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10 dead in Kerala, TN, several fishermen missing as cyclone Ockhi heads for Lakshadweep

Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands on Friday.

 
Cyclone Ockhi: 8 killed, several fishermen missing
Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands today.
 
Four people were killed in south Kerala and five in south Tamil Nadu in rain-related incidents yesterday even as the authorities mounted a massive search and rescue operation for scores of fishermen reported missing at sea.
 
One fisherman, who was among those rescued today, died in hospital here today, taking the toll in Kerala to five, official sources said.
 
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a warning of a very severe cyclone for Lakshadweep Islands this evening and said the system was likely to intensify further in the next 24 hours.
 
In a Red message issued at 1730 hours today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the system, now over the Lakshadweep  area and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea, continued to move west-northwestwards with a speed of 15 kmph during the past six hours and intensified further into a "Very Severe Cyclonic Storm".
 
It lay centred at 1430 hours IST today near latitude 9.1º N and longitude 73.0º E, about 90 km north of Minicoy and 220 km south-southeast of Amini Divi. 
 
"The system is very likely to intensify further during next 24 hours. It is very likely to continue to move west-northwestwards across Lakshadweep Islands during next 24 hours and then move north/ northeastwards during the subsequent 48 hours," the bulletin said.
 
The IMD warned that, under the influence of the system, heavy to very heavy rainfall was very likely at most places over Lakshadweep area during the next 24 hours, with isolated extremely heavy falls. There could be isolated heavy to very heavy falls during the subsequent 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin also said that rainfall was very likely at many places over Kerala during the next 24 hours, with heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
According to it, gale winds, with speed reaching 120-130 kmph, gusting to 145 kmph, were very likely over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and gradual decrease thereafter.
 
Squally winds, with speed reaching 45-55 kmph, gusting to 65 kmph, were very likely along and off Kerala during the next 24 hours and along and off Karnataka coast during the next 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin said sea conditions would be phenomenal over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and very high during the subsequent 24 hours.
 
Sea conditions would be high to very high along and off the Kerala coast during the next 24 hours and along and off the Karnataka coast during subsequent 24 hours.
 
The cyclone could cause damage to power and communication lines due to breaking of tree branches and uprooting of large avenue trees; major damage to thatched houses, huts and kutcha houses; some damage to pucca roads; flooding of escape routes; and damage to banana and papaya trees and standing crops.
 
Storm surge of about one metre above astronomical tides was very likely to inundate low lying areas of Lakshadweep Islands, the bulletin said.
 
Fishermen along and off Lakshadweep Islands were advised not to venture into the sea during the next 48 hours. Similarly, fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off the Kerala and Karnataka coasts during the next 48 hours.
 
Ships and aircraft of the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) were involved in the rescue efforts at sea while teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were deployed in the affected areas in the two states and units of the Indian Army were on standby to come to the aid of the civil adminstration, if necessary.
 
Official sources here said more than 220 people had been rescued from the sea by the Navy, ICG and IAF. Many of them were admitted to hospitals here for treatment, they said. 
 
Some of the fishermen were rescued by a Japanese cargo ship in the area. As many as 37 people were rescued by Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) of the Indian Navy which flew between Thiruvananthapuram and the sea.
 
The ICG said it had deployed nine ships and two Dornier aircraft in the area and rescued as many as 52 fishermen so far.
 
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The International Safety Net (ISN) had been activated to advise Merchant Traffic to render assistance to stranded fishermen, it said.
 
Among others, Indian Naval Ships Sagardhwani, Jamuna and Nireekshak were in the affected areas in the Arabian Sea. INS Sharda and Shardul are also sailing out soon to augment the search effort. Both ships were in final stages of embarking HADR items for assistance at Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands, Indian Navy sources said.
 
In Poonthura, a coastal village near here, angry groups of fishermen and their families staged protests, alleging that the government had not acted in time and not done enough as far as the rescue efforts were concerned. 
 
Former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, both senior leaders of the Congress, visited the area today to listen to the woes of the villagers.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told newspersons that the state government had received an alert about the cyclone only on Thursday afternoon. He said the rescue efforts were also hampered by the bad weather conditions.
 
Mr. Vijayan said all possible efforts were being made to locate and rescue the missing fishermen. He said the state government had urged the Ministry of Defence to deploy more aircraft for the search and rescue operations.
 
In Lakshadweep, the authorities had issued orders for the evacuation of people from low-lying areas in Kalpeni, Minicoy, Kavratti, Agatti, Androth, Kadamath and Amini islands.
 
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UAE-based Aries Group to produce film using CSR funds

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UAE-based Aries Group on Saturday announced it will use its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds to produce 1,000 regional films in the next five years under its "Project Indywood".

The project will be launched with the pooja of a film titled "Aickkarakonathe Bhishaguaranmaar" at Punalur near here on Sunday, said Aries Group Chairman and CEO Sohan Roy.

"'Aickkarakonathe Bhishaguaranmaar” will mark the launch of Project Indywood's ambitious plan to produce 1,000 regional movies in India in the next five years. Besides prominent actors from the industry, twenty talents discovered through the national-level auditions conducted by Indywood Talent Hunt will play important roles in the movie," he told media here.

Biju Majeed will direct the film, whose script is written by K. Shibu Raj. P.C. Lal will wield the camera and Biju Ram will compose the music for the film, which would be shot in Kerala and completed in one schedule.

Roy, a Kerala-born marine engineer-turned-film director, shot to international acclaim in 2011 with his film "DAM999" which was selected for the Oscar race that year in three categories - Original Song, Original Score and Best Picture.

Though "DAMA999", which tells the tale of a cracking dam built during colonial rule and how it impacts nine characters, failed to secure a place in the final nomination list of the 84th Academy Awards, it bagged two honorary awards at the Global Music Awards held at California.

IANS

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Cricketer Chris Gayle takes break, goes fishing in Kerala

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After setting the cricket pitch afire with batting pyrotechnics in the IPL, swashbuckling West Indian Chris Gayle is cooling down, literally. Enjoying a holiday with his family here, he preferred a wet pitch to test his talents -- fishing in the Kerala backwaters.
 
However, he was not quite lucky with the fish as he has been with the runs, not netting many fish in the process. Evidently, luck is not on his side when he is on a new pitch altogether.
 
Housed at a luxury hotel near here, Gayle is accompanied by his wife, daughter, and his mother-in-law.
 
A hotel official, while confirming to IANS that the big-hitting Jamaican was a guest, did not give out much details due to privacy issues.
 
"He checked in yesterday (Sunday) and will stay for the next few days. That's all I can tell you," said the official.
 
On Monday, Gayle -- who is making news with his cricketing exploits with Kings XI Punjab -- along with his family went for a joyride on a boat in the backwaters.
 
He is also attending yoga classes at the hotel, besides trying out the world famous ayurveda massages of Kerala.
 
The swashbuckling southpaw is also trying out many Kerala dishes, feasting on pearl spot -- a fish found in the state's lakes.
 
He is slated to return to the cricketing pitch on May 3, when he will fly to Indore to rejoin his IPL team that plays their next match on May 4 against the struggling Mumbai Indians.
 
IANS
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Malayalam actor Kollam Ajith passes away

Kollam Ajith
Kollam Ajith
Malayalam film star Kollam Ajith, known for portraying negative roles, died on Thursday at a private hospital here, family sources said.
 
Ajith, 56, was admitted to the hospital ten days ago following health issues.
 
Ajith, in a career spread over three decades, had acted in around 500 films, mostly in Malayalam besides a few in Tamil and Hindi. 
 
He started his career with the 1984 hit "Paranu Paranu Paranu" by ace Malayali director Padmarajan.
 
Ajith was often referred to as Malayalam film industry's permanent villain on account of his role in the hugely successful "Irupathaam Noottaandu" (1987) starring Mohanlal. Since then he was the first choice for villain roles.
 
Ajith's body will be taken to Kollam, where the last rites would be performed later in the day.
 
IANS
 
 
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Modi to address 85th Sivagiri Pilgrimage celebrations in Kerala via video conference on Sunday

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver the inaugural address, via video conference, for the 85th Sivagiri Pilgrimage Celebrations, at Sivagiri Mutt, Varkala, Kerala. 
 
Sivagiri is the holy abode of one of the great saints and social reformers of India, Sree Narayan Guru.
 
An official press release said that, on January 1, Mr. Modi would address, via video conference, the curtain raiser ceremony of the commemoration of Prof. S.N. Bose’s 125th birth anniversary, at Kolkata. 
 
Prof. Satyendra Nath Bose was an Indian physicist, best known for his work on quantum mechanics, providing the foundation for Bose–Einstein statistics. The class of particles that obey Bose–Einstein statistics, has been named Bosons, after Prof. Bose.
 
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Rahul Gandhi meets Ockhi-hit fishermen in Kerala, Tamil Nadu

 
Rahul Gandhi meets cyclone Ockhi victims in Kerala, TN
Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi today visited fishing villages in Kerala and Tamil Nadu which were hit by cyclone Ockhi earlier this month and declared that the time had come to set up a separate Ministry of Fisheries at the Centre to look after their interests.
 
He declared that the Congress, when voted back to power at the Centre, would set up a Ministry of Fisheries that would the difficulties and problems faced by fishermen could be dealt with quickly and immediately.
 
Mr. Gandhi offered his condolences to the families which had lost their loved ones in the tragedy and spent time with several of them as they talked about their pain and sorrow. "What you have lost cannot be measured in terms of value. So, my words are not going to replace what you have lost," he said.
 
He said he would have liked to come here earlier but he had commitments in poll-bound Gujarat which could not be cancelled. "Even though I was not here in my physical presence, my mind and spirit were here with you," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said it was very important that the Government and the people learnt from the disaster and set up systems to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.
 
"We also expect the Government to offer compensation to everybody who has lost in this tragedy. It is the duty of the Congress, as the Opposition, to put pressure on the Government to ensure everyone who has lost gets adequate compensation. I am confident they will play this role," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that, in many ways, farmers and fishermen across the country faced similar situations. 
 
"It is very difficult for them to make a living. It seems everything is aligned against them. At the national elvel, faremrs have a Ministry that protects them and looks after their interests. I think it is time that fishermen also have their Ministry at the Centre so that their difficulties can be dealt with quickly and immediately. The Congress is committed to providing a Ministry for fishermen when elected to power at the Centre," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi, who flew in here form Delhi, visited some of the worst-affected villages such as Poonthura, Vizhinjam, Thaikkad and Palayam in Kerala and Chinnathurai in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.
 
Senior State Congress leaders, including former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala and Dr. Shashi Tharoor, the Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram, accompanied Mr. Gandhi on the visit to the Kerala villages.
 
"Very good visit by Rahul Gandhi to two coastal villages in Thiruvananthapuram. People were touched by his directness & evident empathy during deeply moving conversations with bereaved families," Dr. Tharoor said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
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Cyclone Ockhi likely to weaken by Sunday, move northwestwards from Lakshadweep

Cyclone Ockhi appeared to be weakening on Saturday after striking the Lakshadweep Islands yesterday and the intensity of rains and winds reduced by this afternoon, providing some relief for people of the archipelago.

 
Cyclone Ockhi: Navy helicopter rescues fishermen at sea
Cyclone Ockhi appeared to be weakening today after striking the Lakshadweep Islands yesterday and the intensity of rains and winds reduced by this afternoon, providing some relief for people of the archipelago.
 
The islands, especially Minicoy and Kalpeni, had been lashed yesterday evening by heavy rains and gale winds, which caused substantial damage to public and private property. But no loss of life was reported from the islands, thanks  to the precautionary measures taken by the local administration, which had moved people from the low-lying areas on the coast to safer places like school buildings.
 
Meanwhile, the death toll in south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu, which were struck by heavy rains and strong winds in the past two days as Ockhi swept past the coast towards Lakshadweep rose to 16.
 
More than 530 fishermen from Kerala and 73 from Tamil Nadu who were stranded in the Arabian Sea for the past two days have been rescued so far by ships and aircraft of the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard  and the Indian Air Force as well as by merchant navy ships.
 
However, more than 100 fishermen from Kerala and 97 from Tamil Nadu are still reported missing and the search and rescue teams continued their efforts to locate them. In the meantime, several fishermen from some of the coastal villages in Kerala set out to sea to look for and rescue their relatives and friends, local people told journalists.
 
Several of the fishermen rescued were admitted to various hospitals in Thiruvananthapuram and other places for treatment, the sources said.
 
The Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force have deployed 20 ships, 8 planes and five helicopters for the search and rescue operations. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said continued efforts would be made to ensure all fishermen affected returned home safely.
 
Official sources said 105 fishermen in eight boats from Kerala which had drifted ashore at Androth in the Lakshadweep were fine and would be repatriated upon improvement in weather.
 
Similarly, some boats missing from Beypore near Kozhikode in Kerala had reached Devagad port in Maharashtra after  getting caught in the cyclone. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis directred the district magistrate of Sindudurg and the State Maritime Board to extend all help to the fishermen.
 
A Red message issued by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) at 1930 hours today said the very severe cyclonic storm over Lakshadweep area and adjoining Southeast Arabian Sea had further moved northwestwards with a speed of 18 kmph during the previous six hours and lay centred at 1730 hours near latitude 10.5º N and longitude 70.3º E, about 275 km west-southwest of Amini Divi. 
 
"The system is very likely to weaken gradually from tomorrow, the 03rd December, 2017 morning. It is very likely to continue to move northwestwards during the next 12 hours and then recurve northeastwards during the subsequent 48 hours," it said.
 
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The bulletin warned that rainfall was very likely at most places over north Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
It said rainfall was very likely at many places over Kerala during the next 12 hours, with heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
Rainfall at many places was also very likely over south Gujarat, with heavy rainfall at isolated places, it said.
 
The bulletin said gale winds with speed reaching 70-80 kmph, gusting to 90 kmph, were very likely over and around north Lakshadweep Islands during the next 12 hours and gradually decrease thereafter. They would become squally winds with speed reaching 55-65 kmph gusting to 75 kmph by tomorrow morning for the subsequent 12 hours.
 
Squally winds with speed reaching 55-65 kmph, gusting to 75 kmph, were very likely over and around south Lakshadweep Islands during the next 12 hours and gradually decrease thereafter.
 
Squally winds with speed reaching 45-55 kmph, gusting to 65 kmph, were very likely along and off north Maharashtra and South Gujarat coasts on December 4 night and December 5, it said.
 
Sea conditions would be high over and around north Lakshadweep Islands during the next 12 hours and gradually become very rough by tomorrow morning for the subsequently 12 hours. They are very likely to be rough to very rough over and around south Lakshadweep Islands during next 12 hours and moderate to rough during the subsequent 12 hours.
 
Sea conditions would be rough to very rough along and off north Maharashtra and South Gujarat coasts on December 4 night and December 5, it said.
 
Storm surge of about 0.5 metre above astronomical tides was very likely to inundate low lying areas of north Lakshadweep Islands during the next 12 hours, the bulletin said.
 
Fishermen around Lakshadweep Islands were advised not to venture into the sea during the next 24 hours. Similarly, fishermen were advised not to venture into deep sea along and off Karnataka, Goa and south Maharashtra coasts during the next 48 hours.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 10 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who died in the cyclone-related incidents in the state. Assistance would also be provided to those who had lost their boat and equipment.
 
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Heavy rains, strong winds lash Lakshadweep as cyclone Ockhi moves towards archipelago

Heavy rains, strong winds and high tides hit the Lakshadweep Islands where a red alert has been issued as cyclone Ockhi struck the archipelago on Saturday even as the death toll in south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu in the past three days rose to 12, official sources said.

A helicopter from the Southern Naval Command of the Indian Navy carrying out a rescue effort over the Arabian Sea off the Kerala coast in the wake of cyclone Ockhi, on December 1, 2017.
A helicopter from the Southern Naval Command of the Indian Navy carrying out a rescue effort over the Arabian Sea off the Kerala coast in the wake of cyclone Ockhi, on December 1, 2017.
Heavy rains, strong winds and high tides hit the Lakshadweep Islands where a red alert has been issued as cyclone Ockhi struck the archipelago today even as the death toll in south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu in the past three days rose to 12, official sources said.
 
About 102 fishermen who had gone out to sea from south Kerala were said to be missing, with their relatives telling the authorities that they had not heard from them in the past two days. The sources said this information was being cross-checked with various agencies so that a more accurate figure could be worked out.
 
In the meantime, several fishermen from some of the villages had set out to sea to look for and rescue their relatives and friends, local people told journalists.
 
More than 220 fishermen stranded at sea off Kerala were rescued by ships and aircraft of the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard yesterday. 
 
Of the 12 rain-related deaths, seven had occurred in Kerala and five in south Tamil Nadu.
 
Several of the fishermen rescued yesterday were admitted to various hospitals in Thiruvananthapuram for treatment, the sources said.
 
Lakshadweep Member of Parliament P P Mohammed Faizal told NetIndian that Minicoy and Kalpeni islands were lashed last night by heavy rains and strong winds, which caused substantial damage to public and private property.
 
He said many of the other islands, including Kavaratti and Agati were also hit by the cyclone, but the situation was improving today.
 
There was no loss of life reported, thanks  to the precautionary measures taken by the local administration, which had moved people from the low-lying areas on the coast to safer places like school buildings, he added.
 
In a Red message issued at 0830 hours today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the very severe cyclonic storm over the Lakshadweep area and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea had moved further west-northwestwards with a speed of 11 kmph during the previous six hours and lay centred at 0530 hours today near latitude 9.6º N and longitude 71.5º E, about 230 km west-northwest of Minicoy and 215 km south of Amini Divi. 
 
"The system is very likely to intensify further during next 24 hours. It is very likely to continue to move west-northwestwards across Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and then recurve northeastwards during the subsequent 48 hours," it said.
 
According to the bulletin, under the influence of the system, rainfall was very likely at most places over Lakshadweep area during the next 24 hours, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and isolated extremely heavy falls (>20 cm). There could be isolated heavy to very heavy falls during the subsequent 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin said rainfall was also very likely at many places over Kerala, with heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
Gale winds with speed reaching 120-130 kmph, gusting to 145 kmph, were very likely over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and gradually decrease thereafter.
 
Squally winds with speed reaching 45-55 kmph, gusting to 65 kmph, were very likely along and off Kerala during the next 24 hours and along and off the Karnataka coast during the next 24 hours.
 
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The bulletin said sea conditions would be phenomenal over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and very high during the subsequent 24 hours. 
 
Sea conditions would be high to very high along and off Kerala coast during the next 24 hours and along and off the Karnataka coast during the subsequent 24 hours.
 
Storm surge of about 1 meter above astronomical tides was very likely to inundate low lying areas of Lakshadweep Islands, it said.
 
Fishermen along and off Lakshadweep Islands and the  Kerala and Karnataka coasts were advised not to venture into the sea during the next 48 hours. 
 
Two Indian Naval Ships -- Sharda and Shardul -- have left for Lakshadweep and Minicoy with rescue equipment and relief material. Other naval assets from Mumbai and Karwar were kept on standby for deployment towards the islands to augment search and rescue efforts, Indian Navy sources said.
 
INS Sagardhwani and Jamuna would continue their search and rescue operations off Vizhinjam in Kerala, while INS Nireekshak will remain off Kollam in the state, they said.
 
The Navy's advanced light helicopters had sanitised an area up to 25 nautical miles off Vizhinjam and there was less likelihood of stranded vessels in the area, the sources said.
 
"Rescue efforts will continue to look for survivors in general area off the Kerala coast," the sources added.
 
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8 dead in Kerala, TN, several fishermen missing as cyclone Ockhi heads for Lakshadweep

 
Cyclone Ockhi: 8 killed, several fishermen missing
Cyclone Ockhi wreaked substantial damage as it hurtled towards Lakshadweep Islands past the coasts of south Tamil Nadu and south Kerala and caused the deaths of eight people -- four each in the two states --- as the authorities mounted a massive search operation for scores of fishermen reported missing at sea.
 
A "Red" message issued at 0830 hours today by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the cyclonic storm over southeast Arabian Sea continued to move westnorthwestwards with a speed of 17 kmph during past six hours, intensified into a severe cyclonic storm and lay centred at 0530 hours IST of today over southeast Arabian Sea near latitude 8.8º N and longitude 74.0º E, about 110 km north-northeast of Minicoy and 290 km southeast of Amini Divi. 
 
"The system is very likely to intensify further during next 24 hours. It is very likely to continue to move west-northwestwards across Lakshadweep Islands during next 24 hours and then move north/ northeastwards during the subsequent 48 hours," the bulletin said.
 
According to it, under the influence of the system, rainfall was very likely at most places over Lakshadweep area during the next 24 hours, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and isolated extremely heavy falls (>20 cm). Isolated heavy to very heavy falls were likely during the subsequent 24 hours.
 
The bulletin said rainfall was very likely over many places over Kerala during the next 24 hours, with heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
Gale winds, with speed reaching 110-120 kmph gusting to 130 kmph, were very likely over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and gradually decrease thereafter.
 
Squally winds, with speed reaching 45-55 kmph gusting to 65 kmph, were very likely along and off Kerala during the next 24 hours and along and off Karnataka coast during the next 24 hours.
 
Sea conditions would be high to very high over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and high during the subsequent 24 hours, the bulletin said.
 
Sea conditions would be high to very high along and off Kerala coast during the next 24 hours and along and off Karnataka coast during the subsequent 24 hours.
 
The bulletin said the cyclone could cause damage to power and communication lines due to breaking of tree branches and uprooting of large avenue trees, major damage to thatched houses/huts, major damage to kutcha houses, some damage to pucca roads, flooding of escape routes and damage to banana and papaya trees and standing crops in Lakshadweep Islands.
 
Storm surge of about 1 meter above astronomical tides was very likely to inundate low lying areas of Lakshadweep Islands, it said.
 
Fishermen along and off Lakshadweep Islands were advised not to venture into the sea during next 48 hours. Similarly, fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off Kerala and Karnataka coast during the next 48 hours.
 
Meanwhile, many parts of south Kerala continued to receive heavy rains for the second day today.
 
Power supply was disrupted in some areas after electricity poles were uprooted and some roads were blocked by trees which had been uprooted.
 
There was concern in some coastal villages of Kollam and adjacent areas because several fishermen who had set out for the sea had not returned so far.
 
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Indian Navy officials said a Boeing P8I aircraft deployed at first light from INS Rajali this morning had sighted seven survivors hanging on to a capsized boat about 25 miles west of Thiruvananthapuram. The aircraft had dropped a life raft in the vicinity and reported the exact position to ships in the area, which were being diverted to render assistance.
 
The Navy had said yesterday that, based on a request received from the District Collector of Thiruvananthapuram for assistance in the search and rescue of six fishing boats with fisherman and one marine engineering vessel reported to be missing at sea near Vizhinjam, the Southern naval Command had deployed Indian Naval Ships Shardul, Nireekshak, Kabra and Kalpeni and two aircraft based at Kochi.
 
The ships and aircraft would carry out search and rescue (SAR) operations in the area and would continue to remain at sea for any assistance required by the civil administration.
 
The Southern Naval Command is also gearing up for any Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) that may be required due to the effects of the storm, an official press release said.
 
According to official sources, apart from the Boeing P8I aircraft, an Indian Coast Guard Dornier and Chetak, advanced light helicopters and seven Indian Navy and Coast Guard ships were also in the area and scanning the Kerala coast.
 
The sources said a fisherman was rescued from sea off Vizhinjam in Kerala by an Indian  Coast Guard ship.
 
Schools in the coastal districts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu were closed. Rail traffic to and from Thiruvananthapuram was affected due to the heavy rains.
 
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has despatched its teams to south Kerala as well as Kanyakumari and Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu, the sources added.
 
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IMD issues cyclone warning for south Kerala, south Tamil Nadu and Puducherry

Image: IMD
Image: IMD
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) today issued a cyclone warning for south Kerala, adjoining districts of South Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep with the cyclonic storm Ockhi lying centred over southeast Arabian Sea this evening.
 
An "Orange" message issued at 2000 hours by IMD said that the latest observations and radar and satellite imageries indicated that Ockhi, over Arabian Sea off south Kerala coast, had moved west-northwestwards with a speed of 20 kmph during the past six hours and lay centred at 1730 hrs IST of today over southeast Arabian Sea near latitude 8.2º N and longitude 75.8º E, about 130 km west-southwest of Thiruvananthapuram and 290 km east-southeast of Minicoy. 
 
"The system is very likely to intensify further into a severe cyclonic storm during the next 24 hours. It is very likely to move westnorthwestwards across Lakshadweep Islands during the next 36 hours and then move northwestwards during the subsequent 24 hours," the bulletin said.
 
According to it, rainfall was very likely at most places over south Tamil Nadu during the next 12 hours and over south Kerala during the next 24 hours, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places and isolated heavy falls over interior Tamil Nadu and Kerala during subsequent 24 hours.
 
The bulletin said rainfall was very likely at most places over Lakshadweep area during the next 48 hours, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and isolated extremely heavy falls.
 
Gale winds, with speed reaching 65-75 kmph, gusting to 85 kmph, were very likely along and off South Kerala during next 36 hours and along and off south Tamil Nadu during the next 12 hours, it said.
 
Gale winds, with speed reaching 60-70 kmph, gusting to 80 kmph, were very likely over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 12 hours and increase thereafter with wind speeds becoming 100-110 kmph gusting to 120 kmph around tomorrow evening, it said.
 
The bulletin said sea conditions would be high along and off South Kerala coast during the next 36 hours and very rough to high along and off south Tamil Nadu coast during the next 12 hours.
 
Sea conditions would be high over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 12 hours and very high during the subsequent 48 hours.
 
The bulletin said damage to power and communication lines due to breaking of tree branches and uprooting of trees, major damage to "kutcha" houses, minor damage to "pucca" roads and damage to paddy crops, banana, papaya trees and orchards could occur in south Kerala  (Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Kollam, Pathanathitta and  Thiruvananthapuram districts), adjoining districts of south Tamil Nadu (Kanyakumari, Tutukudi and Tirunelveli districts) and Lakshadweep Islands.
 
Storm surge of about 1 meter above astronomical tides is very likely to inundate low-lying areas of Lakshadweep Islands from tonight, the bulletin said.
 
Storm surge of about 0.5 meter above astronomical tides is very likely to inundate low-lying areas of coastal districts of south Kerala (Alappuzha, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts), and adjoining districts of south Tamil Nadu (Kanyakumari, Tutukudi and Tirunelveli districts) during the next 12 hours.
 
Fishermen along and off Lakshadweep Islands were advised not to venture into the sea during the next 48 hours. Similarly, fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off South Tamil Nadu coast during the next 24 hours and along and off South Kerala coasts during the next 48 hours.
 
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IMD issues cyclone warning for South Kerala, south TN and Lakshadweep

Image: IMD
Image: IMD
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) today issued a cyclone warning for south Kerala, adjoining districts of South Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep with the cyclonic storm Ockhi over the Comorin area lying centred off the south Kerala coast and neighbourhood this afternoon.
 
In an "Orange" message issued at 1700 hours, the IMD said the latest observations and satellite imageries indicated that Ockhi had moved west-northwestwards with a speed of 20 kmph during the past six hours and lay centred at 1430 hours IST over south Kerala coast and neighbourhood near latitude 7.9º N and longitude 76.4º E, about 120 km west-southwest of Kanyakumari, 180 km south-southwest of Thiruvananthapuram and 360 km east-southeast of Minicoy. 
 
"The system is very likely to move west-northwestwards towards Lakshadweep Islands and intensify further into a severe cyclonic storm during the next 24 hours," the bulletin said.
 
The bulletin said that, under the influence of the system, rainfall would occur at most plaes over south Tamil Nadu and south Kerala during the next 24 hours, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places and isolated heavy falls over interior Tamil Nadu and Kerala during the subsequent 24 hours.
 
It also said that rainfall was very likely over Lakshadweep area during the next 48 hours, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and isolated extremely heavy falls.
 
According to IMD, gale winds, with speed reaching 65-75 kmph, gusting to 85 kmph, are very likely along and off South Kerala during the next 48 hours and along and off south Tamil Nadu during the next 24 hours.
 
Squally winds with speed reaching 55-65 kmph, gusting to 75 kmph, were very likely along and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 12 hours and increase thereafter with wind speeds becoming 80-90 kmph, gusting to 100 kmph, from tonight.
 
The bulletin said sea conditions would be high along and off South Kerala coast during the next 48 hours and along and off south Tamil Nadu coast during the next 24 hours.
 
Sea conditions would be very rough to high over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 12 hours and high to very high during the subsequent 48 hours, it said.
 
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The bulletin said damage to power and communication lines due to breaking of tree branches and uprooting of trees, major damage to "kutcha" houses, minor damage to "pucca" roads and damage to paddy crops, banana, papaya trees and orchards could occur in south Kerala  (Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Kollam, Pathanathitta and  Thiruvananthapuram districts), adjoining districts of south Tamil Nadu (Kanyakumari, Tutukudi and Tirunelveli districts) and Lakshadweep Islands.
 
Storm surge of about 1 meter above astronomical tides is very likely to inundate low-lying areas of Lakshadweep Islands from tonight, the bulletin said.
 
Storm surge of about 0.5 meter above astronomical tides is very likely to inundate low-lying areas of coastal districts of south Kerala (Alappuzha, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts), and adjoining districts of south Tamil Nadu (Kanyakumari, Tutukudi and Tirunelveli districts) during the next 12 hours.
 
Fishermen along and off Lakshadweep Islands were advised not to venture into the sea during the next 48 hours. Similarly, fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off South Tamil Nadu coast during the next 24 hours and along and off South Kerala coasts during the next 48 hours.
 
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Help fellow human beings achieve their potential, says Kovind

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The greatest service we can render to our fellow human beings is to help them achieve their potential, President Ram Nath Kovind has said.
 
Speaking at the initiation of various welfare programmes organised by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math here yesterday, Mr Kovind lauded Kerala as one of the leading spiritual homes of the country and its composite society.
 
“The flame of spiritualism shines brightly in Kerala and has done so for thousands of years. Revered people such as Adi Shankaracharya, Sri Narayana Guru and Ayyankali did much to unite our country with a common sense of spiritualism – as well as to push for much-needed social reform,” he pointed out.
 
The President said Kerala’s spiritual consciousness is beyond faith and religious distinctions. The Christian community here is one of the oldest not only in India but anywhere in the world.
 
The first mosque to be built in India is in Kerala. The state also has a rich Jewish heritage. These historical instances reflect the mutual accommodation and understanding of different faiths and religious communities.
 
This is a state where one community has willingly given space to another. This is a history that we cannot forget and must learn from. This is a fine example of accommodation and understanding that is at the essence of spiritualism.
 
Praising Mata Amritanandamayi for her social work, Mr Kovind said she represents the enlightened spiritual tradition of Kerala.
 
Like Adi Shankara or Ayyankali, she sees her spiritual mission as a contribution to nation building. She recognises, as only the truly spiritual can, that the greatest service to the Divine is service to fellow human beings, he said.
 
"And the greatest service we can render to our fellow human beings – especially to those less privileged than us – is to help them achieve their potential.
 
"This includes building their capacity in health and education and ensuring that they get equal opportunities," he said.
 
The Mata Amritanandamayi Math, the President noted, has worked precisely in these areas.
 
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President Kovind to visit Kerala on Sunday

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President Ram Nath Kovind will visit Kerala tomorrow when he will attend the launch of various welfare programmes organised by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math at Amritapuri, Kollam.
 
The programmes include unveiling of Amrita clean water initiatives for rural India and distribution of certificates of official open defecation free (ODF) status to 10 villages adopted by Mata Amritanandamayi Math, an official press release said.
 
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Kerala: Ansari unveils educationist M. Sreenivasan’s statue at Kollam

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Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari yesterday said noted educationist M. Sreenivasan, would be remembered for his services in the field in Kerala.
 
Addressing a meeting after unveiling the statue of Dr. Sreenivasan at Sree Narayana College campus here, Mr Ansari said the education personified, in his dedication to the betterment of others through education, the teachings and the spirit of Kerala’s great saint and social reformer, the mystic poet Sree Narayan Guru, after whom this college is named.
 
It is befitting, therefore, that Dr. Sreenivasan’s statue be placed here in his beloved college, he added.
 
The Vice-President said generations of students who had passed out from this college, under Dr. Sreenivasan’s tutelage, remember him with great affection and continue to spread his message of social reform through education throughout India and beyond.
 
Dr Sreenivasan studied at the Travancore University and completed his doctorate from Aligarh Muslim University. As an academic and an administrator of educational institutions, his contributions were well recognized and he went on to serve on Boards of several universities, including the universities of Calicut, Madras, Karnataka, Mysore and the Kerala Art University, Mr Ansari said.
 
He was widely published, including in well-known journals like the Modern Review. His work on the social and economic conditions of the poor workers of Quilon town was path-breaking. Dr Sreenivasan was also recognised as an expert in developing worthwhile systems for evaluating student learning and served as a member, board of examination at the Union Public Service Commission from 1966 to 1991, the Vice-President added.
 
He commended the work done by the Dr. M. Sreenivasan Foundation as well as for their initiative in having the statue erected here in memory of a great educationist and humanitarian.
 
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Cabinet observes silence in memory of victims of Kollam fire tragedy

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The Union Cabinet today observed silence for two minutes in memory of those who lost their lives in the fire tragedy at the Puttingal Temple at Paravur in Kollam district of Kerala last Sunday.
 
More than 110 people died and more than 380 others suffered injuries in the tragedy which happened when a massive explosion occurred during a fireworks display at the temple.
 
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Kerala: Temple committee members arrested, High Court passes strictures against fireworks display

 
7 officials surrender in Kollam temple inferno case
Two days after a massive explosion during a fireworks display at the Puttingal Devi temple at Paravur in Kollam district of Kerala left at least 116 people dead and more than 380 injured, the police arrested 13 people including seven office bearers of the temple while the Kerala High Court today passed severe strictures to control the use of high decibel fireworks at night.
 
While five of the temple committee, including its president PS Jayalal, Secretary Krishnankutty Pillai, J Prasad, Somasundram Pillai and Ravindran Pillai had surrendered last night, another office bearer, Surendran Pillai was arrested in the morning.
 
Severely criticising the police and local administration in allowing the fireworks display to go ahead without obtaining proper permission, the High Court said that, even during daytime, fireworks display should not exceed 140 decibels. The court also directed the local administration and the police to submit separate affidavits on the incident.
 
The court said fireworks displays should be held only after following all safety precautions and there should be no outside interference in granting of license.
 
A division bench headed by Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan, taking up a letter from Justice Chidambaresh as a PIL also included the Union Government and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as respondents in the case.   
 
Meanwhile, one of the contractors who supplied the fireworks, Surendran, 67, from Kazhakuttam, Thiruvananathapuram, who had sustained 90% burn injuries, died in a hospital today. His son Umesh, 35, who was also admitted to hospital, was discharged after treatment. Police said his second son Deepu, 33, had gone missing from the hospital. Earlier, authorities had filed cases against Surendran and his sons for possession of explosives without authorisation. His license had also expired on March 31 and he had applied for conducting the fireworks display at Puttingal temple concealing this fact, police said.
 
In another development, Additional Director General of Police Anantha Krishnan, heading the crime branch investigation into the mishap, said the fireworks competition was held after misleading the local administration which had denied permission earlier. The temple committee claimed that verbal permission was granted on informing them that it would only be a fireworks display.
 
Paravur police had charged around 30 people including the temple committee members, the contractors of the fireworks display and his workers under charges of culpable homicide. Five employees of the fireworks contractor Surendran are already in police custody.
 
Meanwhile, DNA tests will be conducted on unclaimed bodies while 21 people were still missing after the mishap. Their family members have been asked to reach Kollam for the tests till tomorrow with identity proof of the missing persons.
 
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Centre rushes top explosives officials to Kollam to ascertain cause of temple fire

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The Centre today said top officials from the Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) would visit the site of the explosion and fire during a fireworks display at the Puttingal Temple in Kolam district of Kerala early this morning, which left at least 110 dead and more than 380 people injured.
 
The officials will also suggest measures to prevent recurrence of similar incidents in the future, an official press release from the Ministry of Commerce & Industry said.
 
The officials are Dr. S. Kamal Chief Controller of Explosives, Nagpur, Dr. A. K. Yadav Joint Chief Controller of Explosives, South Circle, Chennai, Mr. R. Venugopal, Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives, Hyderabad, Mr. Thiagarajan, Controller of Explosives, Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu and Mr. S. Kandasamy, Deputy  Controller of Explosives, Ernakulam, Kerala.
 
"The accident occurred during display of fireworks. Prima facie, from pictures seen on TV news channels, it was observed that large quantity of fireworks items were used for the public display. It is mandatory to obtain a licence in Form LE-6 under Explosives Rules 2008 from District Magistrate for public Display of fireworks. 
 
"As per the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s directive Fireworks should be used only upto 10 pm. and as per as per Ministry of Environment and Forests Notification no. G.S.R. 682 (E) dated 05/10/1999 the noise level of cracker should not exceed 125 dB. 
 
"Necessary advisory have been issued from time to time by Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), Ernakulam to all District Magistrates for grant of licences in Form LE-6 under Explosives Rules 2008 and safety measures to be taken," the release added.
 
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Mukherjee, Ansari, Modi condole loss of lives in fire during fireworks at Kerala temple

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President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Narendra Modi today condoled the loss of lives in the explosion during a fireworks display at the Puttingal temple in Kolam district of Kerala this morning.
 
“I am shocked and distressed to learn about the incident at Kollam’s Puttingal temple this morning, as a result of which a large number of persons have lost their lives and others are injured. I understand relief operations are currently underway," Mr. Mukherjee saidin a message to Mr. Justice P. Sathasivam, Governor of Kerala.
 
"I am sure the State Government and other agencies are providing all possible assistance to the bereaved families as well as the best of medical attention to the injured. Please convey my heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased. My prayers are with all the injured persons for their speedy recovery," he said.
 
Mr. Ansari expressed deep sorrow over the tragic loss of lives in the incident and conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. He wished speedy recovery to the injured.
 
"Fire at temple in Kollam is heart-rending and shocking beyond words. My thoughts are with families of the deceased & prayers with the injured," Mr. Modi said on micro-blogging siteTwitter.
 
Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed deep shock and grief at the tragic incident and prayed for the departed souls and well-being of the injured. Ms. Gandhi asked the State Government to ensure ample and immediate relief measures.
 
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said news of the devastating fire was extremely shocking. "My prayers are with the families of those who've lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi also spoke to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and urged him to ensure that adequate relief, medical care and assistance wre provided to the injured at the earliest.
 
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At least 110 kiled in explosion during fireworks display at temple in Kerala

At least 110 people died and more than 300 others suffered injuries in a massive explosion that occurred during a fireworks display at the Paravur Puttingal Devi temple in Kollam district of Kerala in the early hours on Sunday.

 
India temple fire kills over 100 people watching fireworks
 
At least 110 people died and more than 300 others suffered injuries in a massive explosion that occurred during a fireworks display at the Paravur Puttingal Devi temple in Kollam district of Kerala in the early hours today.
 
Many of the injured, admitted to various hospitals in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram, were stated to be in a serious condition.
 
The explosion was so powerful that a building in the temple premises collapsed and its impact was felt within a one kilometre radius. 
 
State Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said the victims were rushed to 12 hospitals in Kollam and nearby areas, while some of the more serious cases were referred to the Medical College Hospital at Thiruvananthapuram.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to state capital Thiruvananthapuram on his way to the scene of the tragedy this afternoon. He is accompanied by a team of burns specialists from the Ram Manohar Lohia, Sajdarjung and other hospitals in the capital.
 
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi was also scheduled to visit the spot late this afternoon, official sources said.
 
The Kerala Cabinet held a special meeting in Kollam this afternoon to consider the situation. 
 
Mr. Chandy told newspersons that an ex-gratia payment of Rs 10 lakh would be given to the next-of-kin of those who died in the tragedy. He said Rs. 2 lakh would be given to those with serious injuries and Rs. 50,000 to those with minor injuries.
 
“Since the model code of conduct is in place, the Chief Secretary has spoken to the Election Commission for clearances regarding the compensation to be awarded,” Mr Chennithala said.
 
Kollam District Administration said it had denied permission to the temple authorities for carrying out fireworks display. However, police said a conditional permission to carry out minor fireworks was obtained. Police have registered cases against two contractors who supplied the explosives and also against the temple administration.
 
Mr. Chandy said a judicial inquiry would be held to establish the cause of the mishap. It would be headed by a retired judge of the Kerala High Court.
 
He also announced that the State Government would meet all expenses on the treatment of the injured persons.
 
The case related to the incident has been transferred to the Crime Branch of the Kerala Police and would be supervised by the Additional Director General of Police (Crime Branch).
 
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Mr. Modi announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs. 2 lakh each from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the incident. He also announced a solatium of Rs. 50, 000 to those who suffered injuries.
 
"Fire at temple in Kollam is heart-rending and shocking beyond words. My thoughts are with families of the deceased and prayers with the injured," Mr. Modi said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"Spoke to CM Oommen Chandy about the fire at a temple in Kollam. Arranging for immediate shifting of those critically injured via helicopter. 
 
"Have also asked my Cabinet colleague and Health Minister JPNadda to immediately reach the site of the fire tragedy in Kollam," he said.
 
According to various accounts, the explosion was caused when the storehouse where the fireworks materials were stored caught fire around 3.30 am today. One version said sparks from the fireworks display landed on the storehouse, leading to the fire.
 
The fireworks were organised as part of the annual festival of the temple, near Kollam.
 
Many of the victims died before they could be taken to a hospital, sources said.
 
The State Government had made arrangements for air ambulances and helicopters to fly the injured persons to hospitals.
 
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"Rajnath, Rudy misled Parliament on my absence at Kollam function": Chandy

File photo of Oommen Chandy.
File photo of Oommen Chandy.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has accused Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Rajiv Pratap Rudy of misleading Parliament on the issue of his absence at a function attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kollam, near here, on Tuesday.
 
In a letter to Mr. Modi, dated December 15, Mr. Chandy apologised for the controversy over his absence at the unveiling of the statue of former state Chief Minister R. Shanker.
 
“It is also unfortunate that Union Ministers Mr Rajnath Singh and Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudy have misled the Parliament in their reply to the adjournment motion in the house without even verifying the facts from myself or my office,” he said.
 
“I was invited for the unveiling ceremony of the statue of Shri R Shanker by Shri Vellappally Nadesan, chief organiser of the function and General Secretary of SNDP Yogam and I readily agreed and accepted the invitation,” he added.  
 
Mr Chandy said the notice and the plaque for the function was prepared showing the meeting would be presided over by the Chief Minister.
 
“On 11th evening, Mr Vellappally Nadesan informed me through Mr K Babu, Minister that intelligence agencies have informed him that there will be some protest in the meeting if I attend the function.  
 
“I verified with the State Police intelligence and they were not aware of any such report from any intelligence agency,” he added.
 
The Chief Minister, in the letter, said Mr Natesan on  December 12 again conveyed to him that he should keep away from the function and that he had no option other than to abide by his request.  
 
“When PMO contacted me over phone, I had conveyed this personally.  And on 12th by 1PM my office issued a press release showing that I will not be attending the Kollam programme as requested by organisers.  
 
“In the evening by 5PM, in reply to repeated queries from PMO, our State Protocol informed PMO that I will not be attending the Kollam programme.  It had never said that my absence is due to my inconvenience as said by Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudy in Parliament, ” Mr Chandy said.
 
“I don’t know why the organisers had withdrawn the invitation extended to me in which I am obliged to attend as Chief Minister and it is the first public programme of the Prime Minister in his first visit to Kerala.
 
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“Later the organisers said that it is a private function and they have the right to invite or not to invite guests.  I fully agree with that.  But after inviting me and including my name in the notice and plaque of the progarmme, Mr Vellappally Nadesan was forced to withdraw  the invitation due to unknown reasons," the Chief Minister said. 
 
All political parties except BJP and media have said that this is an insult to the people of Kerala, he added.  
 
“Usually, I keep away from controversies, and it is surprising that  PMO hasn’t intervened to avoid controversies.  I wish to know what would have been your reaction if such an incident happened in Gujarat while you were the Chief Minister," Mr Chandy said.
 
He concluded by saying that he was sending the letter “to convey the truth and clear any misunderstanding.”
 
The controversy led to the state leadership of the Congress boycotting the function, including Minister-in-waiting for the Prime Minister K P Mohanan, who preferred to remain seated in the helicopter till the Prime Minister returned after the hour-long function. 
 
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Modi attacks Congress for disrupting Parliament, reducing democracy to joke

 
'Defeated' opposition least concerned about development, says Modi
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today targetted the Congress for not allowing Parliament to function through constant disruptions and "reducing democracy to a joke".
 
Addressing a gathering after unveiling the statue of former Kerala Chief Minister R Shankar here, Mr Modi said those people who were defeated and sent home during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections now seemed to thinking that, now that they were sinking, they would take their countrymen also with them.
 
"President Pranab Mukherjee had made certain observations in his recent speech in Kolkata. But those Congress leaders who love to quote the President for weeks and months did not do so this time. The President, in his speech, had stated that Parliament was for the three 'D's--debate, dissent and decision," he said.
 
"However, they want only one 'D', desruption. But for us in the Central government, we want to follow the three 'D's as stated by the President along with a fourth 'D', development," he said.
 
On the second day of a two-day visit to Kerala, Mr. Modi said the Centre would spare no effort for the development of the state.
 
To a long list of demands submitted by Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sanghom (SNDP) general secretary Vellapalli Natesan that included development of Sabari Mala as a national pilgrimage centre, Mr Modi said he was unable to make any announcements as Parliament was in session.
 
"Whether Parliament functions or not, convention demands that no announcements are made outside the House when it is in session," he added.
 
The Prime Minister said there are political leaders who are forgotten barely two hours after their death, there are some who are forgotten during their lifetime itself and there are others who live on in people's memories long after their passing away. One such leader was R Shankar, the third Chief Minister of Kerala, he said.
 
"Shankar had served only two years in the post. But he tried to follow the path set by Sree Narayana Guru for the upliftment of the poor and the downtrodden throughout his life. There are politicians who adopt a 'practical' approach to save themselves from being unseated by compromising on issues. Shankar, however, refused to be one of them. For him, there was no question of compromising on his ideals," he said.
 
He referred to Shankar setting up the Hindu Maha Sangamam along with Nair Service Society (NSS) leader Mannath Padmanabhan. An invitation was extended to Bharatiya Jan Sangh leader Syama Prasad Mukherjee, who, however, was unable to participate in the conference due to illness. But at a later date, when Mukherjee came to Thiruvananthapuram, Shankar came down to meet him.
 
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Mr Modi said that, as Gujarat Chief Minister, he had visited the samadhi of Sree Narayana Guru and was impressed by the work being carried out by the SNDP to propagate his ideals and vision.
 
Meanwhile, miffed at the withdrawal of invitation to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at the unveiling of the statue by the SNDP, organisers of the function, the Congress held a prayer meeting in Thiruvananthapuram.
 
Mr Chandy said Shankar was a prominent Congress leader who laid the foundations of social welfare in the state and it was not right to drag his name into controversy. That was why the Congress had decided to hold the prayer meeting.
 
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president V .M. Sudheeran said Mr Natesan and the Sangh Parivar had turned the statue unveiling into a function disrespecting the memory of Shankar. "How can it be termed as a private function? SNDP and Shankar belong to the people. Mr Natesan was trying to convert the SNDP and SN Trust into his own private limited company," he alleged.
 
State Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said attempts were being made to portray Shankar as an RSS leader.  "Tomorrow, they may make Mahatma Gandhi also into an RSS leader," he remarked.
 
The prayer meeting in front of Shankar's statue in Thiruvananthapuram was organised by the Congress as a mark of protest. Shankar's son Mohan Shankar also participated in it.
 
Later, Mr Modi visited Sivagiri Mutt at Varkala in Kerala. He paid homage to Sri Narayana Guru, first at the Maha Samadhi Mandir and then at Vaidika Mutt.
 
Addressing the gathering there, the Prime Minister said he is fortunate to have received the blessings of Sri Narayana Guru. He said Sri Narayana Guru is his inspiration to work for the poor, deprived and downtrodden sections of society. 
 
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MRVC submits feasibility report on Thiruvananthapuram-Chengannur RRTS project in Kerala

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The Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) has submitted its feasibility study report on the proposed Rapid Rail Transit System (RRTS) from Thiruvananthapuram to Chengannur in Kerala.
 
MRVC had been appointed by the Kerala Government to carry out the feasibility study for the project on the 125 km route.
 
The existing system on this double line railway stretch 25 kv AC traction, broad gauge and multi-aspect colour light signaling (MACLS).  
 
An official press release said the tentative project cost of the proposed RRTS has been put at Rs 3330.78 crores and the funding for it is expected to come from the state government, multilateral funding, the Union Ministry of Urban Development, infrastructure and tax-free bonds, borrowig from Indian Railway Finance Corporation Ltd. and loans from banks and financial institutions.
 
The report said the daily average expense for journeys in the proposed RRTS will be Rs 87.77 compared to Rs 60.54 by bus and Rs 237.91 by car; based on journeys on 25 days a month. The minimum fare recommended is Rs 10 with a price range of Rs 0.80 to Rs 2 per kilometer.
 
The Kerala government has proposed the RRTS to ensure unhinderd movement on the route, which has many state government offices and currently witnesses heavy traffic congestion.
 
There is limited scope of road widening; high incidence of road casualties and inability to introduce additional train services with the existing infrastructure.
 
The survey conducted as part of the feasibility study shows that Thiruvananthapuram has a daily boarding of 43,472 passengers and daily alighting of 43,122 with Kollam 17,069 and 16,017 and Chengannur 2626 and 2210.
 
The present commuter profile includes students, government employees, IT sector professionals and daily wage labourers. The existing factors in favour of RRTS on the Thiruvananthapuram-Chengannur railway route are the 27 stations, including major ones like Thiruvananthapuram Central, Kollam, Kayamkulam and Chengannur; average inter-station distance of 4.65 km; bi-directional peak trips and a line leading to Ernakulam via Alappuzha (single line) and another line leading to Ernakulam via Chengannur.
 
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Further, the report points to the cost effective side of RRTS. It requires only the upgrading of existing railway network and does not recommend construction of a new rail corridor. Besides cost, other benefits of RRTS are that the corridor will develop a continuous urban segment, paving way for the emergence of service industries and development of integrated townships, accelerated regional development and job creation through improved connectivity.
 
The report has also identified certain existing challenges in the form of large number of level crossing gates (78); gradient of 1:100 posing a challenge to automatic signaling system; crowding during peak morning and evening hours; land acquisition/resettlement and rehabilitation; non-uniform platform heights and trespassing, especially at major stations.
 
As part of the project, the report has recommended augmentation of railway stations at Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam and also yard modifications at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochuveli, Kollam and Mavelikara. 
 
It has also recommended raising the level of 20 platforms to the standard height of 840 mm. 
 
The proposed signaling system will be Automatic Block Signaling (ABS) with Train Protection and Warning System for enhanced safety. 
 
The RRTS will have the railway line divided into series of sections or blocks of 1 km and the average speed would be 57 km/hour.
 
The proposed organizational models pertaining to Strategy for Institutional Structure for Creation / Augmentation of Infrastructure are: 1. Implementation of Project by existing Railway PSU 2. Formation of joint special purpose vehicle (SPV) between Government of Kerala and Indian Railways and 3. Implementation of project by Indian Railways through Southern Railway. 
 
And the proposed organizational models relating to Strategy for Institutional Structure for Operations and Maintenance are: 1. Operation and Maintenance by Indian Railways and 2. Formation of Special Purpose Vehicle by Government of Kerala.              
 
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We have to improve our death bowling: Dhoni

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni stressed the importance of death bowling after Chennai Super Kings stole a thriller against Royal Challengers in the Indian Premier League (IPL) here tonight.

"The performance was great, we need to improve our death bowling drastically. We didn't get off to a good start, the pressure was there on the middle order. You can't really afford to play too many dot balls, you have to be there till the 15th or 16th over to cash in," said Dhoni.
 
Man of the Match Ravindra Jadeja, who nowadays is ridiculed as Sir Jadeja on the social media, said he was not trying to play silly shots.
 
"(With reference to Sir) they are just making fun in a lighter way, not a serious way. I was confident about my batting, I scored two triple-hundreds this season. I was not trying to play any silly shots, it was a good wicket," he said.
 
Royal Challengers skipper Virat Kohli said his team lost the match in the last six over.
 
"It was our game to lose in the last six overs. We are relying on big partnership as of now, a few small partnerships will do good for us. RP, T20 is a game like that, I'm still proud of him," he said.
 
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Shooting of Indian fishermen: Italy's Foreign Minister Terzi arrives on two-day visit

File photo of Giulio Maria Terzi
File photo of Giulio Maria Terzi
Italy's Foreign Minister Giulio Maria Terzi di Sant’ Agata arrived here today on a two-day official visit during which he will make efforts to end the impasse between the two countries over the killing of two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala by Italian naval guards on board an Italian merchant vessel Enrica Lexie on February 15.
 
Terzi's visit came after several days of efforts by Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura, who held talks with Indian officials in Delhi and also met Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy during a visit to Kochi to work out a diplomatic solution to end the stalemate.
 
Official sources here indicated that the visit was scheduled much before the shooting incident and was being made at the invitation of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna.
 
An official statement from the Ministry of External Affairs pointed out that this was the first high level visit from Italy since the new government was formed in that country in November 2011.
 
Terzi held a meeting with Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma this morning and was due to interact with CEOs of Indian companies later before going in for a meeting with Krishna. The two Ministers are slated to have a joint interaction with the media after their talks, which will cover bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.
 
The two Indian fishermen, identified as Ajesh Binki, 25, from Tamil Nadu and Gelestine, 45, from Kerala were allegedly shot dead by the Italian naval guards on the vessel off the coast of Kerala after mistaking them for pirates.
 
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While the Kerala police is insisting that the two arrested marines should be tried under Indian laws because the incident happened in Indian jurisdiction, Italy has been saying that the incident happened in international waters and that the two Italian men could not be proceeded against in India.
 
The two marines, Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, have been charged with murder and are currently in police custody. Last week, a court in Kochi allowed Italian officials to remain present during a ballistic examination of the weapons allegedly used in the shooting.
 
Soon after the incident, Krishna had told Terzi on the telephone that the law should be allowed to take its course in the matter.
 
He made it clear to the Italian minister that the personnel on board Enrica Lexie, particularly the captain of the ship and the two concerned men involved in the shooting, should fully cooperate with the Indian investigating authorities. He hoped the issue would be satisfactorily resolved.
 
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Shooting of Indian fishermen: Italian Foreign Minister to visit India on Feb 28-29

File photo of Giulio Maria Terzi
File photo of Giulio Maria Terzi

Italy's Foreign Minister Giulio Maria Terzi di Sant’ Agata will arrive here on February 28 on a two-day official visit during which he will make efforts to end the impasse between the two countries over the killing of two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala by Italian naval guards on board an Italian merchant vessel Enrica Lexie on February 15.

Terzi's visit will come after several days of efforts by Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura, who held talks with Indian officials in Delhi and also met Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy during a visit to Kochi to work out a diplomatic solution to end the stalemate.
 
Official sources here indicated that the visit was scheduled much before the shooting incident and was being made at the invitation of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna.
 
An official statement from the Ministry of External Affairs pointed out that this would be the first high level visit from Italy since the new government was formed in that country in November 2011.
 
During his stay in New Delhi, Terzi will hold talks with Krishna on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.
 
The two Indian fishermen, identified as Ajesh Binki, 25, from Tamil Nadu and Gelestine, 45, from Kerala were allegedly shot dead by the Italian naval guards on the vessel off the coast of Kerala after mistaking them for pirates.
 
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While the Kerala police is insisting that the two arrested marines should be tried under Indian laws because the incident happened in Indian jurisdiction, Italy has been saying that the incident happened in international waters and that the two Italian men could not be proceeded against in India.
 
The two marines, Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, have been charged with murder and are currently in police custody. Last week, a court in Kochi allowed Italian officials to remain present during a ballistic examination of the weapons allegedly used in the shooting. The search on the ship started yesterday and is expected to be completed in the next two days.
 
Soon after the incident, Krishna had told Terzi on the telephone that the law should be allowed to take its course in the matter.
 
He made it clear to the Italian minister that the personnel on board Enrica Lexie, particularly the captain of the ship and the two concerned men involved in the shooting, should fully cooperate with the Indian investigating authorities. He hoped the issue would be satisfactorily resolved.
 
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