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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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Supporting young entrepreneurs will be top priority for Kerala government: Vijayan

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said here on Saturday  that his government would focus more strongly on promoting young and budding entrepreneurs with policies and all other necessary support.
 
Interacting with students at the IEDC Summit 2017, billed as India's largest such event for young student entrepreneurs, he encouraged them to set their sights on innovation and excellence.
 
“The students have exhibited a number of prototypes as part of the event that proves the ability of these youngsters. I am sure that you can stretch beyond these. The state government has always been a staunch supporter of the start-up ecosystem and will give you full-fledged support henceforth,” he said.
 
The Chief Minister also launched a startup venture, Traffitizer – a novel solution to help ambulances stuck in traffic. Traffitizer- Emergency Response System (T-ERS) is a centralized Internet of Things (IoT) based system, with artificial intelligence at different levels, that enables automatic switching of traffic lights to green for ambulances to pass through.
 
Kochi City Police Commissioner M P Dinesh also spoke on the occasion. “The product would help the police to manage emergency situations,” he said.
 
Ms. Aruna Sundararajan, Union Telecom Secretary, appreciated the efforts of the state government and the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) in nurturing the startup ecosystem in the state.
 
“I am overwhelmed when I see youngsters like six-year-old Saarang Sumesh who has developed a humanoid that can fire bullets. India is full of challenges and when I look at the crowd at IEDC 2017, I am sure that these youngsters will convert those challenges to opportunities,” she said.
 
Kerala IT Secretary M Sivasankar said a number of schemes in the pipeline for supporting the startup ecosystem. “Kerala is the first state to have startups in colleges and the only state which provides incubation and grounding facility for budding student entrepreneurs,” he said.
 
He lauded KSUM for working towards promoting entrepreneurship among youth on behalf of the state. He also released the KSUM status report during the event.
 
The event saw participation from around 200 Innovation Entrepreneurship Development Centres (IEDCs) – small incubators set up in engineering, technical, management and arts and science colleges – to help students pursue innovative ideas and embrace the entrepreneurial spirit.
 
Kerala Technical University Vice-Chancellor Kuncheria P Issac,  in his keynote address, highlighted the availability of opportunities to recreate the Silicon Valley in Kerala.
 
“The KTU has been introducing a number of schemes to promote entrepreneurship. We are even set to introduce a minor degree in entrepreneurship, which is probably the first of its kind in the country. There is a favourable eco-system to recreate the Silicon Valley here in Kerala,” he said.
 
KSUM CEO Saji Gopinath presented the IEDC report. He noted that KSUM is on the path of extending the IEDC programme to 500 colleges in the coming year.
 
“IEDC’s major role is to evangelize students, promote innovations and incubate the ones with potential. However, extending the service, we also seek students to support the innovators who have not attended college education,” he said. 
 
Mr. Scott O’Brien, CEO and co-founder Humense, a Sydney-based company specializing in Virtual (VR), Mixed (MR) and Augmented Reality (AR), stressed the need for start-ups to move to scale-ups for progress. "The first thing you need to possess is knowledge about the industry and later learn new things,” he said.
 
Google India Vice-President Rajan Anandan said that India is witnessing a revolutionary change in the digital platform.
 
“Gone are those days, when India lagged behind in technology. India’s start-up companies are making big revolutions across the world,” said Mr. Anandan.
 
Kerala witnessed its first ‘Bitcoin Airdrop’, joining in a worldwide initiative that sees cities, Fintech organisations and educational institutions in 11 regions mine and distribute free bitcoins to grow their local digital currency communities. KSUM also signed different agreements with investors as part of the event. 
 
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Crowdfunding campaign launched to save 1,000 years old theatre art in Kerala

Guru Margi Madhu Chakyar (R) and his son Nepathya Sreehari Chakyar help Koodiyattam student Nepathya Yadukrishnan get ready for a performance
Guru Margi Madhu Chakyar (R) and his son Nepathya Sreehari Chakyar help Koodiyattam student Nepathya Yadukrishnan get ready for a performance
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help protect one of the world’s oldest known theatre art forms from dying out for want of patronage and interest in the modern world.
 
The Nepathya Centre for Koodiyattam in Kerala is being supported by Sahapedia, the online encyclopedia of Indian arts and culture, in its goal to raise Rs 20 lakh via the crowdfunding platform BitGiving, to train a new generation of artistes in what constitutes the only surviving form of ancient Sanskrit theatre in the world.
 
Koodiyattam, a performance art that draws on the plays of Sanskrit dramatists of antiquity, is believed to have followed an unbroken tradition for more than 1,000 years in the state of Kerala. 
 
A highly stylized art form, Koodiyattam (Kutiyattam) evolved its unique theatre grammar over centuries with its own complex conventions, gestures and expressions, which require many years of arduous training to master.
 
Once limited to temples, Koodiyattam emerged on to performance stages and international audiences in the 1950s, thanks to the efforts of celebrated gurus such as Mani Madhava Chakyar, Painkulam Rama Chakyar and Ammannur Madhava Chakyar.
 
Today there are only around 50 practitioners of this art form and institutions such as Kalamandalam, Margi and Ammannur Gurukulam in Kerala impart training in Koodiyattam.
 
Nepathya, a school based in Moozhikulam in Thrissur district, is focused exclusively on Koodiyattam and is trying to preserve the most difficult of its traditional repertoires which need more time to master and which are not as popular as others because of their scholarly content. A not-for-profit institution, it was started 15 years ago to train a new generation of actors exclusively in Kutiyattam.
 
Nepathya’s founder and guru Margi Madhu says the lack of public awareness is one of the reasons for poor financial support and dearth of young artistes keen to learn. The crowdfunding drive is also doubling up as an awareness campaign.
 
“Nepathya has been struggling to raise funds for the past 12 years,” he says. “Currently, we are at risk of losing our trained artistes. Training a new student takes almost a decade and each time an artiste leaves, we go back to square one. We only have three senior students (and two young ones) and four drummers left because of lack of funding.”
 
These senior students — Rahul Gopinath, Yadhukrishnan K R and Vishnuprasad K R — aged around 20, have been training at Nepathya since the age of seven. They have undergone the preliminary stages of training and are now ready for the rigours of the more scholarly repertoires.
 
Margi Madhu says the funds raised on BitGiving will support the training of the three in Anguliyankam, the sixth act of the play 9th Century play Ascharyachudamani (The Wondrous Crest Jewel) by Saktibhadra.
 
It is an extremely difficult sequence to learn, needing up to three years of comprehensive study of the manuscripts, choreographic texts, and acting principles; and takes a full month to perform on stage. There are only three or four artistes in Koodiyattam today who can perform it in its entirety and only one or two artists who know its drumming patterns.
 
Nepathya will use the funds to enable its student artistes and drummers to dedicate more of their time and efforts to learning.
 
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Rahul, Yadhukrishnan and Vishnugopal are about to graduate from engineering colleges and under pressure to take up full-time jobs to earn a living. Margi Madhu says their families are supportive, but Koodiyattam will not sustain them unless it finds both aficionados and patronage.
 
“The real depth of the art lies in its ability to elevate the minds of the viewers. To do that the artistes themselves have to experience the pleasure of the art, and explore the depths of the performances,” he adds.  “They cannot do so if they are burdened by the prospect of looking for paying jobs, which is why we need funds to support them.”
 
UNESCO has declared Koodiyattam as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.
 
“It would be a tragedy and a shame if an art form that has survived for a thousand years dies on our watch,” says Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan, the Executive Director of Sahapedia, “We are wholly behind Nepathya’s efforts to save and popularize this ancient art. Koodiyattam is intimately connected to the cultural history of Kerala and the great traditions of Sanskrit literature, we have to preserve it whichever way we can. Supporting Nepathya is one step in that direction for all of us.”
 
The architect of the crowdfunding campaign, Neha Paliwal, Sahapedia’s Director, Projects says the campaign, which was launched on at the end of July and will run for two months, has so far raised Rs 1.02 lakh from ten patrons. “Such campaigns offer platforms for public participation in culture conservation efforts. It will also, hopefully, enable more people to see the beauty and value of art forms such as Koodiyattam that have historically been accessible to smaller communities.”
 
She said Sahapedia will use both its online portal as well as social media and other digital platforms to introduce Koodiyattam to a wider audience.          
 
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Adoption of Codex standards for pepper, cumin, thyme major victory for India: Spices Board

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The Spices Board has said that the decision of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the international food standards-setting body jointly set up by the FAO and the WHO, to adopt three Codex standards for pepper, cumin and thyme, at its just concluded meeting in Geneva, is a recognition of India’s stellar role to benchmark and harmonise global spices trade.
 
The decision could also herald the entry of more spices and herbs in the list for universal trading of safe and quality spices in various countries, Spices Board Chairman A. Jayathilak said.
 
Dr. Jayathilak, who convened a meeting of the officials and delegates involved with the work and functioning of the Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) at Bolgatty Palace here yesterday, said the historic decision of the CAC signalled the fact that spices had been included for the first time as commodities having universal standards.
 
“This feat was achieved after India’s relentless efforts to set up the CCSCH, which conducted its three sessions at Kochi (2014), Goa (2015) and Chennai (2017) to create a common standardization process for global spices trade,” he noted.   
 
Lauding the efforts of the officials and delegates for this major recognition of India’s initiatives to forge a universal agreement on identifying quality spices in various countries, Dr. Jayathilak said the Codex standards for black, white and green pepper, cumin and thyme were adopted by consensus with an overwhelming support from the member-countries of the CAC.
 
Dr. Jayathilak countered the arguments of those delegations that were not in favour of the final adoption of these standards by presenting India’s stand before the CAC.
 
In the meeting at Kochi, he briefly traced the history of the CCSCH committee, which was the first new committee to be approved by Codex in the past 25 years, and outlined the strategic moves that convinced the member-countries to vote for approval of the new committee. 
 
“This triumph of CCSCH is the harbinger of a lot of hard work ahead. The number of spices and culinary herbs is very large – although only 109 spices are notified in the ISO list, their actual number, as used in various countries, would be much higher,” he said.
 
It was in 2013 that the need for Codex standards for spices and herbs became a matter of concern, owing to the increased level of issues in spice trade. At that time, there was no Codex committee exclusively for spices and culinary herbs. Thus, the first step in development of Codex standards was the establishment of a dedicated Codex committee for spices and herbs.
 
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With the approval of the Central government, Spices Board India submitted to CAC a proposal for such an exclusive committee for spices and culinary herbs. After completing the background work, it sent delegates to a series of Codex committee meetings all over the world, making a forceful plea for the need for a committee on spices and herbs.
 
The 36th session of CAC, which met in Rome from July 1-5, 2013, deliberated on this proposal from India, and later approved it with unanimous support of the member-countries. It heralded the creation of CCSCH, with India as the host country and Spices Board as the Secretariat. This was the first new Codex commodity committee to be approved in the past 25 years.
 
Historically, the developed countries, being the major importers of spices, have always insisted on unreasonably strict standards, which have had adverse effects on spice trade. This is an issue that the Codex, jointly formed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), seeks to address.
 
Spices Board India, the flagship organization of the Central Government for export and promotion of spices from the country, has always been concerned about this aspect, and hence has taken keen interest in harmonizing the disparate standards for spices which exist all over the world, a press release from the Board added.
 
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CCI holds Container Trailer Owners Coordination Committee in Kerala guilty of anti-competitive conduct

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The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has found the Container Trailer Owners Coordination Committee (CTOCC) and its four participating associations -- Cochin Container Carrier Owners Welfare Association (CCCOWA), Vallarpadam Trailer Owners Association (VTOA), Kerala Container Carrier Owners Association (KCCOA) and Island Container Carrier Owners Association (ICCOA) -- to be in contravention of the provisions of the Competition Act, 2002.
 
In a reference filed by the Cochin Port Trust, it was brought to the notice of the Commission that these associations, under the garb of ‘Turn System’, have indulged in unilateral fixation of prices, an official press release said.
 
It was alleged that, during the Turn System, the users and container trailers were obliged to book services only through this centrally controlled system and that CTOCC was restraining outside transporters from lifting the containers which was impeding the ability of the users to hire trailers of their choice.
 
Following a detailed investigation by its Director General (DG), the Commission has found that CTOCC, along with the participating associations (CCCOWA, KCCOWA, ICCOA and VTOA), has resorted to price fixing under the garb of the Turn System, the release said.
 
"In terms of Section 3(3)(a) read with Section 3(1) of the Act, the presumption arose against the said arrangement leading to AAEC, which was not satisfactorily rebutted by these associations, despite being given ample opportunity. Thus, the Commission held them to be in contravention of the provisions of Section 3(3)(a) read with Section 3(1) of the Act. However, on the allegation pertaining to limiting and restricting the provision of services under Section 3(3)(b) read with Section 3(1) of the Act, the Commission found the evidence to be insufficient to hold CTOCC or any of its participating association responsible.
 
"Through this Order, the Commission has unequivocally clarified that though forming an association for furthering the legitimate trade activities does not fall foul of the Act, transgressing the legitimate boundaries and indulging in anti-competitive activities does. When the trade associations are used as a platform to promote anti-competitive ends, it becomes necessary for the Commission to intervene, for penalising the anti-competitive conduct. 
 
"Further, the Commission also mentioned in its order that though ‘Turn System’ may have efficiency justification in a particular trade, no such efficiency or redeeming virtue were shown by CTOCC or any of its sub-association in the present case.
 
"The Commission has thus held CTOCC, CCCOWA, KCCOWA, ICCOA and VTOAto be in contravention of the provisions of Section 3(3)(a) read with 3(1) of the Act. Further, the Commission has also found 10 of office bearers of CTOCC, CCCOWA, KCCOWA, ICCOA and VTOA, responsible under Section 48 of the Act, on account of the positions of responsibility held by them in these associations during the period of contravention.
 
"Accordingly, CTOCC, CCCOWA, KCCOWA, ICCOA and VTOA and their office bearers have been directed to desist from indulging in the anti-competitive conduct found to be in contravention of the provisions of the Act. But considering certain mitigating factors, the Commission decided not to impose any monetary penalty on any of the parties," the release added.
 
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GAIL commences construction work in Kerala stretch of KKMBPL Project

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The public sector GAIL (India) Limited today said it had started construction work on the Kerala stretch of the Rs. 3,263 crore Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru-Bengaluru Pipeline project after some initial hurdles.
 
The pipeline will form part of the National Gas Grid and it will go a long way in fulfilling the vision of the Government of India towards building a gas-based economy, a press release from the company said.
 
The release said the construction activities are under full swing and will gain new momentum with the award of contracts for pipeline laying works of the remainning section of 111 km falling in Malappuram, Kannur and Kasargod districts at a cost of approximately Rs 160 crore. 
 
As a part of Phase-II of the project, the pipeline section from Kochi-Koottanad (in Kerala) to Mangaluru (in Karnataka) (438 km) is being executed. 
 
"With today’s award of contracts, the entire stretch of 438 km Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline will be in construction phase," the release said.
 
Mr. B C Tripathi, Chairman and Managing Director, GAIL said,  “Looking into the substantial progress in the laying works already awarded with the help of State Government in providing statutory clearances and permissions and Right of way, GAIL is commencing laying activities in the  remaining 111 kms stretch of the pipeline. The  project activities in 100%  of the pipe length will gather full momentum after the monsoon. With the continued support of the State Government and the people at large, GAIL is confident of completing the entire Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline by December 2018.”
 
The release said the project would give a major economic boost to Kerala by way of facilitating environment-friendly industrial development. In Phase-I of the project, around 41 km pipeline had already been commissioned during 2013 to transport natural gas from Kochi LNG Terminal.
 
Currently around 2.6 MMSCMD of gas is being supplied to various consumers in and around Kochi city, the release added.
 
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Kerala NCP president Uzhavoor Vijayan passes away

Uzhavoor Vijayan
Uzhavoor Vijayan
Mr. Uzhavoor Vijayan, the president of the Kerala unit of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), passed away at a private hospital here today after a brief illness.
 
He was 60. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
 
According to sources, Mr. Vijayan had been admitted to the hospital on July 11 for treatment of liver-related ailments. His condition took a turn for the worse early today and he breathed his last around 7 am, they said.
 
His body will be taken to Kottayam, where it will be kept at the Police Ground for people to pay homage. The funeral is scheduled for tomorrow at Uzhavoor.
 
Mr. Vijayan who entered politics through the Kerala Students' Union (KSU), the students' wing of the Congress, was admired for his oratory and caustic humour.
 
He had served as the chairman of the Kerala State Handicapped Persons' Welfare Corporation and Secretary of the State Pollution Control Board.
 
He had lost to Congress (M) chairman K. M. Mani from the Pala constituency in the 2001 assembly polls -- the only election he contested. Later, he left the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and joined the Congress (S).
 
Mr. Vijayan had also appeared in a couple of movies and television serials.
 
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Malayalam actor Dileep moves Kerala HC for bail in actress abduction case

Malayalam film actor Dileep
Malayalam film actor Dileep
Top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested last Monday on charges of conspiracy in the sensational February 17 abduction and sexual harassment of a popular young actress, today filed a bail application before the Kerala High Court, which said it would take it up for hearing on Thursday.
 
On Saturday, Dileep, 48, had been denied bail by a local court and sent back to judicial custody till July 25.
 
The actor had been initially sent to two weeks in judicial custody but last Wednesday the Judicial First Class Magistrate in Angamaly had remanded him to two days in police custody. On Friday, the police custody was extended till 5 pm on Saturday, by when the court said it would also rule on his bail application.
 
The special prosecutor objected to the bail application, saying that if he is given bail the actor could influence and intimidate witnesses and destroy evidence. 
 
The court turned down his bail plea, saying, among other things, that the crime he had been accused of was very serious. After being sent to judicial custody till July 25, he was taken back to the Aluva sub-jail here.
 
Dileep's counsel K. Ramkumar pleaded for an urgent hearing on the bail application, but the High Court rejected the plea and set Thursday for hearing the matter. Mr. Ramkumar said his client had been framed in the case. The prosecution said it would oppose the bail application and wanted time to make its response.
 
The abduction and harassment of the actress, which sent shock waves throughout Kerala and the entire film industry in India, took place when she was travelling alone in a car with the driver late in the evening of February 17 from Thrissur to Kochi.
 
The car was waylaid by a group of about three persons in a van near Athani in Angamaly near here. The men then forced their way into her car and drove around for about two hours, during which they allegedly harassed her and also took photographs and a video of her, sources said. They finally stopped at Padamugal, near Kakkanad, in Kochi and fled in another car.
 
The actress, who has also acted in Tamil and Telugu movies, then managed to reach the residence of a well-known film director in Kakkanad, for whose film she had been shooting. The director informed the police, who reached his residence soon after and recorded the actress' statement.
 
The actress is understood to have told the police that one of the men was her former driver, Sunil Kumar, also known as Pulsar Suni because of a Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle he owned.
 
Suni was arrested by the police in dramatic circumstances from the premises of the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) here on February 23. He and his alleged accomplice Vijeesh were arrrested when they managed to evade the policemen posted around the complex and sneak into the court to surrender before a magistrate.
 
While he was in their custody last week, the police had taken Dileep, 48, to various places in Kochi and Thrissur in an effort to trace the crime trail.
 
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There were allegations soon after the incident that Dileep was part of the conspiracy to attack the actress in view of a personal enmity between the two. The actor, however, has maintained all along that he was not linked in any way to the attack. He had also maintained that he did not know Suni, but later photographs surfaced in which the main accused was seen at the location of a Dileep movie.
 
Dileep and the actress had acted in several movies together and they had formed a popular screen pair before they fell apart. 
 
Born as Gopalakrishnan Padmanabhan Pillai on October 27, 1968, Dileep had over the past few years acquired an enviable position in the Malayalam film industry.
 
Dileep, who started out in movies as an assistant director in 1991 after stints as a mimicry artiste and in comedy shows on television, has a huge fan following, especially because of his comedy roles in several Malayalam movies. In all, he has appeared in more than 130 films so far. He is also a film producer and entrepreneur and used to wield considerable influence in the Malayalam film industry.
 
Meanwhile, media reports said today that the police investigation team had found a memory card which reportedly contained pictures of the actress taken by her tormentors. The memory card was got from Raju Joseph, the junior of lawyer Pratheesh Chacko, who the police are trying to trace for questioning. The card did not have the images or videos, and the police are now trying to ascertain if they had been erased, the reports added.
 
The police also recorded the statements of two MLAs -- Mukesh, a well-known actor, and Anwar Sadath, who is said to be close to Dileep -- in Thiruvananthapuram today. Pulsar Suni had been employed as Mukesh's driver for some time in the past. 
 
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Malayalam actor Dileep denied bail, sent to judicial custody till July 25 in actress abduction case

Top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested on Monday on charges of conspiracy in the sensational February 17 abduction and sexual harassment of a popular young actress, was today denied bail by a local court and sent back to judicial custody till July 25.

Malayalam film actor Dileep
Malayalam film actor Dileep
Top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested on Monday on charges of conspiracy in the sensational February 17 abduction and sexual harassment of a popular young actress, was today denied bail by a local court and sent back to judicial custody till July 25.
 
Dileep, 48, had been initially sent to two weeks in judicial custody but on Wednesday the Judicial First Class Magistrate in Angamaly had remanded him to two days in police custody. 
 
Yesterday, the police custody was extended till 5 pm today, by when the court said it would also rule on his bail application.
 
The special prosecutor objected to the bail application, saying that if he is given bail the actor could influence and intimidate witnesses and destroy evidence.
 
 After his bail plea was turned down and he was sent to judicial custody till July 25, he was taken back to the Aluva sub-jail here.
 
The actor's lawyers said they would now move the High Court here on Monday for bail.
 
The abduction and harassment of the actress, which sent shock waves throughout Kerala and the entire film industry in India, took place when she was travelling alone in a car with the driver late in the evening of February 17 from Thrissur to Kochi.
 
The car was waylaid by a group of about three persons in a van near Athani in Angamaly near here. The men then forced their way into her car and drove around for about two hours, during which they allegedly harassed her and also took photographs and a video of her, sources said. They finally stopped at Padamugal, near Kakkanad, in Kochi and fled in another car.
 
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The actress, who has also acted in Tamil and Telugu movies, then managed to reach the residence of a well-known film director in Kakkanad, for whose film she had been shooting. The director informed the police, who reached his residence soon after and recorded the actress' statement.
 
The actress is understood to have told the police that one of the men was her former driver, Sunil Kumar, also known as Pulsar Suni because of a Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle he owned.
 
Suni was arrested by the police in dramatic circumstances from the premises of the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) here on February 23. He and his alleged accomplice Vijeesh were arrrested when they managed to evade the policemen posted around the complex and sneak into the court to surrender before a magistrate.
 
While seeking extension of the police remand for Dileep, the police told the court today that the mobile telephone, which was used to take pictures of the actress by her tormentors, was probably now with the actor.
 
They said in the report that they suspect the telephone was handed over to the actor by Pratheesh Chacko, a lawyer who represented Suni initially. The report also said that Suni later tried to blackmail Dileep because he had not got the amount promised to him.
 
While he was in their custody, the police had taken Dileep, 48, to various places in Kochi and Thrissur in an effort to trace the crime trail.
 
There were allegations soon after the incident that Dileep was part of the conspiracy to attack the actress in view of a personal enmity between the two. The actor, however, has maintained all along that he was not linked in any way to the attack. He had also maintained that he did not know Suni, but later photographs surfaced in which the main accused was seen at the location of a Dileep movie.
 
Dileep and the actress had acted in several movies together and they had formed a popular screen pair before they fell apart. 
 
Born as Gopalakrishnan Padmanabhan Pillai on October 27, 1968, Dileep had over the past few years acquired an enviable position in the Malayalam film industry.
 
Dileep, who started out in movies as an assistant director in 1991 after stints as a mimicry artiste and in comedy shows on television, has a huge fan following, especially because of his comedy roles in several Malayalam movies. In all, he has appeared in more than 130 films so far. He is also a film producer and entrepreneur and used to wield considerable influence in the Malayalam film industry.
 
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Actor Dileep's police custody extended by a day in actress abduction case

A local court in Kochi on Friday extended the police custody of top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested on Monday on charge of conspiracy in the sensational February 17 abduction and harassment of a popular young actress, till 5 pm on Saturday.

Malayalam film actor Dileep
Malayalam film actor Dileep
A local court today extended the police custody of top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested on Monday on charge of conspiracy in the sensational February 17 abduction and harassment of a popular young actress, till 5 pm tomorrow.
 
Dileep, who had been sent to two days in police custody on Wednesday, was produced before the Judicial First Class Magistrate in Angamaly this morning, where the police sought his custody for one more day to complete the gathering of evidence.
 
The police also opposed a bail application moved on behalf of Dileep, arguing that if he is released on bail he could influence and intimidate witnesses in the case.
 
The court will pronounce its ruling on Dileep's bail plea in the afternoon tomorrow and asked the police to bring him to court at that time.
 
The sensational abduction and harassment of the actress, which sent shock waves throughout Kerala and the entire film industry in India, took place when she was travelling alone in a car with the driver late in the evening of February 17 from Thrissur to Kochi.
 
The car was waylaid by a group of about three persons in a van near Athani in Angamaly near here. The men then forced their way into her car and drove around for about two hours, during which they allegedly harassed her and also took photographs and a video of her, sources said. They finally stopped at at Padamugal, near Kakkanad, in Kochi and fled in another car.
 
The actress, who has also acted in Tamil and Telugu movies, then managed to reach the residence of a well-known film director in Kakkanad, for whose film she had been shooting. The director informed the police, who reached his residence soon after and recorded the actress' statement.
 
The actress is understood to have told the police that one of the men was her former driver, Sunil Kumar, also known as Pulsar Suni because of a Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle he owned.
 
Suni was arrested by the police in dramatic circumstances from the premises of the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) here on February 23. He and his alleged accomplice Vijeesh were arrrested when they managed to evade the policemen posted around the complex and sneak into the court to surrender before a magistrate.
 
While seeking extension of the police remand for Dileep, the police told the court today that the mobile telephone, which was used to take pictures of the actress by her tormentors, was probably now with the actor.
 
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They said in the report that they suspect the telephone was handed over to the actor by Pratheesh Chacko, a lawyer who represented Suni initially. The report also said that Suni later tried to blackmail Dileep because he had not got the amount promised to him.
 
Over the past two days, the police had taken Dileep, 48, to various places in Kochi and Thrissur in an effort to trace the crime trail.
 
There were allegations soon after the incident that Dileep was part of the conspiracy to attack the actress in view of a personal enmity between the two. The actor, however, has maintained all along that he was not linked in any way to the attack. He had also maintained that he did not know Suni, but later photographs surfaced in which the main accused was seen at the location of a Dileep movie.
 
Born as Gopalakrishnan Padmanabhan Pillai on October 27, 1968, Dileep had over the past few years acquired an enviable position in the Malayalam film industry.
 
Dileep, who started out in movies as an assistant director in 1991 after stints as a mimicry artiste and in comedy shows on television, has a huge fan following, especially because of his comedy roles in several Malayalam movies. In all, he has appeared in more than 130 films so far. He is also a film producer and entrepreneur.
 
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Police continue to grill actor Dileep in actress abduction case, survivor breaks silence

Kerala Police on Thursday continued to grill top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested on Monday on charge of conspiracy in the sensational February 17 abduction and harassment of a popular young actress, even as the survivor broke her silence in the matter.

Malayalam film actor Dileep
Malayalam film actor Dileep
Kerala Police today continued to grill top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested on Monday on charge of conspiracy in the sensational February 17 abduction and harassment of a popular young actress even as the survivor broke her silence in the matter.
 
The 30-year-old actress, who has also acted in Tamil and Telugu films, said in a statement that she was as shocked as everyone else by the turn of events in the case and wanted the truth to come out expeditiously.
 
Noting that Dileep, with him she formed a popular pair in many movies before they fell apart, had claimed that he had been framed in the case, she said the need of the hour was that the truth should come out.
 
"If he is innocent, it should come out quickly and if he is not, even then the truth should come out fast. All are equal before law,” she said.
 
The actress said she was issuing the written statement because she was not in the right frame of mind to appear before television cameras and make an oral statement.
 
She said she used to share a cordial relationship with Dileep but, for some reason, it got strained.
 
She denied media reports which suggested that they had real estate dealings. "The truth is that there have been no such deals with him at all," she asserted.
 
She also clarified that she does not have a Facebook page or a Twitter handle and posts appearing in her name on these and other social media websites were fake.
 
“My sincere wish is no innocent person should be punished and anyone who has committed a crime should not be allowed to escape,” she added.
 
She also said that she had not named anyone in her statements to the police. "If the arrested are indeed guilty, they need to be punished. However, if they are innocent, I wish them to see them come out free," she said.
 
Meanwhile, Dileep, 48, who was sent to two days in police custody by a local court yesterday, was taken to various spots in Thrissur and elsewhere for the second day today by the police in an effort to trace the crime trail.
 
Among other places, he was taken to two hotels in Thrissur, where he allegedly hatched the conspiracy with main accused Sunil Kumar alias Pulsar Suni, and to the Tennis Club in the town, the shooting location of one of his latest films, where a photograph taken by a fan showed the main accused at a distance in the background, indicating that the two were present at the same place.
 
Wherever he was taken, large crowds of people gathered to catch a glimpse of the actor and many of them booed him. At some places, Dileep, dressed in a white shirt and a pair of blue jeans, waved out to the crowd. He, however, did not respond to media queries.
 
Yesterday, the police had taken Dileep to various places here and in Thodupuzha near here for gathering evidence.
 
Meanwhile, former Indian  cricketer S. Sreesanth came out in support of the actor today, saying it was wrong to hold anyone guilty till the crime was proven in a court, recalling that he and his family had gone through a similar experience when he was charged with match-fixing in IPL cricket matches some years ago.
 
Dileep's bail application will come up for further hearing in court tomorrow. His lawyer had moved the application yesterday, but the prosecution is yet to submit its response.
 
In a related development, the Kalamassery police here today recorded the statement of a young actor, Aju Varghese, in a case related to his revealing the name of the actress in a post on social media. Aju had later apologised for the "mistake".
 
Meanwhile, Dileep's brother Anoop today alleged that the actor was the victim of a huge conspiracy to trap him in the case.
 
"My brother has been trapped in the case. The conspiracy is against him. Like in the movies, a wonderful script has been written and perfectly executed," he told journalists. 
 
Anoop said his brother would come out unblemished from the case and make a comeback in films.
 
Last week, the police had questioned Dileep and his friend and film director Nadirshah for 13 hours in connection with the incident after their names cropped up during the probe into the abduction and assault.
 
Subsequently, police had searched the premises of a business owned by  his wife and well-known actress Kavya Madhavan.
 
On Monday, the police again questioned Dileep for several hours before formally placing him under arrest that evening.
 
Some days ago, a letter allegedly written from jail by Pulsar Suni seeking money from Dileep had come to light. Some telephone calls made by Suni  from jail were also traced to people close to the actor. According to the sources, Suni had also been in touch with Nadirshah over the telephone from prison. 
 
Later, Dileep had complained to the police that he was being blackmailed by Suni, a matter that the police are investigating separately.
 
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There were allegations that Dileep was part of the conspiracy to attack the actress in view of a personal enmity between the two. The actor, however, has maintained all along that he was not linked in any way to the attack. He had also maintained that he did not know Suni, but later photographs surfaced in which the main accused was seen at the location of a Dileep movie.
 
The sensational abduction and harassment of the actress, which sent shock waves throughout Kerala and the entire film industry in India, took place when she was travelling alone in a car with the driver late in the evening of February 17.
 
The car was waylaid by a group of about three persons in a van near Athani in Angamaly near here. The men then forced their way into her car and drove around for about two hours, during which they allegedly harassed her and also took photographs and a video of her, sources said. They finally stopped at at Padamugal, near Kakkanad, in Kochi and fled in another car.
 
The actress then managed to reach the residence of a well-known film director in Kakkanad, for whose film she had been shooting. The director informed the police, who reached his residence soon after and recorded the actress' statement.
 
The actress is understood to have told the police that one of the men was her former driver, Sunil, also known as Pulsar Suni because of a Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle he owned.
 
Suni was arrested by the police in dramatic circumstances from the premises of the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) here on February 23. He and his alleged accomplice Vijeesh were arrrested when they managed to evade the policemen posted around the complex and sneak into the court to surrender before a magistrate.
 
Born as Gopalakrishnan Padmanabhan Pillai on October 27, 1968, Dileep had over the past few years acquired an enviable position in the Malayalam film industry.
 
Dileep, who started out in movies as an assistant director in 1991 after stints as a mimicry artiste and in comedy shows on television, has a huge fan following, especially because of his comedy roles in several Malayalam movies. In all, he has appeared in more than 130 films so far. He is also a film producer and entrepreneur.
 
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Malayalam actor Dileep sent to two days in police custody in actress abduction case

Top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested in Kochi on Monday on conspiracy charges in the case related to the abduction and harassment of a popular actress while she was on her way from Thrissur to Kochi on February 17, was remanded to two days in judicial custody by a local court on Wednesday.

Malayalam film actor Dileep
Malayalam film actor Dileep
Top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested here on Monday evening on conspiracy charges in the case related to the abduction and harassment of a popular actress while she was on her way from Thrissur to Kochi on February 17, was remanded to two days in judicial custody by a local court today.
 
Dileep, 48, who was sent to 14 days in judicial custody yesterday, was produced in the chamber of the Judicial Magistrate at Angamaly where the prosecution sought his police custody for three days, arguing that he was needed to complete the investigations in the case that had sent shock waves throughout Kerala and, in fact, the entire film industry in India.
 
After hearing both sides, the court granted the police custody of the actor for two days.
 
The court also heard a bail application moved on behalf of the actor, with his advocate arguing that the police had no evidence against him and had arrested him merely on suspicion.
 
The court said it would rule on the application on July 14, when the police custody of the actor would end, after hearing the prosecution's response to the defence arguments.
 
Later, Dileep was taken to the Police Club at Aluva for questioning. Sources said the police might also take the actor to various places related to the case for gathering more evidence. 
 
Yesterday, the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) had expelled Dileep from its primary membership, a day after he was arrested in the case.
 
Police had made elaborate security arrangements at the court as well as at the Aluva sub-jail, where Dileep spent the night, in view of the large crowds that had gathered outside for a glimpse of the actor. Like yesterday, many in the crowd booed him today.
 
Last week, the police had questioned Dileep and his friend and film director Nadirshah for 13 hours in connection with the incident after their names cropped up during the probe into the abduction and assault.
 
Subsequently, police had searched the premises of a business owned by  his wife and well-known actress Kavya Madhavan.
 
On Monday, the police again questioned Dileep for several hours before formally placing him under arrest that evening.
 
Some days ago, a letter allegedly written from jail by Pulsar Suni, the main accused in the case, seeking money from Dileep had come to light. Some telephone calls made by Suni  from jail were also traced to people close to the actor. According to the sources, Suni had also been in touch with Nadirshah over the telephone from prison. 
 
Later, Dileep had complained to the police that he was being blackmailed by Suni, a matter that the police are investigating separately.
 
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There were allegations that Dileep was part of the conspiracy to attack the actress in view of a personal enmity between the two. The actor, however, has maintained all along that he was not linked in any way to the attack. He had also maintained that he did not know Suni, but later photographs surfaced in which the main accused was seen at the location of a Dileep movie.
 
The sensational abduction and harassment of the 30-year-old actress, who has also acted in Tamil and Telugu movies, took place when she was travelling alone in a car with the driver late in the evening of February 17.
 
The car was waylaid by a group of about three persons in a van near Athani in Angamaly near here. The three men then forced their way into her car and drove around for about two hours, during which they allegedly harassed her and also took photographs and a video of her, sources said. They finally stopped at at Padamugal, near Kakkanad, in Kochi and fled in another car.
 
The actress then managed to reach the residence of a well-known film director in Kakkanad, for whose film she had been shooting. The director informed the police, who reached his residence soon after and recorded the actress' statement.
 
The actress is understood to have told the police that one of the men was her former driver, Sunil, also known as Pulsar Suni because of a Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle he owned.
 
Suni was arrested by the police in dramatic circumstances from the premises of the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) here on February 23. He and his alleged accomplice Vijeesh were arrrested when they managed to evade the policemen posted around the complex and sneak into the court to surrender before a magistrate.
 
Born as Gopalakrishnan Padmanabhan Pillai on October 27, 1968, Dileep had over the past few years acquired an enviable position in the Malayalam film industry.
 
Dileep, who started out in movies as an assistant director in 1991 after stints as a mimicry artiste and in comedy shows on television, has a huge fan following, especially because of his comedy roles in several Malayalam movies. In all, he has appeared in more than 130 films so far. He is also a film producer and entrepreneur.
 
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Malayalam actor Dileep sent to 14 days in judicial custody in actress abduction case

Top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested in Kochi on Monday evening on conspiracy charges in the case related to the abduction and harassment of a popular actress while she was on her way from Thrissur to Kochi on February 17, was remanded to 14 days in judicial custody early Tuesday morning.

Malayalam film actor Dileep
Malayalam film actor Dileep
Top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested here yesterday evening on conspiracy charges in the case related to the abduction and harassment of a popular actress while she was on her way from Thrissur to Kochi on February 17, was remanded to 14 days in judicial custody early this morning.
 
Dileep, 48, who was questioned at the Police Club in Aluva for several hours after his formal arrest, was produced before a magistrate early this morning.
 
"I am not scared of anyone because I have not committed any crime," the popular actor told journalists as he was being taken to the magistrate's residence.
 
Police had made elaborate security arrangements outside the magistrate's residence as a large number of people had gathered there. The crowd booed the actor as he came out of the magistrate's residence and taken to the sub-jail at Aluva.
 
The police has sought police custody of Dileep, while the actor has filed a bail application. Both pleas are expected to be heard by the court tomorrow, official sources said.
 
Last week, the police had questioned Dileep and his friend and film director Nadirshah for 13 hours in connection with the incident after their names cropped up during the probe into the abduction and assault.
 
Subsequently, police had searched the premises of a business owned by  his wife and well-known actress Kavya Madhavan.
 
Sources said the police questioned Dileep for several hours during the day yesterday before being formally placed under arrest in the evening. He was taken to the Police Club at Aluva in a car around 7 pm yesterday where the questioning continued.
 
Late yesterday evening, Kerala Director General of Police Loknath Behera confirmed to journalists in Thiruvananthapuram that Dileep had been placed under arrest. He also made it clear that no other arrests had been made in the case yesterday though there were reports that Nadirshah and some others were being questioned.
 
He said Dileep had been arrested on the basis of evidence gathered by the police in its investigations so far and also to take the investigation forward. "It is a part of the process of investigation and a part of the process of collecting more evidence," he said.
 
Some days ago, a letter allegedly written from jail by Pulsar Suni, the main accused in the case, seeking money from Dileep had come to light. Some telephone calls made by Suni  from jail were also traced to people close to the actor. According to the sources, Suni had also been in touch with Nadirshah over the telephone from prison. 
 
Later, Dileep had complained to the police that he was being blackmailed by Suni, a matter that the police are investigating separately.
 
There were allegations that Dileep was part of the conspiracy to attack the actress in view of a personal enmity between the two. The actor, however, has maintained all along that he was not linked in any way to the attack. He had also maintained that he did not know Suni, but later photographs surfaced in which the main accused was seen at the location of a Dileep movie.
 
The Association of Malayalam Movies Artists (AMMA) had come out in support of the beleaguered actor -- a stance that has attracted a lot of criticism for the organisation.
 
The abduction and harassment of the 30-year-old actress, who has also acted in Tamil and Telugu movies, had sent shockwaves through Kerala and the entire film industry in India.
 
Pulsar Suni
Pulsar Suni
The actress, who was travelling alone with the driver of the car late in the evening of that day, was waylaid by a group of about three persons and harassed for about two hours before they fled. The car was intercepted by a van carrying the three men near Athani in Angamaly near here.
 
The three men then forced their way into her car and drove around for about two hours, during which they allegedly harassed her and also took photographs and a video of her, sources said. They finally stopped at at Padamugal, near Kakkanad, in Kochi and fled in another car.
 
The actress then managed to reach the residence of a well-known film director in Kakkanad, for whose film she had been shooting. The director informed the police, who reached his residence soon after and recorded the actress' statement.
 
The actress is understood to have told the police that one of the men was her former driver, Sunil, also known as Pulsar Suni because of a Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle he owned.
 
Suni was arrested by the police in dramatic circumstances from the premises of the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) here on February 23. He and his alleged accomplice Vijeesh were arrrested when they managed to evade the policemen posted around the complex and sneak into the court to surrender before a magistrate.
 
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Born as Gopalakrishnan Padmanabhan Pillai on October 27, 1968, Dileep had over the past few years acquired an enviable position in the Malayalam film industry.
 
Dileep, who started out in movies as an assistant director in 1991 after stints as a mimicry artiste and in comedy shows on television, has a huge fan following, especially because of his comedy roles in several Malayalam movies. In all, he has appeared in more than 130 films so far. He is also a film producer and entrepreneur.
 
Demonstrations against Dileep were held at several places after news of his arrest spread. Apart from the large numbers of people who gathered outside the Aluva Police Club, where he  was questioned, and some groups raised slogans against him. They also wanted action against AMMA President and well-known actor Innocent, who is a Member of Parliament, and actor Mukesh, who is now an MLA.
 
Protesters also staged demonstrations outside a restaurant owned by the actor in Kochi. A branch of the restaurant in Kozhikode was closed down as a preventive measure and Yuva Morcha members burnt the actor in effigy in that town.
 
Youth Congress activists also marched towards cinemas owned by Dileep, but were dispersed by the police.
 
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Top Malayalam film actor Dileep arrested in actress abduction case

In a sensational development, top Malayalam film actor Dileep was arrested in Kochi on Monday on conspiracy charges in the case related to the abduction and harassment of a popular actress while she was on her way from Thrissur to Kochi on February 17.

Malayalam film actor Dileep
Malayalam film actor Dileep
In a sensational development, top Malayalam film actor Dileep was arrested here today on conspiracy charges in the case related to the abduction and harassment of a popular actress while she was on her way from Thrissur to Kochi on February 17.
 
Last week, the police had questioned Dileep and his friend and film director Nadirshah for 13 hours in connection with the incident after their names cropped up during the probe into the incident. 
 
Subsequently, police had searched the premises of a business owned by  his wife and well-known actress Kavya Madhavan.
 
Sources said the police questioned Dileep, 48, for several hours from this morning before being formally placed under arrest in the evening. He was brought to the Police Club at Aluva in a car around 7 pm today where the questioning is expected to continue.
 
Late this evening, Kerala Director General of Police Loknath Behera confirmed to journalists that Dileep had been placed under arrest. He also made it clear that no other arrests had been made in the case today.
 
He said Dileep had been arrested on the basis of evidence gathered by the police in its investigations so far and also to take the investigation forward. "It is a part of the process of collecting more evidence," he said, adding that the actor was being questioned.
 
Some days ago, a letter written by Pulsar Suni, the main accused in the case, seeking money from Dileep had come to light. Some telephone calls made by Suni  from jail were also traced to people close to the actor. According to the sources, Suni had also been in touch with Nadirshah over the telephone from prison. 
 
Later, Dileep had complained to the police that he was being blackmailed by Suni.
 
There were allegations that Dileep was part of the conspiracy to attack the actress in view of a personal enmity between the two. The actor, however, has maintained all along that he was not linked in any way to the attack. He had also maintained that he did not know Suni, but later photographs surfaced in which the main accused was seen at the location of a Dileep movie.
 
The Association of Malayalam Movies Artists (AMMA) had come out in support of the beleaguered actor.
 
There were also reports that Nadirshah was also being questioned by the police again today, but details were not available.
 
The sources said Dileep would be produced before a magistrate either later tonight or during the day tomorrow.
 
The abduction and harassment of the 30-year-old actress, who has also acted in Tamil and Telugu movies, had sent shockwaves through Kerala and the entire film industry in India.
 
Pulsar Suni
Pulsar Suni
The actress, who was travelling alone with the driver of the car late in the evening of that day, was waylaid by a group of about three persons and harassed for some time before they fled. The car was intercepted by a van carrying the three men near Athani in Angamaly near here.
 
The three men then forced their way into her car and drove around for some time, during which they harassed her and also took photographs and a video of her, sources said. They finally stopped at at Padamugal, near Kakkanad, and fled in another car, sources said.
 
According to them, the actress then managed to reach the residence of a well-known film director in Kakkanad, for whose film she had been shooting. The director informed the police, who reached his residence soon and recorded the actress' statement.
 
The actress is understood to have told the police that one of the men was her former driver, known as Pulsar Suni because of a Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle he owned.
 
Suni was arrested by the police in dramatic circumstances from the premises of the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) here on February 23. He and his alleged accomplice Vijeesh were arrrested when they managed to evade the policemen posted around the complex and sneak into the court to surrender before a magistrate.
 
Born as Gopalakrishnan Padmanabhan Pillai on October 27, 1968, Dileep had over the past few years acquired an enviable position in the Malayalam film industry.
 
Dileep, who started out in movies as an assistant director in 1991 after stints as a mimicry artiste and in comedy shows on television, has a huge fan following, especially because of his comedy roles in several Malayalam movies. In all, he has appeared in more than 130 films so far. He is also a film producer and entrepreneur.
 
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Royal Australia Navy ship arrives in Kochi on visit

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The Royal Australia Navy (RAN) ship, HMAS Newcastle has arrived here for interactions with the Indian Navy.
 
The ship, which docked here yesterday, will depart on July 7, an official press release said.
 
The Commanding Officer of the Ship, Commander M D Sirois, accompanied by Ms Harinder Sidhu, High Commissioner of Australia and Captain Sheldon Williams, Defence Attache had called on Vice-Admiral A R Karve, Flag Officer Commanding- in- Chief, Southern Naval Command (SNC) for interactions on issues of common interest to both navies.
 
A friendly volleyball match between teams from SNC and the visiting ship was also played. During the ship’s stay in harbour, various activities such as guided tour for Indian Naval personnel onboard HMAS Newcastle, conducted tour of some of the training units under SNC at Kochi like the Navigation & Direction, Anti- Submarine Warfare School, Damage Control Training Facility ‘Avinash’ for the visiting ship’s crew have been planned.
 
The crew from the HMAS Newcastle would be also visiting places of interest at Fort Kochi, Marine Drive and various museums at Kochi. 
 
On their departure, the Australian Navy ship is scheduled to participate in a passage exercise with Indian Navy ships off Kochi.
 
Recently, IN Ships Jyoti, Shivalik and Kamorta from Eastern Fleet had also visited Freemantle, Australia from June 13-17 and participated in the second edition of AUSINDEX- 17, a bilateral maritime exercise between the two navies. 
 
The naval cooperation between the two countries is in pursuance of India’s Act East policy to promote bilateral relations and enhance interoperability between both navies, the release added.
 
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Give a book instead of bouquet as greeting, says Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said people should give a book instead of a bouquet as greeting as the reading habit could make a great difference.
 
Speaking at the launch of P N Panicker Reading Day – Reading Month Celebration, Mr Modi said from the time of the Upanishads persons with knowledge have been respected through the ages. “We are now in the information age. Even today, knowledge is the best guiding light,” he added.
 
Saying that Kerala has been a torch-bearer and inspiration to the whole nation in the field of literacy, the Prime Minister noted that the first 100% literate city and the first 100% literate district have been this state.
 
Kerala was also the first state to attain 100% primary education. Some of the oldest colleges, schools and libraries of the country are also situated here.
 
“This could not have been achieved by the Government alone. Citizens and social organizations have played an active role in this remarkable achievement. Kerala has set an example in people’s participation in this regard. I admire the work of people like the late P N Panicker and his foundation. He was also the driving spirit behind the library network in Kerala. He did this through Kerala Granthasala Sangham set up by him in 1945 with 47 rural libraries,” Mr Modi said.
 
“I am told that as a pilot project of Digital Libraries, Panicker Foundation is working with 18 public libraries in the state in collaboration with Indian Public Library Movement, New Delhi,” he added.
 
“I would like to see such a reading and library movement in the entire country. The movement should not be limited to make people literate. It should try to achieve the real goal of bringing social and economic change. The foundation of good knowledge should be followed by a super-structure of a better society,” the Prime Minister said.
 
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“Reading and knowledge should not be limited only to work-related aspects. It should help develop habits of social responsibility, service to the nation and service to humanity. It should cure the evils in society and nation. It should spread the idea of peace along with respect for unity and integrity of the nation,” Mr Modi said.
 
He said he had learnt that the P N Panicker Foundation together with a number of Government agencies, private sector entities and civil society organisations, was leading an initiative of reading with a target to reach 300 million under-privileged people by 2022. The main objective of this mission is to promote reading as a means to grow and prosper.
 
“Reading can help broaden one’s thinking. A well-read population will help India excel globally. With the same spirit, I had started a similar movement by name of Vanche Gujarat when I was Chief Minister of the State. It means Gujarat Reads. I had visited a public library to motivate people to read. The movement targeted the young generation, in particular. I also requested citizens to think about building a ‘Granth-Mandir’ - a temple of books - in their village. This could be started with 50 or 100 books,” Mr Modi said.
 
He said he was also happy to note that the State Government has announced June 19 as the reading day. Obviously, a lot of effort will converge to make this a popular activity, he added.
 
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Modi inaugurates Kochi Metro, calls for paradigm shift in urban planning

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that there was need to bring about a paradigm shift in urban planning in the country, by adopting a people-centric approach and integrating land-use and transport.

 
Modi flags off Kochi Metro, takes brief ride
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said there was need to bring about a paradigm shift in urban planning in the country, by adopting a people-centric approach and integrating land-use and transport.
 
"Towards this end, the Government of India issued a National Transit Oriented Development Policy in April 2017. This policy seeks to transform cities, from being transit dependent to being transit oriented. It aims to create compact walkable communities and bring public transport closer to transit," he said in an addresss at a function at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here to dedicate Kochi Metro to the nation.
 
Earlier, Mr. Modi inaugurated the Kochi Metro at Palarivattom junction, and travelled briefly on the new metro line, accompanied by Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, Urban Development Secretary Rajiv Gouba, Kerala Chief Secretary Nalini Netto, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Principal Adviser E. Sreedharan and Kochi Metro Rail Limited Managing Director Elias George.
 
Mr. Modi said that, over the last three years, his Government had placed special focus on overall infrastructure development of the nation. 
 
"Railways, roads, power have been our priority areas. In PRAGATI meetings, I have personally reviewed nearly 175 projects worth more than eight lakh crore rupees. We have resolved bottlenecks and significantly improved the average rate of implementation in these sectors. Now, we are also focusing on next generation infrastructure, which includes logistics, digital and gas," he said.
 
He said a number of initiatives had been taken by the Government to enhance public transport particularly in the cities. Foreign investment has been invited in this sector. Fifty cities in India are ready to implement metro rail projects, he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the economic and social benefits of metro rail systems are well-known. 
 
"We have speeded up policy formulation in this sector. Recently, the Government of India has standardized the specifications for rolling stock and signalling systems of metro rail. This will encourage manufacturers to set-up manufacturing facilities in India with a long-term perspective. In line with the 'Make in India' vision, efforts are being made to promote domestic manufacture of metro rolling stock," he said.
 
Congratulating the people of Kochi on the occasion, he said the city, the queen of the Arabian Sea, was an important spice trading centre. "Today it is known as the commercial capital of Kerala. Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourist arrivals in Kerala. Hence it is fitting that Kochi should have a Metro rail facility," he said.
 
Mr. Modi noted that the city's population had been rising steadily, and was expected to reach 23 lakh by 2021. Therefore, a mass rapid transport system is essential to address the increasing pressure on urban infrastructure, he said, adding that it would also contribute to Kochi’s economic growth. 
 
He said KMRL is a 50:50 joint venture of the Government of India and the Government of Kerala. The Union Government has so far released over Rs. 2000 crore for Kochi Metro. The phase inaugurated today will operate from Aluva to Palarivattom. It will cover 13.26 kilometres and eleven stations. 
 
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Mr. Modi also noted that the metro project has several significant features. It is the first metro project to be commissioned with a modern signalling system called the “Communication Based Train Control Signalling system”. The coaches reflect the “Make in India” vision. They have been built by Alstom of France, at their factory near Chennai, and have an Indian component of around 70 percent. 
 
He said the Kochi metro integrates the city’s entire public transportation network into a single system. This system will have a common time-table, common ticketing and centralised `command and control’. It also focuses on improving last mile connectivity and non-motorised transportation systems in the inner city. 
 
The Kochi Metro has also pioneered an innovative PPP model for ticketing. Indian banks and financial institutions are being invited through a bid process to invest in an Automated Fare Collection system. The selected bank will co-brand the Kochi Metro Fare Card and App with the bank’s name. 
 
"I am informed that this Kochi-1 Card is a multi-purpose pre-paid contact-less RuPay card which can be used to travel in the metro and also like a normal debit card. Kochi will be one of the few cities in the world and the first in India to have a modern open-loop Smart Card, which can be used with other modes of transport like buses, taxies and autos as well. 
 
"I am also informed that the Kochi-1 Mobile app has been developed with a long term vision. The mobile App has an Electronic-wallet integrated to it, which is linked to the Kochi-1 Card. Initially, it will enable citizens of Kochi to avail of metro services. In future, it will fulfil all their travel related requirements, regular payment needs and provide city and tourist information. Thus, it is a good example of an e-Governance digital platform. 
 
"Another noteworthy aspect of this project is that nearly one thousand women and twenty-three transgenders are being selected to work in the Kochi Metro Rail System. 
 
"The project is also an example of environment friendly development. It plans to meet nearly twenty five percent of the entire energy requirements from renewable sources, particularly solar energy. The long-term plan is to become a zero-carbon emitting urban transit system. Every sixth pillar of the metro system will have a covered vertical garden, which will substantially use urban solid waste.
 
"It is heartening to note that all stations as well as the Operation Control Centre of Kochi Metro have achieved platinum rating which is the highest certification level given by the Indian Green Building Council," he said.
 
Mr. Modi complimented the Union Ministry of Urban Development led by for having formulated a Value Capture Finance Policy Framework. This provides a mechanism to capture the increased land value. 
 
"Let me conclude by congratulating the citizens of Kochi, the Kochi Metro Rail Corporation and the Chief Minister of Kerala for achieving this important milestone. Kochi was selected as a Smart City in Round One of the challenge process in January 2016. I hope it will do even better in the days to come," he added.
 
Kochi Metro will start revenue operations on June 19, from 6 am onwards. The trains will start from Aluva and Palarivattom from 6 am simultaneously and will finish the day's ride at 10 pm at Aluva.
 
The headway will be 8.20 minutes and there will be 219 trips between 6 am and 10 pm from June 19 onwards.
 
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Kochi Metro to get Rs. 15.2 crore per annum from semi-naming rights of five stations

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Oppo Electronics (Kerala) Private Limited has won the tender for semi-naming rights of Edappally and M. G. Road stations of Kochi Metro to have the right to carry its brand name at selected locations in these stations. 
 
The stations will be displayed as Edappilly Oppo station and M.G.Road Oppo station, respectively, a press release from Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) said.
 
Similarly, Muthoot Fincorp succeeded in bidding for the semi-naming rights for the Aluva, Kalamasserry and Kaloor stations of Kochi Metro project.
 
For providing the semi-naming rights for five stations on the Aluva-Maharajas stretch of the project, KMRL will earn Rs. 15.2 crore per year. The contract is for three years, the release said.
 
Apart from displaying their names on the entry-exit structures, these two brands will also get an average of 2500 square feet space inside and outside of each station for their branding.
 
Only five out of 16 stations were available for providing semi-naming rights. KMRL got the highest quoted amount for Edappally station and lowest for Kalamassery, the release added.
 
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GAIL awards pipeline laying work contracts for another 131 km in Kerala

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The public sector GAIL (India) Limited has awarded contracts for pipeline laying works for another 131 km section from Areacode (Malappuram) to Kurumathoor (Kannur) of the Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline at a cost of approximately Rs 200 crore. 
 
A press release from the company said contracts for the remaining 111 km stretch in Malappuram, Kannur and Kasargod districts will be awarded by July 2017.
 
Construction works from both the ends of the pipeline project -- that is in the 91 km Kochi – Koottanad section as well as in the 105 km Perole (Kasargod) – Mangaluru section are already in full swing.
 
With the latest award of contracts, over 75% of the Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline will be in the construction phase, the release said.
 
"GAIL has been able to make substantial progress in acquisition of Right of User due to the continued support of the State Government, Administration, Police and the public at large. The Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline is likely to give a major economic boost to the state of Kerala by way of environmentally benign industrial development," the release said.
 
GAIL is targeting to complete the entire Kochi – Koottanad – Mangaluru Pipeline by December 2018, the release added.
 
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Kochi Metro Rail Ltd enables formation of company by autorickshaw unions

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As part of efforts to create a seamless integrated public transport system in the city, the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) has succeeded in enabling all autorickshaw unions of the GCDA and Goshree area to arrive at a consensus to form a company or society.
 
The company will bring all the autorickshaw unions under one roof, with 15,000 autorickshaws of the city joining the scheme and working as a single professional operating unit, a press release from KMRL said.
 
The company will be managed by the District Autorickshaw Union Co-ordination Committee, comprising major unions forming a governing body, which will be responsible for the rules, regulations, bye-laws and also the smooth functioning of the system. 
 
The unions have decided to hold meetings with the local units to pass on the basic vision behind this initiative and present the various perspectives to their fellow owners before May 10, the release said.
 
“Kochi has more byroads and service roads than the main roads. The best way to bring people to public transport through these roads is to use autorickshaws. Connecting autos to our public transport system would bring a revolutionary change in the city traffic,” Mr. Elias George, Managing Director, KMRL, said.
 
Once the company is formed, the new system will be capable of enabling GPS Tracking, Mobile Journey Planner and Smart Card Ticketing, all of which would make the journey hi-tech, safe and easy for commuters.  To proceed further in the matter, the unions will hold meetings with KMRL and the technical partners on May 2, the release said.
 
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Another task taken up by the Co-ordination Committee is to deliberate on the list of feeder routes to be finalized for Kochi Metro, Water Metro and Feeder buses with the help of their local units and the technical help of the students of SCMS College.
 
The Auto rickshaw Co-ordination Committee will hold further discussions to decide as to whether to create a society or register as a company before May 30, it said.
 
The Auto rickshaw Co-ordination Committee will also conduct competitions among autorickshaw drivers for creating a name and logo for the company, the design of the auto and the uniform for the drivers.
 
"Auto Integration will help commuters to avail three types of services: ‘Hire Auto’, which is the normal service taking people from A to B, ‘Smart Auto’, the auto that comes to the doorstep and can be booked through an app, and finally ‘Feeder Auto’, which will pick people from feeder routes," the release said.
 
It is also a social inclusion project which will provide a working environment as an "employee & owner”, under a professional operating unit (a society), the release added.
 
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Anita Dube named curator of Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018

Anita Dube
Anita Dube
Well-known contemporary artist Anita Dube was today named as the curator for the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) -- India's only biennale and the largest celebration of contemporary art in South Asia -- that will begin here in December 2018. 
 
The selection is in keeping with the Biennale’s long-standing tradition of being an artist-led exhibition, a press release from the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF), the organisers of the event, said.
 
The announcement, made by Kerala Culture Minister A. K. Balan during the closing ceremony of KMB at Durbar Hall here yesterday evening, followed the unanimous decision made by a high-powered panel of renowned artists and prominent personalities to bring Dube’s unique artistic insights and sensibilities to the Biennale, it said.
 
“Through three editions, the KMB has gained a reputation for being one of the most important exhibitions of its kind around the world. It is an honour and a very big challenge to be declared curator of this wonderful platform. I am delighted that the jurors thought I can deliver. I accept the responsibility with excitement and humility. It is early days yet and my thoughts will no doubt undergo several changes going forward, but I view this as an opportunity to do something special,” said Dube, who was present at the function.
 
Dube takes over from Sudarshan Shetty, whose vision for the third edition of India’s only Biennale saw 97 artists from 31 countries showcase their production – across a variety of forms, styles and disciplines – over a 108-day period starting December 12, 2016. Spread out across 12 venues, KMB 2016 received more than six lakh visitors.
 
Based out of the National Capital Region, Dube is renowned for her conceptually rich, politically charged works. An art historian and critic by training and a visual artist in practice, she has been widely exhibited across the Americas, Europe and Asia, including at the first edition of the KMB in 2012. Dube’s practice uses found objects and industrial materials, photography and ‘word architecture’ to critique contemporary socio-political realities.
 
Her aesthetic idiom, in many ways, reflects her background as a member of the Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association – a short-lived but hugely influential collection of artists and art students who rebelled against what they perceived to be the commodification of art in India.
 
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In fact, Dube’s selection comes nearly three decades after she wrote the manifesto of the group’s seminal exhibition ‘Questions and Dialogue’ held in 1987 in the western state of Gujarat – that called for an explicitly radical, socially and politically conscious approach to art making. The group focused on inexpensive materials and found objects to produce works that resisted commercialisation and connected with working-class audiences.
 
Describing Dube as a ‘thinking artist’, KMB co-founder Bose Krishnamachari said, “Anita’s sensitivity towards materials, incorporating everyday objects derived from informal, craft and industrial sources and spaces, is profound. As is her wordplay and use of mediums, gestures and imageries – all of which will make for varied experiences and resonances in a space as adaptive and accommodating as the Biennale. Her oeuvre features both knowledgeable consideration and skillful melding of the sensibilities and styles of abstractions with real, contemporary concerns. This will doubtless be reflected in her curatorial vision.”
 
Krishnamachari, who is also President of the KBF, was part of the ‘Artistic Advisory Committee’ that selected Dube as curator. The other panelists were KBF Secretary Riyas Komu, Velu Vishwanadhan, Sarat Maharaj, Ravi Agarwal, Dayanita Singh, Sadanand Menon, Kavita Singh and V. Sunil.
 
“Anita’s selection not only reinforces our commitment to having artists at the helm, but also our mission to address contemporary social-political-cultural concerns. Anita is a strong proponent of making art accessible to the public through effective political and social engagement. This is precisely what the Biennale tries to do,” Komu said.
 
Dube is also a board member at Khoj, an international artists’ association she co-founded in 1997 in New Delhi. Over two decades, the initiative that began as a modest annual workshop has become one of the most important platforms shining a global spotlight on South Asian art, organising and hosting international ‘itinerant’ workshops, residencies and exhibitions.
 
Besides KMB 2012, she has been represented in various national and international biennales and festivals such as ‘Biennale Jogja XI’ (Indonesia, 2011), ‘Against Exclusion’ 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2009), ‘iCon: India Contemporary’, Venice Biennale (Collateral event, 2005), ‘Yokohama Triennale’ (Japan, 2001) and the ‘7th Havana Biennial’ (Cuba, 2000).
 
Dube was also a participant in the groundbreaking 2009 exhibition, ‘Indian Highway’, an itinerant collective show curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Julia Peyton-Jones and Gunnar B. Kvaran, which represented the growing importance of the sub-continent’s creative panorama – especially the vibrancy of its contemporary art scene – and the economic, social and cultural developments in the region over the past 20 years.
 
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30 bloggers from 29 countries begin two-week road trip in 'God's Own Country'

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Thirty influential online travel writers from around the world today began a fifteen day long exploration of Kerala, known as ‘God’s Own Country’.
 
State Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran flagged off the fourth edition of Kerala Blog Express from Bolgatty Palace here as part of a campaign to present the state to a wider international audience. 
 
“The Blog Express is an innovation that we have pioneered and we will continue to raise the bar for tourism marketing in the future,” the Minister said. 
 
"The initiative has definitely augmented the destination pull of Kerala and given an impetus to building and sustaining the tempo of tourism growth, a sector which is so crucial for Kerala’s economy," he said.
 
“I hope as participants you enjoy this trip and share the wonderful stories and culture of our land with international audience,” he added. 
 
The 30 bloggers this year represent 29 countries and all the continents, and were selected through a voting system with over 38,000 votes garnered online. They will traverse hills, beaches, backwaters and experience life in villages and cities, as part of the award-winning promotional campaign of Kerala Tourism. 
 
Besides the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain, travel writers from Europe this year include from regions such as Moldova and Gibraltar. The only Indian in the group is Dipanshu Goyal from New Delhi and the most experienced blogger is Carla Mota from Portugal who has travelled around 82 countries over the years. Most of the bloggers are visiting India for the first time. 
 
"With participants from around the globe, Blog Express 4 has already grabbed the attention of various social media platforms and online travel and tour forums," a press release from Kerala Tourism said.
 
KBE was piloted in 2014 as a social media campaign, familiarisation trip, bloggers meet and road trip rolled into one, with the aim of creating a pool of global brand ambassadors who have experienced Kerala at close quarters and have the ability to reach out to aspiring international travellers. 
 
Over the past three editions the KBE has shaped 87 such ambassadors, who have documented their journey, experiences and memories across conventional, digital and social media platforms in several different languages, taking the Kerala Tourism brand to ever wider audiences. 
 
KBE, which promises ‘the trip of a lifetime!’ in its tagline, selects participants through an online voting process. It has received more than 5,300 entries over the last four years and continues to grow in popularity. 
 
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The campaign itself has set new benchmarks in destination marketing. The third edition of Kerala Blog Express 3 last year won the Bronze for Social Media (Outreach) at the prestigious Abby Awards 2016. 
 
It generated more than 9,000 tweets, over 300,000 website visits, over 2,000 Instagram pictures and more than 100 blog articles. Kerala, as a travel destination, was covered on the Czech National radio, Polish radio, Bulgarian radio and TV show and local newspapers in New Zealand and Italy. 
 
A crew from Envoyéspéciall'été, the entertainment channel of France, flew down to Kerala to document French bloggers Arnaud Caillou and Céline Simon, who were part of KBE 3. They spent four days with the whole KBE 3 team and featured a documentary film on their channel, focusing on Kerala and its cultural richness. 
 
Kerala Blog Express 4 will travel through Alleppey, Kumarakom, Thekkady, Munnar, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasaragod before completing its journey on April 3 in the capital city Thirvananthapuram, where the guests will be given a grand farewell by the Tourism department. 
 
Mr. P G Shivan, Joint Director, Kerala Tourism and Mr.  V S Anil, Deputy Director, Kerala Tourism, also attended the function.
 
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Aspinwall House to become permanent venue of Kochi Biennale: Kerala Minister

Kerala Finance Minister T.M.Thomas Isaac viewing Yuko Mohri's installation 'Calls' at KMB 2016 in Aspinwall House,Fort Kochi on March 19, 2017
Kerala Finance Minister T.M.Thomas Isaac viewing Yuko Mohri's installation 'Calls' at KMB 2016 in Aspinwall House,Fort Kochi on March 19, 2017
In line with his budgetary allocation of a permanent venue for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), Kerala Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac said here today that the state government had decided to make Aspinwall House here the home of India’s only Biennale.   
 
“As an initial step, the government has cancelled the lease on a portion of Aspinwall House. Negotiations are ongoing to acquire the rest of the property in a time-bound manner by paying a reasonable amount,” Dr Isaac said, following a guided tour of KMB 2016’s primary venue.
 
“The Biennale will be maintained as a permanent art and culture asset for Kochi, which has become a fixture on the art map of the world. The city will join other big metropolises in housing an iconic international event. We can even utilise this space to conduct various art and cultural activities during non-Biennale years,” he added.
The Minister undertook a day-long tour of KMB 2016 venues in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, taking in the works on display and interacting with the Sunday crowds at Pepper House, Anand Warehouse and TKM Warehouse.
 
“When I first funded the Biennale six years ago as the Finance Minister of the previous LDF government, there was controversy about spending so much money on an art event rather than on art training schools. Today, there is near unanimity on the importance of the Biennale. It exposes Keralites to the best in contemporary art from around the world and it is good for Kerala’s artists as well. In its third edition, no opposing voices are being heard,” Dr Isaac said.
 
Noting that the Biennale had established itself as an important landmark in the socio-cultural map of Kerala, the Minister said, “Giving the public the opportunity to enjoy, firsthand, the artworks of internationally acclaimed artists and engage with them facilitates the creation of a cultural gathering of thinkers, writers, sculptors and artists. Art schools will benefit from this event, which strives to have greater linkages with art education in Kerala.”
 
“The government has allotted around Rs 60 crore for the promotional and marketing purpose of tourism in Kerala. Allotting Rs 2 crore for the Biennale in its off-year is likewise an investment for the upkeep of an established and important international event,” he added.
 
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Dr Isaac, who also holds the Coir portfolio, expressed appreciation for KMB 2016 participating artist Praneet Soi’s work using the traditional fabric in his Cut-Out Archive – Sculptures in Coir. He tried his hand at Turkish artist Ahmet Ö?üt’s installation Workers Taking Over The Factory – Version 2 and found Hungarian artist István Csákány’s Ghost Keeping “aesthetically pleasing”.
 
The Minister also praised the photography series Vanishing Life-Worlds on the ancient port town of Ponnani by artist K.R. Sunil.
 
“He has really captured Ponnani’s environment and atmosphere. I spent a few days walking through the living ruins of the once famous port. The decline and seeding of the place and yet still, the culture that still thrives there. In the last Budget, I have allocated funds to develop infrastructure in Ponnani for the conservation of the old town,” Dr Isaac said.
 
He noted the similarity in the setting of the Biennale. “It is very important we conserve the historical environment and inclusive spirit. While the Biennale is named after Kochi, it also refers to the cosmopolitan history of Muziris. The Biennale has spin-offs into the larger development process of Kerala,” Dr Isaac added.
 
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