Tamil Nadu

Confusion over PMK's return to DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu

Confusion reigns high over the coming back of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) into the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led alliance, though Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President M Karunanidhi had announced that the PMK is back into the DMK fold.

The Chief Minister, while talking to newspersons in New Delhi last evening, had said the PMK would be part of the DMK led alliance for the coming assembly elections, along with Congress, VCK and other parties.

However, minutes after the Chief Minister made the remarks, PMK founder-leader S Ramadoss said the party was yet to decide on the alliance issue as it was getting "feelers" from other parties.

The PMK leader's remarks, giving the impression that it was also open for an alliance with the opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), has created confusion in the DMK camp.

Dr Ramadoss said the DMK leader had expressed his desire that the PMK should be part of the DMK led alliance, "but we have not taken any decision on the question of alliance."

He said the party was still discussing the alliance issue at various levels and would announce the final decision only at its General Council meeting, after the first week of February.

The PMK leader's remarks that the party has received feelers from other parties, giving an impression that the party might also renew its ties with the AIADMK, created confusion on the alliance scenario.

The PMK, which was making overtures to come back to the DMK fold for the assembly elections, had recently said it would stake claim for 50 seats, when it forged an alliance with a front. This was seen as a ruse to increase its bargaining power.

The PMK, which had contested 31 assembly seats in alliance with the DMK in the 2006 assembly elections, was forced to snap ties with the DMK, before the Lok Sabha elections.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha poll, the party had contested seven seats, in alliance with the AIADMK, but drew a blank. After the Lok Sabha elections, it walked out from the AIADMK alliance and tried in vain to form a third front with the support of the Congress and Vijayakanth's DMDK.

After it became clear that the third front was not possible, it showed signs of coming back to the DMK fold.

A fortnight ago also, Mr Karunanidhi had said the party had received signals from the PMK (for joining the DMK led alliance) and the DMK also responded to the signals.

Reacting to this, Dr Ramadoss said the party would announce its stand after the Pongal festival, but the party has not been able to take any decision for nearly a fortnight since then.

Sources in the DMK said the PMK was asking for a minimum of 50 seats, including 15 seats in the southern districts, to dispel the general impression that it had no base in the south and 35 seats in its strongholds in northern districts.


Indo-Lanka MoU to prevent attacks on fishermen: Rao

India and Sri Lanka proposed to conclude a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on contact and cooperation to provide a viable and permanent solution to prevent killing of fisheremen by the Sri Lankan Navy, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said today before leaving for Colombo for talks on the issue.

In a brief chat with the reporters at the airport, on her arrival here from Bangalore, en route to Colombo, she said she would try to find a "viable solution" to prevent the attacks on Indian fishermen by personnel of the Sri Lankan Navy.

"The Indian Government has deputed me to Colombo to discuss with officials there on the frequent attacks on and killings of Indian fishermen," she added.

Observing that two precious lives were lost in recent past, Ms Rao said it was a matter of concern for India.

"We must find a viable solution. We have some mechanism to discuss the matter with the Sri Lankan Government...We have a Joint working Group of fisheries," she said, adding both India and Sri Lanka proposed to conclude a MoU in regard to contact and cooperation in this field.

The MoU would also address the issue of fishermmen from each side, who happen to cross the maritime bounary to fish on the other side.

Stating that firing would never be a solution, she said, "We must urgently look at this matter, we must ensure that such incidents do not recur so that a peaceful atmosphere prevails between the two countries as far as fishing is concerned."


Karunanidhi leaves for New Delhi to meet Sonia, PM

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) President M Karunanidhi today left here for New Delhi on a three-day visit, in what is considered to be a politically significant trip aimed at strengthening the ties between the DMK and the Congress ahead of the crucial state sssembly elections due in May.

During his visit, Mr Karunanidhi will meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow.

He will attend the Chief Minister's Conference on Internal Security on February 1 and return to Chennai the same day.

Mr Karunanidhi is expected to take up a host of issues with the Centre, including the recent killing of Indian fishermen, allegedly by Sri Lankan Navy personnel.

Mr Karunanidhi is accompanied by Union Ministers Dayanidhi Maran and Jagatratchakan, State Ministers Ponmudi and Duraimurugan and DMK Rajya Sabha member K Kanimozhi.


Coir Board helping mechanisation of coir industry in Tamil Nadu

Coir Board Chairman V S Vijayaraghavan has said that the organisation was extending all possible help for the speedy mechanisation of the coir industry in Tamil Nadu, which has helped generate more employment among rural women and contributed to faster growth of exports.

He said the industry, spread over 22 districts of Tamil Nadu, was presently providing employment to over 200,000 people, a majority of them women, while its export earnings was worth Rs 200 crore last year.

Inaugurating the three-day Agri Expo 2011, organised jointly by the Pollachi Chamber of Commerce and the Coir Board at Pollachi in Tamil Nadu yesterday, Mr Vijayaraghavan exhorted the industry to concentrate more on value addition in exports rather than confining to export of raw materials like coir fibre and yarn.

In this context, strengthening closer relationship between the coir industries of Tamil Nadu and Kerala would vastly benefit both the domestic and export market while overcoming the raw material and labour requirements of the industry in general, he said.

About 70 stalls, showcasing the growth of the industry in the recent past, contributed by the latest technological developments, and helped by the centrally aided schemes available for the benefit of the industry, are the main attraction of the Agri Expo.

A seminar on coir and coir industry and a buyer- seller meet involving the coir yarn and fibre exporters of Tamil Nadu and Kerala’s export oriented coir sector, is also being held as part of the expo.

Mr Vijayaraghavan also launched the Common Facility Centre(CFC) under the Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries(SFURTI) at Gudiyatham in Vellore yesterday for the five coir clusters located at Gudiyatham, Pattukottai, Salem, Cuddallore and Periyakulam. While the CFC enjoyed 75 per cent grant through Coir Board, including Rs 15 lakh each for capacity building and market development, the five coir clusters also received government grants extending to Rs 75 lakh each with 20 per cent share participation contributed by Tamil Nadu government, leaving the beneficiaries to raise only 5 per cent investment share.


Sidelined AIADMK MLA Sekar Babu joins DMK

The ruling DMK got a boost ahead of the coming Assembly polls, with sidelined Opposition AIADMK MLA P K Sekar Babu joining the party in the presence of DMK President and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi here today.

Mr Sekar Babu called on Mr Karunanidhi at his Gopalapuram residence and formally joined the DMK along with his supporters.

The ground work for his joining the DMK was done two days back when Sekar Babu met Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin and expressed his desire to join the party.

Talking to reporters after a nearly one-hour long meeting with the DMK patriarch, Mr Sekar Babu, who was elected to the Tamil Nadu Assembly from Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency in North Chennai in the 2006 Assembly polls, said the AIADMK leadership had failed to respect the sentiments of the party's workers.

"There is no respect to loyal worker in the AIADMK," he added.

He said when he was left in the lurch by the AIADMK, the DMK extended its hands, embraced him and inducted him into the party.

Mr Sekar Babu said there was only one leader in the DMK. "But in the AIADMK there are several General Secretaries working under AIADMK General Secretary J Jayalalithaa and there is no respect for the loyal and sincere worker in the party," he charged.

He said he would strive for the victory of the DMK, which had launched various welfare schemes for the poor, in the Assembly polls due in May this year and Mr Karunanidhi would become the Chief Minister for a record sixth time.

Mr Sekar Babu said when he asked the Chief Minister as to what he should tell the waiting media, Mr Karunanidhi told him not to criticise Ms Jayalalithaa.

"This shows his noble qualities. Mr Karunanidhi is a noble man," he added.

Considered a strong leader in his constituency where he wielded considerable support among the masses, his exit from the AIADMK is seen as a major setback to that party, whereas it turned out to be a big boost to the DMK, ahead of the Assembly polls.

Mr Sekar Babu, one of the acerbic critics of the DMK, especially in the Assembly, was suddenly sidelined by the AIADMK when Ms Jayalalithaa removed him from the post of North Chennai District Secretary and replaced him with former Minister D Jayakumar, a few months ago.

Ever since she stripped him of the powerful party post and sidelined all his supporters, Mr Sekar Babu made vain bids to win back the confidence of Ms Jayalaithaa. He also made his supporters to stage protest demonstrations in front the AIADMK leader's Poes Garden residence, but the AIADMK leadership did not relent.

Mr Sekar Babu was the fifth senior AIADMK leader to join the DMK, following the footsteps of former Minister V Sathyamoorthy, and MLAs Anitha R Radhakrishnan (Tiruchendur), Mr L Radhakrishnan (Kovilpatti) and K Rajendran (Jayamkondam). Mr Sathyamoorthy had joined the DMK early last year.

Anitha Radhakrishnan, who was elected from Tiruchendur on AIADMK ticket, resigned the seat before joining the DMK. Later, the DMK fielded him as its candidate in the subsequent bypolls and he won the seat.

Kovilpatti Radhakrishnan and Rajendran had called on DMK President M Karunanidhi at his Gopalapuram residence and later attended the DMK General Council as special invitees.

Popular comedian and another AIADMK MLA S Ve Sekhar was also sidelined by the party. But he did not join any party, though he was seen closer with the DMK.


Sec 144 clamped in Uthapuram village of Tamil Nadu

A large number of policemen, including personnel of the Swift Action Force, were deployed and prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) were clamped in Uthapuram village in this district district, following Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front's (TNUEF) plan to organize a massive temple entry on January 31.

The CPI(M) and TNUEF had announced that they would organise the temple entry agitation in protest against the caste discrimination that prevents Dalits from entering into the Goddess Muthalamman Temple in Uthapuram village.

To ensure law and order, the district administration clamped Section 144 for 15 days with effect from midnight last night.

Meanwhile, in a joint statement, CPI(M) Urban District Secretary R Annadurai, party’s Rural District Secretary C Ramakrishnan and TNUEF Coordinator M Thangaraj urged the district administration to lift the prohibitory order and make arrangements for the temple entry by Dalits and people of all castes.

It was a Constitutional right of the Dalits to offer prayers at the public village temple but instead of guaranteeing the Dalit rights, the district administration had clamped the prohibitory order, they alleged.

CPI(M) State Secretary G Ramakrishnan will lead the temple entry.

A portion of a 600 metre-long-wall that separated a Dalit Colony from higher caste Hindus for nearly two decades in Uthapuram village, where Dalits outnumber higher caste people, was demolished on May 6, 2008, on the instructions of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi. The wall was built after a caste clash in 1989 on the basis of an agreement among leaders of the two communities.


Shopkeepers protest erection of VCK banners in Tiruchendur

A majority of shopkeepers and commercial establishments in the temple town of Tiruchendur and its surrounding areas downed shutters in Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu today.

The traders were protesting against the erection of huge banners and flex boards by Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) to welcome their leader Thol Thirumavalavan in and around Tiruchendur bus stand, which they alleged was disturbing their business activities.

The traders were also demanding action against policemen who used force to disperse the traders when they were observing a "road roko" agitation last evening, demanding removal of the banners.

A majority of shopkeepers in Tiruchendur, Arumuganeri, Udangudi, Kurumbur and Athur downed their shutters this morning. A large number of policemen were deployed in the sensitive areas to prevent any untoward incidents.

Tirumavalavan is scheduled to address a public meeting at Tiruchendur today to mark the second anniversary of the self-immolation of K Muthukumar (26), a journalist, who immolated himself for the Sri Lankan Tamil issue on January 29, 2009, in Chennai.


Lalit Modi refuses summons again, police mulling legal steps

Former Indian Premier League (IPL) Chairman Lalit Modi has refused summons for the second time on a criminal complaint filed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) about alleged financial irregularities and the city police is mulling moving the appropriate court for further action.

Chennai City Police Commissioner T Rajendran told reporters here today that second summons were issued asking Mr Modi and five others to appear before Central Crime Branch (CCB), probing the case, by the end of this month.

"One of the persons, Ajay Verma had appeared and gave his side of explanation. Others are expected by month end," he added.

He said Mr Modi had refused the summons and the CCB police would deal with it legally.

"Let us examine the other people first. Then we will take a decision on that. We can legally deal with it by approaching the court under Section 172 of the Indian Penal Code", he said.

The section relates to absconding to avoid service of summons or other proceedings.

The fresh summons were issued in the second week of this month after the earlier one issued on December 27, 2010, to Mr Modi was returned as refused.

Of the seven persons against whom summons were issued earlier, one Kunal Das Gupta had already appeared before the CCB and given his explanation on the complaint filed by the BCCI. Now Ajay Verma has appeared before the Police.

Others to whom fresh summons were issued are Venu Nair, Andrew Georgio, Seamus O'Brien and Harish Krishnamachar.

The CCB said investigations had revealed that some losses had been incurred by the BCCI over the handling of the IPL Media Rights and free commercial air time by Mr Modi.

The criminal complaint against Mr Modi and six others were lodged by BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan in October last year alleging misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs 469 crore by Mr Modi.

Acting on Mr Srinivasan's complaint, the CCB registered cases against Mr Modi under various sections of the IPC, including criminal conspiracy, forgery, criminal breach of trust, falsification of accounts and cheating.

The complaint was filed by Mr Srinivasan as a follow-up to BCCI's decision taken at its annual general meeting (AGM) in the last week of September 2010.

Mr Srinivasan, in his complaint, said various acts of Mr Modi attracted penal action under the IPC and accused him of misappropriating funds by rigging media rights bids and free commercial air time.

The main charges against Mr Modi pertained to media rights (misappropriation of Rs 425 crore), security issues (Rs 25 crore) and free commercial air time (Rs 29 crore).


Chennai Metro Rail in full swing, train services by 2013: Stalin

The 45-km-long ambitious Metro Rail Project, aimed at easing the growing traffic congestion in Chennai City, will be completed ahead of schedule and the train services would commence in two years, Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin said today.

Talking to reporters after reviewing the project works, he said the works were going on in full swing. The first phase train services on the elevated corridor between Koyambedu and St Thomas Mount would commence in 2013, he said.

Stating that the project was being implemented at a cost of Rs 14,600 crore, he said works to the tune of Rs 629 crore were completed.

Observing that the project was a landmark achievement for Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, he said the project was being implemented in two phases. Once fully operational by 2015, about six lakh people will commute under the project.

Mr Stalin said that, under the project, in all there would be 34 railway stations, 17 each on the 23.1 km long Washermanpet-Airport section and the 22.1 km Chennai Central-Annanagar-Koyambedu-St Thomas Mount corridor.

The first corridor is from Washermenpet via Broadway, Chennai Central Station, Ripon Building along Cooum River, Government Estate, Anna Salai, Spencers, Gemini, Saidapet, Guindy and Chennai Airport.

The second corridor is from Chennai Central along EVR Periyar Salai, Vepery, Kilpauk Medical College, Aminjikarai, Shenoy Nagar, Anna Nagar East, Tirumangalam, Koyambedu, Vadapalani, Ashok Nagar, SIDCO, Alandur and St Thomas Mount.

The portions of Corridor-1 with a length of 14.3 km from Washermanpet to Saidapet, and Corridor-2 with a length of 9.7 km from Chennai Central to Anna Nagar would be underground and the remainder elevated.

The project is aimed at providing the people of Chennai a fast, reliable, convenient, efficient, modern and economical mode of public transport, which was properly integrated with other forms of public and private transport including buses, suburban trains and MRTS.

The estimated cost of the project was Rs 16,000 crore. Of this, the Central and State Governments together would contribute about 41 per cent. The balance would be met through financial assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for which an agreement was signed in November 2008 at Tokyo.


Air India reintroduces Chennai-Thiruvananthapuram evening flight from February 1

National carrier Air India today said it would reintroduce an evening flight between Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram from February 1, 2011.

The flight IC 912 will leave Chennai at 1820 hours and reach Thiruvananthapuram at 1930 hours. The flight from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai IC 911 will take off at 16.20 hours and reach Chennai at 17.35 hours.

The morning flight IC 909 will leave Chennai at 0855 hours and reach Thiruvananthapuram via Bangalore at 1115 hours. The flight IC 909 will leave Thiruvananthapuram at 0700 hours and arrive Chennai at 0855 hours.

The introduction of the evening flight provides day return facility between Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram, a press release from the airline said.


Train services in TN affected as Rockfort Express hits truck

Train services were hit and at least 15 express trains suffered a delay of more than five hours when the Rockfort Express hit a truck at an unmanned level crossing, killing the driver at Kenipattu, near here after midnight last night.

Police said the truck was returning after unloading mud at the track laying site, when the Rockfort Express from Chennai to Kumbakonam rammed into it at around 0030 hrs, killing the driver Raju (22) on the spot.

As one of the wheels of the truck got stuck in the engine, the train came to a halt after travelling a distance of about two km, bringing traffic in the sector to a grinding halt. Train services were resumed at 0530 hrs, after a delay of about five hours.

The driver of the truck was married last year. He is survived by his wife Geetha and a 20-day-old baby, police said.


Congress MLA M Varadan passes away in Tamil Nadu

As the 12th Tamil Nadu Assembly draws to a close, one more MLA, Polur M Varadan of Congress party, died here this morning after a brief illness.

Varadan, who twice got elected to the state assembly from Chengam (Reserved) constituency in 1991 and 2006, was undergoing treatment in a private hospital and died this morning, party sources said.

He was 59. He is survived by his wife and a daughter. A senior leader, Varadan was General Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee and member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC).

Varadan was the third Congress legislator to die before completing the full term in the recent past. The party had lost its floor leader D Sudarsanam in June and S Jayapaul in July last year.

With the death Mr Varadan, the strength of the Congress in the state assembly has come down to 33.


Tuticorin Port Trust in Tamil Nadu to be renamed after V O Chidambaranar

The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal to rename the Tuticorin Port Trust in Tamil Nadu after the late freedom fighter V O Chidambaranar, who had launched the first indigenous Indian shipping service between Tuticorin and Colombo in 1906.

Ports in India are generally named after the city or the town in which they are situated. However, the Government, in special cases, after due consideration have renamed ports after great leaders in the past.

There have been frequent demands from several quarters in Tamil Nadu to rename Tuticorin Port Trust as V.O. Chidambaranar Port Trust.

V.O. Chidambaranar Pillai (5th September, 1872 – 18th November, 1936) hailed from Ottapidararn near Tuticorin,

As part of the "swadeshi" movement, he started the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company, procured two ships and launched the first indigenous Indian shipping service between Tuticorin and Colombo in 1906. He was an erudite scholar in Tamil, a prolific writer, a fiery speaker, a trade union leader of unique calibre and a dauntless freedom fighter.

By renaming the Tuticorin Port Trust after him, the nation would be remembering the invaluable contribution made by him, an official press release added.


4 Buddhist monks injured in attack in Chennai

An injured monk after unidentified persons attacked Sri Lankan Buddha Vihar last night, in Chennai on January 25, 2011. UNI PHOTO
An injured monk after unidentified persons attacked Sri Lankan Buddha Vihar last night, in Chennai on January 25, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Four Buddhist monks were injured when a ten-member gang trespassed into the Maha Bodh Society and attacked them in the Egmore area of the city last night.

The incident, which took place in the Maha Bodh Society, located right opposite the Chennai City Police Commisioner's office, led to tension in the area.

The attack appeared to be a sequel to the frequent attacks on Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy personnel and comes close on the heels of the killing of a disabled fishermen from Vedarnayam in the high seas two days ago.

The gang, which barged into the society premises, indulged in arson as they damaged the furniture in the reception. They also damaged television sets and vandalised statues before turning their ire on the monks who were staying there.

Police sources said at least four monks were injured in the attack by the gang, who also shouted slogans denouncing the killing of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Lankan Navy.

Meanwhile, security has been tightened in the Society and in all the installations housing Sri Lankan offices.

Tight security arrangements were made at the Bank of Ceylon, the Maha Bodh Society and at the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in the city as various organisations have announced agitations to protest the killing of fishermen.


HMK activists held for trying to picket Chidambaram's house in TN

About 50 activists of Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK) and some women fisherfolk from Kasimedu area in North Chennai were arrested when they tried to picket the residence of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in the city today.

The agitation, organised by the fisheries wing of the HMK, was to condemn the Centre for its failure to prevent the frequent attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel.

The HMK workers and some fisherwomen assembled in front of Shastri Bhavan on College Road to take out a march to Mr Chidambaram's residence at Pycrofts Garden Road, when police arrested them. Mr Chidambaram's house is just a stone's from Shastri Bhavan.

As various organisations have announced agitations to condemn the killing of fishermen, heavy police pickets were posted in front of the Union Minister's House. Security has also been tightened at the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission office in the city as some outfits, including the Socialist Democratic Party of India, had announced a picketing agitation.

The HMK activists shouted slogans denouncing the Centre for failing to take steps to prevent killing of fishermen by the Lankan Navy, before they were bundled into the waiting police vehicle.

The agitation comes a day after a fisherman from Vedaranyam in Nagapattinam district was allegedly strangulated to death in the sea by men of the Sri Lankan Navy.

Meanwhile, reports received here said tension continued to prevail in Vedaranayam as fishermen did not venture into the sea for the second successive day to condemn the killing of fisherman Jayakumar yesterday.

Jayakumar was the second fisherman to be allegedly killed by the Sri Lankan Navy in less than ten days. On January 12, the Lankan Navy shot dead a fishermen, hailing from Jegadhapattinam village in Pudukottai district.


India strongly condemns killing of fisherman by Sri Lankan Naval personnel

India today expressed its strong and unequivocal condemnation of the alleged killing of an Indian fisherman - the second in ten days - by Sri Lankan Naval personnel last night.

"We have received reports of the tragic killing of another Indian fisherman allegedly due to use of force by Sri Lankan Navy personnel," the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Vishnu Prakash, said.

He said External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had expressed the Government's strong and unequivocal condemnation of this violent incident and conveyed his deep sympathies to the family of the deceased.

Mr Prakash said that, on receiving the news, the Government had immediately raised the matter with the Sri Lankan Government both in New Delhi and in Colombo.

"The Sri Lankan Government was requested to seriously investigate this incident and ensure that it does not recur. We have stressed that use of force must be eschewed in all such situations and have reiterated that the welfare and the safety of our fishermen in the waters between India and Sri Lanka will continue to receive very high priority by Government. The October 2008 Understanding reached between the two governments must be scrupulously adhered to in letter and spirit," Mr Prakash added.


2 children drown in pond in Tamil Nadu

A 12-year-old girl and her younger brother met a watery grave while taking bath in a pond at Moongiloorani village near Manamadurai, here today.

Police said the deceased were identified as A Sangeetha and A Pandidurai (7).

While taking bath, Pandidurai drowned and on seeing this, Sangeetha attempted to save her brother. But she also drowned in the pond.

The bodies were fished out by the locals and sent to the Government Hospital at Manamadurai for post-mortem examination, police added.


Mukherjee assures Karunanidhi of action to end attacks on fishermen

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee calling on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi at his Gopalapuram residence, in Chennai on January 23, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee calling on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi at his Gopalapuram residence, in Chennai on January 23, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today assured Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi that the Centre would take up with the Sri Lankan Government the issue of recurring attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Talking to newspersons after a meeting with Mr Karunanidhi at the latter's Gopalapuram residence here this morning, he said the External Affairs Ministry would be asked to take up the issue of the killing of fishermen with the Sri Lankan government.

Mr Mukherjee said India had very good relations with the Sri Lankan government and was helping them in rehabilitating the internally displaced Tamils. There was no reason why the Lankan Navy should resort to such attacks, he said.

If the Indian fishermen do something wrong, they could be arrested and proceeded with due legal process, he said, adding "there is no point in justifying shooting at Indian fishermen by the Lankan Navy".

Mr Mukherjee warned that the relations between India and Sri Lanka would get strained if the island nation's government did not ask its Navy to stop the attacks on Indian fishermen.

He said the External Affair Minister would contact his Sri Lankan counterpart and prevail upon him to stop such attacks on Indian fishermen. The Indian envoy in Colombo would also be asked to take up the issue with the Lankan government, he said.

Mr Mukherjee said Mr Karunanidhi was very much worried that two fishermen were killed by the Lankan Navy in the past ten days.

Expressing his anguish and grief over the killing of fishermen, the Chief Minister asked the Finance Minister to ensure that such incidents did not recur in future, an official press release said.

The Centre should talk to the Sri Lankan government and take proper steps to prevent the attacks. The Centre should also prevail upon the Lankan government to take action against the Naval personnel, who had resorted to firing and attacks, he said.

Mr Karunanidhi brought to the notice of Mr Mukherjee that a 28-year-old fisherman from Nagapattinam district was allegedly killed by Lankan Navy personnel last night when he was fishing along with two other fishermen, the press release said.

Yesterday, the Indian Coast Guard Eastern Region Commandant S P Sharma met the Chief Minister and assured that all necessary steps would be taken to prevent attacks on fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel in future.

However, hours after the Coast Guard official gave the assurance, Jayakumar of Puzhpavanam village in Nagapattinam district was allegedly killed by Lankan Navy personnel.

He was the second fishermen to be killed by the Lankan Navy during this month. On January 12, the Lankan Navy had allegedly shot dead a fisherman and caused injuries to another fisherman.

On the night of January 21, the Lankan Navy personnel allegedly attacked a group of Indian fishermen and seized their GPRS gadgets and their catch, while they were fishing at mid sea.


Another Tamil Nadu fisherman allegedly killed by Sri Lankan Navy men

A fisherman from Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu was allegedly killed by Sri Lankan Navy personnel late last night, United News of India (UNI) reported today.

Jayakumar, 28, of Puzhpavanam village, near Vedaranyam in Nagapattinam district, had set out for fishing along with two other fishermen yesterday morning.

While the three were fishing on the high seas around 2300 hrs last night, the Sri Lankan Navy personnel intercepted their boats and attacked them, killing Jayakumar.

The other two escaped and returned to the shore, the report quoted an official press release issued by the State Government here as saying.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi announced a solatium of Rs 5 lakhs to the family of the fisherman.

Expressing grief and conveying condolences to the bereaved family, the Chief Minister ordered the solatium to the family of Jayakumar, the release said.

This was the second such incident in ten days. On the night of January 12, a fisherman, R Pandiyan, 25, from Pudukottai district of Tamil Nadu, was allegedly shot dead and another injured by Sri Lankan Navy personnel near the controversial Katchatheevu Island.

According to a UNI report from Vedaranyam, Jayakumar and the other fishermen were fishing in the sea around 2300 hours when their boat was intercepted allegedly by about ten Sri Lankan Navy personnel who attacked them.

Two fishermen Rajendran and Senthil, who survived the attack, came to the shore with the body of Jayakumar and narrated details of what had happened.

According to them, after dashing against their fishing boat, the Sri Lankan Naval personnel asked them to jump into the sea. While Rajendran and Senthil did so, Jayakumar, Senthil's brother, who had a deformity in his hand and could not swim properly, remained in the boat.

As Jayakumar did not obey them, a naval personnel got into the fishing boat and tied a rope around Jayakumar's neck and pushed him into the sea.

Even as he was struggling for life, the naval personnel pulled him around with the rope, drowning him in a brutal manner, the two fishermen said.

Meanwhile, Marumalarchi DMK (MDMK) General Secretary Vaiko, condemning the killing, urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take effective steps to stop the attack on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Lankan Navy.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Vaiko, who met Dr Singh yesterday, said unless the Centre gave a stern warning to the Lankan government, the people of Tamil Nadu would be forced to come to a conclusion that the Indian Navy and the Centre deliberately failed in thier duty to protect the fishermen.

"With deep anguish I point out that if further attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Lankan Navy are continued, then the UPA Government of India would be held responsible for the killing of Tamil Nadu fishermen," he said.


27, including 10 college students, hurt in Tamil Nadu bus mishap

As many as 27 people were injured in a collision between a private college bus and a Tamil Nadu State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) bus at Kovilvenni on the Nagapattinam-Thanjavur Highway in Tiruvarur district this morning.

Reports received at the state headquarters here said the injured included ten college students travelling in the college bus.

All the injured were admitted to Tiruvarur Government Hospital, the reports said.

The students, studying in Kodachery Poondi Sri Veeraiah Vandayar Memorial Pushpam College, were going to the college when the mishap occurred.

The SETC bus was proceeding to the temple town of Velankanni in Nagapattinam district from Bangalore.


4 killed, 14 hurt in firecracker unit explosion in Tamil Nadu

At least four people were charred to death in an explosion at a fireworks manufacturing unit at Mudalipatti village in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu today.

Police sources in Virudhunagar told UNI over the telephone that, according to initial reports, four people were killed in the explosion that occurred at around 1130 hrs.

Preliminary reports said more than 15 people were working in the Rajesh Khanna Fireworks Manufacturing unit, situated near Periyavalliyur at Mudalipatti village, under Vachakarapatti police station limits, when the explosion occurred.

Reports received at the police headquarters here said at least 14 people were injured in the explosion, which had razed the entire building to the ground.

Fire service personnel, ambulances and senior police officials from the district rushed to the spot to supervise the relief and rescue works.

The impact of the explosion was such that it was heard upto a distance of one km and thick smoke engulfed the entire area.


Will take more responsibilities if given bigger post: Azhagiri

Union Minister and Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) South Zone Organising Secretary M K Azhagiri today said he would accept more responsibilities in the coming Assembly elections if the party offerred him a bigger post.

In a brief chat with newspersons at the airport here before leaving for New Delhi, he said, "I will not ask for any post. If they offer, I will accept the same."

He was replying to a question whether he was being given a bigger post apart from South Zone Organising Secretary in the coming Assembly elections.

"I am already a Union Minister and South Zone Organising Secretary of the party," he said.

Mr Azhagiri evaded a direct reply when asked about reports that he had handed over resignation letters to his father and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi offering to quit the party post and step down from the Union Cabinet.

"The Chief Minister has already given a detailed explanation on this. I have nothing more to say," he said.

Asked whether the DMK would get an additional berth in the Union Cabinet, he said, "I am not the Prime Minister to answer this question."

Answering a question, he denied having demanded that the DMK should sack former Communications Minister A Raja for his alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scam.

"I have not made such demands. This is only a campaign launched by the media," he said.

Showing signs of rapproachement, Mr Azhagiri yesterday had called on Mr Karunanidhi, his father, at his Gopalapuram residence here.

This was the first time that Mr Azhagiri had called on his father after reports surfaced early this month that he was not happy with party affairs, especially in southern districts and offered to resign, both from the party post and from the Union Cabinet.

Mr Azhagiri was also reported to be unhappy with the party's handling of the 2G spectrum issue, refusing to distance itself from Mr Raja.

However, Mr Karunanidhi, reacting to reports that the Madurai-based Mr Azhagiri had handed over the resignation letters to him, had said "they were only media reports" and denied his son had given him any such letters.


Child falls off grandma's lap in Chennai, dies

A two-and-half-year-old girl fell from her grandmother's lap after being jolted by high decibel levels during fireworks to mark the culmination of the annual Chennai Sangamam Festival at Wimco Nagar near the Northern Chennai suburb of Ennore last night.

Police said the child suffered head injuries and died at a private hospital around 0100 hrs.

Chennai Sangamam is an annual programme held during the Pongal festivities to promote the rural and traditional folk arts of Tamil Nadu.

Being organised through an NGO, Tamil Maiyam, that came under the CBI scanner following the 2G spectrum scam, the Sangamam, was the brainchild of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's poetess daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP.

Venkatesan and Kalpana had brought their daughter Bhavanisri to witness the Chennai Sangamam festival. The child was sitting on her grandmother's lap. They were sitting in an elevated area close to a giant loud speaker erected at the venue.

As the fireworks lit the skies and bursting of crackers followed, the decibel level went high following which the child got rattled and fell down.

The elderly woman could not react in time and the child's head hit a concrete slab. The child sustained head injuries and was rushed to a local hospital from where she was shifted to Child's Trust Hospital in the city, where she died in the wee hours today, according to Ennore Police Station Inspector Nedumaran.


5 killed as car rams into another car in Tamil Nadu

Five people were killed and three injured when a car rammed into the rear of a stationary car at Thoramanvalam village near here today.

Police said the deceased were identified as Vellaisamy, Srinivasan, Satyamurthi, Pushparaj and Selvam.

The incident occurred when the deceased and the injured were attempting to replace a flat tyre of their car.

While Vellusamy and Srinivasan were killed on the spot, three others succumbed to injuries at Government Hospital here. The injured were admitted in the same hospital.


Kerala authorities release partial list of Sabarimala stampede victims

Following is the partial list of those killed in yesterday's stampede near here involving Sabarimala pilgrims:

1.  Ajukumar(34), Pollachi, Tamil Nadu
2.  Ananth Solar(16), Belgam, Karanataka
3.  Anmaparsu(22), Dharapuram, Tamil Nadu 
4.  Aravindahan Majeriya, Andra Pradesh 
5.  Arul(20), S/o Ramachnadra, Madurai, Tamil Nadu 
6.  Arun(20), Medtak, Andra Pradesh 
7.  Ayyappan(30), Dharamapuri, Tamil Nadu 
8.  Babu, Prakash Nagar, Mysore, Karanataka 
9.  Balu (Balraj) Thirunelvelly, Tamil Nadu 
10. Balu, Balagi, S/o Lekshmanan, Thirupathi, Andra pradesh 
11. Basu Gokkat, Karanataka 
12. Chandhu (32), Belgam, Karanataka 
13. Ellappa Durgappa (26), Ellar, Belgam, Karnataka 
14. Govindaraj, Mettupalaym, Tamil Nadu 
15. Greenu(26), Housur, Nelkonda, Andra Pradesh 
16. Gudhi(30), (Praveen), Karnataka 
17. K Ramar, Thriuvannamali, Tamil Nadu 
18. Kalimani(31), Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu 
19. Korukutty, Vengara Malappuram, Kerala 
20. Krishnan, Dharmapuri, Potty Tamil Nadu 
21. Krishnanprasad(34), Chennai, Tamil Nadu 
22. Madhu, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 
23. Maheshwar(26), S/o Lingappa Dharvada, Karnataka 
24. Maleswar(26), Gurghatti, Karanataka
25. Manjunath(21), Dharsak, Karanataka 
26. Murukesh(50), Meloor, Ootty, Tamil Nadu 
27. Nagarajan(26), Kaveri Nagar, Bangalore, Karanataka 
28. Nanguganesh(30), Andhra Pradesh 
29. P Churuli, Andhra Pradesh 
30. P N Unnikrishnan(48), Putiyakavu, Thripunitara, Kerala 
31. P Ramu, Mavettilnagaram, Andhra Pradesh 
32. Padbanabhan(46), Palakkad, Kerala 
33. Prasanth(44), Selam, Tamil Nadu
34. Purushotham(45), Gokat, Karnataka 
35. Rajarethinam(30), Pollachi, Tamil Nadu 
36. Rajkumar(30), Meloor, Ooty, Tamil Nadu 
37. Raju, Onkala Dt, Andhra Pradesh 
38. Ramachandra, S/o Muthuthevar, Madurai, Tamil Nadu 
39. Ramakrishnan(65), Coimbatoor, Tamil Nadu 
40. Ramar(25), Goodallor, Tamil Nadu 
41. Rambasu Redddy, Andhra Pradesh 
42. S Aravind(23), Vijyavada, Andhra Pradesh 
43. Sarvesham Ramanattu(31), Karinagar, Andhra Pradesh 
44. Seetharam(26), Gokka, Karnataka 
45. Selvaraj Ayya   
46. Selvaraj(38), Thirnelvelly, Tamil Nadu 
47. Servegam, S/o Rajamallia Udoor Village, Karnataka 
48. Sidhuram, Kudak, Karnataka 
49. Sivalinga Iyya(16), Murukkottumedu, Karanataka 
50. Sreenu Huzur, Andhra Pradesh 
51. Subramaniyan(35), Chinnakachipuram, Tamil Nadu   
52. Subramaniyan(38), Dhanavakpuram, Karnataka 
53. Suresh, Mysore, Karanataka 
54. Teepesh(26), Bellary, Karanataka 
55. Thankkam, C/o Karuppya 3 cent, Thoothukkudy Tamil Nadu 
56. Unnikrishnan, Trippunithara, Kerala 
57. Ushakanth(26), Sri Lanka 
58. Venketesh Parasuram(28), Belgam Karnataka 
59. Venkida Subbaya57), Pullampettu, Medal, Kadappa, Andhra Pradesh
60. Vishunumoorthy(25), Basuragu, Karanataka .


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