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Thiruvananthapuram

KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala to join Kerala Ministry on Wednesday

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Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala will be sworn in as a Minister in the Oommen Chandy government tomorrow and he is expected to be assigned the Home portfolio.

Talking to newspersons here, Mr Chandy said the swearing-in ceremony would be held at 1120 hours at Raj Bhavan here.

He said the decision to induct Mr Chennithala into the Cabinet was taken by the Congress High Command recently. He said the portfolio of Mr Chennithala would be announced later.

To a question, he said a decision regarding the induction of Mr Ganesh Kumar would be taken after the Lok Sabha elections. He said Mr Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, the present Home Minister, would continue in the Cabinet and so would the rest of the ministers.

Regarding the new KPCC president, Mr Chandy said that the High Command would take a decision at the earliest. He said the entry of Mr Chennithala in the Cabinet would strengthen the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and its government.

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M S Valiathan presented Kerala Sasthra Puraskaram 2013

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy presenting the Kerala Sasthra Puraskaram 2013 to eminent cardiologist M S Valiathan at Thiruvananthapuram on December 30, 2013.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy presenting the Kerala Sasthra Puraskaram 2013 to eminent cardiologist M S Valiathan at Thiruvananthapuram on December 30, 2013.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today said the state government was willing to hand over more science and technology institutions managed by it to the Centre if it is interested in taking them over.
 
He was speaking after presenting the prestigious Kerala Sasthra Puraskaram 2013 to Dr. M.S. Valiathan, National Research Professor, eminent cardiologist and founder director of the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST).
 
The award is given by the state government to honour outstanding Keralite scientists.
 
Dr Valiathan was presented with the award, which consists of a citation, a sculpture by Kanayi Kunhiraman, and a cash award of Rs 1 lakh, at a function organised by the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) at the University of Kerala Senate Hall here.
 
Mr Chandy said Kerala was happy to see its efforts in promoting science and technology recognized at the national level. 
 
The Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) was the first state science institution taken over by the central government and it is today one of the foremost R&D centres in the country.
 
The Union Cabinet recently decided to take over Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) and has expressed interest in the Palode-based Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI). A final decision on JNTBGRI is expected soon, said the Chief Minister.
 
Mr Chandy said the state government faced several constraints in the upkeep of these R&D institutions, but with the Centre’s assistance they have an opportunity to flourish and become highly productive centres benefiting both the state and the country.
 
He said the state government was doing all it could, including instituting scholarships and awards to young scientists, to nurture science and technology in Kerala.
 
Dr Valiathan, who founded and headed the SCTIMST for 20 years, is a deserving recipient of the Kerala Sasthrapuraskaram, the Chief Minister said.
 
In his acceptance speech, Dr Valiathan said every institution is established with a specific purpose and that objective must not be forgotten. He pointed out that the majority of individuals who graduated out of institutions of higher learning in Kerala during the British Raj and the princely rule chose to become teachers, unlike their peers in other states who went on to do research.
 
The lack of research institutions in Kerala was addressed to some extent by the setting up of the Science and Technology Council and the centres under it by the Achutha Menon government.
 
Besides his numerous contributions to the fields of cardiac diseases and cardiac surgery, Prof. Valiathan is also respected for his visionary role in twinning the sectors of medicine and technology.  As head of SCTIMST, Dr Valiathan organised a multi-disciplinary group of scientists, engineers and surgeons for a research programme that emphasised the development of cost-effective medical devices.
 
In less than 10 years, his group developed a series of high-tech devices such as heart-valves, oxygenators and blood bags, and successfully transferred them to the industry, thus paving the way for a modern medical devices industry in the country.
 
More recently, Dr Valiathan conceptualized and organised scientific studies on Ayurveda, especially the effect of ‘rasayanas’ on DNA repair and genomic basis of 'doshaprakrithi'. As a Homi Bhaba Fellow, he carried out a study of the Charaka Samhitha, Susrutha and Vaghbata.
 
Prof. Valiathan received the Padma Vibhushan in 2005 A former President of the Indian National Science Academy, he is a Fellow of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World; Royal College of Physicians of London and the American College of Cardiology.
 
After he graduated in medicine from the University of Kerala, Dr Valiathan took his master's degree in Surgery from the University of Liverpool, U.K. and specialised in cardiac surgery at the John Hopkins and Georgetown University Hospitals, USA. He then went on to become a Fellow of the Canadian Royal College in Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery.
 
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Three-week cultural festival "Utsavam" opens in Kerala

"Utsavam", a three-week cultural festival during which events will be staged at 60 venues in all 14 districts of Kerala, began here yesterday, coinciding with the peak tourism season in the state when there is a flood of domestic and foreign tourists.
 
Utsavam (which means festival in Malayalam), which was launched as an annual event in 2007 to promote traditional performing art forms of the state, will run up to January 19.
 
“’Utsavam’ is an event on a grand scale aimed to sustain and popularize the traditional art forms of Kerala, some of which are on the verge of decline,” said Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar.
 
“The festival is for the people of Kerala and our guests from outside the state and country,” he said after inaugurating the event on December 26 at the picturesque Bekal Fort in Kasargode. 
 
The inaugural day of ‘Utsavam’ saw the performance of  ‘Rhythm of Kerala’, a dance medley based on tribal, classical and folk arts by seasoned artistes.
 
The first edition of ‘Utsavam’, held from December 2007 to March 2008, drew enthusiastic response from domestic and international travelers, marking a phenomenal debut. ‘Utsavam’ 2007 fetched Kerala Tourism the prestigious Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold Award in the heritage and culture category in 2008.
 
“This carefully planned event is also about taking the destination of Kerala to a higher level, so as to give an aesthetic experience to the visitors, appealing to their intellectual sensibilities,” said Kerala Tourism Secretary Suman Billa.
 
“It is yet another occasion for the local people, travelers and art lovers to be part of an exciting cultural treat of this magnitude,” said Kerala Tourism Director S Harikishore.
 
The programmes of ‘Utsavam’ are staged in different venues spread across all the 14 districts of the state to include the entire population of Kerala. More than 80 art forms will be staged and there will be 280 performances across the districts on all Saturdays and Sundays at 6 pm.
 
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UST Global procures award-winning Kerala snake boat Champakulam Chundan

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Information technology services provider UST Global today said it had procured Champakulam Chundan, one of the most celebrated snake boats ever, to install it at its upcoming campus here. 
 
Snake boat race is a famous traditional form of canoe racing conducted in Kerala during the season of Onam. 
 
At a special function held in Alleppey, Union Minister Kodikunnel Suresh and the local authorities formally handed over the 128-feet long boat to UST Global's President Joe Nalkara. 
 
"As a winner of a number of several snake boat races in Kerala, Champakulam Chundan, which is now ready to retire, is a strong symbol of team spirit, integration and harmony. It reverberates with UST Global's ethos and winning attitude," Mr Nalkara said.
 
"Champakulam Chundan will also add to the ethnic aura to our upcoming campus in Trivandrum, which is a fitting tribute to the heritage and culture of Kerala. We are a global company and every flavor of victory is attractive to us," he said.
 
Champakulam Chundan is an eight time winner of the famed Nehru Trophy Boat Race and holds the distinction of being the only snake boat with two "hat-tricks" in history. 
 
"It is a fantastic addition to the prized Virgin Racing team's Formula 1 car body that is installed at our Technopark campus in Trivandrum, which to us is a fantastic reminder of the team work and excellence that Formula 1 racing represents," Mr Nalkara added.
 
Apart from Thiruvananthapuram, UST Global has presence in other Indian cities such as Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai and Gurgaon.
 
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Kerala start-up partners government to revive state's ailing handloom sector

Hornbill, a clothing line aimed at rebranding Kerala handloom globally and supporting the state’s struggling weaver craftsmen community, was launched here yesterday as part of a joint initiative by the state government and social entrepreneurship startup The People’s Company.
 
The first limited edition of Hornbill, consisting of 20 designs by leading designers and a collection of 60 garments, was launched by Mr. P.H. Kurien, Principal Secretary, Industries and IT, at the Czarina boutique here.
 
The People’s Company, which has been set up by six young people who graduated from the College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram (CET) this year, has partnered the Government of Kerala for a project called "Operation Phoenix" to help revive the state’s ailing handloom sector where more than 50,000 traditional weavers are struggling to survive.
 
“The response from the industry to the project so far has been very positive,” said Mr Kurien. “The youth who are behind this are setting an example with their spirit of entrepreneurship and their social commitment. I’m sure Hornbill will go on to become an international brand.”
 
“We have got tremendous encouragement and support for this venture from the state government,” said Mr Raqib Rasheed, Chairman of The People’s Company. He said the driving force of Hornbill and Operation Phoenix are a group of youth who chose a social cause over well-paid corporate jobs.
 
The first edition of the Hornbill line consists of ethnic women’s wear designed with intricate hand embroideries, block prints and glistening bead works.
 
Hornbill brings the fabrics woven from the highest quality silk and cotton from the looms of Mayyil in Kannur and Balaramapuram in Thiruvananthapuram. The Hornbill collection also features cotton silk, a fabric developed on a market scale for the first time by Kerala Handlooms.
 
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A number of student groups across the state have assisted the project, including the Hornbill branding, logo design and its promotion. WebopX, a start-up from CET, created the graphic designs while the artwork and structure for Hornbill’s visual merchandising came from fourth year architecture students of CET.
 
As part of the Operation Phoenix, The People’s Company will integrate all weavers’ societies into a single production system and create linkage between new generation fashion designers passing out of national institutes, and traditional weavers, with the larger goal of breathing fresh life into the industry.
 
The young entrepreneurs had focused their attention towards the rejuvenation of the weavers under the mentorship of then Additional Chief Secretary (Industries and Commerce) Mr. V Somasundaran, and Mr. Kurien.
 
According to the plan, all products will be commissioned as per approved designs and market viability. Besides redoing and renovating the showrooms, the programme will also try to expand the market for handloom products. A key element of the project is to create a platform to connect the existing infrastructure and industry with the vast number of new generation fashion designing and arts graduates who are also looking for jobs.
 
Czarina boutique owner Sheila James also spoke at the launch ceremony.
 
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Govt. to take over Centre for Earth Science Studies in Kerala

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The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal for taking over of the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), a research and development centre of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE), Government of Kerala by the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).
 
The main objective of the proposal is to conduct and promote basic and applied advanced research in the frontier areas of earth sciences with particular emphasis on solid earth, an official press release said.
 
It said that the taking over of CESS would considerably augment the MoES` research programmes in the field of earth system sciences. 
 
CESS will carry out multidisciplinary research in frontier areas of solid earth science and will provide services on a nationwide scale by applying this knowledge for sustainable development of natural resources and management of natural hazards. 
 
The proposed thrust areas of research will be crustal evolution and geodynamics, sedimentology and depositional processes, coastal dynamics and cloud microphysics. 
 
The release said that the takeover was expected to significantly strengthen CESS’s capability to undertake research in frontier areas of earth sciences, and provide a solid basis for future investment in its research programmes and infrastructure. This will also help for more collaborative research programmes with national and international institutes. In addition, the taking over helps in better utilisation and sharing of resources and tools available within the various R & D centres of the MoES and other ministries, it said.
 
The total estimated budget requirements of CESS will be Rs.128.67 crore for the remaining period of the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).
 
"Research & Development activities of CESS would benefit millions of people across the country by way of increased knowledge of earth processes, better predictive systems for natural hazards, development of natural resources management plans, increased access to thematic maps, etc. Research activities of CESS will cover the whole country with particular focus on south India," the release said.
 
At present the various units/centres under the MoES are focused on R & D on the ocean and atmosphere components of the earth system, and there is no unit that is actively pursuing research with specific aspects of solid earth. The takeover complements the Ministry`s plan to expand its research activities in the field of earth system science. 
 
Recognizing the growth potential of CESS and realizing the resource constraints of the State Government, the Government of Kerala came up with a proposal for taking over of the institute by the Central Government some time ago.
 
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Kerala's She Taxi for women travellers to introduce car pooling system

She Taxis
She Taxis
Encouraged by the response to its She Taxi project for women travellers, the Gender Park in Kerala is planning to integrate a car pooling system into the service which is set to expand from a fleet of five cars to 25 by January 1.
 
She Taxi is the first off-campus project by the Gender Park which is an institution newly established under the Department of Social Justice, Government of Kerala, to work towards gender equity.
 
Since its launch last month, the service has seen tremendous response from the public, especially travelling women and women entrepreneurs wanting to operate their own taxis, said Gender Park CEO P T M Sunish.
 
Within the first 15 days the She Taxis carried around 100 passengers. The taxis were also employed full time during the recently concluded week-long 18th International Film Festival of Kerala to transport delegates and guests.
 
“We have facilitated 10 more vehicle bookings and are processing more applications received from women entrepreneurs. By the start of the new year we expect to have at least 20 more taxis in addition to the five that are currently fully equipped and operational,” he added.
 
The Gender Park now plans to roll out taxi pooling system through She Taxi for women commuters, especially those travelling long distances. The new service targets professionals and students who travel to the city everyday from the suburbs and outskirts.
 
“Car pooling, as we know, is a very cost effective and eco-friendly mode of travel and we want to encourage women commuters coming from the same area to use She Taxis for the purpose,” Mr Sunish said. “A taxi pool will cost less than the autorickshaw fare for the same distance and they can travel in safety and the comfort of an air-conditioned sedan.”
 
Registrations for taxi pooling can be done through the call centre at 85900 00543. The routes and timings will be introduced depending on the registrations.
 
She Taxi is a 24X7 service available for booking via mobile phones and online. Women travelling alone or with families can dial the customer care centre which will provide them with a Unique Identification Code and the vehicle number on their mobile phones.
 
All cabs are metered and have an electronic payment system allowing the user to pay using credit or debit cards or cash.
 
The She Taxis come with multiple security systems for the safety of the drivers as well as the passengers. A control room tracks the taxis in real-time using GPS; there are personal emergency alert switches for drivers and passengers inside the car; and a similar safety alert app is installed on the mobile phones of the women drivers.
 
The cabs have a map of all emergency response systems in the city and public safety officers will be available for their assistance. The drivers will also be given training in self-defence as well as good driving practices.
 
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Travancore royal family head Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma passes away

Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma
Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma
Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the head of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore, passed away at a hospital here early this morning.
 
He was 91. He is survived by his son Anantha Padmanabhan and daughter Parvathi. His wife Radha Devi had predeceased him in 1993.
 
His funeral wil be held here this afternon at the Kowdiar Palace grounds, sources said.
 
According to them, Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma had been admitted to the Shri Uthradom Thirunal Hospital here on December 6 for treatment of various ailments. He breathed his last around 0220 hours today.
 
Born on March 22, 1922, Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma was the younger brother of the last ruling monarch of the Travancore kingdom, Maharaja Chitra Thirunal Rama Varma.
 
He became the head of the family when his elder brother Chithra Thirunal Balarama Varma passed away in 1991.
 
A graduate in Economics, History and Sanskrit, Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma was admired for his modesty and simplicity, among other things. He used to be a photography enthusiast.
 
He was the custodian of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple here and, as long as his health permitted it, he used to visit it early in the morning every day.
 
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Kerala government plans new law to deal with real estate cheats

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said that the State Law Department had been entrusted with the task of preparing the Kerala Real Estate (Development and Regulation) Bill with necessary changes in view of the anticipated Central law. 
 
He said the Housing Department had drawn up a draft law to set up the Kerala Apartment Regulatory Authority to end the exploitation of investors, especially non-resident Indians (NRIs), by real estate companies.
 
He said the draft was discussed by the Cabinet on June 6 last year and again on March 12 this year.
 
Briefing newspersons here after a meeting of the State Cabinet yesterday, Mr Chandy said it was felt that a regulatory authority needed to be formed, for which the Department of Local Self-Government (LSG) had to prepare a Bill at the state level in tune with the Bill prepared by the Central Government.
 
The bill thus prepared by the LSG department had been sent to the Law department, he said.
 
Mr Chandy said that, as there were many complaints regarding exploitation and cheating of consumers by builders and other fly-by-night operators, the State Government could not wait for the Central regulation.
 
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Kerala Cabinet sanctions Rs 132 crore financial action plan for Kannur airport

 
The Kerala Cabinet today sanctioned a financial action plan for the Kannnur Airport in the state for the next few years.
 
Briefing newspersons after the Cabinet meeting, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the runway tender had been finalised and the construction works were ready to begin.
 
He said the airport was expected to start functioning by 2014.
 
The amount sanctioned today was to fill the viability gap, if necessary, he added.
 
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Kerala hotels to become tobacco smoke free

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Representatives of hotels and restaurants associations in Kerala have come together and decided to make these places completely tobacco smoke-free and to protect their employers and customers from the risks associated with second-hand smoke by taking the necessary measures soon.
 
The decision was taken at a recent meeting of key office-bearers and senior representatives of the Kerala Hotels and Restaurants Association (KHRA); South India Hotels and Restaurants Association (SIHRA) and South Kerala Hoteliers Forum (SKHF).
 
Among other things, they agreed to put up mandated signages and in preventing customers and employees from smoking in their premises, the associations said in a press release.
 
“The well-being of our patrons including ladies and children, and employees is paramount to the hotel industry," Mr G Sudhiesh Kumar, State President of the 20,000-member-strong KHRA, said.
 
"Tobacco smoke with over 250 harmful chemicals has been proven to cause lung cancers, heart attacks and stroke besides severe asthma and other respiratory illnesses in children. We will take immediate measures to make our restaurants and hotels smoke free and I urge our members to implement the provisions laid out by the law," he said.
 
Under the country’s tobacco control legislation -- COTPA -- enacted in 2003, hotels, restaurants, coffee bars, pubs and bars fall under the ambit of public places.  Hotel and restaurant owners, proprietors, managers and supervisors have to display signboards stating, “No Smoking Area – Smoking Here is an Offence”, in English or regional language of the specified size.
 
The law mandates that such boards have to be placed at all entrances and other conspicuous places inside the building. If there is more than one floor, the signboards have to be set up on each floor, including on the staircase and at the entrance to the lift at each floor. Owners are also required to ensure no ashtrays, matches, lighters or other things designed to facilitate smoking are provided.
 
“As a state, we take pride in our coming together to bring about a larger good. The hotel industry, which has taken a lead in many aspects of social welfare, will also demonstrate our commitment to public health by ensuring tobacco smoke free member institutions,” said Mr D Chandrasenan Nair, a veteran leader of the hotel industry. 
 
Mr T C Paul, President, SKHF added, “Making hotels and restaurants smoke free will be our contribution to make Kerala a healthier state. We will make use of our forums to fight the public health menace of tobacco use and second-hand smoke. ”
 
Mr Suresh M Pillai, Vice President, SIHRA (Kerala) said, “We are very much aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke and will make all efforts to see that our hotels and restaurants are kept free of the harmful chemicals emanated from tobacco smoke. I will take up the matter of making smoke-free hotels and restaurants a compulsory parameter for star classification in the next meeting.”
 
Designated smoking areas or spaces that meet specified architectural guidelines are permitted in hotels with 30 rooms or more and in restaurants, coffee houses, pubs, and bars with seating capacity of 30 or more persons. However, the World Health Organisation has stated that there is “no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke” and creating 100 per cent smoke-free environments is the only way to protect people from the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke.
 
As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2009 of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the highest -- 9.2 per cent -- of adults above 15 years, were exposed to second-hand smoking in restaurants.
 
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‘Partner Kerala’ meet in Kochi on Dec 19-20 to help raise funds for urban infrastructure

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The Kerala government's Department of Urban Affairs (DUA) is organising an investors’ meet in Kochi next month with the objective of developing basic infrastructure in major cities through public-private partnership (PPP).
 
The two-day ‘Partner Kerala’ Urban Development Meet, to be held at the Le Meridien Convention Centre in Kochi on December 19-20, is an attempt at mobilising resources for cash-strapped corporations that are unable to keep pace with the rising demand for amenities in rapidly expanding cities, a press release from the department said.
 
State Chief Minister Oommen Chandy released the logo of the event at a function here yesterday in the presence of Minister for Urban Affairs  Manjalamkuzhi Ali.
 
Mr Ali said hundreds of potential investors from around the country and overseas, and within Kerala, are expected to take part in the meet which will showcase investment opportunities across a number of areas.
 
These include necessities such as waste management, sewerage, flyovers, bridges and parking lots, bus terminals, comfort stations and markets; amenities like shopping complexes, convention centres and multiplex cinema halls and amusement parks, besides parks, town beautification, street lights and hoardings. 
 
Projects best suited for the layout, density and geography of each city will be presented at the event.
 
Mr Ali said Kerala had already set an example for other states in resource allocation and strengthening local self-governments through decentralised planning. However, the biggest challenge facing local governing bodies today is the lack of funds to upgrade and modernise infrastructure, he said.
 
He said city corporations are forced to rely on financial support from the government for their day-to-day operations. Nearly half of them depend on state funding to pay salaries and pensions to employees, which means they struggle to invest in infrastructure and other development activities. This has been holding back the growth and modernisation of schools, hospitals and other critical or essential services managed by local bodies.
 
The crisis has prompted the corporations to explore the PPP model as a means to mobilise resources and raise the capital required to execute city development projects. 
 
The Department of Urban Affairs (DUA) is hoping that the meet, organised along the lines of the ‘Emerging Kerala’ event, will attract investments into projects intended at developing basic infrastructure from socially-committed investors.
 
Each of the city corporations in the state has, for the past three months, been working to develop project proposals for presentation at the meet. The DUA has published a list of experts to assist the corporations in the exercise. The city governing bodies will be responsible for ensuring that the projects they implement have public acceptability.
 
"A successful Partner Kerala meet will breathe new life into ailing corporations and allow them to push ahead with the badly needed city development and infrastructure projects," the Minister added.      
 
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Kerala launches taxi service for women travellers, operated by women

The first She Taxis on the road in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on November 20, 2013.
The first She Taxis on the road in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on November 20, 2013.
"She Taxi", a taxi service for women travellers operated by women entrepreneurs, was launched here today as the first initiative of the Gender Park – and institution newly established under the state government’s Department of Social Justice to work towards gender equity.
 
Well-known film actress Manju Warrier, who has been designated as the Goodwill Ambassador of She Taxi, flagged off the service at a ceremony at Kanakakkunnu Palace here in the presence of state Minister for Panchayats and Social Justice M K Muneer and other dignitaries.
 
 “What makes She Taxi such a wonderful project that it is a means of livelihood for one set of women and a safe and secure mode of transport for another,” she said.
 
She also urged more female entrepreneurs to come forward to operate the taxis, saying it is a much-needed service for the ever growing number of women employees in sectors such as IT, media, travel and hospitality who have to work and travel at odd hours.
 
Dr Muneer said She Taxi is the first of many projects for women’s safety and empowerment that the Gender Park plans to implement in the future. 
 
He said the first of the Gender Parks will be set up in Kozhikode with work on the new building, set in a sprawling 24-acre campus, slated to begin next year.
 
Congress MLA K Muraleedharan inaugurated the call centre (accessible on 85900 00543) set up for She Taxi operations, and Transport Commissioner  Rishi Raj Singh launched the official She Taxi website and logo.
 
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The first women drivers of the fleet of cabs – Annie Surendran, Jaicy Ramesh, Rasiya Begum Noushad, Heera P and Asha Kumari – received the keys from Ms  Manju Warrier.
 
Associates of the She Taxi project are Maruti Suzuki Ltd, which is supplying the taxis and providing training to the women drivers; the Kerala State Women’s Development Corporation (KSWDC) which will provide financing support for the entrepreneurs and Technopark-based Rain Concert Technologies.
 
The Gender Park has developed a business model for She Taxi which projects a steady monthly income for the women entrepreneurs besides additional revenues through ads on the sides of the cars, in-car LCD systems for streaming ads and others.
 
Muthoot FinCorp has already expressed willingness to advertise on the sides of the first five She Taxis as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility initiative.
 
Team Bimblotica, a student band from the Government College for Women, Vazhuthacaud, performed at the ceremony.
 
Following the flag-off the first five She Taxis carried some of the invited guests, including Dr Muneer and his family, Ms Warrier and Ms Sabriye Tenberken as their first passengers.
 
 ‘She Taxi’ is a 24X7 service available for booking via mobile phones and online. Women travelling alone or with families can dial the customer care centre which will provide them with a Unique Identification Code and the vehicle number on their mobile phones.
 
All cabs are metered and have an electronic payment system allowing the user to pay using credit or debit cards or cash.
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The She Taxis come with multiple security systems for the safety of the drivers as well as the passengers. A control room tracks the taxis in real-time using GPS; there are personal emergency alert switches for drivers and passengers inside the car; and a similar safety alert app is installed on the mobile phones of the women drivers.
 
The cabs have a map of all emergency response systems in the city and public safety officers will be available for their assistance. The drivers will also be given training in self-defence as well as good driving practices.
 
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Chandy disburses Rs 3.5 crore in aid at mass contact event in Malappuram

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy listening to the grievance of an applicant during his Mass Contact Programme at Malappuram on November 4, 2013.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy listening to the grievance of an applicant during his Mass Contact Programme at Malappuram on November 4, 2013.
More than Rs 3.5 crore of financial assistance was disbursed yesterday as part of Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's Mass Contact Programme in Malappuram district yesterday.
 
The Malappuram event was the third one in the second phase of the hugely popuar programme, called Jana Samparka Paripadi (JSP) in Malayalam, after successful programmes at Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam.
 
Official sources said as many as 17283 applications were received from people for the JSP in Malappura, including 7112 applications received by Mr Chandy in person yesterday. Earlier, people had submitted 10,171 applications online on the JSP website.
 
The sources said 4217 complaints were solved at the district level and 3345 were sent for follow-up action. 
 
Mr Chandy sanctioned Rs 23.75 lakh as medical treatment assistance for 57 applicants who approached him yesteday with their grievances.
 
Financial assistance of around Rs 4 lakh was sanctioned to those who are suffering from various ailments in Parapur, Oorakam and Othukungal panchayats, they said.
 
Nishad, a resident of Othukungal panchayat, who has been paralysed after falling from a tree, was sanctioned Rs 50,000 as financial assistance and his mother has been granted pension. His ration card has also been converted to below poverty line (BPL) category.
 
Similarly, the son of Manjicheeri Kunhalikutty has been given Rs 1 lakh to carry out his heart surgery.
 
Three mentally challenged daughters of P Kunjumuhammad, a resident of Oorakam, was sanctioned Rs 90,000.
 
 
There were several others, including disabled persons, who got assistance for treatment of heart, kidney and other ailments.
 
There was tight security in and around the SSP Ground, the venue of the programme, in view of the October 27 incident at Kannur in which Mr Chandy suffered minor injuries when a group of suspected CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) activists pelted stones at his car in Kannur during their protest against the alleged solar scam.
 
Nearly 2000 policemen, including armed personnel of the Thunderbolt team, set up to deal with Maoist threat, were deployed at and around the ground.
 
Left Front activists tried to stage a protest near the venue of today's programme, too, but they were stopped by the police. The LDF has said that it would hold such protests at all venues of the JSP to demand Mr Chandy's resignation over the solar scam issue.
 
Answering criticism from the LDF that the JSP was aimed at only distributing financial assistance from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund, Mr Chandy said the programme was meant to ensure that the people got what was rightfully due to them without bureaucratic delays and overcoming legal hindrances.
 
"Due to certain restrictions in law, many things cannot be implemented.The Jana Samparka Paripadi will help bring such matters to the attention of officials and these can be resolved," he said.
 
He said that about 45 government orders were issued in the first phase of JSP, after his government assumed office in May 2011, to amend rules on the basis of petitions received during the programme. If necessary, new orders will be issued to resolve the problems of the people, he said.
 
Mr Chandy has said that he intended to visit all districts of the state as part of JSP 2013 so that he could meet people directly to hear their grievances and redress them.
 
 
People can file petitions through the JSP web portal at least 30 days before the programme in their district with supporting documents.
 
At yesterday's event, as in all other such programmes earlier, Mr Chandy started meeting people around 8.45 am and continued to do so till late in the night, without a break. Thousands of people waited patiently for their turn. Some bed-ridden people came in ambulances, and Mr Chandy went up to meet them.
 
The Chief Minister spared a few moments for each person who came to meet him and repeatedly assured the crowds that he would leave only after meeting the last person waiting.
 
Among other things, Mr Chandy sanctioned BPL ration cards to 2467 families at the programme.
 
About 1000 officials from various departments were on hand to help dispose of the applications.
 
Several of Mr Chandy's Cabinet colleages, including Mr P K Kunhalikutty, Mr Aryadan Muhammad,  Mr A P Anilkumar, Mr V S Sivakumar, Mr P K Abdurabb, Mr Manjalamjkuzhi Ali, and many MLAs were also present.
 
 
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HLL Academy launches two new courses in healthcare management

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HLL Academy, the academic wing of the central public sector enterprise HLL Lifecare Ltd here, has announced two new distance education courses in clinical engineering and management to address the shortage of skilled manpower faced by the healthcare sector in this key area.
 
HLL Academy is offering a post-graduate diploma course in Clinical Engineering and Management (PGDCEM) and a post-diploma course in Clinical Engineering and Management (PCEM) for graduate engineers and diploma holders.
 
The one-year courses will cover different aspects of product development, production, quality control, and marketing of various pharmaceuticals, medical devices and services.
 
The programmes will be offered through distance education supported by contact classes and will comprise two semesters of six months each. 
 
The curriculum has been designed to fulfil the requirements of healthcare institutions, procurement service agencies and equipment manufacturers, a press release from the academy said.
 
The eligibility for PGDCEM is an engineering degree in Biomedical, Electronics, Electrical, Mechanical, Instrumentation, Chemical or Biotechnology disciplines. Engineering diploma holders in Biomedical, Electronics, Instrumentation, Mechanical or Medical Instrumentation can apply for PDCEM.
 
“Graduate engineers and diploma holders who have to work in the area of medical equipment procurement have no systematic exposure to the field of procurement management and rules and regulations in force; our country is heavily short of skilled manpower in the areas” said HLL Chairman and Managing Director M Ayyappan.
 
“Similarly, there is lack of awareness among the medical practitioners and life scientists about the clinical engineering disciplines. The academy has developed the courses to bridge the gap between advanced medical fields and their application for public benefit,” he said.
 
Dr Ayyappan said there was huge employment potential in health procurement houses, health care organisations and facility management groups, especially with the current impetus in the growth of public and private owned healthcare enterprises.
 
The academy has more such programmes in the pipeline, in the areas of Social Marketing and Good Manufacturing Practices, the release said.
 
.HLL Lifecare has been engaged in medical device and equipment procurement for the last 20 years. The company had been involved in the government’s Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) procurement programme. Currently. HLL is the project consultant for the six new All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMSs) being set up by the Government of India as well as medical colleges set up by the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) and a number of state governments. 
 
HLL is also the major procurement consultant for the six AIIMSs, ESIC, state governments and National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
 
The company has seven state-of-the art manufacturing facilities and 22 regional offices across India.
 
Its range of products includes contraceptives, hospital products, pharmaceuticals, Ayurvedic products, vaccines, personal hygiene products and diagnostic kits.
 
Apart from infrastructure development services, HLL offers facility management services to its clients.  HLL’s Healthcare division operates Hindlabs MRI Scan centres and Lifecare Centres-centre for surgical equipments, medicines and ophthalmic products-in various parts of the country.
 
HLL runs a chain of hospitals under the banner of Life Spring Hospitals. In the Medipark at Chengalpet , Tamil Nadu  HLL is  setting up an  integrated vaccine manufacturing facility.
 
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Kerala CM Oommen Chandy discharged from hospital, advised rest

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who suffered minor injuries on his forehead and chest in stone-pelting by suspected activists of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kannur on Sunday evening, was discharged from a hospital here and advised rest for two days.
 
Sources close to Mr Chandym 70, said doctors treating him had reviewed his health and discharged him this evening. They advised him to rest at home for the next two days.
 
Accordingly, the Chief Minister is expected to resume his official engagements on Thursday. There may be some restrictions on visitors to his Cliff House residence here, they said.
 
Mr Chandy had been flown in a special aircraft to the state capital late on Sunday night and admitted to the Medical College Hospital here for a detailed examination.
 
Doctors treating Mr Chandy, 70, said his condition was satisfactory. A scan and other diagnostic tests had indicated nothing abnormal and he was given antibiotics and painkillers.
 
"I have been asked to take rest for two days. Except the Cabinet meeting, I have not planned any other activity for myself. I have decided to stick to the doctor's advice to take rest," Mr Chandy told journalists.
 
He said it was not fair to blame the police for the attack on him because he himself had told police officials to take any action against CPI (M) activists who had blocked three gates to the venue of his meeting at Kannur.
 
The police in Kannur have arrested 22 people in connection with the incident and filed a case against some Left leaders such as P Jayarajan, M V Jayarajan and P K Srimathi as well as about a thousand unidentified people.
 
The stone-pelting incident occurred during a protest by Left Front wokers against the alleged solar panel scam in the state.
 
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Mr Chandy had gone to Kannur to attend the concluding ceremony of the 43rd Kerala Police Annual Athletic Meet as well as for a public meeting organised by the Congress, the main constituent of the ruling United Democratic Front. He went ahead with both engagements, unruffled by the attack.
 
CPI (M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan has said Left front workers had no role in the attack and called for a probe into the incident.
 
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Kerala CM Oommen Chandy hospitalised after stone-pelting attack in Kannur


 
Oommen Chandy hospitalised after stone pelting
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who suffered minor injuries on his forehead and chest in stone-throwing by suspected activists of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kannur yesterday evening, has been admitted to the Medical College Hospital here for a detailed examination.
 
Doctors treating Mr Chandy, 70, said his condition was satisfactory. A scan and other diagnostic tests had indicated nothing abnormal and he was being given antibiotics and painkillers, they said.
 
Other sources indicated that the Chief Minister could be discharged from the hospital by this evening.
 
Meanwhile, the police in Kannur have arrested 22 people in connection with the incident and filed a case against some Left leaders such as P Jayarajan, M V Jayarajan and P K Srimathi as well as about a thousand unidentified people.
 
Mr Chandy was brought here by a special aircraft from Kannur around midnight last night after he decided to go ahead with his engagements there even after the attack.
 
The stone-pelting incident occurred during a protest by Left Front wokers against the alleged solar panel scam in the state.
 
Mr Chandy had gone to Kannur to attend the concluding ceremony of the 43rd Kerala Police Annual Athletic Meet as well as for a public meeting organised by the Congress, the main constituent of the ruling United Democratic Front.
 
According to reports reaching here, the protesters blocked Mr Chandy's convoy and hurled stones at his vehicle.
 
The incident occurred around 5.40 pm yesterday near the Police Club and the Town Police Station in the town.
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The reports said the crowd surrounded the car and shouted slogans and pelted stones. The stones broke the window panes and Mr Chandy was hurt in the forehead by a glass splinter, sources said.
 
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other parties had called for black flag protests in the town yesterda and the police had, accordingly, stepped up security.
 
CPI (M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan said Left front workers had no role in the attack and called for a probe into the incident.
 
Mr Chandy was unruffled by the incident and attended the athletic meet as scheduled as well as the Congress function. He was later examined by a team of doctors in a Kannur hospital who said the injury was not serious.
 
Mr Chandy later told newspersons that the Left Front were mistaken if they thought the Congress could be silenced or defeated by such attacks.
 
State Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala called for a statewide protest against the attack, which he said was pre-planned.
 
On his arrival at the airport here, Mr Chandy said the attack on him was a challenge to democracy. He said that there was a place for differences of opinion, protests and strikes in a democracy, but what happened in Kannur went beyond all these.
 
All engagements of the Chief Minister for the day were cancelled today in view of his hospitalisation.
 
There was a steady stream of visitors to the hospital to enquire about Mr Chandy's health, including Kerala Legislative Assembly Speaker G Karthikeyan and several state Ministers.
 
Congess and UDF workers took to the streets in several towns across Kerala last night to protest against the attack on Mr Chandy.
 
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M S Valiathan chosen for Kerala Sasthra Puraskaram

M S Valiathan
M S Valiathan
Well-known cardiac surgeon M S Valiathan has been chosen for this year's prestigous Kerala Sashtra Puraskaram, given by the State Government to honour outstanding Keralite scientists.
 
The seven-member jury headed by Dr R Chidambaram, former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission and currently chairman of Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister, unanimously selected Dr Valiathan for the award in recognition of his outstanding lifetime contributions in the field of medical science.
 
The award carries a cash prize of Rs 100,000 and a sculpture designed by ace sculptor Kanai Kunhiraman, besides a citation.
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The prize will be presented to him by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in January 2014, Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) executive vice-president Prof V N Rajasekharan Pillai said here today.
 
Dr Valiathan, a highly respected medical scientist, is credited for his contributions to medical technology, especially the implantation of heart valves in patients. An internationally-acclaimed academician in the field of health sciences, he has been promoting research in basic science, based on cues from Ayurveda concepts and procedures.
 
Born at Mavelikkara in 1934, he got extensive training in the field of heart surgery at John Hopkins and George Town University Hospitals in the United States, before moving to Kerala to head Sree Chitra Institute of Medical Sciences which he raised to the level of a premier institution of national importance. After 20 years with Sree Chitra since 1974, he became the vice-chancellor of Manipal University.
 
A winner of several national and international awards, Dr Valiathan was honoured by the Government of India with Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour, in 2005.
 
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Dr E C G Sudharsan and Dr M Vijayan are the earlier recipients of the award, jointly instituted by the Kerala Department for Science and Technology and the KSCSTE.
 
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Kerala to form SPV for suburban rail service from Thiruvananthapuram to Chengannur, Harippad

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The Kerala Government has decided to form a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the proposed suburban rail service connecting Thiruvananthapuram with Chengannur and Harippad.
 
This was decided at a meeting of senior railway officials chaired by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy here yesterday, an official press release said.
 
The government plans to start the service close on the heels of the completion of the doubling of railway lines on these two routes, it said.
 
Mr Chandy said Kerala should also get the benefit of the Railways' Suburban Corridor project and adequate measures should be taken for the purpose.
 
The suburban rail service will be implemented jointly by the Centre and the State. 
 
The SPV formed will undertake works pertaining to setting up of automatic signaling system and modernization of stations. 
 
The project would incur an expenditure of Rs 3500 crores, which will be funded by the Word Bank. The per kilometer work rate has been estimated at an average of Rs 20 crores.
 
Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation would be asked to prepare the Detailed Project Report, which is expected by the end of December this year, the release added.
 
Briefing reporters after a meeting of the State Cabinet today, Mr Chandy said Rs 10.99 crore had been sanctioned for the Detailed Project Report.
 
He said a five-member Joint Steering Committee has been formed with Chief Secretary Bharat Bhushan as chairman and S Anantharaman, Chief Safety Officer, Southern Railway, Rajesh Agarwal, Divisional Railway Manager, Southern Railway and Ravi Agarwal, Executive Director, Planning at Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation as members. Mr Biju Prabhakaran will be nodal officer and convener of the committee.   
 
Mr Chandy said the Kerala Government and the Central Government would have 50:50 stakes in the SPV.
 
As part of the project, an automatic signaling system will come into place and about 25 stations will undergo modernization. No land acquisition is involved.
 
As part of the operations, 10 MEMU trains, each having seven coaches, will be used.
 
In the suburban rail service, trains can approach and leave stations at 60 km/hr and thus save time on stoppage, he said.
 
The government has also suggested to the Southern Railway to commence high-speed train service in the Malabar region, where the doubling works of railway line would be over in a month’s time.  
 
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Ansari releases K N Pannikar's book "History as a Site of Struggle"

 
Vice-President M Hamid Ansari released well-known historian K N Pannikar's book "History as a Site of Struggle" at a function in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala today.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Ansari said historians were relevant because they have, down the ages, sought to analyse and understand the dynamics of social interaction in different societies.
 
"In this noble fraternity, Professor Panikkar stands tall. He, like any others before him, has sought to explain to the reader, as Ibn Khaldun put it, ‘how and why things are as they are’ and ‘to wash his hands of any blind trust in tradition’," he said.
 
Mr Ansari said Prof Pannikar's preferred area of work is intellectual history which he locates at the intersection of social and cultural history and his focus has been on importance of culture in the transformation of consciousness. 
 
"In our world of today, Professor Panikkar’s emphasis on ‘intellectual decolonisation’ is often found to be inconvenient. Yet, it cannot be ignored," he said
 
"His 2004 Kappen Memorial Lecture of 2004 on ‘Cultural Past and National Identity’ (included in this volume) and his assertion that the dynamism of Indian culture lies in the integrative-disintegrative tendencies of Indian polity and the resulting cultural diversity and plurality that has moulded the cultural practices of the people and is embedded in national identity. Since the logic of this continues to be contested in our society, the debate necessarily shifts to the understanding of our own history. Thus history and writing of history does become the site of this critical struggle, on the intellectual as well as the practical plane. The contestation takes place in the realm of historiography, culture, education and contemporary politics," he said.
 
The book is a collection of papers and articles that Prof Pannikar has written over the years.
 
"Together, they sustain and reinforce his position as an outstanding public intellectual of our times. This tome of over 650 pages does not have to be read at one go; instead, it has to be taken piece by piece, essay by essay, each morsel relished and carefully digested," he added.
 
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Ansari regrets time lost in disruptions in Parliament

Vice President  M Hamid Ansari addressing the special sitting of the Kerala Legislative Assembly on the occasion of its 125th anniversary celebrations in Thiruvananthapuram on September 11, 2013. Kerala Governor Nikhil Kumar and Kerala Legislative Assembly Speaker G. Karthikeyan are also seen.
Vice President M Hamid Ansari addressing the special sitting of the Kerala Legislative Assembly on the occasion of its 125th anniversary celebrations in Thiruvananthapuram on September 11, 2013. Kerala Governor Nikhil Kumar and Kerala Legislative Assembly Speaker G. Karthikeyan are also seen.
 
Vice-President M Hamid Ansari today regretted that, notwithstanding solemn commitments by political parties, time continued to be lost in Parliament in disruptions and at the expense of listed business, both of accountability and of legislation.
 
"These disruptions take place with the knowledge, and at the instance, of political parties and their leaderships and are undertaken to attract public attention, force the executive to undertake the course of action proposed by them and demonstrate their ability to logjam the functioning of the legislature," he said in his address at a special sitting of the Kerala Legislative Assembly to commemorate its 125th anniversary.
 
"Ours is an open society in which the Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression. This includes the right to argue, to debate, and to agitate. The unstated major premise is that the exercise of this right cannot be arbitrary, cannot be at the expense of the same right by fellow citizens," he said.
 
"The boundaries of freedom do get transgressed when agitation takes the place of debate, when their respective venues get transposed, when another member of the legislature is prevented from enjoying the right that the agitating members claim for themselves. It is for this reason that all legislatures make rules of procedure for their functioning," he said.
 
Mr Ansari said the unfortunate reality today was that these rules of procedure were being violated brazenly and with impunity. 
 
"Forgotten is the simple truth, applicable to all citizens including legislators,  that rules are to be observed, not discarded or subverted. A corrective, in the shape of disciplinary action by the Presiding Officers, is hampered if not made dysfunctional by the refusal of the legislative body or a good segment of it to support the Chair and ensure civility and compliance by the defaulting member. The alternative, of physical eviction, is possible with individuals, less so with groups; it does not enhance the dignity of the legislative body and is undesirable to contemplate," he said.
 
He said there was a case for legislative bodies in the country to be dignified assemblies conducting themselves with decorum and restraint. 
 
"Such a requirement is not far fetched since it only requires going back in living memory to the initiators of our system. It would be in step with the practice in other parliamentary democracies and would not single us out as an aberration," he said.
 
Mr Ansari said there was an imperative need for correctives in other areas of work, too, including implementation of the decision of November 2001 to increase the number of working days to 110, 90 and 50 for Parliament, larger and smaller states, respectively.
 
He said this would make available sufficient time for scrutiny of legislative proposals, discussion on issues of public concern raised by members, and overall accountability of the executive.
 
He said the rules for observance of parliamentary etiquette and norms of civility need to be made stricter and enforced more stringently. 
 
"An effort needs to be made to appreciate that excitability, decibel intensity and verbosity does not add to the strength of the argument or the dignity of the legislature. A legislator’s oath of office, ‘to faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter’ could perhaps be amplified to include observance of rules of procedure of the legislative body concerned," he said.
 
"The compelling urge to articulate views on matters of recent happening by seeking the suspension of the Question Hour can be channelled into procedures either by shifting the Question Hour or by dispensing with it altogether since only a few, not exceeding five or six are actually taken up and written answers are in any case given even if the question hour does not function," he said.
 
The Vice-President, who is also the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, said more time should be allocated for discussion of matters of public interest. This would only be possible when more time is made available by increasing the number of working days.  
 
He said the committee system could be strengthened by having a higher attendance requirement and by the induction of experts in an advisory capacity. 
 
"The present practice of exempting ministers from appearance before the committees should be reviewed. As in other parliamentary democracies, the examination of witnesses (but not the finalisation of reports) should be open to the public. This would make the public better aware of this important aspect of the work of legislatures," he said.
 
Mr Ansari said that, while legislators do make required disclosures of their assets and liabilities, this should be supplemented by more stringent "conflict of interest" procedures as are practiced in other parliamentary democracies.
 
"These, and other procedural correctives, are within the realm of the possible, capable of being agreed upon and implemented provided there is a commitment in word and deed on the part of all concerned to reiterate their faith in the proper functioning of the legislature as an essential ingredient of parliamentary democracy," he said.
 
Mr Ansari also referred to the procedural deficiencies noticed in the country's electoral system.
 
In the legislatures, he pointed out that the time made available notionally for parliament or assembly sessions has contracted.
 
"Record of many decades also shows that the notional time allocation is different from the time actually utilised for conduct of business. The reason for this is that uniquely Indian contribution to parliamentary practice known as disruption. It has been a source of concern for many years now and is inviting public ire," he said.
 
"Conferences of Presiding Officers in May and September 1992 addressed the problem as did the Golden Jubilee Session of the Lok Sabha in 1997. Solemn commitments were made unanimously on each occasion; passage of time was to show that neither the solemnity nor the unanimity had the slightest impact on actual behaviour in legislative chambers," he said.
 
Another effort, on a wider scale, was made in November 2001, which sought to diagnose the ailment in all its manifestations and identified what it called ‘major contributory factors behind this trend of disorderly conduct by members in legislature’.
 
These were identified as:
 
1.  non-availability of adequate time and consequent frustration of members over perceived inadequacy of opportunities to raise matters to their grievances on the floor of the House;
2.  misgivings created at times by seemingly unresponsive attitude adopted by government and retaliatory posture by treasury benches;
3.  disinclination, at times, on the part of the leadership of legislature parties to adhere to parliamentary norms and to discipline their members;
4.  absence of prompt and proper action against erring members under Rules of Procedure; and
5.  lack of sufficient training and orientation, especially of new members, in parliamentary procedures and etiquette.
 
"The conference resolved, apart from pious rededication to principles, that ‘immediate steps be taken to ensure a minimum of 110 days of sittings of Parliament and 90 and 50 days of sittings of the Legislatures of big and small states respectively, if necessary, through appropriate constitutional amendments’. It also recommended ‘automatic suspension’ for specified periods of Members guilty of grave misconduct. None of this was acted upon except for the incorporation in 2001 of automatic suspension in Lok Sabha (but not Rajya Sabha) rules. It has been used for the first time only in recent weeks," he said.
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The function marked the end of the 125th anniversary celebrations of the legislative tradition in Kerala, initiated in 1888 by the then Travancore State. It was continued when Travancore and Cochin were merged and was put on a qualitatively different footing when elections to the state Assembly were held in December 1951 under the Constitution of India and further strengthened when the Malabar region was added to the Kerala pursuant to the States Reorganisation Act of 1956.
 
Mr Ansari said the purpose of a legislative body is to deliberate, legislate, and seek accountability from the executive. 
 
"The records of the sessions of the Kerala Legislative Assembly indicate that this has been done in adequate measure. This is a tribute to the commitment of generations of legislators, to the political awareness of the electorate and to their adherence to the principles of parliamentary democracy.
 
"Another characteristic of Kerala’s political scene is its adherence to the classic pattern of two political combinations. This is at variance with the fragmentation in evidence in many other states as also in the Centre.
 
"And, of course, mention must be made of Kerala’s record of progressive legislation and its impressive, very impressive, achievements in the fields of education and health. Located in the south-western corner of the country, Kerala can be looked up to as a model in many areas of national activity," he said.
 
Mr Ansari noted that a survey done last year gave India a rating of 9.58 on electoral process and pluralism, 9.41 for civil liberties, 7.50 for functioning government, 6.11 for political participation and 5.0 for political culture. The survey gave Indian democracy an overall score of 7.52 and a global ranking of 38.
 
"Clearly, the scope for improvement beckons us even as we celebrate our successes," he added.
 
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Ansari says fault lines based on religion, caste seem to have deepened

Vice President  M. Hamid Ansari presenting the “First Sree Narayan Guru Global Secular & Peace Award 2013” to Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor, at a function, at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on September 10, 2013.
Vice President M. Hamid Ansari presenting the “First Sree Narayan Guru Global Secular & Peace Award 2013” to Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor, at a function, at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on September 10, 2013.
 
Vice-President M Hamid Ansari today said that, in recent times, the fault lines in society based on religion, caste, language, region, ethnicity and even economic status, seemed to have deepened, creating tensions that had the potential to threaten the country's unity and retard its progress.
 
Speaking after presenting the first Sree Narayan Guru Global Secular & Peace Award 2013 to Union Minister Shashi Tharoor at Thiruvananthpuram in Kerala, he also said that while much had been done in the past six and a half decades to achieve social justice, economic development and political empowerment, more remained to be done to make India a modern, progressive and harmonious society.
 
"In this context, the teachings of Sree Narayana Guru attains greater importance and shows us a path to follow in order to overcome these myriad challenges and build a peaceful, developed and harmonious society," he said.
 
Mr Ansari said secularism and democracy are the fundamental principles on which the republic is founded. 

Kerala Tourism launches new gesture-controlled website

A view of Kerala Tourism's new gesture-controlled website
A view of Kerala Tourism's new gesture-controlled website
 
Kerala Tourism has launched a new website with gesture-controlled features to help its users and give them a peep into the state's pristine destinations.
 
The website, the first of its kind by a state tourism board in the country, introduces internet users to the rain-washed plains, misty hills and the majestic backwaters of Kerala through a gesture-based interface.
 
Launched as a part of the monsoon campaign by Kerala Tourism, the new website is one of the few tourism websites in the world to use the gesture-controlled technology.
 
Images of the monsoon shot by Facebook fans of Kerala Tourism are used in the new website, which tracks movements and gestures made by a user in front of a webcam and responds to them.
 
"We are proud to present an innovative new website to people around the world who can now sit in front of a computer or with a smart phone and enjoy the multifarious experiences of the monsoon in Kerala even before they arrive in the state," said Kerala Tourism Secretary Suman Billa.
 
"The new technology available today like the gesture-controlled feature on our new website plays an important role in linking destinations with the people," he added.
 
Kerala Tourism Director Hari Kishore described the new website as yet another step in extending to the world the many experiences that Kerala can offer to a visitor. Interestingly, the new website is a combination of innovative technology and the fascinating experiences of the fans of Kerala around the world, he added.
 
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Kerala Tourism advises against travel to Munnar, other parts of Idukki for next few days

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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 in view of the potential risk of roadblocks and landslides because of heavy rains in the region.
 
"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.
 
The advisory was issued after at least 14 persons were killed in several landslides in Idukki since yesterday.
 
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Ministries of Tourism, Railways to jointly develop amenities at Amritsar, Thiruvananthapuram, Agra

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The Ministry of Tourism has undertaken joint development of tourist amenities at Amritsar, Thiruvananthapuram, Rai Bareili, Gaya and Agra Cantonent railway stations in association with the Ministry of Railways.
 
An official press release said Central Government assistance of Rs 10.28 crores, Rs 5.98 crore, Rs 5.18 crore and Rs 5.05 crore had been provided by the Ministry of Tourism for the developent of Amritsar, Rai Bareili, Thiruvananthapuram, Gaya and Agra Cantonment stations, respectively.
 
This financial support is being provided as part of an initiative of Dr. K.Chiranjeevi, Minister of Tourism to provide assistance to Central agencies for tourism infrastructure development, it said.
 
As part of the joint initiative, the Ministry of Railways shall make land for the project available free of cost and render all possible assistance for completion of the project on time. 
 
The Ministry of Railways shall set up a monitoring committee with a member from the Ministry of Tourism to monitor physical and financial progress of these projects, it added.
 
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