SAIL to set up titanium project in Kerala as JV with KSIDC, KMML

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Industry Minister P K Kunhalikutty at the ceremony where SAIL, KSIDC and KMML signed an MoU to set up a titanium project in the state, in Thiruvananthapuram on April 4, 2013.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Industry Minister P K Kunhalikutty at the ceremony where SAIL, KSIDC and KMML signed an MoU to set up a titanium project in the state, in Thiruvananthapuram on April 4, 2013.

The public sector Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) and Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML) in Thiruvananthapuram yesterday for setting up a joint venture titanium project in the state.

The MoU was signed in the presence of Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, State Industries and IT Minister P K Kunhalikutty, Mr E K Bharat Bhushan, Special Secretary, Ministry of Steel, and SAIL Chairman C S Verma.
An official press release said the three companies would explore the possibilities of setting up the titanium project as a joint venture in Kerala.
To begin with in Phase 1, setting up of a Titanium Sponge and Metal Plant based on supply of Titanium Tetrachloride by KMML will be considered. In subsequent phases, backward and forward integration will be explored for ensuring long term viability of the project, the release said.
Mr Chandy said the Rs 2500 crore project would lead to overall development of the region and also contribute to faster economic growth of Kerala. He urged the state government and SAIL officials to take steps for early commencement of project activities. 
This will be the second major titanium project Kerala, after the nation’s first titanium sponge plant was put up at KMML’s Chavara complex in Kerala by KMML, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory in 2011.

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Kerala Minister Ganesh Kumar quits over allegations by his wife of domestic violence

Kerala Forests Minister Ganesh Kumar resigned from the state cabinet late on Monday night at the end of a day of high drama in which he filed a petition in court for divorce from his wife, Yamini Thankachi, and both traded allegations of domestic violence against each other.

Kerala forest minister quits over domestic violence allegations

Kerala Forests Minister Ganesh Kumar resigned from the state cabinet late last night at the end of a day of high drama in which he filed a petition in court for divorce from his wife, Yamini Thankachi, and both traded allegations of domestic violence against each other.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told newspersons at his residence around midnight last night that Ganesh Kumar, 46, a well-known Malayalam film actor who represents the Kerala Congress (B) in the government, had submitted his resignation to him and that he would forward it to the Governor for acceptance today.
Mr Ganesh Kumar said he was the victim of a conspiracy because of his efforts to weed out corruption in his ministry and that he had no regrets whatsoever in resigning from his position.
He said his resignation was necessary for a fair inquiry into the allegations against him. He said he would establish that the allegations against him were false and motivated and also that he would continue his fight against corruption.
Yesterday's developments were the latest chapter in a long and unseemly saga of  differences between the actor-turned-politician and his wife, which has played out in the public domain. The two had, in fact, parted ways some years ago before getting together again. The couple have two young sons.
The day started yesterday with Mr Ganesh Kumar, son of former Kerala Minister R Balakrishna Pillai, filed for divorce, claiming in his petition that his wife had physically attacked him. He also submitted in court photographs which purported to show bruises and injuries on his face which he said he had suffered in that incident some weeks ago.
A little later, Dr Thankachi, a medical doctor by profession, held a press conference at which she alleged that her husband had physically abused her for the last 14 years. She cited a recent incident in which he allegedly held her by her hair and beat her. The couple has been married for 18 years.
Even as speculation mounted that Mr Ganesh Kumar was left with no option but to resign, he appeared before mediapersons to give his side of the story. He said vested interests had hatched a conspiracy to force him out of the Cabinet because of his stand against corruption.
He also claimed that he had suffered harassment at the hands of his wife for the past many years and that all the allegations levelled by her against him were completely false. 
Shortly thereafter, Dr Thankachi went to the Museum Police Station here and filed a complaint against her husband.
Around 11 pm, several UDF leaders gathered at Mr Chandy's Cliff House residence here. Shortly before midnight, Mr Ganesh Kumar also reached there and met Mr Chandy to hand in his papers.
Mr Ganesh Kumar is the only legislator from his party in the Kerala Assembly. The Kerala Congress-B is a constituent of the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in the state and its support is crucial to the Chandy government, which has a very slim majority of just five in the 140-member House.
The controversy also threatened to engulf Mr Chandy himself, with Dr Thankachi alleging at her press conference that she had complained to him about her husband, but he had not acted in the matter. She said Mr Chandy had asked her to wait and to give him a chance to help them sort out the differences. She said he had refused to accept a petition from her.
Dr Thankachi alleged that her husband was involved in an extra-marital relationship.
The opposition Left Front is now demanding the resignation of Mr Chandy for failing to act on her complaint.
Mr Ganesh Kumar had countered this by saying that the Chief Minister knew the complete truth and was only trying to help out in what was essentially a family dispute. He also alleged that he had, as part of a proposed settlement, agreed to transfer most of his wealth to his two sons, but his wife wanted everything in her name.
The battle between the couple became a major public spectacle when, on February 21, a Malayalam newspaper reported that a Minister in the government had been assaulted by a person whose wife was having an adulterous affair with him.
The newspaper did not name the Minister but government whip P C George alleged at a press conference on March 3 that the person in question was Mr Ganesh Kumar. He went on to call for the Minister's resignation.
Mr Ganesh Kumar said this was part of the conspiracy against him. He said that there was no way anybody from outside could have entered his house, which was guarded by the police, and assaulted him. He said that the person who attacked him was none other than his wife.
The dispute with his wife has come at a time when Mr Ganesh Kumar has also been caught in major political differences with his father, the founder of Kerala Congress-B, who had reportedly asked Mr Chandy to remove his son from the Cabinet.
Mr Ganesh Kumar, who was elected from the Pathanapuram Assembly constituency for the third time in the last elections, also held the portfolios of Wildlife Protection, Sports, Kerala State Film Development Corporation, Kerala Chalachithra Academy and Kerala Cultural Workers' Welfare Fund Board.
He had earlier served as Minister of Transport in the A K Antony government during 2001-03. He was the first cinema artiste to be elected to the state legislative assembly. With his father, he was part of the first father-son duo in the Kerala Assembly.

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Shashi Tharoor to host Kerala Tourism's online quiz show

Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor

Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development Shashi Tharoor will host an online quiz show as part of the efforts to promote tourism in his home state, Kerala.

The quiz, to be hosted by Dr Tharoor for Kerala Tourism on its website, will kick off in early May and go on for two months.
Dr Tharoor, who represents Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala in the Lok Sabha, is also a well-known writer and former career diplomat who served as Under Secretary-General at the United Nations before resigning from the world body to plunge into politics in India.
This will be the first time that a state tourism board will conduct an online quiz show, a press release from Kerala Tourism said.
People can participate in the quiz from anywhere in the world by registering themselves on the Kerala Tourism website. Registration will begin on April 20.
Dr. Tharoor will ask one question every day for 60 days. The participants will get 24 hours to answer the questions online. There will be daily, weekly and monthly gifts during the show, the release said.
"We are delighted to present Dr. Shashi Tharoor as the quiz master of our first online video quiz show," said Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anil Kumar. "The quiz show will be a treat to take part in with the honourable Minister conducting it."
Kerala Tourism Secretary Suman Billa said: "A multi-faceted personality, Dr Tharoor is a globally acclaimed writer, an erudite speaker and, above all, a Malayalee. We are sure Dr Tharoor, the quiz master, will be an instant hit with the global audience."
The quiz master will be aided by visual clips for his questions. "Kerala Tourism is a pioneer in using information technology for destination promotion," said Kerala Tourism Director Rani George. "We assure an exciting quiz show for two months for the participants worldwide."

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Malayalam poet Sugathakumar chosen for Saraswati Samman for Manalezhuthu


Well-known Malayalam poet Sugathakumari has been chosen for the prestigious 22nd Saraswati Samman for 2012 for her Malayalam poetry collection, Manalezhuthu (The Writing on the Sands), published in 2006.

The Saraswati Samman was instituted by the K K Birla Foundation in 1991 and is one of the highest literary honours in the country. It is given every year for an outstanding literary work written in any Indian language mentioned in Schedule VIII to the Constitution of India by an Indian citizen and published during the last 10 years.
The award carries a purse of Rs 10 lakhs, a citation and a plaque. The selection for the award is made by a high-level committee presided over by former Chief Justice of India R C Lahoti.
Other members of the selection committee are Prof. Krishna Datt Paliwal, Dr. Damodar Mauzo, Dr. E.V. Ramakrishnan, Prof. Indira Parthasarathy, Dr. Jayanti Chattopadhyay, Prof. N.D. Mirajkar, Mr Manoj Das, Dr. Ratanlal Shant, Mr S. Muhammad Ashraf, Mr Rupchand Hansda Mr Priyavrat Bhartia and Mr N.K. Bhattacharjee, Director, K K Birla Foundation.
Born in 1934 to an enlightened family, Sugathakumar's mother was a professor of Sanskrit and father a Gandhian freedom fighter whose Kerala Gaanam was a marching song for all those who fought for the unification of Travancore, Cochin and Malabar. 
After her schooling in Thiruvanthapuram, Sugathakumari did her graduation and Masters in Philosophy and Ph.D. in Comparative Philsophy on the ‘Concept of Moksha’. She worked as the Principal of Jawahar Balabhavan and edited a magazine called Thaliru.
"With over 15 volumes of poetry and six collections of prose published during the last five 
decades, Sugathakumari has established herself as a major poet of Malayalam with a unique
voice of her own characterized by emotional empathy, humanist sensitivity and moral alertness," the selection committee said.
"She began as a poet of subjective sentiments and personal quests, but progressively widened her thematic range, assimilating into her poetry, contemporary social concerns such as ecological crisis, oppression of women and failures of ideals that inspired the very idea of Indian nation.
"She commands readership across all sections of society for her inclusive vision and compassion that emphasize human values," it said.
Some of her better known works are Mutthuchippi (Pearl and Oyster, 1961), Pathirappookkal (Midnight Flowers, 1967), Irul Chirakukal (The Wings of Darkness, 1969), Raathrimazha (Night Rain, 1977), Ambalamani (Temple Bell, 1981) and Radhayevide (Where is Radha?, 1995).
The committee said Manalezhuthu, the book of 27 poems published in 2006 which has won the award, represents the best of contemporary Malayalam poetry. 
"Poems in this anthology are marked by the variety of lyrical mode, complexity of metaphorical imagination, temporal impingement of the past and future on the present and moral indignation over the fate of the nature and the marginalised. The contemporaneity of the themes, especially those dealing with women, children and environment makes this anthology dearer to the hearts of the socially sensitive readers. The best example in Manalezhuthu of how Sugathakumari writes with a passion and a mission is the poem titled ‘The Women’s Commission’. 
"Her everyday experience as Chairperson of the Women’s Commission translates as a poem. Composed in an emotional style, it connects the reader to the hard hitting realities of women’s life," it said.
Among other things, Sugathakumari founded "Abhaya", an organization for the welfare of the mentally ill, in 1985. Over the last two decades, Abhaya has enlarged its scope of activities to rehabilitation of the mentally ill, women and children in distress, legal aid for poor women, treatment centers for the mentally ill and addicts, homes for girl children from high risk groups and so on.
"Fortunately, all this work did not dry up the springs of poetry in Sugathakumari. On the 
contrary, they reinforced each other and augmented their resources reciprocally," the committee said in a press release.
Previous recipients of the award include Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi,  Manubhai Pancholi ‘Darshak’, Indira Parthasarathy, Dalip Kaur Tiwana, Mahesh Elkunchwar, . Govind Chandra Pande, Sunil Gangopadhyay, K.Ayyappa Paniker, Jagannath Prasad Das, Naiyer Masud, Lakshminandan Bora, Surjit Patar, S.L. Bhyrappa and A A Manavalan.

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Malayalam actor Jagathy appears before media one year after accident

Jagathy Sreekumar
Jagathy Sreekumar

Well-known Malayalam film actor Jagathy Sreekumar, who was seriously injured in a road accident in the Malappuram district of Kerala on March 10 last year, appeared before mediapersons for the first time since that fateful day at his son's residence here today.

Known popularly as Jagathy, the 63-year-old actor was brought in a wheelchair before waiting journalists and camerapersons, but did not say anything to him.
The actor, who was treated immediately after the accident at the Malabar Institute of Medical Sciences (MIMS) in Kozhikode and later taken to the Christian Medical College at Vellore in Tamil Nadu, was discharged from there on February 28 and brought home here in the early hours of March 1.
Dressed in a white shirt and trousers and with a "tilak" on his forehead, Jagathy appeared to be in good health. He was surrounded by several of his family members, relatives and friends.
His family said he had regained much of his mental and physical health, but it would take quite a while before he would be able to walk and talk normally and regain full movement of his hands and legs.
They thanked the thousands of his fans who have been praying for his full recovery and early return to acting.
The actor continues to have regular physiotherapy sessions and is responding well to treatment, they said, adding that the family was confident of nursing him back to his normal self.
They said he enjoyed watching his old movies on television and could be seen laughing at the funny moments in them.
Jagathy had suffered extremely serious injuries at Thenhipalam in Malappura district when he was travelling in his car to Coorg in Karnataka for the shooting of a film by director Lenin Rajendran.
At the MIMS in Kozhikode, he had undergone a series of surgeries, first to stop internal bleeding and then to treat the bone fractures he had suffered in his hip, a knee and his right forearm. Jagathy had suffered multiple fractures and injuries in the neck, abdomen and chest in the mishap. His lungs had also been impacted. He was airlifted to Vellore on April 12.
Sources said the Toyota Innova car, in which he was travelling, crashed into the median on National Highway 17 while negotiating a sharp curve. The driver of the car, Anil Kumar, also suffered minor injuries and underwent treatment at MIMS.
Jagathy, who has performed an amazing variety of roles in more than 1100 films, has particularly excelled in comedy and has won the State Government's award in different categories four times.

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Malayalam actor Jagathy discharged from Vellore hospital, reaches home

Jagathy Sreekumar
Jagathy Sreekumar

Well-known Malayalam film actor Jagathy Sreekumar, who was seriously injured in a road accident in the Malappuram district of Kerala on March 10 last year, was discharged from the Christian Medical College Hospital at Vellore in Tamil Nadu yesterday morning and brought home here in the early hours of today.

The 63-year-old actor had been initially treated at the Malabar Institute of Sciences (MIMS) at Kozhikode and later airlifted to the Vellore hospital on April 12 for further treatment, especially neuro-rehabilitation.
The van carrying the actor and members of his family reached his residence here around 4 am today, after a road journey of about 17 hours.
Members of his family said the doctors felt that it would help the actor if he was shifted from hospital and stayed at home, close to his family, relatives and friend.
"He is very tired now. Doctors have advised him complete rest for two days. After that, we will arrange for you to see him," they told mediapersons.
The family said the actor would continue to have physiotherapy sessions here and that he is responding well to the treatment. "He is recognising people and responding to them. But he has difficulties in talking and walking," they said.
The actor, popularly known as Jagathy, had suffered extremely serious injuries at Thenhipalam in Malappura district when he was travelling in his car to Coorg in Karnataka for the shooting of a film by director Lenin Rajendran.
At the MIMS in Kozhikode, Jagathy had undergone a series of surgeries, first to stop internal bleeding and then to treat the bone fractures he had suffered in his hip, a knee and his right forearm. Jagathy had suffered multiple fractures and injuries in the neck, abdomen and chest in the mishap. His lungs had also been impacted.
Sources said the Toyota Innova car, in which he was travelling, crashed into the median on National Highway 17 while negotiating a sharp curve. The driver of the car, Anil Kumar, also suffered minor injuries and underwent treatment at MIMS.
Jagathy, who has performed an amazing variety of roles in more than 1100 films, has particularly excelled in comedy and has won the State Government's award in different categories four times.

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Ansari inaugurates K M Mani Centre for Budget Studies in Kerala

Vice-President M Hamid Ansari delivering the inaugural address at the K.M. Mani Centre for Budget Studies, in Thiruvananthpuram on February 17, 2013.
Vice-President M Hamid Ansari delivering the inaugural address at the K.M. Mani Centre for Budget Studies, in Thiruvananthpuram on February 17, 2013.

Vice-President M Hamid Ansari today inaugurated the K M Mani Centre for Budget Studies of the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) and desribed it as a timely initiative which seeks to fill an existing gap in the scientific and technical understanding of budget accounting and analysis.

He said the setting up of the centre was particularly relevant at a time when fiscal imbalances in government finances were being globally blamed for most of the ills of national economies.
He also said it was befitting that the centre had been named after Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani, describing him as a distinguished public servant and political leader who has created history of sorts by presenting ten budgets in the State Legislative Assembly.
Mr Ansari stressed that the budget is not merely a statement of financial receipts and expenditure of the government but a significant political statement of government policy and its priorities for the economy.
"The budget reflects either the country’s or the state’s or the panchayat’s economy and shapes the direction in which the government of the day wants to take it as per its policies and priorities," he said.
"It is also a government’s plan for raising revenues through taxation, borrowing and incurring expenditure under the relevant heads. The government channelizes its financial resources thus raised in the various sectors of the economy and government. Given the finite nature of financial resources, budget making is an exercise in achieving a fine balance between competing objectives and priorities of the government, within the budgetary constraint," he said.
Mr Ansari said the importance of research and analysis in the technical and political aspects of budget making can be gauged from the fact that besides the Union and state governments, there are around 2.4 lakh local self government bodies, including panchayats and municipalities, which are in dire need of better budgetary management for financial viability and sustainability. 
"They would be important beneficiaries of advanced research and training in this area. Especially, at a time, when there aren’t many institutions in the country dedicated to the study and research related to budget making and management," he said.
He noted that the major objective of the K. M. Mani Centre for Budget studies is to promote research in the theory and practice of public budget and budget-making, as well as classification, analysis, accountability and management of budgets in democratic countries, with special focus on India’s fiscal federalism. In due course, the Centre would also endeavour to start a post-graduate course in budget and budget management.
It also proposes to undertake other areas for study, such as local government budgeting, with focus on Kerala and state, sub-state level fiscal relations.
It also proposes to establish an archive of Travancore, Cochin, Travancore-Cochin and Kerala Budgets from 1957-58 till present; institute a long-term project on the political economy of budgets and budget making in Kerala; create cadre of experts on budgets and public budget making; and establish a State Budget Observatory which provides detailed findings of studies and research concerning the state and local finances of Kerala.
"The Centre opens a whole range of opportunities for learning and research in the area of budget studies. I hope that the Centre will initiate a new chapter in the annals of public finances research, with emphasis on sub-national finances, thereby, laying the foundation of a new centre of excellence in budget studies and related policy formulations, for the benefit of Kerala and the entire country," Mr Ansari added.

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Kerala to generate 10 MW solar power through rooftop systems

Kerala has launched an ambitious programme to generate over 10 MW of solar power through more than 10000 roof-top solar power systems of I kw each to be installed at individual houses.

The programme was formally launched by  Union Minister for New & Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah here today in the presence of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
This is the biggest solar power programme sanctioned to Kerala so far with an overall expenditure of over Rs 175 crores and budgetary support of over Rs. 80 crores from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). 
The aggregated and complete project is expected to generate 15 million units of electricity annually.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Abdullah promised his Ministry’s support for the second phase of the project aimed at reaching over 50,000 households with a subsidy support of over Rs. 200 crores. 
The project has been sanctioned by MNRE under the Solar Off-Grid Photovoltaic programme of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM). The Mission, launched in 2010, aims to achieve a target of 200 MW of off-grid solar applications to be achieved by the end of March 2013. This target is apart from 20 Million Solar Home Systems to be installed by 2022. 

Kerala: Startup Village, KSEB team up to power innovations in energy sector


The Kochi-based Startup Village, a telecom incubator, has tied up with the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) to set up a platform -- Energy Innovation Zone -- that will power new ideas and innovations in this sector.

KSEB chairman M Sivasankar and Startup Village chairman Sanjay Vijaykumar signed a memorandum of understanding in this regard here on January 16 in the presence of Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and state Electricity Minister Aryadan Muhammed.
“Kerala has superior talent in the technology sector and our kids are in the front everywhere from Silicon Valley to technoparks. Startup Village came up as a revolutionary idea to tap these young talents in the State and groom them into global leaders. The Government on its part is giving full support by way of student entrepreneurship policy and pro-active logistics,” Mr Chandy said on the occasion.
“The government also wants to take advantage of the power of this young brigade and see that they develop new solutions and technologies for the welfare and betterment of our society. This landmark collaboration between KSEB and Startup Village marks an auspicious beginning. We will explore possibilities of setting up more innovation zones like this for other sectors too,” he said.
“It is an attempt to institutionalize and scale up energy economy of our State. Through the innovation spaces created out of the partnership, our youth can work on the latest technology and build solutions to the energy problems not only for our State, but also for the country and the world tomorrow,” Mr Muhammed said.
Startup Village, the first public-private partnership incubator in the telecom sector of the country, has already roped in world leaders like Blackberry (RIM) which set up its first innovation zone in APAC region. Talks are on with major corporate and government organizations to set up similar zones which will explore new ideas for solutions and provide better eco-systems for innovations. 
The Energy Zone will be housed within a 2500 square feet pallet rack structure.
“Apart from the real research for energy solutions, the partnership will also give a platform to showcase the ideas of young people and pitch them for funding for further development or scaling up. It will also bring in development from around the world in the sector so that the KSEB can learn from the real-time experiences.” Mr Sivasankar said.
"The innovation zone will work in line with the National Electrical Mobility Mission 2020. The zone will give practical exposure to entrepreneurs to work together with KSEB to find out industry problems faced by power sector, develop indigenous technology solutions and utilize the domain expertise of KSEB to build home grown solutions which can then be deployed in other states and countries. Besides, thought leadership, it will be make solid effort in further building up energy conservation among the new generation entrepreneurs”, Mr Vijayakumar said.

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Kerala government gives sanction for Aranmula airport in Kerala

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy addressing mediapersons after a meeting of the State Cabinet in Thiruvananthapuram on January 10, 2013
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy addressing mediapersons after a meeting of the State Cabinet in Thiruvananthapuram on January 10, 2013

The Kerala government today gave formal sanction for the first private international greenfield airport project proposed to be built by KGS Aranmula International Airport Ltd at Aranmula in the Pathanamthitta district of the state.

"They have already acquired all the necessary licenses from the Central Government. The state government only had to give a formal sanction," Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters after a meeting of the state Cabinet.
He said the state government would have 10 per cent share in the project and would have its representative on the Board of Directors of the company.
He said the state government would provide land for the project at market value.
Aranmula, a major pilgrimage centre is located about 130 km away from the Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi international airports.
It is about an hour's drive from the famous Sabarimala shrine. It is also the venue of a famous boat race on the Pampa river. It is also close to tourism destinations such as Kumarakom and Thekkady.
The airport is planned to be built on about 700 acres of land at a cost of about Rs 2000 crore. It will primarily serve the four districts of Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki and Alappuzha, which account for significant percentages of the foreign and domestic tourists visiting Kerala. It also accounts for a significant proportion of the non-resident Keralites, especially in the Gulf countries.
KGS has interests in property development, construction, healthcare and infrastructure sectors. 

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Kerala Cabinet okays implementation of contributory pension scheme

The Kerala Cabinet today decided to implement the National Pension Scheme in the State with effect from April 1, 2013.
Briefing newspersons after a meeting of the Cabinet, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said there was no going back on the decision to implement the contributory scheme in the state.
He said the scheme would not affect existing employees and new recruits would be eligible for minimum pension and family pension.
Mr Chandy said the Government had responded positively to the demands put forward by different employees' organizations and it was not fair on their part to go on indefinite strike. He urged the organizations to withdraw the strike.
He said a minimum pension would be guaranteed to those who enter service from April 1 and they would also be entitled for family pension. If they are willing then the Government will start GPF, he said.
Mr Chandy said the Cabinet had given approval for bringing in necessary amendments to the existing building rules in the state.  The Cabinet has also approved the recommendations of the sub-committee appointed for the same.
The employees of Kerala Press Academy and State Institute of Rural Development will avail the benefits of the existing pay revision, the Cabinet decided.
Through another decision, the accident insurance amount of school children will be increased. In case of death the amount is increased to Rs 50,000 from Rs 10,000. The amount of insurance to those children who receive injuries in accidents has also been increased up to a maximum of Rs 10,000. This scheme will be implemented through State Insurance Department, he added.

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Justice Arun Mishra appointed Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court


The President has appointed Mr Justice Arun Mishra, Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court, as the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court.

An official press release said the appointment would be with effect from the date he assumed charge of his new office.
Mr Justice Mishra, 57, graduated in sience and then obtained a Master's degree in Arts and a degree in Law.
He practised from 1978 to October 1999 in constitutional, civil, industrial, criminal and service matters in the Bench of High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Gwalior. He worked as part time Lecturer in Law during 1986 to 1993 and was a Member of Faculty of Law of Jiwaji University, Gwalior from 1991 to 1996.
He was chairman of General Council of National Law School of India University at Bangalore from 15.05.1998 to 24.10.1999.
He was appointed as Additional Judge of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh on October 25, 1999 and Permanent Judge on October 24, 2001.
He was transferred to Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur and took oath there on 12.09.2010. He became Acting Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court on 1.11.2010 and became the Chief Justice of Rajasthan on 26.11.2010.
The President has also appointed Mr Justice N. K. Balakrishnan, Mr Justice V. Chitambaresh and Mr Justice A. M. Shaffique, Additional Judges of the High Court of Kerala, as Judges of that High Court with effect from the date they assume charge of their office. 
Mr Justice Arvind Kumar, Additional Judge of the High Court of Karnataka, has been appointed as a Judge of that High Court with effect from the date he assumes charge of his office, the release added.

Veteran CPI (M) ideologue P Govinda Pillai passes away

P Govinda Pillai Photo: Courtesy: Fotokannan at ml.wikipedia
P Govinda Pillai Photo: Courtesy: Fotokannan at ml.wikipedia

Veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and ideologue P Govinda Pillai passed away at a private hospital here late last night after a brief illness, party sources said.

He was 86. He is survived by his wife, Prof Rajamma, son M G Radhakrishnan, a journalist and daughter Parvathi, a writer, journalist and activist.
Mr Pillai had been ailing for some time and had been admitted to the hospital about a week ago. He breathed his last around 11 pm last night, the sources said.
His body was brought to the A K Gopalan Centre here to enable people to pay their last respects to him, where several senior CPI (M) leaders, including former Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, and hundreds of his admirers were present.
Later, the body will be taken to the VJT Hall for some time before the cremation is held at 4 pm today at the Shanti Kavadam at Thycadu here, the sources said.
Known popularly as "PG", Mr Pillai became a major influence in the political and cultural spheres in Kerala during a six-decade career as a front-ranking Communist, journalist and writer.
His scholarship and intellectual abilities won him admirers from across the political spectrum all over the state.
Born on May 23, 1926, Mr Pillai entered politics as a worker of the Congress before joining the Communist Party of India in 1945. When the party split, he opted to go with the CPI (M).
He represented Perumbavoor constituency as a CPI member in the first Kerala Legislative Assembly and the third assembly as a CPI (M) member.
He had served as chairman of the Kerala Press Academy in 1981-82. A well-known writer on the fine arts, he had served as the chairman of the Kerala State Film Development Corporation and as a founding director of the Centre of Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT).  
He was the editor of Deshabhimani newspaper the official organ of the CPI (M) in Kerala, for nearly two decades. He was a member of the party's state committee for many decades.

AISATS appointed by Maldivian for ground handling services for Trivandrum flights


Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd (AISATS), a joint venture between Air India and Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS), a leading provider of gateway services and food solutions, has been appointed by Maldivian, the national carrier of Maldives, for ground handling services for its flights from Male to Trivandrum in Kerala.

A press release from AISATS that the company would be providing ground handling services to Maldivian's flights operating twice daily.
Mr. Willy Ko, CEO of AISATS said, “We congratulate Maldivian on the launch of its A320 flight services to Trivandrum International Airport. This partnership represents a prestigious addition to our customer base. We look forward to adding more value to the airline’s services as well as contributing to the seamless experience at the Trivandrum airport. It is our endeavour to ensure smooth tourism between the two destinations by enhancing passenger experiences at the Trivandrum airport.”
As part of their India expansion plan, Maldivian has enhanced their connectivity to include Mumbai and Chennai, while increasing passenger capacity from Trivandrum with an A320 
narrow body aircraft. 
The transition from the 50-seater Bombardier Dash 8 Q300 aircraft to the 152-seat A320 will add more than 50% additional air seats to the route to accommodate the growing tourism demand. 
AISATS’ ground services for the Maldivian includes ramp handling, aircraft cabin cleaning and baggage handling for the new generation aircraft.  Unlike the normal narrow body aircraft, Maldivian’s A320’s baggage compartment is containerized, and is also wider and deeper.
Mr. Abdul Haris, Managing Director, Maldivian said, “India has been an important market for us since the inception of our first international operation to Trivandrum. We are very pleased to extend our commitment towards quality services with AISATS as our partner for ground services at Trivandrum International airport. Going forward, the Maldivian plans to expand its aircraft fleet as well as the destination network in India to support the ever-growing tourism demand.”
Maldives, famous for its spectacular beaches and incredible marine life, has been high on the list of favourite destinations for people in India. The Maldivian launched its first international flight operations on the Trivandrum route in 2008. Witnessing an upswing in tourism from India, it has now increased its seat capacity and chosen to professionally manage its ground handling services with AISATS. Maldives targets to achieve a two per cent growth in arrivals from Indian tourists by December 2012.
AISATS provides ground handling services at the Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mangalore and Trivandrum airports.

Renowned Malayalam actor Thilakan passes away

File photo of Thilakan
File photo of Thilakan

Well-known Malayalam film and stage actor Surendranatha Thilakan, who was one of the most talented artistes in Indian cinema, passed away at a private KIMS Hospital here in the early hours of today.

He was 77. He is survived by two sons and two daughters. The funeral is slated to be held later today.
His body was kept at the VJT Hall here to enable his fans and admirers to pay their last respects.
Thilakan had been admitted to the hospital on August 23 after suffering two heart attacks and had been battling for life since then. He was on a ventilator for much of this period. He had an attack of pneumonia in the past few days and breathed his last at 0335 hours today, sources said.
Born on July 15, 1935 at Ayroor in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, Thilakan, who had an outspoken nature, began his acting career with various theatre groups, including the well-known Kerala People's Arts Centre (KPAC) before making his debut in films in 1973 with 
Periyar" directed by P J Antony. It was, however, his role in 1979 in Ulkadal that got him noticed.
During his illustrious career, he acted in more than 200 films and won the hearts of movie lovers with an amazing variety of roles, including some very moving and powerful portrayals of strong characters. He was equally good in serious, comic roles and negative roles.
He won the National Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1988 for his role in Rithubhedam and several other awards at the national and state levels over the years. The Government honoured him with the Padma Shri in 2009.
Actor Thilakan's sons and others at the VJT Hall in Thiruvananthapuram, where his body was kept for people to pay their 
last respects, on September 24, 2012
Actor Thilakan's sons and others at the VJT Hall in Thiruvananthapuram, where his body was kept for people to pay their last respects, on September 24, 2012
He got his first State award for his role in Yavanika. His other notable roles were in Kireedam, Sphadikam, Moonnam Pakkam, Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal, Mookkilla Rajyathu, Chenkol, Randam Bhavam and Kaattu Kuthira. He had also acted in several Tamil films.
Many of Thilakan's popular roles were those in which he teamed up with superstar Mohanlal and the two played a father-son duo. His comical roles in Nadodikkattu and Pattanapravesham, Mookkilla Rajyathu and Naaduvazhikal will remain memorable. He played the lead roles in movies like Ekantham, Perumthachan, Santhanagopalam, My Dear Muthachan and Mukhamudra (a double role).

Second field trial of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail system for EVMs held


A simulated poll was conducted yesterday at 28 polling stations each in East Delhi and Thiruvanthpuram as a part of the second field trial of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) systems in electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Chief Election Commissioner V. S. Sampath and Election Commissioner H S Brahma, along with members of Technical Expert Committee (Prof. D.T. Shahani and Prof. Rajat Moona) and other senior officers of Election Commission visited several polling stations and witnessed the trial of the VVPAT system in actual field conditions.
A large number of people participated in the exercise and cast their votes with enthusiasm and zeal for the trial. 
The Election Commission had invited the representatives of all political parties were invited and many of them including representatives of Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress participated and witnessed the field trial. 

Kerala govt. waives sales tax on increased petrol price, provides relief of Rs 1.63/litre

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Kerala today decided to waive sales tax on the increased petrol price, which will bring down the cost of petrol in the state by Rs 1.63 per litre.

Briefing journalists about decisions taken by the State Cabinet, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the move would provide some relief from the fuel price hike.
He said he had already sent letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister S Jaipal Reddy to reconsider yesterday's decision to hike petrol prices. He said the State Government would convey its protest in this regard to the Centre.
"By withdrawing the additional tax, the Government would have a tax revenue deficit of Rs 218 crores," he said.
He said the Government had decided to introduce various austerity measures and check the use of petrol by Government offices.
Petrol prices went up by around Rs 7.50 a litre with effect from midnight last night as the public sector oil marketing companies (OMCs) effected the steepest hike in fuel prices since the Government decontrolled petrol prices in June 2010.
A press release from Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) said it had increased the price of petrol by Rs 6.28 per litre, exclusive of sales tax/value added tax (VAT), with effect from midnight last night.
Given that the rate of sales tax/VAT varies from 15 per cent to 33 per cent in the States, consumers will have to pay an additional sales tax of between Rs 0.94 and Rs 2.07 per litre, the release said.
The new price in Delhi would be Rs 73.10 per litre (against the earlier price of Rs 65.64), while it will be Rs 77.89 in Kolkata (Rs 70.03),  Rs 78. 57 in Mumbai (Rs 70.66) and Rs 77.53 in Chennai (Rs 69.55).

RBI cautions public against depositing money with Muthoot Estate Investments

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today cautioned members of the public to note that acceptance of deposits by Muthoot Estate Investments, which is a partnership firm, is prohibited in terms of Section 45-S of the RBI Act.

A press release from the central bank said Muthoot Fincorp Ltd, Kerala is a registered non-deposit taking Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC).
"It has come to the notice of Reserve Bank of India that a partnership firm with the name of Muthoot Estate Investments in which the promoters of Muthoot Fincorp Ltd are partners has collected and has been collecting deposits in the form of fixed deposits, cumulative deposits and special public deposits from the public. These deposits are collected through the branches of Muthoot Fincorp Ltd located at different places in Kerala," the release said.
"In terms of Section 45-S of the RBI Act, acceptance of deposits from the public by Muthoot Estate Investments, which is a partnership firm, is prohibited. Members of the public are hereby cautioned to note that acceptance of deposits by the company or Muthoot Estate Investments is punishable with imprisonment and those who deposit money with the company or Muthoot Estate Investments may do so at their own risk," the release said.
The RBI has also directed Muthoot Fincorp Ltd to stop allowing the use of its premises/branches or officials, in any manner by Muthoot Estate Investments for accepting deposits from public, the release added.

Kerala CPI leader C K Chandrappan passes away

C K Chandrappan
C K Chandrappan
Veteran Communist Party of India (CPI) leader C K Chandrappan who was the secretary of its national council as well as its Kerala unit, passed away at a hospital here today.
He was 77. He is survived by his wife.
Chandrappan was the general secretary of the All India Youth Federation (AIYF) and was elected to the Lok Sabha thrice in 1971, 1977 and 2004. He was also a member of the Kerala legislative assembly for a term from Cherthala in Allapuzha district.
During his third term in Lok Sabha, he had played an important role in drafting the Forest Act, granting rights to forest dwellers on forest produce. He led the All India Kisan Sabha as its president.
Chandrappan was the youngest to be elected to the Central Executive of the CPI at its Kochi conference in 1971. He was re-elected secretary of the Kerala state council at its recent state conference.
The CPI said in a statement that it had lost a very dynamic and energetic leader. "It will create a great void in Kerala itself," it said.

World Bank signs agreement for drinking water, sanitation project in Kerala


The Legal Agreement of the World Bank-aided Rs 1022 crore Second Kerala Rural Water Supply & Sanitation Project was signed yesterday in the presence of State Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in Thiruvananthapuram. 

Venu Rajamony, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance for Government of India, Hubert Nove Josserand, Operations Advisor on behalf of the World Bank, V.J. Kurian, Principal Secretary Water Resources Department on behalf of Kerala Government and Ashok Kumar Singh, Executive Director on behalf of the Project were the signatories. 
According to an official press release, the project envisages potable drinking water facility and sanitation interventions to about 1.84 million rural people covering 200 village panchayats in a period of five and half years at a total cost of Rs 1022 crore.
The first phase of the project implemented from 2000 to 2008 covered a population of 1.3 million people in 112 village panchayats. The project was awarded position of first runner-up in the "People First Award" competition by the World Bank in the year 2008. 
The second phase is designed to provide more benefits to the communities than in the first phase. 

Five accused sentenced to 10 years' RI in Killiroor sex scandal case in Kerala

Five accused persons were today sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for five years by the Special Judge for CBI Cases, Thiruvananthapuram in the sensational Killiroor sex scandal case, involving the gang rape of a minor girl, which had rocked Kerala in 2004.
The five were also asked to pay fines ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 each. The total fine amount of Rs 1 lakh will be given to the parents of the victim for the welfare of her minor child.
A press release from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) here today identified the five as Praveen; Manoj; Latha Nair; Binu @ Kochumon and Prasanth.
The release said the CBI had taken over the investigation of the case on the request of the Kerala Government and registered a case on January 27, 2005 against accused Omanakutty, Praveen; Manoj and Latha Nair.

Kerala Governor M O H Farook passes away in Chennai

File photo of M.O.H. Farook
File photo of M.O.H. Farook
Kerala Governor and three-time Chief Minister of Puducherry M O H Farook passed away at a hospital in Chennai last night after ailing for some time, sources in the Raj Bhavan said here today.
He was 74. He is survived by his son M O H F Shahjahan and daughters F Malika and F Yasmin.
His body will be flown to Puducherry for the funeral later in the day, sources said. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Legislative Assembly Speaker G Karthikeyan and several State Ministers and officials are expected to attend the funeral, they added.
Farook, who had assumed office as Governor of Kerala on September 8, was admitted to the Apollo Hospital in Chennai on December 4, where he was being treated for cancer. For the last many days, he was on medical leave and Karnataka Governor H R Bhardwaj was holding additional charge as the Governor of Kerala.
Farook, who hailed from Karaikal, had participated in the struggle for liberation of Pondicherry (as Puducherry was known then) from France during 1953-54 when it was a French colony.
He served as Chief Minister of Puducherry thrice from April 9, 1967- March 6, 1968, March 17, 1969 – January 3, 1974 and from 1985 to 1990.  Earlier, he had served as Speaker of the Puducherry Assembly at the age of 27.
He was elected three times in 1991, 1996 and 1999 to the Lok Sabha from the Union Territory and had served as Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation and Tourism between June 1991 and December 1992.
In September 2004, he was appointed as the Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and in 2010 as Governor of Jharkhand. Last year, he was transferred to Kerala for the remainder of his term.

ASB and CII to organize masterclass in Kerala on building alumni network


For the first time, the Asian School of Business (ASB) here in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is bringing the concept of "masterclass" to Kerala.

The masterclass programme, that will train the heads of institutions and faculty members on fine-tuning their skills in different streams of management and technology, is scheduled at the ASB campus in Technocity, Pallipuram, here on January 23.
Similar master classes, that are gaining popularity among the B-schools across the world, have been successfully held earlier in Gurgaon, Delhi and Pune.

Bharadwaj assumes additional charge as Governor of Kerala

Karnataka Governor H R Bharadwaj today assumed additional charge as the Governor of Kerala in place of M O H Farook, who has proceeded on leave, citing health problems.

Bharadwaj was administered the oath of office by acting Chief Justice of Kerala High Court Manjula Chellur at a ceremony in Raj Bhavan.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, his Cabinet colleagues and top officials of the state government were present on the occasion.

Earlier in the day, Bharadwaj was given a warm welcome by Chandy and his colleagues at the airport. He was also accorded a guard of honour.



FIR filed against Achuthanandan in land allotment case

The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) today registered an FIR against Opposition leader in Kerala Assembly V S Achuthanandan in connection with allotment of land to his relative in Kasargod.
The FIR was registered by the Kasargod unit of Vigilance. It was to be submitted before the Inquiry Commissioner and Vigilance Special Judge Kozhikode this afternoon.
VACB Director Venugopal K Nair yesterday ordered the Vigilance officials to register the case against Achuthanandan.
Achuthanandan was the first accused in the case as charged by the Vigilance officials.
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