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Thrissur

Kerala: Court orders probe against CM Oommen Chandy, Minister Aryadan Mohammad

A Vigilance Court in Thrissur on Thursday ordered registering of an FIR and initiating a probe against Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleague Aryadan Mohammad on the bribery allegations raised against them by Saritha S Nair, main accused in the "solar scam".

 
Kerala solar scam: FIR ordered against CM; protestors lathicharged
 
A Vigilance Court here today ordered registering of a first information report (FIR) and initiating a probe against Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleague, Electricity and Transport Minister Aryadan Mohammad, on the bribery allegations raised against them by Saritha S Nair, main accused in the "solar scam".
 
Saritha and her associate Biju Radhakrishnan are accused of having cheated several businessmen and non-resident Indians (NRIs) of large sums of money promising them partnership in a company floated by them, Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions Pvt Limited, which offered solar energy solutions to institutions and households. 
 
They had also boasted of close connections with Mr Chandy and other ministers and even produced letters on official letterheads to support their claims. The scam came into light when an NRI, Sajad, filed a police complaint accusing them of having defrauded him of Rs 40 lakh. Subsequently, 33 cases were registered against them on various complaints.
 
Saritha, while deposing before the Justice Sivarajan Commission in Kochi yesterday, had alleged that she had paid a bribe totalling Rs 1.90 crore to an aide of the Chief Minister and Rs 40 lakh to Mr Mohammad. Both have denied the charges.
 
However, Inquiry Commissioner and Special Judge S S Vasan, taking cognisance of a private complaint, asked the Vigilance Director to file an FIR and complete the probe as early as possible. The court rejected the contention of the government counsel seeking a quick probe into the allegations before initiating proceedings against the Chief Minister. Justice should be equal for all, for the common man as well as Chief Minister, the court observed.
 
The judge said he was not looking into the merits of the complaint against the Chief Minister which is to be considered by the investigating officer. The report is to be submitted to the court on April 14. The court also rejected the submission of the state counsel regarding jurisdiction of the court since the alleged bribery took place in Thiruvananthapuram. However, the court upheld the contention of the complainant P D Joseph, a social activist, that it had also occurred in Kochi, which fell within the purview of the court.
 
Reacting to the court order, Mr Chandy told reporters in Kozhikode that he was prepared to face any inquiry and rejected the opposition demand for his resignation. “My conscience is clear and both of us have done nothing wrong,” he said, speaking on behalf of his ministerial colleague, too.
 
In a related development the Kerala High Court stayed the Thrissur Vigilance Court order of registering an FIR against Mr K Babu, who had resigned his post as Minister following the court order. 
 
Passing the order, High Court Judge P Ubaid observed that the vigilance court had acted in unnecessary haste without waiting for the order of the division bench of the High Court. The stay will be applicable for two months. In the meantime, the court directed the Vigilance Director to conduct a quick probe and submit a report within ten days.
 
Earlier, on January 25, Mr Chandy had deposed before the judicial commission. The deposition, that went on into the night, was completed only in the early hours the next day. He reportedly told the commission that he had met Saritha only three times and came to know about the financial dealings only after her arrest. He had acknowledged receipt of a contribution of Rs 2 lakh to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund in a letter drafted by his office under his letterhead. The letterhead was later found to be misused. He also denied that he had met Saritha in his office along with Sreedharan Nair, a quarry owner and one of the complainants in the scam, as stated by Intelligence ADGP A Hemachandran.
 
The Chief Minister later told reporters that he had refused to undergo a lie-detector test as he had not lied or acted against his conscience. Neither has the state exchequer incurred any loss nor the accused obtained any monetary advantage, he added. 
 
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Crowdfunding campaign launched to save 1,000 years old theatre art in Kerala

Guru Margi Madhu Chakyar (R) and his son Nepathya Sreehari Chakyar help Koodiyattam student Nepathya Yadukrishnan get ready for a performance
Guru Margi Madhu Chakyar (R) and his son Nepathya Sreehari Chakyar help Koodiyattam student Nepathya Yadukrishnan get ready for a performance
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help protect one of the world’s oldest known theatre art forms from dying out for want of patronage and interest in the modern world.
 
The Nepathya Centre for Koodiyattam in Kerala is being supported by Sahapedia, the online encyclopedia of Indian arts and culture, in its goal to raise Rs 20 lakh via the crowdfunding platform BitGiving, to train a new generation of artistes in what constitutes the only surviving form of ancient Sanskrit theatre in the world.
 
Koodiyattam, a performance art that draws on the plays of Sanskrit dramatists of antiquity, is believed to have followed an unbroken tradition for more than 1,000 years in the state of Kerala. 
 
A highly stylized art form, Koodiyattam (Kutiyattam) evolved its unique theatre grammar over centuries with its own complex conventions, gestures and expressions, which require many years of arduous training to master.
 
Once limited to temples, Koodiyattam emerged on to performance stages and international audiences in the 1950s, thanks to the efforts of celebrated gurus such as Mani Madhava Chakyar, Painkulam Rama Chakyar and Ammannur Madhava Chakyar.
 
Today there are only around 50 practitioners of this art form and institutions such as Kalamandalam, Margi and Ammannur Gurukulam in Kerala impart training in Koodiyattam.
 
Nepathya, a school based in Moozhikulam in Thrissur district, is focused exclusively on Koodiyattam and is trying to preserve the most difficult of its traditional repertoires which need more time to master and which are not as popular as others because of their scholarly content. A not-for-profit institution, it was started 15 years ago to train a new generation of actors exclusively in Kutiyattam.
 
Nepathya’s founder and guru Margi Madhu says the lack of public awareness is one of the reasons for poor financial support and dearth of young artistes keen to learn. The crowdfunding drive is also doubling up as an awareness campaign.
 
“Nepathya has been struggling to raise funds for the past 12 years,” he says. “Currently, we are at risk of losing our trained artistes. Training a new student takes almost a decade and each time an artiste leaves, we go back to square one. We only have three senior students (and two young ones) and four drummers left because of lack of funding.”
 
These senior students — Rahul Gopinath, Yadhukrishnan K R and Vishnuprasad K R — aged around 20, have been training at Nepathya since the age of seven. They have undergone the preliminary stages of training and are now ready for the rigours of the more scholarly repertoires.
 
Margi Madhu says the funds raised on BitGiving will support the training of the three in Anguliyankam, the sixth act of the play 9th Century play Ascharyachudamani (The Wondrous Crest Jewel) by Saktibhadra.
 
It is an extremely difficult sequence to learn, needing up to three years of comprehensive study of the manuscripts, choreographic texts, and acting principles; and takes a full month to perform on stage. There are only three or four artistes in Koodiyattam today who can perform it in its entirety and only one or two artists who know its drumming patterns.
 
Nepathya will use the funds to enable its student artistes and drummers to dedicate more of their time and efforts to learning.
 
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Rahul, Yadhukrishnan and Vishnugopal are about to graduate from engineering colleges and under pressure to take up full-time jobs to earn a living. Margi Madhu says their families are supportive, but Koodiyattam will not sustain them unless it finds both aficionados and patronage.
 
“The real depth of the art lies in its ability to elevate the minds of the viewers. To do that the artistes themselves have to experience the pleasure of the art, and explore the depths of the performances,” he adds.  “They cannot do so if they are burdened by the prospect of looking for paying jobs, which is why we need funds to support them.”
 
UNESCO has declared Koodiyattam as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.
 
“It would be a tragedy and a shame if an art form that has survived for a thousand years dies on our watch,” says Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan, the Executive Director of Sahapedia, “We are wholly behind Nepathya’s efforts to save and popularize this ancient art. Koodiyattam is intimately connected to the cultural history of Kerala and the great traditions of Sanskrit literature, we have to preserve it whichever way we can. Supporting Nepathya is one step in that direction for all of us.”
 
The architect of the crowdfunding campaign, Neha Paliwal, Sahapedia’s Director, Projects says the campaign, which was launched on at the end of July and will run for two months, has so far raised Rs 1.02 lakh from ten patrons. “Such campaigns offer platforms for public participation in culture conservation efforts. It will also, hopefully, enable more people to see the beauty and value of art forms such as Koodiyattam that have historically been accessible to smaller communities.”
 
She said Sahapedia will use both its online portal as well as social media and other digital platforms to introduce Koodiyattam to a wider audience.          
 
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Police continue to grill actor Dileep in actress abduction case, survivor breaks silence

Kerala Police on Thursday continued to grill top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested on Monday on charge of conspiracy in the sensational February 17 abduction and harassment of a popular young actress, even as the survivor broke her silence in the matter.

Malayalam film actor Dileep
Malayalam film actor Dileep
Kerala Police today continued to grill top Malayalam film actor Dileep, who was arrested on Monday on charge of conspiracy in the sensational February 17 abduction and harassment of a popular young actress even as the survivor broke her silence in the matter.
 
The 30-year-old actress, who has also acted in Tamil and Telugu films, said in a statement that she was as shocked as everyone else by the turn of events in the case and wanted the truth to come out expeditiously.
 
Noting that Dileep, with him she formed a popular pair in many movies before they fell apart, had claimed that he had been framed in the case, she said the need of the hour was that the truth should come out.
 
"If he is innocent, it should come out quickly and if he is not, even then the truth should come out fast. All are equal before law,” she said.
 
The actress said she was issuing the written statement because she was not in the right frame of mind to appear before television cameras and make an oral statement.
 
She said she used to share a cordial relationship with Dileep but, for some reason, it got strained.
 
She denied media reports which suggested that they had real estate dealings. "The truth is that there have been no such deals with him at all," she asserted.
 
She also clarified that she does not have a Facebook page or a Twitter handle and posts appearing in her name on these and other social media websites were fake.
 
“My sincere wish is no innocent person should be punished and anyone who has committed a crime should not be allowed to escape,” she added.
 
She also said that she had not named anyone in her statements to the police. "If the arrested are indeed guilty, they need to be punished. However, if they are innocent, I wish them to see them come out free," she said.
 
Meanwhile, Dileep, 48, who was sent to two days in police custody by a local court yesterday, was taken to various spots in Thrissur and elsewhere for the second day today by the police in an effort to trace the crime trail.
 
Among other places, he was taken to two hotels in Thrissur, where he allegedly hatched the conspiracy with main accused Sunil Kumar alias Pulsar Suni, and to the Tennis Club in the town, the shooting location of one of his latest films, where a photograph taken by a fan showed the main accused at a distance in the background, indicating that the two were present at the same place.
 
Wherever he was taken, large crowds of people gathered to catch a glimpse of the actor and many of them booed him. At some places, Dileep, dressed in a white shirt and a pair of blue jeans, waved out to the crowd. He, however, did not respond to media queries.
 
Yesterday, the police had taken Dileep to various places here and in Thodupuzha near here for gathering evidence.
 
Meanwhile, former Indian  cricketer S. Sreesanth came out in support of the actor today, saying it was wrong to hold anyone guilty till the crime was proven in a court, recalling that he and his family had gone through a similar experience when he was charged with match-fixing in IPL cricket matches some years ago.
 
Dileep's bail application will come up for further hearing in court tomorrow. His lawyer had moved the application yesterday, but the prosecution is yet to submit its response.
 
In a related development, the Kalamassery police here today recorded the statement of a young actor, Aju Varghese, in a case related to his revealing the name of the actress in a post on social media. Aju had later apologised for the "mistake".
 
Meanwhile, Dileep's brother Anoop today alleged that the actor was the victim of a huge conspiracy to trap him in the case.
 
"My brother has been trapped in the case. The conspiracy is against him. Like in the movies, a wonderful script has been written and perfectly executed," he told journalists. 
 
Anoop said his brother would come out unblemished from the case and make a comeback in films.
 
Last week, the police had questioned Dileep and his friend and film director Nadirshah for 13 hours in connection with the incident after their names cropped up during the probe into the abduction and assault.
 
Subsequently, police had searched the premises of a business owned by  his wife and well-known actress Kavya Madhavan.
 
On Monday, the police again questioned Dileep for several hours before formally placing him under arrest that evening.
 
Some days ago, a letter allegedly written from jail by Pulsar Suni seeking money from Dileep had come to light. Some telephone calls made by Suni  from jail were also traced to people close to the actor. According to the sources, Suni had also been in touch with Nadirshah over the telephone from prison. 
 
Later, Dileep had complained to the police that he was being blackmailed by Suni, a matter that the police are investigating separately.
 
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There were allegations that Dileep was part of the conspiracy to attack the actress in view of a personal enmity between the two. The actor, however, has maintained all along that he was not linked in any way to the attack. He had also maintained that he did not know Suni, but later photographs surfaced in which the main accused was seen at the location of a Dileep movie.
 
The sensational abduction and harassment of the actress, which sent shock waves throughout Kerala and the entire film industry in India, took place when she was travelling alone in a car with the driver late in the evening of February 17.
 
The car was waylaid by a group of about three persons in a van near Athani in Angamaly near here. The men then forced their way into her car and drove around for about two hours, during which they allegedly harassed her and also took photographs and a video of her, sources said. They finally stopped at at Padamugal, near Kakkanad, in Kochi and fled in another car.
 
The actress then managed to reach the residence of a well-known film director in Kakkanad, for whose film she had been shooting. The director informed the police, who reached his residence soon after and recorded the actress' statement.
 
The actress is understood to have told the police that one of the men was her former driver, Sunil, also known as Pulsar Suni because of a Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle he owned.
 
Suni was arrested by the police in dramatic circumstances from the premises of the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) here on February 23. He and his alleged accomplice Vijeesh were arrrested when they managed to evade the policemen posted around the complex and sneak into the court to surrender before a magistrate.
 
Born as Gopalakrishnan Padmanabhan Pillai on October 27, 1968, Dileep had over the past few years acquired an enviable position in the Malayalam film industry.
 
Dileep, who started out in movies as an assistant director in 1991 after stints as a mimicry artiste and in comedy shows on television, has a huge fan following, especially because of his comedy roles in several Malayalam movies. In all, he has appeared in more than 130 films so far. He is also a film producer and entrepreneur.
 
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Kerala: Thrissur Pooram concludes with scintillating display of thunderous fireworks

 
Thrissur Pooram festival witnesses massive firecracker celebrations
 
A scintillating fireworks display that lit up the skies with colourful floral patterns and thunderous sound that shook the earth marked the conclusion of the Thrissur Pooram in the early hours here today.
 
The week-long festival sees supporters of two main temples, Paramekavu and Thiruvambady, engage themselves in a friendly competition with regard to arranging processions with the finest elephants, accompanied by the best percussionists for a wide range of 'melam' symphonies, a colourful “Kuda Mattom”, a display of colourful temple parasols atop elephants and the grand finale of fireworks display.
 
The holding of Pooram this year with its traditional finery was thrown into doubt following a fireworks tragedy at Puttingal Devi temple in Kollam district on April 10 in which more than 100 people lost their lives. Subsequently, the Kerala High Court passed strict strictures against fireworks displays setting limits on noise level and banning it during night hours.
 
The temple committees of Thiruvambady and Paramekkavu Devaswoms met and decided to reduce the scale of the festival to only rituals with participation of only a single elephant unless the High Court modified its order. They also claimed to have the backing of the Supreme Court in the form of an order granting certain exemptions for Thrissur Pooram.
 
The crisis brought politicians of various hues to offer full support for the Pooram in poll-bound Kerala. An all party meeting was held and the temple committees gave an assurance to strictly follow the Court guidelines regarding decibel level for fireworks and ensuring safety for spectators.
 
Even though the festival began on April 11, the last two days are of special significance. The festivities begin with the elephant carrying the 'Thidambu' of Neythallur Bhagawati, pushing open the massive doors of Vadakkumnathan temple with its forehead. Deities from temples in an around Thrissur are brought in separate processions to converge at the 'Swaraj round', a circular road in the middle of which sits the Vadakkunathan temple, a heritage shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.
 
Interestingly, the deity of this this temple does not participate in the festival. However, some of the key events and processions are held or begin from the temple premises. It is also the Bhagawati, one of the deities at Thriuvambady temple where the main deity is Krishna, who participates in the festival.
 
The main day of the festival yesterday began with the “Madhathil Varavu” (arrival at the Brahmaswom Madham). The procession comprised three elephants to the accompaniment of “Panchavadyam” music ensemble. It swelled to seven elephants on reaching the Swaraj round later in the day. The 'Elanjithara Melam' in the afternoon was another highlight. Held in the Vadakkunnathan temple compound, it attracts large crowds of 'melam' fans who swung their arms to keep time with the beat, despite the sultry heat and blazing sun.
 
The 'Kuda mattom' in the evening saw 15 elephants of Thiruvambady coming out of Vadakkunathan temple through the southern Gopuram to face a line-up of an equal number of pachyderms from Paramekkavu in the Swaraj round. The changing of colourful, decorated umbrellas took place in quick succession amid cheers from the spectators.
 
The elephant processions, accompanied by melam, continued throughout the night. Large number of visitors also thronged the “Chamayam” exhibition, displaying the “Netti Pattom” (the caparison) of elephants, the decorated umbrellas, “Ven Chamaram” (white fly whisks) and “Aala Vattom” decorated with peacock feathers and other items connected with the “Pooram”.
 
Yet others went to the spots where the elephants are tethered. Each of the elephants carry a chain with its name plant draped on its neck. The elephant fans are able to recognise the animals even without the help of name tags. The tallest and the one with the best features among the tuskers are chosen for the privilege of carrying the deity.
 
Thus, the crowds showed no signs of thinning till the early morning fireworks at around 3:30 AM. Each year, the two sides decide among themselves which one should have the first chance. After one set finishes the display, the other one starts after a small interval. While some of the more noisy “dynas” were taken off the list this time, the overall display neither lacked in sound or colour as firecrackers lit up the dark skies.
 
Next year, the pooram may be less noisy, but the hundreds of thousands of people would continue to throng the Pooram, billed also as a major attraction in the Kerala State tourism calendar.                                        
 
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Chandy assures Thrissur Pooram will be held with traditional pageantry

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A day after the Kerala High Court relaxed its strict conditions regarding fireworks displays imposed after the Puttingal temple tragedy that claimed more than 100 lives, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today assured that Thrissur Pooram will be held with all its traditional elements, including elephants procession and the fireworks display that culminates the festival in the early hours on April 18.
 
The Chief Minister, addressing reporters after a review meeting with Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, Thrissur district administration authorities and the committee members of the Pooram said that while the government would continue its support for the festival, it considered safety and security of the people equally important.
 
Thus, all concerned with the festival, including the spectators, should follow the High Court guidelines for the smooth conduct of the festival. “There will be strict restrictions in place for the Pooram,” Mr Chennithala said.
 
He said the government was also trying to persuade the organisers to hold laser fireworks display that would be colourful without the high-decibel impact of traditional fireworks in the years to come. Meanwhile, preparations were on for the 'sample fireworks' display later in the evening, albeit with lesser noise as per the High Court order.
 
Meanwhile, Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said an inquiry would be conducted about the Forest Department issuing a circular insisting strict conditions for parading of elephants. In recent years, rules regarding parading of elephants during the hot summer months have been restricted.
 
The famous Thrissur Pooram, that was in danger of being reduced to a ritual with the strict strictures passed by Kerala High Court on fireworks display after the Puttingal temple tragedy that claimed more than 100 lives, will be held on April 17 with almost all the pomp and show associated with it, including the massive fireworks display in the early hours before sunrise the next day, as the Court relaxed some of the conditions.
 
Even though the Pooram festival has already started, the main event will be on April 17 with grand spectacle of elephant processions accompanied by the best percussion music right from the morning. The famous “Kuda mattom” takes place towards the evening in which caparisoned elephants line up facing each other for a spectacular display of changing of bright coloured and decorated umbrellas by people perched atop to culminate in the fireworks display.
 
The festival ranges supporters of two temples, Thiruvambady Krishna temple and Paramekkavu Bhagavati temple against each other in the elephant, 'Kuda mattom' and fireworks displays in a friendly competition. Over the years, it has become a big draw not only with local people, but even foreign tourists.
 
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Thus, when the High Court passed orders earlier this week banning fireworks during night hours, the two temple committees met here and decided that if the court does not relent, they would hold the Pooram as a ritual with only a single elephant and no fireworks display. Meanwhile, political parties leaders, cutting across the spectrum, including candidates of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), the Communist Part of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in poll-bound Kerala came out in support of a full-fledged Thrissur Pooram. An all party meeting convened by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy also stated that a long standing traditional temple festival cannot be called off or curtailed abruptly and accent should be on adopting proper safety measures.
 
A Division Bench of the High Court comprising Justices Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice Anu Sivaraman, in its order on a plea by the Paramekkavu and Thirvambadi Devaswoms, granted exemption to Thirssur Pooram directing the authorities to ensure that no unauthorised chemicals was used in the fireworks and the sound level should not exceed 125 decibels.
 
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Kerala: HC relents,Thrissur Pooram to be held with low decibel fireworks

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The famous Thrissur Pooram, that was in danger of being reduced to a ritual with the strict strictures passed by Kerala High Court on fireworks display after the April 10 Puttingal temple fire tragedy that claimed more than 100 lives, will be held on April 17 with almost all the pomp and show associated with it, including the massive fireworks display in the early hours before sunrise the next day, as the Court relaxed some of the conditions.
 
Even though the week-long Pooram festival has already started, the main event will be on April 17 with the grand spectacle of elephant processions accompanied by the best percussion music right from the morning. 
 
The famous “Kuda mattom” takes place towards the evening in which caparisoned elephants line up facing each other across massive crowds of people separating them for a spectacular display of changing of bright coloured and decorated umbrellas to culminate in the fireworks display.
 
The festival ranges supporters of two temples, Thiruvambady Krishna temple and Paramekkavu Bhagavati temple against each other in the elephant, 'Kuda mattom' and fireworks displays in a friendly competition. Over the years, it has become a big draw not only with local people, but even foreign tourists.
 
Thus, when the High Court passed orders earlier this week banning fireworks during night hours, the two temple committees met here and decided that if the court does not relent, they would hold the Pooram as a ritual with only a single elephant and no fireworks display. 
 
Meanwhile, leaders of political parties, cutting across the spectrum, including candidates of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), the Communist Part of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in poll-bound Kerala, came out in support of a full-fledged Thrissur Pooram. An all-party meeting convened by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy also stated that a long-standing traditional temple festival could not be called off or curtailed abruptly and the accent should be on adopting proper safety measures.
 
A Division Bench of the High Court comprising Justices Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice Anu Sivaraman, in its order on a plea by the Paramekkavu and Thirvambadi Devaswoms, granted exemption to Thirssur Pooram directing the authorities to ensure that no unauthorised chemicals were used in the fireworks and the sound level should not exceed 125 decibels.
 
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Kerala: Temple committee members arrested, High Court passes strictures against fireworks display

 
7 officials surrender in Kollam temple inferno case
Two days after a massive explosion during a fireworks display at the Puttingal Devi temple at Paravur in Kollam district of Kerala left at least 116 people dead and more than 380 injured, the police arrested 13 people including seven office bearers of the temple while the Kerala High Court today passed severe strictures to control the use of high decibel fireworks at night.
 
While five of the temple committee, including its president PS Jayalal, Secretary Krishnankutty Pillai, J Prasad, Somasundram Pillai and Ravindran Pillai had surrendered last night, another office bearer, Surendran Pillai was arrested in the morning.
 
Severely criticising the police and local administration in allowing the fireworks display to go ahead without obtaining proper permission, the High Court said that, even during daytime, fireworks display should not exceed 140 decibels. The court also directed the local administration and the police to submit separate affidavits on the incident.
 
The court said fireworks displays should be held only after following all safety precautions and there should be no outside interference in granting of license.
 
A division bench headed by Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan, taking up a letter from Justice Chidambaresh as a PIL also included the Union Government and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as respondents in the case.   
 
Meanwhile, one of the contractors who supplied the fireworks, Surendran, 67, from Kazhakuttam, Thiruvananathapuram, who had sustained 90% burn injuries, died in a hospital today. His son Umesh, 35, who was also admitted to hospital, was discharged after treatment. Police said his second son Deepu, 33, had gone missing from the hospital. Earlier, authorities had filed cases against Surendran and his sons for possession of explosives without authorisation. His license had also expired on March 31 and he had applied for conducting the fireworks display at Puttingal temple concealing this fact, police said.
 
In another development, Additional Director General of Police Anantha Krishnan, heading the crime branch investigation into the mishap, said the fireworks competition was held after misleading the local administration which had denied permission earlier. The temple committee claimed that verbal permission was granted on informing them that it would only be a fireworks display.
 
Paravur police had charged around 30 people including the temple committee members, the contractors of the fireworks display and his workers under charges of culpable homicide. Five employees of the fireworks contractor Surendran are already in police custody.
 
Meanwhile, DNA tests will be conducted on unclaimed bodies while 21 people were still missing after the mishap. Their family members have been asked to reach Kollam for the tests till tomorrow with identity proof of the missing persons.
 
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Bar bribery scam: Kerala Excise Minister K Babu resigns

K. Babu
K. Babu
Kerala Excise and Fisheries Minister K Babu today submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy after a Vigilance court ordered a first information report (FIR) to be registered against him in the bar bribery case.
 
Issuing the order, Thrissur Vigilance court judge S S Vasan directed the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) to register a case against Babu.
 
The judge pulled up the Bureau for tardiness in filing Quick Verification Report (QVR) it had ordered earlier. The lawyer representing the Bureau had sought one month's time for filing the report.
 
Babu is accused of having demanded a Rs 10 crore bribe from bar owners for reducing license fees in 2014. He has become the second Minister in the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government, to resign after KM Mani, who quit as Finance Minister in November last year, following bribery charges levelled by Biju Ramesh, working president of Kerala Bar Hotels Owners Association. The court also ordered proceedings against Ramesh.
 
The court said the FIR against Babu must be filed by February 22.
 
Reacting to the court's orders, Opposition leader V. S. Achutanandan called for Babu's immediate resignation.
 
Babu told reporters in Kochi that he was putting in his papers on moral grounds without even waiting to read the court order.
 
He claimed the allegations against him were part of a conspiracy hatched by the bar owners with Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders.
 
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Kerala Hummer case: Life imprisonment plus additional 24 years imprisonment for Nisham

 
Kerala Hummer case: Beedi tycoon Nisham gets life imprisonment
 
The Thrissur Additional Sessions Court today sentenced controversial businessman Mohammad Nisham, convicted in the murder of security guard Chandrabose, to life imprisonment and an additional 24 years in prison on various counts.
 
Handing down the verdict, sessions judge KP Sudheer also imposed a fine of Rs. 80.30 lakh on Nisham of which Rs. 50 lakh is to be paid to Chandrabose's family.
 
Special Public Prosecutor C P Udayabhanu told reporters outside the court that the life term and 24 years of jail for six other offences would run consecutively. This effectively means that he would spend about 39 years in jail, he said.
 
The court also directed the prosecution to initiate criminal procedures against Nisham's wife, Amal, for perjury. She had initially stated before a magistrate that she had seen the injured security guard in her husband's vehicle. Later, she turned hostile.
 
Meanwhile, Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said the quantum of punishment was not enough for such a henious crime. The State would go in appeal against the verdict in a higher court, he added.
 
Chandrabose's wife Jamanthi said the family was disappointed with the verdict. “For Nisham, there is no difference between house and jail. Even after a year, he is able to spend a comfortable time in prison,” she said.
 
Nisham, 39, a resident of Sobha City, a gated community in the city outskirts, had flown into a rage when Chandrabose, on duty at the gate on January 29, 2015, failed to open it fast enough for him. He had reportedly crushed the guard with his sports utility vehicle (SUV) vehicle, a Hummer, dragged him into the vehicle and thrashed him further.
 
Nisham was arrested and a court sent him to the Chavakad sub-jail.
 
Chandrabose, who suffered grievious injuries in the assault, died in the hospital on February 16, sparking outrage across the state against Nisham, a beedi tycoon.
 
Throughout the trial period, there were allegations of Nisham trying to use his clout and money power to secure his release on bail. But all his appeals in the High Court and even the Supreme Court did not yield any result.
 
The prosecution had sought the death penalty for Nisham for the brutal manner in which he had attacked the unarmed guard without provocation. The assault resulted in nine of the man's ribs being broken and there were no less than 22 injuries on the body.
 
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Dawn of a third force in Kerala politics, says Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday that the elections to local bodies in Kerala last month marked the dawn of a third force in the state politics with an impressive performance by the BJP that would provide an alternative to the "corruption-ridden coalitions" headed by the Congress and the CPI (M).

 
BJP has suffered most in Kerala post-independence: Modi
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the elections to local bodies in Kerala last month marked the dawn of a third force in the state politics with an impressive performance by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that would provide an alternative to the corruption-ridden coalitions headed by the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).  
 
Soon after his arrival at Kochi in the evening on a two-day Kerala visit, Mr Modi flew in a helicopter for his first engagement, a public meeting organised by the BJP in Thrissur, 70 km away.
 
Addressing the meeting, he equated the party's performance in the electoral arena in Kerala, where it is yet to open its account in the Assembly and Parliament polls, as the "opening of the third eye of Lord Shiva" to wipe out the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF).
 
"Kerala had decided for a change," he said expressing the hope that the party would be able to make substantial gains in the assembly polls scheduled to be held in 2016.
 
Mr Modi, who began his speech with an apology for not finding time to visit Kerala after becoming the Prime Minister till now, lauded the contributions made by the party workers over the decades, who despite not tasting electoral success, kept up the struggle for the growth of the BJP.
 
"During the last 50 years, they had to bear with so much discrimination, not only being treated as political untouchables but also being hunted down and even killed. More than 200 party workers were martyred. I keep telling BJP leaders and workers in other states to emulate the example of the Kerala cadre, for their persistant efforts for the growth of the party," he added.
 
"You have passed every examination with distinction. Now people have made up their minds. Last month's election results prove that," Mr Modi said.
 
He said the great saints of Kerala had removed untouchability from society, but political untouchability was still being practised by some in the State against his party.
 
Mr. Modi told the gathering that he actually wanted to begin the visit to the state with "darshan" at Sabarimala, but eventually told his team that the visit should be organised only at a time when it causes minimum inconvenience to pilgrims.
 
Referring to the Indian expatriate workers in the Gulf, numbering around 70 lakh, a sizable number being Malayalees, he said he had met and talked to them during his visits. 
 
Expressing concern over terrorism threatening Indians in the region, he said, the government, making use of the goodwill generated by India in her relations with several countries, also managed to successfully evacuate expatriate workers from trouble spots.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi being received by Kerala Governor Justice (Retd.) P. Sathasivam, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, on his arrival in Kochi on December 14, 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi being received by Kerala Governor Justice (Retd.) P. Sathasivam, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, on his arrival in Kochi on December 14, 2015.
The Prime Minister also referred to several schemes initiated by his government to increase investment, encourage rapid industrialisation and business, like 'Make in India' to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) that would lead to increasing employment opportunities in India itself.
 
More than 40% increase in FDI has been registered, showing the trust that investors in other countries have placed in the youth of India. In 2014, industrial production was -2.7%. Within a year, it became 9.80 %, he said.
 
"For Digital India, to enable the well-educated, hard working youth set up their own enterprises, we are doing more in Kerala than anywhere else," the Prime Minister said. For the fisherfolk, a new progressive scheme would be launched in the coming days.
 
Rubber growers, facing a crisis of low prices and lack of demand, would get relief as the government proposed to increase taxes on imported rubber, he said.
 
Mr Modi also outlined his vision for 2022, when India would celebrate the 75th anniversary of independence. "We should have food, shelter, schools and hospitals for everyone by that time."
 
Setting up of the Mudra Bank has resulted in easy loan availablity for people engaged in small trades like cobblers and others who could not hope to get loans from commercial banks. As many as 48 lakh people have availed of loans to the tune of Rs 78,000 crore so far, he added.
 
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The Prime Minister left for Kochi after the meeting. His programmes on the second day of his two-day visit to the state tomorrow begins with arrival at  INS Garuda Naval Air Station to inspect a tri-service guard of honour at 9 am. Then he will go by helicopter for the Combined Commander's conference on board the Indian Navy's aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, anchored off Kochi coast. 
 
He will also meet Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy briefly.
 
In the afternoon, he will take off for Kollam to participate in the SN Trust function at 2.45 pm. He will then fly to Varkala and then to Sivagiri ashram to offer floral tributes to Sree Narayana Guru before proceeding to state capital Thiruvananthapuram to wind up the visit and return to Delhi.
 
Meanwhile, a controversy generated over the withdrawal of invitation to Chief Minister Chandy at the unveiling of a statue of Congress leader and former Chief Minister R Shankar by the Prime Minister saw noisy scenes in Parliament with Congress members protesting insult to the Chief Minister.
 
To allegations that the invitation was withdrawn at the behest of the PMO, the Prime Minister's office said,  "The function at Kollam is  a private one. It is for the organizers to decide who all will participate in the ceremony."
 
But Mr. Chandy took to micro-blogging site Twitter to say that the people of Kerala had been insulted by the withdrawal of invitation to the Chief Minister of the State.
 
"R Shankar is our pride, he was a Congress Chief Minister and KPPC President. I considered the opportunity to participate in the statue unveiling function of Shri R Shankar as an honour. I felt extremely sad when I was told not to attend the function by the organisers who invited me to the event," he said in a series of tweets.
 
"It is not a personal insult. Kerala was insulted when its CM was denied the right to participate in an event where the PM is attending. The statue unveiling is not a BJP function, it is the Ist public event of PM in Kerala, denying CM from attending is protocol violation.
 
"R Shankar spent his entire life as a Congress worker. He worked incessantly to spread the ideals and teachings of Sree Narayana Guru. R Shankar led the SNDP and SN Trust in spreading Sree Narayana Dharmam. He was never a follower of JanSangh.
 
"The erudite followers of Sree Narayana Guru & Kerala will not brook the attempts at making the SNDP a subsidiary alliance of the BJP. The best homage to R Shankar would've been a statue unveiling event where everybody is allowed to participate," Mr Chandy added.
 
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Rahul Gandhi says Congress will fight for oppressed, weaker sections

 
Rahul Gandhi addresses fishermen in Kerala's Thrissur districts, targets Modi govt.
 
 
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today said he and his party would stand by and fight for the rights of all the oppressed people and weaker sections in the country.
 
“We are going to fight for farmers, fishermen, labourers and for every single person who feels oppressed and is weak in this country. We are not scared of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and his five or six friends in suits," he said at a fishermen's convention in Thrissur near here.
 
Talking about the restrictions on fishing imposed by the government, Mr Gandhi said that the sea was like a mother to fishermen, just as land was to the farmers.
 
"They want to take your mother away from you and give it to someone else. I read reports that they are taking this sea away from you and that they have said "the fishermen are not efficient".
 
Mr Gandhi said the question is not whether they were efficient or not. “The question is for whom are they being efficient. For their families, the fishermen are very very efficient. But, of course, for giving money to Mr Modi’s friends, fishermen are not very efficient. For that purpose, big businessmen are much more efficient,” he said.
 
He said the Congress believed that the best way to move forward was to empower the people of the country.
 
"But the NDA government has a completely different viewpoint. For some reason, they are convinced that they can develop the country by weakening the vast majority of people of this country," he said.
 
He said that, during his travels to Maharashtra, Telangana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in recent weeks, he had met farmers who asked him why the NDA government was bent upon destroying them.
 
“The farmer is asking me, why is the NDA government bent on destroying us? Why are they not giving us the correct MSP, why are they removing our bonus, why is it that they are not compensating us when rain and hailstorms are destroying our crops," he said.
 
“And the biggest question the farmer is struggling with is: why are they taking away our land without asking us," he said.
 
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi enjoying a meal of tapioca and fish curry with the family of Kizhakkuttu Karunakaran and Thankamani in Thrissur, Kerala on May 27, 2015. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala are also seen.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi enjoying a meal of tapioca and fish curry with the family of Kizhakkuttu Karunakaran and Thankamani in Thrissur, Kerala on May 27, 2015. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala are also seen.
Speaking about the Land Acquisition Bill, which the Congress is opposing, Mr Gandhi said the value of land was rising very fast as cities grew. "Land has become gold in India. They want to give this gold to their friends. They don’t want to leave this gold in the hands of farmers," he said.
 
“The Narendra Modi government does not understand who they are confronting. They think farmers are weak, fishermen are weak, labourers are weak and they can be pushed aside. But I am telling them that they should be very careful with whom they pick a fight with,” he said.
 
Mr Gandhi said the BJP government was not picking a fight with poor farmers or tribals but with the very soul of the country.
 
"And nobody has ever won a fight against the soul of the country.  It is important for me as an opposition leader to tell them who they are facing and who they are challenging, because the consequences to them will not be good," he said.
 
Mr Gandhi also spoke on these topics at an interaction with fishermen in Thrissur district.
 
“Land near the city which is very valuable is owned by the farmers and their families have spent last 50-60 years working on the land. They have supported the country with their hard work,” he said.
 
“Poor people have built this country and wherever the government tries to take away the rights of the poor people, whether it is fishermen, whether it is labourers, whether it is farmers, whether it is small businessman, they will be confronted by the Congress Party,” he said.
 
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List of victims in Bangalore-Ernakulam train accident

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The South-Western Railway today released the list of passengers who died or have suffered injuries in the derailment of the 12677 Bangalore City-Ernakulam Inter-City Expres near Hosur this morning.
 
List of dead passengers (Bodies kept at Victoria Hospital, Bangalore)
 
Sl. No.  Name  Age  Seat
 
1 Aman M 09 D8...14
2 Ittira Antony M 57 D8...12
3 Punithavathi F 61 D8...18
4 C.R.Venugopal M 53 D8...6
5 Vipin.V.V. M 23 D8...17
6 Naseem Khan F 67 D8...8
7 George M 70 D8...19
8 Aayesha khan F 24 D8...10
9 Irsha Munaf M 24 D8...11
 
List of grievously injured passengers
 
Sl. No. Name Age Seat  Hospital
 
1 Vamadevan M 70 D8...22 Sanjay Gandhi
2 Sharmila F 38 D8...13 Sparsh
3 A Ryzczak F 24 D8...28 Sparsh
4 Naga vishnu M 27 D8...5 Sparsh
5 Vasanthamani F 48 D8...4 Sparsh
6 Vipin UN M 23 D8...20 Narayana Hridayalaya
7 Salim M 42 D8...23 Narayana Hridayalaya
8 Prashanth M 26 D8…25 Narayana Hridayalaya
9 Ashok Jain M 40 … 
10 Shashidharan M 50 …
 
List of passengers with simple injuries
 
Sl. No Name Age Seat Hospital
 
1 Mohandas M 47 ... General Hospital, Aanekal
2 Devasia M 75 ... General Hospital, Aanekal
3 Baby Sebastin M 42 ...... General Hospital, Aanekal
4 Lizy Joy F 42 .... General Hospital, Aanekal
5 Bhaskaran M 45 D8...49 General Hospital, Aanekal
6 K.P.Rajappa ... Sparsh
7 K.K.Klebanski M 33 D8...27 Sparsh
8 Farah Tseema F 44 D8...9 Narayana Hridayalaya
9 Kalyani Roy F 82 ... Narayana Hridayalaya
10 Selvaraj M 58 D8...3 Sparsh
 
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Kerala CM sends Minister to scene of Bangalore-Ernakulam train accident

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today asked his Cabinet colleague Arayadan Muhammad, who is in charge of railways, to visit the spot of the derailment of the Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-City Express near Hosur in Tamil Nadu this morning.
 
At least ten people have died and about 50 others suffered injuries in the mishap.
 
The Kerala Government has opened a control room at Thiruvananthapuram with telephone number 0471-2331639.
 
Other helpline numbers in the state include: Thiruvananthapuram 0471 2321205, 2321237, 09746769960, Ernakulam Junction: 0484 2100317, 0813699773, 09539336040, Ernakulam Town: 0484 2398200, Thrissur:  0487 2424148, 2430060, Aluva: 0484 2624143.
 
There were 24  24 passengers bound for Thrissur, 14 for Ernakulam and 11 for Aluva in the D8 coach, which was the worst affected, an official press release from the state government said.
 
Apart from Minister Aryadan Muhammad, Malappuram District Collector and Ernakulam range Inspector General of Police Ajithkumar will go to the spot, it said.
 
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After Kochi, Infopark draws up plan to make Thrissur a major IT hub

After Kochi, Infopark is drawing up plans to make Thrissur the next major IT destination in Kerala by giving an impetus to the growth of its IT Park at Koratty.
 
Apart from taking up infrastructure development projects, there will be focus on attracting major IT companies to the park at Koratty in Thrissur district, a press release from Infopark said.
 
“The Infopark at Thrissur has all that it takes to make it a major IT destination in Kerala. The park’s proximity to the Kochi international airport and the national highway connectivity is the key attraction. We will leverage these facilities to brand position the park and attract major anchor clients,” Infopark CEO Hrishikesh Nair said.
 
While the existing two lakh sq ft workspace at the campus is fully occupied, work on a new 3.3 lakh sq ft IT block with plug and play facilities is in the final stages of construction and it is expected to be ready by May this year.
 
The new block is designed to serve the needs of both big players in the industry as well as the mid-segment companies looking to scale up their business.  Under the new project, the park will revamp amenities like swimming pool, gym, cafeteria and women’s hostel, among others. 
 
Unlike the IT hotspots in tier I and tier II cities in India, the Thrissur Infopark, spread over 30 acres of land in Koratty, offers its employees a congestion-free travel to their workplace.  The park, set up in an eco-friendly manner, offers pollution-free environment. A few minutes’ drive to either Thrissur or Kochi is all that its takes for the employees to enjoy facilities like shopping mall, restaurant and multiplex movie theatre.        
 
Currently, the park houses 29 companies with around 600 employees. The facility — set up under hub and spoke model — boasts of a higher employee retention rate as compared to similar parks in other metropolitan cities. The park has received around a dozen advance bookings for office space at the new building which, when completed, will generate an additional 3,000 plus employment, the release added.
 
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Tharoor hopes Sunanda's death is probed without "pre-determined outcome"

Former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor said on Saturday the investigation into his wife Sunanda Pushkar's death a little under a year ago, which is now being treated as a case of murder by the Delhi Police, must be conducted without any "predetermined outcome or political pressure".

 
Sunanda probe must be without predetermined outcome: Tharoor
Former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor today said the investigation into his wife Sunanda Pushkar's death a little under a year ago, which is now being treated as a case of murder by the Delhi Police, must be conducted without any "predetermined outcome or political pressure".
 
Breaking his silence on the issue, Mr Tharoor told mediapersons at an Ayurveda health resort in Guruvayur in Kerala that he had yesterday written a detailed letter to Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi raising several questions and voicing concern about the manner in which the investigation had been conducted so far.
 
He said he hoped the letter would receive Mr Bassi's personal attention and that he would discuss the concerns he had raised with the team of investigating officials.
 
Mr Tharoor's brief interaction with the media, at which he did not take any questions, came three days after the Delhi Police said that it was treating Ms Pushkar's death as a case of murder after the medical board had, in its final report, said that she had died of poisoning.
 
Nobody has been named as a suspect in the case, which has been filed against unknown persons at the Sarojini Nagar Police Station here.
 
Mr Tharoor, 58, is currently a member of the Lok Sabha, representing the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in Kerala.
 
Ms Pushkar, 52, was found dead, lying on a bed in room 345 of the Hotel Leela Palace in the Chanakyapuri area of the capital around 2030 hours of January 17 last year.
 
Mr Bassi had said the final report of the medical board set up by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), received by the Delhi Police on December 29, had stated that she had not died of natural causes.
 
"She died due to poisoning. Whether the poison was given orally or injected is being investigated," he said.
 
He said the filing of the case, under section 302 of would facilitate further investigation into her death. He said the quantum of poison administered had not been ascertained yet and samples of her viscera would have to be sent to laboratories abroad for this. The substance has also not been identified yet.
 
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Reacting to the development, Mr Tharoor had said on Tuesday that he was stunned to hear the Delhi Police had filed a case of murder against unknown persons in the demise of his wife.
 
At today's press conference, he again said that he was taken aback by the filing of the first information report (FIR) under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with murder.
 
He said no one in the family had any reason to believe that Ms Pushkar had been the victim of foul play. "Every one loved her deeply. There is no question of any one with access to her harming her in any way," he said.
 
Mr Tharoor said his silence over the past few days had been described as "sinister" by the media but pointed out that he had been silent on the issue for close to a year now. This was because he did not wish to undermine or compromise the police investigations into her death by anything that he said.
 
He said he did not wish to join public debates on television for TRPs. He said he had lost his wife and had not been allowed to mourn in peace because of the media coverage over his wife's death, much of which he alleged was based on misinformation and sometimes outright lies.
 
He said he had, right at the outset, pledged complete cooperation by himself and his staff to help the police establish the case and would continue to cooperate with the police in this matter.
 
Mr Tharoor said that it was largely due to such pressures that he had visited the health resort for treatment some months ago, when doctors there had advised him to go through a full two-week course.
 
That course ended today. "I came here as scheduled and am leaving today as scheduled," he said, clarifying that his presence at the resort had nothing to do with the filing of the FIR by the Delhi Police.
 
Hoping that the police would investigate the case in a professional manner and that it would bring closure in the matter, he said, "I hope Sunanda, her family and I get justice in this case."
 
Ms Pushkar's death on January 17 last year came just a day after a very unseemly and public controversy on micro-blogging site Twitter that involved her and her husband and a Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar.
 
The controversy arose out of Ms Pushkar's suspicion that Mr Tharoor was involved in an affair with Ms Tarar, an allegation that that the Pakistani journalist denied.
 
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Mr Tharoor and Ms Pushkar put out a joint statement asserting that they were "happily married" and intended to "remain that way".
 
"We are distressed by the unseemly controversy that has arisen about some unauthorised tweets from our Twitter accounts," the Tharoors had said in their statement.
 
"Various distorted accounts of comments allegedly made by Sunanda have appeared in the press.  It appears that some personal and private comments responding to these unauthorised tweets -- comments that were not intended for publication -- have been misrepresented and led to some erroneous conclusions.
 
"We wish to stress that we are happily married and intend to remain that way. Sunanda has been ill and hospitalised this week and is seeking to rest. We would be grateful if the media respects our privacy," the statement, posted on Mr Tharoor's Facebook page on the day before her death, had said.
 
Mr Tharoor's aide told journalists outside the hotel that the then Minister had returned to the suite that evening, after attending the day-long All India Congress Committee (AICC) session at Talkatora Stadium and another event, when he discovered that his wife had died.
 
According to the aide, Mr Tharoor initially thought his wife was resting, but he realised something was amiss a little later and then his staff informed the police, which rushed a team immediately.
 
The aide said that Ms Pushkar, who was unwell, and Mr Tharoor had checked into the hotel the previous morning because of some repairs and renovation work being carried out in their house.
 
Since the couple had been married for less than seven years, a sub-divisional magistrate had inquired into the death under Section 176 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). Police procedures had begun after that.
 
Ms Pushkar used to work as a sales director in a Dubai firm before she got married to Mr Tharoor. 
 
Born on January 1, 1962, Ms Pushkar was divorced from her first husband, Sanjay Raina. Her second husband Sujith Menon died in a road accident in  1997. She had a son, Shiv Menon, from that marriage. It was Mr Tharoor's third marriage, too.
 
A day after the police filed its FIR in the case, details emerged of a letter that Mr Tharoor had written to Mr Bassi in November last year, alleging that police officials had, while interrogating his domestic helper Narayan Singh as part of its investigations into Ms Pushkar's death, physically assaulted him and tried to force him into framing his employer in the case.
 
"The officer used the traumatic physical assault to try and intimidate Narayan into confessing that he and I murdered my wife," Mr Tharoor wrote in the letter dated November 12.
 
Mr Tharoor said in the letter that he had written it to put on record his conversation over the telephone with Mr Bassi three days earlier.
 
"As you graciously agreed, such conduct is completely unacceptable and illegal. It also amounts to the use of physical coercion in the attempt to frame an innocent man. I would request you to take immediate and appropriate action against such unlawful misconduct of the officer concerned," the letter said.
 
He said he and his staff had always made themselves available for any kind of inqiry and investigation but the behaviour of the officers towards his staff was a matter of serious concern to a law-abiding citizen.
 
According to him, four Delhi Police officers had questioned Narayan Singh for 16 hours on November 7 and for 14 hours on the next day. He alleged that on both days one of the officers had repeatedly physically assaulted Narayan Singh.
 
"Worse, that officer used the traumatic physical assault to try and intimidate Narayan into 'confessing' that he and I murdered my wife," Mr Tharoor said.
 
"Please look into the matter personally and ensure that the unvarnished truth comes out in this case. My family and I are eagerly waiting to see the outcome of the inquiry conducted by the Delhi Police," he said.
 
He expressed his "complete trust and faith" in Delhi Police under Mr Bassi's leadership and that he was committed to "fully cooperating with the investigations to ensure the timely completion of the inquiry".
 
Narayan Singh was interrogated for several hours by the police yesterday. 
 
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14 killed as heavy, incessant rains lash Kerala

At least 14 people were killed in different parts of Kerala, including eleven in landslides in Idukki district, as heavy incessant rains lashed several parts of the state on Monday.

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At least 14 people were killed in different parts of Kerala, including eleven in landslides in Idukki district, as heavy incessant rains lashed several parts of the state today.
 
In Idukki, at least three people were killed and two others suffered injuries in a major landslide that occurred at Cheeyappara near Adimali, near the famed tourist destination of Munnar, this morning, official sources said.
 
As heavy rains continued to lash the region, several vehicles had been stopped on the road at Cheeyappara, where a minor landslide had occurred during the night and efforts were being made to clear the route.
 
As the people were waiting for the road to be cleared, another huge landslide occurred suddenly around 0930 hours today, burying several people and vehicles under more than 30 feet of mud and boulders, along a 100-feet stretch, police officials told NetIndian from the scene of the tragedy.
 
They said there was no immediate clarity on the number of people or vehicles trapped below the tonnes of mud, which came crashing from the hills on one side and swept everything in its way to the ravine below the road on the other side.
 
The spot was on the way between Adimali and Neriyamangalam, the sources said.
 
They said three bodies had been removed from the mud and rubble and two people had been rushed to the Adimaly taluka hospital.
 
Unofficial reports, which could not be confirmed immediately, said five people, including a child, had died in the incident.
 
Earth-movers have been deployed to help in the rescue operations. Fire brigade and police personnel rushed to the scene and trying to extricate those believed to be trapped under the mud.
 
Heavy rains forced the authorities to stop the rescue operations for some time.
 
Several parts of Kerala have been experiencing continuous rains for the past two months. 
 
Several minor landslides have reported in different parts of Idukki since yesterday, leaving at least eight people dead, the sources said.
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Schools and colleges in many parts of the district were closed today as a precautionary measure.
 
The Kerala Government has sanctioned an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of those killed in today's incident.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government had sought the help of the Army in the rescue operations.
 
He told journalists in Thiruvananthapuram that the state government had also requested the Central government to rush teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) based at Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu.
 
The Indian Army has despatched three columns to Idukki as well as to Thrissur and Ernakulam districts, which have been hit by floods in many areas, to aid the civil administration.
 
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence here said in New Delhi that this had been done at the request of the government of Kerala following the heavy and incessant rains in many parts of the state in the past few days.
 
"Two columns are moving from Thriuvananthapuram, one each to Idukki and Ernakulam. One column has been launched from Coimbatore for Thrissur. These columns will be effective in 6-7 hours," the spokesman said.
 
"In addition, two engineer columns from Bangalore are being airlifted to Kochi for rescue operations," he added.
 
State Ministers Aryadam Muhammad and  Adoor Prakash are in  Idukki to oversee the rescue operations.
 
Mr Chandy said the rescue operations were on in full swing and the necessary manpower and JCBs have been made available to the affected areas. Around 200 kms of road have been blocked in Idukki district, he said.
 
The Chief Minister has requested tourists to not visit the hill stations till the weather improves.
 
He said the water level at Mulaperiyar dam has reached 133 ft, close to its full capacity, but there was no cause for panic.
 
He said the Tamil Nadu government would be requested to take maximum amount of water, so that excess water that would drain into Periyar River from the dam can be stopped.
 
He said teams of doctors and para-medical personnel were camping at the scene of the tragedy and the rescue operations had gained momentum.
 
The Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, today advised visitors to the state to avoid travel to Munnar and other destinations in the hills of Idukki district for the next few days.
 
"The department is continuously monitoring the weather and travel conditions in the area and will issue regular updates. Tourists are advised to contact the nearest tourism information centre before embarking on any essential travel to hill stations in Idukki district," the advisory said.
 
For any assistance and information, tourists can call the 24-hour emergency response number: 1800-425-4747, the release added.
 
Meanwhile, operations at the Kochi airport at Nedumbassery near here were closed today till tomorrow afternoon due to flooding of the runways.
 
An official at the airport told NetIndian that the operations would remain closed till 1520 hours tomorrow.
 
He said all flights till 1000 hours had operated this morning before the waterlogging on the runway forced the management to initially close the operations till 1520 hours today.
 
After a review of the situation at around 1300 hours, the authorities decided to shut down operations till 1520 hours tomorrow.
 
About 120 flights land and take off from Kochi every day.
 
"Due to flooding, airport operations closed till 15:20 hours on 06/08/2013. 3. Passengers are requested to contact airlines for rebooking," a brief announcement on the airport's website said.
 
Earlier in the day, some flights were diverted to other cities such as Chennai this morning.
 
Official sources said two teams of the National Disaster Management team, comprising 40 members each, are reaching Idukki by road. They are carrying heavy equipment for rescue operations.
 
They said landslides had occured at 18 places in Idukki district. As many as 92 relief camps have been opened and around 20,000 persons have been moved to these camps.
 
Mr Chandy said Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts were the worst affected by the rains, the heaviest in more than two decades.
 
He said a special meeting of the State Cabinet had been convened tomorrow afternoon to discuss the issue.
 
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We have to improve our death bowling: Dhoni

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni stressed the importance of death bowling after Chennai Super Kings stole a thriller against Royal Challengers in the Indian Premier League (IPL) here tonight.

"The performance was great, we need to improve our death bowling drastically. We didn't get off to a good start, the pressure was there on the middle order. You can't really afford to play too many dot balls, you have to be there till the 15th or 16th over to cash in," said Dhoni.
 
Man of the Match Ravindra Jadeja, who nowadays is ridiculed as Sir Jadeja on the social media, said he was not trying to play silly shots.
 
"(With reference to Sir) they are just making fun in a lighter way, not a serious way. I was confident about my batting, I scored two triple-hundreds this season. I was not trying to play any silly shots, it was a good wicket," he said.
 
Royal Challengers skipper Virat Kohli said his team lost the match in the last six over.
 
"It was our game to lose in the last six overs. We are relying on big partnership as of now, a few small partnerships will do good for us. RP, T20 is a game like that, I'm still proud of him," he said.
 
NNN

CBI arrests CPWD engineer in Thrissur, Kerala in bribery case

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today said it had arrested an executive engineer of the Central Public Works Department, Thrissur Central Division in Kerala for allegedly demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 15,000 from a contractor.

The contractor had, in a complaint to the agency, alleged that the engineer, who had awarded him a contract for putting tiles at an institute in Thrissur in February 2012, had demanded the bribe when he presented his first bill. 
 
According to the complaint, the engineer made it clear that the bill would be passed for payment only after he received the amount.
 
The CBI registered a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act against the engineer and laid a trap in which he was allegedly caught red-handed while demanding and accepting the bribe from the complainant.
 
Searches were conducted at the premises of the accused and further investigation is in progress, the agency added in a press release.
 
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Centre launches two new schemes for rural poor from Kerala

The Centre today launched two new rural development schemes from the Thrissur district of Kerala aimed at helping women working in the farm sector through the intervention and integration of other such schemes.

Launching both schemes, Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh said that the government was embarking on a very important journey by launching the two national projects, whose results will be visible to the common man in the coming three to four years. 
 
The first project, called Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Yojana, has two components with a budgetary provision of Rs 80 crore each and is designed for improving the economic status of about three lakh women workers in Kerala. 
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