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Thiruvananthapuram

Chandy deputes Chennithala to coordinate evacuation of stranded Malayalis from J&K

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today deputed State Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala to coordinate the efforts to bring home safely tourists from the state who have been stranded in different parts of flood-hit Jammu & Kashmir.
 
Mr Chandy said that Mr Chennithala would reach Delhi today to coordinate the arrangements.
 
He said arrangements would be made to help the 100-odd stranded Malayalis reach Srinagar airport, transport them to Delhi by air and facilitate their stay in the national capital prior to their journey to Kerala.
 
The state's Resident Commissioner in Delhi has been asked to make the necessary arrangements in this regard, he said.
 
Mr Chandy had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju in this regard yesterday.
 
A 24x7 control room has been set up at Kerala House in Delhi to handle calls from those who need assistance in this regard.
 
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P. Sathasivam sworn in as new Governor of Kerala

Palaniswamy Sathasivam
Palaniswamy Sathasivam
Former Chief Justice of India Palaniswamy Sathasivam was sworn in as the new Governor of Kerala at a function at Raj Bhavan here today.
 
Mr Sathasivam, 65, was administered the oath of office by acting Kerala High Court Chief Justice Ashok Bhushan. 
 
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, his Cabinet colleagues and senior officials were present on the occasion.
 
Mr Sathasivam has succeeded Ms Sheila Dikshit, the former Chief Minister of Delhi, who resigned as Governor of the state on August 26.
 
The Narendra Modi government, which has attracted a lot of criticism from the Opposition Congress for its handling of Governors of States appointed by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA), went ahead with Mr Sathasivam's appointment despite questions raised about the propriety of appointing a former Chief Justice of India to a gubernatorial post.
 
Mr Sathasivam, who served as the Chief Justice of India from July 19, 2013 until April 26 this year, when he attained the age of 65, is the first former Chief Justice of India to be appointed a Governor, though a couple of former Supreme Court judges have held the position in the past.
 
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Born on April 27, 1949, Mr Justice Sathasivam has B.A. and B.L. degrees and had enrolled as an advocate on July 25, 1973 at Chennai. He practiced in all types of writ, civil and criminal matters, company petitions, insolvency petitions, habeas corpus petitions both on original and appellate sides of the Madras High Court.
 
He worked as a Government Advocate, Additional Government Pleader and Special Government Pleader in the Madras High Court. He also worked as Legal Adviser for several State-owned transport corporations, municipalities, nationalized banks and so on.
 
He was appointed as a permanent Judge of the Madras High Court on January 8, 1996. He was transferred to the Punjab & Haryana High Court on April 20, 2007. He was appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court on August 21, 2007.
 
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Kerala: Schools without toilets will not be allowed to admit students

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In a significant move, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Kerala has decided that schools without toilets will not be given "fitness certificates" and not allowed to admit students from next year if they did not have basic facilities.
 
Briefing journalists after a Cabinet meeting, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government had decided that all schools in the state should have toilets.
 
He said toilets would be constructed within the next 100 days in the 196 government schools which did not have such facilities at present, using funds available under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).
 
He said there were 1011 aided recognised schools which did not have toilets and their managements would have to get them constructed using their own funds.
 
"Fitness certificates will not be given to schools having no toilets. At present fitness certificate is given on the basis of security of buildings. From now own toilet facilities too will be included. No students will be permitted in schools from next year having no basic facilities," he added.
 
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Kerala's ruling UDF decides to shut down 730 bars, Sundays to be "dry days"

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In a major decision, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Kerala has decided to not grant any new liquor licences for bars in three- and four-star hotels in the state and to close down all existing ones, except those in five-star hotels, in a phased manner.
 
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told newspersons here yesterday that sanction would not be given for reopening the 418 bars that are lying closed  since April this year.
 
The 312 functioning bars in hotels below the five-star category would also be closed down, subject to legal advice, before the next financial year. After April 1, 2015, bars will function only in five-star hotels in the state, he said.
 
No new outlets of the state-owned Beverages Corporation will be opened. Apart from this, 10 per cent of its existing outlets will be closed each year. One per cent of the income of the Beverages Corporation would be utilised for creating awareness against consumption of liquor.
 
Mr Chandy said the campaign against the use of liquor would be strengthened, especially on campuses. The Clean Kerala, Safe Kerala campaign will also be strengthened, he said.
 
Mr Chandy said Sundays would be "dry days", taking the total number of liquor holidays to a minimum of 52 in a year.
 
. He said steps would be taken to lower the sales of liquor with strong alcohol content. He said the traditional toddy tapping industry and toddy tappers would be protected.
 
Toddy shops will be allowed to function after taking into consideration the availability of toddy, the number of coconut trees and number of workers.
 
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"Though the UDF Government had taken several measures to limit the use of alcohol in Kerala, the Government is aware that it still continues as a social evil. This is having an adverse effect on the state, families and individuals in different ways.  Under these circumstances the Government thinks that more measures are needed. It is expected that these steps would help to achieve the aim of no alcohol in Kerala," he said.
 
"Government is aiming to totally ban liquor in the state step by step in the coming 10 years. This is the most important decision taken in this regard. Kerala should get ready to imbibe the essence of total liquor ban in the State. Support of people is required for this. All help and support of the people of Kerala is requested for the effort of Government to achieve this great aim," he added.
 
The decision, taken in a meeting of the UDF leadership presided over by Mr Chandy, brings to an end a long battle within the coalition over the renewal of licences of 418 bars which reportedly failed to meet quality parameters. The UDF leadership will now formally recommend to the state government to act in this regard, following which the State Cabinet will take a decision on the issue.
 
The question of reopening the 418 closed bars had led to sharp divisions in the state unit of the Congress. State Congress President V M Sudheeran took a firm stand against renewal of their licences, while another section felt the government should adopt a practical approach and give the bar owners some time to upgrade their facilities and rectify shortcomings.
 
Some of the Congress' allies in the UDF had also expressed themselves in favour of curbing the consumption of alcohol in the state.
 
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Oommen Chandy writes to Modi to bring back Malayalees from Iraq

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to initiate steps to bring back Malayalees who are stranded in violence-torn Iraq.
 
Mr Chandy said in his letter that about 46 Indian nurses, mostly from Kerala, were trapped in the General Hospital at Tikrit and are forced to work with less wages and limited food.
 
He said they should be brought back home at the expense of the government and that, if necessary, a special Air India flight should be arranged for the purpose.
 
Mr Chandy said the hospital authorities were demanding heavy cash compensation from the nurses who wants to return to India. They are unable to pay for it, he pointed out.
 
He urged the Prime Minister to direct the Embassy of India in Baghdad to contact the hospital management and resolve the issue. The help and intervention of the United Nations and Red Crescent should also be sought, he added.
 
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Kerala's Technopark to add 45,000 jobs by 2016: CEO Girish Babu

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Technopark, India's first and largest IT park here, has set itself an ambitious target of creating 45,000 new jobs during 2014-16 as part of its efforts to emerge as the country's IT powerhouse, its CEO Girish Babu has said.
 
The IT park, which will celebrate its silver jubilee next year, currently provides direct employment to 45,000 IT/ITeS professionals through the 330 IT companies on its campus.
 
With the completion of the current construction activities this year of TCS, Infosys, UST Global, Tata Elxsi, IBS and Technopark’s Phase III building, around 45,000 additional direct jobs will be created in Thiruvananthapuram, leading to a total of 90,000 direct jobs and 3,50,000 indirect jobs, Mr Babu said.
 
He said the capacity built during the last 24 years woud be doubled during the next two years in terms of employment through companies located in the IT park.
 
Clocking an impressive growth during the FY 2013-14, Technopark’s export turnover could be around Rs. 5,000 crore as compared to Rs. 3,500 crore in 2012-13. It also added 1.1 million sq ft of built-up space during the period, he was quoted as saying in a press release from Technopark.
 
Under Phase I and II of Technopark, construction of buildings on a total area of 2.5 million sq is progressing, which will be completed within a year. The companies building their own campuses are Infosys, TCS, UST Global, Tata Elxsi and IBS.
 
Technopark Phase II is an 86-acre Special Economic Zone (SEZ) campus being jointly developed by Infosys and UST Global. When fully developed, it can accommodate 50,000 IT/ITeS professionals.
 
Infosys has already constructed two ultra-modern Software Development Blocks, which currently employ 3300 professionals. It plans to invest another Rs 800 crore in this campus over the next few years. The third building of 3.5 lakh sq ft, having 3,500 seats, has been completed. The fourth building, coming up on an area of 4.5 lakh sq ft, will accommodate another 4,500 IT professionals. The fifth building will also seat 4,500 people. In all, there will be around 16,000 direct jobs in the campus.
 
UST Global’s near-complete massive IT building can accommodate 8,500 IT professionals. The plan for the second building is also being finalised.
 
The SEZ being developed in Technopark Phase I by TCS will have a total of 1.12 million sq ft. The main four IT buildings will seat 2,200 professionals each. The first building will be ready by August this year, leading to 8,800 jobs by early 2016. Tata Elxsi and IBS together will add 2,000 new jobs by the next year-end. The expansion of other existing companies will create another 3,000 jobs.
 
“With the commissioning of the Twin Towers -- Ganga and Yamuna – a capacity of 8,500 seats has been created in Phase III. This iconic twin tower, the most modern green building built by the state government, will also be filled by 2015. A total of 40 companies have been allotted space in the new Twin Tower. Another 18 companies are to commence their operations shortly,” Mr. Babu said.
 
With a yearly rental income of Rs. 49 crores, the annual turnover of Technopark has been pegged at around Rs. 100 crores, including incomes from power, water and maintenance services, helping it to continue its profitable operation since 2001.
 
Technopark’s two massive expansion plans are Phase III (92 acres) and Technocity (451 acres), which were funded through bank loans. For Phase III, it took a bank loan of Rs. 21 crores for land acquisition, which was fully repaid with interest. It also took a loan of Rs. 207 crores for building this phase. The repayment, starting this month, will be met primarily out of the income generated from Phase III.
 
Further, Technopark had availed a loan of Rs. 321 crores for land acquisition for Technocity. Of this amount, it has repaid Rs. 360 crores (including interest). “The outstanding amount (Rs. 38 crores) will be paid this month itself. When the Technocity loan is closed within a month, the financial position will drastically improve,” Mr Babu added.
 
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RCC, Thiruvananthapuram to be elevated as State Cancer Institute

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The Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) here – the leading cancer treatment and care facility in South India – is all set to be elevated as one of the first State Cancer Institutes in the country. 
 
The Government of India has allotted Rs 120 crore for infrastructure development of the centre under its National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) during the 12th Five Year Plan.
 
This coveted achievement affirms RCC’s growth and contributions on various fronts, from high standards of care to increasing number of patients and provision of free drugs to infrastructure addition and upgradation and advanced treatment facilities, a press release from the centre said.
 
Thanking the Government for its sustained efforts in bringing this distinction Dr Paul Sebastian, Director, RCC said, “Patient centricity has been at the core of all of our development activities. The elevation as State Cancer Institute will help me and my team enhance the quality of services that we have been providing to over two lakh patients who come to us for care every year. The completion of a 10-storeyed building will considerably ease the space shortage that we are experiencing now.” 
 
The 1.2 lakh sq feet building is getting ready for occupation by year-end, the release said.
 
“We hope that the State Cancer Institute status would be a stepping stone to a National Cancer Institute status in the near future. Efforts are on in full gear,” Dr Sebastian added.
 
RCC has witnessed a yearly increase in patient registrations and provides care to more than 15,000 new cancer patients every year now. Significantly, 45 per cent of new cancer patients are given free treatment, and internally generated funds to the tune of Rs 12 crore annually are used to provide free treatment to persons below the poverty line. 
 
RCC has tied up with various cancer welfare schemes, such as CHISS Plus, Karunya Benevolent Fund and Cancer Suraksha Scheme to benefit poor patients. More than Rs 65 crore worth of treatment have been disbursed to over 20,000 needy patients through these welfare schemes. A free drug bank functioning inside the RCC premises has been a boon to poor patients who cannot afford the high cost of cancer-care medicines. All poor patients are also provided free food in the wards.
 
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The centre offers state-of-the-art comprehensive multidisciplinary cancer treatment using cutting edge technology in surgery, radiotherapy and medical oncology delivered by a well trained and vastly experienced team of specialists. RCC is also at the forefront of cancer research – clinical, basic, translational, epedimiological and integrative with the major objective of finding cost-effective, evidence based solutions for the common cancers in the society.
 
RCC is well on its way to becoming India’s first cancer hospital to be accredited by National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH). NABH accreditation calls for compliance of stringent 600 plus objective elements, the release said.
 
Realising the need of skilled manpower for effective patient care, RCC has been offering new post graduate and superspeciality programmes in critical disciplines such as surgical oncology, medical oncology, paediatric oncology, radiotherapy, radiodiagnosis, anaesthesiology and pathology. RCC is now recognised as a major teaching and training centre in oncology related areas. 
 
District cancer control centres to improve cancer awareness among the public, screening, early detection, appropriate referral and post treatment care, and a state-wide cancer screening programme are some of the outreach initiatives of RCC for cancer control in Kerala. 
 
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40 % of patients at Kerala RCC suffer from cancer caused by tobacco use

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More than 40 per cent of the 1.5 lakh patients who come to the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) here every year suffer from cancers caused by the use of tobacco products, RCC Director Paul Sebastian has said.
 
"Painfully, the incidence of tobacco related disease has gone up among youngsters as well," he said at an interaction between tobacco use victims brought together by the Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV) and Kerala Legislative Assembly Speaker G Karthikeyan here yesterday.
 
Dr Sebastian, who is also the chairman of VoTV Kerala, said that this public health malady affecting Kerala could be averted by raising tobacco taxes. 
 
He pointed out the Rajasthan example, which by raising taxes to 65%, has reduced consumption, saved lives and brought additional revenues to the exchequer.
 
He also pointed out to Speaker that a mere 2.5% increase in cigarette taxes had brought in nearly Rs 100 crore to the Kerala Government.
 
Dr Sebastian also emphasised the case of taxing beedis which severely affect people of poor socio-economic background in Kerala. Beedis are not taxed at all in Kerala.
 
The victims present at the meeting appealed for the Speaker's intervention in bringing down tobacco use and associated deaths and disease in Kerala.
 
Mr Karthikeyan said more such proactive interventions are needed and promised all support in bringing down the disease burden due to tobacco use in the state.
 
One of the patients, Balan, said his life had changed for the worse after he became afflicted with cancer.
 
"I realise that tobacco use brought untold miseries to me and my family. I have three daughters; their education had to be discontinued because of my cancer," he said.
 
Dr. K R Thankappan, Prof and Head, Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies of the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology here spoke about cardiac and respiratory problems seen today, particularly among youth, as a result of cigarette smoking.
 
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Mr P C Vishnunadh, MLA, promised all support in sensitising the legislature on the enormity of the health issues caused by tobacco use in Kerala.
 
The victims gave individual representations to the Speaker and the MLA for raising tobacco taxes in Kerala. 
 
Dr. R Jayakrishnan, Assistant Professor, RCC; Mr S Jayaraj, State Coordinator, Tobacco Free Kerala and  Mr Johnson Edayaranmula of ADIC-India were also present on the occasion.
 
VoTV is a campaign that gives a collective space and voice to tobacco victims and makes them agents of advocacy for bringing about policy changes. 
 
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Chandy says govt. will support launch of She Taxis across Kerala

Malayalam film actress Manju Warrier flagging off the first She Taxi service for women travellers in Kochi, Kerala on May 20, 2014.
Malayalam film actress Manju Warrier flagging off the first She Taxi service for women travellers in Kochi, Kerala on May 20, 2014.
The Government of Kerala will extend all possible support for further expansion of the She Taxi project, a first-of-its-kind 24x7 taxi service owned and operated by women entrepreneurs for women travellers, to more cities in the state, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said here yesterday.
 
He was speaking after inaugurating the service here after its successful launch in Thiruvananthapuram in November last year.
 
Popular Malayalam film actress Manju Warrier, the goodwill ambassador of the service, flagged off the first trip at a ceremony at the Ernakulam Town Hall here.
 
“The initiative was a big success in Thiruvananthapuram. The government allotted special parking lots for She Taxis in the state capital,” Mr Chandy said.
 
He applauded the Department of Social Justice for taking up this venture which, he said, “has become a women's empowerment model for countries across the globe to emulate.”
 
“The She Taxi has grabbed global attention after its successful introduction in Thiruvanathapuram. Even the authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are actively looking at the possibility of similar cab services for women,” State Minister for Panchayats and Social Justice M K Muneer said.
 
“Initially, Kochi will have a fleet of ten cabs. Soon we will have She Taxis in Calicut. We are planning to roll out 250 She Taxi cabs in all major cities across the state,” Dr Muneer said.
 
“I am extremely happy to know that the She Taxi, which started with just five cabs in Thiruvananthapuram, has become a huge success among women. I am proud to be the goodwill ambassador of this unique project,” said Ms Warrier.
 
She had volunteered to support the transport service after she herself had first-hand experience of the difficulties and worries of travelling in unfamiliar cities at odd hours.  
 
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“As someone who has had first-hand experience of the difficulties and worries of travelling in unfamiliar cities at odd hours, I know how important a service of this kind will be to women. I also respect the women who have come forward to operate these taxis given the challenges they are expected to face in a male-dominated business,” she added.
 
The project, conceived and implemented by The Gender Park under the aegis of the Department of Social Justice, is being extended to Kochi after its success in Thiruvanathapuram where it was launched in November 2013.
 
The first women drivers of the cabs in Kochi – Metty T J, Nisha M P, Prasanna P, Saritha Jeevaraj, Sugandhi Raj, Mary George,  Siji K L, Shyby Joseph – received the keys from Minister for Public Works V K Ebrahim Kunju. Minster for Fisheries, Port and Excise K Babu launched the She Taxi In-car value added service.
 
Mr Hibi Eden, MLA, inaugurated the ‘She Taxi Club’, the latest addition to a slew of value added services offered by the cab facility that provides priority booking facilities, special travel packages and other offers.
 
Associates of the She Taxi project include Maruti Suzuki Ltd, which is supplying the customised pink and white taxis, the Kerala State Women’s Development Corporation (KSWDC) which is providing financing support for the entrepreneurs and Techno park-based Rain Concert Technologies, which is handling the fleet operations and marketing through a 24-hour call centre in Kochi (accessible on 859 0000 543).
 
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.
 
She Taxi has joined hands with Federal Bank for banking services. All cabs have an electronic payment system allowing customers to pay using credit or debit cards or cash.  She Taxi has partnered with Vodafone and yentha.com to introduce “Wish Box”, another value added service that facilitates internet browsing and online shopping besides a number of other in-car entertainment facilities. The Gender Park will soon introduce a mobile application to enhance customer services.
 
The cab is fitted with best-in-class technology such as the GPS, precision metering systems and in-car LCD systems. It also has a number of safety features such as emergency alert switches for drivers and passengers and safety alert mobile application for women drivers. The taxis will have round the clock access to the control room set up by Rain Concert Technologies and any complaint or medical emergencies from She Taxi passengers will be immediately passed on to the police or hospitals accordingly. The fleet have a passenger pooling facility called ‘She Taxi Pooling’ allowing people travelling to a particular location to travel in groups.
 
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CBSE declares Class X results for Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram regions, rest on Tuesday

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The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) today declared the results of its Class X examinations today and said the results for the remaining regions would be declared at 4 pm tomorrow.
 
The results will be available on the following websites: www.cbseresults.nic.in, www.cbse.nic.in and www.results.nic.in
 
The results can also be received through interactive voice response system (IVRS), for which the call rates per roll number are Rs 0.30 per minute.
 
The telephone numbers in this regard are 011-24300699, 011-28127030 and 1255536 (for BSNL subscribers outside Delhi).
 
A CBSE press release also said that the second phase of counselling will begin from May 20 and continue till June 10 on all working days from 8 am to 10 pm to help students and parents overcome psychological problems and answer common queries after the announcement of the results.
 
Students can dial a toll free number, 1800 11 8004 to avail of this service.
 
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She Taxis to extend services to women in Kochi

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 first-of-its-kind 24x7 taxi service owned and operated by women entrepreneurs for women travellers launched in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala in November last year, will begin operations in Kochi from tomorrow.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will inaugurate the service here at a ceremony at the Ernakulam Town Hall tomorrow. Popular Malayalam film actress Manju Warrier, the goodwill ambassador of the service, will flag off the first trip.
 
Warrier volunteered to support the transport service after she herself had first-hand experience of the difficulties and worries of travelling in unfamiliar cities at odd hours.  
 
“As someone who has had first-hand experience of the difficulties and worries of travelling in unfamiliar cities at odd hours, I know how important a service of this kind will be to women. I also respect the women who have come forward to operate these taxis given the challenges they are expected to face in a male-dominated business,” she added.
 
The project, conceived and implemented by the Gender Park under the aegis of the Department of Social Justice, is being extended to Kochi after its success in Thiruvanathapuram.
 
Union Minister K V Thomas, Kerala Ministers M K Muneer, V K Ebrahim Kunju, K Babu and Anoop Jacob , and Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany will be present on the occasion.
 
The fleet operations and marketing will be handled by Technopark-based Rain Concert Technologies Ltd, which is setting up a 24-hour call center in Kochi for the purpose.
 
The Gender Park is an initiative by Kerala’s Department of Social Justice, with an objective of unifying all activities in the state aimed at attaining gender equity.  The service will soon be introduced in the city of Calicut and in a phased manner in other locations.
 
The pilot service introduced in Thiruvananthapuram last year with an initial fleet of five cars has now expanded to 25 cabs and has carried more than 9,000 passengers so far. The project helped generate more than Rs 15 lakhs in revenues in just five months of its launch.
 
The customized pink and white taxis, supplied by Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., have collectively covered more than 2, 00,000 kilometres inside and outside the state. The She Taxi service has so far received 3,700 trip bookings, night time travel accounting for around 1,600 of these, a release from the company added.
 
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Premium superfast special trains to run between Trivandrum, Nizamuddin

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The Southern Railway will run premium superfast special trains between Trivandrum Central in Kerala and Nizamuddin, Delhi on May 10 and 17.
 
A press release from Southern Railway said the first train (Number 06314) will start from Trivandrum Central at 06.40 AM on 10.05.2014 and will reach Nizamuddin at 07.10 AM o­n 12.05.2014.
 
 It will have stoppages o­nly at Ernakulam Town, Mangalore Junction, Madgaon, Vadodara and Kota Junction.
 
 The composition of the train will be 3 coaches of 2AC, 2 coaches of 3AC,and7 coaches of Sleeper classes, it said.
 
Booking for 10.05.14 will commence today and booking will only be through e-ticketing till 4 hours before the departure of the train, the release added.
 
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CBI registers two cases on alleged multi-crore land fraud in Kerala

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today said it had registered two cases on the directions of the Kerala High Court in two writ petitions relating to alleged multi-crore land fraud at Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram in the state.
 
A press release from the agency said the first case was registered under sections 468, 471,511 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on April 24 against two then officials of the Revenue Department and three private persons on the allegations that they indulged in land grabbing, cheating, forgery and so on to the tune of approximately Rs. 25 crore.
 
The release said the case was initially registered at Kalamassery Police Station under sections 468,471,511 and 420 of IPC on 17.8.2013 on the basis of a complaint received from a private person. 
 
It was alleged that the accused persons criminally conspired with each other and prepared false forged and fabricated documents of the properties of complainant’s family with an intention to misappropriate his ancestral land measuring 116 cents at Pathadipalam, Thrikkakara North village, Ernakulam (Kerala) to the cost of approximately Rs. 25 crores.
 
The complainant further alleged that his family was having enmity with the said accused persons and a number of civil and criminal cases were pending in various courts and police stations. The case were subsequently investigated by CB CID, EOW-II, Kottayam (Kerala).
 
The second case was registered under section 120 B read with sections 420, 465, 468 & 471 of IPC and under sections 13 (2) read with 13 (1) (d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 on 24.4.2014 against 27 accused persons including certain revenue and other Government officials and private persons . 
 
This case was initially inquired into by Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau, Thiruvananthapuram and they had submitted a report before the High Court.
 
It has been alleged in the FIR that the accused persons had conspired to grab private land in Kadakampally village measuring about 44 acres at a cost of approximately Rs. 450 crores by fabricating and manipulating revenue records of Kadakampally village. The accused persons allegedly entered into illegal transactions including mutations in the records of the village office and thereby deprived the legal title holders of the land of their possession and ownership, the release said.
 
Further investigation in both the cases are continuing, the release added.
 
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MRVC submits feasibility report on Thiruvananthapuram-Chengannur RRTS project in Kerala

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

Fahad Faasil and Ann Augustine in a still from the movie Artist.
Fahad Faasil and Ann Augustine in a still from the movie Artist.
CR No. 89, directed by P P Sudevan, bagged the Best Film Award in the 46th Kerala State Film Awards announced here today by Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan.
 
Anil Radhakrishnan's North 24 Kaatham was chosen as the second best film, while Shyamaprasad won the Best Director Award for Artist.
 
Fahad Faasil (Artist and North 24 Kaatham) and Lal (Ayaal and Zachariayude Garbhinikal) shared the Best Actor Award while Ann Augustine bagged the Best Actress award for her role in Artist.
 
Suraj Venaramoodu, who has won a name for himself in comic roles and who won this year's Best Actor award in the National Film Awards, was chosen the 
Best Comedian for his roles in Daivathinte Swantham Cleetus and Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum.
 
Several of this year's awards went to younger artistes, Mr Radhakrishnan pointed out.
 
The awards were finalised by a jury headed by well-known Tamil filmmaker Bharathi Raja.
 
The following is the list of awardees:
 
Best Film: CR No 89, Director: Sudevan
Second Best Film: North 24 Kaatham, Director: Anil C Radhakrishnan
Best Actor: Fahad Faasil (Artist and North 24 Kaatham), Lal (Ayal and Zachariayude Garbhinikal)
Best Actress: Ann Augustine (Artist)
Best Director: Shayamaprasad (Artist)
Second Best Actor: Ashok Kumar (CR No 89)
Second Best Actress: Lena (Left Right Left)
Best Child Artist: Sanoop Santhosh (Philips and the Monkey Pen), Baby Anika (5 Sundarikal)
Best Comedian: Suraj Venjaramoodu (Daivathinte Swantham Cleetus, Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum)
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Best Story: Aneesh Anwar (Zachariyayude Garbhinikal)
Best Screenplay: Bobby-Sanjay (Mumbai Police)
Best Cinematography: Sudeep Vasudevan (Ayaal)
Best Lyrics: Prabha Varma, Madhu Vasudev (Nadan)
Best Music Director: Ouseppachan (Ottakku Padunna Poonkuyile - Nadan)
Best Background Music Director: Bijibal (Balyakalasakhi)
Best Male Playback Singer: Karthik (Janmandarangalil - Orissa)
Best Female Playback Singer: Vaikom Vijayalakshmi  (Ottakku Padunna Poonkuyile - Nadan)
Best Film Editor: K. Rajagopal (Oru Indian Pranayakatha)
Best Art Director: M. Bava (Amen)
Best Sound Recordist: Harikumar
Best Colourist: Raghuraman (Ayaal) 
Best Makeup Artist: Pattanam Rasheed
Best Costume Designer:  Siji Thomas
Best Dubbing Artist: Ambooty (male), Sreeja Ravi (female)
Best Choreography: Kumar-Shanti
Best Film with Popular Appeal and Aesthetic Value: Drishyam, Director: Jeethu Joseph
Best Children's Film: Philips and the Monkey Pen, Directors: Rojin Thomas and Shanil Muhammed
Best Debut Director: K. R. Manoj (Kanyaka Talkies)
Special Jury Awards
Aneesh Anwar: Direction, (Zachariyayude Garbhinikal)
Suresh Unnithan: Direction (Ayaal)
Kalabhavan Shajon: Acting (Drishyam)
Sanusha: Acting (Zachariyayude Garbhinikal)
Mridula Warrier: Singing (Kalimannu)
Afzal Yusuf: Music Direction (Immanuel, God for Sale)
 
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PM defends UPA record, urges people to counter BJP's "divisive ideology"

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today strongly defended the performance of his government in the last ten years and asserted that it was only the Congress party that could counter the divisive ideology of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
"I urge you to contribute to this cause," he said while campaigning for the coming Lok Sabha elections in Ernakulam in Kerala.
 
Referring to the various steps taken by his government over the past deade, he said that often, in the din of electioneering, facts are ignored and propaganda by some political parties seeks to mislead people.
 
He said that it was not possible to either banish poverty from the country or generate adequate employment opportunities for the youth withut rapid economic gowth.
 
"Our record in this area has definitely been better than that of any other Government in the past. The average annual growth rate that we have achieved in the last decade is better than that of any other ten year period. And we have achieved this despite facing two global economic crises," he said.
 
Dr Singh said that the government had also ensured that all sections of society, especially the weaker ones, and all parts of the country benefited from the process of development.
 
"Between the years 2004 and 2011, poverty has declined three times faster than earlier and the number of poor has gone down by about 14 crore," he said.
 
He reeled out figures and listed the steps taken by the government to showcase its achievements in the agriculture, human resource development, education, health, skill development, infrastructure, industry and other sectors.
 
He also spoke at length the steps taken for the development of Kerala and about the role played in this regard by Congress leaders from the state.
 
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He said the Centre had made an investment of nearly Rs 70,000 crore  in Kerala in the last ten years, helping it to achieve an impressive average growth rate that is higher than the national average.
 
Dr Singh admtted that, in the past, the government was not able to control inflation despite its best efforts. 
 
"However, in the recent weeks our efforts to curb inflation have shown good results.  A major cause for inflation has been the rising prices of food commodities. The permanent solution to this problem lies in increasing the supply of various commodities of mass consumption," he said.
 
At the same time, he stressed that, in the last ten years, the goverment had not even once increased the prices of commodities being made available to the poor through the Public Distribution System. 
 
He described as "completely false" the accusation that the government had not tried hard enough to check corruption and said the truth was that it had taken more measures than any other regime to contain the evil. He listed the various anti-corruption laws enacted by Parliament and said some more laws could not be passed because of a total lack of cooperation by the Opposition.
 
Dr Singh said voters in Kerala had proved time and again that the state had no space for a "divisive party like the BJP". He said the Left, which had on occasions ruled Kerala, had either been unable to or had refused to change with the times.
 
"The result is that their policies and programmes do not take into account the realities of the day and lead to a slow down of the processes of growth and development. The people of India have recognized this and that is why the Left parties suffered heavy losses in the 2009 General elections and also lost Kerala and West Bengal in the subsequent Assembly elections. I believe that the Left parties will continue to decline unless they show some willingness to change their dogmatic ways of thinking," he said.
 
He condemned the increasing incidents of political violence in Kerala and urged the people to outrightly reject this cult of violence.
 
Dr Singh said that the Congress, if voted back to power at the Centre, would speed up the processes of nation-building and work even harder for the well-being and prosperity of the people.
 
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First ever ‘GREAT British festival’ in Kerala at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi

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The first ever GREAT British Festival in Kerala will be held here tomorrow and in Kochi on March 14 to encourage new business partnerships as a follow-up of Prince Charles' visit to Kochi in November 2013.
 
The festival, organised by the British Deputy High Commission in Chennai, will showcase the United Kingdom's commitment to Kerala through its innovation and expertise in: infrastructure, creative and digital media/ICT, manufacturing, healthcare, education, financial services and retail.
 
More than 35 British companies will participate and encourage new partnerships in Kerala during the festival, a press release from the British Deputy High Commission said.
 
Mr Bharat Joshi, British Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai said, "The royal visit was evidence of how much the UK values the relationship with God’s Own Country. The visit on 12 March in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and 14 March in Kochi will help build on even closer partnerships for the benefit of both our countries. And they give me another opportunity to visit this beautiful part of India."
 
Event partners include the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) for meetings with Government (B2G) and Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industries (CCCI) for Business to Business (B2B) meetings.
 
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Kerala Tourism launches “Food Championship” for food lovers

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Kerala Tourism has launched "The Great Kerala Food Championship", an international competition aimed at promoting the state's cuisine and style of cooking across the world.
 
State Minister for Tourism A P Anil Kumar said that the cuisine of the region was famous the world over for its unique taste and health benefits.
 
“Be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian, the dishes of Kerala are known for their taste, healthiness and traditional preparation procedures. The championship is aimed at spreading the uniqueness of our cuisine among the people within the country and world over,” he said.
 
Participants have to submit online a write-up on their favourite dish or any story directly related to their experience with Kerala food. The article should be submitted to the website of Kerala Tourism through the contest page using the login id and password received at the time of registration.
 
“The Great Kerala Food Championship is designed to encourage people’s experiences with Kerala’s food in the form of an article written in English. The participants can submit articles on their Kerala cuisine experience or the recipes they like most. While submitting their favourite recipe, they must also write why they like it,” the Minister said.
 
“Kerala’s traditional cuisine has strong cultural influences. Through this competition, we aim to make the variety of tradititonal Kerala recipes a hit among people across the world,” Mr S. Harikishore, Director, Department of Tourism, said.
 
The contest will close on March 15. It is open to people anywhere in the world who have completed the age of 18 years (born on or before 01.01.1996). 
 
There is no entry fee for the contest. Though a contestant is encouraged to send only one entry for the competition, he or she can send more than one entry, provided it is sent from the same login id. No individual will be allowed to register twice, a press release from Kerala Tourism said.
 
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A maximum of five entries can be sent through a single login id. All entries should be in English between 200 and 600 words long. The subject or theme of the article must be related to Kerala cuisine.
 
The tourism department has lined up a total 402 prizes for the championship, with 300 randomly selected participants getting T-Shirts. The first prize winner will get a three-night stay in a Kerala hotel for two people (between May and August) plus air fare to Kerala from any point within India to collect the prize. 
 
The second prize winner will be offered a two-night stay at a hotel in Kerala for two people (between May and August) plus air fare to Kerala from any point within India to collect prize. 
 
One hundred consolation prizes of household articles worth less than Rs 2,000 plus shipping Rs 500 will also be given to participants. 
 
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KSCSTE to undertake Karamana-Killi river clean-up project

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The Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) and the Trivandrum Development Authority (TRIDA) have joined hands for a pilot project aimed at reviving the polluted Karamana-Killi river system.
 
The Karamana-Killi River Scientific Management (Pilot) Project, estimated to cost around Rs 5 crore, will be implemented with the support of a number of other departments and organisations along six kilometres of the Killi river, from Myladikkadavu to Airanimuttam in Thiruvananthapuram, a press release from KSCSTE said.
 
State Minister for Water Resources P J Joseph will inaugurate the project at Valyasala-Nandavanam, near Killipalam on Wednesday. Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor will be the special guest at the function which will be presided over by Minister for Health V S Sivakumar.
 
The pilot scheme, approved by the State Planning Board, integrates nine sub-projects that will be implemented by agencies including the Trivandrum Cooperation, the Public Works Department, the Irrigation/Sewerage Departments and the Biodiversity Board and monitored by the KSCSTE and TRIDA.
 
A co-ordination committee, a technical committee and a monitoring cell have been formed for the smooth and seamless implementation of the project.
 
Among the sub-projects is increasing the depth of the Thiruvallam stream and construction of spillways along its banks to aid drinking water supply. The irrigation department has undertaken the work, expected to cost around Rs 50 lakh. The department is also planning to construct a spillway at Myladikkadavu at a cost of Rs 22.5 lakhs to increase water flow in the Killi river during the summer season.
 
The Biodiversity Board has proposed setting up of a biodiversity park at the bund between Myladikkadavu and Killipalam at a cost of Rs 18.5 lakhs.
 
Trivandrum Corporation is planning to take up Rs 52.5 lakh worth of projects including carrying out maintenance works, sealing and placing silt traps along the drains between Myladikkadavu and Airanimuttam. The PWD is also expected to invest around Rs 1 crore for improving the drainage systems in the area.
 
The Corporation is also planning to set up CCTVs in the vicinity of the Karamana river where solid waste including animal carcasses are being dumped illegally. This project is expected to cost Rs 55 lakh.
 
Separate sewage lines, water recycling projects, awareness programs about the need for conservation of the river are some of the other schemes in the pipeline, the release added.
 
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HLL Lifecare to acquire 74% of Goa Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals

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The public sector HLL Lifecare Limited will acquire 74 per cent equity stake in Goa Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Limited (GAPL) as part of its plans to give a boost to its pharma business.
 
A press release from the company said here today that the Goa Cabinet had, last Wednesday, approved a proposal to disinvest the 74 per cent equity held in GAPL by state-owned EDC Limited in favour of HLL.
 
Under the agreement, HLL will expand the GAPL facility for diversifying its pharma portfolio. Further, HLL will retain all the existing 205 employees of GAPL, it said.
 
“The acquisition of majority stake in GAPL shows HLL’s intent and seriousness to expand its footprint in the country’s booming pharma sector in a substantial manner,” HLL Chairman and Managing Director M. Ayyappan said.
 
“We are enhancing our pharma manufacturing capabilities to cater to the market potential. HLL wishes to strengthen its pharma segment through similar acquisitions. It is also in tune with our diversification plans across the health segment, including project management consultancy, manufacture of vaccines, establishment of diagnostic centers and generic medicine outlets,” he said.
 
HLL currently offers several women's healthcare products and has a strong distribution network, reaching out to over 30,000 medical professionals and over 3,500 hospitals in the country.
 
Apart from contraceptives and healthcare products, HLL has a hospital products division, which offers a wide range of critical hospital products in the field of transfusion services, wound care services and advanced patient care. The product range includes blood collection bags, surgical sutures, surgical and examination gloves and blood banking equipment.
 
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The company runs generic drugs retail outlets in various parts of the country. Through its retail medicine networks in AIIMS New Delhi and Haryana, HLL provides 147 generic medicines.  Recently HLL had set up a state-of-the-art hormonal formulation plant in Belgaum in Karnataka. HLL also has pharma production facilities in Belgaum and Indore.
 
Hindlabs and Life Care Centres (LCC), the two major brands of HLL, provide diagnostic services and retails pharma products, surgical implants to partner institutions under the PPP model, respectively. The company has been operating specialty diagnostics and pharmacy services in leading healthcare institutions in Kerala, Odisha and other states in collaboration with respective State Health Departments.
 
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Kerala govt. to acquire twin engine aircraft for aviation academy

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said that twin-engine aircraft worth Rs 6 crore would be bought for the Rajiv Gandhi Aviation Academy here.
 
Inaugurating a new hangar at Chacka here yesterday, Mr Chandy said the Government would make the academy a model institution.
 
He said an airstrip would also be constructed to help provide the best possible training for the students of the academy.
 
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Malayalam film actress Meera Jasmine gets married to Anil John Titus

Actress Meera Jasmine wedding
Well-known Malayalam film actress Meera Jasmine got married to Anil John Titus, a computer engineer working in Dubai, at the CSI Mateer Memorial church in Palayam here today.
 
The wedding was attended only by close relatives of the bride and the groom amidst tight security provided by the local police.
 
According to reports, Anil had moved a court seeking police protection because a former friend of his, whom he had planned to marry, and her father had threatened to stop the marriage.
 
The court had had yesterday directed the Kerala Police to ensure that there were no disturbances in the wedding ceremony.
 
Among those who attended the ceremony were actors Dileep, Kavya Madhavan and Mallika Sukumaran.
 
The reception was held later at the RDR Auditorium at Edapazhanji.
 
The couple had formally registered their marrage in front of a sub-registrar in Kochi on February 9. 
 
Born as Jasmine Mary Joseph, Meera, who won the National Award for her role in Paadam Onnu: Oru Vilapam in 2004, said her priority would be her family now, but she was open to any good roles that came her way. During a sucessful career, she has acted in some 65 films since making her debut in Soothradharan in 2001. She has also acted in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films.
 
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Kerala govt. decides to temporarily freeze Thiruvananthapuram master plan

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The Kerala Government has decided to temporarily freeze the draft master plan for the city of Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, because of the concerns and complaints from various quarters.
 
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told newspersons here after a meeting of the State Cabinet yesterday that it had come to the notice of the government that the master plan was prepared without carrying out proper studies and analyses.
 
He said a new master plan would be drawn up after hearing the concerns of various sections, especially of the common man.
 
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Kerala to procure rubber from growers in wake of fall in prices

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The Kerala Government has decided to procure natural rubber from farmers by paying them Rs 2 per kg above the prices fixed by the Rubber Board on a daily basis as part of its efforts to help growers in view of the fall in the prices of the commodity.
 
"Following the discussions held with officials of the Rubber Board and other agencies, the government has decided to procure RSS 4 grade rubber based on the last three years’ average price of Rs 171 per kilo," Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told newspersons after a meeting of the State Cabinet here today.
 
"The procurement will continue till this price is attained. The government has decided to entrust the procurement to approved agencies like the Kerala State Rubber Marketing Federation, Market Fed and rubber producing companies under the Rubber Board," he said.
 
"These agencies will procure RSS 4 grade rubber from daily market by giving two rupees additional for a kilo of rubber. The agencies will be given Rs 4 a kilo as handling charges," he said.
 
Mr Chandy said the procurement would be closely monitored by the government and after procuring 10,000 tons, the government will review the process and if needed will go for a reworked strategy. 
 
He said the Cooperation Secretary would hold discussions with the procurement agencies and start the process soon.
 
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Mr Chandy said the state government would also appeal to the Union Government to suspend the import of rubber based on advance license for six months. In return, Kerala will supply rubber during the period of six months, at the price at which it is currently imported. 
 
"This mechanism would prevent further fall in price of rubber," he added.
 
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Coir Kerala 2014 to be held in Alappuzha from February 1-5

 
Coir Kerala 2014, the fourth edition of the world’s biggest trade event on coir and natural fibres, will be held in Alappuzha from February 1-5, 2014, with a line-up of new products and machinery designed to drive up production and exports.
 
The event will be inaugurated by Defence Minister A K Antony at a ceremony presided over by Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at the EMS Stadium in Alappuzha, State Minister for Revenue and Coir Adoor Prakash announced at a press conference here yesterday.
 
Around 160 foreign delegates from more than 46 countries and nearly 100 buyers from across India are expected to take part in the trade fair which targets export orders worth Rs 150 crores for the coir and natural fibres industry.
 
According to the organisers, the annual event has become a significant contributor to the increase in revenues from coir exports. In 2012-13, total coir exports were worth around Rs. 1,166 crore, up from Rs 1,052 crore the previous year – 70% of which was Kerala’s contribution.
 
“While production and exports have seen a definite increase, our primary focus continues to be improving the lives of the workers in the coir industry and to create more employment in this sector,” Mr Prakash said.
 
“The government has raised the income support scheme amount for coir workers from just Rs 150 three years ago to Rs 260 now, but we are aware that it is still below the earnings in many other skilled sectors and we are looking to address that disparity," he said.
 
At Coir Kerala 2014, which is being organised with the support of the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, there will be 250 exhibition stalls across the national and international pavilion showcasing a range of fibre products and the increasing product diversity in the industry.
 
Some of the newly developed products include a collection of handicrafts and souvenirs; sound-absorbing materials designed for architecture and interior designing; and environment-friendly coir geo-cells that prevent slope erosion and enable slope land cultivation at the same time.
 
Also showcased at the fair will be new machinery and technologies designed to improve productivity in the sector. Among them a pneumatic loom for weaving geotextiles and a revolutionary new defibering mill, developed by the National Coir Research and Management Institute (NCRMI), the coordinating agency for Coir Kerala 2014.
 
The defibering mill developed by NCRMI at its R&D facility in Thiruvananthapuram is designed to address the crippling shortage of raw material faced by the industry today. Fibre scarcity will be the discussion point at Coir Kerala 2014 with a series of seminars organised to help develop solutions for the problem.
 
For the first time in Coir Kerala, a committee consisting of exporters, policymakers and subject experts is being constituted to see how the recommendations at these seminars and workshops can be put to practical use to aid product diversification, Ms Rani George, Secretary, Coir, said.
 
She added that the department was in talks with the Coconut Development Board to create a mechanism where farmers’ societies from whom the board procures coconuts are able to supply coir fibre. ‘The husk usually goes waste for them, we are looking to see if we can supply defibering machines to these farmers’ societies and buy back processed fibre and pith from them,” she said.
 
The Coir Department has been already been actively taking steps to address the crippling raw materials shortage that the coir industry in Kerala today faces.
 
Between November 2013 and January 2014 the government procured 14,000 quintals of coir fibre and distributed them through Coirfed to coir cooperatives at the standard rate of Rs 20/kg of raw fibre at a time when the market prices had soared to between Rs 26 and Rs 28.
 
The Rs 12 crore worth of subsidisation has been instrumental in stabilising the prices of coir yarn and other end products in both the domestic market and for exports.
 
After being sidelined for decades by plastics and other synthetic material, coir and natural fibres are making a comeback, thanks to the growing emphasis the world over for sustainable living and increased focus on R&D to add value and find newer uses for these natural products.
 
It was in 2011 that the Government of Kerala initiated the Coir Kerala programme to revive the crisis ridden coir sector, by boosting production and exports. Coir Kerala has today morphed into an annual trade fair, facilitating not just buyer-seller interactions, but acting as a platform to showcase the newest products and latest technologies and machinery. 
 
The international event also brings together scientists, researchers and policy-makers to discuss strategies and new projects to create jobs, improve the conditions of workers, increase productivity and earnings across the industry.
 
But the most noteworthy aspect of Coir Kerala is the active participation in the event of thousands of coir workers in an around Alappuzha, which is the nerve centre of the coir industry in Kerala.
 
The preliminary stages of a number of skill contests and other competitions for coir workers are already underway. Coir Kerala will be a venue for the final rounds of many of these competitions and the winners will be given prizes at the valedictory function which will be inaugurated by Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi.
 
The key buyer-seller meet enabling one-to-one interactions will be held on February 3 and on the final day of the event on February 5, Mr Prakash will interact directly with coir workers at a morning session expected to draw more than 2,000 people.
 
Cultural and entertainment programmes, which have proven to be major crowd-pullers, will be held on all five days of the event.
 
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