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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 HC declines to ban dismissed nun's autobiography

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The Kerala High Court on Wednesday declined to ban the dismissed nun, Sister Lucy Kalapurakkal's autobiography titled "Karthavinte Namethil (In the name of Christ)".
 
The high court, which heard the petition filed by Sister Lisiya Joseph seeking a ban on the book, said if the petitioner has any complaints about the contents, she can approach the appropriate authority.
 
Sister Lucy, who belonged to the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC), was in August dismissed from the order for disobeying church authorities, as she had supported the nuns' strike in the state last year, demanding the arrest of rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who headed the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar.
 
Mulakkal was later arrested and is now out on bail and the trial in the case is all set to start.
 
Since then, Sister Lucy has been speaking out against the church authorities and in her book, she speaks about the sexual abuse and harassment that nuns silently undergo.
 
The book, which is published by DC Books, is to be officially released next Tuesday and hence the petitioner wanted the court to ban the book as it shows the nuns, Church and the laity in poor light.
 
Veteran seven time legislator P. C. George, however, slammed the former nun for her book, and asked her why she had not complained when the incidents took place.
 
IANS
 

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John Paul C and Shino Mol claim gold in Spice Coast Marathon

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Kerala’s John Paul C staved off a stiff challenge from a strong field of runners to clinch the gold medal in the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Spice Coast Marathon 2019 here.
 
John proved to be untouchable on the day and despite a humid condition and relentless challenge from the others in fray including the defending champion Mahesh P S, he finished the full marathon (42.2 k) in just 03:07:05 hours, almost seven minutes ahead of the second placed Ayub A. 
 
In the Women’s category, it was Shino Mol who cornered the top prize after she clocked a time of 05:11:18 hours to complete the full marathon. 
 
Over 7000 runners lined up for the start in the morning, in three different categories including the Full Marathon, Half Marathon and the Fun run, despite heavy downpour for much of the previous night. IDBI Federal Life Insurance Brand Ambassador Sachin Tendulkar flagged-off the marathon from the Willingdon Island and honoured the winners too later in the day. 
 
While the serious runners lined up for glory in the Full and Half Marathon, it was the participants of the Fun Run who had a gala time and let no opportunities slip by to have a selfie clicked with Sachin or getting souvenirs autographed by the Master Blaster. 
 
John ran like a man possessed and maintained a steady pace to widen the gap initially and then later held on to it to win the title comfortably. Ayub A, who fell behind John in the initial stage could not recover and managed only 03:14:55-hr finish. Benson CB complete the 42.2 kms grueling run in 03:22:31 hours to win the bronze. 
 
While, the men’s contest turned out to be a one sided affair, it was the women’s division which lit up the track with their fierce running. Shino was under pressure from Marla Hall throughout the run and it was only during the last few kilometres where she broke out managed to hold on to her slender lead and finish just a minute ahead of Hall.
 
Aryav Pillai clocked 05:14:17 hours to win the bronze medal.
 
In the 21.1k Half Marathon, M.P Nabeel Sahi pocketed the top prize in the men’s category by clocking 01:19:57 hours. He was followed by Avinesh Kumar (01:23:05 hours) and M.P Aswin (01:26:30 hours). 
 
In the women’s category, Merina Mathew stole the limelight to win the gold by posting a timing of 1:51:08 hours, trailed by Marta Ceconni (01:56:25 hours) & Josmy Joseph (02:02:09 hours).
 
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Football ISL: Injury-time goal sees Goa rescue a point in Kerala

A 10-man FC Goa denied Kerala Blasters their second win of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) after an injury-time strike from Lenny Rodrigues ensured a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Sunday.
 
Sergio Cidoncha's (2') early goal helped the hosts set the tempo for Kerala Blasters. Mourtada Fall (41') pulled Goa level before the break but was sent off for a last-man tackle in the second-half. Raphael Messi Bouli (59') regained the lead for Kerala Blasters. However, a late goal from Lenny (90+3') struck daggers into the hearts of an expectant home crowd.
 
Eelco Schattorie's injury-hit team are now winless since the opening game against ATK and are eighth in the table with five points. The Gaurs are fourth on the table with nine points.
 
The hosts got off to a terrific start by taking the lead in the second minute. A long throw-in from the left by Raju Gaikwad hit Mourtada Fall who failed to clear the danger. The ball fell to Sergio Cidoncha whose first-time strike grazed the goalkeeper's gloves before rolling into the net.
 
Goa struggled to up the ante immediately as Kerala Blasters' energetic midfield denied their counterparts time and space to pick out their passes. Brandon Fernandes escaped his marker's attention in the 18th minute, but his through ball was too heavy for an overlapping Mandar Rao Dessai.
 
Chances were few and far between as the game was mostly played in midfield. After struggling to create chances for most of the half, Sergio Lobera's side found a way back into the game just before the breakthrough with a set-piece. An Edu Bedia free-kick was thwarted away by the Kerala defence, but only as far as Jackichand Singh, whose pin-point cross from the right was headed in with aplomb by Fall.
 
Goa were dealt a hammer blow soon after the restart when Fall was sent off for a last-man challenge on Ogbeche. The defender lunged in from behind and failed to make contact with the ball.
 
The player advantage helped Kerala Blasters take control of the game and they doubled their lead soon. Prashanth Karuthadathkuni dribbled forward down the left flank and slid a low pass across the face of the goal for Messi, who guided the ball into the back of the net.
 
With the game looking done and dusted in favour of the home side, Goa came up with a late equaliser at the death. Manvir Singh latched on to a pass from the right, dropped his shoulder to skip past his marker and forced a save from goalkeeper TP Rehenesh. 
 
The goalkeeper pushed the ball into the path of Lenny who slotted into the net, delivering another massive heartbreak for Kerala Blasters. 
 
IANS
 

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3 men held at Kochi airport with foreign currency

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Three men were apprehended by CISF personnel here on Sunday for allegedly carrying foreign currency worth Rs 38 lakh in two separate incidents, officials said.
 
"Currency worth around 26,500 US dollars were recovered from Mohammad Rafi and Chelakoy, which equals to around Rs 18,95,000," said Hemendra Singh, Assistant Inspector General, CISF on Wednesday.
 
The two men were apprehended while travelling to Bangkok on a Thai AirAsia flight. The recovered money was handed over to the Customs team for further investigation.
 
In the another case, a man named Basheer was held at the Kochi airport with Saudi currency worth Rs 18,44,000. He also was handed over to the Customs team.
 
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Sabarimala row: Protesters return as Trupti refuses to budge

Gender activist Trupti Desai (File photo: IANS)
Gender activist Trupti Desai (File photo: IANS)
Right-wing activists returned to resume their protests at the Kochi City Police Commissioner's office on learning that gender activist Trupti Desai and her six-member team had stayed put there, refusing to depart from the city without offering prayers at the Sabarimala temple, despite a 12-hour standoff.
 
The activists had earlier called off the protest after the police assured them that she would be sent off and won't attempt to visit Sabarimala.
 
She and her team, after arriving at the Kochi airport around 5 a.m., drove to the Kochi Police Commissioner's office and sought protection to visit the temple, located about 200 km from here.
 
The Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government in Kerala has stated that it will not make any effort to ensure entry of women into the temple.
 
While initially, according to sources, Desai had agreed to return without praying at the temple, she has been changing her stance frequently.
 
The police had agreed to escort her back to the airport. But in the afternoon, Desai wanted in writing from the police that they were unable to take her to Sabarimala. When the police refused to entertain her demand, she refused to return.
 
If Desai remained adamant on visiting the shrine, the police might shift her to a nearby state-run women's home, sources said.
 
Her arrival was announced by the right wing-backed TV channel Janam. It also recorded her statement as soon as she landed at the airport. She said since the apex court had not stayed the verdict, they had come to pray at the temple.
 
"Today is the Constitution Day and with no stay on the entry of women, we should be allowed to pray at the temple," said Desai before entering the Commissioner's office.
 
Earlier in the day, terming Desai's arrival for a visit to the Sabarimala temple as a conspiracy, Kerala Minister Kadakampally Surendran said certain vested interests were behind her visit.
 
"It seems to be a scripted event and some vested interests are behind this. It's part of a conspiracy to unsettle peace in Kerala," said Surendran.
 
According to Surendran, even experts see lots of ambiguity in the apex court verdict that came early this month. "When the verdict came last year, the Kerala government took a position as the verdict was clear. But this time it's not clear," Surendran said.
 
State Culture Minister A. K. Balan said the state government would not allow anyone to break the temple tradition.
 
During the day, Sabarimala devotees on spotting near the Commissioner's office Bindu Ammini, one of the two women who on January 2 became the first women in the 10-50 year age group to pray at the temple, vented their anger by spraying pepper on her. She was taken to a health facility by the police for medical attention.
 
Srikanth, a Hindu activist, has been taken into custody by the police.
 
Ammini later told the media she would file a contempt petition as the state government was not implementing the apex court directive.
 
Though the Supreme Court, earlier in November, gave a 3:2 verdict referring the Sabarimala review pleas to a larger seven-judge Bench, it maintained that it had not stayed its September 28, 2018 order allowing women of all ages to enter the temple. The temple bans entry of women in the 10-50 year age group.
 
Since the beginning of the two-month Sabarimala festival on November 17, seven women in the banned age group, all from outside Kerala, who sought 'darshan' were not allowed entry to the temple by the police.
 
Devotees returning after praying at the temple, when they heard about Desai's presence, turned furious and vowed to protect the temple traditions. "We will not allow anyone to break the tradition. All these activists are trying to destroy the sanctity of this hallowed temple," said an angry pilgrim.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala: Trupti Desai adamant on visiting Sabarimala, police in a bind

Gender activist Trupti Desai (File photo: IANS)
Gender activist Trupti Desai (File photo: IANS)
Activist Trupti Desai, who arrived here early Tuesday with a 6-member team to visit the Sabarimala shrine, has spent over 10 hours at the office of the Kochi City Police Commissioner, waiting to travel to the temple, about 200 km from here.
 
While she approached the police for protection to visit the temple on arrival, the police are trying to send her back as the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government in Kerala has stated that it will not make any effort to ensure entry of women into the temple.
 
Soon after the news of Desai's arrival broke out, right-wing activists gathered at the police office to protest. Only on the police assurances that she and her team won't be taken to Sabarimala, the activists concluded their protest and disbursed.
 
While initially, according to sources, Desai had agreed to return without praying at the temple, she has been changing her stance frequently.
 
The police had agreed to escort her back to the airport. But in the afternoon, Desai wanted in writing from the police that they were unable to take her to Sabarimala. When the police refused to entertain her demand, she refused to return.
 
If Desai continues to be adamant on visiting the shrine, the police might shift her and her team to a nearby state-run women's home, sources said.
 
Her arrival was announced by the right wing-backed TV channel Janam. It also recorded her statement as soon as she landed at 5 a.m. at the airport. She said since the apex court had not stayed the verdict, they had come to pray at the temple.
 
"Today is the Constitution Day and with no stay on the entry of women, we should be allowed to pray at the temple," said Desai before entering the Commissioner's office.
 
Earlier in the day, terming Desai's arrival for a visit to the Sabarimala temple as a conspiracy, Kerala Minister Kadakampally Surendran said certain vested interests were behind her visit.
 
"It seems to be a scripted thing and some vested interests are behind this. It's part of a conspiracy to unsettle peace in Kerala," said Surendran.
 
According to Surendran, even experts see lots of ambiguity in the apex court verdict that came early this month. "When the verdict came last year, the Kerala government took a position as the verdict was clear. But this time it's not clear," Surendran said.
 
State Culture Minister A. K. Balan said the state government would not allow anyone to break the temple tradition.
 
During the day, Sabarimala devotees on spotting near the Commissioner's office Bindu Ammini, one of the two women who on January 2 became the first women in the 10-50 year age group to pray at the temple, vented their anger by spraying pepper on her. She was taken to a health facility by the police for medical attention.
 
Ammini later told the media she would file a contempt petition as the state government was not implementing the apex court directive.
 
Though the Supreme Court, earlier in November gave a 3:2 verdict referring the Sabarimala review pleas to a larger seven-judge Bench, it maintained that it has not stayed its September 28, 2018 order allowing women of all ages to enter the temple. The temple bans entry of women in the 10-50 year age group.
 
Since the beginning of the two-month Sabarimala festival on November 17, seven women in the banned age group, all from outside Kerala, who sought 'darshan' were not allowed entry to the temple by the police.
 
Devotees returning after praying at the temple, when they heard about Desai's presence, turned furious and vowed to protect the temple traditions. "We will not allow anyone to break the tradition. All these activists are trying to destroy the sanctity of this hallowed temple," said an angry pilgrim.
 
IANS
 

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Three get bail in Kerala faulty flyover construction case

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Three officials accused of graft in the construction of the Palarivattom flyover here were granted bail by the Kerala High Court on Monday after being in jail for the past 61 days.
 
The officials arrested earlier included the project director Sumit Goyal of RDS Projects, former Public Works Department Secretary T. O. Sooraj, Benny Paul who represented KITCO, and M.T. Thankachen from the Roads and Bridges Development Corporation.
 
Paul secured bail last month.
 
The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau had arrested them on charges of corruption.
 
Built at a cost of Rs 42 crore during previous Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's regime, the 750-metre flyover was supposed to last for over 100 years. It was opened in October 2016 and within three years the flyover started crumbling and had to be closed to traffic.
 
The flyover was built by the Delhi-based RDS Projects for the state-owned Roads and Bridges Development Corporation. KITCO was the supervision consultant for the project.
 
Following the construction goof-up and the closure of the flyover, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's cabinet asked the pioneer of India's metro  projects E. Sreedharan to take charge of rebuilding the Palarivattom flyover, which has been agreed upon.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala's Semi High Speed Rail to get connected with Kochi Metro at Kakkanad

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Kerala's proposed Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod Semi High-Speed Rail (SHSR) will have an integrated station at Kakkanad near Infopark here with the second phase of Kochi Metro, for the benefit of people coming to the city from various parts of the state, State Chief Secretary  Tom Jose said here on Saturday.
 
Speaking at a presentation on SHSR,  called Silver Line, organised by Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL) and Better Kochi Response Group (BKRG), Jose said the integrated station will enable  passengers to reach various parts of the sprawling city when the Kochi Metro is extended from Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to Kakkanad.
 
The government is also planning to have a loop line for the Kochi Metro connecting Marine Drive and Boat Jetty for the benefit of commuters as well as tourists travelling from Fort Kochi and Vypeen Islands, he said. “The loop line will start from Madhava Pharmacy Junction and rejoin at Jose Junction via Menaka. The passengers can enjoy the real beauty of Kochi through this route”, he said.
 
The Silver Line project, a joint venture of Kerala Government and Ministry of Railways, is the most affordable solution for the transportation problems of Kerala as it will sharply reduce travel time from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod to four hours, he said.
 
“Even if we go for four-lane National Highways, we have to face vehicle congestion after five years. The only solution for this is the Silver Line project which will help a passenger to travel from the South to North of Kerala in four hours,” Jose added.
 
V. Ajith Kumar, Managing Director, KRDCL, who made the presentation on the Silver Line project, said 27 feeder stations are planned to the 10 major stations as part of the 532-km long rail line, so as to ensure that maximum number of people benefited from the project.
 
The KRDCL had prepared the feasibility report on the project, to be built at a cost of Rs 66,079 crore, and to be completed in five years.  The maximum speed of the train will be 200 kmph and the ticket fare is proposed at Rs 2.75 per km, he said.
 
A project that fully adheres  to green protocol,  the highlights of  its construction  include recycling of  steel and concrete, diversion of construction waste from landfills through reuse and recycling, use of new, low emission construction equipment and buildings based on the standard of Indian Green Building Council. Around 11% of the corridor will be elevated over the  cities, Ajith Kumar said.
 
Around 1,200 hectares of land has to be acquired for the project. The alignment of the rail will be finalised only after the aerial survey is completed, for which the State Government had already received the clearance from the Ministry of Defence, he said.
 
Between Thiruvananthapuram and Tirur in central Kerala, the line will pass by a stretch that is different from the existing railway line, since it has a large number of curves that limit the speed. From Tirur onward, the line will run parallel to the existing track up to Kasaragod. There will be underpasses for road traffic at every 500 metres, so that it will not hamper the movement of people in any manner.
 
By 2028, the project will sharply reduce road vehicles including trucks, thereby eliminating approximately 2,37,663 tons of carbon dioxide emission. The average number of travellers a day will be 82,266 by 2028, 116,681 by 2040 and 147,120 in 2051.
 
The project will create 50,000 jobs during the construction and 11,000 once it becomes functional.  Out of its estimated cost of Rs 66,079-crore project, Rs 34,454 crore will be raised as loans, and Rs 7,720 each provided by the Union and State Governments, said  Ajith Kumar.
 
The feasibility study, done by Paris-based Systra, had projected  the  internal rate of return from the project as 5.6 per cent and 8.1 per cent for 30 and 50 years, respectively. Planned urban development of the cities along the corridor and development of new cities down the SHSR line will expedite the socio-economic development of the areas served by the line, he added.
 
District collector S. Suhas and BKRG president S. Gopakumar and secretary  Shirly Chacko also spoke.
 
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Mumbai City stun Kerala Blasters with late strike

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A late goal from Amine Chermiti saw Mumbai City FC stun Kerala Blasters FC in a closely fought Hero Indian Super League clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.
 
The teams had several half-chances to break the deadlock but lacked an end product for most of the game until Chermiti's smart 82nd-minute finish settled the contest.
 
While the result meant Mumbai start their season with a win, it was also their first-ever win over Kerala Blasters in Kochi.
 
Kerala Blasters struggled to test Amrinder Singh early on while Mumbai resorted to aerial balls and floating crosses into the box at the other end.
 
A Diego Carlos cross into the box from the right flank in the 10th minute had the home defence under pressure but Mohamed Larbi's weak header fell straight into the hands of goalkeeper Bilal Khan.
 
Mumbai continued to threaten and Carlos outpaced Jessel Carneiro on the right flank again in the 19th minute. This time around, the former FC Pune City player attempted a powerful strike from a tight angle, forcing Bilal Khan to come up with a reflex save at his near post.
 
At the other end, a foul by Souvik Chakrabarti allowed Sergio Cidoncha to swing a free-kick into the box from the left a few minutes later. Bartholomew Ogbeche got to the end of it at the far post but headed wide from close. The hosts had another chance at the stroke of half-time when Cidoncha whipped another one in from a similar position, but Jairo's powerful header was saved by Amrinder Singh at the near post.
 
Mumbai started on the front foot after the change of ends and went close in the 53rd minute. Larbi's cross from the left found Modou Sougou unmarked in the centre of the box but the Senegalese striker's first-time shot flew wide.
 
The game continued to swing from one half-chance to another at both ends. Minutes after the hour mark, a Cidoncha corner was headed clear by the Mumbai defence, straight to Carneiro who unleashed a thunderous, outside-the-boot strike that flew just over Amrinder's goal.
 
Just when it seemed like the spoils would be shared in Kochi, Chermiti stunned the Kerala crowd with a late goal. Souvik Chakrabarti played a low cross into the box from the right flank which the Kerala defence failed to clear. The Tunisian striker, who was waiting in the centre, slotted the ball into the net with a fantastic first-time shot.
 
In a last-gasp attempt to get back into the game, Ogbeche latched on to a chip by Sahal Abdul Samad inside the box but the Nigerian's swivelling strike from close range was miraculously saved by Amrinder as Mumbai returned home with three points.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala voters beat rain to vote in good numbers

Women braving heavy rains and water-logged streets to cast their votes at a polling station in Ernakulam, Kerala on October 21, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Women braving heavy rains and water-logged streets to cast their votes at a polling station in Ernakulam, Kerala on October 21, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Despite heavy rains lashing most places in Kerala, where five Assembly bye-elections were held on Monday, people came out in good numbers to cast their votes, enthusing the three key rival political fronts which feared a postponement of the poll.
 
The counting of votes will take place on Thursday.
 
Even the worst affected constituency, Ernakulam, which in the first few hours registered only single digit percentage of votes polled, people came out braving rains and water-logging. Those who made it to the polling stations before 6 p.m. were given tokens to cast their votes.
 
The Congress demand to extend the voting time by two hours at Ernakulam was turned down by chief electoral officer Tika Ram Meena.
 
While the Congress and BJP appeared much concerned about the poor turnout in the afternoon, their faces lit up as the day wore on. The final polling figures are expected to come later, as in many booths, presiding officers are yet to give data on poll percentage. The final figures are expected tomorrow morning, officials said.
 
"Our demand to extend the voting time at Ernakulam was not accepted, though it was a genuine demand as many people were unable to get out of their homes because of flooding. However, the present voting figure is good enough," said senior Congress legislator V. D. Sateeshan.
 
Of the five constituencies which went to the polls, four were represented by the Congress-led UDF while the Aroor seat was with the CPI-M.
 
According to the latest polling figures, Aroor recorded the highest turnout with 79.24 per cent, Manjeswaram 75.65, Konni 70, Vatiyoorkavu 62.30 per cent and Ernakulam 56.88 per cent.
 
The CPI-M led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is determined to not only retain Aroor, but also expects a fair chance in Konni as well as Vatiyoorkavu.
 
The Congress expects its winning streak would not be altered and Ramachandran has said the party would wrest the Aroor seat also, giving it a clean sweep
 
Meanwhile at Manjeswaram, a woman, Nabeesa, was arrested and later released on bail for alleged impersonation, a charge she and her family denied.
 
A total of 9,57,509 voters, including 4,91,455 women, 4,66,047 men and seven transgenders were eligible to vote in the bye-elections which had 35 candidates in the fray.
 
IANS
 

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Report sought from Ernakulam collector as rains intensify

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Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Tikka Ram Meena on Monday sought a report from the Ernakulam district collector over problems faced by voters in the Assembly constituency due to heavy rains.
 
According to official reports from the CEO's office, only a meagre 2.5 per cent votes were registered in the first 90 minutes after the polling began.
 
Several parts of the constituency were now water logged following the heavy rains.
 
Voters expressed their ire as they were unable to go out and cast their ballots.
 
"There's water all around us and how could we go out and vote when we are worried about our belongings? We are waiting for authorities to come," said an angry resident of a colony near here, where there are 87 families who are trapped.
 
IANS
 

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Ogbeche the hero as Kerala strike down ATK in ISL opener

Kerala Blasters' Moustapha Gning makes a valiant effort for a goal against ATK during their match in the Hero Indian Super League in Kochi on October 20, 2019.
Kerala Blasters' Moustapha Gning makes a valiant effort for a goal against ATK during their match in the Hero Indian Super League in Kochi on October 20, 2019.
Two-time champions ATK scored their 100th goal in the Indian Super League (ISL) but that was not enough to see them through in the opening match of ISL Season 6, as hosts Kerala Blasters rallied to script a 2-1 victory at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium here on Sunday.
 
Carl McHugh had put ATK ahead with an absolute stunner in the sixth minute but the hosts, egged on by a vociferous crowd, hit back with two goals from new signing Bartholomew Ogbeche in the first half itself.
 
This is the second time that Kerala beat ATK in the ISL opener after having won 2-0 in Kolkata last season.
 
The game got off to an electrifying start with the visitors stunning the packed crowd early into the game. A free-kick was cushioned back for McHugh by Agustin Garcia Iniguez at the far post. The Irishman went on to slam a brilliant first-time volley with his left foot which gave Bilal Khan in the Kerala goal no chance whatsoever.
 
With the wind in their sails from an early goal, ATK continued to press Kerala relentlessly and fashioned several chances to double their lead, but couldn't finish them off.
 
A rattled Kerala were handed a lifeline when ATK winger Michael Soosairaj went down inside the box following a challenge by Sergio Cidoncha, but the referee waved away the protests and Kerala won a corner from the ensuing counter-attack, which produced the equaliser.
 
Ogbeche saw his looping header from the far post come back off the upright, only for Pronay Halder to pull down Jairo Rodriguez who was about to slot it in. The referee awarded the spotkick and Ogbeche made no mistake in beating Arindam Bhattacharja to lift the spirits of the home supprters.
 
The Men in Yellow started to enjoy more time on the ball following the equaliser and stormed into the lead just before half-time. Pronay failed to clear a low cross from Prasanth Karuthadathkuni and the loose ball was driven in smartly by a lurking Ogbeche.
 
Kerala continued their ascendancy in the second half as well, but failed to add to their tally.
 
IANS
 

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ISL: Kerala Blasters keen to hit the ground running

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Season six of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) is all set to kick off with a blockbuster fixture which sees two-time finalists Kerala Blasters FC take on two-time winners ATK at the Jawaharlal Nehru international stadium in Kochi on Sunday.
 
With a huge and expectant fanbase looking on eagerly, Kerala Blasters’ new coach Eelco Schattorie knows that he has a considerable task on his hands.
 
The Dutchman, after a successful season with NorthEast United, is expected to work his magic with the Kochi-based outfit. And what better way than starting with a win over ATK who have one of the strongest squads on paper this year.
 
“Opening games are always difficult, there is going to be huge expectations, that is part of the game. It is all about stabilising the team, I think we are ready to face ATK. They have a very strong squad and are one of the best teams in the league,” Schattorie said.
 
Blasters last reached the play-offs in 2016 and have made quite a few managerial appointments in their bid to reach the last four in recent times. Schattorie is aware of the fact and is hoping that he can bring an element of stability to the club.
 
“ATK, NEUFC and Kerala have had the most amount of coaches. So, it is all about getting stability. Here, I have a good relationship with management. I think we have better depth than I had last year.
 
“It is not like a tomato soup where I can copy all the ingredients (from a successful season with North East) . The whole team is almost new. But I am ready to take up the challenge.”
 
Kerala Blasters have revamped their entire foreign contingent, bringing in some established names like Bartholomew Ogbeche, Gianni Zuiverloon, Mario Arques and the likes apart from a few promising players like Raphaël Messi Bouli.
 
They also have a few young Indian stars like Sahal Abdul Samad. But the absence of Sandesh Jhingan will be a huge blow for them. Though they have brought in a replacement in Raju Gaikwad, Schattorie concedes that their preparations have been far from ideal.
 
“We have a great team, we bought good foreigners. Pre-season was not how I wanted it to be. We did not have the perfect preparation. We had some foreign players arriving with injuries. We are 2-3 weeks behind, we need to catch up.
 
“I have worked with Raju before and we needed another centre back with experience. His fitness is not up to the mark and he didn’t have a pre-season. But the atmosphere in the squad is good.”
 
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Kerala: 4,000 aspiring entrepreneurs to attend KSUM’s IEDC Summit

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About 4000 aspiring entrepreneurs and 100 start-ups will participate in the fourth edition of the IEDC (Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Centre) Summit that will be hosted by Kerala Start-up Mission (KSUM) near here tomorrow.
 
Billed as Asia's largest event of its kind for business aspirants, the theme of the summit will be "Accelerating Ideas to Industry 4.0".
 
The event will be held at Sahrdaya College of Engineering and Technology in Kodakara of Thrissur district, about 60 km north of here.
 
The day-long conclave comes when the world is in the midst of an exciting Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), pointed out Saji Gopinath, CEO of KSUM that is the Kerala government’s nodal agency to develop the state’s technology startup ecosystem. 
 
"The summit aims to give IEDCs a chance to play a significant role in exposing the student community to the needs and aspirations of the society propped up by Industry 4.0 transformation," he said.
 
The event gives student delegates from across Kerala an opportunity to express their entrepreneurial ideas and get in touch with the experts attending it from different parts of the world. With a separate session on success stories, the conclave features 25 speakers and a string of technical workshops.
 
The IEDC summit will be addressed by Kerala Education Minister C Raveendranath, former ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan, Kerala Electronics and IT Secretary M Sivasankar, APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University Vice-Chancellor Rajasree M S, Hungry Lab founder Bian Li, Google Developer Relations Program Coordinator Siddhant Agarwal, anchor-entrepreneurs Rekha Menon and Santhosh George Kulangara, besides KSUM’s Gopinath and founders of several start-ups.
 
Organisers noted that a key determinant of a country's competitiveness is its students’ talent pool: their skills, knowledge and experience, overall known as the ‘soft capital’. Saturday's event will serve as a platform to engage with young entrepreneurs, understand their needs, develop networks and share their success stories with a wide audience.
 
Subsequently, industry leaders and top officials with government, research and educational organizations will play a critical role in formulating and developing the implementation of Industry 4.0 strategy through IEDC Summit 2019, a press release from KSUM said.
 
An annual event, the summit is typically packed with activities such as start-up expo, extended reality, blockchain track, activity hubs and panel discussions. 
 
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Kerala to host Design Festival in Kochi in December

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Kerala will host a major Design Festival in December to discuss the global trends in design and architecture so as to employ them in the state’s sustained efforts to rebuild infrastructure.
 
The December 12-14 Kochi Design Week (KDW) will strive for the creation of a sustainable ecosystem through innovative design enabled by visionary thinking and technology, organisers said today. The inaugural day will focus on design, while architecture will be the chief subject for the second and third days.
 
The Department of Information Technology under the Kerala government in association with Asset Foundation is hosting the three-day event at Bolgatty Palace. Registrations are to begin this month.
 
Billed as India’s largest annual international festival of its kind, the event gives creative minds a platform to meet and brainstorm on new facets in design and architecture.
 
The meet, now into its second edition, will witness the assemblage of more than 5,000 design professionals, architects, interior designers, thought leaders, policymakers and government officials besides the general public. Curated by leading experts, KDW will chiefly hold sessions on design and architecture, exhibitions and installations.
 
Featuring speakers of international repute in design, architecture and city planning, the event will also be addressed by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
 
The highlights of the KDW 2019 will be the charting of an exclusive ‘Design Island’ for the hosting of the annual event and setting up of design installations across Kochi’s high-visibility areas, besides laying special tracks for design architecture and interior designs.
 
“We need to give the concept of sustainable design its deserving focus in various domains such as technology, urban planning and architecture,” said Arun Balachandran, Chief Minister’s Fellow (IT), Government of Kerala who is the special officer for the Kochi Design Week project. “The huge success of the first edition of KDW has made everyone realise the criticality of the role ‘design’ plays in transforming our cities and societies into sustainable ecosystems of the future.”
 
The KDW 2018 had showcased technology options of use in any rebuilding phase as installations for various stakeholders to experience them. Ideas that emerged out of that edition were distributed to relevant departments for their reference.
 
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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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