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Kochi

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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Nun rape: Bishop sent to 2-day police custody

 
Kerala nun rape case: Bishop sent to police custody till September 24
 
 
Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been arrested for raping a nun, was on Saturday refused bail by a Kerala court and sent to two days in police custody.
 
The bishop would be kept at the Kottayam Police Club till Monday, when he would be again produced at a court in Pala, near here, a police officer said.
 
Mulakkal, who headed the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, Punjab, was arrested on Friday in Tripunithura after three days of questioning in a sexual abuse case filed by a nun who accused him of repeatedly raping her between 2014 to 2016.
 
The bishop's counsel told the court that his client's blood sample and saliva were forcefully taken.
 
The police said that Mulakkal would be taken to the convent near here, where he is alleged to have raped the nun. He would also have to undergo a potency test.
 
Police had a tough time on Saturday controlling the crowd as people jeered at Mulakkal, who became the first bishop in the country to be arrested for rape.
 
Mulakkal was to be produced in court on Friday following his arrest. However, after he developed chest pains on the way to Kottayam from Tripunithura, he was admitted in the Kottayam Medical College hospital, where he stayed overnight.
 
He was discharged early on Saturday and produced in the court in the afternoon.
 
One of the five nuns who took to the streets in Kochi in an indefinite protest demanding the bishop's arrest, on Saturday told the media: "This protest would not have taken place, had our church authorities taken our complaints seriously."
 
"We never did this for our benefit, instead we wanted to ensure that there would never be another bishop like Mulakkal who would turn a tormentor," the nun added. The protest were called off on Saturday.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala Catholic bishop Franco Mulakkal arrested over nun's rape

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After three days of questioning, the Kerala Police on Friday arrested Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who heads the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar and has been accused of repeatedly raping a nun, police said.
 
He was taken for medical examination and will be produced before a court on Saturday.
 
This is first time in the country that a bishop has been arrested for rape.
 
Addressing reporters here on Friday night, after Mulakkal was taken out from the Crime Branch office where he was questioned, Kottayam Superintendent of Police Hari Sankar said all paper work for the arrest has been completed.
 
"He has been charged for illegal confinement, rape, unnatural sex and criminal intimidation. The arrest was made on the grounds of reasonable suspicion, which is enough for effecting an arrest. He was also given reasonable time to defend himself. 
 
"The arrest has come after analysing all the evidences collected in the past two months of probe. The conspiracy angle that came out was also looked into," said Hari Sankar.
 
"The arrest came after multi-level discussions and we will be looking into more evidences. Also, the investigation officer will look into if there were more people involved," he added.
 
Mulakkal was taken to the Tripunithura Taluk Hospital for the medical examination.
 
From there, he was taken in a police vehicle to Kottayam, about 60 km from here.
 
"Tomorrow (Saturday) he will be produced in a court," said Hari Sankar.
 
The arrest came after the bishop was questioned for three consecutive days at the Crime Branch office near Tripunithura here.
 
Mulakkal has been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing the nun between 2014 and 2016. She raised her complaint against the Bishop in June.
 
The news of his arrest was received with shouting of slogans at a venue where five nuns have been on an indefinite protest along with the public for the past 14 days demanding his arrest.
 
"We still can't believe that he has been arrested. We are overjoyed," exclaimed a nun.
 
"We are extremely happy. This happened only because we got the support of public and also the media," said another nun.
 
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The arrest became a certainty on Friday morning when a police official came to the victim, who is staying at a convent near Kottayam, to take statements for the seventh time when she first raised the issue in June.
 
The official took about half hour and passed on the outcome to the investigation officer who was questioning the bishop.
 
The nuns in Kochi protesting for the past 14 days demanding his arrest also secured widespread support from the civil society.
 
Like the past two days, on Friday too the bishop accompanied by his counsel and a few priests arrived for the questioning under heavy police escort around 10.45 a.m.
 
With Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the US for medical treatment, Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, the de facto Chief Minister, said earlier that the probe was progressing in the right direction.
 
"The government has always been with the victim and whosoever does a wrong, the wrongdoer will be taken to task," he said.
 
Hari Sankar early on Friday met Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhre, who is heading the probe team.
 
Now with the bishop's arrest, his anticipatory bail plea filed before the Kerala High Court on September 25 has turned infructuous.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala Catholic bishop arrested over nun's rape

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After three days of questioning, the Kerala Police on Friday arrested Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, who has been accused of repeatedly raping a nun, police said.
 
This is the first time in the country that a bishop has been arrested for rape. "Given the stature of the accused, the police left nothing to chance before arresting him," said a police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
 
The arrest came after the bishop was questioned for three consecutive days at the Crime Branch office near Tripunithura here.
 
The police will now take Mulakkal, who has maintained that he is innocent, for a medical examination and then produce him before a magistrate in Kottayam as the crime took place in that district.
 
Mulakkal has been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing the nun between 2014 and 2016. She raised her complaint against the Bishop in June.
 
The news of his arrest was received with shouting of slogans at a venue where five nuns have been on an indefinite protest along with the public for the past 14 days demanding his arrest.
 
"We still can't believe that he has been arrested. We are overjoyed," exclaimed a nun.
 
"We are extremely happy. This happened only because we got the support of the public and also the media," said another nun.
 
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The arrest became a certainty on Friday morning when a police official came to the victim, who is staying at a convent near Kottayam, to take statements for the seventh time since June, when she first raised the issue.
 
The official took about half hour and passed on the outcome to the investigation officer who was questioning the bishop.
 
The nuns in Kochi protesting for the past 14 days demanding his arrest secured widespread support from the civil society.
 
Like in the past two days, on Friday too the bishop accompanied by his counsel and a few priests arrived for the questioning under heavy police escort around 10.45 a.m.
 
With Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the US for medical treatment, Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, the de facto Chief Minister, said earlier that the probe was progressing in the right direction.
 
"The government has always been with the victim and whosoever does a wrong, the wrongdoer will be taken to task," he said.
 
Kottayam Superintendent of Police Hari Sankar early on Friday met Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhre, who is heading the probe team.
 
Now with the bishop's arrest, his anticipatory bail plea filed before the Kerala High Court on September 25 has turned infructuous.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent, giving an unprecedented jolt to the community.
 
IANS
 

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Nun rape: Bishop questioning enters Day 3

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The Kerala Police began questioning Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a nun, for the third consecutive day on Friday, even as demands for his arrest grew.
 
Mulakkal has been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing the nun between 2014 and 2016. Nuns have been protesting in Kochi for the past 14 days demanding his arrest.
 
The bishop, who belongs to the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, Punjab, has been questioned for seven hours each on two days starting Wednesday near here at a Crime Branch office.
 
He was accompanied by his counsel and a few priests as he arrived for the questioning under heavy police escort around 10.45 a.m.
 
With Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan leaving for medical treatment to the US, Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, the de facto Chief Minister, speaking to the media, said that the probe was advancing in the right direction.
 
"The state government has always been with the victim and whosoever does a wrong -- the wrongdoer will be taken to task," he said.
 
Kottayam police chief Hari Sankar, who leads the police probe team told the media on Friday that at the moment they were unable to say anything about the arrest.
 
"It will only be decided after the interrogation is over. It is completely the prerogative of the investigating officer. And there is no need for him to take any permission from anyone. We have already consulted legal experts," said Hari Sankar .
 
He also met Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhre, who is heading the probe team.
 
For the past two days, K. Subash, the deputy superintendent of police, was the investigating officer. He was also the first one to meet the bishop when he questioned him in Jalandhar in August.
 
The Kerala High Court will be hearing the bishop's anticipatory bail plea on September 25.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent. 
 
IANS
 

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Kerala Police questions rape-accused bishop for 7 hours

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Kerala Police on Wednesday questioned Bishop Franco Mulakkal accused of raping a nun for seven hours and asked him to report back on Thursday morning, said a police official.
 
The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, accompanied by his counsel and a few priests, arrived in a car around 11 a.m at the Crime Branch office in Tripunithura near here.
 
Around 6.30 p.m, the bishop was allowed to leave for the day.
 
Addressing the media soon after the bishop left, Kottayam Superintendent of Police Harishankar said the first phase of interrogation is over.
 
"He has been served a notice to appear before the probe team tomorrow (Thursday) at 11 a. m. here. He is cooperating with us. Since the questioning is going on, at the moment, we won't be able to share what the bishop had to say," said Harishankar.
 
Ahead of the questioning in the morning, top police officers -- Inspector General of Police Vijay Sakhre, Harishankar and his deputy K. Subhash -- held a meeting at the IGP office in Kochi.
 
"We are under no pressure. We have conducted a detailed probe which was spread across five states. There is no directive that the bishop should not be arrested," said Harishankar.
 
The police ensured that the media could not get close to him or even take his picture.
 
According to them, Tripunithura on the outskirts of Kochi was chosen as the venue to avoid the protests underway in Kochi for the last 12 days.
 
The bishop on Tuesday got a relief from the Kerala High Court which agreed to hear his anticipatory bail plea on September 25.
 
The court also asked the state government to file an affidavit.
 
A Kerala nun has accused Mulakkal of repeatedly sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
Earlier, Mulakkal was questioned by the police team led by Dy. SP Subhash in August at his Jalandhar office.
 
IANS

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Kerala Police questions bishop accused of raping nun

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The Kerala Police on Wednesday started questioning Bishop Franco Mulakkal accused of raping a nun, even as a top police officer said there is no restriction on his arrest.
 
Ahead of the questioning, top police officers -- Inspector General Vijay Sakhre, Kottayam Superintendent Harishankar and his deputy K. Subhash held a meeting at the IG office in Kochi.
 
"We are under no pressure. We have conducted a detailed probe which was spread across five different states. There has been no directive that the bishop should not be arrested," said Harishankar.
 
The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, accompanied by his counsel and a few priests, arrived in a car earlier to the Crime Branch office near here. 
 
The police ensured that the media could not get close to him or even take his picture. 
 
According to the police, Tripunithura located on the outskirts of Kochi, was chosen as the venue to avoid the protests underway in Kochi over the last 12 days.
 
The bishop on Tuesday got a relief from the Kerala High Court which agreed to hear his anticipatory bail plea on September 25.
 
The court also asked the state government to file an affidavit.
 
A Kerala nun has accused Mulakkal of repeatedly sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
Mulakkal was questioned by the police team led by Subhash in August at his Jalandhar office.
 
IANS

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Nun's rape: Bishop's anticipatory bail hearing on September 25

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The Kerala High Court on Tuesday agreed to hear an anticipatory bail plea from Bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a nun, and posted the matter for hearing on September 25.
 
The court also asked the state government to file an affidavit.
 
The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar filed the petition earlier on Tuesday before Justice V. Raja Vijayaraghavan. 
 
The bail plea came ahead of Mulakkal's appearance before a Kerala Police probe team on Wednesday.
 
Mulakkal has asked the court to see that he was not arrested till the anticipatory bail plea was disposed. He reiterated that the complaint against him was false, concocted and meant to harass him.
 
A Kerala nun has accused Mulakkal of repeatedly sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
Mulakkal was questioned by the police in August at his Jalandhar office.
 
Meanwhile, an indefinite protest against the bishop entered its 11th day on Tuesday. 
 
"We have faith in the judiciary. Tomorrow the bishop has to appear before the police. We will wait for what happens," said one of the five protesting nuns. 
 
IANS

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Nun rape case: Bishop moves Kerala HC for anticipatory bail

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Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been named in a sexual abuse case by a nun, on Tuesday moved the Kerala High Court seeking an anticipatory bail.
 
The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar would be appearing before the police probe team on Wednesday.
 
The bail plea would be heard by Justice V. Raja Vijayaraghavan later on Tuesday.
 
Franco has asked the court to see that he is not arrested until the anticipatory bail plea is finally disposed.
 
He said the complaint against him is false and a concocted one, meant to harass him.
 
A Kerala nun has accused Mulakkal of repeatedly sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
Franco was also questioned by the police in August at his Jalandhar office.
 
IANS
 

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Well-known Malayalam actor Captain Raju passes away

Captain Raju (Photo by Sivahari/Wikimedia Commons)
Captain Raju (Photo by Sivahari/Wikimedia Commons)
Well-known Malayalam film actor Captain Raju passed away at his residence here this morning after a brief illness. 
 
He was 68. He is survived by wife Prameela, and son Raviraj.
 
During an illustrious career, Raju appeared in nearly 500 films in Malayalam and other South Indian languages Tamil, Telugu and Kannada as well as in Hindi.
 
Some of his stand-out roles were in movies such as "Nadodikattu", "Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha" and "CID Moosa". His last apperance was in the Mammootty-starrer "Masterpiece" which released last year.
 
In late June, Captain Raju had fallen unconscious after suffering a stroke while he was on a flight to Dubai, en route to the United States to attend his son's wedding. The flight was diverted to Muscat in Oman, where he was hospitalised for about a week.
 
Later, on July 2, he was shifted by his family to Kochi for further treatment.
 
Born as Raju Daniel, in Omalloor in Pathanamthitta district, he had quit the Indian Army when he was a captain, and then worked briefly as the marketing chief of a private company in Mumbai. During that period, he acted in several plays in Mumbai. He began his film career in 1981. His first film was Raktham. 
 
Some of his other notable vilms were "Rathilayam", "Aavanazhi", "August 1", "Pazhassi Raja", "Mumbai Police".
 
The movies he directed were "Itha Oru Sneha Gadha" and "Mister Pavanayi 99.99", in which he reprised his character Pavanayi from Naadodikattu.
 
He was often cast as a villain because of his height and towering personality. He has also featured in character roles and in TV serials. In recent years, he also did some comic roles, which were widely appreciated.
 
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After floods, Kerala Tourism gets first international charter

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The money-spinning Kerala tourism industry celebrated quietly on Sunday after receiving the first chartered flight of tourists this season following the devastating floods.
 
The flight with 46 tourists from Australia landed at the Cochin International Airport here on Saturday night.
 
The heavy rains and unprecedented floods that shattered the state, leaving hundreds dead and thousands homeless and causing widespread destruction, led to numerous cancellations by tourists.
 
"Our efforts have already started paying off. Most of our tourist destinations are ready to welcome the visitors from India and abroad. The state government has accorded top priority to restoring roads leading to tourist places," said Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran.
 
Kerala's total direct earnings from the sector in the last calendar year touched Rs 26,000 crore, up from Rs 23,098 crore, a growth of 12.56 per cent.
 
Speaking to IANS, E. M. Najeeb, who heads the Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry (CKTI), said it was a friend who organised the charter flight from Australia.
 
"They have planned a 21-day trip to India and had cancelled the three-day Kerala leg. When I came to know of it, I promised that they will have nothing to worry about in Kerala.
 
"By now 90 per cent of the damaged infrastructure has been put back to place," said Najeeb.
 
Meanwhile, the 10th edition of the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) will be held here from September 27 to 30.
 
"The response has been huge. Close to 400 overseas buyers and 1,095 domestic buyers have registered to take part," said Baby Mathew, President, KTM Society.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala nun rape case: Relief for Bishop Mulakkal

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Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been named in a sexual abuse case by a nun, got a breather from the Kerala High Court on Thursday as it said "arrest is not the issue".
 
Expressing satisfaction in the ongoing probe, the court observed that, since it was an old case, the probe and the investigation will take time and "not the arrest but final punishment of the accused is more important".
 
Apart from hearing two petitions on the case, it also heard a third petition seeking a Central Bureau Investigation (CBI) probe into it, and said that at present that would not be granted and posted the matter for next hearing on September 24.
 
Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar has been served a notice to appear before the probe team on September 19.
 
The nuns supporting the victim expressed their disappointment with the court's observation.
 
"We now feel that the probe might be swept under the carpet. Even the court is also denying us justice," said a nun after hearing the court's observations on Thursday.
 
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A Division Bench headed by the Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy after going through the affidavit of the Kerala Police probe team said that it was not proper to put pressure on the police as it could create hindrance to a free probe.
 
A Kerala nun has accused Mulakkal of repeatedly sexually abusing her between 2014 and 2016. There are five other nuns of the same congregation who have supported her claim.
 
On Thursday, Kottayam Superintendent of Police Harishankar who is leading the probe told the media that variations and contradictions have been found in the statements that have been taken from several people connected with the case.
 
"I would not say that this has been done on purpose. However, taking into account that the case is four years old, it might be difficult to recall things correctly. 
 
"There are discrepancies in documents and facts that have now come up and hence we have expanded the probe team," said Harishankar.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
However, Mulakkal has denied any wrongdoing and termed it a conspiracy hatched against him.
 
IANS

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Controversial bishop, accused of rape, asked to appear before Kerala Police

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The Kerala Police on Wednesday sent a notice to controversial Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, who has been accused of rape by a nun, asking him to appear before them on September 19.
 
A Kerala nun has accused him of repeated sexual abuse between 2014 and 2016.
 
"We reviewed the entire case today (Wednesday) and there are contradictions in the statements of the victim, the accused and the witnesses. So, we have asked the bishop to appear before us on September 19, when the Investigation Officer would question him. 
 
"The contradictions in the statements have to be cleared, or else there could be issues," Inspector General of Police (IGP) Vijay Sakhre told the media in Kochi soon after a review meeting on the case.
 
"Security to the complainant and the witnessess is there and we have registered cases against the death threats that the nuns have allegedly received," added Sakhre.
 
State Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, deputising for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is off to the United States for treatment, told the media in the state capital that the government is with the victim.
 
"No one needs to be worried for anything and it's unfortunate that nuns have had to stage protests. We all know that the probe has been going on for a while now, but since it has to be submitted to the court, there just can't be any errors," said Jayarajan.
 
On Wednesday, a day-long protest before the state secretariat in Kochi was organised by the Joint Christian Council, whose indefinite relay fast in the state capital entered its fifth day.
 
In the state capital, joining the protesters was former state Congress President V. M. Sudheeran, who said the protests should not be mistaken as one against the Christian community.
 
"The police itself said that all the evidences are there with them in the case, then why are they hesitant to go forward? The state police chief is unable to go forward in this case and it's most unfortunate," said Sudheeran.
 
In Kochi, Wednesday saw more and more leaders -- political and otherwise -- visiting the protest venue. They included top political leaders from various parties, civil society members and film personalities.
 
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Coming to the defence of Mulakkal was his own diocese, who in a statement said that this is nothing but a conspiracy hatched against the bishop.
 
"This is just an allegation... The bishop had visited the nun's home for a function and she looked very happy also. According to her complaint, the previous day the bishop had abused her. If that were the case, could she be happy? Moreover, all the complaints surfaced after a lady came with a complaint against the nun," says the statement.
 
Popular Malayalam film personality Joy Mathew led a protest in Kozhikode against the callousness of the authorities in the case as the nun is yet to get justice.
 
Incidentally, the Kerala High Court will on Thursday look into an affidavit that asked the state government to detail the steps taken on the complaint of the nun.
 
"All the details in the case would be presented before the high court on Thursday in the affidavit," said Kottayam Superintendent of Police who is leading the probe.
 
It was in June that the victim alleged that Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar had sexually abused her several times between 2014 and 2016.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent. However, Mulakkal has denied any wrongdoing.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala nuns oppose Crime Branch probe into bishop abuse case

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A group of Catholic nuns on Sunday opposed a Crime Branch probe into a case where a bishop allegedly sexually abused a nun.
 
"We have heard that a Crime Branch probe is being planned. This is only meant to delay the proceedings. We are happy with the present police probe. The higher officials do not want us to get justice," a group member told the media.
 
On Saturday, the nuns attached to a Catholic convent near Kottayam to which the alleged victim also belonged, started an indefinite fast programme organised by the Joint Christian Council here to pressurise the state government to act against the accused, Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar.
 
The protest was called due to the fact that since the case was registered 75 days ago, the police have taken 12 statements from the victim while only one from the accused bishop.
 
Meanwhile, Kerala Police Chief Loknath Behra has dismissed claims of a Crime Branch probe.
 
"I am yet to review the case as it is being handled by the Inspector General (IG) of Police. The IG is happy with the progress in the investigation," Behra told the media on Sunday.
 
Sources closed to the victim said that a press conference which she was slated to address has been cancelled and will now directly approach the Kerala High Court seeking justice.
 
In June, the victim alleged that Mulakkal sexually abused her several times between 2014 to 2016. 
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
However, Mulakkal has denied any wrongdoing.
 
IANS
 
 

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Nadda reviews relief and rescue measures in Kerala

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Saying that the Centre was extending all support and assistance to flood-affected Kerala, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda today reviewed the relief and rescue measures.
 
Secretary (Health) Preeti Sudan and other senior officers from the Health Ministry also accompanied the Minister. Mr Nadda reviewed the flood situation during a meeting with Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja and officials of the State Government.
 
During his visit, Mr Nadda expressed grief and sorrow on the ill-fated deaths and damage caused to lives and property due to floods. He said the Prime Minister himself was monitoring the situation.
 
The Union Health Minister also visited Chalakkudy Taluk Hospital and interacted with the patients. Later, he visited the relief camps at VR Puram and Mullassery and assured all support and cooperation to the State.
 
To cope with the situation, 50 medical doctors were kept on standby for deputation to affected areas at short notice. Twelve public health teams, each comprising of a public health specialist, microbiologist and an entomologist were kept ready. As many as 48 essential emergency drugs were kept ready for immediate dispatch.
 
On the request of the State Government, the first tranche of 48 essential emergency drugs, weighing about 73 MT, were airlifted by Indian Air Force. This included one crore chlorine tablets which were further augmented by another 1.25 crore of chlorine tablets (total 2.25 crore). Bleaching powder of 20 MT of was made available to the State, which was further scaled up by another 60 MT (total 80 MT).
 
The request for supply of 4 lakh sanitary napkins received from the State was delivered in Thiruvananthapuram. Insecticides and larvicides and fogging machines were also mobilized and delivered to the State. Further, 40 fogging machines were also procured and delivered later.
 
The norms were especially relaxed to the exigencies of the circumstances and approval of the additional amount of Rs 18.71 crore was accorded to the State through National Health Mission (NHM), as per their request. On further request, 58 items of essential drugs including drugs for managing non-communicable diseases, most of the items in this consignment of about 120 MT, were delivered.
 
In the wake of an increase in the number of cases of leptospirosis, Kerala has been provided with 18,00,000 capsules of doxycycline-drug used for prophylaxis and treatment of leptospirosis.
 
Psycho-social teams numbering 40 members have been deployed from NIMHANS, Bengaluru, for rapid psycho-social assessment and community based psycho-social care. These teams have so far sensitized 5,353 volunteers on Community based psychosocial care; 65,155 survivors of disaster have been supported through psychosocial first aid program; 17,140 individual sessions and 2,335 group sessions were carried out. As many as 396 subjects were referred for psychiatric care/ psychological counselling to higher centres.
 
About 30 specialist doctors, 20 general duty medical officers and 40 Malayalam-speaking nurses have been deployed in flood-affected districts for providing medical care. These doctors are posted in Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Ernakulum District working in district hospitals/ taluka hospitals providing medical care.
 
The Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) and its State branch are also providing assistance to the State. Five thousand volunteers of IRCS participated in search and rescue operations. They have supplied tents (300), tarpaulins (2500) and utility items such as sarees (3000), blankets (3500), bedsheets (4000) etc. including three water treatment units (capacity 700 litres/ hr).
 
The National Centre for Disease Control is monitoring the outbreak situation. An event-based daily reporting for epidemic-prone diseases is followed from August 21, 2018. The Strategic Operation Centre has been activated.
 
The EMR division is monitoring the situation arising due to a spurt of cases from Leptospirosis, Dengue, Chickenpox and Acute Diarrhoeal Disease (ADD) on a daily basis.
 
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Kerala Travel Mart from September 27 to highlight tourism resurgence after floods

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Aiming to send out a strong message that tourism in the flood-battered Kerala will be back on the rails in double-quick time, Kerala Travel Mart (KTM), India’s largest  tourism sector conclave of stakeholders from across the world, will hold its biennial meet in Kochi from September 27 to 30.
 
Being held just weeks after the devastating floods that ravaged large parts of the coastal state, the tenth edition of KTM will focus on measures that would lead to a strong resurgence of tourism, which is the mainstay of Kerala’s economy.
 
The inaugural session of the four-day event, being organised by the KTM Society in association with the State Tourism Department, will be held at Grand Hyatt, Bolgatty, on September 27. 
 
In the next three days, a series of Buyer-Seller Meets, seminars and policy deliberations will take place at Samudrika and Sagara Convention Centre at the Willingdon Island.
 
“The response to this edition of KTM has been overwhelming with 395 overseas buyers and 1,095 domestic buyers having registered as participants. The complete list of participants for the Buyer-Seller meet will be released on September 10,” said Mr Baby Mathew, President, KTM Society.
 
As in its previous editions, KTM will serve as a strong platform to showcase its time-tested as well as new products of Kerala and establish firm business links by bringing together internationally reputed buyers and sellers and tour operators under one roof.
 
The new products launched by the state government like the Malabar River Cruise project, focusing on nine rivers in north Kerala, will be showcased before the delegates.
 
Major topics to be deliberated at the seminars will include enhancing the green cover of the state, rainwater harvesting and reduction of the use of plastic. In its previous edition, the key themes of discussion included promotion of organic products, attaining energy efficiency and garbage management. 
 
Tourism in Kerala has started recovering fast from the grim blow dealt by the calamitous floods. Traffic to major destinations across the state has resumed and bookings ahead of the peak season have picked up.
 
With delegates from 73 countries attending, the event is expected to send a strong signal to the world that the state has the resilience and an indomitable spirit to take in its stride any adverse challenge and move forward.
 
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“Special arrangements have also been made for the large media contingent reaching the city to cover the event, including fully hosted tours to prime destinations across the state from September 23 to 27. As many as 20 media persons from abroad and 26 from different parts of the country will be reporting the event from the spot,” said Mr Abraham George, former President and expert member of the National Tourism Advisory Committee (NTAC).
 
Separate tour packages for the business delegates have also been planned, the itinerary of which includes top Ayurvedic spas.
 
The strength of KTM is its public-private sector collaboration and it also serves as a forum for meaningful interactions with international buyers and sellers and clinching business deals by tour operators, hotels, resorts, home stays, houseboats, Ayurveda retreats and art and cultural institutions.
 
As part of its social responsibility mission, KTM Society has set up a Task Force for flood relief and rehabilitation efforts by bringing together 28 organisations  from the tourism sector.
 
The task force has pledged its total support to the state government’s mission of rebuilding the infrastructure severely battered by the floods. It has also mobilised several teams to actively participate in cleaning up works, restoration of roads and mobilisation of relief material for the affected people.
 
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Any unconditional financial support for flood-hit Kerala should be accepted: Rahul

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said that any unconditional financial support from anywhere should be accepted, as it will bring solace to flood-hit Kerala.
 
Gandhi made the remark while speaking to reporters before beginning the second day of his two-day visit to the flood-ravaged areas of the state.
 
He was responding to a question on India's 'rejection' of funds to the tune of $100 million offered by the UAE government for flood relief work.
 
"My personal opinion is any unconditional offer of funds to reduce pain and sufferings should be taken," said Gandhi.
 
On the question of the support from the Centre to the state, he said that it was sad that the Centre had not really supported the way Kerala wanted.
 
"This is Kerala's right and they should give more," said Gandhi. He said he was in the state to express his solidarity with the people who were suffering and not to do politics.
 
Gandhi arrived in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday and visited half a dozen camps in the southern districts of the state, where the flood had hit hard.
 
Gandhi was scheduled to travel to the hilly district of Wayanad in north Kerala. However, due to bad weather it was cancelled and instead he opted to go to Idukki.
 
IANS
 

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Malayalam film director K.K. Haridas passes away

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Malayalam film director K.K. Haridas died on Sunday following a heart attack at a hospital here, film industry sources said.
 
Haridas, 52, started his career as an assistant in the 80s and since then had worked as an associate in 48 films before turning into a full time director. He had directed a total of 20 films.
 
His debut film in 1994 "Vadhu Doctoranu" turned out to be a super hit. His other well known films are "Kakkakum Poochakkum Kalyanam" and "Kinnam Katta Kallan".
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 

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Orthodox Church bishop Thomas Mar Athanasios dies after falling from train

Thomas Mar Athanasios
Thomas Mar Athanasios
Thomas Mar Athanasios, one of the most senior bishops of the Kerala-based Orthodox Syrian Church and the Metropolitan of its Chengannur Diocese, passed away after falling from a train near here early this morning.
 
He was 80.
 
According to various accounts, the bishop was standing near the door of the coach as he was to alight at the Ernakulam (South) railway station here.
 
He fell from the coach when the door suddenly slammed on him when the train was near the Pullepady bridge between Ernakulam South at about 5.30 am , the accounts said.
 
His body has been  kept at the Ernakulam General Hospital, sources said, adding that the arrangements for the funeral were yet to be finalised.
 
The bishop was on his way back from Vadodara in Gujarat, a city with which he  has had a long association, going back to the days before he became a priest.
 
Born  on April 3, 1938, he took his B. Sc. (Physics) from S. B. College, Changanacherry, B. Ed. from N.S.S. College, Changanacherry before completing his B. D. from the Serampore College, Calcutta. He later completed his Master of Education (M. Ed.) from M.S. University of Baroda.
 
He was the founder of the Basil School in Vadodara and went on to found six other schools in Gujarat.
 
He became the first Metropolitan of the Diocese of Chengannur on August , 1985. Apart from that, he served the church in  various other capacities.
 
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Kerala sees some normalcy, CM promises all help

Parts of flood-ravaged Kerala began limping to normalcy as rains kept away from the state for a second successive day on Thursday, but officials admitted there was a long way to go for the human suffering to abate.

 
Kerala flood survivors struggle to restart normal lives
 
 
Parts of flood-ravaged Kerala began limping to normalcy as rains kept away from the state for a second successive day on Thursday, but officials admitted there was a long way to go for the human suffering to abate.
 
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan flew to a handful of over 3,000 relief centres housing over one million people and promised that his government would do everything possible to help them overcome their woes.
 
Vijayan took a helicopter to see for himself the conditions in the relief camps in Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts, which were hit hardest in the deadliest floods in the state in nearly a century.
 
Some 370 people have died since the monsoon rains began on May 29 and more than 1 million people were forced to take shelter in relief camps this month after torrential rains and the opening of the sluice gates of dams caused a deluge. 
 
"We will do everything possible to help the people. We know that when people reach their houses, there will be nothing (there). The government will play its role to help the people who are suffering," Vijayan told the media at Chalakkudy.
 
Thursday saw a lot of people from various camps returning to their homes but complaints surfaced that some tribal families from a camp in Wayanad were forced to leave.
 
"We were asked to leave despite telling them that we have no house to return to. Now we are staying in our neighbour's place," said Thanka, a tribal woman.
 
Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala, is back to 85 per cent of its old self, with more and more shops and offices that remained shut for almost a week reopening, residents said.
 
"The IT headquarters in Kochi, Infopark campus, saw more and more staffers back at work as offices reopened," said an IT professional.
 
"Likewise, traffic in some places was normal like it was prior to the floods," said a PR agency executive.
 
But a few kilometres away in Paravur, with thousands still in relief camps, the flood waters in low-lying areas had not drained completely.
 
The biggest problem appeared to be the failure to quickly dispose of carcasses of cattle and domestic pets and also the huge garbage strewn all across the previously submerged areas.
 
"The stink is killing us," complained a Paravur resident. "Despite several telephone calls to authorities, nothing is happening."
 
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In Thiruvalla town of Pathanamthitta district, offices and banks functioned near normally.
 
But many across Kerala complained that labourers were demanding as high as Rs 2,000 for a day's work to clean up water-logged homes.
 
Some people in central Kerala were lucky. Teams equipped with cleaning equipment came from the state capital and spruced up their homes.
 
Of the 52 ration shops in Thiruvalla, 27 had their stocks damaged. The government has pledged to provide them fresh stock in two days.
 
For a second day running, the Congress party blamed the Kerala government for the tragedy, with state President M.M. Hassan demanding a judicial probe into what he said was the indiscriminate opening of sluice gates of dams across the state leading to devastating floods.
 
But this was denied by Power Minister M.M. Mani who said there were several rounds of planning and discussions at various levels and that alerts were issued. "We did everything we could do."
 
Lashing out at the Centre, CPI-M Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that clinging to rules to deny aid from foreign countries to flood-hit Kerala was nothing but an act of vengeance by the Centre.
 
The Modi government says a rule framed by the previous Congress-led UPA government prohibits New Delhi from accepting foreign aid following natural disasters.
 
The UAE, home to hundreds of thousands of Keralities, has offered Rs 700 million as relief to Kerala.
 
IANS
 

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Cochin airport to open on August 29

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The Cochin International Airport, shut on August 15 due to floods, will reopen on August 29, it was announced on Wednesday.
 
The airport had said on Tuesday that it would resume operations on August 26.
 
The airport was closed on August 15 after it was flooded when various dams in Idukki district opened their sluice gates in the wake of torrential rains.
 
Officials said the opening had been put off by three days as 90 per cent of the staff had been affected by Kerala's worst flooding in a century and they needed to report to work.
 
The airport was first closed on August 9, for a few hours, and then on August 15. The Cochin airport is one of three airports in Kerala and also the busiest.
 
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After seeing damaged house, Kerala man ends life

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Shocked to see his flood-ravaged house, a man committed suicide near Ernakulam in Kerala, police said on Wednesday.
 
Rocky, a casual labourer, left with his family after their house was submerged in water and took shelter in a relief camp.
 
According to the police, he left the relief camp to clean up his house but did not return.
 
On Wednesday morning, when his neighbours came searching for him, he was found hanging in his house. He is survived by his wife and two children.
 
Two other similar cases of suicide have been reported in the state. 
 
Health Minister K.K. Shailaja told the media here that people were undergoing severe mental tension and would require counselling. Free medicines would be provided for a month to all those who may need it. 
 
Around one million people are sheltered in over 3,000 relief camps in Kerala following the devastating floods -- the worst since 1924. The death toll, since the monsoon rains began on May 29, stands at around 370.
 
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Flood-hit Cochin airport to reopen on August 26

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With the flood waters receding rapidly, the Cochin International Airport, one of the three in Kerala and the busiest, will open on August 26 -- after 12 days of closure.
 
Airport authorities have been engaged in a massive cleaning operation of the operational area that was submerged by flood waters.
 
One side the compound wall of the airport came down after water from the swollen Periyar river and its tributaries, which received an unprecedented amount of water released by major dams, entered the complex, turning it into a virtual sea.
 
The airport was first closed on August 9, for a few hours, and then on August 15.
 
Consequent to the flooding, a Rs 60 crore solar power plant, billed as one of the biggest in an airport, was submerged.
 
The Cochin airport handled 10 million passengers in fiscal 2017-18.
 
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