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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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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 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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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.
 
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Kerala HC slams police in IAS officer accident case

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The Kerala High Court on Wednesday criticised the way the police went about their job in collecting evidence against IAS officer Sreeram Venkitaraman who secured bail in a road accident case that caused the death of a journalist, even as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the guilty will not be allowed to go scot-free.
 
On Tuesday the IAS officer got bail from a lower court in the state capital and on Wednesday the Kerala government moved an urgent petition seeking to cancel the bail.
 
The High Court went to the extent of asking the prosecution if they expected the accused to come up with evidence against himself.
 
"Is this the way the police goes about collecting evidences in a road accident case? There is no excuse for this lapse when the required procedures were not followed," said the court.
 
The court however refused to stay the bail granted by the lower court and posted the case for further hearing on Friday.
 
Reacting to the day's developments, Vijayan said after the weekly Cabinet meeting in the state capital that none who are found guilty will be spared in the investigation.
 
"A special police team has already been appointed to look into all aspects of the case and it includes on how the mandatory procedures in such a case were not followed," said Vijayan.
 
"The society at large knows that Venkitaraman drove the vehicle in a rash manner and was under the influence of alcohol. The only person who says that he was not under the influence of alcohol is him. The local sub-inspector of police who erred in his duty in collecting evidence has been suspended. None need to be worried in this case, as all those who have erred will be brought before the law," said Vijayan.
 
Even though, two witnesses have said the IAS officer was seen under the influence of alcohol, the police team failed to take the blood samples on time, giving Venkitaraman enough space to wriggle out. The blood sample was taken nine hours later and the report came up negative for alcohol.
 
Venkitaraman is lodged at the intensive care unit of the state-run medical college hospital here.
 
On Tuesday, Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose ordered Venkitaraman's suspension. According to rules, if an officer is arrested he has to be suspended from the service within 48 hours.
 
Returning from a late-night party, an allegedly drunk Venkitaraman knocked down and killed K.M. Basheer, a journalist with a Malayalam daily, with his car on August 3. Venkitaraman was accompanied by a woman friend Waha Firoz to whom the car belonged.
 
As the police came to know that he was an IAS officer, they delayed even the mandatory medical tests in case of a road accident.
 
Meanwhile, state Congress president Mulappally Ramachandran alleged that all that has happened till now is a script that has been prepared by the office of Vijayan, the CPI-M and the state police which helped the accused to get bail.
 
"The court will only go by evidences and in this case, everything has been destroyed and all that Vijayan is doing now is an eyewash. The best Vijayan can do is to see that he gives up the Home portfolio," said Ramachandran.
 
IANS

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CAT orders reinstatement of Kerala DGP

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The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) on Monday directed the Kerala government to immediately reinstate Director General of Police (DGP) Jacob Thomas who has been under suspension since December 2017.
 
Thomas was appointed as the Director-General of Police (DGP) -- Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau the same day Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan assumed office in May 2016. 
 
Thomas, who was considered close to Vijayan, was asked to go on leave and was later suspended after relations between the two soured. His suspension period was extended several times since then.
 
The suspension was ordered in relation to a number of cases, including criticising the government for its way of handling the Ockhi disaster, writing a book without getting permission and charges of corruption over buying a dredger when he headed the Ports department.
 
Commenting on CAT's order, Thomas said: "This shows that people should and can have full faith in our judiciary. Those who expose corruption will be supported by the judiciary."
 
Counsel for Thomas told the media that the court ordered the Kerala government to reinstate him in the police or accommodate him in a post that matches his rank.
 
"The court pointed out that a crusader who fought corruption should not be kept out. The government itself had posted him in very crucial positions and hence he should be reinstated immediately," the counsel said.
 
"The Kerala High Court is looking into our petition filed against the case registered by the Vigilance," the counsel added.
 
Thomas had put in his papers seeking voluntary retirement from service. "My VRS (voluntary retirement scheme) papers are lying with the Centre and no action has been taken as yet," he said.
 
Asked if he expects the government to reinstate him, he said: "Kerala is part of India and in India, there is a very strong governance. So we will wait and see."
 
This is the second time a court has come to the aid of top police officials. The Supreme Court in May 2017 slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Vijayan government for wasting the court's time by disregarding its order to reinstate T. P. Senkumar as the state police chief.
 
Senkumar was the state police chief and the day Vijayan assumed office he was moved out.
 
IANS

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Cabinet approves sale of 481.79 acres of land held by FACT to Kerala Government

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The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the sale of 481.79 acres of land held by the Fertilizers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd. (FACT) to Kerala Government and utilisation of the sales proceeds by the public sector company.
 
The sale of 150 acres of land is at the rate of Rs 1 crore per acre in lieu of which the State Government has agreed to give free-hold right over 143.22 acres of land to FACT. The remaining 331.79 acres will be sold at Rs 2.4758 crore per acre as assessed by the District Collector of Ernakulam, an official press release said.
 
The Cabinet also approved the utilization of the sale proceeds by FACT to address its working capital deficiency, improvement of balance sheet and enabling the company to enhance physical and financial performance by implementing capacity expansion projects for sustainable growth.
 
This approval will help FACT to reduce the bank borrowings and to implement projects for enhancing fertilizer production capacity and upgrading logistics / raw material handling facilities, the release said yesterday.
 
The revival of FACT will create opportunities for expansion and diversification of the company and this, in turn, will help to generate more jobs, both directly and indirectly. The net effect will be a boost to the economy of the State of Kerala and improving fertilizer availability to South India, it said.
 
Reduction of dependence on the import of fertilizers and chemicals will facilitate resultant savings in foreign exchange to the country and also improve fertilizers and food security. Through the inclusion of fixed timelines for monitoring the implementation of the sale of land, the accountability of the management in achieving performance after the sale of land will be ensured, it said.
 
The unit has already switched over to cleaner LNG as feedstock and fuel, which will improve its energy efficiency and environmental friendliness, the release said.
 
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Sahapedia bags PATA Grand Award 2019 for its India Heritage Walks Project

Participants of a heritage walk organised some time ago in Old Lucknow by Sahapedia.
Participants of a heritage walk organised some time ago in Old Lucknow by Sahapedia.
Sahapedia, an internet portal that provides open access to content related to the arts, culture and histories of the Indian sub-continent, has won the coveted Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Grand Award 2019 for organising heritage walks across the country.
 
"The India Heritage Walks project aims to make culture tourism more holistic and inclusive," PATA said in an announcement. The Bangkok-based establishment works to promote the responsible development of travel and tourism.
 
Sahapedia is among just four organisations to win PATA’s Grand Award, and the only one to win in the ‘Heritage and Culture’ category.
 
The PATA Grand Awards are presented to outstanding entries in four principal categories: Marketing, Education and Training, Environment, and Heritage and Culture.
 
The awards will be presented on September 19 at Nur-Sultan (Astana) in Kazakhstan during the PATA Travel Mart 2019. This year’s awards attracted 197 entries from 78 organisations and individuals worldwide.
 
Sahapedia has expressed great delight over this achievement. The heritage walks have been part of "our attempts to democratise access to local history and culture, giving people opportunities to discover the hidden gems linked to the cultural heritage of a place, town or city," said Vaibhav Chauhan, Secretary, Sahapedia and Director, India Heritage Walks. 
 
"It is good to be recognised for our efforts. We would like to extend our gratitude towards our partners and collaborators across the country who have supported us in working towards our vision,"  he added.
 
In 2018, Sahapedia had won the PATA Gold Award for its maiden edition of the India Heritage Walk Festival (IHWF).
 
PATA, in its press release on Monday, noted that the purpose of Sahapedia’s heritage walks was to generate interest among travellers as well as the local population to discover India’s cities, its people and the stories of their colonies, ruins, mainstays and migrants.
 
"These efforts have also been directed towards groups for whom engagement programmes in heritage tourism are commonly unavailable, such as children, persons with disabilities and those from economically underprivileged backgrounds," it pointed out.
 
Sahapedia launched the India Heritage Walks project in November 2016, and has, so far, conducted experiences in over 60 cities across India, covering varied aspects of cultural and natural heritage. "Ranging from walks exploring markets, monuments and museums to natural landscapes and regional cuisine, India Heritage Walks are curated thematically, making it an ideal resource for travellers and heritage enthusiasts as well," the PATA release added.
 
Sahapedia’s India Heritage Walks project has been supported by the TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) Foundation and the Axis Bank Foundation.
 
Sahapedia provides open access to articles, videos, interviews and images on a wide range of matters related to the arts, culture and histories of the Indian sub-continent. The portal was launched in summer 2016.
 
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Kerala CM orders probe into poor quality flyover

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday said he has ordered a Vigilance probe into the poor quality of a Kochi flyover, built during the tenure of the erstwhile Oommen Chandy government, which has started to crumble just after two and a half years of its construction.
 
Vijayan was responding to a report submitted by former Delhi Metro chief E. Sreedharan in which he said that the 750-metre-long Palarivattom flyover in Kochi, which was built at a cost of Rs 42 crore during the previous government and was supposed to stand over 100 years, is already crumbling after it was opened for traffic in October 2016.
 
The flyover has been closed for traffic since May 1. 
 
Speaking to the media soon after a Cabinet meeting, Vijayan said Sreedharan was entrusted to submit the report on the present status of the flyover.
 
"This flyover which should have functioned for 100 years, serious damage has been caused just after two and a half years. While the foundation of the project is fine, of the 102 RCC girders, 97 of them have cracks and 16 of 18 piers have cracks. Besides, 17 spans have to be also changed," said Vijayan.
 
"His report says that it will take 10 months for the refurbishment of the flyover and it will cost Rs 18.50 crore. It says inferior quality concrete, cement and iron bars were used and the design was flawed. A vigilance probe is on and soon we will decide on what further needs to be done."
 
The Vigilance in its preliminary report have recommended action against 17 officials associated with the construction of the flyover.
 
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Six test negative for Nipah in Kerala

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

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Nipah: 5 in isolation in Kerala, 311 under observation

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

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Kerala youth tests positive for Nipah virus: Minister

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Kerala Health Minister K. K. Shailaja on Tuesday confirmed that the youth being treated in a hospital near Kochi has tested positive for Nipah virus (NiV). 
 
She also assured the people that elaborate arrangements have been made to tackle the situation and there was no need for panic
 
"The test results have come from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune and it is positive for Nipah. The health authorities have made elaborate arrangements and the medicines for this are also in stock and NIV authorities will be handing over the medicines that have come from Australia," said Shailaja.
 
She added that Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had already pledged full support from the Centre.
 
The youth is a student who first sought treatment at two private hospitals in Thrissur, where he had gone for student internship.
 
"In the past two days, the health authorities have prepared a list of 86 people who have come in contact with this youth and are under observation. Of these 86 people, two have fever and one of them is being kept in isolation. Also, two nurses have fever and are under observation," said Shailaja.
 
"The condition of the youth is stable. He is now out of any sort of support and is fine," added the Minister.
 
Shailaja asked people to be careful about picking fruits as bats have been identified as a carrier of this virus.
 
She also said that any mischief to create panic on social media would be dealt with strictly.
 
The sample of the youth was first tested at the Virology Institute at Allapuzha and, after it was confirmed positive, the final confirmation came from NIV, Pune.
 
"From now on, there would be a high alert and three samples (blood, urine and throat) from every person who shows symptoms of Nipah will be taken and sent to NIV Alappuzha, Pune and Manipal Laboratory," said State Health Secretary Rajan Khorbagade.
 
He said that experts from the Indian Council of Medical Research were in constant touch with health authorities in the state.
 
In May last year, a Nipah (NiV) virus attack claimed 12 lives, with 22 positive cases reported from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts that created a huge scare.
 
The Kerala government has brought in a special team of medical professionals and administrators who successfully helped combat the previous outbreak in Kozhikode. They will be helping the medical professionals in Kochi on how to go about handling the fresh outbreak.
 
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Kerala: SmartCity Kochi plans to raise Rs 4,000 crore in Phase III, IV and V

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SmartCity Kochi, a joint venture company of the Kerala Government and Dubai Holding, has drawn up ambitious plans to raise an additional Rs 4,000 crore from potential investors in its Phase III, IV and V by activating infrastructure-ready residential plots and by completing the balance infrastructure development in its township side.
 
"The Phase III will witness residential, sports and recreation facilities and mixed-use developments in a land area covering 30 acres. Phase IV and V planning is underway where we would invest an estimated Rs 200 crore to complete the remaining infrastructure to activate 45 acres of additional plots that could be offered to investors for residential and social infrastructure projects,” said Manoj Nair, CEO, SmartCity Kochi.
 
On the township side, GEMS Modern Academy, with an investment of Rs 102 crore, has commenced its operations with sports and other educational amenities expected to be completed by May of this year.
 
“With these three phases opening up, and subject to timely clearances and approval from the Government of Kerala, we would create further investment opportunities of Rs 4,000 crore to promote developments in the township side of SmartCity Kochi. Of this, a confirmed expression of interest from a leading residential projects developer in South India is under process. The development entails residential project in an area covering 15.5 acres of land on a freehold basis with an investment of approximately Rs 1,200 crore,” he said.
 
Construction work on the residential project is likely to commence during the last quarter of 2019 itself, subject to necessary clearances from the state government. Work on remaining infrastructure development will be taken up in the last quarter of 2020.
 
Nair said the master plan of SmartCity Kochi has been updated and environmental study for the expansion is underway.
 
As per the framework agreement with the Kerala Government, the base investment in SmartCity Kochi was estimated to be Rs 1,700 crore. Overall, developments in SmartCity Kochi have so far resulted in an investment over Rs. 2,600 crore.
 
“In terms of the development of IT business infrastructure, further investments to the tune of Rs. 2,200 crore could be attracted. The full build-out investment potential of SmartCity Kochi is estimated to be Rs. 9,000 crore,” he said.
 
“To facilitate co-developments by investors, we have invested in the development of 7 km of 4-lane roads with utility and services trenches, 33 KV sub-stations with power infrastructure, water storage and distribution infrastructure, and landscaping. Work on water treatment plant is progressing as per schedule,” he said.
 
Major businesses like Lulu Group International, Prestige Group, Maratt Group, Holiday Group and Schulte Group are the co-developers which have signed up to create IT business infrastructure projects.
 
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Singapore-based Shubigi Rao to curate Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2020

Shubigi Rao
Shubigi Rao
Singapore-based Indian-origin artist and writer Shubigi Rao, a compulsive archivist and visual artist known for her complex and layered installations, has been named the curator of the fifth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) that will begin here on December 12, 2020.
 
The selection committee, which made the announcement in Venice on Thursday, unanimously decided to appoint Rao for her “exceptional acumens and inventive sensibilities” to curate the upcoming biennale.
 
The appointment is in keeping with the tradition of an artist helming the contemporary art festival that debuted in 2012.
 
Mumbai-born Rao, whose work featured in the fourth edition of the KMB (2018), is also a writer and her myriad interests include archaeology, neuroscience, libraries, archival systems, histories, literature, violence, acts of cultural genocide, anti-censorship, migratory patterns, ecology and natural history.
 
The decision to choose Rao, 43, was announced at Istituto Europeo di Design, Palazzo Franchetti in Venice—the Italian city that hosted the world’s first biennale (in 1895). The announcement came after lengthy deliberations within a search committee comprising Amrita Jhaveri, Gayatri Sinha, Jitish Kallat, Sunita Choraria and Tasneem Mehta, besides Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) trustees Alex Kuruvilla, Bose Krishnamachari and V Sunil.
 
Rao expressed happiness about her appointment. “Biennales are sometimes floating cities that are unmoored from their locality/ regionality. Kochi-Muziris Biennale is rooted in the intertwined histories and cultural multiplicities of Kochi, while providing a crucial platform for a larger discourse of the critical, political, and social in artistic practices,” she said. 
 
“To shift the lens through which we read the spectacle of exhibition, we must reposition discourse and practice through acknowledging intersecting contexts. I believe it is possible for the Biennale to retain regional realities and histories through cementing existing affinities and establishing new commons.”
 
Krishnamachari, who is a co-founder of the 2010-instituted KBF, described Rao as a “brilliant and original” artist. “Responding to the Foundation’s interest in selecting a young curator with varied interests, the section committee chose Rao for her exceptional talent,” he noted.
 
Secretary Sunil described Rao as a multi-faceted artist with interests in a range of subjects. “We look forward to another exciting edition of the Biennale under her curatorship,” he added.
 
Besides featuring in the fourth edition of the KMB, Rao participated in the 10th Taipei Biennial (2016), 3rd Pune Biennale (2017), the 2nd Singapore Biennale (2008) and the Singapore Writers Festival (2016, 2013). She was also selected for residency programmes in Singapore, Germany and India.
 
Her notable exhibitions include The Wood for the Trees (2018), Written in the Margins (2017), The Retrospectacle of S. Raoul (2013), and Useful Fictions (2013). Rao’s group shows include About Books at AlbumArte, Rome (2018); the Signature Art Prize finalist exhibition at National Museum Singapore (2018); Ghost on the Wire 21 (2016); Dear Painter (2015); Urban:ness (2015); Modern Love (2014); Still Building (2012); Singapore Survey: Beyond LKY (2010); Found and Lost (2009); Singapore Art Show at the Singapore Art Museum (2007); Second Dance Song (2006); Appetites for Litter (2006); and New Contemporaries (2005).
 
Since 2014 Shubigi has been visiting public and private collections, libraries and archives globally for Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book, a decade-long film, book and visual art project about the history of book destruction. The first portion of the project, Written in the Margins, won the Juror’s Choice Award at the APB Signature Prize 2018. The first volume from the project was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize 2018. The project has two of its proposed five volumes released.
 
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NIA accused held at Cochin airport on return from Gulf

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A day after a Qatar-based Keralite was named by the National Investigation Agency  (NIA) as an accused based on information from arrested alleged Islamic State operative Riyaz Aboobacker, he was picked up by the agency from the Cochin airport on his return here on Tuesday.
 
Faizal hails from Ochira in Kollam district.
 
The NIA, which had on Monday moved a special court here for custodial interrogation of Aboobacker -- arrested in wake of the Easter Sunday carnage in Sri Lanka, also mentioned that it wants to include three more people, including Faizal, as accused in the case in which it has already arrested 21 persons.
 
Of the three, Faizal was working abroad, while the other two are based in Kasargode district.
 
The NIA had served a notice to Faizal to appear before them and as soon as he arrived at the airport, he was taken away for detailed questioning.
 
The special court had given the NIA five days custody of Aboobacker, arrested by the agency on April 29 from Palakkad and sent to judicial custody till May 29. 
 
Aboobacker, according to the NIA, has confessed to creating plans to carry out a suicide attack in Kerala. He had been trying to recruit people in this connection and had allegedly got in touch with these three people.
 
The 29-year-old had earlier disclosed that he has been following speeches and videos of Zahran Hashim, a radical Tamil-speaking cleric who is believed to have masterminded the April 21 Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka which left 253 people dead.
 
His arrest came after the agency unearthed the Kasargode module of the terrorist outfit in Kerala during multiple raids.
 
IANS

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Malayalam superstar Dileep gets relief in assault case

Malayalam film actor Dileep
Malayalam film actor Dileep
The Supreme Court on Friday stayed trial against Malayalam actor Dileep, an accused in the assault on an actress, till his plea in the top court about access to visuals of the assault captured by the key accused Pulsar Suni is decided.
 
Dileep has said until he gets a copy of the crucial memory card, which he asserted proves his innocence, the framing of charges would result in "violation of natural justice" and "irreparable damage" to his reputation. 
 
The order staying the trial was passed by a bench comprising Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi.
 
Earlier during a hearing, the Kerala government informed the Supreme Court that it would not press for framing of charges against him before the trial court in the case, till his pending plea in the apex court for access to visuals of the assault captured by main accused Pulsar Suni is decided. 
 
The government's counsel contended that there is no requirement under the law to share all the material with the accused. Dileep's plea for the copy of the memory card was turned down earlier by the Angamaly Magistrate Court and the Kerala High Court.
 
The Kerala government informed the court that an understanding has been reached with Dileep in this regard. The trial court was to commence hearing on framing of charges last month. 
 
Dileep says the visuals contained in the memory card had been manipulated. The Kerala government has, however, opposed his plea for the copy of the visuals and accused him of being the "chief conspirator".
 
The south Indian actress was abducted and assaulted in a moving car on February 17, 2017. Dileep was arrested in July the same year in the case. connection.
 
Mukul Rohatgi, senior counsel appearing for Dileep, contended that the memory card is a document, but the prosecution said it is a material which does not come under the I-T Act and cannot be handed over.
 
In his petition, Dileep states that he has a right to get evidence relating to the case which includes the memory card in which the attack visuals have been stored. 
 
Rohatgi argued that Dileep had the right to access all kinds of evidence that prosecution is producing against him.
 
IANS
 

Former Kerala Minister Vishwanatha Menon passes away

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Former Kerala Finance Minister and CPI-M leader V. Vishwanatha Menon passed away on Friday at a private hospital here, said family sources.
 
He was 92. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
 
He was unwell for a while and was moved to hospital a few days back. 
 
Finance Minister in the E. K. Nayanar cabinet from 1987-91, Menon was one of the tallest leaders in Ernakulam, and was popularly referred to as Ambadi Viswan.
 
His political career started to gain momentum early even when he was active in student politics. 
 
He was the a popular leader of the undivided Communist party and later moved on to the CPI-M.
 
In 1967 he won from the Ernakulam Lok Sabha seat. He also served one term in the Rajya Sabha.
 
His political career though came to a halt after parting ways with the CPI-M. He had contested as an Independent with the support of the BJP in the Ernakulam Lok Sabha bye-election in 2003 and lost.
 
IANS

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Talks on Saturday for wage hike in Malayalam film industry

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A third round of talks is scheduled on Saturday between representatives of the Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) and the Producer's Association over the hike in the wage structure of the film employees.
 
FEFKA is made up of 19 different organisations that include drivers and directors. The previous two rounds of talks failed to resolve the wage issues as the two sides stuck to their stand.
 
According to an agreement, the wages have to be hiked every two years. On December 31 last year, the two-year window ended.
 
Speaking to IANS, Suresh Kumar of the Producer's Association said that it's natural that a series of discussions are held to resolve issues.
 
"We are ready for any reasonable settlement. Obviously, the two sides would always like to get the best deal, so delays might occur. We are hopeful that we will be able to finalise the new rates on Saturday," said Kumar.
 
At present the lowest category wages for a day's work (9 a.m to 10.30 p.m.) includes is Rs 1,080 plus all expenses including food, travel and accommodation.
 
While the producers are ready to give a hike of 20 per cent, the FEFKA representatives want more.
 
IANS
 

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Veteran Kerala politician K. M. Mani passes away at 86

File photo of K M Mani
File photo of K M Mani
Veteran politician and Kerala Congress-Mani (KC-M) Chairman K. M. Mani, who never lost an Assembly election since 1967, passed away at a private hospital here on Tuesday.
 
Mani was suffering from a lung ailment and was in the hospital for the past one week. He had been unwell since January.
 
Announcing the death, a doctor told the media that Mani's condition turned worse after 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday and he died at 4.57 p.m.
 
Mani joined the undivided Kerala Congress in 1965 and went on to become its undisputed leader. Over the years, his party underwent several splits.
 
Mani's record of being the longest-serving legislator in the Kerala Assembly began in 1967 when he represented his home constituency Pala in Kottayam district -- from where he won a record 13 elections.
 
He often used to say that he has two wives: one is Kuttiyama and the other is Pala.
 
Although he won his first election in 1965, the Assembly was not convened and so he was not sworn in. Two years later he became a legislator for the first time -- and remained so for 52 long years.
 
Mani first became a state Minister in 1975 in the C. Achutha Menon cabinet and since then he sat in the cabinets of E. K. Nayanar, P. K. Vasudevan Nair, C. H. Mohammed Koya, K. Karunakaran, A. K. Antony and Oommen Chandy.
 
He holds the state record of having presented 13 budgets.
 
He is survived by his wife, son Jose K. Mani, a Rajya Sabha member, and five daughters.
 
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Mani's death had left Kerala grieving.
 
"He was certainly a very tall politician and is going to be missed in Kerala politics. He had proved his mettle in his job as a very effective minister," he said.
 
IANS
 

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Veteran Kerala politician K. M. Mani passes away

File photo of K M Mani
File photo of K M Mani
Veteran Kerala politician K. M. Mani, who never lost any Assembly election since 1967, died on Tuesday evening at a private hospital here, doctors said.
 
The 86-year-old was undergoing treatment for a lung ailment since his admission to the hospital last week. 
 
Mani's party is the biggest ally of the Congress in the United Democratic Front. 
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 

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Kerala UDF convener Benny Behanan suffers heart attack

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Kerala's United Democratic Front Convener and Congress' Lok Sabha candidate from Chalakkudy, Benny Behanan, suffered a heart attack on Friday and is admitted to a hospital near here, party leaders said.
 
The 66-year-old underwent an emergency angioplasty and his condition is now stable, a party leader said.
 
He had reached his residence close to midnight after his election campaign. At around 2.30 a.m, he complained of uneasiness and was moved to the nearest hospital.
 
Behanan, a former two time MLA, is pitted against veteran comedian and sitting Lok Sabha member Innocent, a Left-supported Independent.
 
IANS
 
 
 

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Kochi-Muziris Biennale winds up, filmmaker Adoor lauds it as common man’s event

The fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) formally wound up here on Thursday with a closing ceremony, where renowned filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan hailed the contemporary art festival as one having become integral to Kerala society, having percolated to the sensibilities of even the common people.
 
Addressing an evening gathering in downtown Ernakulam, the 77-year-old auteur said the host state can no more imagine its cultural future without the biennale. 
 
“This festival has only been bettering with every edition, I must say as someone who has viewed it from inception (in 2012),” he said about South Asia’s biggest event of its kind.
 
The 108-day festival is scheduled to conclude on Friday evening with a flag-lowering ceremony at Aspinwall House, the main venue of the event, in Fort Kochi.
 
The biennale, curated by eminent artist Anita Dube, turned out to be the first anywhere in the world to feature women totalling more than half of its participating artists who came out with 94 projects in ten venues of the heritage city. Based on the curatorial theme of ‘Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life’, it sought to explore newer access to art practices while hosting an array of seminars, workshops, lectures, films and stage performances.
 
At the valedictory ceremony at Darbar Hall Ground on Thursday evening, Adoor said the biennale has become a place where students from various field have been visiting. “This has become one of the top biennale’s in the world. We have seen representations from other biennale visiting and appreciating the works on display and showing their interest in the various artistic projects showcased here,” he added.
 
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Bose Krishnamachari, president of the Kochi Biennale Foundation that is organising the festival, said the latest edition clocked a total footfall of 6.2 lakh people from across the country and abroad. “We believe that the next edition will be bigger. In fact, from 2020, the biennale will be extended up to 120 days.”
 
Krishnamachari, also an acclaimed artist, extended his thanks to all his team and the curator. “Without all of you, we would not have reached to this successful end. Special thanks to the 2018 curator Dube. She dealt with some important subjects.” 
 
Dube said she hoped to have delivered what she promised of bringing out a biennale that is more inclusive. “This biennale meant to show the struggle the women in society face in their day-to-day life,” she said. “Through my curatorial efforts, I ensured that young artists get a platform to showcases their work. Pleasure combined with pedagogy was the overriding theme.”
 
Trustee N S Madhavan announced the Student’s Biennale winners at the ceremony.
 
Kerala Tourism Director P Bala Kiran said the biennale, coming within four months of the floods that devastated the state last monsoon, helped the state regain its influx of travellers to God’s Own Kerala. “I take this opportunity to thank the biennale that has compelled tourists to visit Kerala after the floods,” he added.
 
Sunil V, Secretary of the Foundation, proposed thanks. The ceremony was followed by an interactive concert by conversation band Oorali, which is a participant at the biennale that began on December 12 last year.
 
The festival was inaugurated at the Parade Ground in Fort Kochi by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
 
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Jitish Kallat’s Doomsday installation mirrors prophesies of man-made catastrophe

Jitish Kallat
Jitish Kallat
Jitish Kallat’s sculptural installation at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is an abstract work that combines themes from the prehistoric past and future, while deriving a part of its form from the iconic Doomsday Clock.
 
On view inside a large hall at TKM Warehouse in the heritage town of Mattancherry, a suite of six exhibits has been illuminated from the top, making the entire setting appear ominous. The installation, made out of dental plaster with mild steel supports, is called ‘Untitled (Two Minutes to Midnight)’.
 
The title of the 2018 work is a direct reference to the Doomsday Clock, which was created in 1947 as a symbolic/hypothetical representation of how close humanity is to a man-made catastrophe. Developed by a group of scientists, scholars and Nobel laureates, represented by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the clock was recently set to 11:58 pm — which is two minutes before the symbolic apocalyptic midnight.
 
Situating his work in the context of nuclear weapons and climate change being cited as one of the potential causes for the world’s end, Jitish’s work re-imagines the clock by placing the six sculptures on a plinth that is shaped liked the Doomsday Clock. “The installation draws together ciphers that link past and future, dawn and midnight to induce a contemplation on the many urgencies of our present-day existence,” says the 44-year-old Mumbaikar, with family roots tracing to Kerala. 
 
Even as he looks to the prophesied future in his installation, the form of his exhibits has been informed by a landmark discovery from the prehistoric era, which is the first evidence of tool construction millions of years ago.  
A view of Jitish Kallat's works at TKM Warehouse, Mattancherry in Kochi.
A view of Jitish Kallat's works at TKM Warehouse, Mattancherry in Kochi.
 
Elaborating on the form of his biennale sculptures, Jitish says the suite of sculptures derives its form from paleolithic hand axes and stone tools that were the first human effort to alter the face of the planet. In his work, the artist uses the reference to the first stone tools to make a point about the destruction of the planet. “The first stone tools mark the dawn of human ingenuity, augmenting physical capacities before exponential future innovations lead to uninhibited human supremacy and indiscriminate manipulation of the planet,” he says.   
 
As an artist whose vast oeuvre covers painting, photography, drawing and video apart from sculptural installations, Jitish’s work has largely focused on themes of human existence, time, sustenance, history, nations, cities and the distant cosmos.     
  
After working as a curator and artistic director of the 2014 edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Jitish returned to the fourth edition as a participating artist for the 108-day event that concludes on March 29.
 
The artist studied painting at Sir J. J. School of Art and has widely exhibited at museums and galleries all over the world, including shows at Tate, London, and a number of presentations at biennales and triennials in Asia and the west.   
 
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Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan assumes charge as Flag Officer Sea Training

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Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan assumed charge as Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) of the Indian Navy in Kochi on Monday.
 
Rear Admiral Swaminathan, a specialist in Communication and Electronic Warfare was commissioned into the Indian Navy on July 1, 1987. He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune; the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Shrivenham in the United Kingdom; the College of Naval Warfare, Karanja in Mumbai, and the United States Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, USA.
 
He has commanded five frontline ships of the Indian Navy including the missile vessels, INS Vidyut and INS Vinash; the missile corvette, INS Kulish; the guided missile destroyer, INS Mysore; and the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.
 
Prior to assuming charge as FOST, the Admiral was the Chief Staff Officer (Training) at Headquarters Southern Naval Command and played a key role in the conduct of all training in the Indian Navy. He was also instrumental in raising the Indian Naval Safety Team that oversees operational safety across all domains of the Navy.
 
The officer has a BSc degree from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, MA in Defence Studies from King’s College, London, MPhil in Strategic Studies from the Mumbai University and a PhD in International Studies from the Mumbai University.
 
FOST functions under the operational and administrative jurisdiction of Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command. His charter includes the conduct of operational sea training for ships of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard by enhancing crew proficiency in all aspects, including safe navigation practices, damage control and firefighting drills, weapon firings as well as seamanship training.
 
The officer has taken over the appointment from Rear Admiral Sanjay J Singh, who has proceeded to Mumbai to assume his next appointment as Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet (FOCWF).
 
IANS
 

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