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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: Tropical Titans back to winning ways at Kottappuram leg of CBL

Tropical Titans winning a nail-biting finish in Race Six of the Champions Boat League at Kottappuram, near Kodungallur, in Thrissur district of Kerala on October 12, 2019.
Tropical Titans winning a nail-biting finish in Race Six of the Champions Boat League at Kottappuram, near Kodungallur, in Thrissur district of Kerala on October 12, 2019.
The thrill quotient around the Champions Boat League (CBL) registered a massive surge halfway through the three-month event, as the sixth of the 12-round League saw Tropical Titans regaining their winning track with a timing of 3:44.51 amid a sustained trend of close results.
 
In the first and only CBL leg in this district, Backwater Knights apparently came a surprise second in the evening’s final, but were subsequently declared third after judges imposed an additional five seconds on the team for track violation. Thus, Raging Rowers were officially declared the runner-up, clocking 3:47.56 along the 900-metre track at the Kottappuram backwaters near Kodungallur.
 
The revised timing by Backwater Knights in the day’s final was officially put at 3:50.53.
 
Drenched in the afternoon drizzle, the crowd at Kottappuram was impressive, enabling the CBL spectators’ number to cross the 10-lakh mark going by their total so far since the start of the league on August 31.
 
Tropical Titans had been winners in the first four legs of the pioneering championship, but could finish only second last weekend at the CBL Kochi leg, where Coast Dominators had emerged victors.
 
At Kottappuram, Tropical Titans also won the ‘Nerolac Excel Fastest Team of the Day’, clocking 3:27.16 in the heats and earning five extra points. The team, thus, remain atop the overall table with 83 points in the IPL cricket-like pioneering championships being organised by Kerala Tourism.
 
At the end of CBL round-6, behind Tropical Titans stand Raging Rowers with 41 points. Mighty Oars stand third with 40 points. Coast Dominators, who had scored an upset win at Ernakulam Marine Drive in the previous leg, stand fourth now with 37 points.
 
Standing fifth down the overall table now is Pride Chasers with 30 points. Backwater Knights (26 points) stand sixth, while Backwater Warriors (18) and Thunder Oars (17) are on the seventh and eight spots, respectively. At the bottom stand Backwater Ninjas (13).
 
Today’s results further changed the dynamics within the CBL teams. Taken aback this evening was Coast Dominators, who had at Kochi put brakes on the winning streak of Tropical Titans. In a neck-and-neck final on October 5, Tropical Titans were the runner-up, while Raging Rowers had come third just an inch or two behind the evening’s victor and the runner-up.
 
This evening at Kottappuram, Coast Dominators were judged to have made an error in the heats and penalised with an addition of five seconds to their score. Protesting against this, they boycotted the loser’s final of the evening.
 
Today’s race was inaugurated by Kerala Agriculture Minister V S Sunilkumar, and attended by local MLA V R Sunilkumar, Muziris Heritage Project MD Nowshad P M, Kerala Tourism Director P Bala Kiran, KSFE Managing Director A Purushothaman and Municipal Chairman of Kodungallur K R Jaithran.  
 
The fifth leg at the placid Ernakulam backwaters had its spirit no different from what the CBL teams displayed at the previous edition, rowing upstream along the Moovattupuzha river in semi-hilly Piravom, also of Ernakulam district. The trend of high-suspense continued in Kochi as well, what with the first three teams decided within a range of mere 42 microseconds.
 
The three-month CBL being organised by the Kerala Tourism is slated to hold its finals on November 23 at Kollam. The inaugural race was at Alappuzha on August 31. Today’s event was held at the Muziris Kottappuram Waterfront, where the CBL helped the traditional boat race come back after a gap of four years.
 
The Kottappuram round also held competitions for the smaller iruttukuthi boats. It also hosted cultural activities including the classical Mohiniyattam dance and Biblical Chavittunatakam dance-drama.
 
The day’s topper secured Rs 5 lakh, followed by Rs 3 lakh and Rs 1 lakh for the second and third finishers. All participating teams are entitled to Rs 4 lakh per match.
 
The overall winner of the championships is entitled to Rs 25 lakh, followed by Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh for the second and third prize winners. 
 
The CBL (www.championsboatleague.in), billed as a game-changing initiative, seeks to professionalise Kerala’s largely scattered snake-boat races, while commercialising them without losing the conventional spirit. Tickets can be booked online through ‘Book my Show’ platform, besides 20 outlets that facilitate spot purchase of tickets. The prices range from Rs 200 to 2,000.
 
The schedule goes thus from now: October 19 (Ponnani, Malappuram), October 26 (Kainakari, Alappuzha), November 2 (Pulinkunnu, Alappuzha district), November 9 (Kayamkulam, Alappuzha), November 16 (Kallada, Kollam district) and November 23 (Kollam, President’s Trophy Boat Race).
 
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Coast Dominators score upset win in Kochi leg of Champions Boat League

Coast Dominators (United Boat Club) on Chambakulam snakeboat win Race 5 of the Champions Boat League held at Kochi's Marine Drive in a nail-biting finish on October 5, 2019
Coast Dominators (United Boat Club) on Chambakulam snakeboat win Race 5 of the Champions Boat League held at Kochi's Marine Drive in a nail-biting finish on October 5, 2019
Cheered by a surging crowd of people from various parts of the globe, the fifth round of the Champions Boat League (CBL) in the tourist city of Kochi put the brakes on Tropical Titans’ winning spree, with Coast Dominators emerging first today.
 
Tropical Titans, which had topped in all the four previous legs of the pioneering CBL, finished second here in the race where all three finalists rowed neck-and-neck from the starting point to the end, much to the thrill of the 83,000 spectators. At the end of the photo-finish, Raging Rowers were declared third.
 
The three heats, too, by the shallow stretch of the Arabian Sea saw the nine snake-boats setting afire the 960-metre track along upscale Marine Drive. Coast Dominators (3:17.99) finished an inch or two ahead of Tropical Titans (3:18.16), while Raging Rowers clocked 3:18.41.
 
The fifth leg at the placid Ernakulam backwaters had its spirit no different from what the CBL teams displayed at the previous edition, rowing upstream along the Moovattpuzha river in semi-hilly Piravom, also of Ernakulam district. The trend of in high-suspense continued along the fringes of the Arabian Sea this evening, what with the first three teams decided within a range of mere 42 microseconds.
 
The Kochi round saw Tropical Titans timing the day’s best score at 3:12.14 to win the coveted ‘Nerolac Excel Fastest Team of the Day’ besides five extra points. At the end of CBL round-5, Tropical Titans continue atop the overall list with 68 points, followed by Coast Dominators (37 points) and Mighty Oars (34). Raging Rowers occupy the fourth position on the table with 33 points.
 
The three-month CBL being organised by Kerala Tourism began is slated to hold its finals on November 23 at Kollam. The inaugural race was at Alappuzha on August 31. Today’s races were between the first Goshree Bridge and Marine Drive boat jetty.
 
Standing fifth down the overall table now is Pride Chasers with 26 points. Backwater Knights (19 points) stand sixth, followed by Backwater Warriors (16) and Thunder Oars (12). At the bottom stands Backwater Ninjas (12).
 
The IGBR at Kochi also held a kayaking competition alongside the CBL-5, which had host a variety of entertainment activities like popular music by the famed Avial and a local band of college students, besides classical Bharatanatyam dance and the ritual performing art of Theyyam from upstate Malabar.
 
The day’s topper, secured Rs 5 lakh, followed by Rs 3 lakh and Rs 1 lakh for the second and third finishers. All participating teams are entitled to Rs 4 lakh per match.
 
The overall winner of the championships is entitled to Rs 25 lakh, followed by Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh for the second and third prize winners.
 
Today’s prizes were given away by Kerala Tourism Secretary Rani George and film actor Mr Tovino Thomas, whose presence invited thunderous cheer from the gathering. Among those present at the function was Kerala Tourism Director P Bala Kiran.
 
Just as the evening’s final got over, 200 volunteers of Tourism Professionals Club cleaned up the entire venue in a tacit message to avoid the use of plastic.
 
The CBL (www.championsboatleague.in), billed as a game-changing initiative, seeks to professionalise Kerala’s largely scattered snake-boat races, while commercialising them without losing the conventional spirit.
 
The schedule goes thus after the October 5 stage: October 12 (Kottappuram, Thrissur district), October 19 (Ponnani, Malappuram), October 26 (Kainakari, Alappuzha), November 2 (Pulinkunnu, Alappuzha district), November 9 (Kayamkulam, Alappuzha), November 16 (Kallada, Kollam district) and November 23 (Kollam, President’s Trophy Boat Race).
 
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Kochi leg of Champions Boat League to be held on October 5

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The Kochi leg of the trend-setting Champions Boat League (CBL), which will be the fifth of the 12-match series organised on the lines of IPL cricket, will be held here on October 5.
 
Kerala Tourism, which is organising the all-Saturday CBL with nine snake-boats that are vying for huge prize monies, expects a strong urban crowd at the October 5 round in downtown Ernakulam. 
 
With the weather finally clearing after a long bout of rains, spectators from various parts of the country and abroad are poised to converge at the 960-metre track along upscale Marine Drive of Kochi, known for its surge in tourist influx after monsoons.
 
The spirited performance of the CBL teams too has added to the curiosity quotient of the October 5 matches. The last two races of the league, especially, had seen the finals conclude in photo-finish for the snake-boats to enter the top three positions.
 
At the September 28 races in hilly Piravom, 30 km east of here, the competitors had to paddle vigorously upstream the gurgling Moovattupuzha river. That leg had Tropical Titans yet again finishing first, leaving Mighty Oars and Raging Rovers in second and third spots, respectively. The heats, too, were thrillers: in fact, the first six teams at the 900-metre Piravom track were decided within a range of just six seconds.
 
That has lent added suspense to the Kochi leg, amid Tropical Titans topping the overall list with 55 points, followed by Mighty Rowers (29 points) and Coast Dominators (27). 
 
Ahead of the Piravom league, at Karuvatta in Alappuzha district, the top winners (Tropical Titans) finished just a fraction of a second ahead of Coast Dominators. Mighty Oars ended third in that round held along the Leading Channel (near Harippad) on September 14.
 
“With the passage of each leg, the CBL is getting increasingly exciting,” says a top Kerala Tourism official. “The races are no more just about reviving some of the dysfunctional traditional races; they are proving to be ground for neck-and-neck competition.”
 
The innovative CBL, which was launched alongside the illustrious Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Alappuzha on August 31, will have its final at Kollam on November 23, overlapping with the President’s Trophy Boat Race. The 10 races in between are spread across six districts of the coastal state.
 
The Kochi leg marks the end of a 27-year-old wait for the return of the Indira Gandhi Boat Race (IGBR). Tracing its origin to the year after the assassination of the then prime minister in 1984, the IGBR subsequently held random editions before coming to a standstill in 1992.
 
Come October 5, the nine CBL snake-boats will vie for honours along the stretch of the backwaters between the first Goshree Bridge and Marine Drive boat jetty. It will also host a variety of entertainment activities like popular music by the famed Avial and a local band of college students, besides classical Bharatanatyam dance and the ritual performing art of Theyyam from upstate Malabar.
 
The topper of the day will secure Rs 5 lakh, followed by Rs 3 lakh and Rs 1 lakh for finishing second and third, respectively. All participating teams are entitled to Rs 4 lakh per match.
 
The overall winner of the championships is entitled to Rs 25 lakh, followed by Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh for the second and third prize winners, respectively.
 
The races are being broadcast live on Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Asianet Worldwide, Asianet Plus, Hotstar, ETV Andhra Pradesh and ETV Telangana beam the event for an hour from 4 pm.
 
The CBL (www.championsboatleague.in), billed as a game-changing initiative, seeks to professionalise Kerala’s largely scattered snake-boat races, while commercialising them without losing the conventional spirit.
 
Tickets can be booked online through ‘Book my Show’ platform, besides outlets that facilitate spot purchase of tickets. The prices range from Rs 200 to 2,000.
 
The schedule goes thus after the October 5 stage: October 12 (Kottappuram, Thrissur district), October 19 (Ponnani, Malappuram), October 26 (Kainakari, Alappuzha), November 2 (Pulinkunnu, Alappuzha district), November 9 (Kayamkulam, Alappuzha), November 16 (Kallada, Kollam district) and November 23 (Kollam, President’s Trophy Boat Race).
 
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MPEDA opens Seafood India signature stall at Kochi airport

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The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) opened today its second signature stall at the Cochin International Airport under its "Seafood India" project launched ten months ago.
 
The new stall at the airport premises in Nedumbassery, 40 km north of here, will sell ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat value-added products from 10 exporters, a press release from MPEDA said.
 
MPEDA had started the Seafood India signature stall in December last year when Union Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu had inaugurated the 1700-square-feet facility at Panampally Nagar in Ernakulam.
 
Today, that endeavour found its second chapter with the opening of the stall at the airport. MPEDA Chairman K S Srinivas said that the signature stall is opened in the Cochin airport as a part of MPEDA’s brand promotion campaign for Indian seafood, considering the airport’s importance in the traffic of international tourists as well as non-resident keralites.
 
“Moreover, MPEDA signature stall helps the domestic consumers also get familiarised to export quality value added seafood products.”
 
The stall at the Panampilly Nagar ‘Seafood India’ facility currently displays around 100 value-added products of various companies across India. The items for sale span a range of ready-to-eat, ready-to-fry and ready-to-cook items.
 
MPEDA will set up similar signature stalls in other international airports as well, Srinivas added.
 
‘Seafood India’ stall in the MPEDA headquarters at Panampilly Nagar, exhibit products developed by prominent fisheries research institutions such as CMFRI, CIFT and NIFPHATT besides selling and displaying value-added marine products of exporters. It also provides literature on the activities of MPEDA and its societies such as NETFISH, RGCA and NaCSA. Enabled with information kiosks to browse the details about each product, the stall provides information ranging from its production, processing, cooking and nutritional content.
 
MPEDA, established in 1972 as a statutory body under the Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry, coordinates with different central and state government establishments engaged in fishery production and allied activities. It works for increasing the exports of marine products through interventions in fishing, aquaculture, processing, marketing, extension, quality  assurance, R&D and training in various aspects.
 
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Artist A Ramachandran’s 27-day Kochi show to begin on October 5

A Ramachandran
A Ramachandran
Select paintings and sculptures of world-renowned artist A Ramachandran will be on display at a 27-day exhibition hosted by the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi (KLA) here from October 5-31, with a focus on the octogenarian’s latest works.
 
The show, titled ‘The Mahatma and the Lotus Pond’, in Ernakulam will feature 91 works of the master. The event, coinciding with the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, is being organised by Delhi’s Vadehra Art Gallery (VAG) and curated by art scholar R Siva Kumar.
 
The venue will be the KLA-owned Durbar Hall Gallery, which had held in 2013 Ramachandran’s first-ever exhibition in his state. The artist-author, born in Attingal near Thiruvananthapuram, is a Padma Bhushan awardee living in Delhi for more than half a century, after having done his studies at the famed Santiniketan in West Bengal.
 
Lotus ponds have been a recurring theme in Ramachandran’s works since the mid-1980s, and the Kochi show will feature the latest in that series during the past three years. It will also feature a sculpture of Gandhi that the artist did in 2016, according to Prof Siva Kumar of Santiniketan.
 
“The journey of a serious artist like Ramachandran is a constantly evolving project,” notes the curator. “In a sense, it is incremental growth in his depth of engagement and enrichment of the original ideas rather than dramatic shifts that mark his work.”
 
Overall, the exhibition will have eight oil paintings, 56 watercolour-on-paper, 25 drawings and two sculptures.
 
 VAG’s earlier Ramachandran show in Kochi was in August 2013, when the gallery had brought 100 of his ‘Selected Works from 1964-2013’, with Prof Siva Kumar as the curator.
 
The Monsoon wind; Oil on canvas by A. Ramachandran; 78” x 192”; 2019
The Monsoon wind; Oil on canvas by A. Ramachandran; 78” x 192”; 2019
Ramachandran, 84, did his Masters in Malayalam literature before leaving for West Bengal in 1957 to pursue the study of art at Visva-Bharati University under masters such as Ramkinkar Baij, Nandalal Bose and Benodebehari Mukherjee.
 
The artist shifted to Delhi in 1964, and went on to teach at Jamia Millia Islamia in the national capital for 27 years before taking voluntary retirement. In 2002, he was elected a Fellow at the Lalit Kala Akademi.
 
The next year, he was awarded the Raja Ravi Varma Puraskaram and, in 2005, conferred the country’s third-highest civilian honour, Padma Bhushan.
 
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Maradu flat owners' eviction may take time as issues surface

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The residents of the Maradu flats complex, set for demolition, had promised to move out latest by October 3 but now it might be delayed for a while as they claim that the alternate places to which they were to be moved are not available.
 
Speaking to the media here on Monday, the flat residents complained that they were given a few contact numbers where the district authorities had arranged for their accommodation, but none exists.
 
"We were shocked to be told when we contacted the numbers given to us, that there are no such flats to be given. Some of them even threatened us not to call again. If this is the response, then the October 3 deadline will have to be extended," said angry residents.
 
The 240 families who occupy 356 flats in the four buildings in the Maradu complex, had promised the district authorities on Sunday that they will be moving out latest by Thursday.
 
The apex court had on September 6 ordered demolition of the complex by September 20 for violating the Coastal Regulation Zone rules.
 
On Sunday morning, the flat residents had begun an indefinite protest, but called it off at around 3 p.m. after talks with top district authorities led to an amicable solution, which included moving them to alternate accommodations.
 
Yet another issue that has now surfaced is that when the Maradu flats complex is demolished, would the neighbourhood suffer any damage. If so, they should be given adequate compensation and it should come in the form of an order from the authorities.
 
Following this demand, Kochi Sub-Collector S. K. Singh, appointed as special officer in charge of the demolition, will be discussing the matter with the concerned people in the second week of October. He will first finalise the tender for the demolition to one of the more than two dozen companies who have come forward to do the job.
 
The Supreme Court has directed the Kerala government to disburse Rs 25 lakh as interim compensation to each flat owner within four weeks and recover it from the builders.
 
The top court also appointed Kerala High Court's retired judge K. Balakrishnan Nair to head a three-member committee which will include a technical and civil expert to decide on any increase in the compensation amount, and to oversee the demolition.
 
According to the affidavit submitted by the Kerala government in the top court, the demolition will be completed in 90 days and the debris will be cleared in another 30 days.
 
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Kochi flats demolition on schedule, residents to move out

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The residents of the Maradu flats complex, set for demolition, on Sunday decided to move out of their homes after a meeting with Ernakulam district authorities, paving the way for the implementation of the Supreme Court directive.
 
The total of 240 families who occupy 356 flats in the four buildings in the Maradu complex, will be moving out latest by Thursday.
 
The apex court had on September 6 ordered demolition of the complex by September 20 for violating the Coastal Regulation Zone rules.
 
On Sunday morning, the flat residents had begun an indefinite protest, but called it off at around 3 p.m. after talks with top district authorities, who had reached the spot, led to an amicable solution.
 
Talking to the media after the meeting, a representative of the flat owners said that they had decided to end their protest and move out.
 
"The discussions were fruitful and most of our demands have been agreed to by the district authorities, who will find suitable alternate accommodation for us besides paying the rent. Hence we have decided to end our protest and cooperate with the authorities so as the Supreme Court orders are adhered to," one of the representatives said.
 
Following the agreement, the district authorities made arrangements to restore the electricity and water connections to the complex.
 
The Supreme Court has directed the Kerala government to disburse Rs 25 lakh as interim compensation to each flat owner within four weeks and later recover it from the builders.
 
The top court also appointed Kerala High Court's retired judge K. Balakrishnan Nair to head a three-member committee which will include a technical and civil expert to decide on any increase in the compensation amount, and to oversee the demolition.
 
Kochi Sub-Collector S. K. Singh , appointed as special officer in charge of demolition, confirmed that several companies who have expertise in demolition, have expressed their willingness to participate in the tender process and it will be done soon.
 
Meanwhile, Crime Branch chief Tomin Thachenkery arrived at the complex on Sunday, as the Kerala government have entrusted it with  the probe into the entire episode.
 
According to the affidavit submitted by the Kerala government in the top court, the demolition would be completed in 90 days and the debris would be cleared in another 30 days.
 
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Tropical Titans win Piravom leg of Champions Boat League

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Rowing vigorously against the flow of water in the only such round of the three-month Champions Boat League (CBL), nine snake boats splish-splashed the Moovattupuzha river today, with Tropical Titans yet again finishing first, leaving Mighty Oars and Raging Rovers in second and third spots, respectively.
 
The fourth leg at the bustling semi-hilly Piravom saw further hotting up of the 12-match series akin to IPL cricket, where this weekend’s races had the first six teams decided within a range of mere six seconds. The topper timed 3:11.08, followed by the second and third finishers clocking 3:13.33 and 3:13.50 respectively, along the 900-metre track in the evening’s final.
 
Tropical Titans clocked the leg’s best timing with 3:07.80, thus earning the coveted ‘Nerolac Excel Fastest Team of the Day’ and five extra points in the league that is slated to hold its finals on November 23 at down-state Kollam. Only at Piravom, 30 km east of Kochi, the boat league has the racers rowing upstream, drawing huge participation from the local populace.
 
The CBL, being organised by Kerala Tourism, has all its coming Saturdays packed with races coinciding with the state’s traditional water festivals. Today’s overlapped with the 1958-initiated Piravom Boat Race, and also saw competitions between the smaller odivallam canoes.
 
The next leg is in the state’s biggest city of Kochi — on October 5 at Marine Drive in downtown Ernakulam, bringing the CBL to a cosmopolitan population.
 
At the end of today’s Piravom CBL round, Tropical Titans continue atop the overall list with 55points, followed by Mighty Rowers (29 points) and Coast Dominators (27).
 
Coast Dominators finished fourth (3:14.66) by topping the second losers’ final. Backwater Knights put up an unexpectedly brilliant show (3:15.10) to finish fifth, while Pride Chases stood sixth(3:17.91).
 
In the losers’ final, Thunder Oars (3:36.87) finished first, thus making it to the seventh position. Backwater Ninjas (3:28.35) now stand eight and Backwater Warriors (3:29.67) ninth.
 
The previous CBL round at Karuvatta in Alappuzha district had the top finalists finishing the race with the difference of a fraction of second. The victors Tropical Titans had then timed 4:12.11, inches ahead of Coast Dominators (4:12.90) and Mighty Oars (4:13.80) who emerged second and third, respectively along the one-km track.
 
Tropical Titans, as today’s topper, secured Rs 5 lakh, followed by Rs 3 lakh (Mighty Oars) and Rs 1 lakh (Raging Rowers) for finishing second and third, respectively. All participating teams are entitled to Rs 4 lakh per match.
 
The overall winner of the championships is entitled to Rs 25 lakh, followed by Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh for the second and third prize winners.
 
Prizes were given away to the winners of the CBL fourth round, which was inaugurated by Kerala Tourism Director P Bala Kiran. Present at the function were Thomas Chazhiyadan, MP and Anoop Jacob, MLA besides ex-legislator M J Jacob, functionaries of the local civic body and Arjuna awardee volleyball player Tom Joseph and filmmaker Sajeev Pazhoor.
 
Tropical Titans (traditionally Pallathuruthi Boat Club, rowing the Nadubhagom snake boat) had won the first round of the CBL on August 31, also finishing first in the 67th Nehru Trophy Boat Race held that evening at Alappuzha’s sprawling Punnamada Lake. They repeated the show on September 7 at the Thazhathangadi Boat Race in Kottayam and a week later at Karuvatta near Harippad.
 
The races are being broadcast live and will continue to be so during the rest of the legs. Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Asianet Worldwide, Asianet Plus, Hotstar, ETV Andhra Pradesh and ETV Telangana beam the event for an hour from 4 pm.
  
The CBL (www.championsboatleague.in), billed as a game-changing initiative, seeks to professionalise Kerala’s largely scattered snake-boat races, while commercialising them without losing the conventional spirit.
 
Tickets can be booked online through ‘Book my Show’ platform, besides 20 outlets that facilitate spot purchase of tickets. The prices range from Rs 200 to 2,000.
 
The schedule goes thus after the October 5 stage: October 12 (Kottappuram, Thrissur district), October 19 (Ponnani, Malappuram), October 26 (Kainakari, Alappuzha), November 2 (Pulinkunnu, Alappuzha district), November 9 (Kayamkulam, Alappuzha), November 16 (Kallada, Kollam district) and November 23 (Kollam, President’s Trophy Boat Race). 
 
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Water, power suppply to Maradu flats snapped, residents begin protest

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Electricity and power supply to the unauthorised Maradu housing complex here was snapped in the wee hours of Thursday forcing irate residents to launch a protest. The residents refuse to leave the complex come what may.
 
The Maradu complex houses 240 families in 343 flats constructed by four builders in violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. The Supreme Court had set a deadline of September 20 for the demolition of the flats and it will pass its final order in this regard on Friday.
 
According to the plan of action presented by Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose to raze the complex, the eviction of residents will start Sunday and will end on October 3. The complex demolition would begin October 11 and is expected to end by February next year.
 
Under the plan, families living in one square kilometre of the complex, would be rehabilitated till the demolition is complete. It has also been decided to register criminal cases against the builders.
 
Kochi Sub-Collector S. K. Singh has been appointed Special Officer to oversee the demolition.
 
Meanwhile, the hapless residents have written to the Chief Justice of India and the Human Rights Commission about their situation.
 
"We are not going to go anywhere and what they did in the middle of the night is a violation of all human rights," said an angry housewife.
 
"We are human beings, why are the authorities behaving so inhumanly?" said another resident.
 
"They earlier said the connections would be snapped last evening. But see what they did. They cut the supplies in pitch dark," grieved another.
 
Former Congress minister and local resident K. Babu, who arrived at the premises, said the government had a moral obligation to protect the residents and they should be treated with empathy.
 
"Snapping of utilities is an inhuman act. The state government should see that the wrongdoers in this construction should be taken to task. The poor residents have done no wrong," said Babu.
 
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SC raps Kerala over Maradu flats, residents hopeful

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Even as the Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government in Kerala for inaction in the Maradu flat demolition case, the flat residents are hopeful of getting a reprieve on Friday.
 
The Maradu complex comprises 356 flats in five buildings and houses 240 families. The apex court had on September 6 ordered its demolition by September 20 for violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.
 
On Monday, the Kerala government sought the help of top lawyer Harish Salve hoping that it could swing things in the residents' favour, but it failed to have any impact.
 
However, reacting to the happenings in Delhi, a flat resident expressed hope for a positive outcome. "We are waiting to hear what the court will say on Friday," said a resident.
 
Meanwhile, Kerala Local-Self Government Minister A. C. Moideen said the state government had nothing but to abide by the apex court directive. "The due process of law has set in and we have nothing else but to abide by the apex court directive and will now wait for it," said Moideen.
 
But Ernakulam Lok Sabha member Hibi Eden blamed the Kerala government for letting the issue reach this stage. "This has now become a humanitarian issue for the residents. But there was a lapse on the part of the government. It did nothing to get compensation for residents," said Eden.
 
The top court linked the loss of lives in Kerala floods to the situation, saying the natural calamity was due to the government failing to act against illegal structures. "You are playing with nature, even in high tide area, nothing is left," observed the Bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra.
 
At one stage, the court said it could ask for a survey of the entire Kerala CRZ areas to ascertain illegal structures. "We will not spare any one responsible for killing people all over Kerala," said the court.
 
The court also noted that devastation, due to natural calamities, was taking place all across leading to loss of lives. It's duty of the state to protect the people, it added.
 
The court told Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose, who appeared in person, his affidavit didn't indicate the government's intent to implement the demolition order. Apparently, it looked the state government was acting in defiance, it added.
 
"This can't happen in a civilised country, this is colossal loss. It's a patent breach of law," said the court making a strong observation on the conduct of the state government.
 
"Thousand of crores of properties were lost and so many people died due to flood in Kerala. Still so many structures were coming up in the coastal region in Kerala," said the court.
 
The court has set Friday for the next hearing, but pointed out that it might pass a detailed order earlier.
 
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RGCA develops live feed for shrimp and ornamental fishes

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In a major breakthrough, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture (RGCA) has indigenously developed a top-quality live feed, which can phenomenally stimulate India’s shrimp and fish seed production and drastically reduce its dependence on imports from the USA and China.
 
Artemia, the most important live feed in shrimp and fish hatcheries, has been brought out by RGCA, the research wing of the Marine Products Export Development Agency (MPEDA), under the brand name ‘Pearl’.
 
The live feed, developed under the ‘Make in India’ programme, was formally launched by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu at the just concluded fifth edition of MPEDA’s Aqua Aquaria India (AAI) in Hyderabad. 
 
“India currently imports around 300 tonnes of Artemia in dried cyst form worth Rs 300 crore annually, mainly from the USA and China. It is an important consumable in shrimp and fish hatcheries for the larvae of farmed aquatic organisms,” MPEDA Chairman K S Srinivas said.
 
“Artemia appears only in waters of high salinity. There is a huge potential for Artemia live feed in the country and its operations can be expanded on a large scale in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat,” he added.
 
India is looking to double its seafood exports from the present 7 billion dollars to 15 billion dollars by 2024 through the introduction of new varieties, and expansion of aquaculture cultivation to new areas. “Our indigenous Pearl brand of Artemia is a big step in realising this ambitious target,” Srinivas said
 
Describing the breakthrough as one of the most successful stories in the country’s aquaculture sector, Dr S Kandan, Project Director, MPEDA-RGCA, said, “The University of Kent in Belgium, an authority to test Artemia, has certified our product as the best of its kind in the world.”
 
The price of imported brands of Artemia costs around Rs 5,300 for 450 grams in India, whereas the ‘Pearl’ brand Artemia developed indigenously is priced much lower at Rs 3,500 for 450 grams. “The cost can be brought down further once the production increases,” he pointed out.
 
At present, Artemia is being produced in the facilities of MPEDA-RGCA at Tuticorin and Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu, with a total capacity of 500 kg per year.
 
Dr Kandan said the production of Artemia can become a source for additional income generation and employment for those, especially women entrepreneurs and Self Help Groups (SHGs), engaged in salt pans. “All this makes it an excellent commercially viable venture both for salt producers as well as new entrepreneurs. It has the potential to create employment opportunities and can also prevent outgo of precious foreign exchange,” he added.
 
At present, MPEDA-RGCA produces Artemia in 18 hectares. However, the country has a potential area of 12,000 hectares that could be utilized for its production. “Towards this, assistance from various state governments and more entrepreneurship is needed,” he said.
 
The Artemia project of MPEDA-RGCA located at Tharuvaikulam in Tuticorin is also producing and supplying WSSV (White spot syndrome virus)-free Artemia biomass to hatcheries of white leg shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei), ornamental fish and marine finfish.
 
RGCA has made breakthroughs not only in culture technologies of shrimps  but also in diversified species such as Seabass, Cobia, Pompano, Tilapia, Groupers, and Mud Crab. 
 
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Sreedharan asked to take charge of rebuilding Kerala flyover

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Former Delhi Metro chief E. Sreedharan was on Monday asked to take charge of rebuilding the Palarivattom flyover in Kochi which was closed down 30 months after it opened.
 
Speaking to the media here, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that he met Sreedharan earlier on Monday and that the latter was of the opinion that it would be best to rebuild it, rather than going for repairs and maintenance.
 
"Sreedharan has submitted his report and we have also received other details from experts from IIT-Chennai. The overall opinion was that it was best the present flyover should be knocked down and a new one should be built. The design, estimate and overall coordination of the new flyover would be done by Sreedharan," said Vijayan.
 
The 750 metre-long Palarivattom flyover in Kochi, was built at a cost of Rs 42 crore during the previous Oommen Chandy government and was supposed to stand for over 100 years. It was opened in October 2016 but after it started crumbling from May 1, 2019, it has been closed for traffic.
 
Vijayan has ordered a Vigilance probe into the entire construction. Last month, the Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau (VACB) arrested four top officials involved in the construction of the flyover.
 
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Paul Muthoot murder: Kerala HC cancels life term of 8 accused

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The Kerala High Court on Thursday cancelled the life term awarded to eight accused in the Paul Muthoot murder case, while the father of the victim said he would appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court.
 
On August 21, 2009, Paul George Muthoot, then 32, was killed under mysterious circumstances near Alappuzha while travelling in a car with Om Prakash and Rajesh -- two men who are accused in several criminal cases.
 
While nine accused were discharged, one of them -- Kari Satheesh -- had failed to file his appeal at the High Court against the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court judgement which sentenced all of them to life term.
 
Satheesh was the one who had stabbed Paul Muthoot.
 
While the High Court cancelled the life term of the eight accused, other charges will stand, but with all of them having served more than nine years in prison, they are expected to walk out of the jail.
 
Paul's father, M. George Muthoot, said he will approach the Supreme Court against the High Court's verdict.
 
Paul belonged to the wealthy Muthoot business family which is into private banking and has numerous other business ventures.
 
The murder mystery was first investigated by the police and later transferred to the Crime Branch which arrested 14 people.
 
Later, Paul's father sought a CBI probe. The central probe agency took up the case in January 2010 and the CBI court in the state capital on September 1, 2015, sentenced all the accused to life term.
 
The motive for the crime, according to the investigating agency, was the intervention and altercation by the accused after Paul's speeding vehicle knocked down a two-wheeler near Alappuzha.
 
The accused and his group of men who saw this followed Paul and stopped his vehicle and after a verbal altercation, stabbed him to death.
 
The probe team also found that the gang was on their way to eliminate another person when they picked up the quarrel with Paul that resulted in the murder.
 
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Kochi to host 22nd India International Seafood Show after 12 years

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The 22nd India International Seafood Show (IISS) will be held at Hotel Grand Hyatt, Kochi from February 7-9, 2020.
 
The event is being organised by The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, in association with the Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI).
 
The biennial show, re-visiting Kochi after a span of 12 years, will provide an ideal platform for an interaction between Indian exporters and overseas importers of Indian marine products, a press release from MPEDA said here  today.
 
 It will provide an opportunity for display and sale for manufacturers and suppliers of processing machinery, packaging systems, processing ingredient dealers and cold chain systems.
 
It will also give an opening for service providers in the Logistics and Certifying/Testing segments.
 
According to the  release, IISS 2020 will highlight the technological advances and sustainable practices followed in seafood processing sector in the country.
 
"Indian seafood processors have made it big in the sustainable league with the cooperation from the fishing and farming sectors. In addition, the processing industry is always looking to upgrade its technological backup for value addition.
 
"The results are expected to increase the percentage of exports of value added products to a sizeable percentage in the next decade from the current level of 6% in the total exports," it said.
 
During 2018-19, India has exported more than 14, 37,000 tonnes of marine products worth over $ 6.70 billion as per provisional figures. With a multi-pronged strategy, addressing capture fisheries and aquaculture, it is expected to achieve an export turnover of $ 15 billion in the next five years.
 
Sustainable fishing methods, value addition and increased aquaculture production through diversification are expected to support the ambitious target set for exports, the release said.
 
IISS 2020 will have technical sessions by national and international expoerts.
 
There will be more than 250 stalls spread over 7,000 sq m, showcasing a wide range of products based on automated and IT aided technology, and energy efficient systems for value addition.
 
The delegates will include seafood processors, buyers and stakeholders from other related sectors representing firms from India and aboard.
 
It is also planned to have buyer delegations from countries focused on mutual tie-ups in the area of seafood processing and value addition, the release added.
 
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ICTT 2019 in Kochi on September 26-27, to woo Chinese tourists to Kerala

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Ways to attract Chinese travellers to Kerala will gain special focus at the coming International Conference on Tourism Technology (ICTT) that will roll out lessons on the use of digital and social media platforms in the industry.
 
The third edition of ICTT is being organised in this commercial city of the state on September 26 and 27 by the Association of Tourism Trade Organisations, India (ATTOI) in collaboration with the Kerala government’s Department of Tourism.
 
The summit, whose final day overlaps with the World Tourism Day, will feature 500 delegates and a separate session on wooing the Chinese to India, especially to God’s Own Country Kerala, according to the organisers.
 
The two-day event seeks to bring various stakeholders of travel and tourism on to a single platform. They include owners of hotels and resorts, online tourism marketing managers and tour operators.
 
The conclave seeks to inspire the first category to form fresh client associations with tour operators and improve policies to use technology for growing business while enabling the marketing managers to form tourism marketing undertakings into new markets.
 
As for the tour operators, ICTT 2019 can help magnify their business with modern technology and form partnership with the main hotels and resorts around the highlighted tourism terminuses, according to event convener Anish Kumar P K.
 
To be held at Le Meridian hotel here, ICTT 2019 will host a session on "How to do social media tourism promotion to get Chinese tourists?"
 
Beijing-based Richard Matuzevich of the World Tourism Cities Federation will address the delegates comprising tour operators, hoteliers, owners of resorts and homestays, SEO (search engine optimisation) companies, software firms, social media marketing companies and bloggers.
 
The other topics include ‘Impact of influential marketing in tourism’ (Ellie Shedden, Australia), ‘Artificial intelligence and travel revolution’ (Hannes Losch, Germany), ‘Secrets of Search Engine Rankings’ (David Carollo, Singapore), ‘Tips to Become a Hood Digital Photographer’ (Shane Dallas, Kenya), ‘How to Create a Good Story about your Brand?’ (Jen Morilla, USA), ‘How to Create an Attention Grabbing Content/Blog’ (Heather Heuman, USA), ‘How to Use YouTube for Destination Promotion’ (Jessica Dante, UK) and ‘Program Tips for Improving E-A-T SEO’ (Sean Patrick Si, Philippines).
 
ICTT 2019 comes in the backdrop of increased travel by the people of China across the globe, notes Anish Kumar. “From what was 13.1 crores in 2017, the projected figure of Chinese tourists abroad is 20 crores next year,” he noted about their annual rise of around 20%.
 
The inaugural ICTT was held in 2013, followed by a second edition in 2017 — all with the idea of meeting the demand and supply of changing business situations even as the tourism community is comprehensively reliant on expertise and modernisation.
 
The conferences focus on preparing the travel and tourism industrialists in India and neighbouring countries by getting feedback in acclimatising to the varying technology, obtaining skills in surviving/winning over competitors, comprehending the significance of web marketing and the use of the resources accessible online to run business.
 
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Kerala CM opens third stretch of Kochi Metro

File photo of Kochi Metro
File photo of Kochi Metro
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday inaugurated the third stretch of the Kochi Metro, more than two years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the first one.
 
The chief guest of the function was Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, who travelled with Vijayan on the new route.
 
The newly-inaugurated five-kilometre stretch, which extends from Maharaja's Junction to Thykoodam bridge, takes the total distance covered by the Kochi Metro so far to around 24 kms. Its remaining one kilometre stretch, in the first phase, is expected to be complete by January next year.
 
Once the remaining stretch is opened, the Kochi Metro will cover a distance of 25 kms from Palarivattom to Aluva reducing travel time by at least an hour or two.
 
Work on the Kochi Metro began in 2012 and is being overseen by E. Sreedharan, who also helmed the Delhi Metro project.
 
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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.
 
IANS
 

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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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