Five Kerala priests suspended over allegations of sexual exploitation of a woman

Five priests of the Kottayam-headquartered Malankara Orthodox Church have been suspended over allegations of sexually exploiting a woman from the same church, an official said.
Speaking to IANS, Secretary of the Church Biju Oommen said as soon as they received a complaint from the husband of the victim, they took immediate action.
"The Church has acted in the utmost responsible manner ... Today as things stand, the five are suspects. A commission has been appointed to probe the episode. 
"The probe is on and when the report comes, the Church will again act on it," said Oommen.
The husband has said that one of the priests, who first exploited his wife, was blackmailing her. When she sought help on this from another priest, he, too, threatened her and shared her contact with another fellow priest and in the end she came under the duress from at least five priests.
The Orthodox Church was shocked as the episode was criticized heavily on social media, which dented its image.
"We are certainly worried about the huge publicity that the incident has generated and we suspect that there are vested interests who are out to malign our Church in the social media," added Oommen.
The victim has not yet filed a police complaint.
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Missing Messi fan's body found in Kerala river

Two days after he went missing after Croatia whipped Argentina, the body of a 30-year-old Lionel Messi fan was found floating in Meenachil river near Kottayam town in Kerala.
According to police, a group of people who had come to take a bath in the river on Sunday found the body of Binu Alex. Alex's relatives identified the body.
The body apparently floated some 30 km downstream from his house at Arumannoor.
Alex, a diehard Messi fan, was devastated after Argentina was thrashed by Croatia on June 21 0-3.
He was last seen by his mother watching the match on TV. She told him to go to bed as he had to go to work the next day.
But on Friday, his mother found the kitchen door wide open and Alex was missing. 
A suicide note was recovered from the house in which Alex wrote: "I have no more interest in this world. I am proceeding towards death and none is responsible."
A police dog traced Alex's final journey to the river that was in spate.
Alex was unmarried and worked as an accountant in a private company here. 
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It's best that Kurien approaches High Command: Chandy

Veteran Congress leader P.J. Kurien should approach the party High Command over why he was not re-nominated to the Rajya Sabha, former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said on Sunday.
Addressing reporters at his hometown, Chandy said the general norm for a Congress worker or leader if he has any grouse was to approach the High Command.
"I heard him saying he will give a complaint against me to the High Command. That's the best way. Once he gives the complaint, he will get the right answer to it," Chandy said. 
"Kurien also mentioned that I am the main person behind he not getting a re-nomination. I think Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and state party president M.M. Hassan have given a reply to it (they said it was a collective decision). 
"I also heard him say that it was I who asked the young party legislators to demand that he should not seek re-election. Some of these legislators have already responded to that," he added.
For the past three days, Kurien has been breathing fire at Chandy, calling him the sole person responsible for the gifting of a Rajya Sabha seat which the Congress would have won to estranged former ally, Kerala Congress ( Mani).
Since then, party leaders like K.V. Thomas, K. Muraleedharan and A.K. Sudhakaran have urged that in the larger interests of the party, better sense should prevail and everyone in the Congress should remain united.
Senior party leader Pandalam Sudhakaran on Sunday urged former Chief Minister and former Defence Minister A.K. Antony to break his silence on the issue.
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Mani's son Jose to contest Rajya Sabha polls

After getting a windfall in the form of a Rajya Sabha seat, Kerala Congress-Mani on Friday night named party supremo K.M. Mani's son Jose K. Mani, the sitting Kottayam Lok Sabha member, as its candidate.
"Our party leadership that met here on Friday night has decided to nominate Jose K.Mani to the Rajya Sabha. The party felt that he was the most suitable candidate and hence his name was an unanimous choice," P.J. Joseph, the KC-M's second in command told the media after the meeting.
KC-M, after being an ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) for over four decades, in 2016 walked out of the grouping but returned on Friday, after the top state Congress leadership with the concurrence of the party high command, decided to hand the Rajya Sabha seat to Mani's party, as a "gift" for his return.
The Congress decided to sacrifice sitting Rajya Sabha member and Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien, who was expecting to get a fourth successive term.
While earlier in the day, Mani ruled himself out for the seat, he also said that his "wish" is that his son Jose also does not get nominated.
But after a late night meeting of the top KC-M leadership at Mani's residence near here, the decision was made to field Jose for the Rajya Sabha seat.
Of the three seats that fall vacant later this month, the ruling Left alliance will win two and the Congress-led UDF one.
Jose is a two-time Lok Sabha member, though losing in his debut electoral contest in 2004.
Long time foe of Mani, veteran legislator P.C. George said this is the most shameful episode witnessed in Kerala politics as everyone knows that Jose stands no chance of winning his sitting Lok Sabha seat next year and hence Mani felt that the Rajya Sabha would be the best bet for his son.
"Since the law allows six months time for an elected member to take oath, Jose will wait for that time and after that, there will not be any time for conducting a by-election to the Kottayam seat that he vacates," he claimed.
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Man, son held in Kerala 'honour killing' case

Kerala Police on Tuesday said the absconding father and brother of 20-year-old Neenu Chacko were arrested for the brutal murder of her 24-year-old husband Kevin Joseph.
Neenu's father Chacko John and her brother Shanu Chacko, the alleged masterminds of the crime, were arrested in Kannur and would be taken to Kottayam by police. Three persons were arrested late Monday night. 
Kevin's body bearing torture marks was found on Monday at a dam site near Kollam and the preliminary autopsy report suggested he could have been forcibly drowned.
Since Kevin belonged to a family of converted Christians whereas Neenu's father is a Christian and her mother a Muslim, Neenu's family was strongly opposed to the marriage which was registered on May 24. 
Fearing violence by her family, Kevin had dropped Neenu at a women's hostel in Kottayam and himself went to a relative's house. 
A group of persons forcibly whisked away Kevin early on Sunday. After Neenu failed to get his response to her repeated calls, she approached police at Kottayam but was shooed away on the pretext of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's visit that was to end late Sunday night.
A huge crowd gathered at the funeral of Kevin on Tuesday evening in his parish here, where Neenu paid her last respects to her husband of just five days.
Tempers ran high at the sombre event as people expressed anger against Vijayan and the police for its inaction.
Leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala told the media in the state capital on Tuesday that police was the main culprit in the murder case.
"It has now come to light that the killers of Kevin had good relations with police. Vijayan has turned out to be an abject failure as police functioning has gone haywire. Vijayan cannot wash his hands of the matter as he is equally responsible too," the Congress leader said.
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Kerala CM apologises to family of accident victim who died without receiving medical aid

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today tendered an apology on behalf of the State and its people to the family of Murugan, a native of Tamil Nadu, who met with a road accident and died without receiving proper medical treatment after being denied trauma care by some hosptals in the State on Monday night.
"We join them in their grief. The Government will take necessary measures to ensure that such happenings are not repeated," he said.
"The shameful incident is a serious blot on Kerala. Such incidents should not be repeated," he said in the legislative assembly today, adding that, if required, new legislation could be considered for the purpose.
Murugan, 46, a native of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, had suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident near Chathannoor in Kollam district late in the night of August 6. He battled for his life for nearly seven hours in an ambulance as it drove from hospital to hospital in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts before finally breathing his last in the vehicle.
The police have registered a case of medical negligence against some of the hospitals involved, media reports said.

Kerala: Spurned youth sets girl, self ablaze; both die of burns

Jilted youth sets girl ablaze, kills self in Kerala
A young man who was spurned by a girl set her and himself ablaze and both succumbed to burn injuries later in an incident at the School of Medical Education (SME), affiliated to the Mahatma Gandhi University, at Kottayam in Kerala yesterday.
The youth was identified as Adarsh, 25, who was a student of the 2009 batch of the Bachelor of Physiotherapy programme at the SME and hailed from Puthenthura near Neendakara in the adjoining district of Kollam.
The girl was identified as Lakshmi (21), who was a student of the 2013 batch of the same course. She belonged to Chingoli near Haripad in the nearby district of Alappuzha.
College officials told journalists that Adarsh, who had to appear for a supplementary examination yesterday, came into the girl's classroom during the break and asked to speak to her alone, which she refused. He went away but returned a little later with a can of petrol, with which he doused her.
The girl ran out of the room, but the youth chased her, caught her and hugged her and warned her fellow students against approaching them and trying to save her. He then set himself and the girl ablaze using a cigarrette lighter he was carrying.
Both of them were rushed to the Government Medical College Hospital here. Even as doctors started treating them, their depositions were taken by the police in the presence of a magistrate. Doctors said Adarsh had suffered 75% burns and the Lakshmi 60% burns. Both were declared dead by late evening yesterday.
Two of the girl's classmates, who tried to save them, also suffered minor burn injuries, the sources said.

A. Jayathilak to hold additional charge of post of Chairman, Rubber Board

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved entrustment of additional charge of the post of Chairman, Rubber Board to Mr A. Jayathilak, Chairman, Spices Board.
Mr Jayathilak is an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1991 batch (Kerala cadre).
The arrangement will be for a period of three months from 28.02.2015 to 27.05.2015 or till the appointment of regular Chairman in the Rubber Board or until further orders, whichever event takes place the earliest, an official press release said.

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Kerala to take steps to prevent spread of bird flu

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today convened a high-level meeting which decided to take immediate and effective steps to prevent the spread of bird flu in the state.
Ducks and chickens in Purakad, Thalavadi, Kainakiri (Alappuzha) and Aimanam ( Kottayam), where bird flu has been confirmed, will be culled, an official press release said.
The government will pay a compensation of Rs 75 for ducks and chickens below 2 months in age and Rs 150 for others to farmers, it said.
The sale of meat (chicken and duck) and eggs will be banned in places within a 10 km radius where bird flu has been detected, it said.
The release said steps would be taken to stop the outflow of meat from these places.
The steps taken will be reviewed at high-level meetings. At Alappuzha, a meeting of Ministers Ramesh Chennithala, V S Sivakumar, K P Mohanan and  senior officials will be convened. At Pathanamthitta and Kottayam, meetings will be convened by Ministers Adoor Prakash and Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, respectively.
Those who are entrusted with the task of killing the birds would be given special uniform, masks, spectacles and vaccines, the release said.
Mr Chandy has instructed that these articles should be made available without shortage. Experts from National Centre for Disease Control will visit Kerala to take stock of the situation.
The state government also decided to create awareness among people not to consume meat of the birds affected with the disease.
Meanwhile, the Centre has asked the Kerala government to take immediate steps in this regard.
The Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, Union Ministry of Agriculture on receipt of reports about the mortality of the birds (ducks) and the samples having been found positive for Avian Influenza in RT-PCR and Real time RT-PCR for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5 AIV, has asked the state government to take steps to control and contain the disease and submit reports in this regard to the Centre.
There is no report of any unusual sickness or mortality among birds from any other part of the country, an official press release said in Delhi.
The release said that, as per the report received from Kerala, there are 228807 birds in 1 km radius of the epicentres in district Alappuzha and 13,000 birds in 1 km radius of epicentre in district Kottayam. There are 1759123 birds in surveillance zone (2-10 kms area) in district Alappuzha and 240696 birds in surveillance zone of district Kottayam. 
The mortality till date is 15,500 birds, the release added.

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Kerala wins top UNWTO award for its "responsible tourism" project in Kumarakom

A view of Kumarakom, where Kerala Tourism has implemented its award-winning
A view of Kumarakom, where Kerala Tourism has implemented its award-winning "Responsible Tourism" project.
Kerala Tourism won the coveted United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance at the International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR) in Madrid, Spain on Wednesday.
The UNWTO Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism are the flagship awards for the global tourism sector, recognizing knowledge creation, dissemination and innovative applications. 
This is the first time that India has won this recognition, which is given to government bodies for shaping global tourism policies through innovative initiatives. It is also the biggest international recognition so far for Kerala Tourism.
Kerala Tourism was chosen for the award for its path-breaking ‘Responsible Tourism’ project in Kumarakom, which has successfully linked the local community with the hospitality industry and government departments, thereby creating a model for empowerment and development of the people in the area while sustaining eco-friendly tourism.
The Kumarakom initiative had earlier won the National Award for Best Rural Tourism Project in March last year and also the PATA Grand Award for Environment.
"Kerala, a popular ecotourism destination, portrays responsible and sustainable tourism in an exceptional manner," said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai at the awards ceremony.  “This recognition conferred upon the state is a great step towards creating a better understanding among other destinations of the principles we stand for,” he added, wishing Kerala Tourism “continued success”.
CNN’s Richard Quest was conferred the 2013 UNWTO Award for Lifetime Achievement, in recognition of his work as a business journalist reporting on the tourism industry.
Instituted in 2003 by UNWTO, the United Nations agency for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, the UNWTO Awards showcase innovation and application of knowledge in tourism with the aim of effecting governance and society. The awarded projects are in line with the UNWTO’s Code of Ethics for Tourism and standards set in the UN Millennium Development Goals.
UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation was given in four categories --- Publlic Policy and Governance, Enterprises, NGOs, and Research and Technology.  Two other categories – UNWTO Ulysses Prize and UNWTO Award for Lifetime Achievement recognize individual contributions.
Kerala Tourism faced tough competition from other international contenders in the Public Policy and Governance category.
 “We are humbled by the UNWTO’s decision to confer this highest international award on our state,” said Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar. “It is a recognition of our continuing efforts to sustain global tourism, which can progress only if we consider the local community as our biggest partner,” he said.
 “By building healthy private-public partnerships at the local level with the active involvement of the local community, we can create jobs locally, improve the lives of members of the local community and preserve its culture and ethos through sustainable tourism,” Mrr Anilkumar said.
Launched in 2008, the Kerala Tourism’s ‘Responsible Tourism’ initiative in Kumarakom involves the Gram Panchayat, Kudumbashree, District Tourism Promotion Council and local hospitality industry besides the government departments of agriculture and health, to achieve sustainable tourism by creating job opportunities and practicing eco-tourism objectives.
 “We are delighted that Kumarakom has become a model for sustainable tourism to the world,” said Kerala Tourism Secretary Suman Billa, who received the Ulysses Prize at a glittering awards ceremony. “Our ‘Responsible Tourism’ model shows that the future of tourism lies in initiatives at the grassroots level,” he added.
 "The UNWTO award also bestows upon us the added responsibility of working even harder in the future by achieving higher standards in practicing tourism," Mr Billa said.
 “The Kumarakom project has become successful because of the hard work by all its partners, from the local community to local hospitality organizations and local government departments to the state tourism department staff, and above all the support of our esteemed travellers from around the world,” said Kerala Tourism Director S Harikishore. 
The UNWTO has 156 countries as its member-states besides 6 associate members and over 400 affiliate members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.

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Oommen Chandy taken to Kottayam hospital after complaining of uneasiness

File photo of Oommen Chandy.
File photo of Oommen Chandy.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was today admitted to the Medical College Hospital at Kottayam after complaining of some uneasiness.
Official sources said Mr Chandy, 70, who was in Kottayam for some official engagements, would remain under observation in the hospital for the day.
Sources in his family said there was no cause for concern and that he might be discharged this evening.
All of Mr Chandy's official engagements for today had been cancelled after doctors advised him complete rest for the day, his office added.

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Prince Charles celebrates 65th birthday in ‘God’s Own Country’

Prince Charles, who is currently on a visit to India along with his wife Camilla, celebrated his 65th birthday today in Kerala, known popularly as "God's Own Country" for its breathtaking natural beauty.
The celebrations began in the backdrop of the majestic Vembanad Lake in Kumarakom, where the heir to the British throne and the Duchess of Cornwall were joined by Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his family for the cake cutting ceremony.
Later, the royal couple, who arrived in Kerala three days ago, paid a visit to the 16th century Jewish synagogue, the oldest in the whole of the Commonwealth, located in the heritage town of Mattancherry near Fort Kochi. 
They also strolled through the narrow lanes of the old Jewish town lined with warehouses built for a flourishing spice trade centuries ago, visibly savouring every moment of the experience at the breathtaking waterfront of Fort Kochi. 
Prince Charles and Camilla also took a tour of the Mattancherry Palace Museum, an imposing building blending traditional oriental and European architecture built by the Portuguese in the same 16th century as the synagogue, as a gift for the then king of Kochi and home to some of the best known works of Hindu temple art in the country today. 
The Prince of Wales was on an official visit to Kerala on the last leg of a nine-day tour of India.
“It is a matter of honour for Kerala that the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall chose the state to celebrate his 65th birthday,” said Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar.
 “We are truly delighted that the royal couple enjoyed their stay in our state and experienced the many facets of the serene beauty and diverse cultural life of Kerala,” he said.
On their first day in Kerala on November 11, Prince Charles and Camilla attended a Kathakali performance and witnessed a Kalaripayattu show in Kochi. 
The Prince also went to the Vazhachal Forest near Chalakudy, about 70 km from Kochi the next day, to see the famous Athirapally waterfalls, described as India’s Niagara. Walking in the rains carrying an umbrella, he met representatives of a tribal colony situated inside the Vazhachal forest and inquired from them about their customs and traditions. 
“The fact that Prince Charles and his wife spent his birthday in Kerala is an endorsement of the international status of the state among the world’s top destinations for a unique holiday experience,” said Kerala Tourism Secretary Suman Billa. 
Prince Charles and Camilla had chosen New Zealand’s capital Wellington, another top tourist destination in the world, for celebrating his 64th birthday last year. 
“The visit by the British royal couple will leave a lasting effect on the state’s ever growing international reputation among both domestic and international travellers,” said Kerala Tourism Director S Harikishore.
Britain is Kerala’s biggest tourism market outside India, accounting for nearly 150,000 arrivals last year. British travellers also form a sizeable chunk of repeat visitors to the state.
At the just-concluded World Travel Market in London, the world’s leading tourism trade fair, the Lonely Planet international travel magazine named Kerala fourth among the 10 best global destinations to go with the family for a holiday in 2014.
During their first-ever visit to Kerala, Prince Charles and his wife carefully mixed their vacation, choosing the natural environs of the majestic backwaters and rain forests along with the state’s cultural symbols of Kathakali and Kalaripayattu.
At the Kathakali performance at the Cochin Cultural Centre, he was impressed by the expressive portrayal of ‘Narakasura Vadham’ or ‘Slaying of Narakasura’, the demon king, considered one of the most dramatic performances in Kathakali and stayed on to talk to the artistes. 
According to the Kathakali artistes, the Prince was so intrigued by the size and scale of their costumes that at one point during the conversation he asked how anyone could wear such a large headgear. He also told them that he wanted to return to witness a longer Kathakali performance.
Prince Charles also visited the Cochin Shipyard and met Shri Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the present head of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore, at the Taj Malabar Hotel in Kochi.

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14 killed as heavy, incessant rains lash Kerala

At least 14 people were killed in different parts of Kerala, including eleven in landslides in Idukki district, as heavy incessant rains lashed several parts of the state on Monday.
At least 14 people were killed in different parts of Kerala, including eleven in landslides in Idukki district, as heavy incessant rains lashed several parts of the state today.
In Idukki, at least three people were killed and two others suffered injuries in a major landslide that occurred at Cheeyappara near Adimali, near the famed tourist destination of Munnar, this morning, official sources said.
As heavy rains continued to lash the region, several vehicles had been stopped on the road at Cheeyappara, where a minor landslide had occurred during the night and efforts were being made to clear the route.
As the people were waiting for the road to be cleared, another huge landslide occurred suddenly around 0930 hours today, burying several people and vehicles under more than 30 feet of mud and boulders, along a 100-feet stretch, police officials told NetIndian from the scene of the tragedy.
They said there was no immediate clarity on the number of people or vehicles trapped below the tonnes of mud, which came crashing from the hills on one side and swept everything in its way to the ravine below the road on the other side.
The spot was on the way between Adimali and Neriyamangalam, the sources said.
They said three bodies had been removed from the mud and rubble and two people had been rushed to the Adimaly taluka hospital.
Unofficial reports, which could not be confirmed immediately, said five people, including a child, had died in the incident.
Earth-movers have been deployed to help in the rescue operations. Fire brigade and police personnel rushed to the scene and trying to extricate those believed to be trapped under the mud.
Heavy rains forced the authorities to stop the rescue operations for some time.
Several parts of Kerala have been experiencing continuous rains for the past two months. 
Several minor landslides have reported in different parts of Idukki since yesterday, leaving at least eight people dead, the sources said.
Schools and colleges in many parts of the district were closed today as a precautionary measure.
The Kerala Government has sanctioned an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of those killed in today's incident.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government had sought the help of the Army in the rescue operations.
He told journalists in Thiruvananthapuram that the state government had also requested the Central government to rush teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) based at Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu.
The Indian Army has despatched three columns to Idukki as well as to Thrissur and Ernakulam districts, which have been hit by floods in many areas, to aid the civil administration.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence here said in New Delhi that this had been done at the request of the government of Kerala following the heavy and incessant rains in many parts of the state in the past few days.
"Two columns are moving from Thriuvananthapuram, one each to Idukki and Ernakulam. One column has been launched from Coimbatore for Thrissur. These columns will be effective in 6-7 hours," the spokesman said.
"In addition, two engineer columns from Bangalore are being airlifted to Kochi for rescue operations," he added.
State Ministers Aryadam Muhammad and  Adoor Prakash are in  Idukki to oversee the rescue operations.
Mr Chandy said the rescue operations were on in full swing and the necessary manpower and JCBs have been made available to the affected areas. Around 200 kms of road have been blocked in Idukki district, he said.
The Chief Minister has requested tourists to not visit the hill stations till the weather improves.
He said the water level at Mulaperiyar dam has reached 133 ft, close to its full capacity, but there was no cause for panic.
He said the Tamil Nadu government would be requested to take maximum amount of water, so that excess water that would drain into Periyar River from the dam can be stopped.
He said teams of doctors and para-medical personnel were camping at the scene of the tragedy and the rescue operations had gained momentum.
The Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, today advised visitors to the state to avoid travel to Munnar and other destinations in the hills of Idukki district for the next few days.
"The department is continuously monitoring the weather and travel conditions in the area and will issue regular updates. Tourists are advised to contact the nearest tourism information centre before embarking on any essential travel to hill stations in Idukki district," the advisory said.
For any assistance and information, tourists can call the 24-hour emergency response number: 1800-425-4747, the release added.
Meanwhile, operations at the Kochi airport at Nedumbassery near here were closed today till tomorrow afternoon due to flooding of the runways.
An official at the airport told NetIndian that the operations would remain closed till 1520 hours tomorrow.
He said all flights till 1000 hours had operated this morning before the waterlogging on the runway forced the management to initially close the operations till 1520 hours today.
After a review of the situation at around 1300 hours, the authorities decided to shut down operations till 1520 hours tomorrow.
About 120 flights land and take off from Kochi every day.
"Due to flooding, airport operations closed till 15:20 hours on 06/08/2013. 3. Passengers are requested to contact airlines for rebooking," a brief announcement on the airport's website said.
Earlier in the day, some flights were diverted to other cities such as Chennai this morning.
Official sources said two teams of the National Disaster Management team, comprising 40 members each, are reaching Idukki by road. They are carrying heavy equipment for rescue operations.
They said landslides had occured at 18 places in Idukki district. As many as 92 relief camps have been opened and around 20,000 persons have been moved to these camps.
Mr Chandy said Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts were the worst affected by the rains, the heaviest in more than two decades.
He said a special meeting of the State Cabinet had been convened tomorrow afternoon to discuss the issue.

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Kumarakom to host international conference on responsible tourism

Union Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi will inaugurate an international conference being organized in Kumarakom, Kottayam to review the progress made by Kerala in impementing Responsible Tourism (RT) practices and to help develop a roadmap for the future.
Organised by the State Department of Tourism in association with RT School@KITTS, the conference will be hosted by the Backwater Ripples resort at Kumarakom from June 27-29.
RT is centred on local community engagement with a strong commitment to preserving the socio-cultural identity and the environment at destinations. Initiated in 1990s, RT is today widely accepted as an effective tool for ensuring sustainable development in tourism.

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.

Mukherjee says media's conduct should be above board

President Pranab Mukherjee speaking at the inauguration of the 125th annivrsary celebrations of Malayalam newspaper Malayala Manorama, in Kottayam, Kerala on March 16, 2013. Kerala Governor H. R. Bhardwaj and Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal are also seen.
President Pranab Mukherjee speaking at the inauguration of the 125th annivrsary celebrations of Malayalam newspaper Malayala Manorama, in Kottayam, Kerala on March 16, 2013. Kerala Governor H. R. Bhardwaj and Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal are also seen.
President Pranab Mukherjee today said the media had an important role to play in cleansing public life but, to undertake this role, its conduct should be above board.
"It must be always kept in mind that ends and means are both important. The highest standards of ethics must be maintained at all times," he said in his inaugural address at the 125th anniversary celebrations of Malayalam newspaper Malayala Manorama here.
"Sensationalism should never become a substitute for objective assessment and truthful reporting. Gossip and speculation should not replace hard facts. Every effort should be made to ensure that political or commercial interests are not passed off as legitimate and independent opinion," he said.
Mr Mukherjee said integrity and independence were two sides of the same coin and both must be equally important for the media and for everyone.
"There should be recognition that the media is accountable to its readers and viewers at large and through them to the entire nation," he said.
He said the Malayala Manorama stood as an outstanding example of quality and principled journalism. 
"I am confident that the present leadership and the whole family of Malayala Manorama will continue to discharge this sacred trust in letter and spirit," he said.
Mr Mukherjee spoke about the many achievements of the Manorama over the past 125 years, during which it chronicled India's amazing journey and was also an active participant in the process of bringing significant change in the country.
He noted that the newspaper was now being published from 18 centres, including two abroad, and had a circulation of 21.29 lakhs with around 97.52 lakh readers.
The President said Kerala had been a pioneer and a path-breaker in many fields, with near universal literacy and enrolment in schools. "Fertility rate of its people has declined below replacement level. The overall sex ratio is in favour of women and women enjoy higher life expectancy than men. Infant and maternal morality is low," he said.
He said the Manorama had directly contributed to the extraordinary success of the state in the field of human development by spreading literacy, inculcating a passion for reading and launching various social movements under its auspices.
"In fact, the social commitment and vision of Malayala Manorama is evident from the fact that its first editorial was on the demand for education of ‘Pulayas’, a community of untouchables, who were not allowed to walk on public roads in those days. Manorama has always stood for the people and with the people in the battle against injustice and for freedom and equality," he said.
"It is praiseworthy that in 45 days Manorama readers contributed Rs. 2.39 crores for rebuilding of Banegaon village in Latur after the earthquake. I believe this is the largest collection for relief work initiated by a newspaper in India. This shows that Manorama's care for the society is not limited to Kerala alone but extends to whole of India," he said.
Mr Mukherjee said the Malayalam language owes a great deal to the crusading zeal of Malayala Manorama. Along with other newspapers, the Manorama led the way in developing a common script for printing and dissemination of the language. The newspaper and its distinguished sister publication, Bhashaposhini have been a nursery for great thinkers and poets of Kerala, he said.
The President said that freedom of expression in India was guaranteed by the Constitution and the influence, credibility and quality of the media is well recognized. 
"However, freedom of expression can not be guaranteed only by legal rights and enactment. A conducive atmosphere must be created for the purpose and this can be done if we remember Gurudev Ravindranath Tagore’s words 'where knowledge is free' and 'where words come out from the depths of truth'," he said.
Mr Mukherjee said that, while both the Manorama and the people of Kerala had much to be proud about, there was little room for complacency.
"Society in Kerala continues to face a number of challenges. There is need for industrialization and rapid creation of jobs. Kerala’s infrastructure requires to be significantly improved. The remittance revenue from non-resident Keralites has to be channelized into long term development activities. The public need to be educated on how to avoid life style diseases like diabetes, mental illness, depression etc. Adequate provision needs to be made for the care of the elderly, whose numbers are rapidly growing. Issues of urbanization such as waste management and disposal need to be addressed with a sense of urgency. Atrocities against women needs to be tackled with a stern hand," he said.
He said there was need to find innovative solutions and new methods of mobilizing society for collective welfare as Kerala prepares to address these new challenges.

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Mukherjee to visit Kerala on Saturday

President Pranab Mukherjee will pay a day's visit to Kerala tomorrow, during which he will inaugurate the golden jubilee celebrations of the T D Medical College at Alappuzha.

Mr Mukherjee will also attend the quasi-centennial celebrations of leading Malayalam newspaper Malayala Manorama at Kottayam, an official press release added.

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Five accused sentenced to 10 years' RI in Killiroor sex scandal case in Kerala

Five accused persons were today sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for five years by the Special Judge for CBI Cases, Thiruvananthapuram in the sensational Killiroor sex scandal case, involving the gang rape of a minor girl, which had rocked Kerala in 2004.
The five were also asked to pay fines ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 each. The total fine amount of Rs 1 lakh will be given to the parents of the victim for the welfare of her minor child.
A press release from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) here today identified the five as Praveen; Manoj; Latha Nair; Binu @ Kochumon and Prasanth.
The release said the CBI had taken over the investigation of the case on the request of the Kerala Government and registered a case on January 27, 2005 against accused Omanakutty, Praveen; Manoj and Latha Nair.

2 die in family suicide pact in Kerala

A man and his daughter died while his wife and younger child were battling for life when the four-member family tried to commit suicide by consuming poison at Chengalam here today.

The deceased were identified as Rajanish (32) and daughter Kalyani (5). The seriously injured - Priya (28) and their two-year-old child - were admitted to medical college hospital, police said.

Financial problems were said to be the reason behind the suicide pact, police added.


Protesting atop a coconut tree

Rajendran, a 60- year- old supporter of social activist Anna Hazare, sitting on a fast atop a coconut tree at Illickel in Kottayam, Kerala, on August 23, 2011 to express solidarity with the Gandhian's agitation against corruption. UNI PHOTO
Rajendran, a 60- year- old  supporter of social activist Anna Hazare, sitting on a fast atop a coconut tree at Illickel in Kottayam, Kerala, on August 23, 2011 to express solidarity with the Gandhian's agitation against corruption. UNI PHOTO
Rajendran, a 60- year- old supporter of social activist Anna Hazare, sitting on a fast atop a coconut tree at Illickel in Kottayam, Kerala, on August 23, 2011 to express solidarity with the Gandhian's agitation against corruption. UNI PHOTO

Man accused of 1992 murder of Indian family in Dubai sentenced to death

A CBI court in Ahmedabad has convicted Ravjibhai Manubhai Pawar of the murder of his Indian employer and four other members of his family in Dubai in 1992 and sentenced him to death.

A press release from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said that its investigations had shown that Pawar, while working as a domestic servant in Dubai, had kileld Mr Ramesh K Sagar and four others of Mr Sagar's family on January 4, 1992.

He was also accused of rape and of stealing household articles, including clothes, ornaments and cash.

Pawar feld from Dubai on January 5 and came to India. On the basis of an Interpol alert, he was nabbed on January 10 by the Gujarat police and a first information report (FIR)was registered.

Since the accused was an Indian national and the offence took place outside India, the case was entrusted to the CBI. The Dubai Police had also registered an FIR and collected evidence, which was used by the CBI during investigation and trial of the case, the release said.

The chargesheet was filed on January 23, 1992 in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Chikhli. The trial court found him guilty and convicted him.

The case was registered by the CBI, Ahmedabad (now Gandhinagar) Branch on April 27, 1992 on the basis of the request and consent of the Government of Gujarat for futher investigation of the case filed at the Chikhli Police Station, the release added.


Rs 15 crore to set up hospital in Wayanad: Kerala CM

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said here today that the State Cabinet had sanctioned Rs 15 crore to acquire 200 acres of land in Wayanad to set up a branch of the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute For Medical Science and Technology.

Talking to mediapersons, the Chief Minister said the Cabinet had also decided to give two acres from the land bank in Purakkad village of Ambalapuzha taluk in Alappuzha district to set up a Central Warehousing Corporation godown with a capacity of 4000 MT.

Union Food Minister K V Thomas had already agreed to the proposal to construct the godown to store the paddy procured from Kuttanad if land was provided by the State Government, he said.

Mr Chandy pointed out that there was no hospital with modern facilities in Wayanad district now and people had to travel three hours to reach Kozhikode Medical College to get better treatment.


Assembly polls: PM arrives in Kerala to campaign for UDF candidates

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in the city today for a day's visit to Kerala for campaigning for candidates of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) candidates in the Assembly elections in the state.

During his day-long visit, he will address two public meetings at Kottayam and Kollam, and then he leave for Delhi from Thiruvananthapuram.

The Prime Minister, who arrived at the naval airstrip here, was due to leave for Kottayam by helicopter, where he will address an election meeting at Nehru Stadium before flying to Kollam.


Former Congress leader M A John passes away in Kerala

Former Congress leader M A John died after a cardiac arrest here today.

He was 75. He is survived by his wife and a daughter. The date of the funeral will be announced later after the arrival of his wife and daughter from the United States.

Several leaders, including Union Ministers A K Antony and Vayalar Ravi and Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy expressed grief over the demise of Mr John.

Mr John entered politics as a student and was one of the founder leaders of KSU, the students’ wing of the Congress party. He was the founder leader of DIC. He was not active in politics for some time.


India, Austria to set up second village museum at Mannanam in Kerala

Film director Shaji N Karun and National Museum Institute Vice-Chancellor C V Ananda Bose inaugurating an exhibition of photographs about the cultural heritage of Nako village in the Western Himalayas, at the National Museum, New Delhi, on February 19, 2011.
Film director Shaji N Karun and National Museum Institute Vice-Chancellor C V Ananda Bose inaugurating an exhibition of photographs about the cultural heritage of Nako village in the Western Himalayas, at the National Museum, New Delhi, on February 19, 2011.

The National Museum Institute (NMI) here and the Austrian Cultural Forum will jointly develop a "village museum" at Mannanam in Kottayam district of Kerala as part of an ongoing collaboration programme and on the lines of a similar museum set up by them at Nako in the Western Himalayas.

This was disclosed by National Museum Institute (NMI) Vice-Chancellor C V Ananda Bose, after jointly inaugurating a photo exhibition on Nako, along with renowned film maker Shaji N Karun, here on Saturday evening.

Dr Bose, who is also the Administrator of the National Museum, said India and Austria would sign another memorandum of understanding to identify further areas for collaborative research and cultural relationship.

Mannanam has been identified as the place for the next village museum putting together the cultural contributions, practices, and artefacts of this culturally-rich village.

As part of the continuing collaboration, the NMI and the Austrian Cultural Forum held a two-day round-table conference, attended by experts from both the sides. Apart from this, national award winning director Shaji also released a book "Heritage Conservation and Research in Indi- 60 Years of Indo-Austrian Collaboration," edited by Gabriela Krist and Tatjana Bayerová.

The exhibition "Nako-the Living Cultural Heritage in Western Himalayas", compiling photos taken by Stefen Olah who is teaching photography in the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria, was jointly opened by Shaji and Dr. Bose. It will be open till March 20.

At the round-table, both sides agreed to continue the cultural cooperation by promoting common research in topics like museology, doctoral studies in museums, the documentation of (traditional) knowledge, and displaying the process instead of results. Both the sides will identify working groups to take the collaboration further.

The Nako Project, situated in Himachal Pradesh and just 7 km from the Chinese Tibetan border, included the establishment of a village museum by the Institute of Conservation, University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria, in close cooperation with the National Research Laboratory for the Conservation of Cultural Property Lucknow (NRLC), the Nako Buddhist Society and the Nako Youth Club, whose members are also responsible for the maintenance of the museum.

The museum was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama during his visit to Nako in 2007.

A museum collection was put together, mostly consisting of contributions by the villagers. The Institute of Conservation provided training in collection care (inventory, conservation, display) and exhibition practices to the village and lama community as well as the members of the Nako Youth Club.

The Village Museum includes traditional artefacts used in the remote hill area of Nako, such as characteristic, beautiful woolen dresses, shawls and shoes, typical dishes and household items, and thangka paintings.


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