Monday, June 29, 2009

Lohithadas gets a tearful adieu

Monday,29 June 2009

Palakkad, June 20: Body of noted Malayalam film director and screen playwright Lohithadas was cremated with full state honours at his home in Lakkidy near here.

The funeral pyre was lit by his eldest son Harikrishnan. Lohithadas had suffered a cardiac attack at his ancestral home in Chalakkudy and was rushed to Lisie Hospital here Sunday, where he passed away.

Malayalam writer-director Lohithadas dead

Monday,29 June 2009

Kochi, June 28: Veteran Malayalam film director and script writer A.K. Lohithadas died here Sunday morning following cardiac arrest, leaving the Malayalam movie industry and film fans in shock. He was 54.

Lohithadas, who scripted several blockbusters for superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal, died at a private hospital. His last rites are set to take place at his hometown Palakkad Monday morning.

The director, who was popularly called Lohi, burst onto the Malayalam film industry with his story and script of award winning film "Thaniyavarthanam", which catapulted Mammootty to stardom in 1987.

A shocked Mammootty said: "The world is such that people just disappear like this and it is really painful. We very recently had a long talk on a forthcoming film."

Mohanlal said it was Lohithadas' script that was largely instrumental in making his acting career a success.

"We worked closely on numerous projects and we had finalised to work in two forthcoming projects and now he is no more," said Mohanlal.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said the state had lost a valuable person who understood the problems of the common man, which was reflected in his writings.

Lohithadas directed a dozen films and he was also credited with introducing talented actresses like Manju Warrier and Meera Jasmine. Another heroine he brought to the screen was Bhama in his last film "Nivedyam" in 2007.

Some of the hit films he wrote include "Bharatham", "Thoovalkottaram" and "His Highness Abdullah", while among the acclaimed movies he made are "Kasthoorimann" and "Kanmadam"

Three swine flu cases confirmed in Kerala

Monday,29 June 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, June 28: In first confirmed cases of swine flu in Kerala, three persons, two of them women, tested positive for the A(H1N1) virus Sunday.

Of these, a 53-year-old woman and her 24-year-old son had arrived at the Nedumbassery Airport in Kochi on June 24 from Britain while another woman reached Karippur Airport in Kozhikode from Dubai the same day.

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases, to where their throat swab samples were sent for analysis, had telephonically informed the hospitals where they had been quarantined that these patients had tested positive for H1N1, Director of Health Services Dr Shylaja told PTI.

The mother and the son, who is a doctor in the UK, were guarantied in Perumbavur Taluk Hospital, Health Department sources said.

The woman, who arrived at Karippur airport, had been admitted to Kozhikode Government Beach hospital, sources said.

Reality shows not moulding good singers

Saturday,27 June 2009
Music director M Jayachandran
Thiruvananthapuram,Jun27: Popular Malayalam music director M Jayachandran Saturday said it was doubtful whether reality shows on television channels were aimed at moulding good playback singers or just `performers.'

"There is abundance of talent on these shows.But there is no clarity whether these shows would help the participant repeat the performance in a studio," Jayachandran, who won the Kerala government's award for best music direction, said at a meet-the-press programme here.

Only a very few singers who emerged winners in these shows became good playback singers, he said. Jayachandran said he did not feel the existence of a `clique' or `lobby' in the music field.
"Listeners are the only lobby in the field," he said. Composers would survive in the field if they were multi-facted and singers if they were dedicated.

"A director chooses a music director if they find anything different in him." Jayachandran, also a good singer, had won the state government award for best singer last year.

To a question on copying tunes, he said there was nothing wrong in using an element based on the beat of the original of a great song.

Several song albums of late pop icon Michael Jackson, had influenced composers around the world. Even film-makers see his albums before visualising a song, he said.

On remixing old songs, now common in films, he said there should be a reason behind such an attempt and should have the consent of the original composer.

Tough choices before Polit Bureau on Kerala issues

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: By all indications, it will be a tough call for the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) when it meets in New Delhi on July 4 and 5 to discuss issues relating to its Kerala unit, including the situation arising out of the SNC-Lavalin case.

On Tuesday, two weeks after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a charge sheet against CPI(M) State secretary and former Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, and eight others, a Special Court in Kochi issued summons to them.

The Polit Bureau would have to consider simultaneously Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan’s reported plea for the removal of Mr. Vijayan consequent on his being listed as the seventh accused in the case, and the demand of the opposing group for Mr. Achuthanandan’s removal for his refusal to abide by the party’s decisions. Neither will be easy.

A congruent approach is unlikely in the Polit Bureau on either course of action. The Polit Bureau may not also be able to leave the questions open. As such, it is likely to seek options that would address the concerns of both sides and the party’s larger interests.

The Polit Bureau and Central Committee meetings, which ended in New Delhi on Sunday, could not devote to Kerala as much time as they would have liked, on account of the pressing issues in West Bengal and the need to take a holistic view of the setback in the Lok Sabha elections. With everybody in a self-critical mode, there was no possibility of placing the blame on any individual at the national or State level.

That is something the dominant section in the Kerala CPI(M) had hoped for and demanded at the Central Committee meeting. Its argument has been that the problems in the ruling Left Democratic Front and the CPI(M) are mainly on account of the Chief Minister’s refusal to go by the decisions of the party’s State leadership on sensitive issues and his observations on subjects such as the tie-up with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). On his part, the Chief Minister has taken the position that the party cannot go forward with Mr. Vijayan as State secretary. He also wants changes in the composition of the State Secretariat which, he contends, has been constituted on factional lines.

The options before the Polit Bureau are limited given the seeming appeal the Chief Minister enjoys among sections of the people and the strong resistance from the dominant section against removing Mr. Vijayan. The Polit Bureau could be said to have met some of Mr. Achuthanandan’s perceptions about the reasons for the LDF’s poll debacle by opting to arrive at its own assessment of the polls and mentioning both the tie-up with the PDP and the SNC-Lavalin case as two major reasons for the drubbing.

It was not scathing on Mr. Achuthanandan, but noted his inability to take alliance and party together. At its July 4-5 meeting, the Polit Bureau would have to go beyond that. But how far it can, or would, go is hard to guess.

The fact that the Special Court has now chosen to direct the CBI to go deeper into the role played by the Congress leader and former Minister for Electricity, G. Karthikeyan, in the Lavalin deal is seen as a vindication of the Polit Bureau’s stand that the case, as it was originally pursued by the agency, was politically motivated. (Mr. Karthikeyan’s name had been excluded in the charge sheet filed on June 11.)

This is also likely to provide the CPI(M) sufficient reason to stick to the stand that the case is best handled in a court rather than politically. General secretary Prakash Karat’s assertion that there was no corruption in the Lavalin deal might also be indicative of the leadership’s desire for the case to be fought in the courts rather than the political arena.

Crisis-hit CPI(M) running out of solutions in Kerala

New Delhi June 24, 2009

Even as the CPI(M) brass observed serious lapses in its organisation and government in West Bengal, the removal of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been ruled out. And in the party’s biggest in-house problem — Kerala — forcing the resignation of Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, or VS as he is popularly known, is a difficult assignment for party general secretary Prakash Karat.

On Tuesday, B C Khanduri stepped down as chief minister of BJP-ruled Uttarakhand, where the party lost at all the five Lok Sabha seats recently.

At the beginning of the recent Central Committee meeting of the CPI(M) in New Delhi, VS bashers and loyal soldiers of his bĂȘte noire, state party chief Pinarayi Vijayan, were unanimous in their demand to sack VS from the CM’s post and the party. But during the last two days, the party’s pro-VS lobby rallied strongly in his favour and the blame game is now equally poised. The pro-VS camp is clear in its mind: VS alone can’t face punitive action. If he goes, so must be the fate of Vijayan.

Some party leaders have tried to convince Vijayan to voluntarily resign as the state party chief. This step, according to party insiders, will make it easy to sack VS. But this is clearly not acceptable to the Kerala party unit which is under tight control of Vijayan.

Realising that removal of VS will also inflicts major casualty in their camp, some pro-Vijayan leaders have floated the latest proposal: don’t sack VS but publicly admonish him for anti-party activities. But leaders like Karat and Sitaram Yechury are still clueless about which option to pursue to dissolve the crisis in Kerala.

The party politburo will meet on July 4 and 5 specifically to discuss the Kerala issue.

The marathon fight between the camps of these two Kerala leaders has taken an ugly turn ever since Vijayan has been accused in the multi-crore SNC-Lavalin corruption case. While the dominating section of the party has so far backed Vijayan, terming the CBI charges as “politically motivated”, VS has refused to toe the party line and wants to see Vijayan removed from the chair.

In the recently-concluded CC meeting, Vijayan acolytes like state Finance Minister Thomas Issac or Education Minister M A Baby cried for VS’ removal on grounds of indiscipline. VS supporters moved swiftly to dig out old records to show that when Lalu Prasad or Lal Krishna Advani were chargesheeted, the party had demanded they should step down. So, why the party is adopting different yardstick for its own men?

The Vijayan camp argued that those demands were related to constitutional posts and not party positions. But the counter logic is: “It’s essentially a question of public perception. For the common man, there are hardly any differences between constitutional and party posts.

The public perception is that in a party like the CPI(M), a man charged with cases of corruption is finding shelter,” said a Central Committee member.

Sources say during the June 19 politburo meeting, leaders like Sitaram Yechury and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee suggested that the Kerala issue should be resolved separately and not get entangled in the Central Committee meeting, which was essentially called for introspection of the party’s poll debacle.

Out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala, the CPI(M) won just four this time.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

VS-Vijayan war giving sleepless nights to CPM

22 Jun 2009,ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: CPM’s troubles with its faction-ridden Kerala unit look set to get worse. Kerala state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan’s supporters and senior ministers of the V S Achuthanandan government continued to target the chief minister at CPM’s central committee (CC) meeting on Sunday.

With the “oust VS” demands continuing at full steam, the party is expected to hold a special polit bureau meeting in early July to resolve its Kerala mess. But after the CC meet, the stage is set for pressure on the party from both the VS and Pinarayi camps to see the other person resign.

At Sunday’s meeting, Kerala education minister M A Baby and some of his colleagues continued the attack against Mr Achuthanandan for the poll disaster as well as his refusal to toe the party line on condemning the governor’s nod to prosecute Mr Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin case.

The party also discussed the failure of CPM’s hurriedly put together third front experiment. With a majority of the party’s West Bengal leaders coming around to this view, the Nandigram issue as the prime reason for the party’s failure in the state seems to have been relegated to the closed chapter status. West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee might have regained some of his clout after this CC view, but in Kerala the party is still badly divided.

It has a tough task at hand now as it will find it difficult to take disciplinary action against Mr Achuthanandan or ask him to step down without touching Mr Vijayan in the exercise. There are several factors that make this an uncomfortable decision for the party. Firstly, the CM’s supporters in the polit bureau and CC have argued that Mr Vijayan cannot continue as CPM Kerala chief due to the graft case against him.

They have cited the party’s stand against RJD leader Lalu Prasad to bolster their argument, stating that CPM had made a demand for his resignation in the wake of his involvement in the fodder scam. Secondly, with Mr Achuthanandan holding on to his image of being the most popular CPM man in the state (outside the party), any move to oust him might backfire on the Marxists. Also, Kerala CM has the support of a section of the West Bengal party.

However, CPM’s dilemma is that any attempt at maintaining status quo in Kerala will only give the Opposition Congress a bigger stick to beat it with. The VS government is already in the grip of an administrative paralysis due to the open revolt of a number of senior ministers against the chief minister.

On Saturday, it was state finance minister Thomas Isaac who set the ball rolling on the CM’s resignation issue at the CC meeting. With other senior members of the state government, such as Mr Baby, reiterating the demand, the chief minister did not have too many voices speaking up for him at the meeting.

Achuthanandan under attack from CPM CC members

21 Jun 2009, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: The two-day CPM central committee (CC) deliberations, which began in the Capital on Saturday, saw Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan come under attack from the state committee members and supporters of Pinarayi Vijayan, as the party decided to hold a special politburo (PB) meeting in the first week of July to solve the Kerala factional feud.

Mr Achuthanandan, who has refused to toe the party line on criticizing the Kerala governor for giving the CBI the go-ahead to prosecute arch-rival Mr Vijayan (who is CPM’s Kerala party in-charge) was targeted by his Cabinet colleague and state finance minister Thomas Isaac. Sources said the leader held the CM responsible for the party’s poor showing, representing the overwhelming view against Mr Achuthanandan in the state committee, controlled by Mr Vijayan.

With the party deciding to hold a special PB meeting on 3-4 July to discuss the Kerala factionalism issue, there is a possibility of action against Mr Achuthanandan.

However, before taking any such step the party will have to consider the opinions of Mr Achuthanandan’s supporters in the PB and the West Bengal CPM who are against action against the CM alone while leaving Mr Vijayan untouched.

Other than the Kerala issue, the Lalgarh Maoist siege also dominated proceedings at the meeting on Saturday with West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee presenting a report to the body on the ground situation . The CC adopted a resolution calling for “solidarity campaign with West Bengal” and endorsing state unit’s line that the Maoist violence in West Midnapore was aided by the Trinamool Congress.

Reflecting the party’s decision to portray the Lalgarh operation as a joint exercise between the Centre and state government, Mr Bhattacharjee thanked the Union government for swiftly meeting his request for deployment of forces. He also said the West Bengal government would give “serious thought” to banning the CPI(Maoist) as suggested by Mr Chidambaram.

'Remove VS as Chief Minister'

Express News Service 21 Jun 2009

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Finance Minister Thomas Isaac is spearheading the Pinarayi group’s final war against Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan. Taking part in the debate over the election review report in the Central Committee, Isaac said VS had become a burden on the party. Isaac alleged that VS had failed miserably at the organisational level and in governance. He could neither lead the party to victory nor give an above- average governance.

The only intention of VS had been tarnishing the image of CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, Isaac is learnt to have said in the committee.

He argued that with VS at the helm, the party can’t move forward in Kerala. As long as VS remains in the CM’s chair, the party can’t perform well in any election, said Isaac.

He demanded that VS be removed as the CM and strong disciplinary action be initiated against him for anti-party activities. The election review report presented by CPM general secretary Prakash Karat in the CC also contains severe criticism against VS. Taking a cue from the state committee’s report, the general secretary said VS had tried to create an air of suspicion around the party on many occasions by drifting away from party line. VS never tried to clear the confusion created by the stands taken by him, said Karat.

Left to change course in Kerala, Bengal

The PB’s report also criticised VS for not trying to unite the party in Kerala. Being a senior leader, VS could have shown more responsibility.

He should have taken a more active role in the election campaign, the report observed.

The report also criticised the state party leadership for striking an election deal with PDP without discussing it in the party forums and hurting the sentiments of other LDF partners on the eve of elections. The CC debate will continue on Sunday in which Pinarayi group leaders A Vijayaraghavan, M A Baby and Vaikom Viswan will also speak. These leaders will also attack VS as planned by the group’s strategists.

But, any decision on the innerparty issues in Kerala is unlikely in the CC meeting as a separate PB meeting for discussing Kerala affairs has been scheduled for July 4 and 5. VS will leave for Kerala on Sunday morning itself by skipping the second day’s debate.

CM should be ousted: Thomas Isaac

20 June 2009
New Delhi: Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac has urged the CPM central committee to remove Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan from his post.

According to sources Issac asked for the Chief Minister's removal after alleging that his style of working during the parliamentary elections proved detrimental for the party. Accusing Achuthanandan of continuously defaming the party's state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan he said activities by the Chief Minister was against the interest of CPM. It is better to expel him from the party, he said.

The crucial meeting of the CPM Central Committee, the first after the party's electoral debacle, is happening in the backdrop of the Maoist siege of Lalgarh in Left-ruled West Bengal.

The meeting is being attended by all top CPM leaders, including West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhdev Bhattacharjee.

Karunakaran turns 91, still dabbles in politics

20 June 2009

Thrissur (Kerala), June 20: Veteran Congress leader and former chief minister K. Karunakaran, who turned 91 Saturday, demonstrated despite his advanced age he was abreast of current political affairs.

Karunakaran, who is tipped to be appointed a governor, advised the state Congress leadership not to displease the Nair Service Society (NSS), the social organisation of the Nair community.

Talking to reporters here after offering prayers at the Guruvayoor Krishna temple, Karunakaran said it was unfortunate that the NSS is upset with the Congress.

The NSS leadership is said to be peeved as their demand for a Nair candidate to be elected to the Rajya Sabha and one to be made a minister in the Manmohan Singh cabinet was not heeded.

"The Congress leadership should see that they solve whatever issues are there with the NSS," he said, reacting to media reports that Union Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas' request for a meeting with the NSS leadership Friday was turned down by the NSS.

Addressing reporters on the sidelines of the NSS annual meeting at Changanacherry near Kottayam Saturday, NSS assistant secretary G.Sukumaran Nair said Shashi Tharoor, even though a Nair, is a "Delhi Nair".

"The Congress party took away the seat of sitting Rajya Sabha member Thennala Balakrishna Pillai, a Nair, and gave that seat to Vayalar Ravi (an Ezhava Hindu). Ravi could have contested the Lok Sabha and the Congress party could have given the Rajya Sabha seat to Pillai. Tharoor's inclusion in the cabinet need not be in our account," he said.

However, Thomas told reporters at Kochi Saturday that it was wrong to conclude that the NSS leadership had declined to meet him.

"My tour programme is very clear and it does not mention a visit to NSS headquarters. Since I had a programme at Alappuzha, I just made a call to NSS general secretary P.K. Narayana Panicker who raised some grievances and I assured him all things will be sorted out," said Thomas.

The NSS over the years has kept equidistant from both the Congress and Left-led political fronts in Kerala, but in the recent Lok Sabha polls it had an informal understanding with the Congress to support it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Doctors 'fix' man's wrong leg

15 June 2009

Kozhikode: Doctors at a state-run hospital here 'fixed' the wrong leg of a 30-year-old labourer - but made amends the next day.

The incident occurred Saturday at the state-run medical college hospital here, where Rafeeq was being treated for the past three years after he fell from a tree breaking his left leg, a family member of the patient said Monday.

Rafeeq's brother-in-law Shameer said that last Saturday Rafeeq was taken to the operation theatre in the morning and by 3 p.m. he was brought out.

"Later we saw him writhing in pain and he said the pain was still there and soon we discovered that the doctors had operated on the right leg and not the left leg. When we brought this to the attention of those in-charge initially we got a rude reply. But later, he was taken to the operation theatre and they operated on the left leg yesterday (Sunday)," Shameer said.

When the local media took up the issue, the authorities ordered an enquiry.

The hospital superintendent K. Rajendran said that an enquiry had been conducted and it was found that the patient's right leg instead of the left leg was put in traction.

"In common parlance it may be termed as an operation, but in medical terms it is a preliminary procedure. This was done by a junior resident and inquiries are going on before a final decision would be made to find out if there was any lapse," Rajendran said.

Shameer said: "When the mistake was brought to the attention of the doctors they reacted by saying that when a carpenter makes 10 cots, maybe one will have some problems. Is this the way they should have reacted? Now after it has become news, they have said they will do anything to settle the issue. We are sad with what has happened."

According to Rafeeq's relatives, in the past three years he has had his leg operated upon five times.

Innocent re-elected president of AMMA

16 June 2009
Kochi June 16: The Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) has unanimously elected comedy artiste Innocent as its president for the fourth time in a row.

Innocent said that he wanted to step down, but had to accept the post for the fourth time because everyone wanted him to continue.

Even though the Malayalam film industry is passing through difficult times with lesser number of films being produced, the body of film artistes is united as ever before and the actor is very happy.

"One thing why I am very happy is that I always wanted that in a body like ours there should be no elections because it could lead to unpleasant situations. We don't need a ruling and an opposition front among ourselves. This shows that we are united and we have no issues at all," said Innocent.

Innocent has been the president of AMMA since 2000 and at an executive meeting held here Monday night, there were no issues when his name was cleared unanimously.

Apart from Innocent, 16 other artistes were also elected unanimously to the executive committee. The two vice presidents are two time opposition legislator K.B. Ganesh Kumar and Mukesh.

Veteran superstar Mohanlal is the general secretary, while Edavela Babu is the secretary and Jagadish is the treasurer.

Superstar Mammooty and actor Dileep also found places in the committee.

The official announcement would be made here Thursday and the new committee will take charge at the 15th annual general body meeting to be held here June 25.

NY plane crash kills Keralite industrialist, son

16 June 2009

New York, June 16: Police is investigating the cause of a crash of a single-engine family-owned plane that claimed the lives of an Indian American hotelier, a Kerala native, his 11-year-old son and an Indian American doctor friend in eastern New York.

New York State police said divers recovered the body of the plane's owner, 41-year-old Mathai Kolath George, Monday. The bodies of his son, George Kolath, and 52-year-old Krishnan Raghavan were recovered Sunday.

Kolath, an Albany hotelier, was entertaining his son and Raghavan, a local doctor, with an afternoon jaunt Sunday in his Piper Cherokee plane when it plunged into the Mohawk River shortly after takeoff from nearby Mohawk Valley Airport.

The plane, which was registered to Kolath Airlines LLC of Bear, Delaware, sank in 30 feet of water and was found by people in a boat nearby. Authorities on Monday recovered the small plane and loaded it on a barge.

"He stopped for lunch at a small airport and they took off and (after) their takeoff, we don't know what happened," Kolath's brother-in-law Anil Paulose was quoted as saying by Newsday. Kolath was the "most high spirited person I 've ever seen. He was so full of energy," he said.

Media reports cited Skip Ryan, a pilot who was also waiting to take off, as saying the plane appeared to lose power in the air, plunging nose-first into the river. A skydiving instructor at Mohawk Valley Airport said he and others who were in the small airstrip's restaurant heard the crash, ran down the airstrip and jumped into the river.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tharoor calls on Kerala CM

14 June 2009

Minister of State for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor
Thiruvananthapuram: On his first visit here after joining the Union Council of Ministers, former UN envoy and Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor Saturday called on Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan and promised to strive for development of the city, from where he made his debut to Lok Sabha.

Later, in a chat with reporters, Tharoor said the Chief Minister reciprocated by offering the state government's support to his efforts for development of the state capital.

Earlier on his arrival at the airport, he was given a rousing reception by Congress workers.

Tharoor said he had already held discussions with ministers of various departments on projects in his constituency, which included the long-pending demand of setting up a bench of the Kerala High Court in the capital.

At EMS centenary, CPI-M is downcast

14 June 2009

Malappuram, June 13: The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) celebrates the birth centenary of E.M.S. Namboodiripad, one of its tallest leaders, here Saturday as the party in Kerala goes through one of its worst periods - hit by factionalism, the poll drubbing and corruption charges against a top leader.

Party general secretary Prakash Karat inaugurated a two-day event to commemorate the birth of the iconic communist leader.

But the shadows of the party's troubles are evident. The list of speakers at the event reads like a virtual Who's Who of the CPI-M, except for Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan.

Speaking to IANS on condition of anonymity, an official in the chief minister's office said that Achuthanandan is not taking part in the event because he was not invited.

The chief minister and the state unit secretary Pinarayi Vijayan have been locked in a bitter turf battle. The infighting started in 2006 when Achuthanandan contested the assembly election after initially being denied a ticket. Achuthanandan then went on to become the chief minister.

The relationship between the groups of the two hit a new low when Governor R.S. Gavai June 7 gave nod to prosecute Vijayan. While the party leaders and state ministers lashed out at the governor's sanction, calling it "politically motivated", Achuthanandan said that the governor had done nothing wrong.

Speaking to IANS, state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala said that the absence of Achuthanandan from the celebrations shows that the factional feud in the CPI-M has reached its peak.

"The so-called official faction of the CPI-M led by Vijayan definitely owes an answer to the people of Kerala on why Achuthanandan has been left out from the event," said Chennithala.

In a column in Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhoomi Saturday, Achuthanandan writes that introspection at all levels is the need of the hour for the party and it would be best if the exercise is carried out as the centenary celebrations of E.M.S. Namboodiripad take place.

Tharoor given rousing welcome

Saturday,13 June 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, June 13: A massive crowd of Congress activists turned up at the airport here Saturday to greet Congress MP Shashi Tharoor as he arrived on his first visit to Kerala after assuming charge as minister of state for external affairs.

Tharoor, a former UN undersecretary general, was literally mobbed as he emerged from the airport terminal.

"I have come to say thanks to my voters and I assure them that I will do my best," Tharoor told reporters.

Tharoor created history last month by becoming the first Congress candidate in the last two decades to win the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat. He bagged nearly 100,000 votes.

Buddhadeb rides autorickshaw to Aila-hit areas

West Bengal, June 13

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Saturday travelled in an autorickshaw to meet Cyclone Aila victims in remote areas of this North 24 Parganas block.

Bhattacharjee, who had been heckled and jeered by the disgruntled cyclone survivors owing allegiance to the Trinamool Congress during his June 2 visit to the block, was well received by people who showered petals and raised slogans praising the state's Left Front government.

Hingalganj, 69 km southeast of Kolkata and part of the Mangrove delta of Sundarbans, has been badly mauled in the May 25 cyclone which tore through 13 of the state's 19 districts levelling houses, uprooting trees, snapping power cables and leaving a trail of destruction.

So far, 138 deaths have been reported in the natural calamity across various districts.

The chief minister, on his fourth visit to Aila-affected areas in nearly three weeks, crossed the Ichhamati river by a launch from Dhamakhali to reach Sardarpara and then travelled four kilometres in an autorickshaw up to Jogeshganj to talk to victims and listen to their problems.

While on the launch, he also made unscheduled stops at places like Gopaler Ghat to speak to cyclone-hit people and gave them a patient hearing.

"People won't have to pay the college fees for one year. Admission dates will be extended for them. And from my relief fund I will give you money for buying books and exercise books," Bhattacharjee told the cyclone survivors who gathered at a playground in Jogeshganj.

"But I can't build pucca houses for all of you with the state government's resources. The centre should give us money. It must allocate funds for putting up concrete embankments in the entire Sundarbans," he said.

The chief minister also told people that work on rebuilding 60 percent of the mud embankments washed away in the area due to the cyclone was over. "The rest will also be over soon.

"I am going to meet prime minister Manmohan Singh on June 19. I think I can persuade Delhi to help," he said.

He also spoke to administrative officials and asked them about relief operations.

Hingalganj legislator Gopal Gayen, who was smeared with mud by some people hours before the chief minister's visit June 2, seemed a relieved man after the visit.

"This only proves Sundarbans is still the same. The people have not changed," he said.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Calls for VS to quit

11 June 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: Several posters asking Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan to "resign and go" were found plastered across the state capital Thursday morning even as the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) refuted media reports of friction among its leaders over Achuthanandan defending the governor's action against Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin scam.

Achuthanandan Wednesday said Governor R.S. Gavai's nod to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to prosecute CPM state Secretary Vijayan in the Rs.300 crore (Rs.3 billion) corruption case was "not surprising".

Just a day before, Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had criticised the governor's decision, calling it a violation of the constitution and democratic rules.

However, when asked about his opinion, Achuthanandan contradicted Balakrishnan and said: "Don't you know that there have been several instances in the past where governors have taken such a stand?"

Vijayan is accused of wrongly awarding a project for renovation of three hydel-power projects to the Canadian company SNC Lavalin when he was the state power minister in 1997.

Local media reports said six ministers who support Vijayan went to the tainted party leader's house and expressed their desire to step down in protest against Achuthanandan's comments Wednesday.

There were also reports that Finance Minister Thomas Isaac met CPM national general secretary Prakash Karat in New Delhi and conveyed discontentment among party cadres over the tussle between Achuthanandan and Vijayan.

Senior CPM leader M.M. Lawerence publicly expressed his displeasure with Achuthanandan.

"It appears that Achuthanandan is speaking in the same language as that of the opposition leaders on this issue. I am totally surprised in the manner in which he is behaving," Lawrence said during a panel discussion on a Malayalam TV channel.

However, Balakrishnan issued a statement denying the media reports late Wednesday.

"These are all baseless stories. Our ministers have not told the state party leadership that they cannot continue in their posts. If there are issues we will settle it amongst ourselves," said Balakrishnan.

But despite the denial by Balakrishnan, several posters asking Achuthanandan were found here as Thursday dawned.

Party sources said Karat will participate in the meeting of the 15-member state secretariat of the party, which is scheduled to be held at the end of this week and will address the fallout of the Lavalin controversy.

CPI-M to fight Lavalin case in court

12 June 2009 -
Thiruvananthapuram, June 12: The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Friday said it will fight corruption charges against Kerala state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan legally.

The CPI-M issued a statement after a meeting of the 15-member state secretariat here. "We have no fear to tackle the case in the court and Vijayan can prove his innocence," the release read.

Vijayan has been named an accused by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for giving a tender to renovate two hydel-power projects to a Canadian company SNC Lavalin when he was the state power minister 12 years ago.

"The party is supremely confident and certain that Vijayan will come out unscathed once the case is fought in the court," it added.

The statement also said that the party will take "strict action against against those who try to tarnish the party (image) and its directive".

A CPI-M source told IANS on condition of anonymity said that Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, also present at the meeting, came under fire from his party colleagues for endorsing Governor R.S. Gavai's decision to give the nod to CBI for Vijayan's prosecution.

Gavai had Sunday given the go-ahead to CBI to prosecute Vijayan. While state Home Minister

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and ruling Left Democratic Front convenor Vaikom Viswan hit out at governor for his decision which they alleged was motivated by political interests, Achuthanandan maintained he had done nothing wrong.

The source said that chief minister told the state secretariat that he will explain his stand when the CPI-M politburo meets shortly.

Lavalin firm denies bribing Kerala politician

Friday,12 June 2009

Toronto, June 12: Canadian engineering company SNC-Lavalin, at the centre of a $60 million corruption scandal that has created political turmoil in India's Kerala state and divided its ruling Left party, has denied the charges of bribery and termed the accusations "offensive".

In a chargesheet filed Thursday, India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has named the Montreal-based company along with the Communist Party of India-Marxist's (CPI-M) Kerala secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and others in the alleged bribery scandal.

The chargesheet alleges that the Canadian company was wrongfully given contracts for renovation of three power projects in 1997 when Vijayan was the power minister of Kerala.

"We have done nothing wrong since the beginning of the project," Gillian MacCormack, SNC-Lavalin vice president for global public relations, told IANS.

Refusing to use the word "bribery", she said: "We have absolutely nothing to hide. In fact, we are very proud of our 50-year-old relationship with India and our numerous contributions to its economic development."

The corruption scandal has exposed the rift between Vijayan and Kerala Chief Minister Achuthanandan, and given rise to calls for the latter's resignation.

While the CPI-M has come out in support of the tainted leader and said his prosecution is politically motivated, the chief minister has supported the state governor's decision to take action against his party colleague.

Defending her company, MacCormack said SNC-Lavalin has always executed its projects "properly and professionally and in compliance with Indian law".

"We did rehabilitate three power plants on budget and on schedule in Kerala, and we have it in writing from our client that it is pleased with our work," she said.

MacCormack said her company even helped the Kerala authorities build a cancer hospital, which has been operating for several years now.

Emphasising that the company had a clearly laid-out statement on this issue, she said: "It remains unchanged since it was first drafted several years ago."

MacCormack added that her company was never approached by anyone over the alleged accusations "we keep reading about".

"Nobody has ever contacted us... we find the innuendos and accusations against our company, its representatives and its good reputation offensive, inaccurate and totally unacceptable."

Denying the accusations in the Indian media, she said SNC-Lavalin looks "forward to continuing to work with our Indian clients in the positive environment which has always characterised our presence in the country for the past 50 years".

Achuthanandan will take Lavlin case to politburo

13 Jun 2009

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: After publicly disputing party line on the SNC-Lavlin case, Kerala chief minister V S Achuthanandan now wants to speak his mind at the CPM politburo meeting later this month.

At the CPM state secretariat meeting on Friday, there was criticism of the chief minister justifying Governor R S Gavai's decision to overrule the cabinet and allow prosecution of state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan by the CBI in the multicrore scam.

They said Achuthanandan should have remained silent when reporters asked him about the role of Governor Gavai. Much to the dismay of the party, Achuthanandan had justified Gavai's nod to prosecute Pinarayi saying it was within his discretionary powers.

The state secretariat later decided to fight the corruption charges against Pinarayi in the court. It said the Governor's action was "unfortunate''.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kerala CM says governor not wrong, riles CPM

11 Jun 2009,

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM/NEW DELHI: Differences within the CPM sharpened over Kerala governor R S Gavai's nod to CBI to prosecute party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday when chief minister V S Achuthanandan veered away from the party line to make light of Raj Bhavan's move against the CPM strongman.

"There have been other instances when governors, in keeping with their discretionary powers, have adopted a similar approach after studying the facts and circumstances," Achuthanandan told mediapersons after a weekly meet of the state Cabinet on Wednesday.

This contradicted CPM's official line that Gavai, a former Congressman, acted with bias. Achuthanandan's assertion is being seen as open defiance of the CPM's central leadership that rallied behind Vijayan, and marks the escalation of factional feud at a time when the party is in turmoil over its rout in the Lok Sabha polls.

An embarrassed party leadership refused to comment on the CM ploughing his factional furrow on an issue over which the party has locked horns with the rival Congress-led UDF as well as the Centre.

The aggravated fighting in CPM coincided with Centre getting ready to back the Kerala governor. The home ministry has prepared a note, based on a Supreme Court judgment of 2005, to endorse the governor's action in a move which will further strain Congress-Left ties.

However, Achuthanandan would not care less. Speaking to reporters in Thiruvananthapuram, he also refused to back Kerala home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. The latter had on Tuesday criticised Gavai saying he had not communicated the decision to sanction Pinarayi's prosecution to the state Cabinet even though he had given it to CBI. "The governor keeping the Cabinet in the dark could lead to a constitutional deadlock," the minister warned.

Asked about the charge, Achuthanandan said, "There's no reason to talk about all that now. The governor gave it to us. That was his duty. Once entrusted, I handled it the way I was bound to. The report was placed in the Cabinet on Wednesday so that members could see and discuss it."

Congress was quick to seize the opportunity, and its state unit spokesman M M Hassan welcomed the CM's stand and said that now he must sack the home minister who had "misinterpreted" the Constitution.

Achuthanandan's comments have embarrassed the party and left it in a quandary. Certain sources say the CPM's state leadership may still persist with a strategy to keep the governor out of important events and may even put forth the demand that he be called back.

Kerala CM refuses to toe CPM politburo line

Refusing to toe his party's line, Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan on Wednesday said Governor R S Gavai's nod to CBI to prosecute CPI-M state Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in the graft case did not come as a shock.

Declining to term Gavai's action as a "serious breach of Constitutional norms" as dubbed by his party and some of his ministerial colleagues, Achuthanandan said he was not "shocked or surprised" by the Governor's decision as there had been similar precedents in the country.

"There have been precedents of governors having taken decisions like this using their discretionary powers after studying the matters under their consideration," he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting here.

"I don't consider this as a great surprise.There have also been references made by the Supreme Court in similar situations," he said to a specific query if he thought the Governor had violated Constitutional norms as alleged by his party leaders in the state.

On Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan remarks that Gavai's action of communicating the decision directly to the CBI without informing the state government involved grave procedural lapse, Achuthanandan said there was no need to discuss that now as the Governor had already passed on the order to the government, which was his responsibility.

Achuthanandan, who is locked in a bitter feud with Vijayan on a host of issues, has repeatedly refused to toe CPI-M politburo line that the case was politically motivated.

Vijayan fans up in arms against VS

11 Jun 2009,

NEW DELHI: The CPM-led Kerala government was in the threos of a full blown crisis with chief minister V S Achuthanandan defying his party’s line to back governor R S Gavai, who gave CBI the sanction to prosecute CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin case, and CPM ministers making it known to the leadership that they cannot function under the chief minister.

Breaking his silence on the governor’s decision, the chief minister on Wednesday afternoon said Mr Gavai’s nod for the prosecution did not come as a surprise. “There have been precedents of governors having taken decisions like this using their discretionary powers after studying the matters under their consideration,” he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting in Thiruvananthapuram.

The Vijayan faction retailated by getting senior ministers such as Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, P K Srimathi and M A Baby to petition the leadership against the chief minister. These leaders are learnt to have said that it was impossible to work under Mr Achuthanandan, “who has made it a habit to defy the party”.

The chief minister’s stand is certain to add to the embarrassment to the central leadership of the party, which is desperately trying to save its prominent Kerala leader. The CPM politbureau had described the governor’s refusal to accept the state government’s recommendation as “unfortunate” while state home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had said on Tuesday that it was a breach of constitutional norms.

But, Mr Achuthanandan refused to toe this line. “I don’t consider it surprising. There have also been observations of the Supreme Court (defending governors) in similar situations,” he said when asked if the governor had violated constitutional norms as alleged by his party leaders in the state.

This was the first time the chief minister reacted to the governor’s sanction which was given directly to CBI on Sunday, a month after the state Cabinet recommended that the governor should not give his nod. His refusal to oppose the governor’s move comes at a time when his party colleagues are increasingly rallying around Mr Vijayan. The state home minister had taken exception to the governor giving the sanction for the prosecution without informing the state government.

”The governor has created a serious constitutional issue by failing to maintain the relationship expected between him and the state government,” he had said. Another minister in his Cabinet M A Baby said there was no need for Mr Vijayan to step down from the top party post. The politbureau had issued a statement saying the party will fight the case “politically and legally”.

Though Mr Achuthanandan held the view that his bete noire should face prosecution, he was outnumbered by Mr Vijayan’s loyalists. The chief minister has been saying that the Lavalin issue, involving awarding of a contract to a Canadian firm for renovation of three hydro-power stations in Idukki district when Mr Vijayan was electricity minister in 1998, will be discussed in the party committee. The June 19 meeting of the politbureau in the Capital will discuss the issue.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kerala CM refuses to toe CPM politburo line

Refusing to toe his party's line, Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan on Wednesday said Governor R S Gavai's nod to CBI to prosecute CPI-M state Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in the graft case did not come as a shock.

Declining to term Gavai's action as a "serious breach of Constitutional norms" as dubbed by his party and some of his ministerial colleagues, Achuthanandan said he was not "shocked or surprised" by the Governor's decision as there had been similar precedents in the country.
"There have been precedents of governors having taken decisions like this using their discretionary powers after studying the matters under their consideration," he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting here.
"I don't consider this as a great surprise.There have also been references made by the Supreme Court in similar situations," he said to a specific query if he thought the Governor had violated Constitutional norms as alleged by his party leaders in the state.

Vijayan case: CPM steps up campaign against Kerala governor

10 Jun 2009,

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the CPM politburo insisting corruption charges against party's state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC-Lavlin case are "politically motivated'', its Kerala unit on Tuesday stepped up the campaign against Governor R S Gavai for sanctioning Pinarayi's prosecution in the case by CBI.

Home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan led the charge at a news conference claiming that the Governor was yet to convey his decision to the government, two days after the news appeared in the media. Accusing Gavai of keeping the state cabinet in the dark, he said the Governor's action had given rise to a "constitutional deadlock''.

"It was not proper to give the information to the media when the report (of the Governor) has not yet been submitted to the government,'' he said. The government can examine it and decide what to do next only after seeing the report, Balakrishnan added.

He denied the government had decided not to co-operate with the Governor. This was in reference to the sudden cancellation of a public event of the tourism department on Wednesday, which Gavai was scheduled to attend. Balakrishanan, who alsoholds the tourism portfolio, said the cancellation had nothing to do with the government's unhappiness with Gavai and asserted that this was done only because the arrangements had not been completed.

Left Democratic Front convenor Vaikom Viswan echoed the allegations against the Governor saying he was acting "at the instance of the ruling party'' at the Centre.

The Governor is believed to sent his report sanctioning prosecution of Pinarayi to the chief minister's office on Tuesday through a special envoy.

Prabhakaran was tortured: report

10 June 2009

New Delhi, June 10: Tamil Tigers leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was tortured by the Sri Lankan military before being killed, a leading human rights body said in a report released Wednesday.

The University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) quoted high-level military sources as saying that Prabhakaran was tortured in the presence of "a Tamil government politician and a general".

The torture, it said, took place probably at the headquarters of the army's 53 Division, which battled the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) before crushing it last month.

"Several army sources have said that Prabhakaran's (younger) 12-year-old son Balachandran was killed after capture. Our (sources) said that he was killed in front of his father," said UTHR, which has always been critical of excesses both by the military and the LTTE.

"These sources added that this information is correct unless officers at the highest level are fibbing to one another.

"Our sources in addition to several others have said that all the LTTE persons remaining in the NFZ (No Fire Zone) were massacred," it added in a 48-page report, an advance copy of which was made available to IANS.

Sri Lanka announced May 18 that Prabhakaran, founder leader of the LTTE, was killed in a lonely coastal stretch in the northeastern district of Mullaitivu where the Tigers had massed their forces before going down.

His body was put on display, placed on a stretcher, the back of the head blown off.

Sri Lankan minister Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan alias Karuna, a former confidant of Prabhakaran, had told IANS that the LTTE chief was shot dead with 18 of his guards.

Prabhakaran's death marked the end of the LTTE's dragging conflict that claimed 90,000 lives since 1983.

UTHR said: "Information seeping into the public domain from within the army points to capture or surrender, but the official responses dismissing this are a rehash of stories that public no longer finds credible. It is left to an impartial enquiry to answer this and related questions."

UTHR pointed out that the government was evasive about the fate of Prabhakaran's wife Mathivathani.

It quotes a brigadier as saying: "We had to look for Prabhakaran's body because the world was interested in seeing it. But the body of his wife is not of any importance to us."

The UTHR report said: "That would be the fate of the unknown hundreds of civilians and militants killed in those last days (of fighting)."

According to the report, among the LTTE leaders who surrendered to the army included Baby Subramaniam, a member of the group since 1976 and one of Prabhakaran's oldest associates.

Others reportedly now in government custody included former eastern province political leader Karikalan, former spokesman Yogaratnam Yogi, former head of the LTTE international secretariat Lawrence Thilakar, political advisor V. Balakumar, Jaffna leader Ilamparithi and Trincomalee political leader Elilan.

Tharoor no ordinary politician

10 June 2009

Ishaan Tharoor even now looks at India's new Minister of State for External affairs through the eyes of a five-year-old. Ishaan is in Hongkong, his twin brother Kanisk Tharoor is in London, and his father Shashi Tharoor spends most of his time on airplanes. The physical distances are a reality but the Tharoor family stays close through emails and phone calls. Here Ishaan shares his thoughts with Manorama Online on Shashi Tharoor the father and Shashi Tharoor, the newly appointed External Affairs minister.

How do you see this new role for Shashi Tharoor?

We are all happy and proud. His successfull entry into politics is a matter of pride not just for the Tharoor family, but the whole of India.

Shashi Tharoor is some one who is always on the move. How do you keep in touch?

It;s true that he's busy, but he always finds time for us. We are thousands of miles apart. I'm in Hongkong, Kanishk is in London. And dad spends most of his time flying. It's the emails that helps us to stay close. We exchange mails every day. He's quick to give feedback after reading our articles. And while in New York where we go twice every year, we used to stay with him. If we get a chance we always try to meet up. I could stay with dad when I came to India to report on the aftermath of the Mumbai attack.

How do you rate Shashi Tharoor as a father?

It's very tough to find someone who loves children so much. He found time to play cricket with us even when he was deeply involved in issues like Bosnia. While having breakfast he would quiz us about the world capitals, which sparked in us the interests in history and helped our careers. He always found happiness in small things we achieved.

Tell us about your mother Thilothama?

She's a professor of humanities in the New York University. We always get together in New York. For us it's a spot filled with love and mouthwatering food and stacked with books. Christa (current wife of Shashi Tharoor) loves him ver much. And we are happy for it.

Did you see the swearing-in ceremony?

Being in Hongkong, I couldn't watch it in TV. But I did watch him swearing-in through Internet.

When are you going to visit your father's constituency?

It's a realy busy year. But I plan to visit Thiruvananthapuram by the end of this year.

What do you think should be the priority for Shashi Tharoor?

I think the project for Vizhinjam port tops the list. He has a lot of dreams about his constituency. He's not like other politicians. His thoughts, principles and actions that match his words make him different. I think he will dedicate himself for India, the way he dedicated himself to the United Nations for 30 years. Perhaps, he might be the most widely read MP in the Indian Parliament. He might be inexperienced when it comes to politics. But his eruditeness and contact with world leaders will help him bridge the gap.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Karunakaran to be made governor?

9 June 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, June 9: Veteran Congress leader and former Kerala chief minister K. Karunakaran is likely to be made governor of a southern state following talks in New Delhi, party sources said Tuesday.

A Congress MP from Kerala told IANS over telephone from the capital that an announcement to this effect is expected in a couple of days.

"The final round of discussions took place yesterday (Monday) night when (Defence Minister) A.K. Antony, (Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs) Vayalar Ravi and Ahmed Patel visited Karunakaran," the Congress MP said on condition of anonymity.

Karunakaran arrived in New Delhi Sunday and has been engaged in talks with several Congress leaders.

The 90-year-old veteran first tasted political victory when he was elected to the Thrissur Municipal Council in 1945 on a Congress ticket.

Since then Karunakaran has held various political positions. He has been elected seven times as legislator from Mala seat in Thrissur from 1967 to 1991, he was leader of opposition on three occasions, chief minister four times, elected to the Rajya Sabha thrice and to the Lok Sabha twice.

But he and his son K. Muraleedharan left the Congress and formed the Democratic Indira Congress-Karunakaran in May 2005. However, he lost all but one of the 17 seats his party contested in the 2006 assembly polls.

Young women make FM waves in Kerala

9 June 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: As FM radio emerges as a major medium of entertainment and information, young women professionals seem to be making their voices heard above their male counterparts in Kerala. It is difficult to ignore it as a mere coincidence that women in their twenties head the three main FM radio stations in the state capital - Club FM, Radio Mirchi and SFM.

Battling the all-round financial crunch and the dominance of the visual media, the young trio - Sreevidya .K, Nidhi Sudhan and Deepthi .S Sivan have carved out a niche in the hearts of thousands of Malayali listeners within a short time.

"It's a pleasant coincidence that women hold key positions in three leading FMs in the city. Actually, ladies suit the job better than men as co-ordinators. Women can be tender, humane, and patient as well as strict and wise in their dealings, which are essential for an FM leader," 25-year-old Sreevidya of Club 94.3 FM said.

In the visual media, there could be many persons to look after various tasks. But in FM radios it is the station head who plans, coordinates and execute everything from programming to human resourcing and from idea-generation to marketing. It is here that a woman's managerial capabilities count, she said.

Sreevidya came from an IT background and went on to work as production Entertainment Head of BBC in the Middle East and in the Ras Al Khaimah Broadcasting Authority before joining Club FM.

"Because of my initial experience, I knew the challenges of FM and this helped my job in the fast emerging FM culture in a highly competitive atmosphere in Kerala, where media houses and corporates have made their entry, she said.

But, Nidhi Sudhan, 29, Progamme Head of Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM, who came from the visual media, easily adapted herself to the challenges of the audio format. "I knew that studying the local pulse was the initial step to launch a new product. So having a firm understanding of local tastes and preferences was the challenge before me," Sudhan said. Though she is quite young, she never faced any problem in leading a team with many senior members.

"It is only talent that matters here. Age, seniority or academic qualifications wouldn't help you much. Though people are sometimes reluctant to obey and co-operate with a young woman as team leader initially, they will accept you if you are capable of executing the tasks cut out for you," Nidhi said.

According to Deepthi S. Sivan, Station Director,93.5 SFM ( of Sun group), the trend favours the youth. "If a 27-year-old woman like Agatha Sangma can be a central minister, what's wrong with us holding positions in the entertainment industry?" she asked.

Commonsense, sharp wit, sound general knowledge and the ability to play with words as the occasion demands are skills expected of a radio professional, whether the person is a Station Head or an RJ (Radio Jockey), Deepthi said.

Though FMs have hit the air at a time of economic downturn, all three young women are of the opinion that radio has come to stay as a major medium in Kerala and is set to grow in the coming days, overcoming initial challeng

Krishna Iyer flays Kerala governor

8 June 2009
Kochi, June 8: Former Supreme Court Judge V.R. Krishna Iyer Monday criticised Kerala Governor R S Gavai's decision for according sanction to the CBI to prosecute CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in a graft case.

"To dismiss the Cabinet opinion and relying on the advice of the police chief is to make India a police raj not swaraj," Iyer said in a statement here. "The grave issue shaking the Constitution in its conscience is whether the Governor in his discretion can dismiss the cabinet's decision, defeat and govern the state by his opinionated view.

"If he can do so in one case, calling it irrational or biased, he can overrule every cabinet decision," Iyer said. "India fundamentally is a democracy, which means that ultimately supremacy and sovereignty vest in the people's representatives, not in a non-accountable authority.

If this basic structure is violated, the Constitution of India is reduced to printed verbosity, not effective state power of the people," he said. Referring to an earlier seven-judge bench ruling of the Apex court, Iyer said the Chief Justice had held that the Governor was bound to act obeying the Cabinet recommendation and not against it.

Chinese passing off fake drugs as ‘Made in India’

9 Jun 2009,

NEW DELHI: Are fake drugs manufactured in China being pushed into various African countries with the `Made in India' tag? The Indian government has long suspected this to be the case, but it now has definite evidence for the first time.

Last week, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) of Nigeria issued a press release stating that a large consignment of fake anti-malarial generic pharmaceuticals labelled `Made in India' were, in fact, found to have been produced in China.

New Delhi has registered ``strong protest'' with the Chinese mission and China's foreign trade ministry, according to sources in the commerce ministry.

India's High Commissioner in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Mahesh Sachdev, had earlier written to then commerce secretary GSK Pillai, alerting him to the large seizure: ``While this is a case of a Chinese company exporting fake `Made in India' labelled medicines which has been accidentally exposed, it is unlikely to be an isolated incident. Indeed there is no reason for Nigeria to be the only country to be receiving such consignments.''

His letter went on to say: ``Fake foreign-made generics carrying `Made in India' label can do tremendous harm to our interests. It not only dents our image and takes our legitimate market share, it also erodes the distinction between generic and fake medicines that we have been campaigning for at WHO and WTO''.

Commerce ministry sources said: ``We have had many complaints about such fake drugs from China being offloaded as Indian drugs in countries like Ghana, South Africa, Ivory Coast and West Africa — in general, where India has a substantial market share. But so far there has been no formal complaint. This is the first time that such a large international consignment has been seized and this will be taken up strongly with the Chinese side.''

Sachdev in his letter said that he had spoken to the director-general of NAFDAC Dr Paul Orhii who said that the Nigerian preference for generics made such cases of fake drugs more common. He expressed NAFDAC's determination to curb circulation of substandard fake medicines.

India and China have been held primarily responsible for fake drugs in the Nigerian market in particular and Africa in general. About 60% of drugs in Nigeria are imported. Between 2001 and 2007, more than 30 Indian and Chinese companies were banned in Nigeria for exporting fake drugs to the country.

However, Dr Mira Shiva of the Initiative for Health Equity and Society (IHES) told TOI that both India and China being large manufacturers of generics, multinational firms would look to discredit the two countries and label their drugs as substandard, so that they would have greater access to the African markets. She warned against the two countries trying to run each other down before ascertaining the full facts in the case to rule out any orchestration, but added that India ought to be more careful to ensure the quality of the drugs exported as well as sold domestically.

Graft case: CPM observes 'black day' in Kerala

8 Jun 2009, PTI

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Protest demonstrations and public meetings marked the 'black day' observed by CPM in Kerala today to protest Governor R S Gavai's decision to accord sanction to CBI to prosecute former minister and CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in a graft case.

The 'black day' did not affect normal life in the state, except in Kannur district, considered to be party stronghold and home town of Vijayan, where a 'hartal' was observed.

Except for stray incidents of attack on buses, private vehicles in Alappuzha, Idukki, Kozhikode and Palakkad districts, the protest passed off without any major incidents in other parts of the state, police said.

In some places, the protesters also blocked roads causing inconvenience to public, police said. Educational institutions remained closed in some parts where the district administration had declared a holiday in view of the protest.

CPI-M workers took out a protest march here to Raj Bhavan and speakers condemned Gavai's decision yesterday to give sanction to prosecute Vijayan in the SNC-Lavalin case.

In Kannur, a group of protesters attacked the office of the Mathrubhumi daily at Thalassery in which the window panes were damaged. A few bundles of the Malayala Manorama daily were set on fire at the Muncipal bus-stand early today

'Kerala Governor's action has created Constitutional issue'

Thiruvananthapuram (PTI): Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Tuesday took exception to Governor R.S. Gavai "directly conveying" his decision to sanction prosecution of CPI(M) State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in a graft case, saying it created a "serious constitutional issue."

"The Governor has created a serious Constitutional issue by failing to maintain the relationship expected between him and the state government," Mr. Balakrishnan, also a CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, told reporters here.

"Even two days after the Governor communicating the decision to the CBI, the (State) government has not received any details on the matter. The government can take further steps on the matter only on getting the details," he said.

"It is difficult to understand as to why the Governor did not inform the Cabinet of his decision. Who is the Governor afraid of?" he asked.

Mr. Gavai had on Sunday communicated to CBI his decision to permit the prosecution of Mr. Vijayan in the case pertaining to alleged corruption in awarding of a contract for a Canadain company SNC Lavalin for renovation of three hydro-power stations in the State. Mr. Vijayan was power minister when the contract was finalised in 1998.

The Governor's decision came despite the government in Kerala advising against the move.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

CPI(M) to observe 'black day' tomorrow

Thiruvananthapuram, Jun 7 (PTI) Stung by Governor R S Gavai's nod to CBI to prosecute CPI(M) state Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin graft case, the party today decided to observe a 'black day' tomorrow.
CPI(M) in a release asked party cadres to hold protest demonstrations and public meetings across the state as part of the 'black day' protest.

Meanwhile, activists of DYFI took out a protest march in several parts of the state and raised slogans against Gavai.

In the state capital, DYFI activists marched towards Raj Bhavan and burned Governor's effigy. The march was stopped by police at Kawadiar junction.

Leaders, who spoke on the occasion, condemned Governor's decision and said he was acting under the "influence" of Congress leaders.

Meanwhile, Youth Congress workers took out a march in some parts of the state welcoming Governor's decision. PTI

CPI(M) terms Kerala Governor's action politically motivated

Thiruvananthapuram (PTI) In a major jolt to the CPI(M) in the politically sensitive SNC-Lavalin graft case, Kerala Governor R S Gavai on Sunday gave sanction to the CBI to prosecute party's state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, overruling the Cabinet recommendation against it.

The CPI(M)-led LDF government had told the Governor not to permit prosecution of Mr. Vijayan, holding that there was not enough evidence against him, but the CBI had stuck to its guns that there were enough grounds to proceed against Mr. Vijayan.

The Government's recommendation was based on legal opinion of state Advocate General C P Sudhakara Prasad that there was no evidence to prosecute Mr. Vijayan regarding alleged corruption and irregularities in awarding contracts for renovation of three hydro-electric projects to Canadian company SNC-Lavalin when he was Power Minister in 1998.

CBI Additional Superintendent of Police Premkumar received the letter giving sanction to prosecute Mr. Vijayan, the Central agency sources here said.

Finding irregularities in awarding the contract which had resulted in huge loss to the exchequer, the CBI wanted to arraign Mr. Vijayan as the ninth accused in the case.

Reacting sharply to the Governor's action, the CPI(M) termed it as unfortunate and stuck to the stand that it was politically motivated.

Alleging that the Congress-led UDF and anti-CPI(M) forces were putting pressure on the Governor, the party said Mr. Gavai's overruling the state cabinet recommendation was unfortunate.

The CPI(M) made this allegation in its state secretariat release, while reacting to the Governor's action.

The Lavalin case had often brought Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan in conflict with the official group led by Mr. Vijayan with whom he was at loggerheads for long.

The stand taken by Mr. Achuthanandan, who had reportedly raised a dissenting voice at the Cabinet meeting last month when it decided that that there was no ground to give sanction to the CBI to prosecute Mr. Vijayan, had even led several party members to demand his resignation if he could not follow the party's official line.

Mr. Achuthanandan also had reportedly maintained that even the Advocate General, who recommended the government not to give sanction to prosecute Mr. Vijayan, himself had said he did not get all the details of the case from the CBI.

The issue was used as a weapon against Mr. Vijayan by Mr. Achuthanandan who had all along argued that though he was a party man as Chief Minister he had to uphold Constitutional obligations vested on him.

The CPI(M) Central leadership had often silenced Mr. Achuthanandan, but he never let go any opportunity to strike at Vijayan, saying he would continue his crusade against corruption.

At its recent meeting to review the poll outcome which saw LDF end up with a poor tally of four out of 20 Lok Sabha seats, the CPI(M) had said that the campaign by the Opposition UDF in the SNC Lavalin case had caused the Left Front dearly.

The CPI(M) state secretariat in its statement said the party would face "this onslaught politically and legally".

State Home Minister and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said party would challenge in the court whether the Governor had the right to give sanction for prosecution.

He said the cabinet took the decision against prosecuting Vijayan after government was convinced that it was not a fit case for giving sanction for it.

Welcoming the Governor's decision, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Oommen Chandy, said the Governor had performed the constitutional duty.

Union Minister for Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi told reporters at Ernakulam that there was nothing special as the Governor had taken the decision legally and performed his constitutional duty.

There were several precedents in the country wherein Governors had taken such a decision, he added.

More trouble for CPM as Guv okays Pinarayi's prosecution

7 Jun 2009, ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It turned out a somber Sunday for the CPM today unlike any in the recent past. In the morning the party took a jab in the form of a pastoral letter from the Catholic church that belittled Marxism, and the afternoon brought a stronger punch when governor R S Gavai gave sanction to the CBI to prosecute CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin case.

The governor's sanction overturned the recommendation that the state advocate general had offered to the state government, arguing that Mr Vijayan need not be prosecuted in the case. The government had in turn given that recommendation to the governor. The CBI, however, stuck to the position that there were enough grounds to prosecute the CPM state secretary.

Stung by the development, the Democratic Youth Federation of India and the Students Federation of India immediately took to the streets in protest. There were also protests in Kochi and Kottayam and calls for hartal on Monday in some districts.

The CPM has always backed its state secretary in the Lavalin issue and taken the stance that the case is politically motivated. The party's available politburo is expected to meet in Delhi on Monday where it is likely that the leaders will reiterate that stance.

Kerala home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan was one of the first to react to the development, stating that the CPM would deal with the matter through legal channels. Opposition leader Oommen Chandy said the governor had carried out his constitutional duty by approving prosecution of the Marxist leader.

The SNC Lavalin case pertains to alleged irregularities in awarding contract for renovation of three hydro-electric projects in the state at Pallivasal, Chenkulam and Panniyar to the Canadian firm SNC Lavalin when Mr Vijayan was state power minister in 1998.

Kerala governor gives nod to prosecute Vijayan

The investigation into was handed over to the CBI despite the government taking up the SNC Lavlin the supreme court level

Kochi: RS Gavai, Kerala governor, on Sunday gave the Central Bureau of Investigation, or CBI, the nod to prosecute Pinarayi Vijayan, the CPM Kerala state secretary and politburo member, in the SNC Lavlin scam.
This is overruling the Kerala cabinet decision more than a month ago not to prosecute Pinarayi after the governor had sought the cabinet opinion.
The case relates to the grant of contract to the Canadian firm SNC-Lavlin for modernization of the Pallivasal, Chengulam and Panniyar hydro-electric projects during the Left Democratic Front rule in 1998 when Pinarayi was the power minister. The Comptroller and Auditor-General, or CAG, had in its report said that the state lost Rs374.5 crore because of the deal.
The investigation into was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation, or CBI, despite the government taking up the issue to the supreme court level. The CBI had early this year proposed to chargesheet Pinarayi, who it named the ninth accused in the case.
Since Pinarayi was a former minister, it had to seek the consent of the governor who in turn had to get the nod from the cabinet to allow prosecution. The government had sought legal opinion from the advocate-general in the matter who ruled against prosecution which was conveyed to the governor.
The issue had become a serious point of discussion within the CPM with VS Achuthanandan, chief minister and Pinarayi’s bete noire, publicly stating on several occasions that the law should be allowed to take its own course and that the party should fight the matter both politically and legally. However, the party central leadership, even after the poll debacle in Kerala where the CPM could manage to win retain just four seats of the 20 Lok Sabha seats, had said that the Lavlin was an issue that had been discussed earlier and the party would face it politically.
It was in February 1996 during the Congress-led UDF regime that the KSEB signed an MoU with the Canadian firm for consultancy services.
But when the LDF assumed power in May the same year, Pinarayi as power minister changed the consultancy MoU to a fixed price contract for distribution of equipment and services. There were charges then that Pinarayi had a role in granting the deal to SNC-Lavlin at high rates, overlooking the low rates of state-owned BHEL. As part of the deal, the Canadian firm promised to give Rs 98 crore to the Malabar Cancer Centre at Thalassery in northern Kannur district, Pinarayi’s hometown, though the money did not come.
In 2001, an Assembly subjects committee found that the government had suffered losses on account of the agreement. The CAG report in 2005 quantified the loss at Rs374.5 crore. It had said that the entire amount spent on the renewal projects was lost as the company did not complete the renewal process and not an extra megawatt of power was generated from the three projects.
In January 2007, the Kerala high court, acting on a public interest litigation, ordered a CBI probe into the scam.
The CBI has sought the governor’s permission to file a chargesheet that accuses Vijayan and 10 others, including some officials, of receiving kickbacks for allotting a contract.
The high court had asked the state government to give its views by 11 May for which it sought the views of CP Sudhakar Prasad, the advocate-general who in his report not only gave Pinarayi a clean chit but also proposed that there need not be any prosecution proceedings.
Oommen Chandy, opposition leader, was quick to react saying that with the Governor having given permission to prosecute Pinarayi it has been proved that nobody is above the law.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Kerala village has over 200 pairs of twins

6 Jun 2009

MALAPPURAM (Kerala): It was a phenomenon that had gone unnoticed for several years, even by the residents. But now a village in Kerala with over 200 twins and a few more on the way is in the limelight.

"None of us was aware of this phenomenon and now many have started thinking of this. There is also a new association for these twins," said Kunju Marikar, president of the Nannambra panchayat (village council) under which comes Kodinhi village that boasts of the record.

Of the 20 wards that fall under the council, Kodinhi has seven wards, each having a population of around 2,000.

"The surprising thing is that this phenomenon does not prevail in other wards of the panchayat," Marikar added.

Following the attention to the village, Pullani Bhaskaran, 51, the father of a pair of twin boys aged 16, formed the Twins and Kins Association (TAKA), exclusively for the parents and the twins.

"We have recently formed an 11-member executive committee and have begun registration of twins. So far we have zeroed in on 230 pairs of twins and we are trying to rope in all the twins irrespective of their age. We feel the number could swell to more than 300 pairs," said Bhaskaran, a contractor.

According to the information collected by TAKA, the 85-year-old Mohammed Haji is the oldest living twin, with his sibling having died a few years ago. The oldest living twins are 65-year-old Pathukutty and Kunji Pathukutty.

The latest pair (both boys) were delivered May 6 by Ramla, 24. TAKA's inquiries have revealed a few more are on the way.

Yusuf, an autorickshaw driver, has three pairs - all girls. His wife delivered the first pair seven years ago and the third pair about three months ago.

"We are happy and my wife and my two tiny girls are hale and hearty," said a pleased Yusuf.

A team consisting of G.R. Chandak from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, and Kaumudi Godbole, of the Centre for Human Growth and Development, Pune, met about a dozen pairs of twins of the village last November and examined their food habits and other factors.

However, the villagers say they have not heard from the team since then.

"We have not heard from them. Now what we are doing is to document the entire details of all the twins. Our preliminary findings show that among the twins, girls lead the pack. The maximum number of twins is in the age group of 5 to 15. Shortly we will come out with all the details," said Bhaskaran.

India confirms fifth case of swine flu

6 Jun 2009

NEW DELHI: Health ministry has confirmed a fifth case of swine flu in a 28-year-old man who travelled from the United States through London.

The man arrived in Hyderabad on May 31 and two days later reported symptoms of fever, cold and sore throat, said a ministry statement issued late Friday. He tested positive for the virus and is in stable condition.

"His close contacts are being traced and advised home quarantine and their health status is being monitored," the statement said.

The World Health Organization says swine flu has reached 69 countries and infected more than 22,000 people, causing 125 deaths.

Kerala no more a difficult state for investment: Minister

6 Jun 2009

PUNE: Elamaram Kareem, the industries minister of Kerala, said here on Thursday that Kerala is emerging as an attractive investment destination among the south Indian states, with focus on investments in services and manufacturing sectors. He said an extensive campaign is being undertaken across the country to bring about a change in the old perspective that Kerala is a difficult destination for investment.

Kareem said that the government has come up with major projects for the development of the tourism sector. This sector contributes to a major section of activities in the state. Some of these projects include a campaign called responsible tourism and exploration of new destinations and developing Kerala as an international tourist hub. This will attract more number of foreign tourists, Kareem said. "Things have changed in the last decade. With the significant development in infrastructure and education, and with the reforms in labour policies, Kerala is no more a difficult state for investment. The state has registered a significant growth in GDP, which is even more than the country's growth."

Reacting to the criticism that industry in Kerala often face problems due to strong labour unions, Kareem said the government has brought considerable reforms in the labour sector. The number of man-days lost in Kerala due to strikes nowadays are much lower than the national average. It was brought almost to nil last year, Kareem said.

The minister was in the city to address a programme, Investment opportunities in Kerala,' organised by the World Malayalee Council, Pune province, in association with the Kerala government. "Similar events will be undertaken in different cities across the country. These programmes will help establish a communication network between the Kerala government and investors keen on investing in Kerala, Kareem said.

Earlier, T Balakrishnan, principal secretary for industries and commerce, Kerala, said that the Kerala government is focusing on cluster formation for IT and SMB sectors. The government is also following a policy to being growth with social equality and employment generation.

Karunakaran to meet Cong leadership in Delhi

6 June 2009
Thiruvananthapuram, June 6: Veteran Congress leader K. Karunakaran will be in New Delhi Sunday to meet the party's national leadership to discuss his grievances, party leaders here said.

A top Congress leader said Karunakaran, 90, wanted to tell the party high command about his grievances.

"I am not very sure if he is particularly keen on a governor's post as was reported in the media here. His supporters after his return to the Congress party in December 2007 are slowly being accommodated by the present state Congress leadership. He wants to speed up things in this regard," the Congress leader told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Karunakaran has held every political position from that of a legislator - he was elected seven consecutive times from the Mala constituency from 1967 to 1991, minister, leader of opposition on three occasions, chief minister for four terms, Rajya Sabha member for three terms and Lok Sabha member twice.

The only post he has not held in his long political career so far is that of a governor.

Karunakaran is likely to press for a candidate of his choice in the Ernakulam assembly constituency, which has been vacated by K.V. Thomas who has become minister of state for agriculture.

Sources close to him point out that he is worried about the political future of his only son K. Muraleedharan, who was the state Congress president 2001-04.

In 2005, the father-son duo had quit the Congress and formed the Democratic Indira Congress, which they merged with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) the next year.

While Karunakaran returned to the Congress, his son is state NCP chief but is perceived as a political non-entity. In the recent Lok Sabha elections, he lost in the Wayanad constituency, finishing third with less than 100,000 votes.

Karunakaran's daughter Padmaja Venugopal, who recently returned to the Congress after her shock defeat in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, also hopes he will get her a larger role in the party.

Adoor makes serials, not film: T.V. Chandran

6 June 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: Renowned film maker T V Chandran has opined that the quality of the movie that won Adoor Gopalakrishnan the state award for best director equals a tele-serial. His comments came close on the heels of the announcement of state awards for Malayalam films.

He alleged that the state public relations department and the government are gripped by fear when Adoor's film competes for state awards.

The noted film director also stated that Adoor's stand of praising the jury when he gets award and criticising it when he dosen't, is not right.

It's not the job of the director to evaluate a jury, it's the jury that should be judging a movie, he said.

T.V. Chandran also said that Gireesh Kasaravalli, who headed the jury which announced the awards, cannot even think of movie like Bhoomi Malayalam, which was directed by him.

Adoor Gopalakrisnan declined to comment on T.V. Chandran's remarks. He had won the state award for best director for his movie; 'Oru Pennum Randanum.'

Monday, June 1, 2009

SmartCity: Tecom wants Govt's assurance

1 June 2009

Kochi: Dubai-based developers Tecom, whose IT project in Kochi - SmartCity - has run into rough weather over land issues, Monday demanded an assurance from the Kerala government that it would get freehold status for 39 acres of land by December this year.

"We are not asking for the freehold today or in six months time. We want a re-assurance from the government that the project would be entitled to the freehold status on the 39 acres, SmartCity CEO Fareed Abdulrahman said.

"The government has to assure us that whenever the masterplan is ready, we will get the freehold," he said.

Tecom has been demanding freehold states for 39 acres of the total 246 acres of land allotted to the Rs 1,500-crore project which envisages a potential to create 90,000 jobs.

Abdulrahman said they were insisting on freehold status as lots of foreign direct investment would be coming once the project gets going and they were only asking for a re-assurance from the government in this regard.

He said as of now they had no plans to shift the project to any other state. "We are very eager to start the project. We want to bring the IT infrastructure, create more jobs and bring business to the city and boost Kerala's economy," he said. "The phase I of the Kochi project is on hold until there are positive signs," he said.

Schools reopen in Kerala

1 June 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: Schools reopened in Kerala Monday but the monsoon rains kept away and the children escaped the usual drenching. Around five lakh children took their first steps to 6,802 schools in the state.

Monsoon breaks when schools open in the state, almost possibly on June 1, but this time though it set in earlier, the rains kept away.

The Directorate of Public Instruction, however, said that the number of students enrolling was declining every year. Around 47 lakh of students enrolled themselves from first to tenth standard, they said.

As part of reformation in the syllabus, IT education was extended to 'upper primary' schools, the sources said.

The distribution of the revised text books was in progress. The state-level inauguration (of revised text books) was held at Peerumedu in Idukki district

Tharoor prefers traditional dress of Kerala

1 June 2009
Tharoor arrives for the opening session of the 15th Lok Sabha
New Delhi: Diplomat-turned politician and now Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor is more comfortable in the traditional dress of Kerala than in a suit and tie given the simmering Delhi summers.

"For the summer of Delhi, the Kerala dress is good. The tie was not that comfortable for the neck," Tharoor told reporters outside Parliament House.

Asked how he felt as a politician after his high-profile career in the United Nations, Tharoor said his main objective was to serve the people. "I wanted to serve the people of Thiruvananthapuram who have elected me and raised their voice. Now, I have got new responsibility and challenges," Tharoor said, adding that he will discharge his duty with sincerity.

He described becoming a member of Parliament as "humbling experience" as it was a historical place.

Asked about the situation in Australia following the attack on Indian students and their demonstration, the minister said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already talked to his Australian counterpart on the issue. "We are concerned as it is a serious matter," Tharoor said.

Kerala pays tributes to Kamala Surayya

Kochi (PTI): People from all walks of life, including poets, writers and political leaders, on Monday paid homage to well-known poetess Kamala Surayya, who carved a niche for herself in both English and Malayalam literature with her bold writings.

The body of the writer, who passed away yesterday at Pune, was brought to this morning to her home state Kerala. A large number of people, including well-known names in the state's cultural and literary circuit, paid homage when the body was taken to Thrissur, Alapuzha and Kollam en route Thiruvananthapuram.

Special prayers were held by Muslim clerics at the airport soon after her body was brought from Pune.

State ministers Thomas Issac, K P Rajendran, P K Gurudasan, S Sharma, Benoy Vishwam paid tributes to the writer, who took the literary world by storm with her book My Story.

The body was taken to Thrissur, Kerala's cultural capital, first and kept at the Sahitya Akademi hall for the people to pay homage. Noted writers, including Sara Joseph,offered their tributes. In Kochi, which was Ms. Surayya's alias Madhavi Kutty's home for several years, a huge crowd had gathered to pay their last respects.