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Tamil Nadu

Chennai ready to pour cold water on Minerva's title challenge

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Chennai City and Minerva Punjab will both want nothing less than a win when they meet at the JLN Stadium on Friday in a massive clash that will have an effect on both ends of the Hero I-League table.
 
As V. Soundararajan and his men prepare for their final league game, they face the daunting task of bringing the relentless Minerva Punjab side to a halt in their title race in order to better their own chances of escaping relegation.
 
“It is a challenge again for us. Tomorrow, it is our last match on our home ground. Only if we win, we can improve our reputation. We will go all out, regardless of the opponent. We have got nothing to lose,” said the Chennai City head coach.
 
Minerva Punjab are top of the league table with 32 points from 16 games. With two games left, the Hero I-League title is theirs to lose as Neroca FC (31 points from 17 games), East Bengal (29 points from 16) and Mohun Bagan (27 points from 16) wait to pounce on any dropped points by the title favourites.
 
The position of their opponents in the standings has no bearing on how Minerva Punjab are preparing for the game, according to head coach Khogen Singh.
 
“We never underestimate the opponents. They had very good support at home in their last game. They are a good side. 90% of the football is about the mental strength. If you are mentally fit, you think ‘I can do that’. We are strengthing the players mentally," he said.
 
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Chennai City are in a spot of bother at the other end of the table. Since Gokulam Kerala and Indian Arrows are free of relegation worries, Churchill Brothers are the team for the Southerners to better. Although superior head to head results give Chennai City an advantage, Soundararajan’s boys must win their last game and hope that Churchill Brothers go winless in their remaining two fixtures.
 
A disastrous run of eight winless games was brought to an end by Chennai City as they won 3-1 against their struggling rivals Churchill Brothers a few weeks ago. But East Bengal put Chennai to the sword and ran riot in a 7-1 thrashing in their last game to dent the confidence in the Coimbatore camp.
 
“The last match against East Bengal was a challenge for us. Tomorrow, it is a prestige issue. Minerva are in a better position than East Bengal,” said head coach of Chennai City Soundararajan. “Initially we started well, After that, I don’t know what happened to the team. It is a bad defeat for our team. The players also agreed with me.”
 
Jean-Joachim Junior needs to turn up once again, just like he did at the start of the season, to fire Chennai into a hopeful lead against Minerva. Chennai City have always tried to play an attacking game of football and it should continue against Khogen Singh’s side, against whom they will hope to score early in the game to pile up the pressure.
 
Defeats to giant-killers Gokulam Kerala and title rivals East Bengal caused an opening for the title race, reducing Minerva Punjab’s lead at the top. Akash Sangwan and Armand Bazie scored to help the Punjab-based side to register a strong comeback win against Aizawl in their previous game and that should act as a huge morale-booster.
 
Minerva Punjab’s ability to project a united front has helped them mount a serious title challenge this season. Add Bhutanese superstar Chencho Gyeltshen to the mix and they boast a talented first team lineup. “There is no difference between Indian and foreign players at Minerva Punjab. We are working and playing as a team. Chencho Gyeltshen is a talented boy. We used him in the right position. ”
 
An early goal for Chennai City could pave way for a shock result but Minerva Punjab will be confident of a commanding performance over ninety minutes to put one hand on the much sought out Hero I-League trophy.
 
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Indian Overseas Bank repays debt of $500million Medium Term Notes

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Public sector Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) today said it had successfully repaid $ 500 million (second tranche) of medium term notes (MTN) on the due date February 21, 2018. 
 
The bank had issued $ 1 billion MTN in two tranches of $ 500 million each, of which the first tranche was repaid on October 19, 2016.
 
IOB had raised these funds for business expansion and lending purpose in the year 2011 and 2012 from its Hong Kong branch for its overseas branches, a press release from the bank.
 
"In the last sixteen months, the Bank has embarked on a path of turnaround and made impressive strides on the fronts of reduction of operating expenditure, increase in Operating Profit, NPA reduction, arresting the asset quality slippage, improvement in Provisioning Ratio for impaired credit, increase in CASA base i.e its Low Cost - No Cost deposits etc. The bank has also maintained its business base stable despite adverse market conditions," the release added.
 
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CBI arrests Karti Chidambaram in INX Media case on his return from London

Karti P Chidambaram
Karti P Chidambaram
Karti Chidambaram, a businessman and son of former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, was arrested by the Central Bureau  of Investigation (CBI) at the Chennai International Airport on his return from London this morning for his alleged role in the INX Media case.
 
The CBI had filed a case against Karti Chidambaram after the Enforcement Directorate had alleged irregularities in the clearance accorded by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to INX Media, a media company, for bringing in foreign direct investment (FDI).
 
Karti Chidambaram, 46, is accused of having received kickbacks to help secure permission for investment of around Rs. 300 crore in  the television company by using his influence at a time when his father was the Finance Minister.
 
The CBI had initially said that he had received a sum of Rs. 10 lakh, but sources in the agency later said there was evidence that the amounts involved were higher.
 
Karti Chidambaram was taken into custody by the CBI on his arrival in Chennai this morning. He was being questioned by CBI officials and was likely to be flown to Delhi later in the day, sources indicated.
 
The Congress said the arrest was a diversionary tactic by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA government and a case of political vendetta.
 
"Classical diversionary tactic to hide Scams & Colossal Corruption that is being exposed on a daily basis,be it NiMo+Choksi,D.D.Jewellers and Rotomac. Modi Govt continues its vendetta against Sh. P. Chidambaram. Won’t deter the Congress from bringing the truth to the people," Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh  Surjewala said on Twitter.
 
BJP leaders, however, denied the allegation and said the investigative agencies were only doing their job. "There is no political vendetta," he said.
 
INX Media was owned at that time by Peter Mukherjee and his wife Indrani Mukherjee, who are currently in jail in connection with the murder of Sheena Bora, who was Ms. Mukherjee's daughter from an earlier marriage. 
 
As part of their investigations, the CBI and the ED had, in recent months, searched premises of the Chidambarams and Karti Chidambaram was questioned a few times.
 
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Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi passes away at 82

Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi
Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi
Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi, the 69th pontiff of the Kanchi Mutt, passed away this morning at Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, the Mutt said.
 
He was 82.
 
The Shankaracharya, who had been in poor health for much of last year, had been taken to a hospital after complaining of breathing difficulties. He breathed his last around 9 am today.
 
"The 69th Acharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Jagadguru Pujyashri Jayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya Swamigal attained Siddhi at 9.00 am today - Shukla Trayodashi - 28 Feb. 2018 at Sri Kanchi Kamakotii Peetam Sankara Matam, Kanchipuram," a brief announcement on the Mutt's website said.
 
Born as Subrahmanyam Mahadev on July 18, 1935, at Irulneeki in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, he was nominated by his predecessor Chandrashekarendra Saraswati Swamigal as his successor and was given the pontifical title Sri Jayendra Saraswathi on March 22, 1954. He assumed charge as the as the Peetathipathi of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham on March 22, 1994 after the demise of Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarawathi Swamigal.
 
Jayendra Saraswathi was the 69th pontiff of the Kanchi Mutt, established by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century. 
 
He had travelled throughout the country and expanded the activities of the Mutt in areas such as education, health, employment, temple renovation and so on.
 
He was among those charged in the 2004 murder of a Kancheepuram temple employee and was arrested on November 11, 2004 on charges of being a part of the conspiracy. Nine years later, he and 22 others were cleared of charges in the case.
 
Jayendra Saraswathi had given "sanyasa-deeksha" to a boy in his early teens, given him the name Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati and nominated him as his successor Acharya.
 
The 70th  Pontiff, Vijayendra Saraswati, 48, was born on March 18, 1969 at Peripalayam, a village near Arani in Tiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu.
 
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Work on DPR for Tamil Nadu Defence Quadrilateral begins

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Work on a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the proposed Tamil Nadu Defence Quadrilateral has been initiated by Department of Defence Production.
 
An official press release said the Department would engage a top consultancy firm to draw up the DPR for the Quad.
 
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in the Budget 2018-19, had announced setting up of two Defence Production Corridors.
 
The Government has decided that one of the Corridors will be set up in Uttar Pradesh and the other in Tamil Nadu.
 
The Tamil Nadu Corridor, organized as a quadrilateral, will extend from Chennai, Hosur, Coimbatore, Salem and Tiruchirappalli.
 
"It is expected that with the government opening up new opportunities for industry in the defence sector, the Tamil Nadu Defence Quad will provide a major opportunity to the vibrant manufacturing sector in the State.
 
"Further, to ensure that the expectations of local industry, especially MSMEs are incorporated, to the extent appropriate, in the proposed development of the Quad, the MoD has initiated an exercise of industry interactions at all nodal points for the Quad, namely Chennai, Hosur, Coimbatore, Salem and Tiruchirappalli," the release added.
 
These interactions will involve senior officers from MoD, representatives of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. and Ordnance Factories. They are being organized with the active participation of the local Small Scale Industries Associations and the State Government representatives. 
 
The interaction has already begun with the first one held at Hosur on February 26. The dates for other interactions are March 5 in Coimbatore, March 7 in Salem and March 10 in Chennai. The dates for Tiruchirappalli will be announced separately. 
 
All industrialists interested in the defence sector are invited to participate in these interactions and provide inputs for shaping the contours of the proposed plan, the release added.
 
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Gadkari lays foundation stone for National Technology Centre for Ports, Waterways and Coasts at IIT Chennai

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Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources Nitin Gadkari today laid the foundation stone for a National Technology Centre for Ports, Waterways and Coasts (NTCPWC) at the Indian  Institute of Technology (IIT), Chennai today. 
 
The Ministry of Shipping and IIT Chennai also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at the event.
 
NTCPWC, being set up under the Shipping Ministry’s flagship programme Sagarmala, will act as a technology arm of the Ministry of Shipping for providing engineering and technological inputs and support for Ports, Inland Waterways Authority of India and other institutions.
 
It will carry out applied research in the areas of 2D and 3D modelling of ocean, coastal and estuarine flows, sediment transport and morphodynamics, navigation and manoeuvring, dredging and siltation, port and coastal engineering-structures and breakwaters, autonomous platforms and vehicles, experimental and CFD modelling of flow and hull interaction, hydrodynamics of multiple hulls and ocean renewable energy.
 
The centre will provide indigenous software and technology, make technical guidelines and standards and address port and maritime issues with models and simulations.
 
The centre will not only help generate new technology and innovations but also work towards their successful commercialization.  It will provide learning opportunities for the people working in Ministry of Shipping.
 
NTCPWC is being set up at a cost of Rs 70.53 crore to be shared by Ministry of Shipping, IWAI and the Major Ports. Ministry of Shipping’s grant is towards capital expenditure for creating facilities like Field Research Facility (FRF), Sedimentation and Erosion Management Test Basin and Ship/Tow Simulator.
 
The centre will be self-sustainable in three years through industry consultancy projects for Indian and global port and maritime sector, the release added.
 
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Modi to visit two States, two UTs over the next two days

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit two States  -- Gujarat and Tamil Nadu -- and two Union Territories -- Daman & Diu and Puducherry -- in the next two days.
 
An official press release said Mr. Modi would reach Daman tomorrow and launch various development projects, and hand over certificates to beneficiaries of various official schemes. He will address a public meeting.
 
The Prime Minister will then travel to Tamil Nadu. In Chennai, he will attend an event to mark the inauguration of the Amma Two Wheeler Scheme – a welfare scheme of the State Government.
 
On Sunday, the Prime Minister will visit Puducherry. At Aurobindo Ashram, he will offer floral tributes to Shri Aurobindo, and interact with students of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. 
 
Mr. Modi will also visit Auroville. He will release a commemorative postage stamp on the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Auroville. He will deliver an address on the occasion. He will also address a public meeting in Puducherry.
 
On Sunday evening, Mr. Modi will be in Surat in South Gujarat, to flag off the “Run for New India Marathon".
 
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Make mother tongue mandatory at least up to high school level, says Venkaiah Naidu

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Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu today appealed to all State Governments to make mother tongue a mandatory subject at least up to high school level.
 
Delivering the 11th Convocation Address at Saveetha Institute of Medical and Technical Sciences, Mr Naidu said a child can grasp and understand better in his or her own mother tongue than any other language.
 
They will be able to communicate and articulate their thoughts effectively in their native language. “We can usually express our thoughts much better in our mother language,” he added.
 
Since language and culture are intertwined, there is an absolute need to strengthen indigenous languages including the many languages spoken by many tribal groups. Language is the lifeline of a culture and in a way defines the larger social milieu in which a society lives, he added.
 
The Vice-President said lives of the great people must be a part of the history curriculum for all students including medical students. A country which forgets its history and culture will never prosper.
 
The private sector must play a bigger role in developing health infra. The society has given a lot to the medical students and they must give back to the society by way of serving the rural population by working at least for two years in rural areas.
 
There is an acute shortage of doctors as also healthcare facilities in the rural area and drastic changes must be made to make healthcare accessible to everyone, he added.
 
“Though we have a long way to go to realise the fullest potential of our educational initiatives, India has remarkably transformed its higher education landscape for the last two decades.
 
“As a result, India has not only bettered its figures on enrolment but has dramatically enhanced its learning outcomes. India has 70 million student population; a force to reckon with. Among them are potential thought leaders, researchers, academicians, entrepreneurs and executives,” Mr Naidu said.
 
India’s post-secondary education system is increasingly recognized as one of the best in the world. India has emerged as a regional hub of education and attracts global learners from all over the world. Students, faculty and employers now flock to India to learn, teach and recruit as India dons the mantle of a higher education leader and emerges as the role model for delivering high-quality education to vast numbers at an affordable cost, he said.
 
“India is one of the largest providers of global talent, with one in four who graduate in the world being a product of the Indian system. Tamil Nadu has performed remarkably well in the area of education and has emerged as the leader in the country in terms of Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education,” he added.
 
In a bid to improve the health infrastructure as also the manpower, the government has recently approved the setting up of 24 new government medical colleges. As a result, it is expected that there will be one medical college for every three Parliamentary Constituencies and at least one medical college in every State. Ultimately, the aim should be to have one medical college for every district in the country, Mr. Naidu said.
 
Ayushman Bharat Yojana is another initiative that seeks to provide quality healthcare to about 50 crore people in the country. There is also a need to step up budgetary allocations to healthcare sector by various State Governments and the Union Government, he added.
 
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Actor Kamal Haasan launches his political party "Makkal Needhi Maiam"

 
Actor Kamal Haasan launches his political party
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan today formally launched his political party, named "Makkal Needhi Maiam" (People's Justice Centre, which he said would work to provide corruption-free governance in the state and avoid the use of religion  and caste in politics.
 
Launching the party, announcing its name and formalising his entry into politics at  a public meeting in this temple city, Kamal Haasan, 63, also indicated that he would follow centrist policies, without swaying to either the Left or the Right.
 
"The newly founded Makkal Needhi Maiam is your party. It’s here to stay, and to make the change we all aspire for. Guide us to serve you," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter later.
 
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who launched his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in November 2012 and went on to win 67 of the 70 seats in the Delhi Legislative Assembly in the February 2015, was amongst those present on the occasion and said Haasan's new party would score an even bigger victory in the next elections in Tamil Nadu.
 
Kamal Haasan said he had planned to go about things in a gradual manner, but Mr. Kejriwal had virtually launched his election campaign.
 
A congratulatory video message received from Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was played out on a screen at the meeting.
 
Kamal Haasan promised the people that he would not indulge in the kind of "freebie politics" that was practised by the Dravidian parties in the state.
 
"I am not your leader, I am your tool... this gathering is full of leaders," he said.
 
He promised to serve the people till the very end and create an organisation for the next few generations. "There will be no permanent chief ministers if my party is voted to power," he said.
 
Asked to name leaders who had inspired him -- Mahatma Gandhi, Bhimrao Ambedkar or Periyar E. V. Ramasamy -- he said he respected and was inspired by all of them as well as by contemporary leaders such as Kejriwal, N Chandrababu Naidu, Pinarayi Vijayan and Barack Obama.
 
He listed quality education, elimination of corruption, regular supply of electricity and jobs as some of his priority areas. ""If you eliminate corruption, all this can be achieved," he said.
 
Earlier this morning, Kamal Haasan launched his political journey by visiting the residence of former President A P J Abdul Kalam at Rameswaram, where he met the late Mr. Kalam's elder brother and other family members.
 
"Greatness can come from simple beginnings. Actually it will come only from simplicity. Glad to start my journey from a great man’s simple abode," he had said ahead of the visit to Rameswaram.
 
Later, he also addressed the fishing community in Rameswaram before heading to Madurai.
 
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Farmer’s daughter Sumathira harvests 400m gold, thanks school principal for support

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Sumathira Balakrishnan’s doughty personal best effort over 56.39 seconds in the prestigious girls 400m final clearly stood out on the last day of athletics competition in the inaugural Khelo India School Games at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here yesterday. 
 
Sumathira, an Ariyalur farm labourer’s daughter who studies in Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu, shed her inherent shyness to harvest gold with her run.
 
She was spotted at an event in Tiruchirapalli three years ago when she ran the 800m in 1:18. Training on the mud track at the Sports Authority of India centre in Rajanthottam in Mayiladuthurai under coach G R Prabhakar, she has used her raw talent to forge ahead and catch the attention with a fine run.
 
She knew she had to produce her best to beat a line-up that included SGFI National U17 winner Priscilla Daniel (Kerala), silver-medallist Tai Bamhane who was brimming with confidence after winning the 800m yesterday, and bronze medallist Payal Vohra (Delhi). Her best of 56.45 had come in the SGFI National U19 in Rohtak where she finished second.
 
Sumathira went all out from the start  Running in the third lane, she passed Payal Vohra by the time the race was halfway through the backstraight. And when she turned into the home stretch, she had secured herself an advantage over the long-striding Tai Bamhane and Kerala’s Sandra AS who appeared to have expended much of her energy over the first 250m in opening up a lead.
 
Sumathira’s hands were flailing and head rolling but she managed to come home well clear of Tai Bamhane – and in a personal best time of 56.39 seconds. It was, by all accounts, the second fastest 400m by an Indian under-20 runner this season, after her team-mate R Vithya’s 56.01. “I am happy but not satisfied since my coach had expected a better time,” she said.
 
Born to Kanagavalli and S Balakrishnan in August 2001, she is aware that she may have earned herself a Rs 5 lakh scholarship that can help her improve her training and push her towards winning an India call-up. “Prabhakar sir keeps telling me that I can be a sub-54 second runner soon. I don’t want to let him down,” she said, determined to keep working hard.
 
Speaking from Mayiladuthurai, Prabhakar said he had not attempted to change her natural running style, even though purists may not believe that she maintains the best form in the one-lapper. “I tell her not to change what is natural since I remember a legend like Shiny Wilson’s form also not meeting the approval of those who speak of the right form for a runner,” he said.
 
Sumathira and Prabhakar were both grateful for the encouragement that Government Higher Secondary School (Mayiladuthurai) Principal Dr Kishor has offered her. “My Principal sir insisted that I take part in the Khelo India School Games,” revealed the XII standard student. “He said he would let me take my exams at a later date.”
 
There is no doubt that Dr Kishore will be pleased that he persuaded Sumathira to travel to the national capital and compete. And, somewhere in Kallankurichi in Ariyalur, a farm labourer and his wife will be smiling that their daughter has made waves. It is such stories of encouragement and sacrifice, human endeavor and perseverance that has given Khelo India School Games the wings.
 
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Stone Age tools found in TN suggest reframing of ‘Out of Africa’ theories

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Armed with newly discovered Stone Age tools in a village near Chennai, Indian scientists are challenging the popular scientific theory that the Middle Palaeolithic was brought to India by modern humans dispersing from Africa only around 125,000 years ago or later.
 
The new evidence suggests that a Middle Palaeolithic culture was present in India around 385,000 years ago — roughly the same time that it is known to have developed in Africa and in Europe.
 
Middle Palaeolithic period is considered an important cultural phase associated with modern humans and Neanderthals as well as other archaic hominins. Stone tools of this period are used by scientists as proxy for studies of early human behaviour.
 
The prehistoric stone tools excavated from Attirampakkam village about 60 kilometers from Chennai push back the period when populations with a Middle Palaeolithic culture may have inhabited India.
 
The new study appeared in international scientific journal Nature on Wednesday.
 
“Our study presents a paradigm shift in thinking about the origin and spread of Middle Palaeolithic cultures in South Asia, suggesting a far greater antiquity and more complex story than we thought,” Professor Shanti Pappu of Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, who led the research team, told India Science Wire.
 
In the absence of direct evidence in the form of fossils, the evolution of humans in Eurasia is often charted by changes in toolkits. Researchers studied over 7000 stone artefacts from Middle Palaeolithic layers at Attirampakkam. These tools collectively show a shift away from Acheulian technologies towards Middle Palaeolithic strategies such as the distinctive stone-knapping known as Levallois technique, presence of points, tanged points and blade technologies. Specific luminescence dating method was used to date tool-bearing sediments.
 
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“Without fossils we cannot pinpoint the species, but we can suggest that multiple hominin dispersals associated with Middle Palaeolithic culture were occurring far earlier than around 125 thousand years ago with complex patterns, processes and interactions between species,” Prof Pappu added.
 
The presence of full-fledged Middle Palaeolithic culture in India long before any modern human migrations out of Africa brought these technologies implies that either such migrations may have occurred earlier than previously thought and may have played a role in development of the Middle Palaeolithic culture in India.
 
Understanding the transition to the Middle Palaeolithic outside Europe and Africa is vital to the study of the lives and times of hominins in Eurasia, especially the appearance and subsequent migrations of anatomically modern humans within and out of Africa.
 
The archaeological site at Attirampakkam was discovered in 1863 by R. B. Foote and subsequently investigated by several scholars in the 1930s and 1960s. Prof Pappu and Dr Kumar Akhilesh from the Sharma Centre have been excavating at this place since 1999. The present work was conducted in collaboration Prof Yanni Gunnell from the University of Lyon, France; Prof Ashok K. Singhvi, Haresh M. Rajapara and Dr. Anil D. Shukla from the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad.
 
“What this site has taught us is to expect the unexpected, and it is a deeply humbling experience when preconceived ideas crumble around us. When we got the dates, we immediately realised the implications were mind-blowing. Dr. Akhilesh and I went back to the table to crosscheck our data again and again and to re-examine the stone artefact assemblages to be sure of our interpretation,” recalled Prof Pappu.
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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World Bank to provide $ 100 million for project to promote rural enterprises in Tamil Nadu

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The Government of India and the World Bank today signed a $100 million loan agreement that is expected to promote rural enterprises, facilitate their access to finance, and create employment opportunities for youth, particularly women, in selected blocks of Tamil Nadu across 26 districts, directly benefitting over 400,000 people.
 
The Tamil Nadu Rural Transformation Project will create an enabling environment for producer organizations and enterprises to promote businesses across select value chains, an official press release said.
 
Based on the analysis, communities will identify commodities and subsectors in the value chain for preparing business plans. Thirty percent of the financing for these business plans will be through a matching grant program from the project and the remaining 70 percent will be leveraged from other financial institutions, it said.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Sameer Kumar Khare, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance said that the Government of India is committed to help create an enabling environment of institutional reforms, policies and investments which are key factors that will help India attain speedy and inclusive rural transformation. He said that the project will enable producer organizations and enterprises,  especially women entrepreneurs, in Tamil Nadu build businesses that will help them access finance, markets and networks and generate employment.
 
?The agreement for the project was signed by Mr. Khare on behalf of the Government of India; Mr. Praveen P. Nair, Project Director on behalf of the Government of Tamil Nadu; and Mr. Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, World Bank India, on behalf of the World Bank.
 
?It will also specifically support eligible households from socially and culturally disadvantaged groups harness their existing assets, skills, and resources; break their entry barriers to value-added economic activities; enhance their ability to access finance, markets, technology, and related support services; help them graduate to value-added economic activities with higher returns such as garment manufacturing and food processing units, eco-tourism ventures, and businesses around creative industries.
 
Mr. Ahmad said that World Bank-financed State Livelihood Projects, which have so far reached over 35 million people, have given the rural poor a greater sense of identity, and better services and livelihood opportunities. He said that this project will build on those achievements and support Tamil Nadu’s rural enterprises access finance, build business skills and create jobs.
 
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The release said the project would be operational in 120 blocks across 3,994 villages in 26 districts of Tamil Nadu with 411,620 direct beneficiaries. It will work with targeted households that are already part of Self-Help Groups (SHGs). The project will be rolled out in a phased manner – 26 blocks will be taken up for implementation in all project districts in the first eight months, followed by 52 blocks by the end of 12 months, and the remaining 42 blocks by the end of 18 months from initiation of project implementation.
 
?Selected innovations and start-up ideas will also be tested or scaled up under a newly created platform known as the Tamil Nadu Rural Transformation Marketplace. 
 
"This platform will identify, showcase and celebrate innovative solutions related to themes that have the potential to impact rural economic growth in the state. Innovative ideas related to promoting rural artisans, local nutritious food systems and traditional health practices will be considered. The project will draw lessons from several rural livelihoods programs in India and build on the successes of the recently closed Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project," the release said.
 
?Mr. Hans Raj Verma, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu said that the project would support building an ecosystem that will provide business development services to entrepreneurs in rural and semi-urban areas for promoting rural enterprises and creating employment opportunities. He said that it will specifically target at least 60 percent women entrepreneurs from the SHG network in Tamil Nadu who have the potential to move into the next level of economic integration.
 
"?An e-governance architecture with the use of ICT along with a robust Management Information System (MIS) will help monitor and track results real time," he added.
 
The $100 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a 5-year grace period, and a maturity of 19 years.
 
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Foundation stones laid for Rs 3618 crore railway projects Kanniyakumari-Nagercoil-Thiruvananthapuram section

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Minister of State of Railways Rajen Gohain laid the foundation stone for the Rs 3618 crore Doubling with Electrification projects covering 349 Km in Kanniyakumari-Nagercoil-Thiruvananthapuram section at Nagercoil near here, in Tamil Nadu, yesterday.
 
Besides laying the foundation stone for three infrastructural projects, Mr Gohain inaugurated the escalator facility, wi-fi services and 100% LED lighting facilities at Nagercoil Junction.
 
Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan, Minister for Information & Publicity, Tamil Nadu, Kadambur Raju and Member of Parliament A. Vijayakumar were present on the occasion.
 
Mr Gohain, in his address, stated that more customer-oriented facilities were being implemented. He lauded Southern Railways’ efforts to implement 100% LED at all stations and praised its initiatives to eliminate level crossings, thus ensuring the safety of rail users.
 
The outlay for railway projects in Tamil Nadu in this fiscal year was Rs 2287 crore, an increase of about 160% over the financial years from 2009-10 to 2016-17. The outlay for passenger amenities went up from Rs 33 crore in fiscal 2016-17 to Rs 38 crore in 2017-18, he said.
 
Mr Radhakrishnan expressed his happiness about the sanction accorded by Central Government for the Rs. 4000 crore rail development project.
 
Southern Railway General Manager R K Kulshrestha, Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), Trivandrum, Prakash Bhutani, DRM, Madurai, Ms Neenu Ittyerah, Principal Heads of Departments, officers and staff of Southern Railway participated in the function.
 
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L&T launches second Offshore Patrol Vessel for Indian Coast Guard

Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) launched the second in a series of seven Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) at the company’s greenfield defence shipyard at Kattupalli, near here, on Saturday.
 
The OPV was formally lowered into the waters of the Bay of Bengal at the hands of Mrs. Natarajan, wife of K Natarajan, Additional Director General (Western Seaboard) of the ICG. She named the OPV ‘CGS Vijaya’.
 
L&T is the first private Indian shipyard to construct and deliver OPVs for the ICG. L&T received the prestigious order valued at Rs. 1432 crore for design and construction of seven OPVs from the Ministry of Defence in March 2015. The first OPV was launched in October, 2017 and is presently undergoing trials. 
 
"The launch of the second OPV, within three months from the launch of the first vessel and with overall completion of 85%, bears testimony to L&T’s proven project planning and execution capabilities," it said.
 
These OPVs are long-range surface ships with helicopter operation capabilities, and their roles include coastal and offshore patrolling, policing maritime zones of India, control & surveillance, anti-smuggling & anti-piracy with limited wartime roles.
 
The OPVs are approximately 97m long, 15m wide, has 3.6m draught, 2140 T displacement with a range of 5000 NM and can attain sustained speeds of up to 26 knots. The entire design and construction processes have undergone dual certification from the American Bureau of Shipping and Indian Registrar of Shipping, and the project is being overseen by the ICG's resident team at Kattupalli shipyard.
 
In December, 2017, L&T completed the delivery of all 36 Interceptor Boats to the Indian Coast Guard contracted in March 2010, well ahead of contractual delivery schedule. The in-house designed and constructed Floating Dock-2 for the Indian Navy has been dispatched to Port Blair this month for final trials and handing over. This is the first time a Floating Dock has been designed and constructed indigenously.
 
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Mr. S.N. Subrahmanyan, CEO & Managing Director, Larsen & Toubro, said: “It is heartening to see another ahead of schedule launch of a major defence vessel at the Kattupalli shipyard. Delivery of all 36 Interceptor Boats under the first contract from the Indian Coast Guard ahead of schedule, timely dispatch of the Floating Dock-2 and timely completion of various refit orders from the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard speak volumes about L&T’s stellar delivery performance. This stems from our deep-rooted ethos of nation-building and world-class ship design and fabrication capabilities. Today, we are amongst very few Indian shipyards that have the requisite capacity and financial strength to deliver complex defence vessels on time.”
 
Mr. J.D. Patil, Senior Executive Vice President & Whole-time Director (Defence), Larsen & Toubro said: “The launch of OPV-2 signifies the launch of the ninth defence vessel by L&T in the current financial year. L&T is achieving new benchmarks of execution excellence with the construction of more defence vessels. With in-house capabilities to undertake ship design, in-house manufacturing of critical marine equipment, world-class shipyard infrastructure and robust financial strength, L&T is uniquely placed to fulfil the ambitious fleet expansion plans of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard."
 
“L&T is also looking forward to participate in ‘Medium Refit and Life Extension Certification’ of EKM submarines of the Indian Navy. We will be deploying our rich expertise in the field of design engineering and construction of submarines for this project,” Mr. Patil added.
 
“It is indeed a remarkable achievement to surpass the construction timelines in a multi-project execution scenario,” said Vice Admiral B. Kannan (Retd.), MD & CEO, L&T Shipbuilding. “Large-scale deployment of digital technologies in most shipyard operations including design, planning, production, project management and QA/QC has immensely helped in prioritizing the tasks and optimal deployment of resources. Our rich pool of human resources is constantly innovating to enhance the productivity and has cut down cycle time,” he concluded.
 
In addition, L&T is also progressing well on the Medium Refit (MR) of a Naval survey vessel at the Kattupalli shipyard. L&T undertakes repairs and refits of Naval and Coast Guard ships regularly and has till date completed repair/refit of four Naval ships and two Coast Guard ships.
 
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Making science popular like music through a 'Sabha'

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Science popularization can be done in many ways. Researchers at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai have chosen to reach the public through an unconventional approach.
 
For the past two years, a group of scientists at the Institute has been holding a programme of popular lectures on scientific topics at the Music Academy in the heart of the city.
 
They are now working on the third edition of the programme called `Science at the Sabha’. Four top scientists and mathematicians will hold forth on topics at the cutting edge of science. The programme is scheduled for February 11.
 
The programme will start with a talk by Dr. Shubha Tole of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai. She will talk on “Outside-in: How we perceive the world?” The world we know is “constructed” in our brains using information gathered by our five senses. Understanding how sensory nerves connect to the brain in a growing embryo is an area of intense research, because it is this circuitry that controls how we experience the world.
 
Dr. R. Rajesh, a physicist at IMSc, will talk on `why does time go forward?’ As per the laws of physics, it is equally possible for the time to flow backwards. But, we see it move only forward. Dr. Rajesh will explain the paradox and what it means for what we see in the world around us. His research interests include studying how differently shaped objects pack, as also thestructure of bones.
 
Dr. Guruswamy Kumaraswamy of National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, will deliver the third talk on “Materials: The Hard, the Soft and the Squishy”. Is toothpaste solid or liquid? It doesn’t flow unless we squeeze the tube but flows readily after that.  Dr. Kumaraswamy will describe some soft and squishy materials that we encounter in daily life and how such materials can be combined with harder ones to form unusual composite materials.
 
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For example, the sea shells that protect soft-shelled aquatic animals are hard and yet they don’t break easily, unlike glass which is hard but shatters readily.  Scientists are just beginning to learn how nature builds these amazing materials and to use this knowledge to build synthetic composites that can be put to use for myriad applications including for building faster aircrafts.
 
Vijay Kodiyalam, who is also from IMSc would deliver the fourth and last lecture. He will talk on `Knotty problem:  how many different ways can you tie your shoelaces?’ Knots and braids are familiar to all of us from childhood. How do we tell one knot from another? How many knots are there? Given a tangled loop of string, how do we know how is it knotted or whether we can open it up without having to cut it or not? Besides being of intrinsic interest, answers to such questions have applications to subjects as varied as cryptology and the structure of DNA. In his talk, Dr. Kodiyalam will try to explain how mathematicians think about these questions.
 
Speaking to India Science Wire, Dr. Gautam Menon and Dr. K.N.Raghavan of IMSc -- the brains behind the event -- said “there will be question-and- answer sessions after each talk, with questions being posted live on Facebook and Twitter handles. Short movies about opportunities for science education and research in India will be screened? ?just before the talks begin.” 
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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IndiGo commences flights from Rajahmundry to Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai

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Low-cost carrier IndiGo today expanded its regional network by commencing ATR operations from Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh.
 
Andhra Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister China Rajappa, along with Mr. Sanjeev Ramdas, Executive Vice President of Customer Service & Operations Control, IndiGo flagged-off the flight from Rajahmundry to Chennai at Rajahmundry Airport today.
 
Other dignitaries who were present at the flag-off ceremony included Mr. Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, Minister for Finance, Planning, Commercial Taxes, Legislative Affairs; Ms. Pantham Rajani Sesha Sai, Mayor, Municipal Corporation, Rajamahendravaram; Mr. Kartikeya Misra, Collector and District Magistrate, East Godavari District; and Ms. B.Raja Kumari, IPS., Superintendent of Police, Rajamahendravaram Urban Police District.
 
A press release from the airline said it would connect Rajahmundry to Hyderabad with twice daily frequencies, and one direct daily frequency each on Rajahmundry–Bangalore–Rajahmundry and Rajahmundry–Chennai–Rajahmundry sectors. 
 
IndiGo is the only airline that connects Rajahmundry with direct flights to three major metros of southern India: Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad from day one of its operations, the release said.
 
The airline operates more than 1000 flights daily to 48 destinations.
 
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Rajinikanth announces entry into politics, says will contest TN Assembly elections

Ending months of speculation, Tamil film megastar Rajinikanth confirmed his entry into politics on Sunday, saying that he would float a political party that would contest all 234 seats in the next elections to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly with "truth, hard work and growth" as its agenda.
 
Rajinikanth announces his entry into politics
Ending months of speculation, Tamil film megastar Rajinikanth  confirmed his entry into politics today, saying that he would float a political party that would contest all 234 seats in the next elections to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly with "truth, hard work and growth" as its agenda.
 
"It is a compulsion of the times that I have launch a new political party for the next assembly elections," Rajinikanth, 67, told a huge gathering of his fans and supporters at the end of a six-day outreach event at the Sri Raghavendra Kalyana Mandapam here.
 
During his short speech, the actor spoke about the ills afflicting politics in the state and said the need of the hour was to bring about change from the bottom up, with a special focus on ending corruption in the system.
 
"If I do not enter politics at this juncture, it will mean letting down the people, who have given me so much love and affection," he said, indicating that his party would also contest the next Lok Sabha elections. "I will enter politics. I will do my duty."
 
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He said that he would tour all over the state and promised to visit "every village and every street", and urged people to join his political movement. “This is not cinema. It is real life," he said.
 
There has been intense speculation that Rajinikanth and the equally well-known Kamal Hasan, two of the biggest names in Indian cinema, would enter Tamil Nadu politics for the past one year after the death of then Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, a popular actress of her time, on December 5, 2016. Kamal Hasan made his move in this regard some time ago.
 
Following Ms. Jayalalithaa's death, the state witnessed an unseemly battle for control of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), culminating in its defeat in the recently held bye-elections from the former Chief Minister's constituency, Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar, in which sidelined AIADMK leader T T V Dhinakaran won. The candidate of the opposition DMK forfeited his deposit.
 
Mr. Dhinakaran is the nephew of jailed V. K. Sasikala, who was elected as the party's general secretary to succeed Ms. Jayalalithaa but was ousted after a merger of the two rival factions led by Chief Minister E. K. Palaniswamy and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam. Ms. Sasikala is currently serving out the remainder of a jail term in a corruption case which also involved Ms. Jayalalithaa.
 
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Two coaches of EMU train derail at Avadi, no injuries to anyone

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Two coaches -- the second and third from the front -- of the 43127 Moore Market Complex (MMC)-Pattabiram EMU train derailed at Avadi station late last night, but no one was injured because the train was empty, Southern Railway sources said.
 
The mishap occurred around 2325 hours yesterday while the train was leaving Avadi station, about 23 km from here, on the Chennai suburban railway network.
 
A press release from Southern Railway said senior officers from Chennai Division rushed to the spot and started restoration work immediately.  The first coach was rerailed at 0220 hours and the second coach at 0320 hours. Restoration of track is in progress at the site, it said.
 
Suburban rail traffic was affected as a consequence of the derailment and some EMU services were cancelled for the day. These include train numbers 66000, (Avadi - MMC), 66025 (MMC - Sulurpetta), 66029 (Sulurpettah - Nellore), 66030 (Nellore - Sulurpettah), 66026 (Sulurpettah - MMC) , 66002 (Avadi - MMC) ,66015 (MMC - Arakkonam) , 66039 (Arakkonam - Tirupaty) , 66033 (Tirupaty - Nellore) , 66036 (Nellore - MMC), and 66003 (MMC - Avadi).
 
However, Passenger Specials from MMC are being operated at 30- minute intervals to Tirutani (08.30 AM), Tiruvallur (9.00 AM), Pattabiram Military Siding (9.30 AM) and Arakkonam (10.AM) upto 10 AM today.
 
The suburban train traffic is expected to gradually normalise after 10 AM today, the release added.
 
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World Bank to provide $ 318 million forTamil Nadu Irrigated Agriculture Modernization Project

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The Government of India, the Government of Tamil Nadu and the World Bank signed a $  318 million loan agreement here today for the Tamil Nadu Irrigated Agriculture Modernization Project to promote climate resilient agriculture technologies, improve water management practices, and increase market opportunities for small and marginal farmers. 
 
About 500,000 farmers, of which a majority are small and marginal, are expected to benefit from improved and modernized tank irrigation systems, an official press release said.
 
The project will rehabilitate and modernize about 4,800 irrigation tanks and 477 check dams, spread across 66 sub-basins, in delivering bulk water to irrigation systems.
 
"Tamil Nadu, being a water-stressed state, continues to experience water shortages which are expected to further exacerbate in the future. Rehabilitating and modernizing irrigation tanks will improve the reliability and availability of irrigation water for farming communities, making them less prone to climatic hazards. More than 160,000 ha of currently partially irrigated lands will come into full irrigation under this project,” said Mr. Sameer Kumar Khare, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance.
 
The agreement for the project was signed by Mr. Khare on behalf of the Government of India; Mr. S. K. Prabhakar, Principal Secretary, Public Works Department, on behalf of the Government of Tamil Nadu and Mr. John Blomquist, Program Leader and Acting Country Director, World Bank, India on behalf of the World Bank.
 
“This project will help Tamil Nadu scale up its efforts to unlock the full potential of its agriculture sector. It will support farmers improve the efficiency of water used in farming, diversify into high value crops, and produce crops that are resilient to the increasing threats of climate change. Such efforts will be a win-win for all, leading to better use of scarce water resources and raising household incomes of farmers,” said Mr. Blomquist.
 
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According to the release, though significant progress has been made during the past decade in crop diversification, there was still scope for achieving a higher level. Paddy is the dominant crop occupying 34 percent of total cropped areas, whereas fruits and vegetables are grown on 11 percent and pulses and oilseeds on 14 percent of total cropped areas. By helping farmers’ access modern technologies, linking them to markets, and providing postharvest management support, the project will enable farmers to shift from a mono crop paddy system to mixed cropping including high-value crops (fruits, vegetables, and spices), pulses, oilseeds, and millets, it said.
 
To enhance the ability of crops to withstand expected adverse impacts of climate change, the project will support smallholder producers adopt new conservation technologies such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and Sustainable Sugar Initiative (SSI). They reduce average water usage by 35 percent and increase yields by 22 percent per ha. The project is expected to increase the yield of rice, maize, and pulses by 18–20 percent.
 
The project will also coordinate with other World Bank-supported projects in Tamil Nadu and at the national level, including the Tamil Nadu Rural Transformation Project, National Hydrology Project, and National Groundwater Improvement Project to ensure synergy and enhance long-term project impact, the release said.
 
The $ 318 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a 5-year grace period, and a maturity of 19 years, it added.
 
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Kovind says engineers could play larger role in solving key challenges facing India

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President Ram Nath Kovind today said engineers could play a much larger role in solving key challenges facing the country in areas such as food, healthcare and the environment, in providing low-cost and easy-to-build housing, and in enhancing urban infrastructure with minimum disruption.
 
Addressing the valedictory function of the 32nd Indian Engineering Congress here, he said engineers are agents of change. 
 
"Historically it is engineers who have used the logic of science to achieve practical solutions – whether building dams or bridges, whether designing locomotives or computers. From the earliest metal tools to the integrated circuit, from the 18th century Industrial Revolution to the 21st century Fourth Industrial Revolution – it is engineering that has spoken the language of the future. Today, in exploring the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things or in realising our aspirations for Make in India, once more it is to our engineers that we turn," he said.
 
Mr. Kovind said these opportunities were all the more important because human civilisation is at an inflection point. 
 
"The evolution of technology is changing how we live, work and think. It is also challenging the practice of engineering. Traditional fields of engineering will continue to thrive. After all, we will still need machines tools and power grids, roads and bridges, aircraft and ships. But this traditional practice of engineering will have to both embrace and drive innovation in cutting-edge areas," he said.
 
"For example, civil engineers are specialists in materials. They use this knowledge for construction. Yet, this same knowledge of composites and materials will increasingly be deployed for both micro needs – such as creating medical implants for the human body – as well as macro needs – for instance, constructing facilities and maybe even colonies in outer space.
 
"Developments across different fields are creating avenues for cross-fertilisation. Disciplines such as food technology, biotechnology, environmental engineering and transportation engineering are expanding the horizons of engineers. And engineers will inevitably intersect with disciplines as far apart as law, geography and political science. 
 
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"The responsibility that all this places upon you is enormous. Engineers are being called upon to be nation builders in more ways than we can imagine. Again, this is not without precedent. The late M. Visvesvaraya was an administrator, irrigation specialist and town planner of repute. He trained as an engineer and his birthday is commemorated as Engineer’s Day. Dr Satish Dhawan, who pioneered India’s space programme and made it relevant to our farmers, was an engineer. India’s much-loved 'Milk Man' Verghese Kurien, who led the White Revolution, was an engineer. And the 'Metro Man' E. Sreedharan, who built the Konkan Railway and the Delhi Metro in extremely difficult circumstances, also studied engineering," he said.
 
"These are just a few examples of engineers who rose beyond the call of their everyday work and contributed to our national life. Their stories tell us what engineers can achieve. May the adventure and the achievement never cease!" he said.
 
Mr. Kovind began his address by noting that it was his first visit to Tamil Nadu as President.
 
"The discipline of engineering combines the excitement of science and technology with the rigour of structure. These attributes are intrinsic to Tamil society. If we go into the impressive history of the Tamil people, we encounter Chola naval and trading ships that were travelling up and down the Indian Ocean a thousand years ago. Even older is the complex of shore monuments in Mamallapuram, built by another great Tamil dynasty – the Pallavas. The landscaping and the intricate drainage system of Mamallapuram are fascinating to this day. All these are samples of a very advanced level of engineering.
 
"Earlier in the morning I was honoured to visit the Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Memorial in Rameswaram. Along with the late Shri R. Venkataraman, Dr Kalam is one of two former Presidents, my illustrious predecessors, to have come from Tamil Nadu. He trained as an engineer and became famous as a missile technologist. More than that, he was a proud son of India. Dr Kalam could have earned millions in the West, but he chose to devote his learning and his life to the development of our country. All of us as Indians, and all of you as engineers, must draw inspiration from him.
 
"A spirit of inquiry and of evidence-based policy – and an abiding faith in technology and innovation as tools for the welfare of the people – has been a hallmark of public life in modern Tamil Nadu. Right from the days of Rajaji and Periyar, the state has made impressive strides in social reform. Our Green Revolution and self-sufficiency in food owes so much to stalwarts from Tamil Nadu such as the late Shri C. Subramanian and the distinguished scientist Dr M.S. Swaminathan," he said.
 
"The journey of reform and of people’s welfare continued under Shri C. Annadurai and Shri K. Kamaraj. Shri M.G. Ramachandran, whose birth centenary we are celebrating this year, and Dr J. Jayalalitha took Tamil Nadu even further. And I cannot forget to mention that gifted word-smith and patriarch of our politics, Shri M. Karunanidhi. These distinguished political and social leaders – and I have mentioned only a few – have given Tamil Nadu a rich legacy. The Midday Meal Scheme that originated in Tamil Nadu gave India a model to combat malnutrition and help in the physical and cognitive development of our children. And whether it is in textiles or IT, precision manufacture or automobiles, Tamil Nadu has used engineering to build a solid industrial economy – creating thousands of jobs," he said.
 
He also praised the contribution of the Institution of Engineers (India), which is close to a hundred years old. It was founded in 1920 as an institution that would advance the cause of engineering and technology in India. "It set the benchmark. Prior to the formation of the All India Council of Technical Education, in 1987, the Institution of Engineers used to regulate engineering and technical education in the country," he said.
 
"The Institution of Engineers (India) has also played a crucial role in promoting a culture of R&D. It has encouraged and sponsored even undergraduate engineering students to push the frontiers of their curriculum and of innovation. This has led to the Ministry of Science and Technology conferring the status of a Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation on the Institution of Engineers," he added.
 
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Modi visits cyclone-hit areas in Lakshadweep, TN, Kerala; announces relief package

 
Modi reviews relief efforts in cyclone Ockhi-hit areas
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today reviewed the situation in the areas of Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu and Kerala which were struck by the recent cyclone Ockhi and announced a package of relief measures, including immediate financial assistance worth Rs. 325 crore from the Centre to meet the requirements of the two States and Union Territory.
 
The financial assistance announced by the Prime Minister today is over and above the assistance of Rs. 280 crore to Tamil Nadu, and Rs. 76 crore to Kerala, disbursed earlier this month, after Ockhi hit the region in late November-early December.
 
An ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 2 lakh to the next-of-kin of the deceased, and Rs. 50,000 to each of those seriously injured due to the cyclone have been sanctioned under the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF), it said.
 
Mr. Modi said the Government of India will support the reconstruction of approximately 1400 houses fully damaged due to Cyclone Ockhi, on priority, under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). Under this programme, each beneficiary will get upto Rs. 1.5 lakh as support for building a new house.
 
Insurance companies have also been advised to pay the insurance claims of people affected by Ockhi cyclone expeditiously, he said.
 
During a day-long visit to the cyclone-affected areas, Mr. Modi met and interacted with people, including fishermen and farmers, affected by it.
 
In the course of the day, the Prime Minister interacted with people in Kavaratti in Lakshadweep and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. He also visited Punthura village near Thiruvananthapuram, which is one of the villages that faced the impact of the cyclone. People explained to him the hardships faced by them on account of the cyclone. 
 
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He assured the people that all help will be provided  to them and that the Union Government stood shoulder to shoulder with them in their hour of crisis.
 
Mr. Modi held separate detailed review meetings on the current situation and relief measures, at Kavaratti, Kanyakumari and Thiruvananthapuram. The Governors, Chief Ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, and Administrator of Lakshadweep along with senior officials were present at the respective meetings.
 
Earlier, during the review meetings, the Prime Minister was briefed on the impact of Ockhi, the third major cyclone of this kind, to hit this area in the last 125 years. The cyclone hit on November 30, 2017, and  the search and rescue operations, began the same day. So far, a total of 197 ship days involving 20 surface platforms and about 186 flying hours have been utilised by the Indian Coast Guard for search and rescue operations. In addition, a total of 156 ship days and 399 flying hours, involving 10 ships and 7 types of aircraft have been utilised by the Indian Navy. A total of 183 fishermen and civil administration personnel were carried on board these ships to aid in the rescue operations. A total of 845 fishermen have been rescued or assisted till date.
 
The Prime Minister was informed that the surveillance was carried out even beyond 700 nautical miles from the shore, the release added.
 
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Modi to visit cyclone Ockhi-affected areas of Lakshadweep, Kerala, TN on Tuesday

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Prime Minister  Narendra Modi will visit Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala tomorrow to review the situation in the aftermath of cyclone Ockhi, which struck the region in late November and the first week of December. 
 
Mr. Modi will visit Kavaratti in Lakshadweep, Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and meet with officials, public representatives, cyclone victims, including fishermen and farmer delegations, an official press release said.
 
The release said the Prime Minister had constantly monitored the situation arising out of the cyclone and spoken to all relevant authorities and officials.
 
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman undertook a visit to the cyclone affected areas of both Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram on December 3-4. 
 
The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) chaired by Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar met on December 4 and reviewed the relief and rescue operations in the areas affected by the cyclone.
 
Government agencies both from the Centre and the affected States, including Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were involved in relief and rescue operations. Relief camps were set up in the affected areas. The Union Government has released the second instalment of State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) to the Governments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the current financial year of 2017-18 to supplement their efforts in dealing with the natural calamity. 
 
During the financial year 2017-18, the central share of SDRF to State Government of Kerala and Tamil Nadu is Rs. 153 crore and Rs. 561 crore, respectively, the release said.
 
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BHEL bags Rs. 7,300 crore contract for 1,320 MW Supercritical Power Project in Tamil Nadu

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The public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) today said it had, against stiff international competition bidding (ICB), won an order for setting up a 1,320 MW Supercritical Thermal Power Project (TPP) in Tamil Nadu.
 
Valued at over Rs. 7,300 crore, the order for setting up the 2x660 MW Udangudi TPP has been placed on BHEL by Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO), a press release from the company.
 
The release said this was the fourth order for supercritical sets finalised in the last three years by TANGEDCO, and all the four orders have been won by BHEL. The previous three orders -- 2x660 MW Ennore SEZ, 1x800 MW North Chennai Supercritical TPP Stage-III and 2x800 MW Uppur TPP -- were also secured by BHEL on ICB basis, it said.
 
Located at Udangudi in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu, the greenfield project will be executed by BHEL on Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) basis. BHEL's scope of work in the current contract involves design, engineering, manufacture, supply, erection, commissioning and civil works for the entire plant including sea water intake and outfall systems, it said.
 
The key equipment for the project will be manufactured at BHEL’s Trichy, Haridwar, Bhopal, Ranipet, Hyderabad, Jhansi, Thirumayam and Bengaluru plants while the company's Power Sector - Southern Region shall be responsible for civil works, erection and commissioning of the equipment.
 
The implementation of the new projects will help foster growth in Tamil Nadu and provide easy access to electricity to the people of the state. At present, BHEL has a share of 83% in the state’s coal-based generating capacity, the release added.
 
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Rahul Gandhi meets Ockhi-hit fishermen in Kerala, Tamil Nadu

 
Rahul Gandhi meets cyclone Ockhi victims in Kerala, TN
Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi today visited fishing villages in Kerala and Tamil Nadu which were hit by cyclone Ockhi earlier this month and declared that the time had come to set up a separate Ministry of Fisheries at the Centre to look after their interests.
 
He declared that the Congress, when voted back to power at the Centre, would set up a Ministry of Fisheries that would the difficulties and problems faced by fishermen could be dealt with quickly and immediately.
 
Mr. Gandhi offered his condolences to the families which had lost their loved ones in the tragedy and spent time with several of them as they talked about their pain and sorrow. "What you have lost cannot be measured in terms of value. So, my words are not going to replace what you have lost," he said.
 
He said he would have liked to come here earlier but he had commitments in poll-bound Gujarat which could not be cancelled. "Even though I was not here in my physical presence, my mind and spirit were here with you," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said it was very important that the Government and the people learnt from the disaster and set up systems to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.
 
"We also expect the Government to offer compensation to everybody who has lost in this tragedy. It is the duty of the Congress, as the Opposition, to put pressure on the Government to ensure everyone who has lost gets adequate compensation. I am confident they will play this role," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that, in many ways, farmers and fishermen across the country faced similar situations. 
 
"It is very difficult for them to make a living. It seems everything is aligned against them. At the national elvel, faremrs have a Ministry that protects them and looks after their interests. I think it is time that fishermen also have their Ministry at the Centre so that their difficulties can be dealt with quickly and immediately. The Congress is committed to providing a Ministry for fishermen when elected to power at the Centre," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi, who flew in here form Delhi, visited some of the worst-affected villages such as Poonthura, Vizhinjam, Thaikkad and Palayam in Kerala and Chinnathurai in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.
 
Senior State Congress leaders, including former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala and Dr. Shashi Tharoor, the Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram, accompanied Mr. Gandhi on the visit to the Kerala villages.
 
"Very good visit by Rahul Gandhi to two coastal villages in Thiruvananthapuram. People were touched by his directness & evident empathy during deeply moving conversations with bereaved families," Dr. Tharoor said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
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Technical Cooperation Non-Cash Grant for Coimbatore, Bhubaneswar and Kochi for urban transport

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Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, Bhubaneswar in  Odisha and Kochi in Kerala will receive Technical Cooperation Non-Cash Grant for Urban Transport Activities.
 
An Implementation Agreement on Sustainable Urban Transport project between Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and the German development agency GIZ was signed here yesterday in the presence of Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri and German Ambassador Dr Martin Ney.
 
The agreement was signed by Mr. Mukund Kumar Sinha, OSD & ex officio Joint Secretary, Housing & Urban Affairs and GIZ Country Director Wolfgang Hanning.
 
Under the agreement, an amount of euro four million (approximately Rs. 29 crore) will be given to the three cities for urban transport activities through GIZ over a period of three years. The main objective is to improve planning and implementation of sustainable urban transport, an official press release said.
 
The Annual Negotiations and Consultations between India and Germany in 2015, had listed Technical Cooperation by Germany for Urban Mobility in India as one of measures to be taken. It was later formalised with a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
 
The project will give the desired impetus in three major interventions proposed under Smart City Mission of the Ministry -- ITS based transport solutions, Non-motorised vehicles and Last mile connectivity, the release added.
 
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