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Kerala

Kerala flood toll hits 67; over 2.54 lakh in camps

The heavy rains that lashed Kerala over the last few days have lessened in intensity, even as the toll rose to 67 while over 2.54 lakh displaced people were in relief camps, the state government said on Sunday.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The heavy rains that lashed Kerala over the last few days have lessened in intensity, even as the toll rose to 67 while over 2.54 lakh displaced people were in relief camps, the state government said on Sunday.
 
All the 14 districts in the state, except Kollam, have people taking shelter in over 1,600 relief camps. Malappuram district with over 54,000 people has the largest number of people in the camps.
 
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media that compared to last year's floods which ravaged the entire state, the intensity this time is not that bad and has affected fewer districts.
 
"In a big relief to those engaged in rescue efforts, the rains today appear to have come down," he said.
 
The worst-affected areas are Meppadi in Wayanad and Kavalapara in Malappuram. Various rescue teams are working hard to recover bodies of those trapped.
 
"As of now, eight people are still missing in Meppadi and with the rains subsiding, the rescue works are going on well. However, more rains are predicted in the coming days. All should be on high alert and be receptive to warnings," Vijayan said.
 
Earlier in the day, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who is the MP from Wayanad, reached Kozhikode and drove first to Kavalapara and visited a church where 360 people were taking shelter. He listened to their woes and assured them of all possible help.
 
Gandhi will be touring Wayanad on Monday where he is expected to visit a few relief camps and affected areas.
 
Meanwhile, Vijayan expressed anguish at the manner in which some sections are spreading rumours about contributions to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.
 
"This fund will be used only for the needs of the affected and not for anything else. Knowing well about this, it's unfortunate that some negative campaigns are currently on... what we have found out is that the origin of this is from outside our state. The media also has a role in this to ensure that these anti-social measures are curbed," he said.
 
"We have not yet asked for funds from the Centre and they are providing us all the support for the ongoing relief and rescue work," added Vijayan.
 
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told the media that he has called on everyone to contribute to the fund generously.
 
The maximum deaths --  18 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, and Kozhikode have also reported casualties.
 
"Today (Sunday) there is a red alert in Kannur, Kasargode and Wayanad and orange alerts in six other districts," Vijayan said.
 
The Chief Minister said despite heavy rains, the water level had increased only in three dams while water level at dams in Idukki and Pathanamthitta continued to be low.
 
Even as a few long-distance trains were cancelled for the day, Railways were able to operate short-distance ones in several sectors while in a few other sectors, operations are expected to begin soon.
 
The Cochin International Airport that was closed a few days back, was also opened for service Sunday afternoon when the first flight landed.
 
"Operations have resumed and passengers can come for check-in according to the schedules," said an airport official.
 
IANS
 

60 killed in Kerala flood; 2.27 lakh in relief camps

Even as the heavy rains that lashed Kerala in the past few days abated, the death toll stood at 60 on Sunday, according to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Even as the heavy rains that lashed Kerala in the past few days abated, the death toll stood at 60 on Sunday, according to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
 
Compared to last year's floods which ravaged the entire state, this time it is not that bad and has affected fewer districts, Vijayan said soon after chairing a meeting of the disaster response team that functions from near his office here.
 
"The rains today appear to have come down and have been a big relief for those engaged in the rescue and relief operations in the worst affected areas. Today there are 1,551 camps operating in which 2,27,335 people are housed," said Vijayan.
 
The worst affected places are near Meppadi in Wayanad and Kavalapara in Malappuram districts and those are the places where the various rescue teams are working hard to recover bodies of those trapped under a huge pile of mud.
 
"As of now, eight people are still missing in Meppadi and with the rains subsiding, the rescue works are going on well. The forecast, however, appears that more rains are predicted in the coming days and hence all should be on high alert and the need of the hour is all should be receptive to warnings and alerts and should listen to what authorities ask," added Vijayan.
 
He also expressed anguish in the manner in which some anti-social elements are taking to social media spreading canards about contributions to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.
 
"This fund will be used only for the needs of the affected and not for anything else. Knowing well about this, it's unfortunate that some negative campaigns are currently on and what we have found out is that the origin of this is from outside our state. The media also has a role in this to ensure that these anti-socials are curbed," said Vijayan.
 
"We have not yet asked for funds from the Centre and they are providing us all the support for the ongoing relief and rescue work," added Vijayan.
 
The maximum deaths -- 18 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, Kozhikode have also reported casualties.
 
"Today there is a red alert in Kannur, Kasargode and Wayanad and orange alerts in six other districts," he said.
 
The Chief Minister said despite heavy rains, the water level had increased only in three dams while water level at dams in Idukki and Pathanamthitta continue to be low.
 
Even while a few long-distance trains were cancelled for the day, they were able to operate short-distance ones in several sectors while in few other sectors, operations are expected to begin soon.
 
The other good news was that the Cochin International Airport that was closed a few days back, was opened for service Sunday afternoon when the first flight landed.
 
"Operations have resumed and passengers can come for check-in according to the schedules," said an airport official.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala floods toll 55, over 1.5 lakh shifted to relief camps

The Kerala floods death toll has reached 55 and over 1.5 lakh people have been shifted to around 1,300 camps across the rain-battered state even as the Meteorological Department has predicted more rains in the coming days.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The Kerala floods death toll has reached 55 and over 1.5 lakh people have been shifted to around 1,300 camps across the rain-battered state even as the Meteorological Department has predicted more rains in the coming days.
 
The maximum deaths -- 15 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, Kozhikode were other badly-hit districts, officials said here on Saturday. A red alert for Sunday has been issued in Kasargode, Kannur and Wayanad. More rain is predicted in a few other districts.
 
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday took stock of the situation. Officials informed him that the maximum number of relief camps had been set up in Kozhikode, followed by Wayanad.
 
Vijayan had earlier said 80 landslides had been reported from eight worst-hit districts. "Authorities are yet to ascertain the actual number of missing in the landslides at Meppadi in Wayanad district and Kavalapara in Malappuram district.
 
According to unconfirmed reports, 41 were missing in Kavalapara, he added.
 
Stating that no aerial survey could be conducted due to inclement weather, he said as soon as the weather cleared ups the aerial survey could be carried out.
 
The Chief Minister said despite heavy rains, water level had increased only three dams and continued to be low in Idukki and Pathanamthitta. 
 
Floodgates of the Banasura dam, which was overflowing, were opened as per the announcement and no damage was reported as those living downstream had been shifted to secure places.
 
He said all the government officials and departments engaged in relief works would be working on holidays as well. "Cellphone towers on wheels are being set up in areas where communication has snapped," said Vijayan.
 
The railways were working overtime to start trains' operations and army's help had been sought for inspection of bridges, he said.
 
Earlier in the day with rain subsiding in Ernakulam, water receded from the Cochin International Airport and air operations are likely to start on Sunday. But officials are keeping their fingers crossed as rain started again on Saturday afternoon.
 
Emirates Airlines on Saturday announced that it would operate additional flights from Thiruvananthapuram airport, following cancellation of flights at Cochin airport over the past few days.
 
Meanwhile, while former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is expected to arrive at Kozhikode on Sunday to proceed to Wayanad, his parliamentary constituency, senior BJP leader V. Muraleedharan said Kerala had no funds shortage as around Rs 1,400 crore provided to the state as part of the Rs 2,047 crore flood relief last year had remained unused.
 
IANS
 

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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
 

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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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10 found guilty of honour killing in Kerala

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The Principal Sessions court in Kottayam has found 10 persons guilty in the honour killing of 24-year-old Kevin Joseph and has reserved the sentencing order for Saturday.
 
On May 28 last year, the Kerala Police had fished out the body of Kevin Joseph, who had married Neenu Chacko (20), who belonged to a higher caste. The autopsy report had revealed that Kevin was tortured to death.
 
Among those found guilty are Neenu Chacko's brother Shanu, who is the first accused. Neenu's father, who was the fifth accused in the case, was let off along with three others.
 
Reacting to the order, Joseph's father said that it was unfortunate that four of the accused, including Neenu's father, have been let off.
 
"I will react once the punishment is announced on Saturday. We are not happy that her father and three others have been let off. We will contest this," said Joseph's father.
 
Kottayam Superintendent of Police Harisankar, who led the investigating team, said the police were happy that this tough case has been solved, and were now waiting to see the full judgement as to how the four acquittals happened.
 
"It was a tough case because we had to work on circumstantial evidence. The hard work done by our team has paid off," Harisankar said.
 
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BDJS chief arrested in UAE in cheque bounce case

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NDA ally Bharath Dharma Jana Sena's (BDJS) Kerala chief, Thushar Vellapally, who had contested against then Congress President Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad in the recent Lok Sabha elections, has been arrested in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in connection with a cheque bounce case.
 
The BDJS chief was arrested in Ajman late on Wednesday, his father Vellapally Natesan said.
 
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Natesan, who is the General Secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), said his son was trapped and arrested.
 
"We are expecting that he will get bail today," he said.
 
The BDJS chief, who was the candidate for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) from the Wayanad parliamentary seat, is currently lodged at a jail in Ajman. He was arrested after a businessman in UAE filed a case when the former's cheque bounced.
 
BDJS is the second biggest ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA in Kerala. Thushar Vellapally lost his deposit when he managed to get a mere 78,816, votes in the election which Gandhi won with the highest-ever margin in Kerala of over 4.30 lakh votes.
 
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Actress Manju Warrier among Kerala film crew trapped in Himachal

Manju Warrier
Manju Warrier
Top Kerala actress Manju Warrier and a 30-member crew of Malayalam film "Kyttem" have been trapped in a Himachal village following rains and landslides, Union Minister V. Muraleedharan said on Tuesday.
 
The Minister of State for External Affairs confirmed this and said he has already spoken to Himachal Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.
 
Warrier, along with director Sanal Kumar Sashidharan and other crew members, had been shooting in Himachal Pradesh for more than two weeks.
 
Reports that they have been trapped at Chatru village only surfaced late on Monday when the actress called up her brother using a satellite phone.
 
"It was yesterday that she called me and said they were trapped. The area they are trapped in has lost all connectivity. Along with the crew, there are many other people there who are also trapped. The call was very short," Madhu Warrier told the media.
 
Warrier is a hugely popular actress in the South.
 
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Kerala to host Nehru Trophy Boat Race on August 31

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The Nehru Trophy Boat Race and the first race of the maiden Champions Boat League (CBL) will be held on August 31.
 
Both the events were to be flagged off on August 10 but were postponed due to floods during the last fortnight.
 
Kerala Tourism today said the first race of the CBL will be held on the sidelines of the Nehru Trophy Boat Race at the sprawling Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha city.
 
Tourism Director  P Bala Kiran said the schedule of the remaining 11 races of the CBL, the country’s first-ever boat racing patterned on the IPL format of cricket, will be announced soon.
 
Nine teams are to vie for top honours and prize monies totalling Rs 5.9 crore at the CBL.
 
The participating teams remain the same: Tropical Titans (traditionally, Village Boat Club), Backwater Knights (Village Boat Club), Backwater Ninja (Brothers Boat Club), Backwater Warriors (Town Boat Club), Coast Dominators (United Boat Club), Mighty Oars (NCDC), Pride Chasers (Vembanad Boat Club), Raging Rowers (Police Boat Club) and Thunder Oars (KBC/SFBC).
 
While the first three winners of each CBL match will get Rs 5 lakh, Rs 3 lakh and Rs 1 lakh, respectively, all participants are to win a bonus prize of Rs 4 lakh for each match.
 
The overall CBL league winner after the accumulation of all the points from the 12 races will get a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh, while those finishing second and third will get Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh, respectively.
 
The races, being held from 2 pm to 5 pm, will be broadcast live.  Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Asianet Worldwide, Asianet Plus, Hotstar, ETV Andhra Pradesh and ETV Telangana will beam the event for an hour from 4 pm.
 
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Kerala journalist's death: Doctors refute police charge

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The Kerala Government Medical Officer's Association (KGMOA) on Monday refuted the police charge in the accident case in which journalist K. M. Basheer was killed after being hit by a car driven by IAS officer Sreeram Venkitaraman here early this month.
 
The KGMOA office bearers have written to the Chief Minister and the state police chief alleging that the claim made by the Kerala Police's Special Investigation Team (SIT) in its interim report filed in court that the medical officer on duty did not take Venkitaraman's blood sample, despite being told to do so was wrong.
 
The KGMOA said the police neither verbally told the medical officer on duty to do so nor was there any written request in this regard.
 
Incidentally the doctor, who examined the IAS officer, did mention in the outpatient ticket register that he was smelling of alcohol.
 
This new development comes a day after the management of Siraj newspaper, where Basheer worked, pointed out glaring factual errors in the interim report filed by the SIT.
 
Meanwhile on Monday, officials at Volkswagen, the manufacturer of the car which hit Basheer, examined its crash data recorder to assess the speed of the vehicle when it met with the accident.
 
The State Motor Vehicle Department on Monday also cancelled Venkitaraman's driving licence.
 
Basheer, the Thiruvananthapuram bureau chief of Siraj, was killed after being hit by Venkitaraman's speeding car early this month. The IAS officer was returning from a late-night party with his friend Waha Firoz, who owns the car.
 
It is alleged that the police after coming to know that the accused was an IAS officer, delayed even the mandatory medical tests in case of a road accident.
 
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Rahul urges Modi to install early warning system

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Following several deaths due to floods and landslides in many parts of Kerala, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to install early warning systems in the vulnerable areas.
 
Gandhi, on a visit to his parliamentary constituency since Sunday, said in his letter, "Wayanad has some of the most fragile parts of the Western Ghats and is home to 10 per cent of the biodiversity of the country."
 
The Congress leader said, in the past two days he had visited two major landslide sites -- Kavalapara in Malappuram and Puthumala in Wayanad districts -- where many people had lost lives, livelihoods and property.
 
"In this context, may I suggest the measure of installing early warning system for your consideration. Many lives can be saved if early warning systems are installed in vulnerable areas and specially-designed landslide/flood shelters with communication facilities be provided in such places," Gandhi wrote.
 
He also advocated a long-term strategy and action plan, supported through a special package of assistance, to protect life and livelihoods.
 
Stating that agriculture and animal husbandry are the mainstays of the people in Wayanad, he said, "Paddy cultivation that also sustained wetlands and has the capacity to hold excess rainwater and mitigate flood damage, has been on decline since 1970s. Large number of farmers have committed suicide in the last two decades due to the farm sector crisis." 
 
Destruction of forests and depletion of inflow into streams and rivers endangered farms and people in three states -- Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, he said. Mining and quarrying continued in the Western Ghats, he added.
 
"The depletion of the forests is rapidly increasing man-animal conflicts within and in the periphery of forests," he said.
 
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Centre sanctions Rs 52 crore to flood-hit Kerala, death toll rises to 93

Even as the death toll in flood-hit Kerala rose to 93, the Centre has sanctioned Rs 52 crore as immediate assistance to it while the state government has announced three months of free rations for the victims of the natural disaster.
An aerial view of flood hit Kerala's Malappuram on August 11, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
An aerial view of flood hit Kerala's Malappuram on August 11, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Even as the death toll in flood-hit Kerala rose to 93, the Centre has sanctioned Rs 52 crore as immediate assistance to it while the state government has announced three months of free rations for the victims of the natural disaster.
 
This was announced by Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan. Medicines worth Rs 4 crore would also be sent, he added. 
 
"I was told by the Union Minister of State for Home that when he asked the Kerala Chief Minister if he was happy with the Centre's response, Pinarayi Vijayan remarked, 'This is enough'," said Muraleedharan, who will be touring Wayanad and Malappuram on Friday.
 
According to the latest figures, the rain-induced death toll in Kerala has reached 93 and around 2.24 lakh people were staying at 1,243 relief camps.
 
Kerala Minister for Food and Civil Supplies P. Thilothaman said in the state capital on Tuesday that three months of free rations would be provided to flood victims. "Of course, the Centre has to provide supplies. But what we have in stock will be distributed," said Thilothaman.
 
The worst-hit districts include Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Kannur, Kasargode, Idukki, Kottayam, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Palakkad.
 
The meteorological department has issued a red alert in Malappuram and Kozhikode for Wednesday and all educational institutions at Ernakulam, Thrissur and Kozhikode shall be closed on that day.
 
State Health Minister K.K. Shailaja after a review meeting said with people returning to their homes would be shocked to see the condition of their houses. "Special counselling sessions would be conducted and people are advised to follow medical professionals' advice," said Shailaja.
 
The health department has stated that people in direct contact with flood waters should take a dose of doxicycline.
 
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Kerala cops register cases for fake campaigns on flood relief

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The Kerala Police on Monday registered 19 cases related to fake campaigns on social media over relief work for floods that have ravaged the state.
 
State police chief Loknath Behra said the various cyber wings of the police have registered the cases and the probe has already begun.
 
"The cases have been registered for spreading false campaigns on the relief works and all such people would be arrested and proceeded against as per the law," said Behra.
 
This swift action comes a day after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that those engaged in these acts are anti-social elements.
 
Around this time last year, Kerala had witnessed the worst-ever floods in a century and since last week heavy rains in most districts of the state have left 83 people dead and over 2.60 lakh people holed up in around 1,500 relief camps across the state.
 
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Rahul promises Kerala all help to rebuild after floods

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Rahul Gandhi, the Congress MP from Wayanad, has assured all help to the people of his flood-hit constituency rebuild their lives.
 
"We are all with you in this hour of crisis and I call upon not just Congress workers, but all the people to work to ease the suffering of the people. You don't have to worry about your future as we will help you rebuild your lives," said Gandhi while addressing a relief camp at Thiruvampady here on Monday.
 
"Today is Eid and though I know that the people are distressed, I take this opportunity to wish all of you 'Eid Mubarak'. We will use the spirit of Eid to help the people who are suffering," said Gandhi.
 
He also told the gathering that he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday seeking help for flood-hit Kerala.
 
Incessant rain and the consequent floods have caused widespread damage in Kerala. The flood fury has left 77 dead and displaced over 2.87 lakh people, who have taken shelter in over 1,654 relief shelters set up across the state.
 
The maximum deaths -- 18 -- have been reported from Wayanad, an area spread over three districts -- Wayanad, Kozhikode and Malappuram. 
 
Rahul Gandhi arrived in the constituency on Sunday, and has been visiting relief camps here since Monday morning. He has so far visited camps at Nilambur in Malappuram district, Thiruvampady in Kozhikode district, Meppadi in Wayanad, besides attending review meetings called by the District Collectors of Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad.
 
Gandhi also visited relief camps at Kavalapara, where a mudslide on Friday wiped out an entire village. Over 50 people are still feared trapped under the debris. 
 
At the camps, he interacted with the people, asked them about their loss and the things they need. At Meppadi, he spoke to a young girl, with Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala playing the translator between them.
 
In all his interactions, Gandhi has assured all help to the flood-victims in rebuilding their lives. His next visits are to the camps in Munderi and Panamaram. 
 
"Tomorrow, Rahul Gandhi will take stock of the situation in Kannur from where he will return to Delhi," said a staff attached to Chennithala, who is accompanying the former Congress president.
 
"People have told me that they have nowhere to go as their homes have been damaged fully or partially. I have spoken to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Prime Minister and have told them that the affected people here must be compensated as soon as possible. I am also working on a report on the flood situation," Gandhi told the media.
 
Though there was no rain on Monday, the Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted more showers over the next three days.
 
"Starting tomorrow, rains will be heavy in Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Idukki till Wednesday, while on Thursday it's going to be isolated rains," said an IMD official, here.
 
Like in the past few days, Monday also saw some long-distance trains cancelled. A few trains, which were cancelled earlier, have started running.
 
According to preliminary estimates given by State Agriculture Minister V.S. Sunil Kumar, more than 18,000 hectares of crop has been lost affecting about 81,000 farmers and resulting in a total estimated loss of more than Rs 800 crore. 
 
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Kerala gets temporary relief from rain on Monday

The rains appear to have reduced drastically on Monday in Kerala, providing relief to those engaged in rescue operations in the flood-hit districts even as the death toll has touched 77 and 2.87 lakh people remained in 1654 camps across the state.
An aerial view of flood hit Kerala's Malappuram on August 11, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
An aerial view of flood hit Kerala's Malappuram on August 11, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The rains appear to have reduced drastically on Monday in Kerala, providing relief to those engaged in rescue operations in the flood-hit districts even as the death toll has touched 77 and 2.87 lakh people remained in 1654 camps across the state.
 
With the weather turning sunny on Monday, various rescue teams are working hard in the worst-affected areas of Meppadi in Wayanad and Kavalapara in Malappuram.
 
State Minister of Higher Education K. T. Jaleel, who reached Kavalapara on Monday to oversee the rescue operations, said that whatever is humanely possible is being done to recover the remaining bodies, that are suspected to be lying under the mud.
 
"Initially, it was said 63 people in this area are missing, but later four of them were traced to their relatives' houses. Of the remaining 59, till now 14 bodies have been recovered. Today we have got more heavy earth-moving equipment which will be engaged in recovering all the remaining bodies. No efforts will be spared at all," assured Jaleel.
 
The maximum deaths -- 18 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, and Kozhikode have also reported casualties.
 
The meteorological department said that there is no red alert in any district on Monday, but more rains are predicted in the coming three days.
 
"Starting tomorrow, rains will be heavy in Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Idukki till Wednesday, while on Thursday it's going to be isolated rains," said the IMD official, here.
 
Like in the past few days, Monday also saw a few long-distance trains being cancelled for the day, but more trains that were cancelled earlier have been restored.
 
Meanwhile, Alappuzha district, which witnessed the worst ever floods last year, has more than 10,000 people in relief camps this year as several low-lying areas are submerged due to heavy rains.
 
Wayanad Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, who has been touring his constituency since Sunday, has assured all help to the people who are suffering.
 
"We are all with you in this hour of crisis and I call upon not just Congress workers, but all the people to work to ease the sufferings of the people. You don't have to worry about your future as we will help you rebuild your lives," said Gandhi while addressing a relief camp at Thiruvampady.
 
According to preliminary estimates given by State Agriculture Minister V. S. Sunil Kumar, more than 18,000 hectares of various agricultural crops have affected about 81,000 farmers and the total estimated loss as of now stands above Rs 800 crore.
 
IANS

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Rahul arrives to visit his flood-ravaged Wayanad constituency

Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi
Wayanad Lok Sabha member and former Congress President Rahul Gandhi arrived here on Sunday afternoon for a tour of his constituency, Wayanad, which has been badly hit by rains and floodwaters.
 
Wayanad has been the worst-hit in Kerala and, so far, more than 40,000 people have taken shelter in more than 203 camps, with 18 deaths being reported.
 
According to his plans, Rahul Gandhi will be visiting relief camps in his constituency and the first stop would be in Malappuram district from where he will return to the state-owned guest house here.
 
The vehicle carrying him has been filled with relief material which are to be distributed to the camp inmates.
 
State Congress President Mulappally Ramachandran, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and local leaders are accompanying him on his visit.
 
On Monday, Rahul Gandhi will visit Wayanad district and interact with relief camp inmates. He will return, thereafter, from here on Monday evening.
 
IANS

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Kerala rains: 42 dead, over 1 lakh in relief camps

The death toll in Kerala floods has reached 42 and more than one lakh people have been shifted to over 800 relief camps across the rain-battered state, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Saturday.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The death toll in Kerala floods has reached 42 and more than one lakh people have been shifted to over 800 relief camps across the rain-battered state, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Saturday.
 
The 42 deaths, of which 11 are from Wayanad, have been reported in the past three days.
 
Addressing the media here after a review meeting on the floods, Vijayan said that 80 landslides, which have caused the maximum destruction, have been reported from eight worst-affected districts, including Meppadi in Wayanad and Kavalapara in Malappuram districts.
 
"Authorities are still not able to ascertain the actual number of missing in these two areas. According to unconfirmed reports, 41 are missing from Kavalapara," said Vijayan.
 
A red alert for heavy rain has been issued today in Ernakulam, Palakkad, Idukki, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Waynad and Kannur.
 
"In Wayanad, the Banasura dam is overflowing. People living in the downstream of the dam have been moved to relief camps. The dam gates will be opened today at 3 p.m.," said Vijayan.
 
"The biggest problem is that we are not able to conduct aerial operations due to inclement weather conditions in the worst affected places. It has been informed to us that as soon as the weather clears ups, the aerial operations will be carried out in those areas," said Vijayan.
 
He said that despite heavy rains, water level has gone up in only three dams. It continues to be low in Idukki and Pathanamthitta, he said.
 
"The rains in Ernakulam district have slowed down. All the government officials and offices are engaged in relief work and will be working on holidays. Cellphone towers on wheels are being set up in areas where communication facilities have been snapped," said Vijayan.
 
"The railways are working overtime to take stock of the damages and commence operations of trains. The Army's help has been sought for inspection of bridges," he said.
 
However, the Meteorological Department has predicted more rains in the state in the coming days.
 
Meanwhile, with rain subsiding in Ernakulam, water has receded from the Cochin International Airport and operations are likely to commence from Sunday afternoon.
 
Emirates Airlines on Saturday announced that they will operate additional flights from Thiruvananthapuram airport following cancellations of flights from Cochin airport over the past few days.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala rains: 28 dead, 64,000 in 738 relief camps

With incessant rain in Kerala, the death toll has reached 28 and over 64,000 people have shifted into 738 relief camps across the rain-battered state, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Friday.
A view of a flood-hit area of Nilambur in Kerala on August 8, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
A view of a flood-hit area of Nilambur in Kerala on August 8, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
With incessant rain in Kerala, the death toll has reached 28 and over 64,000 people have shifted into 738 relief camps across the rain-battered state, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Friday.
 
So far, 20 deaths caused by the floods have been reported across the state. Eight deaths had been reported on Thursday.
 
"These figures are till 3 p.m . The major message that we have to send out to the people living in worst affected districts is please listen to the authorities when they come with the message asking people to move to camps," Vijayan said here addressing the media on Friday evening after chairing a review meeting on relief and rescue operations.
 
He said a red alert had been issued for Saturday in the worst affected districts of Ernakulam, Palakkad, Idukki, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Kannur.
 
"Had the people in the outskirts of Nilambur in Malappuram listened, a big tragedy could have been averted. We are told that 19 families who were told to move out did so, and in the very same area, 40 people who failed to listen to the authorities are reported missing after it was hit by landslide. 
 
"Three bodies have been recovered and two were saved. This should not happen, please listen to the authorities," Vijayan said.
 
He also said that Wayanad district continues to be the worst affected, while the situation get tougher if the gates of the Banasura dam were to be opened.
 
"A team of ministers are in Wayanad overseeing the operations and by tomorrow (Saturday) morning all will get the required facilities at the relief camps that are being set up across Wayanad district," he added.
 
Earlier on Friday, Vijayan assured people there was no need to panic at all as things are under control.
 
"If one compares with the floods that took place the same time last year, this time it's not that serious. As a government, we have taken every precaution and there need be no panic, but just be alert. The need of the hour is people should cooperate with the authorities, if they are asked to move out from places which are likely to turn dangerous, they must comply," he said.
 
"At Mepadi, an entire hill has been washed away. The inclement weather is preventing aerial operations, even as the Air Force team is ready and waiting to reach there. The Centre has pledged all possible help.
 
"The meteorological department has predicted more rains in the next 24 hours, especially in the hilly areas of the state. Also, North Kerala is going to be affected by winds. The prediction is that from tomorrow the intensity of the rains is going to come down, but on August 15th, it's going to rain heavily," Vijayan added.
 
On the presence of the forces which are engaged in relief and rescue operations, he said there are 13 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and three teams each of the engineering task force and the Army.
 
"Two more columns of the Army are arriving. With the Cochin airport closed till Sunday, efforts are on to see if the Cochin Naval Base airport can be opened (it was open during last year's floods). The Centre is always in touch with us," he said.
 
He also said that the 67th edition of the Nehru Boat Race, to be held on Saturday at Alappuzha, has been postponed.
 
IANS
 

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Floods force Kochi airport closure till Sunday

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Chaos gripped Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) after authorities announced the sudden suspension of flight operations at 9 a.m. on Friday leaving hundreds of passengers stranded. The airport will resume operations at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
 
CIAL Director A. C. K. Nair said the decision to close the airport was taken after flood water reached the taxiway. "We first decided to shut it till midnight, but then extended the closure till Sunday looking at the rising water in Periyar river. At the moment, there is little water on the runway," Nair told IANS.
 
More than 100 domestic and international flights operate from the Kochi airport in a day. Though the airport staff was pumping out water from the taxiway and the sides of the airport, nine aircraft that arrived here on Thursday night, are still parked in the bay, unable to fly out.
 
"My son had to rejoin duty in Qatar today, but he cannot fly out," said an anxious father.
 
Nair said that it was the responsibility of the airlines to ensure alternate arrangements for passengers who were booked to travel from Kochi. "I am told they are doing the needful," he added.
 
However, with no proper facilities and in absence of proper information, many people were seen running around. 
 
"I had come to drop my grandchildren who are booked to travel to Dubai. After reaching here we learnt that the airport had been closed. After much effort to contact the airline, we were told to proceed to Thiruvananthapuram, but we are still not being told if the travel is guaranteed. 
 
"To reach Thiruvananthapuram in such heavy rain will take us at least seven hours, but we are helpless," said an aged couple.
 
The Kerala government, which was expected to run special buses for passengers to reach Thiruvananthapuram airport, too failed to do so, complicating things further.
 
Incidentally, last year, too, operations at the Kochi airport were suspended on August 8 after floods hit the state and resumed after a fortnight.
 
IANS
 

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