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Thiruvananthapuram

Oracle signs MoU with ICT Academy of Kerala to impart IT skills to students

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The ICT Academy of Kerala (ICTAK) and IT major Oracle have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to implement Oracle Academy's computer science programmes across 60 institutes in the state over the next two years.
 
As part of this initiative, Oracle Academy software curriculum, hosted technology, training, support and certification resources are expected to be made available to students and faculty, a press release from the company said.
 
Additionally, 120 faculty members are scheduled to undergo training to help put 6000 students on the pathway to future IT careers, it said.
 
The MoU aims to integrate Oracle Academy curriculum into the educational programs of the state’s colleges to inspire the next generation of technology professionals and help prepare them for careers in IT, the release said.
 
Oracle will facilitate a ‘train-the-trainer’ course to ramp up faculty representatives as instructors for six courses, including Creating Java Programs with Greenfoot, Java Fundamentals, Java Programming, Database Design, Database Programming with SQL, and Programming with PL/SQL. Once trained and certified, this faculty is expected to use the Oracle Academy infrastructure to train other faculty members.
 
Oracle Academy is Oracle’s flagship program in education philanthropy, providing education institutions worldwide with software, curriculum, support, and certification resources that faculty can integrate into their classrooms. Through hands-on experience with current technologies, students develop skills that can help them be successful in the modern workforce.
 
The release said that more than 2.2 million students in 96 countries benefit from Oracle Academy. In India, Oracle Academy programs support more than 240,000 students at more than 1300 educational institutions, it said.
 
"Oracle Academy has been dedicated in our mission to extend the reach of computer science education to students across the world, including in India,” said Krishna Sistla, Senior Director, Oracle Academy, Oracle Asia Pacific and Japan. “Access to good computer science education is a defining 21st century social issue, and with the help of Oracle Academy’s programs, students of Kerala can enhance their knowledge and build relevant industry expertise for job opportunities in the field of Information Technology and other industries that benefits from IT.”
 
“The core objective of ICT Academy of Kerala is to improve employability skills amongst students,” said Santhosh Kurup, CEO, ICT Academy of Kerala. “Our aim is to prepare students of higher education to face the competitive world by equipping them with high quality course content and skilled teachers. We are excited to work with Oracle in delivering Oracle Academy curriculum to our students and teachers, and believe this educational foundation will help prepare our students for today’s workforce.” 
 
ICTAK is a social enterprise created in a public private partnership model (PPP) for imparting ICT skills to the youth of Kerala and improve their employability opportunities in the Industry. The company is supported by the Government of India, and partnered by the government of Kerala and the ICT industry.
 
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Chandy writes to Panneerselvam on water level in Mullaperiyar dam

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has written to his Tamil Nadu counterpart O. Panneerselvam, urging him to ensure that immediate steps must be taken to reduce the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam.
 
The masonry dam was constructed pursuant to the Periyar Lake Lease Agreement dated 29.10.1886 across Periyar river. It is situated in Idukki district of Kerala but owned and operated by the government of Tamil Nadu.
 
In his letter, Mr Chandy said the water level in the dam was above 136 feet for two weeks and had reached 139.5 feet. Out of the 13 spillway gates, one is damaged and the repair works are going on. 
 
"With the north-east monsoon becoming more active the water level would increase. This has caused serious concern and anxiety among the people," he said.
 
Mr Chandy said the water level could be reduced by suitable reservoir management of Mullaperiyar and Vaigai reservoirs as was being done in the previous years. 
 
"More than 3 TMC water can be stored in Vaigai reservoir. If the discharge through the tunnel from Mullaperiyar is increased to its maximum then the water levels can be reduced. By doing so, Tamil Nadu will not lose a single drop of water," he said.
 
Mr Chandy urged Mr Panneerselvam to personally intervene in the matter and give instructions to the officers concerned.
 
He also pointed out that the Kerala Chief Secretary had already written in this regard to the Mullperiyar dam supervisory committee and the PWD Secretary of Tamil Nadu.
 
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Kerala government announces steps to deal with infant deaths in Attappady

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The Kerala government has announced several measures to addess the situation in Attappady against the background of infant deaths in tribal hamlets, arising out of malnutrition and related factors.
 
The decision was taken on the basis of a report submitted by Ministers K C Joseph, V S Sivakumar, M K Muneer and P K Jayalakshmi, who visited Attappady following the death of infants.
 
Several issues were raised in the discussion that was held by them at Attappady with the elected representatives and, on the basis of the report submitted by the Ministers, the Cabinet had decided to go ahead with several effective measures to address the current situation there, an official press release said.
 
The release said it had been decided to restart community kitchens for providing nutritious food and ragi to the tribal community. 
 
Ottappalam Sub-Collector P B Nooh has been appointed as special officer to coordinate all the government projects, chalked out for the welfare of the tribal people in Attappady.
 
A coordination committee has also been appointed to review the progress of the projects being implemented at Attappady, which will be done on a monthly basis. The committee includes Member of Parliament M B Rajesh, MLA Shamsudeen, district panchayat president, block panchayat president, presidents of three village panchayats in the Attappady block, district panchayat member and the Special Officer.
 
The Cabinet also decided to complete all construction activities within a year in Attappady. As a special case, the government has decided to give 200 days of employment to the people of Attappady block under the Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, instead of the standard practice of 100 days of employment for a person, per house a year. This will come into effect from December this year. 
 
The government also sanctioned Rs 76 crore for the development of roads in Attappady under the Prime Minister's Gram Sadak Yojana scheme in the review meeting that was chaired by the chief minister. Tender process of the same has been completed and work has commenced, he said.
 
The government also lifted treasury ban on financial help announced for Attappady.
 
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Full-time service of Palakkad deputy district medical officer, Dr Prabhu Das will be ensured for coordinating the healthcare activities in Attappady. An additional amount of Rs 2 crore has been sanctioned for the healthcare programmes from the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) funds.
 
The government has decided to wind up the activities of Vattalukki Farming Society and to use the 1200 acres of its land, taken on lease from the Forest department, for tribal families. Ministers of Revenue, Forest and SC/ST development will submit a report regarding this.
 
The government has also decided to entrust the district collector with the responsibility of ensuring drinking water supply in the region. If required, tanker lorries will be deployed to meet the requirement.
 
Mr Joseph told reporters that media reports pertaining to Attappady were not based on ground realities. He said the steps taken by the government so far had helped to bring down the infant mortality rate in Attappady from 31 last year to 13 this year.
 
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Renowned Malayalam writer, educationist B Hridayakumari passes away

B Hridayakumari
B Hridayakumari
Renowned Malayalam writer and educationist B Hridayakumari passed away at a private hospital here this morning after a brief illness, sources said.
 
She was 84. The funeral will take place at the Thycaud Shanti Kavadam crematorium here later today, the sources said.
 
Hridayakumari had been quite active till a few weeks ago but had undergone treatment for age-related ailments in the last two months, they said.
 
Hridayakumari was a respected figure in Kerala, thanks to her long career of about 36 years as a teacher of English literature, including as Principal of the Government Women's College here. 
She had also taught at the Maharaja's College in Ernakulam and Victoria College in Palakkad.
 
She was also an acclaimed literary critic and orator who wrote and spoke extensively on a variety of topcis and issues, including literature and education. She received the Kerala Sahithya Academy Award in 1991 for her book "Kalpanikatha",  a study on romanticism in Malayalam literature.
 
Hridayakumari was the daughter of well-known freedom fighter and poet Bodheswaran and Sanskrit scholar Karthayani Amma. Her younger sister is the well-known poet and social activist Sugathakumari.
 
She is survived by her daughter Sreedevi Pillai, a journalist with Manorama News.
 
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, opposition leader V S Achuthanandan, state Ministers and people from all walks of life visited her house to pay their last respects to her.
 
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Kerala: Former Lok Sabha member A Charles passes away at 83

A. Charles
A. Charles
Veteran Congress leader and former Lok Sabha member A Charles, who represented the Thiruvananthapuram constituency, passed away at a private hospital here today after a brief illness, sources said.
 
He was 83. He had been undergoing treatment for some time for age-related ailments and breathed his last around 9.45 am today, they said.
 
His funeral will be held tomorrow afternoon at the LMS Church here, the sources said.
 
Mr Charles was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in late 1984 and was re-elected in 1989 and 1991 for two more terms.
 
Born on November 14, 1930, Mr Charles had a B.A. and a B.L degree from the Kerala University and was a state government servant. He was serving as a member of the State Public Service Commission when he was persuaded to enter politics in 1984 by then Chief Minister K Karunakaran. He had not been active in politics for many years.
 
He was a member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) for some time and a member of the Pradesh Congress Committee.
 
He was also closely associated with educational and welfare organisations of the South Kerala Diocese of the Church  of South India.
 
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president V M Sudheeran and other leaders condoled the demise of Mr Charles.
 
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Kerala: In-principle nod for light metro projects in Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today said the state government had decided to give in-principle approval for the light metro projects in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.
 
Mr Chandy, who had presided over a meeting to discuss the projects, said their total cost was estimated at Rs 6728 crore -- Rs 3453 crore for the Thiruvananthapuram project and Rs 2057 crore in Kozhikode. They are expected to become operational by 2021.
 
He said civil works would commence within four months after the project was approved by the State Cabinet.
 
In Thiruvananthapuram, the cost of the works was estimated at Rs 158 per kilometre and Rs 154 a kilometre in Kozhikode.
 
Of the total project cost, the State and the Union government will provide viability gap funding of 20 per cent each.
 
Fifty per cent each for external and internal funds will be taken as loans for the two projects. The land to be acquired will be very minimal for both the projects. It will be 8.9 hectares of government land and 3.04 hectares of private land in Thiruvananthapuram and 8.5 hectares of government land and 1.58 hectares of private land in Kozhikode, he said.
 
The meeting also decided to rename Mono Rail Corporation to Kerala Rapid Transit Corporation.
 
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Chandy writes to Swaraj about Malayalees stranded in Libya, fishermen held in Iran

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj requesting her to take immediate steps to secure the release of Malayalees stranded in Libya and five Indian fishermen, including a Malayalee, held captive in Iran.
 
Mr Chandy has also provided the names and passport details of 18 Malayalee nurses stranded in Bengazi and other places in Libya.
 
He urged the Union Government to bring the nurses to Malta by ship and from there to New Delhi by air.
 
According to Mr Chandy, the five Indian fishermen were fishing in the deep waters off the coast of Qatar when they were captured by Iranian forces on September 22. They include Thadeus of Pulluvilla in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and four from Tamil Nadu.
 
They are currently being held captive in a boat near the Island of Kish and awaiting court orders, he said.
 
Mr Chandy said that the Indian embassy officials in Iran be instructed to do the needful for meeting the fishermen and free them from captivity and penalization.  
 
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Kerala agrees to national highways width of 45m, to proceed with land acquisition

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy talking to newspersons in Thiruvananthapuram on October 23, 2014.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy talking to newspersons in Thiruvananthapuram on October 23, 2014.
The Kerala Cabinet today decided to abide by the Central government's insistence of a minimum width of 45 metres for developing national highways in the state and to ahead with the required land acquisition.
 
Briefing reporters after a meeting of the Cabinet, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the Central government would soon be given an assurance in this regard.
 
He said Kerala had sought exemption from the Centre in this regard and to allow the development of national highways with 30 m width. But the Centre had made it clear that it would not undertake the work if the width was below 45 m.
 
Mr Chandy said the Kerala government had tried to convince the Union government abot its concerns with regard to land acquisition for national highway development, but could not prevail on it.  
 
The proposed national highway works pertain to the Edappally - Mangalore stretch of NH 17 and the Chertala - Kazhakuttam stretch of NH 47. Of the total land required for the project 80% remains to be acquired. 
 
Mr Chandy said the required land would be compensated at market price and this would be done in a time-bound manner. The government will give instructions to district collectors to expedite the process pertaining to the acquisition, he added.
 
The Central government has already made an exception for some of the south Indian states, including Kerala, on the prescribed width of the highways and agreed to 45 m width instead of the standard 60 m.
 
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Kerala govt. decides to enhance fair value of land by 50%

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In a significant move aimed at mobilising additional revenues, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Kerala today decided to enhance the fair value of land in the state by 50 per cent.
 
An official press release said that the existing fair value of land, which came into effect on April 1, 2010, had actually been calculated in 2006.
 
It said the existing fair value was below the market price, something which had been pointed out by both the Expenditure Committee and the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG).
 
Thus, though the market price of land had increased, there was huge loss in revenue for the government, it said.
 
"As the people are indicating rates 30% more than the fair value of land for registration, government has decided to increase the fair value of land by 50%," the release said.
 
The State Cabinet has also decided on a mechanism to remove anomalies related to fair value and dispose of pending appeals.
 
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Harsh Vardhan backs Kerala's Sukrutham project for free cancer treatment in district hospitals

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Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan praised the Kerala government's proposed "Sukrutham " project, making cancer treatment free in district and medical college hospitals, and promised to back it for adoption all over the country under the 13th Plan.
 
"In the meantime, I will consider including it under the universal health insurance component of the proposed Universal Health Assurance Programme,” he said at a function at the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) at Kumarapuram here.
 
The regional cancer centre was formally given the status of a state cancer centre at the function and will see the infusion of Rs 120 crore in additional funds with the central government providing 75 percent. 
 
Later, at a press conference, Dr Vardhan said that the Kerala government's proposal to set up a national cancer centre in the state on a new 15-acre campus would be considered positively.
 
Speaking at the function, Dr Vardhan said the government had decided to remove all steps to lower the national cancer burden by generating awareness about early detection and avoiding leading cancer causing lifestyles. 
 
He said that, if detected early, cancer could be treated at a fraction of the cost that is incurred when diagnosed at an advanced stage. Its mortality rate is also lowered substantially if people report for screening when the earliest symptoms are manifested.
 
“Henceforth November 7 will be observed all over the country as National Cancer Awareness Day. It is high time we went into combative mode against this disease,” he said. 
 
It is estimated that there are about 2.9 million cases of cancer in the country with 1.1 million new cases being reported annually. Two-thirds of cancer cases are diagnosed at the advanced stage. 
 
As Health Minister of Delhi state in the early 1990s, Dr Vardhan had launched the first state-level movement on cancer control. On a specific day in each year, people were encouraged to report to government hospitals, CGHS and municipal clinics for free screening, the Minister stated. Information booklets were widely circulated to generate awareness on how to avoid getting cancer and to look for signs of early symptoms. 
 
He said that, if there is mass health insurance, the premium burden on the common man would be substantially reduced. “If we succeed in popularising voluntary cancer screening then the disease burden will fall and so will private and public expenditure on cancer,” he said. 
 
Dr Vardhan urged the Kerala government to wage a war against cancer and assured to favourably consider its pending proposals including the setting up of a regional ophthalmic centre. He also appreciated the state’s record in maternal and infant mortality which now stands at 66 per lakh live births and 12 per 1,000 live births respectively. “Kerala is an example before the whole world as a successful development story,” he remarked. 
 
He said that, during the 12th Plan period, the government is in the process of establishing two new national cancer centres.
 
The Minister also visited the factory and R&D centre of HLL Lifecare Limited and attended a meeting of member doctors of the Indian Medical Association and the BJP doctors’ cell during his stay in Thiruvananthapuram. 
 
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy made a forceful plea for according the status of National Cancer Institute to the RCC.
 
Mr Chandy said the RCC had the eligibility to get such a status and recalled that an application in this regard had been sent to the Union Health Ministry.
 
He said that, in the last three years Rs 117 crores had been sanctioned as project share for developing basic facilities at RCC. Recently, sanction has been accorded to 167 posts, he said.
 
Mr Chandy said the number of cancer patients in the state was witnessing a huge increase and the main reason for this is that people are not able to detect the disease and start treatment at an early stage. The second is the huge expense that has to be met. This was evident during the mass contact programmes he had conducted in all districts. It is for this reason that cancer treatment has been made free of cost, he said.
 
Mr Chandy sought help from the Centre for setting up a health research unit at Wayanad for the Adivasis, for the collection of generic medicines and its distribution and also for giving free cancer treatment under the Sukrutham Project at all district hospitals. 
 
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Chandy writes to PM on falling rubber prices, seeks hike in import duty

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for steps to resolve the crisis faced by rubber growers in the state because of a fall in its prices and urged him to hike the import duty on it and place curbs on its imports.
 
Mr Chandy also said rubber should be used for construction of national highways, which would give a boost to the sector.
 
He said there was enough rubber in the domestic market and, therefore, the import duty on it should be hiked.
 
He said it had been shown that using rubberized bitumen for roads increased their life and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) should be encouraged to use it in the construction of national highways.
 
Mr Chandy said the state government was procuring rubber through Rubber Mark and Marketfed at a price of Rs 2 more than the price offered by the Rubber Board to help farmers. 
 
But, he said, the price of even grade 1 rubber had fallen to Rs 127 per kg, the lowest in five years.
 
He said that, when the prices had dipped in 1997-2002, the State Trading Corporation (STC) had procured rubber and given it to advance licence holders.
 
Mr Chandy said the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) should hold dicussions with the state to work out a policy on import of rubber.
 
He also urged Mr Modi to allow advance authorisation holders to buy rubber procured by the government through various agencies. He also stressed the need for setting up a Rs 1000 crore price stabilisation fund.
 
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Kerala govt hikes taxes on liquor & cigarettes, water charges, fees

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The Kerala government today hiked the taxes on liquor and cigarettes, water charges and fees on various services to mop up more than Rs 1825 crore annually in a bid to tide over the financial crunch that it is facing.
 
Briefing journalists after a meeting of the State Cabinet, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said also clarified that media reports about a freeze on creation of new posts were baseless but added that these would be subject to the approval of the finance department till March 31, 2015.
 
Mr Chandy said the tax on foreign liquor had been increased by 20 per cent on all categories and it is expected to yield an additional revenue of Rs 1130 crore per annum.
 
In addition, a 5% cess will be levied on the tax to generate funds for the rehabilitation of affected employees working in the bars that will be closed down as a result of the new excise policy, announced recently.
 
The rate of tax on beer and wine will be increased from the current 50 per cent to 70 per cent, which is expected to yield an additinal Rs 100 crore per annum.
 
The tax on cigarettes will be hiked from 22% to 30%. Of this, 3% will be set aside for free cancer care. The additional annual revenue expected is Rs 264 crore.
 
There is no increase in the stamp duty and registration fee on documents in the category of Partition, Gift, Release and Settlement but the upper cap on them has been removed.
 
Land tax rates have been hiked and the measure is expected to bring in an additional revenue of Rs 78 crore per year. The revised plantation tax rates for all crops including coconut and areca nut are expected to bring an additional revenue of Rs 3 crores annually.
 
Mr Chandy also announced various measures to improve collection of arrears, including an intensive revenue recovery drive in all districts for the next six months.
 
The Cabinet also approved the constitution of a committee, chaired by the Vice-Chairman of the State Planning Board, to submit a report on measures to be taken for accessing the financial markets for raising funds to the tune of Rs 1000 crore in the next six months.
 
A committee consisting of the Ministers for Food and Civil Supplies, Industries and IT, Power, Water Resources and Revenue & Coir will be set up to bring a proposal on enhancement of fair value for consideration of the Council of Ministers in two weeks.
 
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Mr Chandy said that BPL families using upto 10,000 litres of water a month will continue to get free water. The rate for non-BPL families who consume upto 10,000 litres of water will remain unchanged. The rate for those families who use more than 10,000 litres of water a month will be increased to 50% to 60%. This will raise additional revenue of Rs 250 crore, he said.
 
The fee levied by the Government for its various services has been increased. However, there is no increase on fees in the educational sector. The hike will be 50% in the Rs 10-Rs 1000 category, 25% in the Rs 1000-Rs 10,000 category and 15% in the above Rs 10,000 category.
 
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Oommen Chandy presents Kerala Govt.'s special award to singer Yesudas

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy presenting a special award of the State Government to well-known singer K J Yesudas in Thiruvananthapuram on September 11, 2014.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy presenting a special award of the State Government to well-known singer K J Yesudas in Thiruvananthapuram on September 11, 2014.
Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy presented well-known singer K J Yesudas with a special award of the State Government for his contribution in diverse fields at a function here today
 
Mr Chandy said Dr Yesudas was the pride of the state not ony as a singer but also as a person who involves himself in various socio-cultural activities. 
 
State Rural Development Minister K C Joseph presided over the function. The award comprised Rs 1 lakh and a citation.
 
Dr Yesudas congratulated the state government for its bold decision to ban liquor in the state also for implementing the Sruthitharangam project in the state, through which many children get back their ability to speak and hear thorough cochlear implantation.
 
Mr Chandy said the project would be extended to all places. He said the project had been initially planned for 100 children but more than 300 children had benefited from it so far.
 
He said that all those who apply for the benefit would be included under the project. He said it was Dr Yesudas who had suggested the project and the Governmet had gone ahead with it.
 
Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan, Mr Palode Ravi, MLA, the state Chief Secretary and others were amongst those present on the occasion.
 
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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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