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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 moves to speed up clearance of investment proposals

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan launched Kerala Single Window Interface for Fast, Transparent Clearances (K-SWIFT), an onine clearance mechanism that will ensure that investment proposals are cleared within days of applications.
 
The mechanism, which was launched at the inauguration of ASCEND Kerala 2019, is aimed at ending delays and official lethargy in clearance of investments.
 
ASCEND Kerala 2019 is an ambitious initiative of the government to position the state as an investment hotspot.
 
K-SWIFT is a cutting-edge software application that simplifies and speeds up approval of clearances from departments and agencies looking to launch enterprises in the state.
 
Noting that K-SWIFT complements the notion of rebuilding of Kerala, the Chief Minister urged the officials for a change in their attitude towards entrepreneurs. In this context, he said the 30-day time limit, which is applicable from village to secretariat level, may be reduced to even 15 days in future.    
 
“You should not have the wrong belief that advent of industries means exploitation of people,” he said.
 
“Kerala economy has been consumerist where lots of products have buyers, but not much of production is happening in the state. This has to be change,” he told delegates to the conference held at Lulu International Convention Centre Grand Hyatt, Bolgatty. “We have to increase MSMEs in the state. Through them, the government aims to provide jobs to around 50,000 people this year.”
 
Vijayan also launched an ‘Invest Kerala Guide’ brought out by the state government’s Department of Industries and Commerce, which is a key organiser of the day-long event that seeks to boost East of Doing Business.
 
Kerala Industry Minister E P Jayarajan said ASCEND Kerala 2019 was part of the government’s efforts to form an industry network in the state. Pointing out that a “new era” has dawned upon Kerala’s industry sector, he said any delay in taking steps in the online applications would attract serious steps against the departments and officials.
 
“Specific industrial parks will be set up in private and public sector as per the types of industry. In rural areas, the area limit will be 25 acres. The urban parks will have 15 acres,” he added. “The government will provide the same facilities of the public parks sector to private parks.”
 
The Minister revealed that around 36,000 MSME units have been established in the state within its two-and-a-half years, generating 1,24,000 jobs. Jayarajan also launched the portal of ‘Invest Kerala’that includes details about IBPMS (Intelligent Building Plan Management System).
 
K Ellangovan, Principal Secretary, Industries, Commerce & NORKA, gave a presentation on ASCEND Kerala 2019, and said Kerala is thecountry’s only state that has amended all the existing rules to streamline and encourage its industry sector. 
 
Tom Jose, Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala, said in his welcome address that the industry sector’s motto was to convert jobseekers into entrepreneurs.
 
FICCI National President Sandip Somany noted Kerala topped national rankings in sectors such as startups, food-processing and technology.  CII Chairman (Southern Region) R Dinesh said Kerala has a unique advantage in knowledge-based industries.
 
Kerala Small Scale Industries Association President M Khalid also spoke at the session, where TiE Kerala Chapter President MSA Kumar proposed  a vote of thanks.
 
The meet showcased Kerala as a top-notch investment destination, where entrepreneurs from India and abroad can set up a wide array of enterprises in a speedy and hassle-free manner with minimum of bureaucratic interventions.
 
The conference, through presentations and panel discussions, also presented a slew of legislations and administrative reforms the Kerala government has initiated to enhance the Ease of Doing Business in the state.
 
Entrepreneurs, industry captains and representatives, administrators, policy-makers and top industry department officials, besides senior functionaries of local bodies were present.
 
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Kerala foresees Rs 1,000 crore investment for startups in 4 years: IT Secretary

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Kerala is poised for a far stronger startup ecosystem, as four investment funds have opened the possibilities of more than Rs 1,000 crore for new business ventures in the next four years, a top official said here on Tuesday.
 
Unicorn India Ventures, Exseed Electron Fund, Indian Angel Network and Speciale Incept Fund are the financial entities the government has selected in response to a tender floated recently, according to M Sivasankar, Secretary, Kerala Electronics and IT Department.
 
Since the pact mandates investing 25 per cent of the volunteered amount in the next four years, the state is guaranteed with a minimum investment of Rs 300 crore by 2022 fiscal, he revealed on the sidelines of ‘Seeding Kerala’. 
 
The fourth edition of the event, organised here by Kerala Startup Mision (KSUM) in association with investment platform LetsVenture, brought together the state’s high net worth individuals (HNIs) in a bid to provide them opportunities to invest in potentially rewarding startups.
 
Sivasankar told a media conference that the Kerala government has adopted the Fund of Funds model to invigorate angel and VC funds, thus facilitating holding of a portfolio than of other investment funds rather than investing directly in stocks, bonds and other securities. The state, on its part, provides an annual investment of Rs 15 crore.
 
The first leg of 2017-launched ‘Seeding Kerala’ saw encouraging results, prompting the government to aim at raising investments worth Rs 60 crore. How much high amount angel and VC funds could raise from this amount was the yardstick for their selection, the IT Secretary said. The state got 34 Expressions of Interest, from which four funds were invited to the KSUM endeavour on developing the state’s startup ecosystem, he added.
 
Among the four, Exseed will invest solely in startups based in the fields of space and IT, Sivasankar said. The state will also encourage funds for startups working in the sectors of cancer treatment and disaster management, he added.
 
KSUM CEO Saji Gopinath said the selection of the four funds would help the state tide over its problem of insufficient funds. Startups anyway required decentralised operations, he added.
 
The first two editions (both in 2017) of ‘Seeding Kerala’ strove to introduce angel investors from outside of Kerala to the state. Into the third, the focus turned to HNIs within Kerala and linking them with startups that merited investment.
 
Today’s conference provided delegates a masterclass on angel investing, while giving them a clearer idea on investment and portfolio diversification. The day-long sessions also discussed the legal aspects of investing and took up case studies of remarkable business in the state.
 
Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation Chairman Christy Fernandez and Indian Angel Network’s Padmaja Ruparel, besides investors Ritesh Malik and Anil Joshi were among the speakers who led the conference.
 
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Kerala to implement online clearance mechanism for entrepreneurs

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The Kerala Government will implement an online, single window clearance mechanism with unique features that would ease the process of launching new ventures and give a push to entrepreneurship activities in the state. 
 
The Single Window Interface for Fast and Transparent Clearance (KSWIFT) mechanism will be launched at Ascend 2019, an event that will be hosted here on February 11 by the Kerala Bureau of Industrial Promotion (KBIP) to showcase the administrative and policy reform measures taken by the state government to improve ease of doing business.
 
KSWIFT will bring together relevant departments for expediting approvals within the stipulated timeframe, reducing and simplifying procedures and substantially curtailing bureaucratic interventions, a press release from KBIP said.
 
"KSWIFT will be a pioneering integrating platform that supports entrepreneurs in obtaining their requisite clearances for setting up and running an enterprise in the state.
 
"Having all the trappings of a landmark initiative, KSWIFT is designed to make governance more efficient, effective, transparent and user-friendly by leveraging the information technology. It will be a platform for all future transactions with the government for granting licences and approvals in a time-bound manner," it said.
 
For the present, the services of 14 departments and agencies have been made available in KSWIFT, wherein all the applications can be submitted through a unified Common Application Form (CAF). These departments are Directorate of Urban Affairs, Directorate of Panchayats, Department of Town and Country Planning, Factories and Boilers, Electrical Inspectorate, Mining and Geology, Forest and Wildlife, Labour, Fire and Rescue Services, Kerala State Pollution Control Board, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd., Kerala Water Authority, and Department of Ground Water.
 
 KSWIFT has features like CAF; intelligent information wizard; unified payment mechanism; time-bound clearances; digital approvals; online issue of clearances; and deemed approvals and composite licences. It will enable entrepreneurs to submit all their applications online along with provisions to upload the requisite supporting documents.
 
Dedicated dashboards provided for both project proponents and department officials pave the way for end-to-end tracking and processing of the applications. In order to increase transparency, KSWIFT has also enabled the provision for third party verification of the entire clearance process.
 
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"It will be the next revolutionary change in the clearances / legislative landscape of the state that would provide a thriving environment for enterprises. KSWIFT is expected to reduce the physical touch points in the entire clearance process, thereby making the entire process more efficient and effective.
 
"As a means of improving the entrepreneur–government interface, the Kerala government has constituted Investment Promotion and Facilitation Cells (IPFC) at both the state and district-level.
 
"The IPFC consists of officials of the departments / agencies that are involved in providing clearances for setting up and running enterprises in the state. 
 
 "The mandate of the IPFC is to act as the single point of contact for investors and accord all the required approvals for setting up and operation of enterprises in Kerala. It is envisaged to track the progress of applications submitted online, obtain regular feedback from the stakeholder departments / agencies, remove bottlenecks and ensure time-bound disposal of applications.
 
"The IPFC will also provide handholding support to all entrepreneurs, who wish to make Kerala their preferred destination for starting and running an enterprise.
 
"The IPFC at the state-level, with Managing Director, Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation Ltd. (KSIDC) as its CEO, will be headquartered in KSIDC in the capital city. District Collectors will be the Chairpersons for the IPFC while General Manager, District Industries Centers, will be the Convenors in respective districts," the release added.
 
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Well-known Malayalam actor-director Sreenivasan hospitalised

Sreenivasan
Sreenivasan
Well-known Malayalam film actor and director Sreenivasan was admitted to a private hospital here today after complaining of acute breathlessness and chest pain.
 
Sources in the Ernakulam Medical Centre (EMC) told NetIndian that Sreenivasan, 62, was admitted to the intensive coronary care unit (ICCU) and kept on ventilator support.
 
He said the actor's vital parameters, which were weak at the time of admission around 9.45 am, had improved.
 
Doctors treating him would meet around 11 am tomorrow to discuss the further course of treatment, the sources added.
 
Sreenivasan was dubbing for a new movie at a studio in the Kakkanad area of the city when he complained of the uneasiness and was rushed to the hospital, located near the Palarivattom Junction.
 
“Actor Mr Sreenivasan, aged 62 years, presented to the emergency department of this hospital on 30.01.2019 at 9:46 am with complaints of acute breathlessness, following physical exertion. Patient was hemodynamically unstable on presentation, suggestive of Acute Left Ventricular Failure, warranting admission to Intensive Coronary Care Unite where he was intubated and ventilated in view of his poor oxygen saturation following persisting dysponea. He is being treated by a team of specialists consisting of Cardiologist, Intensivist, Anesthesiologist and Physician," a statement from the hospital said.
 
“Professional diagnosis: Accelerated hypertension, Acute LVF on a previously diagnosed patient with Hypertension, Diabetes, IHD, Old CVA. At present, patient is in the ICU with ventilatory support, hemodynamically stable," the statement added.
 
Sreenivasan, who has a huge fan following, has excelled in comic and character roles and is also an acclaimed scriptwriter in Malayalam cinema. He has also produced movies.
 
In January last year, Sreenivasan had been hospitalised for some days due to variations in his blood sugar level.
 
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Modi provided "maximum income guarantee" to 15 of his friends: Rahul

A day after he announced that his party would ensure a Minimum Income Guarantee for the poor in the country if it is voted to power in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Congress President Rahul Gandhi today hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of providing "Maximum Income Guarantee to 15 of his friends".

 
Rahul says Modi wasted five years of India's time
A day after he announced that his party would ensure a Minimum Income Guarantee for the poor in the country if it is voted to power in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Congress President Rahul Gandhi today hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of providing "Maximum Income Guarantee to 15 of his friends".
 
"For the last five years, Narendra Modi has provided a 'maximum income guarantee' to 15 of his friends. We have decided that, if he can give 'maximum income guarantee to 15 rich people, we are going to give a 'minimum income guarantee' to the poor of this country," he said.
 
Addressing a meeting of booth level workers of the party from all over Kerala here, Gandhi said that, just like MGNREGA had given people the right to employment, the Food Security Bill had given the right to food and the Right to Information had provided the right to seek information from the government, the Minimum Income Guarantee scheme would assure a minimum income to each poor citizen of the country.
 
Mounting a scathing attack on the Modi government, Gandhi said the Prime Minister had not kept any of the promises it had made to the people before the last elections, including jobs.
 
"Narendra Modi has spent five years wasting India's time, telling one lie after another," he said.
 
"If you are Anil Ambani, then you get a guarantee for maximum income. Jobs that should have gone to the people of Kerala, Karnataka, Odisha have been taken away and the offset contract in the Rafale deal has been given to Anil Ambani," he said.
 
"For five years, people have watched this 'tamasha'," he said, referring to businessmen such as Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and others who had fled the country in recent years after defaulting on bank loans.
 
Gandhi said that, under the Minimum Income Guarantee scheme, the amounts would be directly transferred to the bank accounts of the eligible individuals.
 
"It does not matter how much Narendra Modi tries, we will not allow him to create two Indias, one for the rich and another for the poor, the workers, farmers and labourers and the middle class. There is going to be only one India," he said.
 
"We won't allow a situation where 15 people live like kings and fly around in private jets while the rest are deprived of basic necessities," he said.
 
Gandhi accused the Modi government of also "attacking and destroying" all institutions. In this regard, he referred to the four seniormost judges of the Supreme Court who came to hold a press conference against the way the apex court was functioning.
 
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He also asked why the CBI chief was removed in a midnight move and why, after he was reinstated by the Supreme Court, he was removed again witin two days by the government. He also referred to the alleged corruption in the Rafale deal and said all this pointed to corruption at the very top.
 
"The Prime Minister is protecting himself when he removes the chief of the CBI and ensures no enquiry is carried  out," he said.
 
Gandhi also recalled that former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikhar had made it clear, at the time the Rafale deal was announced by Modi in Paris, that he had nothing to do with it. Incidentally, Gandhi had met the ailing Parrikar, who is now Chief Minister of Goa, in Panaji earlier in the day.
 
Gandhi also attacked the Modi government over demonetisation and the poor implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST). He reiterated that the Congress, if voted to power, would restructure the GST to make it an asset for the country and not a liability.
 
He promised that the party would also ensure that more youth and women are given positions of responsibility in the party and that it would field more of them in elections. He also said the Congress would try to get the Women's Reservation Bill passed in Parliament.
 
He said his party would work to ensure remunerative prices for farmers and provide jobs for the youth. It would also increase spending in key areas such as education and healthcare, he said.
 
"We have waived off farm loans in the three states where we won elections. We have committed that in 2019, we will have a government that will make up for all the crimes that Narendra Modi has done against farmers in five years," he said.
 
Gandhi accused the BJP government at the Centre and the CPI (M)-led Left Front government in Kerala of trying to divide the people for narrow political ends. He said the Left Front government in Kerala had failed to take proper steps for rebuilding the state after last year's devastating floods.
 
In an apparent reference to the Sabarimala issue, he said the Congress respected the rights of women but also equally respected the traditions of Kerala. "We do not agree with the violence carried out by BJP and CPM," he said.
 
"Kerala is not just a state, it is an idea. It is a way of looking at the world that includes compassion, humility, respect. People of Kerala are helping guide the people of India," he said.
 
He urged Congress workers to be proud of their history, their present and their future.
 
"Don't forget who fought for the freedom of this country. Don't forget all the top leaders of RSS who were begging in front of the British when our leaders were in jail," he said, adding that Congress workers had shed blood to help India attain freedom.
 
Gandhi said the Congress workers must come together to fight the forces that seek to divide the country along religious, caste and other lines. He said the Congress is the only party that could bring the country together and take it forward.
 
"You have seen how we fought the BJP in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, how we have defeated their ideology. We are going to do exactly the same thing in Kerala and at the Centre," he said.
 
He said the RSS and the CPI (M) may have cadres, but India lives in the hearts of Congress workers.
 
"Kerala and India can only grow if there is love and affection and if the people work together. We will not benefit from violence." he said.
 
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Modi inaugurates Integrated Refinery Expansion Project Complex at Kochi

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Inaugurating the Integrated Refinery Expansion Project Complex (IREP) here today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was a historic day when the largest industrial unit of Kerala was entering its next phase of development.
 
IREP will be a modern expansion complex and transform Kochi refinery into the largest public sector refinery with world-class standards. It will be equipped for the production of cleaner fuels. It will double the production of LPG and diesel and commence production of feedstock for petrochemical projects.
 
“Today is a historic day when the largest industrial unit of Kerala is entering its next phase of development. It is indeed a proud moment not just for God's Own Country, but also for the entire nation,” he said. 
 
He also praised Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) Kochi for playing a critical role in popularizing clean fuels among masses in Kerala and neighbouring states over the past 50 years.
 
Mr Modi said since May 2016,  the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas for providing LPG connections to women from Below Poverty Line (BPL), nearly six crore connections have been provided to the poorest of the poor in the country.
 
Meanwhile, more than 23 crore LPG consumers have joined the Pahal scheme, the Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG subsidy to their Aadhar-linked bank accounts. The transparency in the scheme has helped in identifying ghost accounts, multiple accounts and inactive accounts. Over 1 crore customers have given up LPG subsidies under the ‘Give it up initiative’, he said.
 
“The refinery in Kochi is making a great contribution towards Ujjwala Yojana, by doubling the LPG production with the help of the recent expansion,” he added.
 
Mr Modi said the use of CNG, a clean fuel, is being promoted by expanding the coverage of City Gas Distribution (CGD) network in the country. After the successful completion of 10 CGD bidding rounds, more than 400 districts of the country will be connected for providing piped gas supply. 
 
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The National Gas Grid or Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga has also been created to have a gas-based economy and enhance the share of gas in the energy basket,  he said.
 
The Government was thinking of developing an additional 15000 km of the gas pipeline network. It has reduced oil import by 10% and saved precious foreign exchange, he said.
 
Mr. Modi said that India, as the second largest oil refiner in Asia, was emerging as a refining hub. He congratulated all for the timely completion of IREP, especially the labourers who worked day and night during the construction. At the peak of the project, over 20,000 labourers were working at the site and they are the real heroes of the project, he said.
 
Noting the strategic move of BPCL to diversify into the non-fuel sector through this project, he said, “Friends, petrochemicals are a grade of chemicals which we don't speak much about. But they exist invisibly and touch many aspects of our daily life.
 
“However, most of these chemicals are imported from other countries. It is our endeavour to see that these petrochemicals are manufactured in India itself,” he added.
 
He expressed happiness that Kochi refinery will now be able to produce propylene after execution of IREP.  Besides, the other niche petrochemicals will find use in different products such as paints, inks, coating, detergent and many other articles.
 
He expressed hope that all these ancillary industries will come to Kochi and business opportunities will be expanded.
 
The Prime Minister said the nation was proud of the works by Kochi refinery. When Kerala was passing through worst floods in a 100 years last August, BPCL, working against all odds, ensured continuous production of petrol, diesel and LPG. 
 
Mr. Modi laid the foundation stone of the second campus of the Skill development institute set up by BPCL at Ettumanoor. He said it will help skill development and create employment opportunities for the youth.
 
He also dedicated to the nation mounded storage facility by Indian Oil at its Kochi LPG based bottling plant at a cost of Rs 50 crore. This will enhance LPG storage capacity and also reduce the road movement of LPG tankers.
 
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Kochi Biennale to screen films on artists Kaushik Mukhopadhyay, Nilima Sheikh

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale will give this week a peek into the life and work of two leading Indian artists, with films on Kaushik Mukhopadhyay and Nilima Sheikh set to be shown on Monday and Tuesday at a key venue of the festival.
 
Both the movies are directed by noted cinematographer Avijit Mukul Kishore, and will be screened at the Pavilion in Cabral Yard at Fort Kochi. ‘Squeeze Lime in Your Eye’ on Monday, followed by ‘The Garden of Forgotten Snow’ the next evening.
 
Avijit, who is based in Mumbai, works in documentary and interdisciplinary moving-image practices while also being a curator. He also collaborates with visual artists on moving-image-based art projects and is a lecturer in film and media schools.
 
‘Squeeze Lime in Your Eye’ essays the inimitable Mukhopadhyay and his works that “exist at a peculiar intersection of machine, organism and toy”, says Avijit. “The artist uses discarded household objects to create works that are fragile, humorous and poignant.”
 
The hour-long film made last year traverses the overlapping spaces of art, invention and pedagogy through Mukopadhyay’s work, following him through his 2017 solo titled ‘Squeeze Lime in Your Eye’ and his practice as a teacher in an architecture school in Mumbai.
 
‘The Garden of Forgotten Snow’, about septuagenarian Nilima’s art practice and her engagement with Kashmir over decades, traverses “the many layers of memory and history as embodied in her work”, the filmmaker says. The 30-minute work also scans the pertinent literary and art-historical traditions.
 
Baroda-based Nilima’s work is on at the 108-day biennale that ends on March 29.
 
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‘Artivist’ and her feminism library add to biennale’s infra-project

The red-and-white-walled Pepper House sports a pinkish library in one corner these days, and there’s something particularly striking about its books: the authors are solely women.
 
Gender inequality across the world and caste hierarchy in India form the chunk of the subjects in the collection with feminist perspectives that bear a historical approach as well. There are graphic novels as well as illustrated zines — those low-cost self-publications aiming a small circulation. All of it by young artist-archivist Aqui Thami.
 
The 29-year-old activist has been working on this moving library that is an infra-project under the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale. ‘Sister Library’, as it is called, reflects on the general reading culture in the country even as it seeks to “celebrate the contributions of women in the creative world”.
 
The 100-book library, along with Thami, has so far travelled five cities: Goa, Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Bengaluru. The sixth has been this coastal Kerala city amid the subcontinent’s biggest contemporary art festival that is on till March 29. Starting this week at the sea-facing venue of Pepper House in Fort Kochi, she is leading a month-long workshop featuring feminism-centric reading sessions, film shows, talks, discussions and art workshops.
 
So, why the word ‘Sister’ ahead of library? “Well, ‘sister’ is a word of solidarity that brings together women from all class, region or language,” explains Thami, who lives in Mumbai after having been brought up in West Bengal’s hilly Darjeeling.
 
Artist Anita Dube, who is curator of the 108-day biennale that began on December 12, notes Sister Library “aptly describes” the festival’s two running themes: feminism and pedagogy. “Aqui has prioritised through her workshops and aesthetics that learning can be pleasurable and accessible,” Dube notes. “This is a major aim for me.”
 
According to Thami, the year-old project is still evolving and generative. “The idea is to engage in an in-depth reflection on the visual and reading culture prevalent among women,” she says. “The library will make people look at the works of women seriously. The readers can celebrate the ideas of women authors,” she says. “The perception of women will be widely shared. It will start help shift some of the general perceptions about women around and hopefully bring a change some day.”
 
The artist had visited the biennale during its previous (2016) chapter. To be part of the latest edition is “great”, she feels, for the ongoing biennale women forming more than half of the 90-plus artists. Hailing curator Anita Dube’s vision, Thami says the biennale has boosted “artists, like me, who belong to an indigenous culture and come from the global south.”
 
Thami’s work reflects on the absence of safe community spaces that allow women to read works about other women. “Works of women writers are not easily available. It took me years to have collection of around 4,000 books. I come from the mountains that has an indigenous community, I have gone through so much intergenerational trauma. I face a lot of racism in the land. I went through a very dark age of my life where art became a ray of light and a healing element,” adds Thami, who received the 2017 Inlaks Fine Art Award for the project.
 
Some of the notable authors in her treasured collection include Sylvia Plath, Ursula le Guin Alison Bechdel, Naomi Wolf, Gloria Steinem, Susan Sontag, bell hooks, Simone de Beauvoir and Audre Lorde. Alongside them were displayed the works of Ishmat Chugtai, Imitiaz Dharker, Sharmila Rege, Taslima Nasrin, and Nayyirah Waheed besides plenty of non-fictional works on intersectional feminist history.
 
Thami has been working in the Dharavi Art Room at Mumbai with its founder-educator Himanshu Shady since 2012, providing women and children in the community with a place to express and heal them through art.
 
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Art Rises for Kerala auction raises Rs 3.2 crore for flood relief

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A first-ever international live contemporary art auction in Kerala saw all its works getting sold out and the proceeds of Rs 3.2 crore set to be donated to the state government’s rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the natural calamity five months ago.
 
The auction, conducted by Mumbai-based Saffronart and the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) last weekend, had no buyer’s premium — and comprised 42 artworks donated by leading Indian and international artists, gallerists and collectors. 
 
The amount from the Friday night event at the Grand Hyatt in Kochi is going to the Kerala Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund for the benefit of the people hit by the floods and landslides in August last year. 
 
The sale was led by eminent artist Anish Kapoor’s Untitled, 2018, a vivid blue canvas-and-resin work that sold for Rs 1.3 crore.
 
The KBF noted that the Kerala government has been the principal supporter of the biennale which has its fourth edition on for 108 days till March 29. 
 
“We’re proud to have been able to bring together the artist community to rebuild Kerala,” said KBF president Bose Krishnamachari. “I’m also happy that along with the important collectors in India, a new generation of art collectors have come forward in Kerala.I hope that this will strengthen the ecosystem for art here.”
 
Saffronart said it had partnered with the KBF once again in solidarity with the people of Kerala. “We thank the art community for their generous support in both donating and bidding on works for this important cause,” said Saffronart CEO Dinesh Vazirani. “We hope that the funds raised through this auction, with artworks by some of India’s leading artists, will support the commendable rebuilding efforts initiated by the state government that are already underway.” 
 
Sunil V, Secretary of the KBF, thanked the artists who generously contributed to the cause. “We also want to thank Saffronart and Dinesh Vazirani for their partnership,” he added.
 
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Kerala Government to hold Ascend 2019 to showcase its business-friendly initiatives

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In an initiative to position Kerala as a hotspot for attracting investments from India and abroad and setting up enterprises in a hassle-free manner, the State Government will organise Ascend 2019 here next month.
 
To be held on February 11 at the Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Center (LBICC) here, Ascend 2019 will showcase various administrative and policy reforms that the government says have considerably improved Ease of Doing Business in the state for the benefit of industry and trade.
 
The event is expected to be attended by Union Ministers, Chief Ministers and Ministers from various states, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, investors, policy administrators and other delegates from India and abroad.
 
In particular, the event will display two software applications: K-SWIFT (Kerala Single Window Interface for Fast, Transparent Clearances) and IBPMS (Intelligent Building Plan Management System), a press release issued by the Kerala Bureau of Industrial Promotion.
 
KSWIFT, an online clearance mechanism and Common Application Form (CAF) under Ease of Doing Business initiatives, have been developed to simplify and speed up issuance of clearances from Departments and agencies for setting up enterprises in the State.  The activities associated with KSWIFT and its integration with portals of 14 Departments and agencies concerned have already been completed. 
 
“The objective behind the launch of Ascend 2019 is to bring into sharp focus a governance that is simplified, transparent, facilitates business and investments with a string of industry -friendly measures,” the release said.
 
The event will have plenary addresses, panel discussions, break-out sessions and presentations on some of the best practices under the Ease of Doing Business initiatives.
 
According to the release, Kerala has, of late, launched policy and procedural reforms to position it on an equal footing amongst other top ranked States in the Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) ranking. It has simplified and rationalized the existing rules; introduced IT to make governance more efficient, transparent and user-friendly; and ensured swift and transparent ways of dealing with the industries, it said.
 
Listing out the other measures, it said the State Assembly unanimously passed an omnibus legislation—Kerala Investment Promotion Facilitation Act 2018 during May 2018, amending the existing seven Acts dealing with doing business in Kerala and investment-related issues. Further, it has reduced the transaction time for obtaining permits and licenses and also created an elaborate e-platform to largely eliminate the citizen-government interface, bringing out the transparency dimension in the entire exercise.
 
The Department of Industries & Commerce, Government of Kerala has also introduced the concept of "deemed approval" for everyone, who does not get the reply from various departments within the stipulated time frame. The new land allotment policy facilitates entrepreneurs in the state and the bureaucracy has been trained to implement the revised procedures.
 
“All these unprecedented measures have been taken to correct the skewed and distorted perception of the State and enormously increase the prospects of investments by the national and international investors,” the release added.
 
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Kochi Biennale: Annu Matthew’s work pays homage to forgotten WWII heroes

Through her work that draws attention to parallel histories of immigrants and women among communities, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew hopes to enrich a collective cultural conversation with amplified voices. 
 
“I do this by drawing on history and the connected role of memory and its effect on identity,” says the 55-year-old artist about her exhibit at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
 
The ongoing fourth edition of the art festival showcases US-based Annu’s video work titled ‘Unremembered: The Indian soldiers of the Italian Campaign of World War II’. The project is about the forgotten history of Indian (South Asian) soldiers who fought during the Italian Campaign of the global conflict that lasted from 1939 to ’45.
 
“I stumbled upon the powerful story of a politically-complicated role of Indian soldiers who fought for the British colonial power during WWII,” notes the artist, a professor of art at the University of Rhode Island, 250 km northeast of New York. “I came across it through my decade-long research on the Partition of British India.”
 
This war had nearly 2.5 million Indians volunteering to fight for the British. In the end, no less than 87,000 people died. The Indian troops did achieve something particularly inspiring what with their role proving critical in winning a decisive battle at Monte Cassino and others in Italy against the Axis powers.
 
“The tenacity of the troops, especially that of Indian soldiers, is reflected in their being honoured with 30 per cent of the Victoria Crosses the British government awarded to all of the soldiers fighting in Italy during the war,” adds Annu, who was born in London and raised partly in India (largely Bangalore).
 
As for the installation at the main biennale venue of Aspinwall House in Fort Kochi, the video spanning 3 minutes and 20 seconds has a reflection pool. The work builds on the idea that military cemeteries memorialise the dead while simultaneously reminding the living of their possible complicity in the same soldiers’ deaths.
 
“These spaces, embedded with multiple overlapping layers of narrative, encourage contemplation and reflection,” notes Annu. “Layering a contemporary inscription of the wartime past expands the narrative and prompts a reconsideration. It goes on to evolve as a dialogue of the larger history of WWII and the understanding of the complexities of the Partition of British India.”
 
Annu, with familial roots in Kerala, started her research on the project one-and-a-half years ahead of the biennale. She did her test shots while she was attending the Rome Summer Fellow at Richmond International University in 2017. “For that, I projected archival footage of the Indian soldiers in Italy during WWII onto the gravestones of those soldiers memorialised in Cassino, and Forli,” says the artist who was born in Stourport, England.
 
For over twenty years, she has been mining issues of identity, immigration and inter-generational memory with the insights of a woman who has twice lived the immigrant experience. The vignettes come through her photo-based works. “I work in a wide range of photographic media from the plastic-lensed ‘toy’ Holga camera, photo animation to interactive installations,” she says. “My larger work reconsiders — or what I like to call re-views — different histories. The first time I re-viewed history, it was my own childhood.”
 
Annu has predominantly worked with photography as a medium. To her, participating in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale allowed her to take the next bold move onto installation art. “Something that I have taken as a small step towards in the last few years,” she shrugs. “It has also been wonderful to see a show giving voice to many unheard narratives and to meet a number of the artists.”
 
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Kerala's Maker Village comes under the ambit of DST's Nidhi Prayas programme

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In a big boost to the startup ecosystem in Kerala, the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, has brought the electronic design and innovation hub Maker Village under the ambit of its Nidhi Prayas programme, which will provide financial grants of up to Rs 10 lakh and lab equipment support for early stage hardware startups to pursue their ideas.
 
National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations (NIDHI) has been conceived by DST as an umbrella programme for nurturing knowledge-based and technology-driven ideas and innovations into successful startups. The PRAYAS Centre -- Promoting and Accelerating Young and Aspiring technology entrepreneurs -- is a flagship programme under NIDHI, to support young innovators turn their ideas into proof-of-concepts.
 
The programme helps overcome the lack of support for early stage prototyping in the country, causing many innovators to lose interest in their ventures in the absence of support at that critical juncture.
 
“This is a real Nidhi (treasure) for Maker Village. Enterprising aspirants can now tap the benefit of this programme to pursue their ideas”, said a Maker Village official.
 
The Prayas Centre will be a place where innovative ideas are supported through physical infrastructure, technical guidance, business mentorship and a prototype grant for converting them into a prototype.
 
A well-equipped and furnished space of about 5000 sq ft is being set up at Maker Village for the commencement of the Prayas centre, a press release said.
 
The Maker Lab, coming up at the centre, will enable innovators to go through a cycle of imagination, design, prototyping, reflection, and iteration as a part of process to find solutions to challenges or bring their ideas to reality. It will provide an exciting pipeline of innovators and talents for the current incubation facility of Maker Village.
 
Each selected early stage innovator could avail a maximum grant amount of Rs 10,00,000 to facilitate the conversion of their ideas to proof- of-concept stage. Innovators in the age bracket of 18 -35 are eligible to apply for the scheme and the last date for submitting the application is January 25, 2019.
 
Details about the programme can be obtained and the applications can be submitted here, the release added.
 
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India's biggest startup incubator opened in Kochi

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India got its largest startup ecosystem on Sunday when Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated here a 1.8-lakh square-feet facility housing incubation set-ups across a string of segments in modern technology.
 
The Integrated Startup Complex under the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) includes ultra modern facilities of Maker Village that promotes hardware startups, the Bionest that promotes medical technologies, BRINC which is the country's first international accelerator for hardware startups; BRIC which aids developing solutions for cancer diagnosis and care, and a Centre of Excellence set up by industry majors such as Unity.
 
Overall the Kerala Government is working for the state to have a total area of 2.3 crore sq ft of IT space (up from 1.3 crore sq ft last year). The opening of the new complex at the Technology Innovation Zone (TIZ) is a major step towards achieving the objective, Mr Vijayan noted in his speech at KINFRA Hi Tech Park, Kalamassery. 
 
 “We are also planning to give direct jobs to 2.5 lakh in IT,” he revealed, adding that the government was working to ensure that information technology fosters social development.
 
After the completion of three more projects, Kerala will have startup and incubation space of 5 lakh sq ft,  which will be largest of these types in the world.
 
No less than 30 applications for patents have gone from startups with the 13.5-acre TIZ, the Chief Minister said, lauding it as a sign of the high-quality work in the zone. Simultaneously, Kerala was sensing increasing optimism in boosting software export from the state.
 
Mr M Sivasankar, Secretary, IT (Kerala), pointed out that the entire space at the TIZ facility has been sold out. “This has never happened in our country, where it usually takes a couple of years for an incubator to get the whole area occupied,” he said. The first three floors of the new complex have been furnished, while the rest of the floors have already got allotted to various startups.”
 
The campus has another incubator complex coming up and it will be open early next year, Mr Sivasankar said. Besides the Maker Village with its 30-odd startups, the facility has nascent firms working in fields such as biotechnology, computer-aided design, augmented/virtual reality and advanced communication.
 
Kalamassery MLA Ebrahim Kunju, in his presidential address, said Kerala has been proving to be a superpower in south India in the field of IT and incubation. “We expect more help from the government in its related endeavours,” he added.
 
Ernakulam MP Prof K V Thomas launched BioNest, which is a startup the KSUM has established in association with Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology with financial aid from BIRAC, under the Union Government’s Department of Biotechnology. It has 20 companies involved in deep research in biotechnology and allied fields.
 
The BRIC, which was inaugurated by Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja, will chiefly work in fighting cancer. The state has 50,000 additions to the number of its cancer patients every year, the minister noted, adding that the BRIC will work in accordance with a Cancer Strategic Action Plan and with funds totaling Rs 350 crore.
 
The other speakers at the function included B S Murthy of the Department of Telecom, Government of India, Institute of Information Technology and Management-Kerala Chairman Madhavan Nambiar and Dr Saji Gopinath, CEO, KSUM, Prasad Radhakrishnan, CEO, Maker Village. 
 
TIZ also has a full-fledged Fab Lab set up in association with MIT, USA and a large ESDM facility for supporting electronics startups working out of Maker Village.
 
Officials pointed out that TIZ was set to become the country’s largest Work-Live-Play space exclusively dedicated to startups. The Maker Village, set up by the IIITM-K in association with KSUM and supported by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, houses 65 startups working in electronics hardware technologies.
 
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Kerala to launch scaled-up electronic hardware incubator in Kochi on January 13

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Billed as India’s largest electronic hardware incubator, Maker Village will be launched here in a scaled-up form on January 13 with a string of improved facilities that would facilitate the hardware startup community in the country in setting up their businesses, filing patents for their innovative designs and fashioning their ideas into market-ready products.
 
The ultra-modern facility, spread over an increased physical space of 60,000 sq ft, will be officially launched in the presence of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan along with the inauguration of the "Integrated Startup Complex" at Kalamassery here.
 
Maker Village, the Electronic System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) facility and Hardware Incubator, is a joint initiative of the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the Government of Kerala and IIITMK, Thiruvananthapuram. It has currently 65 hardware startup companies from across the country developing a range of exciting products in cutting edge technologies, 
 
A total of 25 (both national and international) patents have been filed by 14 companies from Maker Village and another eight companies are in the process of filing patents in the next two months. As many as 17 startups located here have been able to generate their first purchase orders and already started selling in the market. 
 
“The cumulative investment in startup companies of Maker Village during the last year is about Rs 16 crore and it will increase manifold with the new facilities,” said Mr. Prasad Balakrishnan Nair, CEO, Maker Village. 
 
The startup companies of Maker Village work in divergent areas such as automation, robotics, drones, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, bio-medical instrumentation, and energy Management while anchoring on cutting edge technologies like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Augmented Reality /Virtual Reality. 
 
“In order to facilitate creating a robust and sustainable hardware ecosystem for prototyping, product design and development, it is in the process of creating a collaborative platform where sharing of talent, ideas, technology, equipments, services and exchange of best practices can be facilitated,” Mr. Nair pointed out.
 
As part of this initiative, Centers of Excellence (CoE) enabling hardware product development by top global technology solution providers are being instituted at Maker Village. The first such CoE by Altair, a globally renowned engineering solution provider, with key focus on engineering design through simulation driven innovation, will be launched along with the inauguration of a scaled-up Maker Village.  
 
“Such collaborations with global players will help the hardware ecosystem to mature faster and would address many of the pain points typical of hardware startups,” he said. 
 
Recently, Maker Village got sanction for Nidhi Prayas scheme of Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. The scheme seeks to provide the necessary support in terms of grants, labs and equipments for early-stage hardware startups to pursue their ideas without fear of failure.  
 
The Prayas centre at Maker Village would provide the right kind of pipeline of talents for the incubator, and it will also be launched during the event.
 
While the Prayas centre would cater to the early-stage startups, the proposed international hardware accelerator of BRINC, Hong Kong, which is to be launched next month, is to provide the vital support to the startups for accessing markets.  
 
“This would make Maker Village an end-to-end facility to enable the hardware startups to traverse the entire journey from idea-to-market ready products,” Mr. Nair said.
 
A host of senior Government officials including Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and IT, Aruna Sunderarajan, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications and corporate leaders from across the country are expected to be present on the occasion.
 
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Quarantine Unit for Tiger Shrimp opened at MAC of MPEDA in Kochi

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The Quarantine Unit for Tiger Shrimp at the Multi-species Aquaculture Complex (MAC) set up by the Marine Products Export Development Autority (MPEDA) at Vallarpadam here was inaugurated today by Tarun Shridhar, Secretary, Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Government of India.
 
Shridhar said  the newly opened unit would  regain the pride of place of  the indigenous species  Black Tiger shrimp  in the Indian sub-continent, which is now occupied by the exotic species, Vannamei.
 
Patting the MPEDA and its research arm Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture (RGCA) for establishing the MAC, he said the facility will cater to the growing demand for fingerlings of various export-oriented species like Seabass, Cobia,Tilapia and Pompano.
 
K. S. Srinivas, Chairman, MPEDA, said this is the first of its kind facility in the west coast, set up  when there is a huge demand for the healthy seeds.
 
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Two Navy officials killed in freak accident

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In a freak accident, two Naval officers were killed here on Thursday after getting trapped beneath the iron shutter of the helicopter hangar, police said.
 
According to police, the incident occurred around 10 a.m. at the Southern Naval Command's headquarters here.
 
"The Navy is conducting their probe. Two Chief Petty Officers who were standing in front of the helicopter hangar were seriously injured when the hangar door fell on them. The Naval officials immediately took them to hospital, but their lives could not be saved," a police officer told IANS on the condition of anonymity. 
 
The Naval authorities are yet to disclose the names of the deceased. Their families have been informed.
 
An official statement of the Indian Navy is awaited.
 
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Will take hard stance against enforced hartal, says Kerala Tourism Task Force

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Taking a hard stance against frequent hartals in the state, the Kerala Tourism Task Force, an initiative of Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) said the tourism industry will vehemently protest against enforced hartal which has become detrimental to the sector.
 
A joint meeting of 28 organisations in the tourism sector which convened here today passed a six-point resolution to ensure that services of the tourism industry are not hit due to shut down.
 
The forum also made clear that they will not participate in the nation- wide strike which is to be held on January 8 and 9, 2019.
 
Mr Baby Mathew, President, KTM said “Though we are not opposing a person’s right to disagree, we will refrain ourselves away from the enforced hartal. Tourism was the most affected industry during Nipah virus outbreak and floods, but we withstood it. Hartal is a man- made disaster which we will object.”
 
The task force will also take steps to file cases for heavy compensation against those who announce hartals and create problems for the industry with clear evidence, photo, and recordings.
 
The 28 organizations have unanimously adopted the six-point resolution to tackle the menace of hartal, said Mr Abraham George, former president KTM and Convenor, Kerala Tourism Task Force. “The Task Force will discuss the resolution with various organizations within the state to create awareness of the socio-economic stigma created by hartal.”
 
A resolution adopted by the meeting demanded the Government should provide police protection for the safety and security of tourists and tourism sector and uninterrupted functioning of institutions and services during hartals.
 
The forum also decided to approach the Government and other organizations, seeking to evolve a consensus to bring an end to the trend of enforcing hartals, obstructing  free movement  and freedom of functioning of service-providers and institutions.
 
The industry will also move contempt petition against the respective authorities and those who make the call for hartal.
 
"In 2017, there were 121 hartals in the state, while in 2018 Kerala has faced 97 hartals so far. This means an average of 100 hartals happen in the state a year. According to government statistics, tourist arrivals in the state is roughly around 1.65 crore, 30% and 70% during off and on seasons, respectively. By that reckoning, there will be around 70,000 tourists in the state, an average, per day. 
 
"So when we take an average, their total loss comes to around Rs 200 crore per day, if they fail to carry out their plans on account of hartals," the forum said.
 
"That apart, the trend also tarnishes the image of the state, which is famous for its tourism and travel industry, the task force noted.  When tourists face hartals, they will have nothing to narrate but the mental and physical ordeal they have to endure while on   visit to Kerala, which will be a negative propaganda and will impede the future opportunities," it added.
 
Former presidents of the KTM Society E M Najeeb, Jose Dominic and Riyaz Ahmed also spoke.
 
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Kerala actor abduction case: HC dismisses Dileep's plea seeking CBI probe

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The Kerala High Court here on Wednesday dismissed a plea by the eighth accused in the infamous actress abduction case, actor Dileep, for a CBI probe into the case.
 
In his petition, Dileep pleaded that he has been framed in the case by the police relying only on the statement of the prime accused, Pulsar Suni.
 
Meanwhile, the prosecution put up their defense by stating that an accused in a case has no right to decide on what sort of probe should take place and, moreover, this is nothing but a ploy to delay the trial in the case.
 
The police probe team has already filed the detailed charge sheet in the case and the court on March 14 summoned all the accused. 
 
Dileep was arrested after two rounds of questioning on July 10, 2017, for his alleged role in the conspiracy behind the abduction of the young actress.
 
Dileep's former wife Manju Warrier is one of the witnesses in the case.
 
After being in jail for 85 days, Dileep secured bail.
 
The actress was allegedly abducted on February 17 last year while she was on her way to Kochi from Thrissur.
 
Pulsar Suni, the prime accused, drove her around for two hours before she was dropped near the home of director-actor Lal, who later called the police.
 
IANS
 

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Bose Krishnamachari becomes a director of International Biennale Association

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Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) president Bose Krishnamachari has been made a director on the board of the global body of organisers of such art festivals, it was announced today.
 
The International Biennale Association (IBA) took Krishnamachari, 55, on its board of directors, the Sharjah-headquartered establishment’s president Hoor al Qasimi said in Kochi after a general assembly of the IBA.
 
Krishnamachari’s representation comes in the wake of his 2010-founded Foundation having met the requisite qualification of completing three Biennales. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), currently on from December 12, is the fourth edition of the festival that debuted in 2012. In six years, it has become the sub-continent’s biggest biennale, this time featuring 94 artist projects in 10 venues of the city.
 
Hoor al Qasimi, who also heads the Sharjah Art Foundation that holds the Biennale in the Arab emirate, was present at a public conference of the IBA on Monday at Cabral Yard, a key KMB venue in Fort Kochi.
 
Mumbaikar Krishnamachari, a native of Kerala and a co-curator of the first KMB, said it was an honour to be with the board of directors of the IBA. “It is a recognition of the work we at the Foundation have done in the field of art since our inception,” he added.
 
At the public conference, titled ‘Shifting Borders: Biennials in Transforming Landscapes’ and co-hosted by the KBF, Yuko Hasegawa, Chief Curator of Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art delivered the keynote address, sharing her experiences and work with numerous biennials.
 
This was followed by presentations by members of the 2012-formed IBA. The speakers included representatives from Aichi Triennale, Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Biennale of Sydney, Land Art Mongolia, Manifesta, Media Arts Biennial Chile, Rencontres de Bamako and the Atlantic Project.  
 
The IBA also released the inaugural issue of its journal, titled Pass. This annual publication aims to talk about the role of contemporary art biennials around the world.
 

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Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon kicks off Artists' Cinema at Kochi Biennale

The screening of Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon, a new film on subaltern life in Old Delhi, kicked off here on Saturday the Artists' Cinema section of the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), South Asia's biggest contemporary art event.
 
The 100-day film programme got off to a start at the Biennale Pavilion in Fort Kochi's Cabral Yard, one of the ten venues of the art event that began on December 12.
 
The Artists’ Cinema has both documentaries and feature films and is billed as the sub-continent’s biggest of its kind.
 
The brand-new Hindi movie known for its unconventional approach marked the start of the package being curated by filmmakers and scholars from across the world. 
 
Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon is the directorial debut in cinema by renowned theatre-person Anamika Haksar.  
 
Late Saturday evening, amid the twilight-hour chirps of birds in the verdant 1.6-acre plot, Haksar briefly spoke about the two-hour movie that has won rave reviews and critical acclaim for its magic-real treatment of marginalised communities in the historical Shajahanabad pocket of quaint Old Delhi.
 
“It took two years for us to shoot the film,” said Haksar, 59. “But then, we had been, prior to that, meeting the people in Old Delhi, interviewing and documenting them for seven years. Pickpockets, singers, vendors, rickshaw-pullers, daily-wagers, loaders, coolies, rag-pickers….”
 
Ghode ko Jalebi, the director said, is like an unfamiliar road. “It takes random turns, leads you to places you quite don’t anticipate or know,” she added.
 
At the Biennale, the film won thunderous applause even as Haksar introduced three of the movie’s actors to the gathering. Ravindra Sahu, Lokesh Jain and K Gopalan (incidentally a Malayali). The three artistes, who appear in key roles in the film, also spoke about their experience.
 
The Artists’ Cinema is to run till the last leg of the Biennale which concludes on March 29 next year. The others in the first segment are Laurence Anyways (French, Sunday) and Bangladeshi documentary Muktir Gaan and American movie I am Not Your Negro (Monday).
 
Artists’ Cinema became part of the KMB in the 2014 edition, which screened 163 films in 100 days, having been put together by 12 curators. The 2016 edition of Artists’ Cinema had nine curators and several institutional collaborations such as Forum Expanded of Berlin International Film Festival, Lux- Scotland and National Film Archives of India. 
 
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Kerala: Senior Congress leader C.N. Balakrishnan dead

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Senior Congress leader and former Kerala Minister C. N. Balakrishnan died at a private hospital here due to pneumonia, party sources said on Tuesday. He was 87.
 
He died on Monday night, the sources said.
 
A long-standing aide of former Kerala Chief Minister K. Karunakaran, Balakrishnan was the Thrissur district Congress committee president for 17 years and was also the treasurer of the state unit for long.
 
It was in 2011 that Balakrishnan first contested the polls and went on to become the state Cooperation Minister in the Oommen Chandy cabinet.
 
He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
 
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Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 to feature works of 94 artists from across world

As many as 94 artists' works will be on display at the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale -- South Asia's biggest contemporary art event -- that will begin here on Wednesday.
 
The 108-day event, that will go on until March 29, 2019 and will be held at ten venues here, will be inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
 
Curated by eminent artist Anita Dube, the event will also feature seminars, workshops, lectures, film screenings and performances.
 
What’s more, the curatorial theme of ‘Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life’ will encourage visitors at the Biennale to participate in its course beyond being viewers. For that, the Biennale pavilion will double up as a public space for conversation.
 
“The pavilion will have no hierarchies over who could speak on what, how long, when and in which language,” said Dube. “It is energised by the interactions between works, the dialogue sparked between artistic voices and practices. The audience is invited to share, to listen, and even to challenge the space.”
 
This emphasis on interaction will be a defining feature of the festival, according to Bose Krishnamachari, president of the Kochi Biennale Foundation. He said Dube has been credited with curating the first biennale anywhere in the world to have women totalling more than half of the participating artists.
 
On the evening of December 12 in Fort Kochi, the Chief Minister will declare the festival open. The function at Parade Ground, slated to begin with a Chenda Melam orchestra led by Peruvanam Kuttan Marrar will also be addressed by Yusuf Ali, Chairman and Managing Director of LuLu Group International, Nilima Sheikh, artist and Feroze Gujral, director, Gujral Foundation and trustee of the Biennale. 
 
The inauguration will be followed by a live performance by the Bangalore-based Vasu Dixit Collective.
 
Earlier that day, the Biennale flag will be hoisted at Aspinwall House, the main venue of the festival. This will be followed by a walk with the curator. The afternoon will see two artist performances — one by Mexican Tania Candiani (Aspinwall) and other by Netherlands-based Rana Hamadeh (MAP Project Space).
 
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Lucknow-born Dube, who studied Art Criticism at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, has conceived the Biennale following a year-long travel around the globe. That engagement, defined by intense research and diverse dialogues with artists, led her to shortlist the artists for the Biennale.
 
The event will be held across heritage venues in the twin towns of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, as well as in downtown Ernakulam. The venues are: Aspinwall House, Durbar Hall (Ernakulam), Pepper House, Cabral Yard (site of the Biennale Pavilion), David Hall, Kashi Art Café, Kashi Town House, Anand Warehouse, TKM Warehouse and MAP Project Space.
 
A highlight of the Biennale is a team of 20 dedicated ‘art mediators’ who will be residing in Kochi through the event and giving guided tours every day free of charge. Another novel addition is the idea of infra-projects, which is a set of four art projects put together by external curators in alignment with the broader curatorial theme.
 
There will also be a Students’ Biennale, featuring 200 student-artists, belonging to private and public art schools from across India and parts of South Asia. Other ancillary events include the Let’s Talk series, presentations and discussions by artists and thinkers, Artists’ Cinema, which presents curated packages of films, and the Music of Muziris concert series, showcasing a wide range of traditional and contemporary music acts.
 
The Foundation’s ‘Art by Children’ (ABC) runs as an endeavour that offers resources for artistic experimentation. Integral to it is the ‘art room’, a learning project at Cabral Yard, aiming to introduce people to art making from a young age. Also, there is a two-month Graffiti Residency on till December 20.
 
Materials used for the Biennale's Pavilion will be subsequently repurposed to construct a dozen houses for those affected by the August floods and landslides in the state. In January 18 next year, select paintings, sculptures and installations of more than 40 artists will be auctioned in Kochi as part of the Foundation’s ARK (Art Rises for Kerala) initiative in partnership with auction house Saffronart.
 
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