and installations of more than 40 artists will be auctioned in Kochi as part of the Foundation’s ARK (Art Rises for Kerala) initiative in partnership with auction house Saffronart.
 
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Kerala's fourth international airport commissioned at Kannur

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu commissioned the Kannur International Airport Ltd (KIAL) here on Sunday.
 
The first flight from the airport was flagged off by the chief guests at 10 a.m. It was an Air India Express flight with 180 passengers to Abu Dhabi. All passengers received a gift each from KIAL.
 
This is the fourth international airport in the state after the ones in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode.
 
Hundreds of people, including politicians, were present to witness a cultural programme ahead of the take off of the Abu Dhabi flight.
 
Two more flights were listed for the day. 
 
Flights that would operate from here includes those to the UAE, Oman and Qatar, besides domestic ones to Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Mumbai, among other destinations.
 
The KIAL is designed to serve more than 1.5 million international passengers annually.
 
It is expected to boost tourism in Kannur, Kasargode, Wayanad and increase trade and commerce in the handloom and spices sectors.
 
The airport would be able to handle 2,000 passengers at a time.
 
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Prabhu opens MPEDA Multi-species aquaculture complex at Vallarpadam

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Kerala must host an international summit on fishing for the crucial sector to ensure steady development in the coastal state, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said today.
 
The Centre will provide all the support for such a summit that can feature experts from countries like Korea and Japan that are major consumers of India’s marine food, Mr Prabhu said after inaugurating a pioneering multispecies aquaculture complex built by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) in Vallarpadom island. 
 
The Rs 7.26-crore state-of-the-art facility in 9 acres of land facilitates production of marine food from disease-free breeds, featuring a hatchery for black tiger shrimp and six nurseries.
 
Noting that value-added products will play an increasingly decisive role in the growth of the fishing sector, the Minister said India was aiming at a 60-million-dollar turnover of Agricultural exports in the next five years. He called upon fish farmers to eye the international market and fulfil international business parameters.
 
Mr Prabhu exhorted them to rely mainly on sustainable technology, adding that MPEDA will offer help on this front. “India’s fishing sector is facing multiple problems, also owing to climate change. Aquaculture using inland water-bodies gives fresh vitality to it,” he added.
 
He emphasized that export should be the ultimate aim of each aqua farmer and they should ensure that the aquaculture production is sustainable and meets the export quality norms. MPEDA will offer all kinds of assistance in this direction, he added.
 
Mr Prabhu later distributed fingerlings raised at the MPEDA aquaculture complex to farmers and deposited a fresh bunch of fingerlings at its hatchery.
 
The new MPEDA project will cater to the demand from the aquaculture farmers in Kerala as well as the neighbouring states. Its highlight is a hatchery for black tiger shrimp and six nurseries for Mud crab and 4 varieties of finfish. namely. Seabass, Cobia, Silver Pompano and GIFT (Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia). 
 
The hatchery has an annual production capacity of 20 million post-larval Black Tiger shrimp, and the nurseries can produce 16.5 lakh fingerlings of finfish and 0.5 lakh crablets which will help the farmers to diversify and scale up the aquaculture production.
 
It also has a quarantine facility and an effluent treatment system as per biosecurity norms.  The nurseries meant for diversified fish/shellfish species are ponds lined with high-density polyethene and provided with necessary biosecurity protocols. 
 
The facility’s proximity to the international airport is an added advantage, ensuring faster transportation of seeds. It can become a model for the establishment of similar facilities in other parts of the country especially in the Konkan region and parts of Maharashtra.
 
J Mercykuty Amma, Kerala Minister for Fisheries, Harbour Engineering and Cashew Industry, presiding over the function, said the MPEDA complex will boost Kerala’s fishing sector. 
 
“As much as 57 per cent of the country’s fish production comes from aquaculture, but this is much less in Kerala,” she added. The Minister also concurred with Mr Prabhu’s viewpoint that aquaculture in the state should focus more on inland water-bodies.
 
Prof. K. V. Thomas, MP, expressed concern at the dwindling catch in the marine sector and expressed the hope that MPEDA’s new facility at Vallarpadam will help to compensate the gap in fish production through aquaculture.
 
The others present were S Sarma, MLA, Dr A Jayathilak, former chairman MPEDA and Secretary Kerala Port Department, MPEDA Chairman KS Srinivas, who is the President of RGCA, MPEDA Secretary B Sreekumar and A Navaneeth Krishnan, MP from Tamil Nadu.
 
The Union Minister also inaugurated MPEDA’s signature stall that will function from the authority’s headquarters in Ernakulam.
 
The MPEDA’s signature stall, named ‘Seafood India’, is a 1700-sq ft facility in Panampilly Nagar, selling and displaying value-added marine products of exporters, besides exhibiting products developed by prominent fisheries research institutions such as CMFRI, CIFT and NIFPHATT. 
 
It also has literature narrating the activities of MPEDA and its societies such as NETFISH, RGCA and NaCSA. Enabled with information kiosks to browse the details about each product displayed in the stall, the stall provides information ranging from its production, processing, cooking and nutritional content also, making it a ‘must visit’ spot in the city.
 
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No early hearing of Kerala plea to transfer Sabarimala cases to SC

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The Supreme Court on Friday declined to hold an early hearing of the Kerala government's plea seeking transfer of a batch of cross-petitions on the Sabarimala temple row from the High Court to the top court.
 
A number of petitions have been filed both by the devotees and rights activists on the handling of the situation on the ground after the top court verdict of September 28 permitting the entry of women of all ages to the Sabarimala temple.
 
"Let it come in due course," said a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi as the Kerala government's counsel sought an early hearing of the state's plea to transfer cases before the High Court to the top court.
 
The apex court had on November 13 decided to go for open court hearings on January 22 of the nearly 50 petitions seeking a recall of its order permitting women of all age groups to pray at the temple in Kerala.
 
The prayers in the fresh petitions effectively boils down to upholding the practice of the Sabarimala temple prohibiting the entry of girls and women between the age group of 10 and 50 years in the shrine.
 
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Kerala BJP leader Surendran gets bail after 20 days

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Senior Kerala BJP leader K. Surendran, who was taken into custody from the Sabarimala base camp town nearly three weeks back for breaking a security cordon, secured bail from the Kerala High Court here on Friday.
 
The court also asked for a Rs two lakh surety amount as it discharged him in a case involving an attack on a 52-year-old woman, who had arrived at the Sabarimala temple to take part in a ritual of her grandson.
 
The BJP General Secretary though was picked up on November 17 from Pamba town for breaking a police cordon, was later given a jail time of 20 days as the police reopened 15 other previous cases registered against him for various offenses, including eight in which his arrest warrants were pending.
 
Surendran who had earlier secured bail in all the other cases, on Friday secured bail in the woman-attack case that enabled him to walk out of jail.
 
The BJP leader had been housed at the Central jail in Thiruvananthapuram till now. He was asked by the court not to enter the Pathanamthitta district -- where the Lord Ayyappa shrine is located -- and also surrender his passport.
 
Surendran's party colleague A. N. Radhakrishnan was on an indefinite hunger strike in front of the state secretariat for five days now demanding his freedom.
 
BJP has accused Chief Minister Pianarayi Vijayan of trying to settle political scores with the arrest.
 
Spokesperson M. S.Kumar said this is nothing but settling political scores because State Minister for Devasoms Kadakampally Surendran has more than two dozen cases registered against him and he is walking around freely. 
 
The temple town has witnessed protests by Hindu groups since the September 28 Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple that hitherto banned girls and women aged between 10 and 50.
 
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Wide-bodied aircraft operations to resume from Calicut Airport from Wednesday

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Airports Authority of India (AAI) has announced the resumption of wide-bodied aircraft operations from Calicut International Airport by Saudia Airlines from today.
 
Wide-bodied aircraft operations were suspended from May 2015 due to safety reasons.  Subsequently, AAI took action for strengthening and re-carpeting of the runway and grading of a runway strip to cater to the requirement of heavy aircraft operations. 
 
In order to improve safety, AAI has also taken measures to increase the runway end safety area as directed by the regulatory authorities and installed simple touch down zone flights on both runways.
 
Further, a compatibility study and safety assessment was conducted in accordance with the ICAO guidelines as recommended by the joint DGCA-AAI inspection team to assess the suitability of the aerodrome for the safe operation of wide-bodied aircraft. 
 
Based on the compatibility study report, safety assessment and risk mitigation measures, DGCA has issued no-objection certificate (NOC) for wide-bodied aircraft from Calicut airport.  Saudia will commence their services with wide-bodied aircraft (A330-300/B777-200ER) to Riyadh and Jeddah. 
 
Accordingly, SV746/747 Jeddah/Calicut/Jeddah flight will arrive at 1110 hours and depart at1310 hours on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
 
SV892/893 will arrive at 1110 hours and depart at 1310 hours on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
 
Calicut International Airport is a profit-making airport run by AAI and handles more than 3 million passengers annually, of which 2.6 million are international passengers.
 
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As protests shift to state capital, pilgrims flock Sabarimala

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For the first time since the Sabarimala temple opened on November 16, there has been a sharp increase in the number of pilgrims.
 
One reason attributed for this is that the protests of the Sangh parivar against the Supreme Court ruling allowing women of all ages to enter the temple and the arrest of its senior leader K. Surendran has shifted to the state Secretariat.
 
The Congress-led UDF is going hammer and tongs against the Pinarayi Vijayan government in the Kerala Assembly.
 
According to official figures, on Monday a record 79,098 pilgrims arrived at the temple while till 1 p.m. on Tuesday 40,000 pilgrims had made it to the hilltop shrine.
 
Yet, the pilgrim flow is much less than what the temple town normally sees during the festival season.
 
In the previous season, the average number of pilgrims visiting the shrine was around one lakh during the two-month pilgrimage season.
 
The Kerala government has promised to implement the apex court's verdict that struck down a hitherto tradition of not allowing girls and women within 10-50 years from visiting the temple.
 
On Tuesday, a three-member High Court-appointed observer committee consisting of two retired judges and a serving Director General of Police arrived at the temple town to inspect the facilities and the arrangements for the pilgrims.
 
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'Women wall' in Kerala will polarize communities: Congress

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The Congress on Sunday condemned the 'women wall' protest from Kasargode to the Kerala capital announced by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for January 1, saying it it will only whip up communal passions.
 
Addressing the media, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said it was rather strange that Vijayan was doing what no Communist Chief Minister in the state had thought of.
 
"This 'women wall' will only help to polarize communities and compartmentalize people in the name of caste. What is even more strange is that this was decided at a meeting of representatives with dozens of Hindu social organisations where the Chief Secretary was also present. Vijayan should see that this is not a state-sponsored programme," he said.
 
Saturday's meeting was an attempt to garner support following recent protests by Hindu groups in Kerala over the entry of women of all ages to the Sabarimala temple post a Supreme Court verdict.
 
Vijayan sent out invites to over 150 social groups, of which around 70 took part and it was decided to use the #hashtag that the purpose of the 'women wall' would be 'not to turn Kerala into a lunatic asylum'.
 
"Vijayan should release minutes of the meeting... Reports have surfaced that while Vijayan said all have pledged support for the state government on the stand taken by them on the Sabarimala issue, some leaders who took part later said they disagreed," added Chennithala.
 
The apex court on November 13 refused to stay the September verdict, three days before the two month long Sabarimala pilgrimage season began on November 16.
 
The Left Democratic Front government led by the CPI-M has been trying to implement the apex court's verdict even as the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and several Hindu groups are up in arms against it.
 
"The talk of renaissance is not by bringing ladies to Sabarimala as there is no ban on ladies. Instead, there is restriction, which is part of tradition and the rituals associated with the Sabarimala temple. 
 
"The BJP and RSS are trying to create a terror situation in the temple town," added Chennithala.
 
Meanwhile, the Nair Service Society, which represents the Hindu Nair community and which did not attend Saturday's meeting, on Sunday said that the Vijayan government was trying to make political capital out of the Sabarimala issue.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala: Three arrested for refusing women entry to Sabarimala

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Sabarimala protesters on Saturday stopped two women from Andhra Pradesh from advancing towards the Lord Ayyappa temple as they were from the hitherto banned age group, prompting Kerala Police to arrest three men.
 
All three hailed from nearby Ranni and they resisted the two women devotees -- of two different groups -- to advance any further after they had already walked up to the hill.
 
One of the devotees was 28 years old and the other was 42. So far, 14 women have had to return without praying at the shrine even after a court order allowed their entry to Sabarimala.
 
The police, however, said they were not informed by these devotees before their ascent to the hilltop shrine as then they would have provided the required security. 
 
The Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government in the state has vowed to implement a September 28, Supreme Court verdict that allows all women of all age group to offer prayers at the shrine.
 
The police posted in the temple town came to know about the two Andhra devotees only after protests broke out.
 
Both women were then escorted back to the Pamba base camp by the police, and the three men were taken into custody for putting up a strong protest.
 
Hindu groups and other political parties have been protesting here ever since the Supreme Court in September struck down an earlier practice of banning entry of girls and and women aged 10-50.
 
On November 13, the top court also refused to stay its September verdict, three days before the temple opened for the ongoing two-month long season.
 
Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party along with several Hindu groups are up in arms against the verdict.
 
NNN
 

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Kerala HC rules no more protests at Sabarimala temple

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The Kerala High Court on Tuesday ruled that there should be no more protests at the Sabarimala temple during the ongoing pilgrimage season.
 
It also asked the police to deal properly with the pilgrims and allowed the pilgrims to chant Lord Ayyappa hymns, but refused to lift prohibitory orders in place in and around the temple town.
 
Sabarimala town has been witnessing repeated protests ever since the September 28 verdict of the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the temple that hitherto banned girls and women aged 10-50.
 
The High Court Devasom bench of Justice P. R. Ramachandran Menon ruled this after hearing around 30 petitions that came up before it.
 
It directed the Kerala government to submit in a sealed cover what arrangements had been made for women in the 10-50 age group if they desire to pray at the temple.
 
The court refused to interfere on the action of the Kerala Police which on Monday extended Section 144 of CrPC that prohibits assembly of more than four persons in one place till November 30.
 
But it asked the police to see that there should be no protests in the temple. And while the police could conduct searches, these should be done in a decent manner.
 
Since the ongoing two-month pilgrimage season opened on November 16, around 85 activists of the Sangh parivar including BJP and RSS have been arrested. Most have secured bail.
 
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has been trying to implement the top court's order even as the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Hindu groups have been up in arms against it.
 
The court also set up a three-member observer panel which will oversee the Sabarimala pilgrimage season.
 
The court ruled that arrangements should be made for women (above 50 years), children and physically challenged pilgrims to rest near the temple.
 
The court, without naming a police official who was reportedly rash with a High Court judge who went to Sabarimala to pray, said had not the judge forgiven the police officer, tough actions would have been taken.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala: JD-S leader K Krishnankutty sworn in as Minister

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Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader K. Krishnankutty was sworn in as the new Minister for Water Resources in the Kerala government on Tuesday.
 
Governor P. Sathasivam administered the oath of office and secrecy. 
 
The present state President of JD-S, Krishnankutty, 74, replaced Mathew T. Thomas who resigned on Tuesday in accordance with a decision by the national leadership of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S).
 
While the Congress-led opposition boycotted the swearing in protesting against the Kerala government's tough stand on the Sabarimala issue, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, his cabinet colleagues and legislators from the ruling front were present on the occasion.
 
Thomas was present at the event and so was the lone BJP legislator, O. Rajagopal.
 
Krishnankutty started his political career in the Congress and later joined the Janata Party. He is a four-time legislator and has become a Minister for the first time.
 
The JD-S is the third largest ally of the CPI-M-led government and has three legislators.
 
IANS

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317 midshipmen and cadets pass out of Indian Naval Academy

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A spectacular passing out parade at the Indian Naval Academy (INA) at Ezhimala in Kerala on Monday marked the culmination of training for 317 midshipmen and cadets of the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard, including one international cadet from Tanzania.
 
The passing out midshipmen and cadets belonged to four different courses of Autumn Term 2018, 95 Indian Naval Academy Course (BTech), 95 Indian Naval Academy Course (MSc), 26 Naval Orientation Course (Extended) and 27 Naval Orientation Course (Regular).  
 
The parade also saw 16 female cadets marching shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts to join the ranks of the Indian Navy. 
 
The parade was reviewed by Vice-Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command, who awarded medals to nine meritorious midshipmen and cadets after the ceremonial review. 
 
The Reviewing Officer, in his address, congratulated the passing out courses and advised them to imbibe the core values of Indian Navy “Duty, Honour and Courage”. Dr Sudhir K Jain, Director, IIT Gandhinagar, Vice Admiral RB Pandit, Commandant, INA, senior officers of the station and outstation dignitaries were present on occasion. 
 
The parade was also witnessed by the proud parents and guardians of all midshipmen and cadets. 
 
The ‘President’s Gold Medal’ for the Indian Naval Academy B. Tech course was awarded to Midshipman Vikrant Nagpal. 
 
The ‘Chief of the Naval Staff Gold Medal’ for the Naval Orientation (Extended) Course was awarded to Cadet Hrushikesh Vengurlekar. The ‘Chief of the Naval Staff Gold Medal’ for the Naval Orientation (Regular) Course was awarded to Cadet Samson Moses and the ‘Flag Officer Commanding in Chief (South) Medal’ for the best women cadet was awarded to Cadet Anuradha.
 
The ceremony culminated with the successful trainees forming up in two columns and marching with their gleaming swords and rifles held in salute, past the Academy’s Saluting Dias, the Quarterdeck, in Slow March, to the traditional notes of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, the poignant farewell tune played by Armed Forces around the world when bidding adieu to colleagues and comrades. 
 
Passing out courses were bid farewell by cadets of junior terms who manned the mast and a batch of three Naval Dornier Aircraft from Indian Naval Air Squadron 550 carried out a low flypast over the quarterdeck welcoming the new officers to the Navy.
 
On completion of the parade, the parents and guardians of the Passing Out courses pipped the Naval, and Coast Guard epaulettes, known as ‘Stripes’ on the shoulders of their wards, thus symbolising their transformation from ‘cadets’ into full-fledged Navy and Coast Guard Officers.  
 
The Reviewing Officer and other dignitaries pipped the stripes of the medal winners and congratulated all the trainees for their successful completion of the rigorous training.  These officers will proceed to various Naval and Coast Guard ships/establishments to further consolidate their training in specialised fields, an official press release added.
 
NNN
 

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