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Thiruvananthapuram

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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Kerala, a potential power house for Digital India, says Kovind

 
Kerala is potential powerhouse of Digital India: Kovind
Stressing the importance of Digital India as an employment creator, President Ram Nath Kovind said Kerala is potentially a power-house of this flagship programme, being one of India’s most connected states and also having among the highest rates of mobile phone penetration.
 
Speaking at the launch of the Technocity project and laying of foundation stone of the first government building there, he said, “The future of our economy and of our employment creation is heavily dependent on the success we achieve with Digital India. The jobs of tomorrow will come more and more from digital services and other opportunities that are derived from the Internet."
 
“Kerala is potentially a power-house of Digital India. It is one of India’s most connected states, with among the highest rates of mobile phone penetration. I understand that the government is making efforts to bridge the digital divide and provide free Internet connections to two million poorer families by using a new optic fibre network. And there is ample evidence that our people, even those at the bottom of the pyramid, are very adaptive and can easily embrace and use new technology,” he added.
 
Mr Kovind said such is the attraction of Kerala, it has drawn him for the second time in this month. “I have come on a special day. This morning at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, I was privileged to pay my humble tributes to my predecessor and to a great son of Kerala, Dr K.R. Narayanan, on his birth anniversary.”
 
Dr Narayanan’s rise from a humble background to the highest office in our country was an inspiration for many of us. In his scholarship and learning, he combined some of the best legacies of Kerala and its people, he added.
 
“The wisdom of Kerala is also apparent in its spiritualism. As I pointed out on my previous visit, this state is one of the spiritual homes of our society. I had the good fortune of meeting Mata Amritanandamayi and inaugurating large-scale public welfare programmes of her Foundation. Truly, as Kerala has taught us, service to the divine lies in service to fellow human beings,” Mr Kovind said.
 
“This sense of service has been deeply imbibed by the people of Kerala. I would say it has become your economic calling card. This is a state with an appreciable track record in public health and education, and is a front-runner in our country’s quest to achieve total literacy. It is logical therefore that Kerala has also become known for its strengths in the services sector and the knowledge economy,” he added.
 
The Kerala IT sector has been growing. Among all Indian states, it is currently ranked eighth in terms of exports by IT and IT-enabled services companies. The IT sector provides direct employment to one lakh people. This is only the tip of the iceberg. There is immense capacity to make these numbers grow, he said.
 
“Kerala’s strengths in basic literacy and skills – and the experience of Kerala’s people in the services sector and in consumer driven industries – make this state a natural for an IT ecosystem. I am confident that early development of Technocity will only accelerate this process,” he added.
 
During the course of his speech the President mentioned the presence of people from Kerala in the economic landscape, not only within the country, but also in the gulf in various professions as also in countries like Ethiopia where they work as teachers. They also contribute to the development of India by unfailingly sending back foreign exchange. "We cannot forget them or their immense role in nation building,” he said.
 
“Climbing higher in the services sector value chain, Kerala has obvious advantages in three areas. The first is of course Information Technology. The others are tourism and health-care. These are also the areas where jobs and employment opportunities lie for our youth – especially for the talented young men and women of Kerala.
 
“In tourism, this state is known the world over as God’s Own Country – and not without reason. It is one of our planet’s stand-out destinations. It is blessed with a spectacular natural beauty,” he added.
 
In healthcare, Kerala has long been known for its expertise in traditional healing systems such as Ayurveda. Kerala has also carved an identity for itself with the skills and diligence of its healthcare providers, he said.
 
“Hospitals and medical centres across the country – and in many other countries as well – simply cannot function without the ever smiling and ever attentive 'Sisters from Kerala'. In nursing, hospital and medical services and care for the sick and the aged, healthcare workers from Kerala, both men and women, are internationally sought after.
 
“As populations age and as healthcare becomes more complex, demand for trained and capable human hands for the healthcare industry will also only rise. This can provide numerous opportunities for young Indians. Kerala in particular has a head-start. We are seeing the advent of Artificial Intelligence and robotics in this area as well. But it is impossible for machines to match the empathy and emotions of a trained and dedicated nurse or care provider,” Mr Kovind added.
 
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President Kovind to visit Kerala on October 27-28

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President Ram Nath Kovind will pay a two-day visit to Kerala on October 27-28, during which he will launch the Technocity project in Thiruvananthapuram tomorrow.
 
An official press release said Mr. Kovind would lay the foundation stone for the first government building in Technocity.
 
Later in the day, he will pay tributes to social reformer Ayyankali by garlanding his statue in Thiruvananthapuram and also attend a civic reception hosted in his honour. 
 
On Saturday, the President will travel to Kochi to grace the valedictory function of the diamond jubilee celebrations of High Court of Kerala, the release added.
 
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UDF's K. N. A. Khader wins Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala bye-election

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K. N. A. Khader, the candidate of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), has won the Vengara seat in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, defeating his nearest rival, P. P. Basheer of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), by a margin of 23,310 votes in the bye-election held on October 11.
 
Counting of votes was taken up in the constituency today, and Mr. Khader, a member of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), polled 65,227 votes against 41,917 secured by Mr. Basheer, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
 
Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) candidadte K. C. Naseer ended up third with 8,648 votes while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee K. Janachandran  Master, finished fourth with 5,728 votes in the results announced today.
 
The bye-election in Vengara was necessitated by the resignation of IUML leader P. K. Kunhalikutty, who was elected to the Lok Sabha on April 12 from the Malappuram seat that fell vacant following the death of former Union Minister E. Ahamed.
 
While the UDF celebrated the victory, the LDF drew satisfaction from the fact that they had reduced the IUML candidate's victory margin from 38,057 votes in the 2016 Assembly elections, when Mr. Kunhalikutty had won, to 23,310 votes in this bye-election.
 
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Witness rocket launch, visit Science Museum at VSSC during World Space Week

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People will be able to get a close look at the functioning of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) here, including witnessing a sounding rocket launch, from October 4-6 as part of the World Space Week celebrations.
 
Since the United Nations declaration in 1999, World Space Week has grown into the largest public space event on Earth. More than 2,700 events in 86 countries celebrated the benefits of space and excitement about space exploration in 2016. This year’s theme is “Exploring New Worlds in Space”.
 
September 4 marks the anniversary of the launch of the first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, opening the way for space exploration. On October 10, 1967, the UN treaty for the peaceful uses of outer space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies was signed.
 
The broad goals of World Space Week Celebrations are to provide a unique leverage in space outreach and education and to create awareness among the people about the benefits that they receive from space. 
 
It would encourage greater use of space for sustainable economic development, demonstrate public support for space programmes and create excitement among young people about science, technology, engineering, and math. It would also foster international cooperation in space outreach and education.
 
In Kerala, World Space Week is celebrated every year under the auspices of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) and ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU), Thiruvananthapuram, since 2001. 
 
During WSW, events and educational programmes with special focus on Space are organised within and outside VSSC, based on the theme declared by UN.
 
This year, the programme will be held at Dr. Srinivasan Auditorium from 09:00 hrs-16:30 hrs. After the welcome address, the World Space week theme will be introduced followed by an hour-long technical talk on "Space Technologies to the common man." It will be followed by the Sounding Rocket Launch, visit to Space museum, address by Director, VSSC followed by interaction with senior scientists.
 
An interactive programme for school students with eminent space scientists is also planned along with the inaugural function. The Open House program will be conducted on October 4-6. As part of the Open House Program, people will be allowed to enter the campus to witness the RH-200 launch and visit the Space Museum.
 
For witnessing the launch and to visit the space museum, visitors should register the details as an individual or as a group, an announcement on the VSSC website said.
 
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Shashi Tharoor allots Rs. 36 lakh from MPLADS for ventilators at Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram

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Dr. Shashi Tharoor, the Congress Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram, has alloted Rs. 36 lakhs for the immediate purchase of ventilators for use at the Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, out of his MP Local Area Development Schme (MPLADS) funds.
 
The MP has allotted Rs. 18 lakh for the purchase of a ventilator at the college in view of the difficulties reported by it in providing prompt medical attention to patients due to the lack of sufficient number of ventilators.
 
This is in addition to the Rs. 18 lakh that had already been sanctioned for the purchase of one ventilator in May, 2017.
 
"It has also been decided to allot maximum fund for the purchase of medical equipments for the Government hospitals in Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency on a priority basis," a press release from Dr. Tharoor's office said.
 
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Kerala CM apologises to family of accident victim who died without receiving medical aid

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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.
 
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CCEA okays doubling of railway line with electrification between Thiruvananthapuram, Kanniyakumari

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The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved the construction of double line with electrification between Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Kanniyakumari in Tamil Nadu.
 
The total length of the line will be 86.56 km.  The estimated cost of the project will be Rs. 1431.90 crore and completion cost of Rs. 1552.94 crore with 5% escalation per annum, an official press release said.
 
The project is likely to be completed in four years by 2020-21.  The project will generate direct employment during construction for 20.77 lakh mandays, it said.
 
The project would not only speed up the operation of goods and coaching trains, but also provide additional capacity for meeting the increase in traffic in future, the release said.
 
The release said the section is heavily passenger oriented and also serves the goods traffic from nearby ports. Operations from Vizhinjam port are likely to start by 2019 and 30% of its gateway traffic is likely to be handled by the Railways.  
 
The Present line capacity of Thiruvananthapuram-Nagercoil section of this route has already saturated which is causing heavy detention to trains moving towards Kanniyakumari and Chennai.   
 
"Line capacity of this route needs to be enhanced to meet the demands for additional trains and smooth movement of trains through the route.  Hence, doubling of Thiruvananthapuram-Kanniyakumari line needs to be taken up," the release added.
 
The CCEA also approved the doubling and electrification of the line Vanchi-Maniyachchi-Nagercoil line via Tirunelveli and the Madurai-Vanchi and Maniyachchi-Tuticorin lines.
 
The total length of the Vanchi-Maniyachchi-Nagercoil line will be 102 km. The estimated cost of the project will be Rs. 1003.94 crore and completion cost of Rs. 1114.62 crore with 5% escalation per annum. 
 
The total length of the Madurai-Vanchi and Maniyachchi-Tuticorin lines will be 160 km. The estimated cost of the proejct will be Rs. 1182.31 crore and completion cost of Rs. 1272.51 crore with 5% escalation per annum.
 
The projects are likely to be completed in four years by 2020-21, the release added.
 
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Kerala: Well-known Gandhian and freedom fighter K. E. Mammen passes away

K. E. Mammen
K. E. Mammen
Well-known Gandhian, freedom fighter and social worker K. E. Mammen passed away at a private hospital in Neyyattinkara near here today.
 
He was 96. 
 
He had been under treatment at the hospital for issues related to old age for the past three months.
 
Mammen, who had taken part in the Quit India movement and in the agitation against Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, the then Dewan of the erstwhile Travancore state, was also actively involved in the anti-liquor campaign in the state in recent years.
 
Born on July 31, 1921 into the renowned Kandathil family to K. C. Eapen and Kunjandamma, Mammen got involved in the freedom struggle from an early age. He practised Gandhian principles and led an austere life. He remained unmarried.
 
A man who owned no house, car or other worldly possessions, Mammen was staying with his brother's son for the past many years.
 
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Centre to provide funds for enhancing coastal security in Kerala

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Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir said here yesterday that the Centre would provide funds for enhancing the coastal security of Kerala.
 
Talking to mediapersons after reviewing the overall law and order situation with state officials here, Mr Ahir said funds would be made available from the Police Modernisation Fund for buying more vehicles and patrol boats.
 
He lauded the Kerala government for ensuring a good policing system. He pointed out that the Community Police system was much helpful against radicalisation drive among the youth. In reply to a question, he said a report has been sought from the state government on the political violence and murders in the state.
 
The Minister pointed out that Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have Maoist presence. On youths joining the Islamic State (IS), he said except for a report about 22 people joining the terrorist organisation, no more cases have been reported till now.
 
Additional Chief Secretary in charge of Home Paul Antony, State Police Chief Loknath Behra and other officials attended the review meeting. Later, Mr Ahir called on Kerala Governor P Sathasivam at Raj Bhavan.
 
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Kerala CM voices concern about reported move to privatise HLL Lifecare

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concern about the reported decision of the Government of India to privatise the public sector HLL Lifecare Limited, saying that such a move would affect not only more than 5000 employees and their families but also society at large.
 
"The pro- active role so far played by the company in the programmes of the Government of India relating to population control, immunisation and healthcare, I am afraid, will become thing of the past," he said in the letter, dated June 16.
 
"The Government of Kerala, which has been looking forward to further consolidation and expansion of the activities of HLL, providing job opportunities and ensuring a sound system of healthcare, is really concerned at the proposed move without taking the State Government into confidence," he said.
 
Mr. Vijayan noted that the company, originally called Hindustan Latex Limited, was incorporated in 1966 under the control of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. The company was set up in Kerala primarily because of the easy availability of the basic raw material, ‘latex’ required for the manufacture of condoms, in the State.
 
"I may also add that the State Government had played a participatory role by handing over nearly 19 acres of land at prime locations free of cost for establishing the units of HLL Lifecare Ltd. in the state," he said.
 
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He said that, during the course of nearly five decades, the company has expanded its operations to reach out to the States of Karnataka, Haryana and Madhyapradesh, in addition to Kerala. The company is engaged in wide range of activities and is recognised as a corporate health care delivery company in major health care programmes of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. HLL has an excellent record of continuous profit making.
 
"In Kerala, HLL has been engaged in a series of activities to make health care accessible and affordable to the common man. This has been possible because it is a 100% Government of India Company, deeply committed to national policies and goals. The fact that the Government of India has retained HLL as a strategic partner all these years speaks eloquently of its track record and commitment," he said.
 
Mr. Vijayan urged Mr. Modi to intervene in the matter and advised the concerned Ministry not to go ahead with the move to privatise a profit making and socially committed public sector undertaking.
 
"I further request you that any decision in the matter may be taken only after effective consultation with the State Government which has high stakes in the continued functioning of the HLL in the public sector," he added.
 
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Pinarayi writes to other CMs, urges them to unitedly oppose new cattle trade restrictions

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today wrote to his counterparts in other States about the new restrictions imposed by the Centre on cattle trade and urged them to convey their objection to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and request him to withdraw the rules introduced without any consultation with the States.
 
"Unless we stand together and oppose this anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular move, it may mark the beginning of a series of similar measures aimed at destroying the federal democratic fabric and secular culture of our country," he said in the letter, a copy of which was posted on the Chief Minister's Facebook page.
 
"I would therefore fervently appeal to you to convey your objection to the 2017 Rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to the Prime Minister, and to request him to withdraw the Rules introduced without any consultation with the States. Since the matters dealt within the Rules squarely fall within the purview of State Legislatures, the State Governments may be allowed to formulate necessary policies and laws to suit the socio-cultural and economic milieu of the State.
 
"I have already brought these matters to the kind attention of the Prime Minister in a letter dated May 27th, 2017. A copy of the letter is attached for your kind perusal," he said.
 
Mr. Vijayan said the notification containing the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on May 23 imposed a number of restriction on cattle trade which would have serious repercussions on the livelihood of millions of people, especially those in the agricultural sector, in our country.
 
"It appears strange that the Rules are promulgated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 since they have nothing to do with the objects of the Act. Neither are the Rules covered by the express delegation of legislative powers contained in the Act. Hence it is nothing but a covert attempt to usurp the powers of State legislatures in the guise of rules under a Central Act. The subjects covered by the Rules belong to entries 15 and 18 of the State List in the Constitution. This impermissible encroachment into the domain of the State Legislatures is a clear violation of the spirit of federalism, which is acclaimed as one of the basic features of the constitution.
 
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"The Rules, by imposing unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to carry on any trade or occupation under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution, will not stand the test of constitutionality. They also violate the basic right of a person to freedom of choice regarding his food," Mr. Vijayan said.
 
He said it was rather unfortunate that such a drastic measure, producing serious consequences, was introduced in exercise of the rule making power, surpassing the elected representatives of the people and avoiding any public debate.
 
"This is nothing but a negation of the democratic principle, which is indisputably accepted as forming part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
 
"Apart from the Constitutional and legal infirmities of the Rules, the disastrous consequences which are likely to arise if these Rules are brought into force make one shudder. It will definitely produce a chaotic situation in the rural agricultural economy in all the States," he added.
 
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Kerala CM writes to Modi, seeks repeal of restrictions on cattle trade

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to intervene and repeal the newly imposed restrictions on cattle trade which, he said, would have a serious impact on the livelihood of millions of Indians.
 
He said the restrictions must be repealed so that the lives and livelihoods of millions of people could be protected, while safeguarding the fundamental principles of the Constitution.
 
Mr. Vijayan noted that the notification issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change regarding the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 mandates that cattle can be traded only by those who have valid documentation that the cattle will be used only for agricultural purposes. 
 
"Of the millions of farmers in our country, only a miniscule number of them have documentation to prove that they are engaged in agriculture. Therefore, it would be extremely difficult for the vast majority of our farmers to legally procure draught animals used for agriculture and other domestic purposes," he said.
 
The Chief Minister said the rules also envisaged the constitution of District Animal Market Monitoring Committees and Animal Market Committees. 
 
"The constitution of such committees to monitor cattle trade will also jeopardise the free hand trade of cattle between farmers in our country. Legitimate fears are also being raised if they would take upon themselves the role of Gau Rakshak Samitis which have conducted attacks on cattle traders and transporters in the recent past.
 
"May I also remind you that meat is the primary source of protein for millions of poor and ordinary people in this country, particularly the Dalits. Such restrictions being imposed on the eve of Ramzan, would certainly appear to certain communities of our country as a direct attack on them. People of all faiths consume meat in our country, not just the minorities. 
 
"Once the prohibition comes into effect, it will not only deprive them of adequate nutrition, but also prevent the availability of raw material for the leather industry. More than 2.5 million people work in India’s leather industry and most of them are Dalits, especially those engaged in skinning the carcasses. Hence, this prohibition will severely affect our disadvantaged sections, in terms of both their lives and livelihoods," he said.
 
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Mr. Vijayan also said that India had a thriving meat export industry and that it was the global leader in the field.
 
"The prohibition of sale of cattle for slaughter will have a cascading effect on Indian industry as a whole, especially because of an insurmountable deficiency that will occur in our foreign exchange because of the drop in meat export. Several state owned meat processing industries across the country, like Kerala’s Meat Products of India Ltd., would become unviable because of the new regulations and hence would be forced to shut down," he said.
 
The Chief Minister said that in Kerala the vast majority of the population consumed meat and so was the case with all the other South Indian states and North East Indian states. Even in states like Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal, non-vegetarians out number vegetarians, he said.
 
"Therefore, the new rules should have been introduced in consultation with the states. The absence of efforts to take the states into confidence on such a drastic move with far reaching consequences is detrimental to our democracy. I am afraid it amounts to an intrusion into the rights of the states in our federal structure. The introduction of such restrictions in a hasty manner would certainly prove to be a challenge in upholding our plurality, the essence of our nation. It would also be against the principles of secularism and federalism enshrined in our constitution," he said.
 
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Manju Warrier denies reports about incident during shooting for Udaharanam Sujatha

Manju Warrier
Manju Warrier
Leading Malayalam film actress Manju Warrier has denied some recent online media reports which suggested that some  people had threatened her during the shooting for her latest movie Udaharanam Sujatha at Chenkalchoola, Thiruvananthapuram.
 
"I am shooting for my latest movie, Udaharanam Sujatha, at Chenkalchoola, Thiruvananthapuram since the first week of May. From the first day of shoot, the people of Chenkalchoola have provided unprecedented support for me and team for the movie. They have given me lots of love and respect and I will remain indebted to them for the consideration and concern that I have received from the people," she said in a statement here.
 
"However, during the last few days, I have been noticing a few attempts in several online media to alienate and antagonize the people of Chenkalchoola against my colleagues and me. This has been effected by the unnecessary exaggeration of an event where nobody from Chenkalchoola was involved. During one of the days at the location, a group approached us and invited me for a book distribution event. They insisted that I attend the event even when I had regretted after informing them about the requirement for the movie and make-up related details. When we found that the group is adamant, we explained to them that it’s not possible because of the requirements of the special make-up that I need to keep on through the day. I had spoken to them personally and conveyed the message through my colleagues. When the group understood that we are conveying the truth, they left the location amicably," Ms. Warrier said.
 
"It is this incident that has been exaggerated as one where people pointed knives at me and threatened to kill me. The perpetrators of the news added masala by saying that it is an attempt by someone in the field of cinema. I am saddened at the baseless allegations that are being leveled against my colleagues. There has been no incident of anyone pointing their finger at me in Chenkalchoola, let alone daggers.
 
"I apologize for the discomfort caused by me and team Udaharanam Sujatha to the people of Chenkalchoola, Thiruvananthapuram," the statement added.
 
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Kerala law student chops off genitals of swami who sexually exploited her

 
Kerala girl chops off genitals of alleged rapist
A 23-year-old law student allegedly chopped off the genitals of a 54-year-old self-styled godman at her house in Kannammoola near here last night after he had been allegedly sexually exploiting her for about seven years.
 
Reacting to reports about the incident, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said it was brave of the girl to take such a step. "It is a strong and courageous act by her," he said.
 
The man was identified as Swami Ganeshananda or Hari swami, as he is also known, a former member of a well-known ashram in the adjacent district of Kollam.
 
According to various sources, the girl told the police that the swami first assaulted her when she was 16 when her mother invited him to their house to pray for her ailing father. The visits continued over the years and he would assault her whenever he got the opportunity, she said.
 
Last night, when the man arrived at their house again and tried to force himself on her, she grabbed a knife in the house and cut off his genitals. Later, she called the police and informed them of the incident, the sources said.
 
The swami was brought to the Medical College Hospital here a little after midnight with nearly 90 percent of his genitals severed. Doctors conducted a surgery on him immediately and his condition was stated to be stable.
 
The police have registered a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act against the swami and are investigating the matter. 
 
Meanwhile, media reports said the swami had told the police that he had cut off his genitals himself because they were no longer of any use to him.
 
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SpiceJet launches daily direct flight from Thiruvananthapuram to Male

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Low-cost carrier SpiceJet today launched a daily direct flight from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, to Male, the capital of the Maldives.
 
With the new service, SpiceJet has introduced a daily flight from Bengaluru to Male via Thiruvananthapuram with the least connecting time, a press release from the airline said.
 
The flag-off ceremony was graced by Airport Director, Mr. George G Tharakan,  Mr. Binoy Jacob (AI-SATS Vice President), Mr. Vijay Bhushan (AOC Chairman), Mr. S Sundar (AAI DGM OPS) and SpiceJet officials. 
 
The first passenger was welcomed by Mr. Tharakan and the ceremony finally came to a conclusion with the flagging-off of the flight SG 93 at 12.25 pm, from the Trivandrum International Airport.
 
In line with the aviation tradition to mark key milestones, the homecoming journey of SpiceJet’s Bombardier Q400 - SG 94 deployed on the Male - Thiruvananthapuram route was greeted with a grand water cannon salute. 
 
Besides Male, SpiceJet offers connectivity to six other international destinations – Dubai, Bangkok, Colombo, Kabul, Dhaka, and Muscat.
 
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Kerala Congress chief V M Sudheeran steps down, cites health reasons

V. M. Sudheeran
V. M. Sudheeran
In a surprise move, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president V. M. Sudheeran today announced his decision to resign from his position, citing health reasons.
 
Mr. Sudheeran, 68, had suffered injuries when he fell from the stage at a function in Kozhikode recently and his doctors had advised him rest for some weeks.
 
He announced his decision to step aside at a press conference here today. "My personal problems should not affect the functioning of the party," he said.
 
According to sources, the injury had placed restrictions on his movements and he felt that his continuance in the post would not be correct.
 
"The Congress in Kerala is at a juncture where it needs constant attention, and I am not in position to provide that. The leader is not important, it is the party that matters," he said.
 
Mr. Sudheeran said he would send his resignation letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi today itself. He said he had not consulted any senior leaders of the party before taking the decision. He thanked Ms. Gandhi, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders for placing their trust in him.
 
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Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, who is the leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Assembly, said Mr. Sudheeran would continue to play an important role in the functioning of the party. "He has only resigned from his position as KPCC chief. He is still an integral part of the party and will continue to play a role in its functioning," he said.
 
Mr. Sudheeran, a former member of the Lok Sabha and of the State Legislative Assembly, had succeeded Mr. Chennithala as KPCC chief in February 2014, has had differences of opinion with several state-level leaders, including former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, but party functionaries were at pains to point out that these were all sorted out internally and there was no move at any level against him.
 
Mr. Sudheeran, who was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1977, had served as Speaker of the Kerala Legislative Assembly from 1985 to 1987 and as State Health Minister in 1995-96 before being elected in 1996, 1998 and 1999 again to the Lok Sabha. He lost the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and decided against contesting in 2009, saying younger politicians needed to be given opportunities.
 
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Kerala Tourism to organize travel event in Abu Dhabi

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan unveiling the logo of Explore Kerala in the presence Ashraf Ali MA, Executive Director, Lulu Group, Nandakumar, Chief Communication Officer and Biju Kottarathil, Media Secretary in Thiruvananthapuram on February 18, 2017.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan unveiling the logo of Explore Kerala in the presence Ashraf Ali MA, Executive Director, Lulu Group, Nandakumar, Chief Communication Officer and Biju Kottarathil, Media Secretary in Thiruvananthapuram on February 18, 2017.
The Kerala Tourism Department, in association with the Lulu Group, has organized a four-day long travel and tourism event, “Explore Kerala" at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to promote tourist destinations in the state and attract travellers from the Gulf nations.
 
The India Tourism Office in Dubai, Tourism India and Brand Kerala magazines are also part of the event, a press release from the Lulu Group said.
 
The logo of Explore Kerala was unveiled by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the presence Ashraf Ali MA, Lulu Group Executive Director, Nandakumar, Chief Communication Officer, Biju Kottarathil, Media Secretary and other officials.
 
The event will be held from February 22 – 25 at Mushrif  Mall in Abu Dhabi. Many leading hotels and resorts, including including The Raviz Hotels & Resorts, Uday Samudra Kovalam, Vythiri Village Wayanad, Somatheeram Ayurveda Resort  and two leading tour operators – Gateway Malabar Holidays and The Blue Yonder - from Kerala will showcase their products along with a presentation of destinations in the state.
 
A colourful Kerala cultural performance, including Kathakali, Mohiniyattom, Theyyam and Thayambaka will also be the part of the event.
 
“Kerala and Malayalees has always considered the UAE as their second home and Kerala Tourism identified  the potential of the ever growing UAE Tourism market.  Considering tourist arrivals to Kerala from the Middle East, UAE is the second biggest market after Saudi Arabia and followed by the Oman and Kuwait,”  Mr. Kadakampally  Surendran, Minister for Tourism, Government of Kerala, said.
 
“In 2015, there were 71,500 tourists from Saudi Arabia (65,048 in 2014 and 48,346 in 2013), 20,000 plus ( 18,264 in 2014 and  17,475 in 2013)  from the UAE and 17,924 from Oman, who visited the state. From the Middle East alone, we have more than one lakh visitors,” he added.
 
He said Explore Kerala@ Abu Dhabi would boost the tourism potential of the state, called "God's Own Country", in the Gulf and Middle East market.
 
"The Kerala government has already extended its support for this event and the synergy between public and private sector for the development of tourism infrastructure and marketing is highly commendable and we are committed to continue this relationship in future too," he said.
 
Mr. Ashraf Ali said similar events to promote Kerala as a destination would also be organised in Luly Hypermarkets and shopping malls in the Gulf states in association with the Kerala Tourism Department.
 
The four-day event will be officially inaugurated by Sultan Hamad Al Mutawa Al Dhaheri,  Executive Director of Abu Dhabi Tourism. Navdeep Suri, Indian Ambassador to UAE, Harib Al Muhairi, Etihad Airways Senior Vice President, IRV Rao, India Tourism  Director and many dignitaries will also grace the occasion.
 
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First LNG fuelled bus launched in Kerala

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For the first time in the country, a liquefied natural gas (LNG)-fuelled bus was launched by Union Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan in the presence of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan here today. 
 
The project was jointly undertaken by Petronet LNG Limited (PLL), Indian Oil Corporation Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd. 
 
The LNG-fuelled bus is being launched as part of a plan of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to use LNG directly for mass transportation and to reduce carbon emissions while simultaneously generating savings. 
 
The launch also coincided with the fourth meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) holding Transport portfolios.
 
The bus was brought to PLL Kochi LNG Terminal for LNG filling. The fuel tank was provided by Chart Industries, USA. As it is a pilot project, the LNG-driven bus will run on trial basis before it can be certified for commercial application, an official press release said.
 
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Manju Warrier weaves magic with Kuchipudi recital

Actress-dancer Manju Warrier during a Kuchipudi recital at the Soorya Dance and Music Festival 2016 in Thiruvananthapuram on October 9, 2016.
Actress-dancer Manju Warrier during a Kuchipudi recital at the Soorya Dance and Music Festival 2016 in Thiruvananthapuram on October 9, 2016.
Devotion in both its rapturous and sublime forms, agony that seals separation in love and jubilance that only an impending festival can bring: these were some of the moods that well-known actress-dancer Manju Warrier created on stage during her Kuchipudi recital at the Soorya Dance and Music Festival 2016 at the Tagore Theatre here yesterday.
 
Manju began her recital with Ananda Natanam Adum Vinayaka, a Ganesha Stuthi that depicted the rapturous dance of bliss by Lord Ganapathi, the beloved Elephant God who is also the bestower of smooth transitions and successful endings.  The composition was penned by Madhurai R Muralidharan and was set to ragam Gowla and Adithalam.
 
The audiences witnessed an episode in Lord Krishna's life through Ati Nirupama Sundarangara where she depicted Satyabhama and Rukmini, their consort Lord Krishna and Sage Narada who came to inspect how the Lord is managing wives' quarrels. The composition on sublime devotion was penned by the 18th century poet Oothukadu Venkatasubbaiar and was set to ragam Panthuvarali and Adithala. 
 
The audience shared Radha’s pangs of separation as Manju brought the divine lover on the stage via Bhakta-kavi Jayadeva’s Astapadi. The composition was set to raga Darbari Kanada and adithalam.
 
The mood of torment and pathos soon changed with a depiction of Lord Shiva’s cosmic dance, Anandanadam Aduvar Thille. The keerthanam was composed by Neelakanda Sivan and was set to ragam poorvikalyani and thalam Roopakam.
 
The recital was brought to a grand and elaborate finale with a thillana wherein a village readied itself to celebrate Lord Muruga’s birthday on Thrikarthika. The composition by Lalgudi S Jayaram was set to ragam Kamas and Adithalam.  
 
Geetha Padmakumar who was on the Nattuvangam choreographed the recital. Bijeesh Krishna brought the music to life through his soulful voice with accompanying artistes Kalamandalam Charudutt on Mridangam, Suresh Namboodiri on violin, Vivek Shenoy on flute and Murali Krishna on Veena.
 
Manju Warrier is one of the most popular actors in Malayalam cinema. She has acted in 27 Malayalam movies, most of which became superhits. She won a special jury mention by the National Award jury in 1999 for her role in Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu. She is a celebrated danseuse and is known for her Kuchipudi performances. Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi has awarded her Kalashree title for her contributions to Kuchipudi.
 
She has also forayed into the theatre by enacting Shakuntala in the Sanskrit play Abhijnana Shakutalam written by Mahakavi Kalidasa and directed by the late Kavalam Narayana Panikkar. 
 
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Kerala Congress (Mani) severs three-decade-old ties with UDF

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Kerala Congress (Mani) leader K. M. Mani today announced his decision to sever his party's links of more than three decades with the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in the state, blaming a section of the Congress leaders for the soured ties.
 
Talking to newspersons, Mr. Mani, 83, also declared that his party would never return to the UDF or join the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) or the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. 
 
He said his party's six MLAs would sit as a separate block in the state legislative assembly.
 
The decision was announced at the end of the two-day meeting of the Kerala Congress (M) at Charalkunnu in Pathanamthitta district.
 
Mr. Mani said his party would extend issue-based support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre. He also said that his party w ould continue its relationship with the UDF in the local self-government bodies and cooperatives in Kerala.
 
Mr. Mani, who was Finance Minister in the Oommen Chandy-led UDF Government and had resigned from the Cabinet last November, months before the Assembly elections, in the wake of mounting pressure on him to quit following adverse remarks made against him by the Kerala High Court in relation to the bar bribery case, said he had taken the decision to quit the UDF with a heavy heart.
 
He said his party had played an important role in the growth of the UDF in Kerala. He said some Congress leaders were treating his party as "enemy number one" and there was a limit to his and his colleagues' tolerance. He said his feelings were akin to those of a son leaving his house.
 
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He accused some Congress leaders, without naming anyone, of conspiring to defeat his party's candidates in elections. He said special funds were allocated for this purpose and workers were recruited specially for the purpose.
 
 "We should have taken this decision earlier. We have now taken this decision to uphold our pride," he said.
 
"However, we bear no grudge against anyone, and wish the UDF well," he added.
 
Congress leaders Ramesh Chennithala and V M Sudheeran criticised the decision, saying the Kerala Congress (M) had already made up its mind to leave the UDF and was only looking for an excuse.
 
Mr. Chandy said he was pained by the decision and said that every effort had been made to solve the various probems between the two parties at various stages.
 
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Kerala Tourism hitches ride on Dubai cabs

A Kerala-branded taxi in Dubai as part of the Kerala Tourism's campaign in the Middle East.
A Kerala-branded taxi in Dubai as part of the Kerala Tourism's campaign in the Middle East.
With the onset of the outbound tourism season in the Gulf and the Middle East, Kerala Tourism has rolled out a high-octane promotional campaign in Dubai targeting Arab travellers and showcasing the state’s spectacular features via colourful visuals draped on a bevy of taxis moving through the bustling metropolis.
 
As many as 200 Kerala-branded taxis will ferry the message of ‘A Faraway Land Four Hours Away’– with eye-catching visuals featuring hill stations, backwaters, waterfalls as also Ayurvedic therapies – through the streets of Dubai, the throbbing heart of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
 
The campaign will see the cabs take to the streets sporting wrappings designed to promote the state’s monsoon getaways, offering respite from the sizzle of the Arabian summer.
 
“Apart from the favourable climate, the relative proximity and excellent air connectivity between Kerala and the cities of the Middle East make it easier to attract holiday makers to the state,” said Dr Venu V, Principal Secretary (Tourism), Kerala Government.
 
“Dubai, being the hub for air travel in the region, was the logical choice of location for the marketing campaign. The exposure and footfalls gained by Kerala will bear this out," he said.
 
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The campaign, inspired by the previous highly successful branding efforts on London taxi cabs and the Mumbai metro, will run until August 15. Besides serving to augment Kerala’s destination pull, it is an acknowledgment of the growing importance of the Middle East outbound tourist market – the world’s fastest-growing segment with a nine per cent rise in outbound trips in 2015.
 
Arab tourists are also the biggest spenders. Kerala received more than one lakh visitors from the region in 2015, with some 20,506 tourists from the UAE alone. The majority came from Saudi Arabia with 51,149 Saudi nationals visiting last year, while Oman accounted for 18,763 footfalls.
 
“As the holiday season in the Middle East coincides with the monsoon season here, Kerala is well-positioned to benefit from the influx of travellers looking to trade in the sizzle and dust for cooler climes and greener pastures,” said Mr. U.V. Jose, Director, Kerala Tourism.
 
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Malayalam playwright, Kavalam Narayana Panikkar passes away

Kavalam Narayana Panicker
Kavalam Narayana Panicker
Noted Malayalam theatre personality Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, a versatile playwright and poet who brought a new dimension to Malayalam theatre by adapting several classical Sanskrit works and Shakespeare plays, passed away at his residence here late tonight.
 
He was 88. He is survived by his wife and a son, Kavalam Sreekumar, a playback singer. His elder son son Harikrishnan had died in 2009. 
 
Panikkar suffered from various age-related ailments in the past few years and had been hospitalised on June 13. He breathed his last around 10 pm today, sources said.
 
Popularly known as Kavalam, Panikkar was founder-director of ‘Sopanam’ theatre troupe and later the Bhasha Bharati Centre for Performing Arts, Training and Research in Thiruvananthapuram.
 
His notable plays include Madhyamavyayogam (1979), Vikramorvashiyam (1981, 1996), based on Kalidasa’s famous work, Shakuntalam (1982), Karnabharam, Bhasa’s Uru Bhangam, Swapnavasavadattam and Dootavakyam, authored and staged over a period from 1979 to 1996.
 
He was a recipient of the 1983 Sangeet Natak Akademi award in direction and later received the Akademi’s highest honour, the Sangeet Natak Akademic Fellowship in 2002.
 
The Government honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 2007.
 
Born on April 28, 1928, Panikkar took a degree in Economics from S. D. College, Alapuzha and later obtained a Bachelor of Law degree from the Madras Law College. He practised law for six years before deciding to devote himself to art and literature.
 
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In 1961, he was nominated as Secretary of Kerala Sangeet Natak Academy, Thrissur, where lived for some time before shifting his residence to the state capital in 1974.
 
During this period, his play Avanavan Kadamba was filmed by well-known filmmaker G. Aravindan. He also worked in the Soviet Union and with Greek artists on a production of Iliyayana, a fusion of India's Ramayana and the Greek epic Iliad.
 
Panikkar directed two films about Kutiyattam maestro Guru Mani Madhava Chakyar: Mani Madhava Chakyar: The Master at Work (1994) and Parvati Viraham (1993) in Kuttiyattam form featuring Mani Madhava Chakyar as Ravana.
 
He also wrote lyrics for Malayalam films such as Ulsavapittennu, Manjadikuru, Vadakakkoru Hridayam and Marmaram. He won Kerala State Film Award for Best Lyrics for the latter two films.
 
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