3 students killed as school van plunges into river in Kerala


At least three students were killed and ten others injured when a school van plunged into a river near Kadinamkulam, about 20 km from here, this evening.

Mata Amritanandamayi Math to train 10,000 home nurses in Kerala

The Mata Amritanandamayi Math will launch a new initiative in creating a cadre of 10,000 home nurses in Kerala as part of the 58th birthday celebration of Mata Amritanandamayi Devi on September 27.

The Home Nurse Initiative will be inaugurated by Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan at Amritapuri campus of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeethamin Kollam, Ashram sources said.

One of the distressing health trends that has emerged in Kerala is an increase in the number of aged people who are sick and disabled, but have nobody within the family to take care of them at home. This alarming social phenomenon has prompted Mata Amritanandmayi Math to launch a pioneering initiative to create a cadre of 10,000 home nurses in Kerala, out of whom 1000 would undergo professional training immediately, they said.

The training of home nurses will be imparted by the Amrita network of medical institutions. This will be a six-month free training program inclusive of stay and food, with a stipend to each trainee, they said.

The sources said another educational initiative is an online "Free All India Tuition Programme" for college students. The programme is supported by the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD).

Initially, a pilot programme will be launched in Kerala and later extended to other States. The free tuition programme will be transmitted through Amrita University’s award winning E-Learning platform, A-VIEW (Amrita Virtual Interactive E-Learning World), developed by Amrita University.

The initiative will be inaugurated Union Minister for Science and Technology Vilasrao Deshmukh.


High-speed Thiruvananthapuram-Mangalore rail corridor in five years


The proposed high-speed rail corridor project, connecting Thiruvananthapuram, Kasaragod and Mangalore, is expected to be completed in five years.

6th vault of temple not to be opened till security is in place


The Supreme Court today directed that the last of the six vaults of the Lord Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, should not be opened till adequate security arrangements were put in place.

Protest against petrol price hike turns violent in Kerala

Two government vehicles were set on fire as pro-Marxist youth wing activists, protesting against the hike in the price of petrol, engaged in a pitched battle with the police here today.

Film by Mammoottty on anti-narcotic activities released

Film star Mammootty handed over a CD of a short film on anti-narcotics activities to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy here today.

The film was produced by the film star for the State Excise Department as part of a camapign against the use of drugs among the people.

Mr Chandy said the film would be screened in all the schools in the state and theatres as part of the campaign against the drugs.

Earlier, the actor assurred the Chief Minister during the observation of the Anti-Tobacco Day that he would produce a film for creating awareness among the people about the ill effects of narcotics abuse.


Malayalees across world celebrate Onam


Malayalees across the world today celebrated the colourful harvest festival of Onam marking the homecoming of the legendary king Mahabali.

Special prayers in temples, multi-coloured floral designs - called "athappookkalam" and elaborate traditional feasts with family members marked the celebrations.

According to legend, Kerala witnessed its golden era during the reign of "Asura" King Mahabali. However, he was banished to the nether world by Lord Vishnu, who took the incarnation of Vamana (dwarf), under pressure from "Devas", who were jealous of the King’s popularity.

Before his departure, the King secured an assurance from Lord Vishnu that he would be allowed to visit his subjects on "Thiruvonam" day of Malayalam calendar every year.

Onam being a harvest festival, importance is given to food. The grand vegetarian lunch called "Sadya" includes dishes like avial, red rice, tomato rasam, olan, kalan, mor kuzhambu and palada pradhaman.


M O H Farook sworn in as Kerala Governor


Mr M O Hasan Farook, a three-time Chief Minister of Puduchery, was sworn in here today as the 16th Governor of Kerala.

GAIL Gas, KSIDC to set up JV for city gas distribution in Kerala

GAIL Gas Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the public sector gas major GAIL (India) Limited, and Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) today agreed to set up a joint venture to pursue city gas distribution opportunities in the state.

SC questions rites on opening of 6th vault of Padmanabhaswamy temple

The Supreme Court today questioned the performing of rituals by the Travancore royal family for opening of the sixth vault of the Lord Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.

Kerala CM opens 24x7 Public Grievance Redressal call centre

After the successful live webcasting of his office, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today launched a 24-hour call centre to enable Keralities from across the world to lodge their complaints.

President's helicopter develops technical snag in Kerala

President Pratibha Patil being evacuated from an IAF helicopter that developed a technical snag as soon as she boarded it enroute to Thiruvananthapuram, in Kollam on August 31, 2011. UNI PHOTO
President Pratibha Patil being evacuated from an IAF helicopter that developed a technical snag as soon as she boarded it enroute to Thiruvananthapuram, in Kollam on August 31, 2011. UNI PHOTO

The departure of President Pratibha Patil from here to state capital Thiruvananthapuram was delayed for about 40 minutes due to a technical snag in the Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter she was to board.

Police said the President's scheduled departure from Kollam Ashram Maidan to Thiruvananthapuram was delayed after the pilot noticed smoke coming from one of the air-conditioners of the helicopter.

The incident occurred when the President, on a visit to Kerala, had just boarded the helicopter, sources said.

Ms Patil was scheduled to leave the Ashramam Maidan at 1010 hrs to attend an official function to be held at 1100 hrs in Thiruvananthapuram. Later, she proceeded to the state capital in another helicopter.

The President had stayed here last night after inaugurating the President's Trophy Boat Race at the Ashtamudi Lake yesterday evening.


Renowned Kerala theatre personality Vayala Pillai passes away

Renowned Kerala theatre personality and three-time National Award winner Vayala Vasudevan Pillai passed away after a prolonged illness at a private hospital here today.

He was 67. He is survived by his wife. The cremation will take place tomorrow at Cheruthuruthy with state honours.

Dr Pillai, who contributed much for the development of Malayalam theatre, had won many honours, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2009.

A disciple of G Sankara Kurup, the director of School of Drama had simultaneously accepted world and local drama and he had penned various books on European Drama and presented lectures on it.

He took charge as associate director in the School of Drama in 1984 and also worked as Professor of English in the Mar Ivanios College at Thiruvananthapuram.

Later, Dr Pillai studied drama at the Rome University in 1990 and did a doctoral programme in New York with a Fulbright fellowship.

Some of his popular plays include Viswadarsanam (1977), Thulaseevaram (1979), Agni (1982), Rangabhasha (1984), Varavelpu (1985), Kuchelagadha (1988), The death of Nestling (1992), Suthradhara, Ethile Ethile (1993), Kunmji Chirakukal (1994) and Swarnakokkukal (1999).


Kerala declares Onam bonus, festival allowances

Government employees in Kerala will get Rs 8,500 as Onam bonus and Rs 1,750 as festival allowance.

Briefing newspersons about the Cabinet decisions, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said last year it was Rs 7,500 and Rs 1,500, respectively.

However, employees of public sector organisations will get the same bonus as they got last year.

A Special Cabinet Meeting on Friday next would take decisions on bonus to other government employees, he added.

Part-time labourers and workers, who are not liable to get bonus, would get Rs 150.

Following the report of many money-chain cheating cases, a Committee headed by the Chief Secretary was formed to look into the complaints in connection with the main incidents. The committee was asked to submit its report within a week.

Other members of the committee are Additional Chief Secretaries of Home, Industries and Commerce, Advocate General and Director General of Police.

It also decided to include the Aministrative Department in the Secretariat under the state civil service. Only the Revenue Department is under the state civil service now.

A decion on including more departments under the state civil services would be taken later, he added.


Kerala Women's Commission chief to visit convent on nun's death


Kerala Women's Commission chairperson Justice D Sreedevi will visit tomorrow the convent at Poonkulam, near Kovalalam, here where a nun was found dead in a water tank recently.

Ms Justice Sreedevi and a panel of investigating officers, led by Commission Director N Ramachandran, will visit the convent to gather details.

Yesterday, the Commission had ordered an inquiry into the unnatural death of 48-year-old Sister Mary Ancy on Wednesday last, following a complaint from Mr Jomon Puthenpurackal, a social worker from Kottayam.

"Initially the family of the nun did not file any case in this regard, which was also doubtful. Now, they have come forward to file a case," Mr Puthenpurackal said.

The nun, who hailed from Kottayam, was a teacher at the Holy Cross Lower Primary School and was an inmate of the convent near the school for the last 21 years.

The nun went missing from her room where she had gone to sleep on Tuesday night after prayers. The body was found in the morning by other inmates.

The slab of the covered water tank was found displaced and this fuelled speculation of a murder, reminding people of Sister Abhaya who was found dead in her convent at Kottayam in 1992.

However, the autopsy report ruled out any foul play and said the victim was conscious at the time of drowning. It did not find any mark of injury on her body.

It was learnt Sister Mary Ancy was depressed after she developed some skin disease and had not been sleeping properly for the past few weeks due to the ailment.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Nun's body found in water tank near Kovalam in Kerala


The body of a nun was found in a water tank of a convent at Poonkulam near Kovalam near here today.

Police said the nun was identified as Sister Mary Ancy (48), who was an inmate of the convent for the last 21 years.

The body of the nun, who was also a teacher of Holy Cross Lower Primary School at Poonkulam, was found in the tank by other inmates in the convent this morning.

It was also reported that the nun was reading a book in her room at 0500 hrs. As many as nine nuns were staying in the convent.

One of the concrete slabs of the tank was found removed and police are examining whether there was any foul play. She could also have fallen into the tank during her morning walk, police added.

Sister Ancy was a native of Manvettom in Kottayam district.


Paul Peabody calls on Marthanda Varma in Kerala


New York-based musician Paul Peabody, who was part of the team that scored music for Hollywood blockbuster Titanic, which won a Grammy, called on Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the head of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore, at the Krishnavilasam Palace, Kottaikakam, here last evening.

Peabody also played the soothing theme music from Titanic before Marthanda Varma.

According to palace sources here, the 55-year old musician was here to promote the Smile Train Project, which was doing a great service through surgeries for children born with cleft lip.

"I am very happy to have spent a few minutes with Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma even in his busy schedule. I am surprised by his nobility and good knowledge of music," he said.

Marthanda Varma invited Peobody to visit the palace during his next visit to the state, the sources added.

Peabody, who was very closely associated with the late pop icon Michael Jackson, arrived in Nagercoil near here in Tamil Nadu a few days ago to see the children who successfully underwent surgeries for cleft lip/palate and entertain them through his violin.

"Kids will feel better during the post-operative time by listening to good music. I believe my music helped them overcome pain," he added.


Video footage shows no bogus voting in Kerala Assembly


A scrutiny of video recordings of the proceedings of the Kerala Assembly relating to the controversial voting on the Appropriation Bill on July 20 today showed that there was no basis for the Opposition allegation that there was bogus voting.

As per the video footage, 69 members were present in the treasury benches and there was no impersonation as alleged by the Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) which lodged a complaint with Kerala Governor in this issue.

The examination was taken up after Chief Minister Oommen Chandy wrote to Assembly Speaker G Karthikeyan following the statement by Leader of the Opposition V S Achuthanandan that an examination of the video footage would reveal that the Chandy government managed to pass the Finance Bill through bogus voting because they did not have the required majority.

However, the Opposition was absent today and the screening was done in the presence of the Speaker, the Chief Minister, senior ministers and the press.

Later, the Chief Minister sought an apology from Mr Achuthanandan for making such a baseless allegation.

"He got an opportunity to prove his charges. Unfortunately, the Opposition leader ran away from his responsibility," he said.

He alleged Mr Achuthanandan and other opposition leaders did not come to the Assembly today due to their reluctance to face the Speaker and the public for making such irresponsible statements.


Kerala: Mentally disturbed man breaches security, sits on CM's chair


A breach of security was reported at Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's office as a mentally disturbed man sat on his chair and made telephone calls to his friends after barging in.

The incident occurred when the Chief Minister was attending a Cabinet meeting in the next room. The man was taken into custody and identified as Chella Chandra Jose (34) from Uriankode near Nedumangad.

The man who came to give a complaint to the Chief Minister entered the office along with other visitors. He then sat in the Chief Minister’s chair and made telephone calls.

Excise Minister K Babu, who first saw the man while he was coming out after attending the meeting contacted the police. The intruder was immediately taken into custody.

As the Chief Minister's Office is webcast live, there were even telephone calls from abroad alerting the authorities about the presence of the stranger.

When Oommen Chandy rushed there after learning about the incident, the man said, "I am the Prime Minister." It was reported that he was a mentally disturbed person.

Later, talking to reporters here, Mr Chandy said he did not think that the incident was a serious security breach, considering it was the act of a mentally disturbed person.


Expert Committee on Padmanabhaswamy temple treasures begins meeting


A meeting of an expert committee set up by the Supreme Court to evaluate the valuables kept in the vaults of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple began here today.

The meeting is expected to evolve an action plan for evaluation of valuable assets unofficially estimated at Rs 1 lakh crore.

The new-five member committee will again asses the value of the treasure inside the vaults.

The Supreme Court-appointed committee with National Museum Institute Vice-Chancellor C V Anandabose as coordinator will decide the modalities to be followed to assess the treasure.

Archaeological Conservation head of the National Museum Institute M V Nair, Temple Executive Officer V K Harikumar and one official each from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are the other members of the committee.

The apex court has also nominated a three-member committee comprising justice M N Krishnan, Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma (head of the Travancore royal family) and Devaswom Secretary K Jayakumar for monitoring the preparation of the inventory.


Mr Krishnan and Mr Jayakumar were part of the earlier seven-member committee appointed by the Court to carry out an inventory.

The Supreme Court, in its verdict on July 21, had directed the new committee to prepare a scientific assessment of the wealth in the vaults. Videography and photography of the treasure should also be done, it said.

According to sources, it is only after today's committee meeting that any further clarification in this regard will be made. It was on June 27 that the preparation of the inventory had begun.

The meeting will also review work already been done by the earlier seven-member committee which had opened inner chambers and inventoried the precious articles of great intrinsic and heritage value locked up in the underground vaults.

The B vault is yet to be opened. After receiving a report from the Committee, the Supreme Court will take a decision on whether to open or not the vault B.

Meanwhile, officials of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) today ruled out the possibility of an electrical short circuit for a major fire that broke out at a handicraft stall within the high security area near Padmanabhaswamy temple here last night.


Sources said the KSEB officials who inspected the spot this morning said there was no electric connection in the stall. The incident occurred at 2000 hrs yesterday. However, no casualties were reported in the fire, police said.

The incident occurred near Theerthapada Mandapam in East Fort which is about 200 metre away from the main gate of the temple.

Fire forces rushed to the spot and doused the fire. However, the rescue operation was disrupted due to power failure in the area at least three times.

Police said the fire broke out in a shed which had remained closed for the last few months. However, it was also reported that explosion of a generator caused the fire.

Meanwhile, Devaswom Minister V S Shivakumar visited the spot where Shiv Sena workers tried to block him last night, creating tension in the area.

They alleged that the Government had failed to provide foolproof security to the temple and nearby areas.

However, local people told UNI that there was a long-lasting dispute between the people associated with the stall and the Theerthapada Mandapam.


Kerala raises age limit for buying liquor from 18 to 21

Kerala Excise Minister K Babu today announced a new liquor policy, raising the age limit for buying liquor from 18 to 21.

Addressing a press conference here, he said bars will be allowed to function from 0800 hrs to 2300 hrs in Panchayat areas and from 0900 hrs to 2400 hrs in corporation areas.

Under the new policy, bar licences would be restricted only to five-star hotels from 2014, he said.

The distance between bars has been fixed at three km in Panchayats and one km in corporation and municipality areas. The quantity of liquor that can be kept in possession by an individual at a given time has been reduced from three litres to 1.5 litres.

The new policy also sought cooperation from various religious organisations in encouraging de-addiction activities.


CBI registers case against Customs officials at Thiruvananthapuram airport

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today said it had registered a case against a Joint Commissioner, an Assistant Commissioner, four Superintendents and one Inspector of Cutoms at the Thirvananthapuram airport in Kerala for alleged cheating and obtaining illegal gratification.

A press release from the CBI said it was alleged that the customs officials and clearing agents of Unaccompanied Baggage Section of Air Cargo Complex, Thiruvananthapuram Airport had been engaged in the unauthorized import of various items for sale and distribution in different parts of Kerala and other States.

These items were imported in the guise of unaccompanied baggage using the names and passports of different persons and thus cheating the Government and obtaining illegal gratification for themselves.

The release said the CBI intercepted four mini-trucks loaded at the Air Cargo Complex with goods cleared by Customs officials. During the verification, the passport holders, in whose names the said goods were cleared, disowned the ownership of the said goods so cleared and admitted that they had only handed over their passports to different clearing agents on their request for making imports of various goods from abroad, in the guise of unaccompanied baggage using their passports.

Searches were conducted at seven places which resulted in recovery of incriminating documents showing payments allegedly made to public servants by the clearing agents. Further investigating is continuing, the release added.


T P Sunderarajan, who got vaults of Kerala temple opened, passes away

T P Sunderarajan, who approached the Supreme Court seeking stock-taking of the gold and jewels stored in the vaults of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple near here, passed away here in the early hours of today.

He was 70. Sunderarajan, who was not married, was suffering from fever for the past two days. He was at his sister's house near the temple when he died. He suffered a stroke early this morning, sources in his family said.

The funeral would take place at Puthenkotta crematarium here at 1200 hrs, they added.

After hearing a petition filed by Sundararajan, an advocate, the Supreme Court had directed for opening of the vaults. Sundararajan had suspected foul play by the governing council of the temple and therefore, wanted the secret vaults opened for calculation of the wealth of the temple.

Sunderarajan, a 1964 batch Indian Police Service Officer, was for some time a part of the security ring of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He later quit his job and took up the legal profession.

He stayed close to the temple and became an ardent devotee of Sree Padmanabhaswamy. The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple came into the limelight after gold and jewellery worth more than Rs 100,000 crore was found in its secret vaults, making it one of the richest temples in the world.


Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram

Tourists outside Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. Arrival of international and domestic tourists have increased following media highlighting the treasure trove in the temple vaults opened for inventory following a Supreme Court order.

Tourists outside Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. Arrival of international and domestic tourists have increased following media highlighting the treasure trove in the temple vaults opened for inventory following a Supreme Court order. UNI PHOTO
Tourists outside Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. Arrival of international and domestic tourists have increased following media highlighting the treasure trove in the temple vaults opened for inventory following a Supreme Court order. UNI PHOTO
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