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Tamil Nadu

Death toll in Chennai building collapse rises to eight, more feared trapped under debris

The death toll in the collapse of an 11-storeyed under-construction building in Chennai on Saturday evening has risen to eight, official sources said, even as search and rescue operations continued round-the-clock at the scene of the tragedy.

 
Death toll in Chennai building collapse rises to 8
The death toll in the collapse of an 11-storeyed under-construction building here yesterday evening has risen to eight, official sources said, even as search and rescue operations continued round-the-clock at the scene of the tragedy.
 
Chennai Commissioner of Police S George told NetIndian over the telephone that 18 others had been rescued from the debris and admitted to nearby hospitals for treatment of injuries.
 
Several more people are feared trapped under the rubble, with the authorities estimating that upto 72 people -- mainly workers -- were at the site when the structure came down.
 
Four of the deceased were women, he said, adding that efforts to extricate those trapped would continue without let.
 
The building was part of a two-building project launched at Moulivakkam near Porur on the outskirts of the city by a Madurai-based real estate developer, sources said. It came down around 5.30 pm during heavy rains that were lashing the area at that time. The cause of the collapse could not be immediately established.
 
Four people -- the property developer, his son and two engineers -- have been detained by the police and are being questioned in connection with the incident, sources said.
 
Personnel of the Fire and Rescue Services, police and other emergency services had reached the spot immediately and have been working without a break since then to bring out those believed caught under debris.
 
Scores of rescue workers could be seen using gas cutters to cut through the iron rods and hammers and cranes and other equipment to lift or break up the concrete slabs.
 
Teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had also joined the search and rescue efforts.
 
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa issued instructions to the police to initiate action against those responsible for the incident. She sent Animal Husbandry Minister T K M Chinniah to oversee the rescue and relief efforts.
 
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1 killed, several trapped as 11-storeyed under-construction building collapses in Chennai

 
Chennai building collapse: One dead and several trapped
At least one person was killed and about 50 others were feared trapped when an 11-storeyed under-construction building collapsed at Moulivakkam near Porur here this evening, official sources said.
 
As many as 11 people had been rescued from the debris and rushed to nearby hospitals, where the condition of one of them was stated to be serious.
 
Personnel of the Fire and Rescue Services and other emergency services reached the spot immediately and began the task of extricating those trapped in the rubble. Scores of rescue workers could be seen using gas cutters to cut through the iron rods and trying to break up the concrete slabs.
 
The structure collapsed around 5.30 pm when rains were lashing the area. The cause of the collapse could not be established immediately. The building was part of a two-building project launched by a real estate developer.
 
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa issued instructions to the police to initiate action against those responsible for the incident. She sent Animal Husbandry Minister T K M Chinniah to oversee the rescue and relief efforts.
 
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Rosaiah to hold additional charge of Karnataka Governor's post

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President Pranab Mukherjee today appointed Mr K Rosaiah, the Governor of Tamil Nadu, to discharge the functions of the Governor of Karnataka, in addition to his own duties.
 
The arrangement will continue until a successor is appointed to Karnataka Governor Hans Raj Bhardwaj, who will complete his tenure tomorrow.
 
Similar, the President has appointed Mr Vakkom Purushothaman, Governor of Mizoram, to discharge the functions of the Governor of Tripura, in addition to his own duties, until regular arrangements for the office of the Governor of Tripura are made vice Mr Devanand Konwar, who completes his tenure tomorrow.
 
A press communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan also said that the President had accepted the resignation of Mr Ashwani Kumar as Governor of Nagaland.
 
Mr Krishant Kant Paul, Governor of Meghalaya, has been appointed to discharge the functions of the Governor of Nagaland, in addition to his own duties, until regular arrangements for the office of the Governor of Nagaland are made, it added.
 
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L&T Technology Services forms JV with Thales to strengthen Avionics Business

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L&T Technology Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T), today said it had purchased 74% of the equity capital of Thales Software India Pvt. Ltd., the Indian subsidiary of Thales, the global technology leader in aerospace, transportation and defence and security markets.
 
With this transaction, L&T Technology Services will now manage and oversee the management control, operations and delivery of services of the new joint venture, a press release from the company said.
 
"The joint venture brings together the strategic strengths of both the groups. By retaining 26% equity stake, Thales will help the company develop the latest trends in the avionics industry, one of its core businesses. This collaboration adds to L&T Technology Services’ growing competencies by enhancing its expertise in high-end avionic software," it said.
 
The release said the joint venture capitalises on the existing strong relationship between the two groups, L&T and Thales and ensures a long term partnership in the engineering services domain. 
 
"Furthermore, the transaction should enable Thales to select this new group as its Indian offset partner, resulting in inflow of offset related revenues in the joint venture," it said.
 
Dr Keshab Panda, Chief Executive, L&T Technology Services, said: “We as an organisation are at an interesting phase of our journey where we are streamlining our expertise and strengthening our knowledge. In such a phase joining hands with Thales adds to our proficiency in the market."
 
Mr Eric Lenseigne, Managing Director of Thales in India said: “This JV is a reflection of our commitment to India and our objective to strengthen our industrial footprint in the country. In addition, this collaboration with L&T Technology Services brings on-board a seamless integration of all elements and assures our customers quality service and the highest level of long-term, local product support. We are sure that together we would build on our expertise and provide our customers with world-class technology and services.”
 
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Central deputation of Shashi Shekhar extended by six months

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The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved extension of central deputation tenure in respect of Mr Shashi Shekhar, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Environment & Forests, for a period of six months beyond June 28.
 
Mr Shekhar is an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1981 batch (Tamil Nadu cadre).
 
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After Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa flays Centre's move on use of Hindi on social media

File photo of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that two office memoranda issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the use of Hindi in official accounts of Government departments on social media were against the letter and spirit of the Official Languages Act, 1963, a day after her predecessor and DMK leader M Karunanidhi flayed the Centre for the move.
 
"Hence, I request you to kindly ensure that instructions are suitably modified to ensure that English is used on social media," she said in her letter.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa referred in the letter to the office memoranda issued by the Official Language Department of the Ministry on March 10, 2014 and by the Coordination Division of the Ministry on May 27, 2014, a day after the Narendra Modi government was sworn in.
 
She said these office memoranda directed that official accounts on social media like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google and You Tube which at present use only English should compulsorily use Hindi, or both Hindi and English, with Hindi being written above or first. 
 
"This makes the use of Hindi mandatory and English optional. As you are aware, as per the Official Languages Rules, 1976, communications from a Central Government office to a State or Union Territory in Region 'C' or to any office (not being a Central Government office) or person in such State shall be in English. 
 
"This provision has been introduced following the introduction of a mandatory proviso to Section 3(1) of the Official Languages Act, 1963, by an amendment in 1968 which states as follows:- 
 
“'Provided that the English language shall be used for purposes of communication between the Union and a State which has not adopted Hindi as its official language,' "the letter said.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa said that, in this context, while the office memoranda had been primarily made applicable to Government of India officers and offices located in “Region A”, social media by their very nature are not only accessible to all persons on the internet but meant to be a means of communication to persons living in all parts of India including those in “Region C”. 
 
People located in “Region C” with whom the Government of India communication needs to be in English, will not have access to such public information if it is not in English. 
 
"This move would therefore be against the letter and spirit of the Official Languages Act, 1963. As you are aware, this is a highly sensitive issue and causes disquiet to the people of Tamil Nadu who are very proud of and passionate about their linguistic heritage," she added.
 
She also reiterated the long-standing demand of the people of Tamil Nadu for making Tamil an official language of India. She also recalled that she had earlier urged him that all the languages included in the VIII Schedule of the Constitution of India be declared as official languages of India.
 
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"If this request is fulfilled the use of all official languages on social media can be encouraged," she added.
 
Yesterday, Mr Karunanidhi had taken strong exception to the Home Ministry memoranda and described it as a “first step towards relegating non-Hindi speaking people to second-class citizen status.”
 
In a statement read out to the media, he said the attempt to accord priority to Hindi, instead of treating equally all languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, would amount to treating non-Hindi speaking people as secondary citizens.
 
Mr Karunanidhi said such moves would only divert the nation's attention from key issues.
 
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Jayalalithaa urges PM to set up Cauvery Management Board immediately

File photo of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.
Clearly upset with the Centre for not setting up the Cauvery Management Board so far, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, exhorting him to form it immediately so that the"legitimate rights" of the farmers of her state are protected.
 
In her six-page letter, which also has a 25-page annexure, Ms Jayalalithaa has stressed that the constitution of the Board was not optional, but an integral part of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal's (CWDT) final order itself, which has been notified.
 
"Therefore, as a natural corollary and as an extension of the notification, the Cauvery Management Board should have been formed by the erstwhile Congress-led UPA Central Government. However, the erstwhile Congress-led Central Government dragged its feet for political considerations and did not form the Cauvery Management Board until it demitted office," she said.
 
"In this context, I would like to bring to your notice that the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, in Chapters 7 and 8 of the Final Order, has mandated the formation of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC), with its composition and functions, particularly in Chapter 8 at pages 216 to 236. Therefore, the formation of the CMB and CWRC is an integral part of the Final Order of the Tribunal," the letter said.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa had met Mr Modi here on June 3 when she had presented a memorandum to him detailing, among other things, the importance of constituting the CMB and the CWRC immediately.
 
"I was given to understand that steps are being taken by the Government of India and matters were proceeding satisfactorily for the present," she said.
 
She said that, since then, Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers Ananth Kumar, a prominent BJP leader from Karnataka, had been quoted in the media as saying that there was no proposal by the Union Government to form the CMB.
 
She said that, two days later, there was another statement by Union Minister for Urban Development M Venkaiah Naidu who also said there was no such proposal before the Centre.
 
"However, I am now compelled to write this letter, which has been necessitated by the meeting you had with an all party delegation from Karnataka led by the Chief Minister of Karnataka, who submitted a memorandum to you. This memorandum which is replete with 
prevarications and misleading statements is aimed at making the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal itself nugatory. 
 
"This is something which I could not ignore and I am constrained to point out the trials and tribulations faced by Tamil Nadu to get its legitimate and due share of water from a recalcitrant, upper riparian State, which considers itself as having a natural superior right over all the waters of the inter-State river Cauvery," she said.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa dwelt at length on the background of the dispute and on the proceedings before the CWDT as well as in the Supreme Court.
 
The tribunal, after 16 years of proceedings, pronounced its Final Order on 5.2.2007 and allocated 270 TMC ft to Karnataka, 30 TMC ft to Kerala, 419 TMC ft to Tamil Nadu and 7 TMC ft to Puducherry. 
 
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The Tribunal has also prescribed an annual quantity of 192 TMC ft. of water to be ensured at the inter-State border, presently identified as Billigundulu, as per the prescribed monthly pattern from June of every year to May of next year. 
 
She recalled that, after she assumed office for the third time as Chief Minister in May 2011, she had made efforts to get the final order of the tribunal notified, and it was done on February 19, 2013 after a long legal battle in the apex court.
 
"However, the Central Government cannot rest with the mere notification of the final order but has the constitutional duty and responsibility to constitute a scheme under Section 6A of the Act, viz., the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee, immediately following the publication of the final order as mandated therein, so that the said final order is implemented in all respects," she stressed.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa urged Mr Modi to overrule the objections raised by the Government of Karnataka in this regard.
 
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Modi assures Jayalalithaa of all steps to secure release of Indian abducted in Afghanistan

Alexis Prem Kumar
Alexis Prem Kumar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa that his government would take all possible steps to secure the safe and early release of Father Alexis Prem Kumar, an Indian Jesuit priest who was kidnapped by suspected militants in the Herat province of Afghanistan earlier this month.
 
Fr Prem Kumar, 47, works for the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), an international NGO working for refugees throughout the world, and has been in Afghanistan for the past four years as the country head of the organisation.
 
Mr Modi's assurance came in his reply to a written to him by Ms Jayalalithaa on June 4, urging him to personally intervene and take up the matter at the highest level in Afghanistan
 
"I too am deeply concerned by the abduction of Father Alexis Prem Kumar in 
Herat province of Afghanistan. I have been assured that the Government of Afghanistan and the authorities in Herat are taking every possible step to ensure the early release of Father Prem Kumar," he said.
 
Mr Modi said the Indian Ambassador in Kabul had been in regular touch with the Afghan President's Office and the security agencies in Afghanistan.
 
"My National Security Adviser has also spoken to the Afghan National Security Adviser, who has assured full and sustained efforts by the Afghan Government to seek Father Prem Kumar’s release. 
 
"As you would fully appreciate, this is an extremely delicate situation and our primary concern at this stage is to ensure the integrity of the ongoing efforts for Father Prem Kumar’s release and to ensure that he does not come to 
harm. I can assure you that the Government will spare no effort for the safe and earliest possible release of Father Prem Kumar. I will continue to monitor the situation very closely," he added.
 
Fr. Prem Kumar, an Indian from Tamil Hadu, is was reportedly kidnapped while accompanying teachers on a visit to a JRS-supported school for returnee refugees in Sohadat township, 34 km from Herat.
 
Before moving to Afghanistan, Fr.Prem Kumar had worked for the JRS, serving Sri Lankan refugees living in Tamil Nadu. 
 
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Kudankulam Unit-1 attains full power of 1000 MW

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The public sector Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NCPIL) today said that Unit-1 of the Kudankulam Atomic Power Project in Tamil Nadu, the largest nuclear power reactor in the country, attained its full power of 1000 MW at 1320 hours today.
 
The unit is operating smoothly and all the operating parametrers are normal, as per specification, a press release from NPCIL said.
 
The unit had been connected to the southern grid on October 22, 2013 and its power level was gradually raised in steps in accordance with the clearances accorded by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
 
At each step, various steps were conducted and, after review of the results, clearances for the next step were issued by the AERB, the release said.
 
At full power, specific tests will be conducted and the reports submitted to the AERB for review and final clearance for continued operation of the unit at full power.
 
Kudankulam 1 and 2 (2X1000 MW), set up in technical cooperation with Russia, have a combination of multi-layered safety features, the release said.
 
At 1000 MW, Kundankulam Unit-1 is the single largest power generating unit in the country. The unit has generated 1900 million units of power till today, since its connection to the grid, the release added.
 
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Jaya meets PM, talks about inter-state rivers, fishermen, Sri Lankan Tamils

 
Jayalalithaa meets PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his South Block office here today and raised several issues related to her state such as inter-state river water sharing, including the Cauvery and Mullaiperiyar, Sri Lankan Tamils and Tamil Nadu fishermen.
 
This was Ms Jayalalithaa's first meeting with Modi after the latter assumed office as Prime Minister on May 26 and she greeted him by presenting him with a bouquet of flowers. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) described it as a "courtesy call".
 
During the 50-minute meeting, she handed over to Mr Modi a memorandum listing various issues of concern to Tamil Nadu, including grant of the grant of the Digital Addressable System license for the Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation; infrastructure projects, specifically power, urban infrastructure and services, Metro rail transport; industrial infrastructure, modernisation of the state police; and declaration of Tamil as an official language.
 
Among other issues, the memorandum dealt with Centre - State fiscal relations including shortfall in releases of grants due to the State, redesign of Centrally Sponsored Schemes, issues relating to Goods and Services Tax and compensation for Central Sales Tax.
 
The memorandum also highlighted the need for protection of the interests of poor, rural students, particularly those from the Scheduled Castes.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa explained the various issues in brief and stressed they were crucial to protecting Tamil Nadu's interests and ensuring rapid development of the state.
 
Tamil Nadu officials said Mr Modi assured Ms Jayalalithaa of early action on the issues raised in the memorandum.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa told Mr Modi that the people of the country, including Tamil Nadu, had great expectations from him and his government.
 
"We were systematically ignored and discriminated against by the former 
UPA Government, particularly since May 2011, when I assumed office. I look forward to that trend completely changing under your guidance," she said in her letter to him.
 
She said the memorandum listed some of the very crucial issues relating to the state which have either been pending with the Central government or require urgent attention in order to safeguard the legitimate interests of the State.
 
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"I have been very careful and deliberate in choosing a limited number of important and urgent issues to bring to your notice through this memorandum.
 
"I would be grateful if you could kindly instruct the Ministries and Departments in the Government of India that deal with these issues to ensure that they are addressed on a priority basis. A prompt and positive response would be deeply appreciated not just by the Government of Tamil Nadu but by the people of the State at large," she added.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa's meeting with Mr Modi today and Odisha Chief Minister Navin Patnaik's meeting with him yesterday have taken place at a time when there is speculation that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is trying to bring more parties into its fold.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa's AIADMK with 37 members in the Lok Sabha and Mr Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal (BJD) with 20 have been frequently mentioned in this regard.
 
Later, Ms Jayalalithaa told mediapersons that she had, at the meeting, stressed the need to expedite the formation of the Supervisory Committee for raising the water level of the Mullaiperiyar Dam as ordered by the Supreme Court.

"The Supreme Court has now ruled that the water level can be raised to 142 feet and there has to be a Supervisory Committee to oversee the raising of the water level consisting of three persons, one to be appointed by the Tamil Nadu Government, one to be appointed by the Kerala Government and one to be appointed by the Central Water Commission. We, in Tamil Nadu have appointed our member, Kerala has also appointed its member, so I urged the Prime Minister to expedite the nomination of a member from the Central Water Commission so that before the Southwest monsoon sets-in in earnest, the water level can be raised to 142 feet," she said.

According to her, Mr Modi promised that action will be taken within a week.

She said she also stressed the need to form the Cauvery Management Board without further delay and constitute the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee because it was only after that the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal could be implemented.

"The Prime Minister promised to look into it and do the needful expeditiously, and contrary to reports that have been appearing in the media, I have not made any special demand for a special financial package for the State, rather I have pointed out that there are many allocations which have been made by the Centre, since 2010 which have been announced in the Central Budget also and which have not actually been delivered to Tamil Nadu," she said.

Asked whether her party would join the NDA, Jayalalithaa said there was "no such talk and no such proposal".

To another question whether she would support the NDA from outside, particularly in the Rajya Sabha, she said, "NDA has got an independent majority. For that matter the BJP itself has got an independent majority. They do not need support from outside. We will see when the situation arises."

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SC quashes Kerala law limiting water level in Mullaperiyar dam

 
SC quashes Kerala law, allows Mullaperiyar water level to raised to 142 ft
The Supreme Court today held as unconstitutional a law passed by Kerala in 2006 under which it had set up a Dam Safety Authority to prevent neighbouring Tamil Nadu from raising the level of water in the Mullaperiyar dam from 136 feet to 142 feet.
 
A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha and comprising Justices H. L. Dattu, Chandramauli Kumar Prasad, Madan B. Lokur and M. Y. Eqbal, also restrained Kerala by a decree of permanent injunction from applying and enforcing the impugned legislation or in any manner interfering with or obstructing Tamil Nadu from increasing the water level to 142 ft. and carrying out repair works as per the judgement of the apex court of February 27, 2006 in a writ petition filed by the Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum.
 
However, in the judgement, written by Justice Lodha, the court constituted a three-member Supervisory Committee to allay the apprehensions of Kerala about the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam, though it felt none existed, about the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam on restoration of the full reservoir level (FRL) to 142 ft.
 
The committee shall have one representative from the Central Water Commission (CWC) and one representative each from the two States.
 
The representative of the CWC will be the chairman of the committee. The committee will select the place for its office, which shall be provided by Kerala. Tamil Nadu shall bear the entire expenditure of the committee.
 
The court said the committee shall supervise the restoration of FRL in the       Mullaperiyar dam to the elevation of 142 ft. It shall inspect the dam periodically, more particularly, immediately before the monsoon and during the monsoon, and keep close watch on its safety and recommend measures which are necessary. Such measures shall be carried out by Tamil Nadu.
 
The committee shall be free to take appropriate steps and issue necessary directions to the two States or any of them if so required for the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam in an emergent situation. Such directions shall be obeyed by all concerned, the court said.
 
The committee shall permit Tamil Nadu to carry out further precautionary measures that may become necessary upon its periodic inspection of the dam in accordance with the guidelines of the CWC and Dam Safety Organisation.
 
In the law enacted by the Kerala Legislative Assembly in 2006, it had fixed and limited the FRL to 136 feet.
 
Mullaperiyar dam – a masonry dam – was constructed pursuant to the Periyar Lake Lease Agreement dated 29.10.1886 across Periyar river. It is situated in Idukki district of Kerala but owned and operated by the government of Tamil Nadu.
 
The length of the main dam is 1200 ft. (365.76 m.) and top of the dam is 155 ft. (47.24 m.). The top of solid parapet and maximum height of the dam from deepest foundation are 158 ft. (48.16 m.) and 176 ft. (53.64 m.), respectively. The FRL of the dam is 152 ft. (46.33 m.). 
 
In 1979, the Kerala government wrote to the Tamil Nadu government to take immediate steps to strengthen the dam. Simultaneously, it also requested the Central Government to depute a team from the CWC to inspect the dam and suggest strengthening measures.
 
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In pursuance of the request from the Kerala Government, the then Chairman, CWC inspected the dam and held a meeting on 25.11.1979 in which the officers from Tamil Nadu and Kerala participated.  In that meeting, three levels of measures -- emergency, medium and long term -- were suggested to strengthen the dam. In the meantime, it was recommended that water level in the reservoir be kept at 136 ft.
 
In the second meeting held on 29.04.1980, it was opined that after the completion of emergency and medium-term strengthening measures, the water level in the reservoir can be restored up to 145 ft. (44.2 m.).
 
Tamil Nadu says that all measures – emergency, medium and long term -- as suggested by the CWC have been undertaken by it but despite that no consensus could be reached between the two State Governments to raise the water level in the Mullaperiyar reservoir beyond 136 ft. 
 
This led to the filing of a number of writ petitions in the Kerala High Court as well as in the Madras High Court sometime in 1998 on the issue for and against raising of water level in the Mullaperiyar reservoir and the safety of the dam. As the controversy was pending before the two High Courts and there was likelihood of conflicting judgments, some transfer petitions were filed before the Supreme Court.
 
On 28.04.2000, in the transfer petitions, the apex court desired Union Minister of Water Resources to convene a meeting of the Chief Ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to amicably resolve the issue. The meeting was convened on 19.05.2000 but no consensus could be reached in the meeting as well. However, in that meeting, the Union Minister of Water Resources decided to constitute an Expert Committee to go into the details of the safety of the dam and advise him on raising of water level in the reservoir.
 
In its report, the Expert Committee had opined that water level in the Mullaperiyar reservoir could be raised to 142 ft. (43.28 m.) as that will not endanger the safety of the main dam, including spillway, baby dam and earthen bund.
 
The Kerala government continued to resist raising of water level in the reservoir beyond 136 ft. It was then that a writ petition was filed by the Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum directly before the Supreme Court wherein diverse prayers were made. The apex court also transferred the writ petitions which were pending before the Kerala High Court and Madras High Court to itself.
 
The Supreme Court on 27.02.2006 permitted the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam to be raised up to 142 ft. The State of Kerala and its officers were also restrained from causing any obstruction to this. It was also observed that, after the strengthening work was complete to the satisfaction of CWC, independent experts would examine the safety angle before the water level is permitted to be raised up to 152 ft.
 
The Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation Act, 2003 was enacted by Kerala legislature, which came into force on 18.09.2003. The Act was enacted to consolidate and amend the laws relating to construction of irrigation works, conservation and distribution of water for the purpose of irrigation and levy of betterment, contribution and water cess on lands benefited by irrigation works in the State of Kerala and to provide for involvement of farmers in water utilisation system and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.  The 2003 Act was neither referred to nor relied upon by Kerala at the time of hearing the petition filed by the Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum.
 
On 18.03.2006, in less than three weeks of the decision of the Supreme Court in Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum, the Kerala State legislature amended the 2003 Act by the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006.
 
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In the Second Schedule, appended to the 2006 (Amendment) Act, the Mullaperiyar dam owned and maintained by Tamil Nadu is included as Item No. 1 where the height of the FRL has been fixed at 136 ft.
 
The State of Tamil Nadu immediately thereafter instituted the present suit under Article 131 of the Constitution of India against the State of Kerala. It urged the Supreme Court to declare the 2006 (Amendment) Act passed by the Kerala legislature as unconstitutional in its application to and effect on the Mullaperiyar dam.
 
It also urged it to pass a decree of permanent injunction restraining the Kerala government from applying and enforcing the impugned legislation interfering with or obstructing the plaintiff from increasing the water level to 142 ft. and from carrying out the repair works as per the judgment of the court of 27.2.2006.
 
The Union of India was impleaded as defendant no. 2 in the suit.
 
The Court, in its findings, held that the State of Kerala is estopped from raising the plea that the lease deed dated 29.10.1886 has lapsed, in view of the supplemental agreements dated 28.05.1970.
 
"The lease deed executed between the Government of the Maharaja of Travancore and Secretary of State for India in Council on 29.10.1886 is valid and binding on the first defendant and it is enforceable by plaintiff against the first defendant," it said.
 
The court held that the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006 is unconstitutional and ultra vires in its application to and effect on the Mullaperiyar dam.
 
It said that the rights of Tamil Nadu, crystallized in the judgment dated 27.2.2006 passed by the apex court earlier, cannot be nullified by a legislation made by the Kerala State legislature.
 
"The earlier judgment of this Court given on 27.2.2006 operates as res judicata on the issue of the safety of Mullaperiyar dam for raising water level to 142 ft. and ultimately to 152 ft. after completion of further strengthening measures on the Mullaperiyar dam.
 
The plea raised by Kerala relating to the lease deed dated 29.10.1886 and structural safety of Mullaperiyar dam have been finally decided by the judgment of the court dated 27.2.2006 and Kerala is estopped from raising or re-agitating these issues in the present suit, it said.
 
Kerala cannot obstruct Tamil Nadu from increasing the water level of Mullaperiyar dam to 142 ft. and from carrying out repair works as per judgement dated 27.2.2006, it said.
 
The court also held that Kerala cannot be permitted to contend that river Periyar is an intra-State river.
 
It said that Kerala's offer to construct a new dam needed agreement of both the parties and could not be thrust upon Tamil Nadu.
 
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Megastar Rajnikanth is now on Twitter

Actor Rajnikanth in a still from his latest film Kochadaiyaan
Actor Rajnikanth in a still from his latest film Kochadaiyaan
Tamil film megastar Rajnikanth made his much-awaited debut on micro-blogging site Twitter today, marking his maiden foray into the digital space.
 
CA Media Digital’s first venture, Fluence, a celebrity digital network, will manage Rajinikanth’s digital interests to further create and leverage his  social media presence.
 
"Twitter users around the world can follow and converse live with India’s original superhero, superstar Rajinikanth by visiting Twitter.com/SuperStarRajini or @SuperStarRajini on their Twitter app," a press release from the company said.
 
Fans can also follow the actor's Twitter account by dialling, or giving a missed call at 080 6700 6666 to access his tweets, which is possible due to a global integration between Twitter India and ZipDial.
 
A cultural icon, the normally reticent superstar said he is looking forward to interacting with his fans on the platform.
 
“I have always believed that my career graph is a miracle I owe my fans. I have been contemplating joining the social media platform for a while to connect with them, hear what they have to say and share my thoughts.  Unfortunately I never got around to it until now. By partnering with Fluence I am confident that I have the best team and the best guides who will help me connect with my audience," he said.
 
"I decided to start with Twitter because I felt that the platform is abuzz with all the news and the trends that happen across the globe and I'm told that this is where all the best Rajini one liners are!” he added.
 
Mr Ashish Joshi, VP Digital & Business Head – Fluence said, “We are thrilled to partner with the enigmatic Rajinikanth. The digital landscape is exploding and when you work with Thalaivar the possibilities are endless. Twitter is the first step in building and growing his online presence and getting all the fans out there to directly engage with the phenomenon that is Rajinikanth. We will work closely with him to broaden the horizons of the digital landscape to create interesting and entertaining consumer facing properties that will engage the fans in a way that only Rajini sir can.”
 
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Twitter's India Market Director Rishi Jaitly said, "Twitter is the world's leading real-time information network where users discover and converse with the people, organizations and media that interest them. This is truly an 'only-on-Twitter' moment as Superstar Rajinikanth’s debut on Twitter also marks his debut in the digital space more generally. We welcome Rajinikanth to Twitter, are happy to support his launch on the platform and look forward to watching him use our mobile service to engage in live, public conversations with fans and other icons around the world."
 
To make Superstar Rajinikanth’s debut on Twitter more exciting; fans from all over the world, who follow him on twitter @SuperStarRajini in the first week, will receive a ‘WelcomeGraph’, a personalized welcome picture from the icon, the release added.
 
Fluence currently manages the digital life of many celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Sonu Nigam, Shaan and Karishma Kapoor which includes; their social media presence, their digital endorsements, online/mobile monetization and equity-linked investments in the digital space.
 
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PM condemns twin bomb blasts in train at Chennai station

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today strongly condemned the twin blasts in two coaches of the Bangalore-Guwahati Express at the Chennai Central station, in which one woman was killed and nine other passengers suffered injuries.
 
Dr. Singh said such barbaric acts targeting innocent men, women and children only highlighted the desperation and cowardice of those responsible.  
 
He offered his sincere condolences to the family of the deceased and heartfelt sympathies to those injured. 
 
He said that he was confident that the people of India would stand united against these attempts to disturb peace and harmony and urged the people to maintain peace. 
 
Dr Singh said no efforts should be spared to bring the perpetrators to justice and assured the Tamil Nadu government of all assistance from the Centre towards this end.
 
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1 killed, 9 hurt in twin blasts on Bangalore-Guwahati Express at Chennai station

 
1 dead, 9 injured in twin blasts on train at Chennai Central station
One woman was killed and nine others suffered injuries in twin blasts that occurred in two coaches of the Bangalore-Guwahati Express after it pulled into the Chennai Central station here this morning.
 
Southern Railway General Manager Rakesh Mishra told reporters on the spot that two of the injured had suffered grievous injuries while the others had minor injuries.
 
He said the "minor intensity" blasts occurred in sleeper coaches S4 and S5 at about 7.15 am, some ten minutes after the train had arrived on platform number 9.
 
The deceased passenger was identified as Ms Swati, 22, who was travelling from Bangalore to Vijayawada on her way to her home town of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, he said.
 
Official sources said the blasts appeared to have been caused by some devices placed under the seats.
 
Mr Mishra said the train was running slightly late and had arrived at the station at 7.05 am instead of its scheduled time of 5.45 am.
 
The injured were rushed immediately to the Rajiv Gandhi government hospital near the station.
 
Minister of Railways Mallikarjun Kharge has sanctioned an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the next-of-kin of the deceased passenger, Rs 25,000 for those with grievous injuries and Rs 5,000 for those with minor injuries.
 
Police officials, accompanied by dog squads and bomb disposal squads, rushed to the scene of the blasts immediately and platform number 9 was cordoned off.
 
Mr Mishra said the entire train was being checked and the train would continue its journey after about an hour after the two affected coaches are detached.
 
The Railways have set up a helpline at Chennai on telephone number 044-25357398 to provide information to relatives of the passengers of the affected train.
 
Operations on other platforms as well as on the nearby suburban section continued to remain normal, Mr Mishra said.
 
A team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Hyderabad will arrive here later today to probe the incident, sources added.
 
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CBI arrests deputy director of Ministry of Shipping in Chennai in bribery case

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today said it had arrested a deputy director working in the Directorate of Light Houses & Lightships, Ministry of Shipping, Chennai for allegedly demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs. 25,000 from a contractor.
 
A press release from the agency said that the contractor had complained to it that the official had demanded Rs 25,000 as bribe from him for issuing contract and releasing payment for additional work carried out by him.
 
A trap was laid by the CBI and the official was allegedly caught red-handed while demanding and accepting the bribe.
 
The arrested accused was produced before the Principal Special Judge for CBI Cases, Chennai and was remanded to judicial custody, the release added.
 
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SC refers Rajiv Gandhi killers' case to Constitution Bench, extends stay on their release

The Supreme Court today referred the issues raised by a decision of the Tamil Nadu government in February this year to release the seven convicts serving life sentences for the May 21, 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to a Constitution Bench.
 
A three-judge bench consisting of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana also extended the stay it had ordered on February 20 on the Tamil Nadu government's decision to release the prisoners, which means the convicts will stay in prison for the time being.
 
"All the issues raised in the given case are of utmost critical concern for the whole of the country, as the decision on these issues will determine the procedure for awarding sentences in the criminal justice system. Accordingly, we direct to list Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 48 of 2014 before the Constitution Bench as early as possible, preferably within a period of three months," it said.
 
The court said that all the interim orders granted earlier by it would continue till a final decision is taken by the Constitution Bench in the matter.
 
The court had, on February 18 this year, commuted the death sentences awarded to three of the assassins of Mr Gandhi to imprisonment for life in view of the inordinate 11-year delay that had occurred in the disposal of their mercy petitions by the Union Government.
 
A day later, the Tamil Nadu government, on February 19, decided to release the trio -- V. Sriharan alias Murugan, T.Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu -- and the four other convicts serving life terms in the case -- Murugan's wife Nalini, Ravichandran, Robert Pious and V Jayakumar. The four, who were arrested in 1991, are serving life terms.
 
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had, in a statement on that date, said that, while commuting the death sentence, the apex court had said that the convicts would remain in prison until the end of their life, subject to any remission granted by the appropriate Government under Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 which, in turn, is subject to the procedural checks mentioned in the said provision and further substantive check in Section 433-A of the Code.
 
She said the state government had decided to invoke Section 432, taking into account the fact that the convicts had already spent 23 years in prison. She said that, as the case was investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the state government would have to consult the Centre under Section 435 of the CrPC.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa said the Cabinet's decision would be conveyed to the Centre and, if it failed to respond in three days, her government would release the prisoners immediately using the powers conferred on it by the Constitution.
 
Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran argued before the apex court on February 20 that, in this case, the "appropriate Government" meant the Union Government inasmuch as the case was investigated by a Central agency, the CBI, and the convicts had been charged with offences under various laws enacted by the Union Government.
 
Mr Gandhi was killed by a female suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) late in the evening of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu when he arrived there for an election campaign meeting.
 
He had become Prime Minister after the assassination of his mother and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984 and was in office until late 1989 when he lost the next general elections.
 
Mr Gandhi and 17 others were killed when the female bomber, while presenting a garland to him, triggered the explosives strapped to her body.
 
Murugan's wife Nalini was also given the death penalty, but it was commuted to life on the intervention of Mr Gandhi's widow, Sonia Gandhi, who is now the president of the Congress party, the main constituent of India's ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
 
Today's orders by the Supreme Court came on a writ petition, under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, filed by the Union of India praying for quashing of the letter of February 19, 2014 issued by the Chief Secretary of the Tamil Nadu government proposing to remit the life imprisonment and release the seven convicts in the case.
 
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Appearing for the Union of India, Attorney General Goolam E. Vahanvati submitted the Tamil Nadu government's proposal was illegal and without jurisdiction because it was not the "appropriate Government" in the present case, in which it had no role to play at any stage.
 
He also argued that the State Government could not have suo motu, without an application, initiated the process of remitting the sentence and releasing the convicts.  
 
Further, Mr Vahanvati submitted that once the death sentence of a convict has been commuted into life imprisonment, the same has to be interpreted to mean the entire life of the convict and the executive cannot exercise the power of remission of sentence thereafter.
 
Appearing for the State Government, Mr Rakesh Dwivedi submitted that the “appropriate Government” as defined in Section 432(7) of the Code is the State Government in the present case. He also argued that the State Government of Tamil Nadu is the appropriate Government to  consider remission/commutation of sentence under Section 302 read with Section 120B of IPC.
 
He said the power of the State Government under Section 432(1) is very wide and it can be exercised suo motu by the appropriate Government. When the power is exercised suo motu then Section 432(2) is not applicable, he said.
 
With regard to the contention of the Union of India that once the power of commutation/ remission has been exercised in a particular case of a convict by a Constitutional forum, particularly the Supreme Court, then there cannot be a further exercise of the Executive Power for the purpose of commuting/remitting the sentence of the said convict in the same case, Mr.Dwivedi submitted that this was unacceptable since in this case the court had exercised the judicial power of commuting the death sentence into life imprisonment by its judgment of February 18.
 
"The submission of the Union of India, if accepted, would have horrendous consequences. A convict whose death sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment by this Court on account of breach of Article 21 would have to remain imprisoned necessarily till the end of his life even if he has served out 30-50 years of sentence and has become old beyond 75 years or may be terminally ill yet there would be no power to remit/commute," he said.
 
The court said it had given its most anxious consideration to all the contentions made before it and was of the opinion that it would not be appropriate for a three judge-bench to examine and decide the correctness of the verdict of another three-judge bench in the Swamy Shraddananda case. They also said that, inevitably, the decision of the Constitution Bench in the Bhagirath case would also be required to be examined.
 
"Thus, we deem it fit to refer this matter to a five Judges’ Bench to reconcile the dispute emerged," it said.
 
On the question of the remission of the sentence, the court said an issue of such a nature had been raised for the first time in the Supreme Court, which has wide ramification in determining the scope of application of power of remission by the executives both the Centre and the State.
 
"Accordingly, we refer this matter to the Constitution Bench to decide the issue pertaining to whether once power of remission under Article 72 or 161 or by this Court exercising Constitutional power under Article 32 is exercised, is there any scope for further consideration for remission by the executive," it said.
 
On the issue of who is the "appropriate Government", the judges said they considered it fit to refer the matter to the Constitution Bench for an authoritative interpretation on the same.  In fact, such a course of action is mandated by the provisions of Article 145(3) of the Constitution, it said.
 
The following are the questions framed by the court for the consideration of the Constitution Bench:
 
(i)  Whether imprisonment for life in terms of Section 53 read with Section 45 of the Indian Penal Code meant imprisonment for rest of the life of the prisoner or a convict undergoing life imprisonment has a right to claim remission and whether as per the principles enunciated in paras 91 to 93 of Swamy Shraddananda (supra), a special category of sentence may be made for the very few cases where the death penalty might be substituted by the punishment of imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term in excess of fourteen years and to put that category beyond application of remission?
 
(ii) Whether the “appropriate Government” is permitted to exercise the power of remission under Section 432/433 of the Code after the parallel power has been exercised by the President under Article 72 or the Governor under Article 161 or by this Court in its Constitutional power under Article 32 as in this case?
 
(iii) Whether Section 432(7) of the Code clearly gives primacy to the executive power of the Union and excludes the executive power of the State where the power of Union is co-extensive?
 
(iv) Whether the Union or the State has primacy over the subject matter enlisted in List III of Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India for exercise of power of remission?
 
(v)  Whether there can be two appropriate Governments in a given case under Section 432(7) of the Code?
 
(vi) Whether suo motu exercise of power of remission under Section 432(1) is permissible in the scheme of the section if, yes whether the procedure prescribed in sub-clause (2) of the same Section is mandatory or not?
 
(vii) Whether the term “consultation” stipulated in Section 435(1) of the Code implies “concurrence”?
 
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Former TN Minister, two retired IAS officers sentenced to two years in prison

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The Special Judge for CBI Cases, Chennai, today convicted former Tamil Nadu Minister for Rural Development & Local Administration T M Selvaganapathy and two retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers and sentenced them to undergo rigorous imprisonment for two years with a fine of Rs 25,000 each in a case of cheating.
 
The two retired IAS officers are Mr J.T.Acharulu, then Secretary, and Mr  M. Sathyamurthy, then Director, both of Rural Department, Tamil Nadu Government.
 
Two others, Mr Krishnamurthy, then Project Officer and Mr T.Bharathi, a private individual, were also convicted and sentenced to two years of imprisonment along with fine of Rs 25,000 in the case.
 
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered a case in the matter on May 2, 1997 on the directions of the High Court of Madras against the accused, who allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy in 1995-96 and cheated the Central Government and the State Government in the mater of construction of cremation sheds under the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (JRY).    
 
The construction of cremation sheds was not an identified item of work under the JRY scheme, but the accused used its funds for the work
 
It was further alleged that such work should not have been entrusted to co-operative societies and advance payment to the societies was prohibited by the Tamil Nadu Government. But the work was given for erection/construction of cremation sheds to Karungulam Co-operative Society in Nagapattinam district. Further, the payments were made to the society through demand drafts. 
 
According to the CBI, the Special Officer of the Society facilitated Mr Bharathi, who executed the work of erection/construction of cremation sheds though he was not the member of the society. He executed the said work in a substandard manner through sub-contractors and not in conformity with the specifications, to encash the demand drafts. A loss was caused to the tune of approximtely Rs. 23 lakhs to the Government, a press release from the agency said.
 
During trial, the Special Officer of the society expired and charges against him were abated. On completion of trial, all other accused persons were found guilty, the release added.
 
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GMR Highways commissions GMR Chennai Outer Ring Road Phase I

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GMR Highways, a part of infrastructure major GMR Group, today said it had completed and commissioned the Chennai Outer Ring Road Phase I Project. 
 
"Government of Tamil Nadu and all concerned agencies issued a provisional certificate for completion with effect from 15th June 2013 for Group’s Chennai Outer Ring Road project," a press release from the company said today.
 
According to it, this milestone will add to the cash-flow of GMR by Rs. 118 crore every year for the next 17 and half years. 
 
"It adds almost Rs.95 crore to the revenues of Road Project in the year just ended on 31st March 2014," it said.
 
Completed on Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer basis, the Chennai Outer Ring Road project connects Vandalur on National Highway (NH)-45 to Nemillicheri on NH-205 via Nazaratpet  on NH-4. 
 
GMR won the 29.65 km project through international competitive bidding. The concession period of the project is 20 years including 30 months of construction. 
 
According to the release, commissioning of the project will significantly ease traffic congestion  along the western periphery of Chennai city 
 
The road connects the northern and southern suburbs of Chennai and will be a catalyst for expansion of the city and help growth of the industrial hubs in this region through better connectivity, it added.
 
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Karunanidhi expels Azhagiri from DMK for working against party

Karunanidhi expels Azhagiri from DMK permanently
The Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) today "permanently" expelled former Union Minister M K Azhagiri, the elder son of its president M Karunanidhi, for indulging in anti-party activities.
 
The move comes two months after the party had, on January 24, placed Mr Azhagiri, 62, under temporary suspension and stripped him of all posts in the party for alleged violation of party discipline.
 
The party had said at that time that it felt his continuation in the organization would be inappropriate and further disrupt its internal discipline.
 
Today, the party said that Mr Azhagiri had continued to defy the party's directions and offered his support to its electoral rivals against its official line.
 
Mr Azhagiri has been involved in a long-standing power struggle with his younger brother M K Stalin, former Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister, for control of the party. Mr Karunanidhi has indicated on more than one occasion that Mr Stalin is his chosen successor.
 
There has been speculation that Mr Azhagiri might extend his support to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. In recent days, MDMK general secretary Vaiko had met him and sought his support in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
 
The DMK said Mr Azhagiri had failed to respond to the notice sent to him seeking his explanation for alleged acts of indiscipline.
 
Mr Karunanidhi, 89, told newspersons, while seated in a car with Mr Stalin by his side, that he had discussed the matter with DMK General Secretary K Anbazhagan and decided to expel Mr Azhagiri from the party. He said Mr Azhagiri had continued to criticise DMK leaders even after his suspension.
 
Mr Azhagiri has been saying that he would decide on his future course of action afer consulting his supporters.
 
Last week, the DMK had urged its workers to not have anything to do with Mr Azhagiri after he started holding meetings of his supporters.
 
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Since his suspension, Mr Azhagiri met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and BJP president Rajnath Singh, adding to the speculation about his possible next moves.
 
Mr Azhagiri, former Union Minsitr for Chemicals & Fertilisers, ws the South Zone Organising Secretary of the DMK and had played a major role in building the party in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. In the last Lok Sabha elections in 2009, the DMK had won eight of the nine seats in the region, and Mr Azhagiri himself won by a huge margin in Madurai.
 
But this time he and those considered loyal to him have been denied nominations for the coming Lok Sabha elections by the party.
 
Things came to a head after Mr Karunanidhi suspended five workers of the DMK's Madurai unit for putting up posters supporting Mr Azhagiri, though the latter had said that he was not involved in the incident.
 
The Madurai unit of the party had also been disbanded and Mr Karunanidhi had issued a stern warning to all leaders of the party to not step out of line. He also warned of disciplinary action, including expulsion, to those who flouted party dicipline.
 
Mr Azhagiri has also told the media on more than one occasion that he would not accept anyone other than Mr Karunanidhi as his leader. 
 
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Congress fields Chidambaram's son Karti from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu

Karti P Chidambaram
Karti P Chidambaram
The Congress today named Mr Karti P Chidambaram, the son of Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, as its candidate in the coming Lok Sabha elections from his father's constituency of Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu.
 
Mr Chidambaram, a seven-time MP from the constituency, is learnt to have told the party leadership that he would like to opt out of the coming elections.
 
He has been talking in recent times about the need for the older generation to pass the baton on to youngsters. He has also been exhorting the party to field as many youth as possible in the elections.
 
Whether he contests the elections or not, the Harvard-educated lawyer is expected to be one of the main campaigners for his party in Tamil Nadu. He, in fact, told people at meetings in his constituency that he would remain the candidate whether he contested or his son did.
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Rajya Sabha member and former Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has been nominated from his old constituency of Mayiladuthurai in the state.
 
"I'm honoured Congress has bestowed this on me. It's a huge challenge. I would work very hard. Congress in Sivaganga is organised and is ready," Karti Chidambaram told a television channel after the party announced its fourth list of 50 candidates for the coming elections.
 
Other prominent candidates in the list include Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who has been fielded from Udhampur in Jammu & Kashmir.
 
The 50 candidates announced today include 30 in Tamil Nadu, four in Gujarat, three each in Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh and two each in Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.
 
In Delhi, the party named Mahabal Mishra from West Delhi and Ramesh Kumar from South Delhi.
 
In Gujarat, the Congress has nominated Mr Kirit Patel from Gandhinagar, the constituency held since 1991 by veteran BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani.
 
In Jammu, the party's candidate will be Madan Lal Sharma, while it will be Laxman Singh from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh, from where BJP leader Sushma Swaraj is contesting.

The list can be seen here.
 
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Acclaimed film director Balu Mahendra passes away in Chennai

Veteran filmmaker Balu Mahendra passes away
 
Well-known film director and cinematographer Balu Mahendra, who made several successful films in Tamil, Malayalam and other languages, including "Sadma" in Hindi, passed away at a private hospital here today after suffering a heart attack, sources said.
 
They said that Mahendra, 74, was rushed to the Vijaya Hospital early this morning and breathed his last there around 11.45 am.
 
He is survived by his wife and a son.
 
Balanathan Benjamin Mahendran was born on May 20, 1939  at Batticalao to a Sri Lankan Tamil family and spent his early years there. After getting a chance to watch David Lean's making of The Bridge on the River Kwai during a school trip in Sri Lanka, he developed an interest in films. Thanks to a camera presented to him by his father, he also acquired a keen interest in photography.
 
After taking a degree in science from London University, he enrolled himself in the cinematrography course at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune.
 
He passed out of the prestigious institute with a gold medal and began his career in films in 1971 with Ramu Kariat's "Nellu" in Malayalam, which won him the Best Cinematographer award from the Kerala government. He went on to win many more awards for cinematography and was noticed, in particular, for his use of natural light in his films as far as possible. In all, he wielded the camera for 26 films, many of them in Malayalam.
 
He made his debut as a director with "Kokila" in Kannada and went on to make 21 more films in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi and win several awards.
 
He won the National Award for Best Cinematography (Black and White) for Kokila. He also won the Karnataka government award for Best Screenplay for the same film.
 
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In all, he won five National Awards, including two for Best Cinematography, two for Best Feature Film in Tamil (Veedu and Vanna Vanna Pookkal) and one for Best Film on Family Welfare (Sandhya Raagam in Tamil).
 
Moondram Pirai, for which he won the National Award for Cinematography, also won him the Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Director in 1982. He remade the film in Hindi the next year as Sadma with Kamla Hasan and Sridevi reprising their roles in the Tamil original. 
 
In 1982, he won the Filmfare Award for Best Malayalam Director for Olangal. Other Malayalam films he made were Oomakuyil (1983) and Yathra (1985). 
 
In 1996, he remade Kokila in Hindi as Aur Ek Prem Kahani.
 
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Modi calls for skill development, better education to reap demographic dividend

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi addressing the 9th convocation of the SRM University in Chennai on February 9, 2014.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi addressing the 9th convocation of the SRM University in Chennai on February 9, 2014.
Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi today stressed the need to give a boost to skill development activities while ensuring that the pace of every development effort was quick and effective.
 
Speaking at the 9th convocation of SRM University here this morning, he said the scale of operations of each initiative mattered in its reach and impact.
 
Mr Modi urged the students to remember their motherland throughout their journey in lives and to do whatever they could do to make India innovative and competitive.
 
He exhorted them to aspire to rise to great heights in life and gave the example of Hyderabad-born Satya Nadella, who was recently appointed the CEO of Microsoft.
 
“Satya Nadella’s success is good news. I am sure you aspire to reach where he has. My advice – create a Microsoft and Apple here in India," he said.
 
Mr Modi told they should never forget the fact that they were amongst the privileged few who could study in institutions such as SRM and urged them to not forget their less fortunate brethren.
 
He said education was the best and most effective way of countering poverty and had an important role in the task of nation-building. Noting that India is home to the brightest minds, he called for the establishment of more such educational institutions.
 
He also highlighted the need to focus on improvement of sectors such as agriculture, forestry, mining, rivers and so on so that the coming generations could live well.
 
“The young generation of today is globally connected. They want to live in an equitable and efficient India. We have to be ready for this, and work for this,” he said.
 
He said that India's youth, if given a chance, could achieve in just 60 months what the country could not in the past 60 years.
 
Mr Modi, who arrived here yesterday on the first leg of a trip to the South, also addressed a rally last night at which he attacked the Congress for its alleged divisive politics and for its indifference to the needs of the common man.
 
“The troubles we have seen in the last 10 years have not been seen ever before after Independence,” he said.
 
He accused the Congress of destroying most institutions, including the position of the Governor. "Raj Bhavans have become Congress Bhavans. Elected governments pass laws but governors do not sign them. This is the institutional decline they are doing," he said.
 
He alleged the Centre was misusing departments such as the Income Tax department. He said that when investors came to Gujarat, they were issued notices and raids were conducted against them by Income tax officials.
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"There are so many commissions, which must be for people’s interests, but even they have been misused for political gains. CBI has been misused. To win trust votes CBI is misused. They are used to make and break governments,” he said.
 
“In doing corruption they respect the federal structure a lot. Their allies are also allowed to loot, and you have the beneficiaries in Tamil Nadu, too," he said.
 
The Gujarat Chief Minister said the people of his state had kept the Congress out of power for a quarter of a century and now the people of India would also follow suit.
 
He said the Congress-led UPA government's work culture had disrupted the functioning of the economy and brought India to the verge of disintegration.
 
"To save the nation, we need to bid them goodbye. Work culture must be of cooperation not confrontation. Centre vs State, State vs State, these things are going on due to the UPA. UPA is not bothered to solve them," he said.
 
He said there was a need to adhere to the federal structure, the way BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee had done while he was Prime Minister.
 
Reacting to criticism mounted against him by Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, he said, "“There is also a recounting Minister in Delhi. He is from Tamil Nadu only. He abuses me but I prefer to keep silent because I know that 'keechad jitna faikoge, kamal utna hi khilega.”
 
Mr Chidambaram had, among other things, said recently that Mr Modi's knowledge of economics could be put on the back of a postage stamp.
 
Mr Modi said the results of having an economist as Prime Minister and a knowledgeable Finance Minister were there for all to see. “You came from Harvard, we came by hard work," Mr Modi quipped. “This land of Chennai asks you, the Recounting Minister, why are the finances of the nation suffering."
 
He said the UPA government had failed to create new jobs and people were also losing their jobs. In contrast, he said, Gujarat had the lowest unemployment rate in the country.
 
“Dear Finance Minister, knowledge of economics does not come from books alone. Good governance is required," he said.
 
Mr Modi said India needed a strong government at the Centre because of the problems it is facing in the neighbourhood.
 
He said the Centre was indifferent to the problems faced by Tamil Nadu fishermen at the hands of the Sri Lankan Navy personnel.
 
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Jayalalithaa joins hands with CPI for 2014 Lok Sabha elections

Video: Jayalalithaa joins hands with CPI to fight 2014 polls
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today announced that her All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) had joined hands with the Communist Party of India (CPI) for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
"The AIADMK and the CPI have decided to enter into an alliance for the forthcoming Lok sabha elections," she said after a meeting with veteran CPI leader A B Bardhan at her residence here.
 
"We have decided to work together. Other details will be shared later," she said.
 
"I endorse everything that she has said. Our alliance will lead to victory," Mr Bardhan said.
 
Sources said CPI (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat is expected to meet Ms Jayalalithaa on Monday. The Left parties had fought the last assembly elections in Tamil Nadu alongside the AIADMK. 
 
The AIADMK had helped Left candidates to be elected to the Rajya Sabha last year and this year.
 
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Jayalalithaa writes to PM about arrest of TN fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy

File photo of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to convey an unequivocal and strong disapproval of the belligerent actions of the Sri Lankan Navy and also urge the Sri Lankan Government  to direct its navy not to resort to further illegal arrest and detention of innocent fishermen from her state.
 
In a letter to Dr Singh, she said the environment of goodwill between the two countries had been totally vitiated by an incident on January 29 in which 38 Tamil Nadu fishermen were detained by the Sri Lankan Navy in a midnight raid while fishing in their traditional waters in the Palk Bay.
 
She recalled that she had, in a spirit of accommodation, facilitated the holding of direct talks between the fishermen communities of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka on January 27 in Chennai.
 
"Based on the overall environment of goodwill created by the holding of the talks, 295 Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu and their 45 boats were released by Sri Lanka in the last two weeks," she said.
 
She said six mechanised fishing boats with 38 fishermen belonging to Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu had set out for fishing from Rameswaram fishing base on January 29.
 
"While they were engaged in fishing in their traditional fishing waters in Palk Bay, they were apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy around midnight on 29.1.2014. 
 
"It appears to me that this incident of apprehension is an attempt by elements in the Sri Lankan Navy to deliberately spoil the conducive atmosphere created by the recent talks. Such arrests and apprehension also directly impact the livelihood of the Tamil Nadu fishermen living in the Palk Bay districts," she said.
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"In order to preserve the conducive atmosphere and to enable a pragmatic and workable solution to emerge for the day to day fishing activities of the fishermen to continue, I request you to decisively impress upon the Government of Sri Lanka to advise its Navy to abstain from such acts of illegal abduction of innocent Indian fishermen. I request you to convey an unequivocal and strong disapproval of the belligerent actions of the Sri Lankan Navy and also urge the Sri Lankan Government to direct its Navy not to resort to further illegal arrest and detention of our innocent fishermen. 
 
"May I urge your personal intervention and exhort you to use the diplomatic channels of the Government of India in a concrete and decisive manner to secure the release of the 38 fishermen arrested on 29.1.2014 including their 6 boats?” she added.
 
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Govt. to develop Sholinganallur-Kalpakkam stretch of South Buckingham Canal in TN

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The Union Government has decided to take up development of the 37 km Sholinganallur-Kalpakkam stretch of National Waterway (NW-4) in the South Buckingham Canal of Tamil Nadu.
 
Launching the project, Union Minister of Shipping G.K. Vasan said its main components include dredging and excavation to develop the navigational channel, construction of three terminals and navigational locks, replacement of one existing bridge at Kelambakkam, and installation of navigational aids. 
 
He said more than Rs.123 crore had been sanctioned by the Central Government for the purpose and the project is expected to be completed in two years. 
 
Mr Vasan said that other stretches of NW-4, which covers the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, would also be taken up for development subsequently. 
 
NW-4 covers a total length of 1078 km consisting of Kakinada-Puducherry canal systems integrated with Godavari and Krishna rivers. 
 
He said the project would ease the transportation problems in Chennai suburbs to a great extent besides promoting tourist movement to important tourist spots at Mahabalipuram and Puducherry. 
 
The development of South Buckingham Canal can also improve the drainage system during flood season in Chennai, he said.
 
The canal will be developed to make it suitable for safe navigation of cargo vessels up to 300 ton capacity for transportation of general cargo like food grain, fertilizers, building materials, and so on.
 
The canal shall also be suitable for movement of the passenger and tourist vessels of higher capacity from Chennai to Mahabalipuram and in future upto Puducherry. The terminals at Shollinganallur, Mutukkad and Mahabalipuram have been planned for construction and will be operated with necessary facilities for cargo, passenger and tourist vessels. 
 
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