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Tamil Nadu

10 dead in Kerala, TN, several fishermen missing as cyclone Ockhi heads for Lakshadweep

Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands on Friday.

 
Cyclone Ockhi: 8 killed, several fishermen missing
Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands today.
 
Four people were killed in south Kerala and five in south Tamil Nadu in rain-related incidents yesterday even as the authorities mounted a massive search and rescue operation for scores of fishermen reported missing at sea.
 
One fisherman, who was among those rescued today, died in hospital here today, taking the toll in Kerala to five, official sources said.
 
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a warning of a very severe cyclone for Lakshadweep Islands this evening and said the system was likely to intensify further in the next 24 hours.
 
In a Red message issued at 1730 hours today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the system, now over the Lakshadweep  area and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea, continued to move west-northwestwards with a speed of 15 kmph during the past six hours and intensified further into a "Very Severe Cyclonic Storm".
 
It lay centred at 1430 hours IST today near latitude 9.1º N and longitude 73.0º E, about 90 km north of Minicoy and 220 km south-southeast of Amini Divi. 
 
"The system is very likely to intensify further during next 24 hours. It is very likely to continue to move west-northwestwards across Lakshadweep Islands during next 24 hours and then move north/ northeastwards during the subsequent 48 hours," the bulletin said.
 
The IMD warned that, under the influence of the system, heavy to very heavy rainfall was very likely at most places over Lakshadweep area during the next 24 hours, with isolated extremely heavy falls. There could be isolated heavy to very heavy falls during the subsequent 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin also said that rainfall was very likely at many places over Kerala during the next 24 hours, with heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
According to it, gale winds, with speed reaching 120-130 kmph, gusting to 145 kmph, were very likely over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and gradual decrease thereafter.
 
Squally winds, with speed reaching 45-55 kmph, gusting to 65 kmph, were very likely along and off Kerala during the next 24 hours and along and off Karnataka coast during the next 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin said sea conditions would be phenomenal over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and very high during the subsequent 24 hours.
 
Sea conditions would be high to very high along and off the Kerala coast during the next 24 hours and along and off the Karnataka coast during subsequent 24 hours.
 
The cyclone could cause damage to power and communication lines due to breaking of tree branches and uprooting of large avenue trees; major damage to thatched houses, huts and kutcha houses; some damage to pucca roads; flooding of escape routes; and damage to banana and papaya trees and standing crops.
 
Storm surge of about one metre above astronomical tides was very likely to inundate low lying areas of Lakshadweep Islands, the bulletin said.
 
Fishermen along and off Lakshadweep Islands were advised not to venture into the sea during the next 48 hours. Similarly, fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off the Kerala and Karnataka coasts during the next 48 hours.
 
Ships and aircraft of the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) were involved in the rescue efforts at sea while teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were deployed in the affected areas in the two states and units of the Indian Army were on standby to come to the aid of the civil adminstration, if necessary.
 
Official sources here said more than 220 people had been rescued from the sea by the Navy, ICG and IAF. Many of them were admitted to hospitals here for treatment, they said. 
 
Some of the fishermen were rescued by a Japanese cargo ship in the area. As many as 37 people were rescued by Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) of the Indian Navy which flew between Thiruvananthapuram and the sea.
 
The ICG said it had deployed nine ships and two Dornier aircraft in the area and rescued as many as 52 fishermen so far.
 
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The International Safety Net (ISN) had been activated to advise Merchant Traffic to render assistance to stranded fishermen, it said.
 
Among others, Indian Naval Ships Sagardhwani, Jamuna and Nireekshak were in the affected areas in the Arabian Sea. INS Sharda and Shardul are also sailing out soon to augment the search effort. Both ships were in final stages of embarking HADR items for assistance at Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands, Indian Navy sources said.
 
In Poonthura, a coastal village near here, angry groups of fishermen and their families staged protests, alleging that the government had not acted in time and not done enough as far as the rescue efforts were concerned. 
 
Former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, both senior leaders of the Congress, visited the area today to listen to the woes of the villagers.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told newspersons that the state government had received an alert about the cyclone only on Thursday afternoon. He said the rescue efforts were also hampered by the bad weather conditions.
 
Mr. Vijayan said all possible efforts were being made to locate and rescue the missing fishermen. He said the state government had urged the Ministry of Defence to deploy more aircraft for the search and rescue operations.
 
In Lakshadweep, the authorities had issued orders for the evacuation of people from low-lying areas in Kalpeni, Minicoy, Kavratti, Agatti, Androth, Kadamath and Amini islands.
 
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OPS gets boost as more AIADMK bigwigs back him in power tussle with Sasikala

Tamil Nadu caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam received a major boost in his open power tussle with ruling AIADMK General Secretary V. K. Sasikala when one of her key supporters and State Minister K. Pandiarajan and party spokesman and former Minister C. Ponnaiyan crossed over into his camp on Saturday.

 
TN Education Minister Pandiarajan backs OPS
Tamil Nadu caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam received a major boost in his open power tussle with ruling AIADMK General Secretary V. K. Sasikala when one of her key supporters and State Minister K. Pandiarajan and party spokesman and former Minister C. Ponnaiyan crossed over into his camp today.
 
As Ms. Sasikala moved quickly to keep her flock together amidst reports of growing desertions, three Lok Sabha members, V. Sathyabama of Tiruppur, Ashok Kumar of Krishnagiri and P R Sundaram of Namakkal also threw in their lot with Mr. Panneerselvam today.
 
Ms. Sasikala, on the other hand, voicing concern over the delay by Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao in responding to her claim to form the next Government in the state, wrote to him again today, seeking an opportunity to parade before him the MLAs supporting her.
 
Mr. Pandiarajan, the state Minister for School Education and Sports and Youth Welfare, arrived at Mr. Panneerselvam's residence, bringing cheer to the large crowd camping there and which has seen its support base growing slowly in the past few days.
 
The decision of Mr. Pandiarajan, one of the founders of well-known recruitment and consultancy firm Ma Foi, to switch loyalties is significant, given the fact that he was one of Ms. Sasikala's most ardent supporters during the past several days of political crisis in the state.
 
An indication of his impending shift was available from a "tweet" he posted on micro-blogging site Twitter this morning.
 
"Will surely listen to the collective voice of my voters & decide in a way to uphold the dignity of Amma's memory & unity of AIADMK!" he said.
 
Mr. Ponnaiyan said Mr. Panneerselvam was capable of leading the party with discipline and of running a corruption-free government.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam's Twitter handle said that state Rural Industries Minister P. Benjamin would shortly visit him to extend his support to him.
 
In her letter to the Governor, Ms. Sasikala noted that she had written to him on February 5 and February 7, seeking an appointment with him.
 
The Governor met her and nine Tamil Nadu Ministers in the evening of February 9 when she formally informed him of her election as the leader of the AIADMK legislature party last Sunday.
 
O. Panneerselvam
O. Panneerselvam
"... I submitted my elaborate presentation to invite me to form the Government as I have absolute majority. Original letter and true copy of the resolution were also handed over to Your Excellency," she said.
 
"Thus, as it has been seven long days since the Chief Minister Thiru. O. P. Panneerselvam submitted and Your Excellency accepted his resignation, taking the urgency of the situation at hand, I would like to seek an appointment with Your Excellency by today along with all MLAs who extended their support to me regarding further course of action to form the Government," she said.
 
"I believe Your Excellency will act immediately to save the sovereignty of the Constitution, democracy and the interest of the state," she added.
 
Ms. Sasikala addressed her supporters outside Veda Nilayam, the Poes Garden residence of the late Ms. Jayalalithaa, and said, "Amma has given me 1.5 crore party brothers and sisters.When they are with me,the sinister intentions of many will not  harm me."
 
"Amma is confident that I will look after AIADMK with all care," she said.
 
She said the relentless work done by Ms. Jayalalithaa had made AIADMK the third largest party. "Amma is with us now. Our Amma is now showing us the betrayers of our party," she said.
 
"People who think they can separate our party which has 1.5 crore people will only face defeat. Amma won over the hurdles, we are facing the same situation,we will also win over it. I believe in justice and democracy," she added.
Later, Ms. Sasikala drove in a motorcade to the resort where about 120 AIADMK MLAs have been staying for the past few days and met them for discussions on their future course of action.
 
"After meeting the party MLAs, I feel happy," she said. "All the party MLAs are fine and happy."
 
She said the "created time lag", in inviting her to form the government, appeared to be intended to create a split in the party.
 
Ms. Sasikala said she and her supporters were "waiting patiently" till now for a response to their claim, adding that "necessary measures will be taken".
 
Mr. K. A. Sengottayan, who has been appointed as the new chairman of the AIADMK Presidium, told journalists at the resort that all the MLAs there would remain with Ms. Sasikala till the end. "Our only aim is to make her the Chief Minister," he said.
 
However, there has been no indication whatsoever from Raj Bhavan in the past few days on when and how the political stalemate would be ended.
 
Even as the two rival groups continued to swipe and snipe at each other, Raj Bhavan clarified yesterday that the Governor had not sent any report to the President or the Ministry of Home Affairs on the political situation in the state.
 
The clarification came after media reports which said that Mr. Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra and is holding additional charge as the Governor of Tamil Nadu, had sent a report to the Centre after his meetings with Mr. Panneerselvam and Ms. Sasikala.
 
"Thiru Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Tamil Nadu has not sent any report either to the Ministry of Home Affairs or to the President of India, as reported in some of the media," a statement from Raj Bhavan said.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, had submitted his resignation last Sunday after Ms. Sasikala, 60, a long-time aide of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, was chosen by AIADMK MLAs as the new leader of their legislative party and, therefore, his successor. The Governor accepted his resignation on Monday and asked him to continue in office till alternative arrangments were made. 
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as the Chief Minister in the early hours of December 6, 2016 shortly after the death of Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was both the head of the government and the party supremo.
 
The usually reticent and self-effacing Mr. Panneerselvam made a surprise visit to the memorial of Ms. Jayalalithaa late in the night last Tuesday and then told waiting newspersons that he had been forced to resign and that he was willing to continue as Chief Minister if the people and the party so wished.
 
Ms. Sasikala was widely expected to be sworn in on Tuesday, but the Governor has not yet taken a final view on the situation confronting the state. Mr. Rao, who reached here from Mumbai on Thursday afternoon, met ten-member delegations led by the rivals, Mr. Panneerselvam and Ms. Sasikala, later that day.
 
While Mr. Panneerselvam told the Governor that he was forced to quit as Chief Minister and that he should be allowed to continue and take a floor test in the Assembly, Ms. Sasikala submitted to Mr. Rao a list of about 130 of the AIADMK's 135 MLAs and staked claim to forming the next Government.
 
The Governor is understood to be consulting legal and Constitutional experts and weighing his options.
 
Yesterday, Mr. Rao met State Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan and Director General of Police T. K. Rajendran as well as Chennai Police Commissioner S. George amidst complaints by the Panneerselvam camp that the Sasikala group was holding about 120 MLAs at a nearby resort, many of them against their will.
 
V. K. Sasikala
V. K. Sasikala
DMK working president and leader of the Opposition M. K. Stalin met Mr Rao yesterday and submitted a representation in which he said the state administration could not be allowed to drift any further. He urged the Governor to take steps to ensure that a democratically and Constitutionally valid government was in place at the earliest through a free and fair floor test.
 
Meanwhile, Ms. Sasikala yesterday expelled AIADMK presidium chairman E. Madhusudanan from the primary membership of the party, a day after he threw in his lot with Mr. Panneerselvam. Mr. K. A. Sengottayan has been appointed as the new chairman of the presidium.
 
Mr. Madhusudanan, on his part, wrote to the Election Commission stating that Ms. Sasikala's election as General Secretary of the party was in violation of its rules and urging it to reject her claims in this regard.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had said on Thursday that he would issue orders to convert Veda Nilayam, the Poes Garden residence of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, into a memorial for her. The announcement assumes significance in view of the fact that Ms. Sasikala is functioning from that house.
 
To take this a step further, his camp has launched a signature campaign outside his residence on the proposal.
 
Two days after Ms. Sasikala removed him from the post of AIADMK treasurer, Mr. Panneerselvam on Thursday also wrote to banks asking them to not allow any one to access the party funds without his written permission. He said his removal from the post of treasurer was illegal.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam has been always regarded as a trusted lieutenant of Ms. Jayalalithaa and had stood in for her as Chief Minister twice when she faced crises.
 
Among those who have openly come out to support Mr. Panneerselvam is AIADMK Rajya Sabha member V. Maitreyan and former Tamil Nadu Assembly speaker P. H. Pandian.
 
There has been opposition to Ms. Sasikala's elevation from a section of the public, in social media and from the Opposition in the state. They point to the fact that she has never contested any election and has no administrative experience. They also point to the fact that an appeal against her acquittal in a two-decade-old corruption case is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict could be delivered as early as next week.
 
Ms. Sasikala and two others were co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in the case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. The two others are her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi.
 
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi  also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22 and died on December 5 after a sudden cardiac arrest. Doctors who treated her had told a press conference here on Monday that the AIADMK leader had been treated for septicemia and a host of other medical problems.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was hospitalised on September 22.
 
He had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
 
He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.
 
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Panneerselvam's resignation accepted, Sasikala likely to be sworn in on Tuesday

Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao on Monday accepted the resignation of Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers and his successor, Ms. V. K. Sasikala, a long-time aide of late AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, is expected to be sworn in on Tuesday.

V. K. Sasikala
V. K. Sasikala
Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao today accepted the resignation of Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers and his successor, Ms. V. K. Sasikala, a long-time aide of late AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, is expected to be sworn in tomorrow.
 
The Governor requested Mr. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers to continue to function until alternate arrangements are made, a press release from the Raj Bhavan said.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, had resigned from office yesterday after the ruling All India Anna Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) legislature party met here and chose Ms. Sasikala as its new leader.
 
Ms. Sasikala, 60, is expected to be sworn in as the new Chief Minister of the State tomorrow morning at a function at the Madras University auditorium. 
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state in the early hours of December 6, succeeding Ms. Jayalalithaa who passed away at a private hospital here late night on December 5.
 
"Chinnamma elected as the AIADMK Legislature Party Leader," the AIADMK had said on micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday. Ms. Sasikala is referred to as "Chinamma" by party workers, just as Ms. Jayalalithaa was called "Amma".
 
It said Mr. Panneerselvam himself, known to be a long-time Jayalalithaa loyalist, had proposed Ms. Sasikala's name as the new leader of the AIADMK legislature party leader.
 
"Chinnamma all set to become the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu," the party said.
 
Ms. Sasikala had then made a brief appearance in the balcony of Ms. Jalayalalithaa's residence in Poes Garden here, dressed in a green saree and blouse, the AIADMK's colour, and greeted the crowds gathered outside with a "namaste" and then the "V" sign.
 
She later drove to the AIADMK headquarters where she said that it was Mr. Panneerselvam who had urged her first to take charge as General Secretary of the party and it was he who insisted, first, that she become the Chief Minister of the state. Ms. Sasikala has never held any position in Government before nor has she ever contested any elections.
 
She assured the people that her government would always work for the welfare of the people. "Tamil Nadu Government will follow the principles of Amma," she said.
  
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
 
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He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.
 
Ms. Sasikala, along with her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi , were  co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in an 18-year-old corruption case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. An appeal against the acquittal is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict in the matter is awaited.
 
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi  also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
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Sasikala Natarajan set to be new CM of Tamil Nadu

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan, a long-time friend and companion of late party supremo J. Jayalithaa, is all set to become the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after the party's MLAs met in Chennai and chose her as the leader of its legislature party.

 
Sasikala Natarajan appointed legislative party leader of AIADMK
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan, a long-time friend and companion of late party supremo J. Jayalithaa, is all set to become the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after the party's MLAs met here today and chose her as the leader of its legislative party.
 
She will succeed Mr. O. Panneerselvam, senior leader of the ruling AIADMK, who was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state in the early hours of December 6, succeeding Ms. Jayalalithaa who passed away at a private hospital here late night on December 5.
 
"Chinnamma elected as the AIADMK Legislature Party Leader," the AIADMK said on micro-blogging site Twitter. 
 
Ms. Sasikala, 60, is referred to as "Chinamma" by party workers, just as Ms. Jayalalithaa was called as "Amma". It said Mr. Panneerselvam had proposed Ms. Sasikala's name as the new leader of the AIADMK legislature party leader.
 
"Chinnamma all set to become the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu," the party said.
 
Ms. Sasikala made a brief appearance in the balcony of Ms. Jalayalalithaa's residence in Poes Garden here, dressed in a green saree and blouse, the AIADMK's colour, and greeted the crowds gathered outside with a "namaste" and then the "V" sign.
 
Ms. Sasikala later drove to the AIADMK headquarters where she said that it was Mr. Panneerselvam who had urged her first to take charge as General Secretary of the party and it was he who insisted, first, that she become the Chief Minister of the state. Ms. Sasikala has never held any position in Government before nor has ever contested any elections.
 
She assured the people that her government would always work for the welfare of the people. "Tamil Nadu Government will follow the principles of Amma," she said.
 
She is expected to meet Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao in the next day or two and stake claim to form the next government in the state.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
 
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He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.
 
Ms. Sasikala, along with her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi , were  co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in an 18-year-old corruption case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. An appeal against the acquittal is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict in the matter is awaited.
 
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi  also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
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Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa suffers cardiac arrest in hospital

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who has been undergoing treatment at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai for the last three months for a lung infection, suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, the hospital said.

 
Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa suffers cardiac arrest
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who has been undergoing treatment at the Apollo Hospital here for the last three months for a lung infection, suffered a cardiac arrest this evening, the hospital said.
 
"The Hon'ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nau who is undergoing treatment at Apollo Hospitals, Greams Road, Chennai, suffered a cardiac arrest this evening," the hospital said in a statement late tonight.
 
"She is being treated and monitored by a team of experts, including Cardiologists, Pulmonologists and the Critical Care Specialists," the statement added.
 
The hospital said Ms. Jayalalithaa was on extracorporeal membrane heart assist device and was being treated by a team of expert doctors and critical care specialists.
 
The hospital said Dr Richard Beale from London had also been consulted and he had concurred with the line of treatment by its cardiologists and pulmonologists.
 
"Our prayers are with her and we hope she will recover soon. We request all of you to pray for her good health and well being. The Hon'ble CM is the beloved leader of the masses. Please join us in praying for her speedy recovery," the hospital said in a series of posts on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Tamil Nadu Governor Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao, to inquire about Ms. Jayalalithaa's heath.
 
Mr. Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra, is holding additional charge of Tamil Nadu, since August 31 following the end of the tenure of Mr. K. Rosaiah. He told Mr. Rajnath Singh that he would leave for Chennai tonight.
 
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Hundreds of workers of Ms. Jayalalithaa's party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), her supporters and leaders of the party began converging outside the hospital after hearing of the news of her cardiac arrest. Police stepped up security arrangements outside the hospital as a precautionary measure.
 
Earlier in the day, the AIADMK had said that Ms. Jayalalithaa would soon decide when she would leave hospital and return home after doctors had declared that she had fully recovered.
 
The hospital has said several times in the past few weeks that the Chief Minister, called "Amma" by her supporters, was well enough to return home whenever she wanted. Her party said she was involved in taking government decisions and also speaking on occasion to those who were allowed to meet her.
 
Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the hospital on September 27 for treatment of dehydration and fever. Later, there were reports that she was also being treated for a chronic lung infection and that he had been put on respiratory support. Specialist doctors from London and Delhi had been flown in to monitor her condition.
 
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Jayalalithaa returns as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu

AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in Chennai on Saturday, 12 days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in an 19-year-old corruption case and paved the way for her return to the top job in the state for the fifth time after a gap of eight months.

 
Jayalalithaa sworn in as Tamil Nadu CM
 
 
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo J Jayalalithaa was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu here today, 12 days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in an 19-year-old corruption case and paved the way for her return to the top job in the state for the fifth time after a gap of eight months.
 
Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah administered the oaths of offie and secrecy to Ms Jayalalithaa at a ceremony at the Madras University Centenary Auditorium.
 
Along with Ms Jayalalithaa, 67, as many as 28 other Ministers were also sworn in, including Mr O. Panneerselvam, who had functioned as Chief Minister since September 29 after she had been forced to resign following her conviction by a special court in Bangalore in the case.
 
Mr Panneerselvam will be Finance Minister, a portfolio he had held in her previous Cabinet.
 
The Governor had accepted the resignation of Mr. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers with effect from the forenoon of yesterday and requested him and his Council of Ministers to function until alternative arrangements were made.
 
Later yesterday, Ms Jayalalithaa, who was elected as the leader of the AIADMK Legislature Party, had called on Mr Rosaiah and staked her claim to form the new government.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa will have to get elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly within six months in keeping with Constitutional requirements.
 
Mr Panneerselvam had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Like this tim, she was then, too, cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.
 
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On May 11, the Karnataka High Court allowed Ms Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of the special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
 
Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy said the appeals by Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused had been allowed and that they were acquitted of all charges.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa had also been barred by the special court from contesting elections and that verdict had meant that she had been disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and ceased to be the Chief Minister of the state. The acquittal by the High Court meant that Ms Jayalalithaa could return as Chief Minister.
 
The three co-accused who were acquitted along with her are her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew and Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son Sudhakaran and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi, who were also convicted in the case and sentenced to four years in prison and fined Rs 10 crore each by the special court.
 
Sasikala was among the more than 3000 people present at the ceremony. Others present included film stars Rajnikanth, Sarath Kumar and Prabhu and industrialists N Srinivasan and A C Muthaiah.
 
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Jayalalithaa acquitted in corruption case, paving way for her return as TN CM

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was on Monday acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in Bangalore in an 18-year-old corruption case, clearing the way for her return to the top job in her state.

File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was today acquitted by the Karnataka High Court here in an 18-year-old corruption case, clearing the way for her return to the top job in her state.
 
The High Court allowed Ms Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
 
Reading out the operative part of the judgement at 11 am in the court, Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy said the appeals by Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused had been allowed and that they were acquitted of all charges.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa, 67, had also been barred by the special court from contesting elections and that verdict had meant that she had been disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and ceased to be the Chief Minister of the state.
 
Today's acquittal means that Ms Jayalithaa, supremo of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), can return as Chief Minister.
 
After she had stepped down, senior AIADMK leader O. Panneerselvam was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on September 29 last year.
 
Mr Panneerselvam, 63, had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. She was later cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa, a film star-turned-politician, and the three co-accused persons were accused by the prosecution of amassing assets valued at Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income from 1991-96 during her first term in office.
 
The special court had sentenced the co-accused -- her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew Sudharakan, who is Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi -- also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
 
Jayalalithaa acquitted by Karnataka HC in corruption case
Celebrations broke out among Ms Jayalalithaa's supporters all across Tamil Nadu as well as outside the high court here, where they had gathered in large numbers.
 
Hundreds of people who had congregated outside her Poes Garden residence in Chennai since early morning burst firecrackers, danced and distributed sweets as soon as news of the verdict by Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy ame in.
 
Mr Panneerselvam and many of his Cabinet colleagues also turned up to congratulate her.
 
On October 17 last year, Ms Jayalalithaa had been granted bail by the Supreme Court in the case after the Karnataka High Court had turned down her application.
 
Along with her, the apex court also granted bail to Ms Natarajan, Mr Sudhakaran and Mr Ilavarasi.
 
The case was filed in 1997 by the Tamil Nadu government's Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) during the tenure of Ms Jayalalithaa's rival and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi as Chief Minister.
 
The Supreme Court ordered the case to be transferred to a special court in Bangalore in 2003 on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan, who had expressed doubts about a fair trial in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister.
 
The prosecution had alleged that Jayalalithaa had just Rs 3 crore when she took over as Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 and had taken a token salary of just Re 1, but her wealth and that of her three co-accused had grown to Rs 66.6 crore during her five years in office, vastly disproportionate to her known sources of income.
 
The alleged wealth included 2000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and thousands of sarees. She was also accused of spending more than Rs 5 crore on her foster son's wedding in 1996, though she had claimed that the expenditure was borne by the bride's family.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa had all along maintained that the case was an act of political vendetta by the DMK. Among other things, she had agued that her previous assets were undervalued, her property was overvalued and her income from various sources were not taken into account.
 
In 2011, Jayalalithaa had appeared in the Bangalore court for four days to answer more than 1390 questions posed by the judge.
 
In the Lok Sabha elections last year, the AIADMK had made a near clean sweep in Tamil Nadu, winning 37 of the 39 seats from the state.
 
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10 dead, 50 hurt as Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-City Express derails near Hosur

At least ten passengers died and about 50 others suffered injuries when the 12677 Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-city Express derailed on Friday morning near Anekal Road, close to Hosur in Tamil Nadu, official sources said.

 
10 dead, 50 injured as Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-City Express derails
At least ten passengers died and about 50 others suffered injuries when the 12677 Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-city Express derailed this morning near Anekal Road, close to Hosur in Tamil Nadu, official sources said.
 
The mishap occurred at around 7.45 am between Anekal Road and Hosur stations on the Bangalore-Salem section of South-Western Railway, they said.
 
Prima facie, the derailment occurred after the train hit a boulder that had rolled down onto the tracks in the ghat section, the sources said.
 
The train had left Bangalore at 6.15 am for Ernakulam in Kerala. Nine coaches and the engine of the train went off the rails, and one coach in particular, D8, a second class chair car, was badly affected, they said.
 
The derailed coaches included two air-conditioned chair cars and six second class chair cars, but they did not suffer much damage.
 
A pantry car and four second class chair cars were not affected by the derailment, the sources said.
 
South-Western Railway spokesperson Chandrasekhar Gupta told NetIndian over the telephone that ten bodies had been extricated from the mangled coaches.
 
He said 18 of the injured passengers had suffered severe injuries and were undergoing treatment in the Narayan Hridalaya, Sparsh and Anekal General hospitals nearby.
 
Police and emergency personnel, including railway officials and staff, from nearby areas in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka rushed to the spot with ambulances and medical equipment. The Railways rushed medical vans and accident relief vans to the spot.
 
Efforts were being made to restore rail traffic on the section at the earliest, the sources said.
 
In Delhi, Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu said he was rushing to the scene of the accident and that he had directed the Chairman of the Railway Board, the General Manager of South-Western Railway and other senior officials to reach the spot.
 
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He said all possible help would be rendered to the affected passengers and families. He also announced an ex-gratia amount of Rs 200,000 for the next-of-kin of each of those killed in the accident, Rs 50,000 for the grievously injured passengers and Rs 20,000 for those with minor injuries.
  
Union Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, a former Minister for Railways and former Karnataka Chief Minister, was among those who reached the scene of the accident. 
 
"I am personally monitoring it and in touch with State and local administration. All Sr rail officials are directed by me to be on job," Mr Prabhu said.
 
"Condolences to all the  unfortunate members of the families who lost lives. Directed to provide best possible medical care to the injured," he said.
 
"Ordered enquiry to fix responsibility and for corrective action to prevent such unfortunate accidents. Monitoring action regularly," he added.
 
The Railways have set up the following helplines to provide information and assistance to victims and their relatives: 0948090599,  08022371166, 09731666751.
 
Besides, the Railways have set up the following helpline numbers in Kerala:
 
Trivandrum: 0471-2321205, 2321237, 09746769960
Ernakulam Jn.: 0484-2100317, 0813699773
Ernakulam Town: 0484-2398200
Trichur: 04877-2424148, 2430060
Aluva: 0484-2624143
 
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SC grants bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa

The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who was convicted by a special court in Bangalore on September 27 in an 18-year-old corruption case and sentenced to four years in prison and asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.

File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
The Supreme Court today granted bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who were convicted by a special court in Bangalore on September 27 in an 18-year-old corruption case and sentenced to four years in prison and asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
 
Along with Ms Jayalalithaa, 66, the apex court also granted bail to her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew and Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son Sudhakaran and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi, who were also convicted in the case and sentenced to four years in prison and fined Rs 10 crore each.
 
The Karnataka High Court had, on October 7, rejected Ms Jayalalithaa's bail application. While doing so, Judge A V Chandrashekhara recalled that the Supreme Court had made it clear in the past that corruption cases should be put on the fast track. He pointed out that the apex court had taken a tough stand in such cases and had described corruption as a "violation of human rights".
 
Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused persons were accused by the prosecution of amassing assets valued at Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income from 1991-96 during her first term in office.
 
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo had moved the Supreme Court for bail on October 9.
 

 
Jayalalithaa granted interim bail by SC in DA case
The apex court today suspended her sentence and granted her bail after imposing some conditions, including that she would have to submit her paprs for the appeal against her conviction within two months, that is by December 18, and that she would not seek any adjournment of the hearings. 
 
As soon as news of the court's decision to grant her bail came, hundreds of supporters of Ms Jayalalithaa in Chennai and elsewhere broke out into rapturous celebrations.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa, who has been held in prison in Bangalore since September 27, is expected to be released on bail later today or tomorrow. She will remain confined to home in Chennai while she is on bail.
 
The court fixed December 18 as the date to satisfy itself if she had complied with its order.
 
Her counsel Fali Nariman assured the court on her behalf that there would be no act of lawlessness by her party's workers in Tamil Nadu. She had sought bail on the grounds that she was suffering from various ailments and that she was a senior citizen and a woman.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa stood disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly after her conviction and sentence and had to resign as Chief Minister. She is also barred from contesting elections for six years after she completes her four-year sentence.
 
The case was filed in 1997 by the Tamil Nadu government's Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) during the tenure of Jayalalithaa's rival and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi as Chief Minister.
 
The Supreme Court ordered the case to be transferred to a special court in Bangalore in 2003 on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan, who had expressed doubts about a fair trial in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister.
 
The prosecution had alleged that Ms Jayalalithaa had just Rs 3 crore when she took over as Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 and had taken a token salary of just Re 1, but her wealth and that of her three co-accused had grown to Rs 66.6 crore during her five years in office, vastly disproportionate to her known sources of income.
 
The alleged wealth included 2000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and thousands of sarees. She was also accused of spending more than Rs 5 crore on her foster son's wedding in 1996, though she had claimed that the expenditure was borne by the bride's family.
 
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The court held that the prosecution had been able to prove that she possessed disproportionate assets of about Rs 53 crore. 
 
Ms Jayalalithaa had all along maintained that the case was an act of political vendetta by the DMK. Among other things, she had agued that her previous assets were undervalued, her property was overvalued and her income from various sources were not taken into account.
 
In the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, the AIADMK had made a near clean sweep in Tamil Nadu, winning 37 of the 39 seats from the state and emerging as the third largest party in the House.
 
Elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly are due in 2016 and unless her conviction is overturned by a higher court, Ms Jayalalithaa cannot contest them.
 
After Ms Jayalalithaa stepped down, senior AIADMK leader O. Panneerselvam was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on September 29.
 
Mr Panneerselvam, 63, had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa was later cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.
 
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SC to hear disqualified AIADMK leaders' plea for transfering case

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The Supreme Court will on Wednesday hear a plea by 17 AIADMK MLAs of the Dinakaran faction seeking the transfer of the case challenging their disqualification to the apex court from the Madras High Court.
 
A vacation bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul agreed to hear the plea after it was mentioned on Monday for an early hearing.
 
The lawyer for the MLAs said that they were seeking the transfer of the case as there has been an inordinate delay to decide against their disqualification and under the Representation of People Act, a vacant seat has to be filled up within six months of its occuring.
 
There was split verdict by the Madras High Court on their plea challenging their disqualification. Thereafter, the matter was referred to a third judge and is still pending.
 
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Kamal Haasan meets Rahul, discusses politics in TN

Well-known actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan meeting Congress President Rahul Gandhi, in New Delhi on June 20, 2018.(Photo: IANS)
Well-known actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan meeting Congress President Rahul Gandhi, in New Delhi on June 20, 2018.(Photo: IANS)
Actor Kamal Haasan, who has floated a new political party Makkal Needhi Maiam, on Wednesday met Congress President Rahul Gandhi and discussed the political situation in Tamil Nadu.
 
"Enjoyed meeting Kamal Haasan in Delhi today. We discussed a wide range of issues concerning our two parties, including the political situation in Tamil Nadu," Gandhi said in a tweet later. 
 
Haasan responded through a tweet and thanked Gandhi for his inputs. "Thank you Rahul Gandhiji for the time and inputs. Hope our conversation was useful to you as well," he said. 
 
The meeting that lasted nearly an hour took place at Gandhi's residence. 
 
"We did discuss politics but not the way you think," Haasan told reporters after the meeting which he initially described as a courtesy call.
 
To a question whether an alliance between his party and the Congress in Tamil Nadu was discussed, he said: "We did not discuss that."
 
Earlier in the day, Haasan met Election Commission officials and expressed confidence that the process of registration of his political party will be done in around a week's time.
 
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Blue Dart to set up new aviation hub in Chennai

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Leading Indian logistics services provider Blue Dart, a subsidiary of Deutsche Post DHL (DPDHL) Group, has said that it would set up a new state-of-the-art aviation hub in Chennai for faster and more efficient transfer fo shipments, improved transit times and extension of the company's market leading service quality.
 
The hub will measure 4,912 sq. meters upon completion and is strategically located at the Blue Dart Aviation Terminal, Gate 6 Old International Airport at Meenambakkam here, with both air and land side access, a press release from the company said.
 
The new facility will also house the headquarters of Blue Dart Aviation, India’s only commercial cargo airline which provides a dedicated fleet of six B757-200 freighters and a capacity of 500 tonnes every night, operating across 73 flight sectors daily. 
 
The hub boasts BCAS approved security screening with its own X-Ray machines, equipment and dedicated manpower.
 
Charles Brewer, CEO, DHL eCommerce said, “We see immense potential in India across many fast-growing industries such as e-commerce, banking and financial services, automotive, pharmaceuticals and more. These industries demand high quality, fast, seamless logistics to support their growth and we are continually investing in our people, service and infrastructure to ensure we support the growth of our customers.”
 
Malcolm Monteiro, CEO, DHL eCommerce India added, “The new aviation hub will further improve our already market-leading transit times and boost on-time performance, further strengthening our promise of being the nation’s most reliable logistics brand. As part of the world’s leading logistics company, we are committed to supporting India businesses and will continue to be the logistics provider of choice for India.”
 
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Anil Khanna, Managing Director, Blue Dart said, “Blue Dart continues to be the undisputed market leader in the logistics industry in India. We continue to invest heavily in technology and infrastructure to create differentiated delivery capabilities, provide the best quality services and customized solutions for our customers. The new aviation hub in Chennai reaffirms Blue Dart’s commitment to support India’s growth story”.
 
Commenting on the new aviation hub in Chennai, Tulsi Mirchandaney, Managing Director, Blue Dart Aviation added, “The Airport Expansion Programme has facilitated the need to have a modernized, more efficient and productive infrastructure to support demand and growth. Blue Dart supports the critical supply chains of numerous industry segments, and improved infrastructure at the Airports will go a long way in helping us support the PM’s ‘Make in India’ Vision”.
 
The facility also houses training facilities which are approved by BCAS and DGCA with own instructors who will carry out Crew, Engineering, Security and Operations training. Blue Dart is also regulatory approved for and carries out its own airframe heavy maintenance and aircraft modifications at its headquarters, and self-handling at all of its on line stations. 
 
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Two Tamil Nadu tourists drown off Goa beaches while clicking selfies

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Two tourists from Tamil Nadu drowned in two separate incidents while clicking selfies at popular Goa beaches, police said on Sunday.
 
According to Police Inspector Jivba Dalvi, Dinesh Kumar Ranganathan, 28, from Vellore in Tamil Nadu drowned when he was clicking selfies along with two other tourists near a rocky stretch located adjoining a creek, which empties into the sea at Baga beach in North Goa.
 
"Two of them managed to come out after a heavy wave pulled all of them into the sea. However, the third, Dinesh, drowned. His body was fished out later," the official said, adding that the incident occurred late on Sunday.
 
The other incident also occurred near a rocky outcrop at Sinquerim beach, also located in North Goa, when a wave pulled Sasikumar Vasan, 33, also a native of Tamil Nadu, into the sea, resulting in his drowning.
 
Post-mortem examinations in both cases have been conducted and the bodies will be handed over to their relatives soon, the police official said.
 
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Split verdict in MLAs disqualification case a breather for TN government

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In a breather to Tamil Nadu's AIADMK government led by Chief Minister K. Palaniswami, the Madras High Court on Thursday gave a split verdict in the case of disqualification of 18 rebel MLAs.
 
Chief Justice Indira Banerjee upheld the disqualification ordered by Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P. Dhanapal while Justice M. Sundar held the Speaker's decision invalid.
 
Justice Banerjee said in view of the contradicting judgements, the case will now be transferred to a third judge, adding that she she will not decide on the third judge and that decision will be taken by a senior judge, most likely Justice Kuluvadi Ramesh.
 
Maintaining status quo, the court also said till the case is finally decided the interim order issued earlier that barred holding of by-elections and floor test in the Assembly continue to be valid.
 
Responding to the judgment, rebel leader T.T.V. Dinakaran said: "The longevity of the anti-people government now gets extended by couple of months. It is not at all a setback for us. We got 50 per cent victory." 
 
Chief Justice Banerjee, in her judgment, said the Speaker's decision could not be called unreasonable and need not be interfered with by the court, but Justice Sundar said he differed, citing a Supreme Court judgement to say that the High Court can interfere in the order of the Speaker which was not within the confines of law.
 
Had the judgement gone either way - upholding the disqualification or setting aside the Speaker's order, the AIADMK government would have faced critical problems.
 
In case the court had upheld the disqualification, then there would have been by-elections in 18 constituencies. If the DMK won all of them, then the government's survival would be in question.
 
On other hand, if the court had quashed the Speaker's disqualification order, the government may still have to face a no-confidence motion, if moved by the DMK.
 
The ruling party would also try to win over the 18 legislators now in Dinakaran camp.
 
As per the party position in 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly, the AIADMK has 116 members followed by the DMK with 89, Congress with 8, one of the IUML, one Independent, the Speaker and 18 vacant seats. Besides, there is one nominated member.
 
PMK founder S.Ramadoss said the state government is surviving mainly due to legal delays and others and the K. Palaniswami government has no justification to continue in power and should resign immediately.
 
DMK leader M.K.Stalin, in a tweet, said: "Not only delayed justice is denied.... When people are having faith on the judiciary for protecting democracy. there should be clear and fast judgements."
 
VCK leader Thol Thirumavalan termed the judgment "unexpected".
 
"The final decision on the case should be given at the earliest," Thirumavalavan added.
 
The case comes from the time when Panneerselvam had rebelled against the party led by jailed leader V.K. Sasikala. Later, he merged his group with the one led by Palaniswami, who sidelined Sasikala and her nephew Dinakaran.
 
A group of 19 lawmakers met then Governor C.V. Rao and gave a memorandum expressing loss of confidence in Palaniswami and requested him to appoint a new Chief Minister. The Speaker then issued notice to the lawmakers asking them why they should not be disqualified under the anti-defection law. Subsequently, one of them, S.T.K. Jakkaiyan, switched over to the Palaniswami side and the others were disqualified.
 
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The case filed by the disqualified legislators against the Speaker's action is pending before the High Court since September 2017. The court had reserved the judgement on January 24.
 
Hours before the judgment, Tamil Nadu Advocate General Vijay Narayanan met Palaniswami.
 
Earlier in the day, the disqualified lawmakers met Dinakaran and discussed the steps to be taken ahead.
 
In April, in a different case, the Madras High Court had said it could not interfere with the Speaker's domain.
 
On April 27, the court dismissed a petition filed by DMK Whip R. Sakkarapani seeking disqualification of 11 AIADMK legislators, including Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, for voting against the government during a confidence motion moved by Palaniswami on February 18 last year.
 
The court said it had the power of judicial review of decisions taken but could not interfere in a matter where the Speaker had not taken a decision.
 
It also referred to a case pending in the Supreme Court on a similar issue arising from Andhra Pradesh.
 
IANS
 
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Maharashtra MPs make a clean sweep of Sansadratna awards

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Five Members of Parliament (MPs) from Maharashtra and one from Odisha, belonging to different parties, today won the best parliamentary performance award from a civil society organisation Prime Point Foundation. 
 
Former Union  Minister and senior Congress leader M. Veerappa Moily, Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, won a special award for heading the parliamentary standing committee on finance in the 16th Lok Sabha.
 
The Sansad Ratna Awards 2018, instituted nine years ago by the Chennai-based NGO which also runs an e-magazine PreSense, has been giving these awards based on inputs received by Parliament and the PRSI. The awards were instituted at the suggestion of late President APJ Abdul Kalam as civil society recognition for MPs' outstanding performance in the Parliament.
 
 The six MPs from Lok Sabha received their award -- a citation and a shawl -- from former West Bengal Governor and National Security Advisor M K Narayanan and former Chief Election Commissioner TS Krishnamurthy at a function held in collaboration with IIT Madras.
 
The MPs who received the awards were Bhartruhari Mahtab (Biju Janata Dal, Cuttack, Odisha), Supriya Sule (Nationalist Congress Party, Baramati, Maharashtra), Shrirang Appa Barne (Shiv Sena, Mavel, Maharashtra), Rajeev Shankarrao Satav (Indian National Congress, Hingoli, Maharashtra) and Dhananjay Bhimrao Mahadik (Nationalist Congress Party, Kolhapur, Maharashtra) under different categories.
 
The selection of individual awardees is based on the performance parameters like initiated debates, private members’ bills, questions raised and attendance in the House. 
 
The data is provided by Lok Sabha Secretariat and PRS India. Dr Heena Vijayakumar Gavit (Bharatiya Janata Party, Nandurbar, Maharaashtra) won the award under the Women MP category. 
 
For the first time from this year ,  one ‘Departmentally Related Standing Committee’ of Parliament is being honoured based on criteria like the reports presented, the number of sittings held and the number of subjects selected, and others.
 
Since 2015, Prime Point Foundation and PreSense have been honouring outstanding Rajya Sabha Members, who had retired in the previous year, after completing the full six-year term.  Shantharam Laxman Naik (Indian National Congress, Goa) was nominated for this year's award under Rajya Sabha category. He retired from Rajya Sabha in 2017.
 
A Jury Committee headed by Anandrao Adsul (fifth time MP), along with Hansraj G Ahir (Minister of State - Home and fourth time MP) and Arjun Ram Meghwal (Minister of State – Parliamentary Affairs and second time MP) selected the award winners.
 
The jury committee members, who were outstanding Parliamentarians themselves in terms of their performance in the Parliament, were honoured with the 'Sansad Maha Ratna' Awards for their sustained performance in the 15th Lok Sabha.
 
While Prime Point Foundation chairman and founder K Srinivasan recalled the history of how the sansadratna journey began, the executive president Bhavnesh Deora listed the achievements of the award winners. IIT Madras Director Bhaskar and Head of Humanities Dr Sudarsan also spoke on the occasion.
 
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Rajinikanth's 'Kaala' releases in Tamil Nadu amid fanfare

 
Rajinikanth fans welcome Kaala with open hearts
 
 
Dancing to drum rolls, bursting fire crackers, cutting cakes is how fans of actor Rajinikanth celebrated the release of film "Kaala" in Tamil Nadu on Thursday.
 
Additional security was provided by the police at all the several hundred movie theatres where the film is being screened in the state.
 
Large crowds were seen outside all these theatres since early in the day.
 
"I am a fan of Rajinikanth. I am from Karnataka and came here to see the movie," a person told the media outside a theatre here.
 
"Today is Diwali for me. I have waited for a long time for this movie," a fan told a television channel in Coimbatore theatre. "This not Rajinikanth movie but movie director P.Ranjith movie." 
 
"Kaala" has been facing opposition in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
 
Several Tamil activists and political parties voiced their opposition to Rajinikanth's views on the violence in Thuthookudi.
 
Visiting the violence-hit town where 13 persons were killed on May 22 in police action amid anti-Sterlite Copper smelter plant protests, Rajinikanth had said it was anti-social elements that indulged in violence.
 
In Karnataka, the film's release was opposed by some organisations after the southern superstar said the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) on the sharing of river water between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry, has to be set up.
 
IANS
 
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Kamal Haasan meets Karnataka CM on Cauvery issue

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Tamil actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan on Monday met Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and discussed the issue of Cauvery river water sharing with neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
 
Kumaraswamy told reporters here: "We (Kamal and I) discussed the issue of the (Cauvery) Water Management Board. Both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu maintain a cordial relationship over the Cauvery issue and it will be solved through mutual understanding."
 
The Central government on June 1 notified the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) to implement the sharing of water between the southern states.
 
"Farmers of both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are equally important," the Chief Minister said after meeting the Makkal Needhi Maiam party chief at his home office.
 
Kamal said the water sharing issue can be resolved if the states come together for dialogue.
 
"Court should be the last resort. If the people of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka come together, the issue can be resolved," he said.
 
Tamil Nadu would like to see the setting up of the CWMA expedited, he added.
 
Kamal's visit to Karnataka comes after the state's film distributors voluntarily decided to not screen Tamil actor Rajinikanth's "Kaala" in theatres across the state protesting against the superstar's stand on the Cauvery river row.
 
Asked about the Tamil film not being screened in Karnataka, he said the discussion with the Chief Minister did not include the subject of movies.
 
"This discussion (with Kumaraswamy) was not about films. There is a film chamber to look into the issue. This issue (of Cauvery water) is more important," he added.
 
In a related development, Kannada actor Prakash Raj said the film fraternity was being targeted. "What has the film 'Kaala' got to do with the Cauvery issue? Why is film fraternity targeted always?
 
"Will the JD-S-Congress government let fringe elements take law into their hands... like the BJP did with 'Padmaavat' or will you step in to assure common man his right for choice?" Raj tweeted.
 
IANS
 
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Madras HC orders TN to explain Thoothukudi firing

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The Madras High Court's Madurai Bench on Friday ordered the Tamil Nadu government to state the reasons, by June 6, for the May 22 police firing in Thoothukudi which left 13 persons dead.
 
The court's order came as it heard a petition demanding registration of murder cases against senior police and other government officials for the firing and also setting up a Special Investigative Team (SIT).
 
On May 22, police fired at people protesting against the Sterlite Copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi killing 13 and injuring over 60 persons.
 
The government was asked to submit its report by June 6.
 
Earlier Chief Minister K. Palaniswami told the media that people in Thoothukudi had been protesting peacefully for long against the company, alleging that it was causing health hazards and depleting the water table, but this time, the opposition and "anti-social elements" had turned the movement violent.
 
"It is because of this instigation that so many people have died. And we are really saddened by the deaths," he said.
 
According to an FIR lodged by Thoothukudi police, a Deputy Tehsildar has claimed that he had ordered police firing on May 22 against the anti-Sterlite Copper protestors.
 
The FIR filed by the police on May 22 says that Sekar, Deputy Tehsildar in Thoothukudi, admitted that it was he who had ordered the police firing at the protesters after all the other steps to preserve law and order failed.
 
As per the FIR, Sekar said he had at first warned the protesters that force would be used and when his request was defied, he ordered a baton charge. When this proved inadequate and the crowd kept surging forward menacingly and attacked the police personnel, he had ordered the firing of tear gas shells after due warning.
 
The official said when tear gas shells failed to disperse the violent mob, which was destroying public property and attacking police personnel near the Collectorate, he had ordered firing as the last resort. Twelve persons were killed in police firing on May 22 and later one more person died in a fresh firing.
 
IANS
 
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'Who are you?', Thoothukudi youth asks Rajinikanth

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Actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth on Wednesday perhaps faced the most embarrassing question of his life from a injured youth in Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi, who asked "Who are you?"
 
Several days after the May 22 police firing at the anti-Sterlite Copper smelter plant protest in Thoothukudi left 13 people dead, Rajinikanth called on the injured persons admitted in the government hospital.
 
As he approached one patient's bed, its occupant, a youth named Santhosh Raj slowly sat up and asked him: "Who are you?"
 
Rajinikanth then told the youth his name.
 
The video of this exchange has gone viral on the internet.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Sterlite copper smelter plant to be shut: TN government

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The Tamil Nadu government on Monday issued orders closing the copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi owned by the Vedanta Group, a week after 13 people were killed in police firing during protests against continued functioning of the unit.
 
The Government Order said it has been brought to the notice of the government that Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) did not renew the 'Consent to Operate' to the copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi by its order of April 9 this year and subsequently on May 23, the PCB has also issued directions for closure and disconnection of power supply. 
 
"Under Sections 18(1)(B) of the Water Act, 1974 in the larger public interest, the Government endorse the closure direction of the TNPCB and also direct the TNPCB to seal the unit and close the plant permanently," said the Order.
 
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy said in a separate statement that the 'Consent to Operate' permission for the copper smelter plant ended in March this year and it was not renewed by the TNPCB. The electricity and water connections to the plant have been disconnected from May 24, he said.
 
The Chief Minister said the demand of the people of Thoothukudi to the government for closure of the plant has been accepted by the government and orders have been issued to this effect.
 
The order is also significant because the protesters against the functioning of the copper smelter have been demanding that the government should issue formal orders as they would not be satisfied with verbal promises.
 
Welcoming the order, protesters said they needed a Cabinet decision on this as otherwise the company would approach courts and get a stay. They also wanted the Central government to take a similar stand.
 
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Earlier in the day, Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam on Monday visited Thoothukudi, the first senior political representative to go to the violence-hit town, and announced that the government will take necessary steps to permanently shut down the copper smelter plant.
 
Pannerselvam visited the hospital in Thoothukudi and enquired about the health of those injured in the police firing on anti-Sterlite Copper protesters on May 22, in which 13 persons died.
 
Speaking to reporters, the Deputy Chief Minister said that compensation to the injured was being paid.
 
Normalcy was slowly returning in the town with shops and other establishments opening their doors for customers.
 
Internet connectivity has also resumed since Sunday midnight after it was suspended on May 23.
 
"Shops are open now. Normalcy is returning. But till the copper smelter plant is permanently closed there will not be total peace in the city," S. Raja of Thoothukudi Traders Association told IANS.
 
Raja also said murder charge should be registered against the police officials who shot the protestors.
 
According to Raja, post-mortem examination has been done on seven bodies out of the 13 who were killed in the police firing. However, the relatives have not claimed the bodies yet.
 
NNN
 
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TN CM blames parties, anti-socials for Thoothukudi violence

 
One dead, three injured in fresh violence in Thoothukudi
 
 
Thoothukudi remained tense for the third day as the death toll in police firing climbed to 13 while Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswamy on Thursday accused political parties and anti-social elements of "deliberately instigating and misleading" innocent people leading to violence and loss of lives.
 
Selvasekar (43), who suffered serious injuries in police lathicharge on Tuesday, succumbed to injuries in hospital. More than 70 people, including police personnel who were injured in the clashes and violence, were undergoing treatment in the Government General Hospital.
 
Meanwhile, an uneasy calm prevailed in Thoothukudi after two days of riots, arson and firing and the situation continues to be tense across the district. Shops and commercial establishments were shut for the third consecutive day while government offices witnessed thin attendance.
 
Chief Minister Palaniswamy, who met reporters in Chennai, said his government would continue to take steps legally for closure of the Sterlite copper smelter plant against which the local people have been protesting and said electricity to the plant was cut on Thursday.
 
"Some political parties and anti-social elements have wantonly instigated the innocent people who have been protesting peacefully all along and took them on the wrong path, leading to unfortunate incidents," Palaniswamy said without naming any political party.
 
Replying to a question on who had given permission for the firing, he said there was nothing like permission. 
 
"It was natural that somebody would act in self-defence when attacked and the action was not pre-meditated. The police used tear gas shells, resorted to lathi charge and then only opened fire when mobs set on fire vehicles near the district collectorate and stormed the residential quarters in the plant and the district collectorate," he said.
 
Usualy the police make preventive arrests but this time there was sudden violence compared to the peaceful protest that had been going on. The protesters had met the district administration 16 times in the past and their grievances had been addressed. 
 
"We express deep condolences and a sense of sorrow over the loss of lives," he said.
 
Appealing to the people to maintain peace and calm, he said all efforts were being taken to ensure return of normalcy in Thoothukudi.
 
Asked about the charge by DMK leader M.K. Stalin that he refused to meet him on the issue, the Chief Minister accused him of enacting a drama outside his roon in the Secretariat by doing a dharna when he was not there.
 
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Replying to a question about the criticism that he did not visit Thoothukudi to meet the relatives of the victims and the injured, he said prohibitory orders had been imposed and people should respect law by not holding protests or taking out processions.
 
"Our first priority is return of normalcy," he said, taking an apparent dig at Stalin and other opposition leaders who have made a beeline to Thoothukudi.
 
Referring to the protests and the functioning of the sterlite plant, the Chief Minister said that the late Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha had ordered closure of the sterlite plant in 2013 but the company appealed against the order in the National Green Tribunal which allowed the company to operate under some conditions.
 
A case in this regard was still on in the Supreme Court and the Tamil Nadu government's lawyers have strongly put forward their arguments.
 
With prohibitory orders continuing in sensitive areas, a bandh like situation prevailed in Thhothukudi town for the third day. Most people struggled to buy essential commodities. Internet services have been suspended folloing the state government advisory to the service providers to prevent provocative messages and rumours being spread on the social media.
 
Sanddep Nanduri, the new Collector of Thhothukudi, told newsmen that his first priority was to restore normalcy.
 
Meanwhile, a day after the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court stayed the expansion of the Sterlite plant and directed the Vedanta Group to cease construction of its second unit in Thoothukudi, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) ordered the closure of the plant with immediate effect and disconnected power supply to it for non-compliance of certain conditions imposed on it.
 
IANS
 
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One more killed at Thoothukudi in TN, death toll is 12

 
Fresh police firing in Tuticorin kills one, toll rises to 12
 
 
One more person was killed in fresh police firing here on Wednesday as the killing of 11 people protesting against the Sterlite Copper Smelting plant a day earlier sparked calls for the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's resignation.
 
Worried over the persistent mass anger, the authorities suspended internet services in the districts of Thoothukudi or Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari as a precaution to stop the spread of rumours and graphic pictures and videos of the violence and clashes between the protesters and police.
 
But the town continued to smoulder for a second day as thousands demonstrated outside the main hospital opposing the autopsy on those killed on Tuesday when police opened fire alleging that mobs had gone on the rampage and were about to vandalize the Collectorate. 
 
The fresh death on Wednesday only added to anger of the demonstrators and the opposition parties.
 
On Tuesday, police firing killed 11 people, most of them from nearby villages who were demanding the closure of the Sterlite Copper smelting plant they said was destroying the farm lands and leading to severe health issues in the region. 
 
On Wednesday, the police fired at crowds in Anna Nagar, killing a young man. The demonstrators insisted that the police action was unprovoked. The police accused the crowds of stoning the police.
 
Police also fired tear gas at a crowd massed outside the Government Hospital in the town where the bodies of those killed on Tuesday were kept.
 
As Chief Minister K. Palaniswami held a series of meetings with top government officials and the police chief on how to contain the situation, the government set up a probe committee headed by former Madras High Court judge Aruna Jagadeesan to probe the mayhem.
 
Meanwhile, the Madras High Court stayed the construction of Vedanta Ltd's Copper Smelter Plant 2 at Tuticorin, some 650 km from Chennai. The Madurai bench of the High Court gave this direction on a PIL against the expansion of the company's plant.
 
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The court ruled that the application for environmental clearance must be taken up only after mandatory public hearing and ordered that a decision on this must be taken by September 23.
 
The Vedanta Ltd, which has decided to double its copper smelting capacity to 800,000 tpa, on Wednesday denied any role in the police action. The plant is popularly known as Sterlite Copper smelter plant.
 
Condemning the police action, DMK leader M.K. Stalin said all opposition parties in Tamil Nadu will hold protests on Friday. The parties include the DMK, MDMK, Congress, MMK, CPI, CPI-M and VCK.
 
"It is shocking that even though protests on the issue have been going on for over three months, the Chief Minister has not shown any inclination towards holding talks with people," Stalin said.
 
Both Stalin and PMK founder S. Ramadoss asked the Chief Minister to resign.
 
The National Alliance of People's Movements, in a statement signed by founder Medha Patkar and many others, blamed the killing on the police and district officials, the Tamil Nadu government as well as the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
 
"Yesterday was a bloody culmination of over two decades of blatant disregard for the lives and well-being of the people and protecting corporate interest," it said. 
 
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan visited Tuticorin on Wednesday and demanded to know who ordered the police firing. 
 
"It is not me but the victims who are asking this. Merely announcing compensation isn't a solution. This industry must be shut and this is what people demand," he said.
 
Rajinikanth, the other superhero entering politics in Tamil Nadu, also condemned the police firing. "I strongly condemn the government's inaction, failure of intelligence and excessive police force. It is inhuman."
 
DMDK founder Vijayakanth urged the Prime Minister to ensure that the Sterlite plant was shut down permanently.
 
"All those responsible for this merciless shooting down of protesters should be held accountable and immediate legal proceedings should be launched against them," the Communist Party of India-Marxist said. 
 
Nearly 100 people were injured in the violence on Tuesday, including 36 policemen. 
 
Normal life in the town was virtually crippled on Wednesday, with shops and commercial establishments not opening for business. Educational institutions remained closed.
 
District Collector N. Venkatesh said the prohibitory orders were extended in Vembar, Kulathur, Arumugamangalam, Vedanatham, Ottapidaram and Eppodum Vendran in the district. 
 
Public transport has been suspended from Thoothukudi to other parts of Tamil Nadu. Police and paramilitary personnel were deployed all over the town in large numbers. 
 
IANS
 
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Uneasy calm in Thoothukudi, toll mounts to 10

 
Anti-Sterlite protest turns violent
 
 
With the death toll in police firing rising to 10, an uneasy calm on Wednesday gripped Tamil Nadu's port town Thoothukudi where widespread violence erupted a day earlier during protests against the Sterlite Copper Smelting plant.
 
Of the nearly 100 people injured, the condition of two was said to be critical in hospital. Families of the deceased staged noisy protests at the Thoothukdi government hospital opposing autopsy of the bodies. 
 
Official reports, including information reaching the Tamil Nadu Police in Chennai, said the 10th person injured in police firing succumbed to his injuries late on Tuesday night.
 
Most of the injured are civilians but 36 policemen also suffered injuries of various kinds in mob fury, official sources said. 
 
Normal life in the town was virtually crippled on Wednesday, with shops and commercial establishments not opening for business. Educational institutions also remained closed.
 
Most people stayed indoors as the district administration announced that prohibitory orders banning the assembly of five or more people that were imposed on Monday evening would remain in force till May 25. 
 
District Collector N. Venkatesh said the prohibitory orders were extended in Vembar, Kulathur, Arumugamangalam, Vedanatham, Ottapidaram and Eppodum Vendran in Thoothukudi district. 
 
Public transport has been suspended from Thoothukudi to other parts of Tamil Nadu. Police and paramilitary personnel were deployed all over the town in large numbers. 
 
"Yes, the situation is tense but it is under control," a senior police officer said. 
 
Police said they opened fire to quell arson and violence after the dragging agitation demanding a closure of the Sterlite Copper Smelting plant turned violent on Tuesday. 
 
Police said that thousands, under the banner of the Anti-Sterlite Movement, went on the rampage during a rally, torching police and other vehicles. Nine people died in police firing.
 
IANS
 
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Nine dead in police firing in Thoothukudi as Sterlite protests turn violent

Nine people, including a girl, died on Tuesday in police firing after the ongoing anti-Sterlite protests turned violent with thousands of people from nearby areas allegedly attacking the District Collectorate demanding closure of the Vedanta Group-run company.

 
Anti-Sterlite protest turns violent
 
 
Nine people, including a girl, died on Tuesday in police firing after the ongoing anti-Sterlite protests turned violent with thousands of people from nearby areas allegedly attacking the District Collectorate demanding closure of the Vedanta Group-run company.
 
In the first major incident of police firing in Tamil Nadu on protesters and resultant deaths, they first fired teargas shells and carried out baton charges to bring the protesters under control but passions were high. 
 
Police then resorted to firing as thousands of people gathered in defiance of prohibitory orders on the 100th day of their agitation ever since the company announced the expansion plans of the four lakh tonne per annum Sterlite Copper project and attacked the Collectorate.
 
The area around the Collectorate resembled a battle-zone with the protesters setting vehicles afire and attacking policemen with stones. Plumes of black smoke emanated from the protest site. Police retaliated in a bid to bring the situation under control. 
 
Among those who died were identified as Antony Selvaraj, Kandiah, Gladson, Jayaram, Maniraj, Tamilarasan, Shanmugham and Venista. At least 60 people, including policemen and journalists covering the protests, were injured in the clashes. Many of them were admitted to hospitals for treatment as their condition was serious. 
 
Among the injured was a 16-year-old schoolgirl who was waiting for her bus when she was hit by a bullet. 
 
Opposition parties squarely blamed the State government for the deaths with one of them even demanding the resignation of Chief Minister E. Palaniswamy, who appealed to the people for calm. 
 
The Chief Minister, who held a meeting with his ministerial colleagues and top police officials including DGP T.K. Rajendran, said action would be taken against the company. 
 
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In a statement, the state government said it would respect the wishes of the people and necessary action in the matter. It said around 20,000 people took out a rally against the company and became violent by attacking police and burning police vehicles while storming the Collector's office. As police could not control the crowd, they resorted to a few actions, it said.
 
The statement said the government will take all legal steps in the matter and asked the people to maintain peace. Police from neighbouring districts of Madurai and Virudhunagar was rushed to Thoothukudi to bring the situation under control. 
 
According to a police officer on the spot, police swung into action when the protesters torched some vehicles in the area. When tear gas shells and the baton charge failed to disperse the mob, police opened fire to control the situation.
 
The protesters alleged that police had used force without provocation on the peaceful gathering. 
 
People in Toothukudi are demanding the closure of Sterlite copper smelting plant alleging that it was polluting the area, and leading to severe health problems among the residents of the locality, besides depleting the water table.
 
Social activists have also joined the protests against the company. Heavy police deployment could be seen in Toothukudi and surrounding areas of the coastal city. 
 
Condemning the state government for the police firing that claimed many lives, DMK Working President M.K. Stalin said that police was committing atrocities. Other political leaders have also slammed police and the state government.
 
Actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, who recently announced their entry into politics, have also expressed solidarity with the protesters. The TN government must take action over the concerns expressed by the protesters, they said.
 
"The expansion (of Sterlite Copper) should not at all be allowed. If possible, it will be good to close down the (existing) unit," Makkal Neethi Mayyam chief Kamal Haasan said. He said there was no point in putting up a plant near residential and agricultural zone.
 
Rajinikanth, who had some time ago tweeted on the Sterlite protests, said: "One can't understand why the government, which gave the nod for the plant, is not taking any action and is just watching."
 
Tamil Nadu Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar told reporters in Chennai that the loss of lives was unfortunate in a state known for peace. 
 
The Tamil Nadu government also issued a statement in which stated that Sterlite plant was functioning in the state for over 20 years and in 2013 the then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had ordered the closure of factory after people complained of irritation in their eyes after emissions from the project. 
 
It said in March this year, the company had applied for renewal of consent to operate (CTO) for its existing smelter plant. The application has been rejected for want of more clarifications after the state pollution control board found that the factory has not fulfilled some of the major factors including non-submission of a detailed ground water analysis, action not taken to dispose waste and not building a compound wall to arrest water mixing in the nearby river.
 
IANS
 
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Body of Chennai tourist flown home, widespread condemnation continues

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The body of a 22-year old tourist from Chennai killed by stone pelters here was flown home on Tuesday as Kashmiris cutting across the political spectrum continued to condemn the cowardly act.
 
The grieving parents and sister of the slain R. Thirumani, whose vehicle was among many attacked on the Srinagar-Gulmarg road on Monday, accompanied the body on an Indigo flight, an official of the tourism department told IANS.
 
Thirumani was hit on the forehead and nose when the stone pelters targeted several vehicles with rocks during protests called against the Sunday killings of five militants and six civilians in Shopian district.
 
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti reiterated her condemnation of the tourist's killing.
 
"I have no words strong enough to condemn this tragic incident or even condole with the family," she said in a statement.
 
She described the incident as a blot on the cultural value system of Kashmir and an attempt to bulldoze its economy.
 
The Chief Minister, who went to meet the tourist's family at the hospital immediately after the killing, had said on Monday: "My head hangs in shame."
 
Her predecessor and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said: "We have killed a tourist by throwing stones at the vehicle he was travelling in. Let's try and wrap our heads around the fact that we stoned a tourist, a guest, to death while we glorify these stone pelters and their methods."
 
Senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said: "Deeply saddened by the news of the death of a tourist due to stone pelting. I condemn such hooliganism and rowdiness.
 
"It is totally against our ethos of treating tourists as respected guests and brings a bad name to the people's movement."
 
The common man in the valley is no less shocked. Those who earn from tourism are particularly shocked.
 
"What have we proved by doing this? We claim to be the most hospitable society and here we have a guest killed in stone pelting," said Zahoor Ahmad, 33, a taxi operator.
 
"What crime had the tourist committed? His only crime was that he trusted his life with us," Ahmad added.
 
"What message are we sending out? Those who targeted the tourists cannot be fighting for the rights of Kashmiris. The incident has deeply shocked us all," said Nazir Ahmad, a hotel owner in north Kashmir's Sonamarg tourist resort.
 
"How can anyone claim to be fighting for human rights by violating the rights of others? The guilty need to be exposed," said Bashir Ahmad, a university employee here.
 
Some locals who too condemned the attack added that all innocent killings, including those of Kashmiris, also needed to be denounced.
 
"Nobody will support an attack on an innocent tourist. At the same time, there must be unequivocal condemnation of killings of innocent Kashmiris as well", said Mehrajuddin, a fruit seller in Srinagar.
 
Stone pelting has become a part of street protests in the Kashmir Valley, particularly in Srinagar, the urban hub of a separatist movement that has claimed thousands of lives since 1989.
 
As security personnel advance to disperse mobs, bands of young men attack them with stones and then disappear into narrow lanes.
 
Last week, a school bus came under attack in Shopian, badly injuring a young boy.
 
IANS
 
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