Friday, October 30, 2009

Top Pak diplomat knew US Lashkar operatives: FBI

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's Consul General in Chicago personally knew both David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, nabbed by the FBI for planning to carry out a major terror attack in India at the behest of LeT, the US authorities have claimed.

The FBI in its revised chargesheet filed before a Chicago court said the Consul General of Pakistan in Chicago personally knows both Rana and Headley alias 'Daood Gilani', as all three of them are from the same high school.

According to the website of the Pakistan Embassy here, Dr Aman Rashid is the Consul General in Chicago.

'On or about September 25, 2009, Rana spoke by telephone with the Consul General at the Pakistani Consulate in Chicago in an effort to obtain a five-year visa for Headley to travel to Pakistan. It is clear from the email traffic unrelated to terrorist plotting that the Consul General knows Rana and Headley personally as all three attended the same high school,' the FBI claimed.

However, the affidavit, does not say anything if the Consul General was aware or had any inclination of the terrorist connection of Rana and Headley.

Rana (48) and Headley (49) are not only residents of Chicago, but were product of the same military school.

American national Headley, whose assistance was sought by Lashkar-e-Taiba in planning a major terror attack in India, was helped by his Pakistani-Canadian
friend Rana to obtain a visa for Pakistan so that he can travel to NWFP for training and meeting the LeT leaders, federal prosecutors have charged.

The chargesheet also indicates that LeT was planning to use Headley for a major terrorist attack in India.

The transcripts of the taped conversations, both email and telephone, reveals that LeT was planning to use Headley for attack on a mysterious Indian actor 'Rahul' - which Indian intelligence agencies say could be a code message.

Headley stated that he intended to travel to Pakistan in early October to meet with an unidentified LeT Individual 'B' and (Ilyas) Kashmiri, the FBI told the court. It said Headley had already travelled to Pakistan from late January to early March of 2009, during which he visited FATA.

While it does not mention to which high schools the three were students, the FBI told the court that postings to a Yahoo group of graduates of a military school located in the Pakistani town of Hasan Abdal (a group that refers to itself as 'abdalians') reflected that both Headley and Rana have participated in the group and referred to their attendance at that school.

Cadet College Hasan Abdal is located in the Hasan Abdal - a historic city in northern Punjab of Pakistan, some 40 km north west of Rawalpindi. The town with a population of 50,000 is famous for Gurdwara Sri Panja Sahib, one of the most sacred places of Sikhism. PTI

Cruise travellers make a beeline to Kerala

29 October 2009

Kochi, Oct 29: Global cruise travellers are beginning to flock Kerala, bringing some cheer to the state's tourism industry hit by the slowdown and the recent Thekkady boat mishap.

With the October-May cruise tourism season setting in, already two luxury liners have called at Kochi Port, the latest - 'Aida Cara', which arrived here on Sunday from Mangalore with 1,135 high net worth tourists, mostly from Germany sailed off to Colombo Wednesday.

Earlier, a luxury vessel with 1,000 odd passengers had called at the port.

A little over 980 passengers disembarked from 'Aida Cara' and 954 tourists boarded it from Kochi.

This is the first cruise vessel to make use of Kochi as turnaround port, port sources said. The visitors undertook city tours, pleasure trips to nearby destinations like Fort Kochi and Mattancherry and some showed keenness in taking a bumpy 'Tuk Tuk' ride in an autorickshaw.

Many took houseboat rides to crisscross Alapuzha backwaters and canals, while some preferred a traditional sojourn, which includes a visit to Vaikom Mahadeva temple, classical musical school, khadi weaving centre and coconut extracting unit.

The cruise vessel's arrival sent cheers to those in the tourism industry as after the Thekaddy mishap, there were not many takers for boating and houseboat trips.

From April this year to March next at least 27 cruise liners are expected to call at the port here.

Matsyafed claims to develop anti-obesity capsule

Friday,30 October 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala's state promoted fisheries co-operative Matsyafed has developed a marine-based health product, that it claims would help in reducing obesity.

Extracted from the exoskeleton of fresh marine prawns, crabs and lobsters (chitosan), the product named 'Chitone' would hit the Indian market in December and its production has already started in agency's Neendakara plant in Kollam, a Matsyafed release said here on Friday.

Matsyafed had earlier entered into a technical collaboration with the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology for extraction of chitosan and quality control. Clinical and toxicological studies showed that chitosan was an efficient and safe fat absorbing fibre.

It had proven to be a non-toxic and well-tolerated natural product helping in weight reduction, normalising blood pressure and blood cholesterol reduction, Matsyafed claimed. Besides marketing, Matysafed also plans to sign agreement with leading drug dealers for the upcountry marketing of the product, the release added.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Karunanidhi attacks Kerala on Mullaperiyar

22 October 2009

Chennai: Coming down heavily on the Kerala government for its stand on the Mullaperiyar dam, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi Tuesday said people would start wondering which state is ruling the country. In a statement issued here Tuesday, he said: "If the Kerala government thumps its chest for trampling upon the law of the land and believes that the Tamil Nadu government should accept that bowing its head, then people will wonder which state is ruling the country."

Citing the Kerala government's act of passing legislation to overcome the Supreme Court's judgment permitting increase of Mullaperiyar dam height and starting the survey work for the construction of a new dam across the river, Karunanidhi said he wondered whether these are proper norms of governance.

"Law abiding citizens and people who have faith in democratic values should decide whether such acts are right," he said, claiming it is only Tamil Nadu which abides the law of the land for peaceful coexistence with its neighbouring states.

Karunanidhi also accused Kerala Chief Minister V.S.Achuthanandam of bypassing all norms and his comment that Tamil Nadu's objection to a new dam is "politically motivated".

The Supreme Court will hear the Mullaperiyar dam case Wednesday, filed by Tamil Nadu government against the Kerala law that seeks to circumvent the Supreme Court's order permitting the Mullaperiyar dam height to be raised by six feet to 142 ft and the centre's sanction to Kerala to carry out survey for construction of a new dam.

DMK to hold protest meeting at Madurai on November one

Chennai, Oct 21 (PTI) Apparently targeting Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh for allowing Kerala to do a survey to build a dam across inter-state Mullaperiyar river, the ruling DMK today announced a protest meeting led by Chief Minister M Karunanidhi in Madurai on November one to 'condemn' the move.

In a brief statement, the DMK, without mentioning Ramesh's name, said "party president (Karunanidhi) will participate in a massive meeting in Madurai to condemn the functioning of a Union minister of state on the Mullaperiyar issue."

The announcement came on a day when the Supreme Court rejected Tamil Nadu's plea for a stay on the survey, stating that "at this stage, no order is called for."

The Bench said the apprehension of Tamil Nadu that the survey was being conducted to build a new dam was "misplaced" and it is "premature" for it to pass any order

Dam that divides: Kerala and Tamil Nadu spar again over Mullaperiyar

Article by M G Radhakrishnan

Thiruvananthapuram, October 22, 2009

The century-old Mullapperiyar dam across Periyar river on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border has once again brought the two states to blows. The latest round in the decades-long differences between the two states over the issue has been triggered by the permission given by Union Minister for Environment Jairam Ramesh to Kerala to conduct a survey for constructing a new dam in the Periyar Tiger Reserve here.

Kerala has for long been demanding the dismantling of the old dam for safety reasons. But Tamil Nadu has opposed this saying dismantling of the existing dam would lead to denial of waters for its farmers living in three neighbouring districts.

The Supreme Court has on Wednesday rejected Tamil Nadu's request pleading for a status quo or a stay the proposed survey to build a new dam observing that the state's apprehensions were premature. The three judge bench said the conduct of survey would not immediately lead to construction of a new dam. "The survey may be fruitful or not.

Kerala would also need central permission to construct a new dam said the court. The existing dam was constructed more than a century ago with the specific objective to make water available for the farmers of the three water-starved districts of Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunandhi has accused Kerala of showing total disregard for judicial decisions and facts by going ahead with the proposal for a new dam. Tamil Nadu's Opposition leader J Jayalalitha has lent a touch of drama and said, "Kerala's move to construct a new dam is comparable to China's attempt to build a dam across Brahmaputra in Arunachal Pradesh."

Kerala's Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan has retaliated saying it is the competitive politics in Tamil Nadu which makes its leaders turn blind to the dam's huge safety risk.

Karunanidhi has said that Kerala's fears over the safety are exaggerated and rejected by the Supreme Court. "The apex court passed an order to raise the dam's water level from the existing 136 feet to 142 feet. But Kerala responded by enacting a legislation aimed at non-implementation of this order. Kerala government led by a national party of high tradition should introspect about this disregard for judiciary and Constitution."

Kerala has long felt that the old dam affords immense risk to the people living in its four adjoining districts. Various studies by Kerala's government agencies have confirmed these fears although the Supreme Court is yet to be convinced. Kerala's request for dismantling the dam and building a new one is pending before the apex court.

Kerala's Irrigation Minister N K Premachandran has said Tamil Nadu's fears that it would be denied waters if a new dam would be constructed were unfounded. "IN fact more water would be available with the construction of the new dam. And there will be no reduction in the waters being given now to Tamil Nadu" said he.

Tamil Nadu's Pattali Makkal Kuchi's (PDP) supremo Dr S Ramadoss has charged that "Kerala rules India" with its "undue clout at the centre exercised through its array of civil servants belonging to the state". According to him it is on account of this Kerala "manages to go ahead against Tamil Nadu's interests on Mullaperiyar issue". He has said one third (19 out of 53) of secretary-level officers in central secretariat are from kerala including top honchos like TKA Nair, special secretary to the Prime Minister, Christy Fernandez, Secretary to President, M K Narayanan, National security Advisor, K M Chandrasekhar, Cabinet secretary , Nirupama Rao, Foreign Secretary etc.

Mridangam maestro brings out 'palliative' CD

Thiruvananthapuram: Eminent mridangam maestro and Guinness record holder Kuzhalmannam Ramakrishnan has brought out a CD of the soft percussion instrument, which he claims is palliative in nature for patients battling for life.

The 'palliative CD' called 'Relax with Rhythm' was released by Principal Secretary to Prime Minister T K A Nair by handing it over to P K Biju, MP, in New Delhi recently. Defence Minister A K Antony felicitated Ramakrishnan on the occasion. The 37-year-old Ramakrishnan said his personal tragedy of seeing pain and suffering of his sister Prabha a few years back while battling cancer prompted him to do something for thousands of persons undergoing treatment for major ailments in hospitals in India and abroad.

"When my sister was battling for life, I tried to console her by playing mridangam, perhaps the best percussion instrument that can produce the softest rhythms, he said. After his sister's death, he used to visit hospitals whenever he had time to bring some cheer to patients, he said. Doctors have said the musical therapy often helped normalise blood pressure and relax the minds of even the most tense patient.

This made him to think of bringing a CD, he said. Ramakrishnan is holder of four Guinness records, including one for the longest hand drum marathon for his 501 hour performance from July 5 to 26 conducted at a private hospital in Ottappalam in Kerala's Palakkad district. Recipient of several honours, he is also a painter, lyricist and teacher.

Boat tragedy: govt, KTDC also responsible

22 October 2009

Kochi: The Kerala High Court Tuesday held the Kerala government and the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) also responsible for the Thekkady boat tragedy because they did not act on earlier recommendations. Justice K.T.Sankaran made this observation while granting bail to five of the six people who were arrested by the Crime Branch during investigations into the tragedy.

The double-decker boat, owned by the state-run KTDC, capsized in the lake in the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady last month, leading to the death of 45 tourists.

Sankaran said that the state government failed to take proper action on the recommendations of judicial commissions that probed earlier boat tragedies in the state.

He added that the KTDC also failed to comply with rules and regulations that they should have adhered to.

Those who got bail include K.K.Sanjeev, the surveyor, N.A.Giri, an official of the Chennai-based firm that manufactured the boat, boat's pilot, his assistant and a forest guard.

The bail of Chief Boat Inspector M. Mathews, who also is in custody, did not come up for hearing Tuesday.

Sankaran asked the state chief secretary to inform the court, within 10 days, what steps the government has taken in the last four months at all important tourist destinations in the state.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mohan Lal's battalion bags first Prize

New Delhi: Kannur 122 battalion, headed by Film star Mohan Lal, won the first prize in the 60th anniversary parade of Territorial Army held on Monday.
Mohan Lal, who donned Army's uniform in reel life, was inducted into in the Territorial Army in July this year, was the centre of attraction in the parade.

Lt Col Mohanlal makes his mark in Territorial Army

Mohanlal with Defence Minister A K Antony at the parade of the Territorial Army in New Delhi on Monday.K P Sai KiranFirst Published : 20 Oct 2009 04:24:00 AM ISTLast Updated : 20 Oct 2009 09:20:14 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Actor Mohanlal who broke the walls of reel life to become Lieutenant Colonel, made his presence at the annual parade held to commensurate the 60th birthday of the Territorial Army here on Monday, turning it a proud moment for the Malayali community world over.

Mohanlal, along with his wife Suchitra, shared the gallery with Defence Minister A K Antony, Army Chief Deepak Kapoor and other senior officers to witness the parade of the Territorial Army, of which he is a part. Mohanlal, who is also the brand ambassador of the Territorial Army, said it was one of the best moments in his life - to be the part of the Indian Army, which has been serving the nation altruistically.

“Being a part of this great institution is overwhelming.

I am extremely proud of this achievement and thankful for this honour. Also, the Madras Regiment, to which I belong, has had a longstanding relation with Kerala, since the time of the kingdom of Travancore”, he told Express.

Marking the third decade of his indelible career on screen, Mohanlal was bestowed with the rank of Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the Territorial Army for his roles in films like Keerthi Chakra and Kurukshetra, which portrayed the real plight and vigour of the army men who fight against all odds.

He had shared the real lives of the Army personnel in actual conflict zones, displaying his passion for the Army and realistically portraying the penultimate, fearless and duty-bound Army officer in these films. The Indian Military Academy had put him through a crash course on military etiquette to prepare him for induction into the elite service.

He had since been part of the Kerala-based 122 Infantry Battalion Madras (Kannur Terriers).

“By mid-December, I will join the battalion at Kannur and attend the training sessions. Being a part of this great organisation, I will do my level best to promote the sense of patriotism among the younger generation. We also plan media interactions as part of the promotional activities”, said Mohanlal.

By-poll scene turns bitter in Kerala

19 October 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: The campaign for the assembly byepoll in Kannur segment has turned bitter with the ruling LDF and the Congress-led UDF engaging in wranglings over irregularities in electoral rolls.

Unlike most other by-polls, the battle this time has been taken seriously by Congress and CPM with the former trying to further firm up the gains it made in the Lok Sabha polls in the area and CPM making an all out bid to regain lost ground. Adding to CPM's discomfiture, Congress has put up former CPM MP A P Abullakutty as its candidate against LDF veteran M V Jayarajan (CPM).

The verbal duel was triggered by UDF which alleged that several new names were fraudulently added to the voter list by CPM, a good chunk of which allegedly transferred from neighbouring segments. The CPM has hit back at the UDF alleging this was part of a gameplan to upset conduct of free and fair polls since the coalition feared that it would not be able to garner the votes received in the Lok Sabha polls.

Caught in the vortex of political exchanges is District Collector K V Balakrishnan in his capacity as Chief Returning officer, who had sent a report to the Chief Electoral Officer suggesting a close scrutiny of the rolls.

Senior BJP leader O Rajagopal has suggested postponement of the by-polls till the flaws in voters list were rectified. The campaigning in Ernakulam and Alappuzha, also going to the bypolls with Kannur, has remained less stormy.

Vayalar Ravi violated poll code: Collector

20 October 2009

Kannur (Kerala): The Kannur District Collector V.K. Balakrishnan Tuesday submitted a report to the chief electoral officer on alleged violation of the poll code by union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi during campaigning last week for the Nov 7 assembly by-poll.

Balakrishnan has also filed a complaint against Congress stalwart and Kannur MP K. Sudhakaran for threatening a government official. Sudhakaran had last Friday alleged anomalies in the voters' list.

Ravi had at a public function last week pledged to give Rs.500,000 to an educational institution for building a sports facility, while Sudhakaran had alleged that more than 10,000 voters from neighbouring constituencies were transferred to Kannur and the district administration was keeping mum on the issue.

"I have not done anything wrong. I have several cases against me, and one more is not going to be any problem as the CPM is doing everything against me," Sudhakaran said, reacting to the news that a non-bailable case has been registered against him.

The Congress has fielded A.P. Abdulla Kutty, who till early this year was a two-time Lok Sabha member of the CPM, while the Marxist party has fielded a heavy weight candidate in M.V. Jayarajan, who had won from the nearby Edakadu constituency in 1996 and 2001.

Kutty was booted out of the party ahead of the May general elections for violating party discipline.

The only time the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) has won the Kannur seat was way back in 1977.

Since 1965 in 11 elections, the CPM has fielded its own candidate only twice and on the other occasions the seat has been contested by its allies.

In 1980 when it put up O. Bharatan and again in 2006 it put up K.P. Sahadevan, the CPM candidates lost both times.

The Kannur by-election is set to see one of the most keenly contested assembly elections.

For the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), Kannur district has been one of the strongholds for the red party.

For the CPM, Sudhakaran is their bogey man because in 2006 he completed a hat trick of victories from the Kannur assembly seat. He then rubbed the red party the wrong way by winning the Kannur Lok Sabha seat by a huge margin this year, ending the CPM's success in two earlier Lok Sabha polls.

E.P. Jayarajan, CPM central committee member, told reporters here Tuesday: "The way in which Ravi campaigned has violated poll guidelines. It is the Congress which is playing games to create issues," he alleged.

Friday, October 16, 2009

CPM uneasy, but doesn’t slam China

Oct 14, 2009

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat had recently accused pro-US lobbies within India of trying to complicate Indo-China relations and rejected reports of hostile manoeuvres by Beijing. So, when China on Tuesday opposed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the comrades found themselves in an unenviable position.

Not only was there any official reaction from the CPM — there was a Politburo statement demanding blacklisting of all US companies involved in giving bribes — party leaders did a tight ropewalk over Beijing’s aggressive posturing.

“They (China) have been doing it. The problem is that they have not accepted Arunachal as a part of India. What we say is that the border dispute should be resolved amicably. India and China are two fast developing countries and friendship between them is good for Asia," CPM Politburo member M K Pandhe said.

The CPI also spoke along the same line. “Arunachal Pradesh belongs to India. It is a part of India,”CPI general secretary A B Bardhan said. About Beijing's protest over the Prime Minister's Arunachal visit, he just repeated "Arunachal is a part of India.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Abdullakutty is UDF candidate from Kannur

14 October 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: Former CPM MP A P Abdullakutty from Kannur was among three candidates announced by the Congress for as many assembly by-polls from Kerala slated for November 7.

Former state minister Dominc Presentation would contest the Ernakulam seat and Alappuzha DCC president A A Shukoor from Alappuzha. This was announced by KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala after the party high command cleared the list submitted by the state unit.

Twice elected to the Lok Sabha on CPM ticket from Kannur, Abdullakutty was expelled from the party on the eve of the last parliament poll after falling out with the party on a host of issues including his controversial statement praising the development model of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

He has since then joined the Congress. The three seats fell vacant on resignation of their assembly membership by K Sudhakaran (Kannur), K V Thomas (Ernakulam) and K C Venugopal (Alappuzha) on their election to the Lok Sabha on Congress tickets.

Antony arrives in Russia; cementing defence ties on agenda

Moscow: Defence Minister A K Antony arrived here today for a crucial meeting of a key joint defence commission as the two countries are poised to finalise new co-ventures in strategic weapons, including investment and technical parameters of 5th generation fighters.

During the three-day visit, Antony would hold one-to-one meetings with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov and take part in talks at the Indo-Russian Inter-governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), the apex body for co-ordination of ongoing defence projects.

The visit comes as several key Indo-Russia defence projects including the delivery of aircraft carrier Gorshkov
and nuclear Akula-II class submarine are delayed.

The Russians are playing down the delays and hiccups, saying that the situation has drastically changed over last
two years and the projects have been put on fast track.

However, no new defence agreements are expected to be signed during the visit, except the classified protocol of the 9th session. But the two sides are expected to explore possibilities of new joint ventures in advances weapon

Defence sources said that despite India's drive for diversification of military acquisitions, Russia has remained
the source of its most sensitive defence technologies. The recent launching of indigenous
nuclear submarine INS Arihant under one of India's most secretive Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) Project, lease of Akula-II class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine, BrahMos cruise missile technology and joint development of fifth generation fighter aircraft are examples handed out by Russians as the most lucrative projects.

'Unlike in the case of other partners, Russia has not denied India any technology it wanted,' defence sources here

Antony, who under the austerity drive of the government arrived on a regular flight, is to co-chair the ninth annual session of the IRIGC-MTC.

After laying wreaths at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier under the Kremlin wall tomorrow, Antony will begin the
official part of his visit, followed by a one to one meeting with Serdyukov, with whom he would co-chair the IRIGC.

According to Ruslan Pukhov and Konstantin Makiyenko of the independent think-tank CAST, unlike in case of serially
produced arms sale to other countries, Russia develops tailor-made weapons platforms for the Indian armed forces to
meet their stringent requirements.

'This gives a fillip for the innovative development of Russian defence industry, it is a win-win situation for both
the countries,' Makiyenko said citing the example of Su-30MKI multirole fighter developed for and with the IAF, which has become Russia's hottest export item. PTI

Three people in a car tried to kill me: Mamata

KOLKATA: Railway minister Mamata Banerjee has alleged a conspiracy to kill her, claiming that a car with a press sticker on it tried to hit her vehicle in Kolkata's satellite township of Salt Lake in the early hours of Wednesday.

The Trinamool Congress chief said the car with three people, including two with a camera inside, sneaked into her convoy and tried to get very close to her vehicle when she started for home after a get-together.

'It was then very late and there was no street light. This white car managed to get right behind my car in the convoy. It tried to hit my vehicle. We tried to avoid it and took a detour. Again the car came back.

'This happened four or five times. The policemen in our convoy asked them to stop, but the car did not. I asked the policemen not to fire,' Banerjee said.

When contacted, state police inspector general (law and order) Surajit Kar Purakayastha said: 'We have received a complaint about this. It prima facie appears that it was a press car. Nobody has been arrested.'

Banerjee, who was accompanied by union minister of state
for shipping Mukul Roy and state party president Subrata Bakshi, alleged that those inside the car could be contract killers sent to eliminate her.

'When the car was finally stopped, it was found that the driver was not carrying any driving licence. The two people carrying the camera also could not produce any press identity card,' said an angry Trinamool chief.

'Why should somebody chase my car at 1am? And if the police now say that it was an intelligence bureau car, I will ask them what is the need for it? Already there are police escorts in our convoy. Are we insurgents or criminals?' she asked.

Later, Trinamool Congress trade union chief Purnendu Bose, who was travelling in another car in the convoy, filed a complaint at the Bidhannagar East police station.

Roy accused the West Bengal home department and the state Communist Party of India (Marxist) headquarters of masterminding an attack to kill Banerjee.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee holds the home portfolio. 'Already Buddhadeb and his government are trying to influence the probe,' Roy alleged.

Kerala Govt. to start infrastructure works for Vizhinjam project

Special Correspondent -The Hindu

The Cabinet on Wednesday decided to take up work on the development of infrastructure for the proposed Vizhinjam International Container Transshipment Terminal from next month.

Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan told the media after the Cabinet meeting that Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL), the government company formed for implementing the project, would start building the road and other infrastructure. The Cabinet had sanctioned Rs. 450 crore for the work.

The Chief Minister said that it would be possible to complete the work in 12 to 15 months. Meanwhile, fresh global tenders would be floated for selecting the private partner for building and operating the transshipment terminal. It would be possible to identify the private partner by the end of next year. (Earlier attempts to finalise global tenders had to be aborted for want of Central clearance, court cases and other complications).

He noted that the Cabinet had entrusted the VISL with drawing up the proposal for development of the road and railway line for the port. The company would hold discussions with the National Highways Authority of India and the Railways in that regard.

He said that several round of discussions would have to be completed before a decision could be taken on the proposed Sobha Hitech City and five other mega projects.

He declined to comment on the controversy over the State government recommending some industrialists for Padma awards. “All decisions in those regards may not be Cabinet decisions,” he said.

Battle lines drawn for assembly by-polls

14 October 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 13: Battle lines have been drawn for Nov 7 by-elections from three Kerala assembly constituencies, as the Congress leadership Tuesday cleared the names of the candidates suggested by the state unit.

Polls are due in Kannur, Ernakulam and Alappuzha - the three seats which fell vacant after the sitting Congress legislators were elected to the Lok Sabha in the April-May general elections.

The ruling Left Democratic Front has already announced its candidates, while state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala announced the party list here Tuesday.

At Kannur, the Congress has popped up a surprise by deciding to field A.P. Abdullah Kutty, two-time Lok Sabha member from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) who was booted out of the party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

Kutty takes on CPI-M heavyweight M.V. Jayarajan, a two-time legislator who did not contest the last assembly polls in 2006.

Dominic Presentation, a three-time Congress legislator from Palluruthy in Ernakulam district who lost the 2006 polls, will take on P.N. Sinilal (CPI-M), who is fighting an assembly election for the first time.

"In fact, Sinilal and myself were in college together. We also met yesterday. But now we are fighting elections from opposite camps," said Presentation.

At Alappuzha, the Congress is fielding district party president A.A. Shukur agaist Communist Party of India (CPI) youth leader G. Krishnaprasad. Both are contesting an assembly election for the first time.

"I consider this as a responsibility put on me by the party and I take it up," said Shukur.

The Kannur seat is expected to see the stiffest battle. The CPI-M, which has never won from Kannur in nearly four and a half decades, will not like to lose the seat to somebody who was a party man till a few months ago.

Master swindler gets bail after 13 months

13 October 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 13: The 21-year-old mastermind behind a Rs.500 crore financial fraud Tuesday walked out of jail after a Kerala court gave him bail in the 32 cases against him.

Sabarinath, who spent more than 13 months in jail, gave a surety of Rs.46 lakh in the cases against him. He is alleged to have swindled more than 3,000 investors through his share broking firm.

He promised to address a press conference soon.

"Instead of talking to you here, I think it is best that I call a press conference soon and speak to you," Sabarinath said outside the Central Jail before driving away with his counsel.

The financial fraud surfaced in September last year when Sabarinath was arrested after the share brokerage firm he ran here closed down.

Eleven others were also arrested -- his father and five women, including two staffers, a woman bank officer, a doctor and a state government official. Some of his advisors were also nabbed.

While the rest had got bail earlier, Sabarinath was given bail Monday evening and released Tuesday afternoon.

The case had hit headlines after one of the accused, Dr Remani had appeared on TV to say that Sabarinath was only a tool and the real culprits included the sons of state Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Health Minister P.K. Sreemathy.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (C-M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan had dismissed the allegations against his party colleagues as baseless.

In a story that could be straight out of the films, Sabarinath, who has studied till Class 12, had fallen out with his parents when they refused to give him money to start his business. He began as a financial consultant with a life insurance company and in 2007 launched his firm Total4U.

He used to offer Rs.160,000 on an investment of Rs.100,000 for three months.

Sabarinath had a lavish lifestyle and owned many luxury cars. He even opened a recording studio in a prominent hotel at Kochi in July. Police had seized more than a dozen luxury cars, including a brand new BMW he gifted his girlfriend.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Houseboat tourism hit by double whammy

Alappuzha: The houseboat industry in Kerala, which was on path to recovery from the Global Economic Recesion, was facing yet another threat, the spread of swine flu across the world.

''We are in the processs of recovering from the impact of the economic recession with the bookings from domestic tourists, particulary those from North India.

But the spread of the dreaded flu across India dampened our expectations,'' Houseboat Owners Association General Secretary Rajan Peter told UNI.

Since the houseboat industry depended mainly on foreign tourists in the past, the growing economic recession decreased the flow oftourists from foreign countries, particularly those from the US, UK and France, he said.

''However, with a large number of domestic tourists, particulary those from Gujarat and Pune, turning up we were on the verge of compensating the slowdown of foreign tourists and had quite comfortable advance bookings,'' he pointed out.

According to the data, the composition of foreign to domestic tourists was 70:30. Now, the situation reversed and it was 30:70 in favour of domestic visitors, he claimed.

Since people from IT sector were the second largest customers for boating, the recession hit their turnout also, he added.

Paul murder: case diary produced in HC

Kochi: Police today produced the case diary relating to the murder of businessman Paul Muthoot George in the Kerala High Court.

Justice K T Shankaran was hearing the bail applications of four accused-- Sunil, Aneesh Kumar, Binoy Markose and Jain
Jose- when the diary was produced.

The judge posted the bail applications for October14.

The accused submitted that they were in judicial custody since August 23. Earlier, the Alapuzha sessions court had
dimissed their bail pleas.

George, Executive Director of Kerala-based Muthoot Group, was murdered by a gang at a deserted place near Alapuzha on
August 22.The group has interests in several areas including financing and hospitality industry. PTI

Friday, October 9, 2009

Minister refutes Tamil Nadu claim

N.K. Premachandran Says Tamil Nadu’s objections are politically motivated

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Minister for Water Resources N.K. Premachandran on Friday disputed the contention of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi that the clearance granted by the Centre for the survey and investigation on a new dam across the Mullaperiyar in Kerala was sub judice.

The Minister told journalists that the case before the Supreme Court (filed by Tamil Nadu in 2006) was one seeking annulment of the Schedule of the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation Act (and not related to the question of a new dam). Besides, the new dam was proposed 1,300 feet downstream of the existing dam and was outside the area covered under the Periyar lease agreement. So, no breach of contractual obligation was involved.

He said the survey on the proposed dam was started two years ago, and the survey of seven kilometres along the Mullaperiyar had already been completed. The clearance was for the continuation of the survey into the Tiger Reserve area. The sub-divisional office for the survey was inaugurated with much fanfare two years ago and Tamil Nadu had not objected to it at that time. Its present objections were motivated by political factors.

He added that the Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh had given a statutory clearance only for the survey and investigation. Hence, the campaign by Tamil Nadu against the Union Minister was meaningless. The construction of the new dam would require clearance from various agencies, including the Central Water Commission and the green Bench of the Supreme Court.

He said Tamil Nadu should withdraw its objection, as even the feasibility of a new dam would be known only after the survey and investigation. Referring to the case filed by Tamil Nadu before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, he said Kerala would ask the court for time to file counter. The original petition filed by Tamil Nadu in 2006 would come up for hearing on October 20.

Mr. Premachandran said Kerala had stated in its application for clearance for the survey that the existing dam at Mullaperiyar was 113 years old, weak and could cause serious disaster in future. The Union government had agreed with its stand in this regard for the first time.

Kerala Congress (S) to merge with KC(M)

Kottayam (Kerala), Oct 9: The Kerala Congress-Secular (KC-S), supporting the state's opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), Friday announced it will merge with the Kerala Congress-Mani (KC-M).

The mergers decision was unanimous, five-time legislator P.C. George, who heads the KC-S, told reporters after a party meeting.

"The convention is that it is the river that merges with the sea. Hence, we decided to merge with the strongest of the three Kerala Congress parties in the UDF," he said.

George had been with the Kerala Congress (Joseph), which is an ally of the ruling Left Democratic Front, but broke away from it ahead of the 2006 assembly polls and formed the KC-S.

He contested from his traditional Poonjar constituency in Kottayam district with the support of the LDF but soon had differences with Pinarayi Vijayan, the state secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and parted company with the Left.

Early this year he was given an associate membership of the UDF but he was told that since he is the sole legislator of KC-S, his party cannot be a full-fledged ally.

This prompted him to merge his party with KC-M, which now has seven legislators and would now become the second biggest ally of the UDF, ahead of the Indian Union Muslim League.

The merger is expected to take place in a month's time.

Thekkady boat tragedy: official, guard held

9 October 2009

Thekkady (Kerala): The Crime Branch of Kerala Police investigating the Thekkady boat tragedy Thursday arrested the Chief Boat Inspector M. Mathews and a forest guard for negligence that led to the boat capsize last week killing 45 tourists.

The double-decker boat, owned by the state-run Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), capsized in the lake in the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary Wednesday last week.

Mathew had inspected the boat after the tragedy and given a clean chit to the boat. He had said it might have capsized because the driver made a sharp turn.

Speaking to IANS, Inspector General of police R. Sreelekha, who is heading the probe, said the arrest was made after a discussion with her team members.

"Mathew has been arrested because he failed to conduct the stability test for the new boat that was pressed into service last month. It was a mandatory test which he should have held. As chief boat inspector, he should do all the prescribed tests as per law and he did not do that," said Sreelekha.

She said the forest guard was arrested because it was his responsibility to ensure that only those who have tickets be allowed to enter the boat.

"It has been found out that the boat was carrying more than the capacity, and the guard did this by putting more people on the boat. Both of them have been charged with culpable homicide," said Sreelekha.

With this, the number of arrests for the tragedy has gone up to four. The driver of the boat and his assistant were arrested last week and are in judicial custody.

The state government has already requested the Kerala High Court for the services of a high court judge to conduct a judicial probe.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tharoor is working hard for country: Rahul

Thursday,8 October 2009

Thiruvananthapuram:Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday sought to steer clear of Union Minister Shashi Tharoor's remark over Gandhi Jayanti being a holiday, saying he has no personal view on it.

"I don't really have a personal view on it. I don't think everybody should be opinionated on every single issue. I am comfortable whether it is a holiday or not," Gandhi told reporters here. He said it would not make any difference to the Mahatma whether his birth anniversary was a holiday or not and added that it was for government to make decisions on such matters.

In a pat to Tharoor, a former UN diplomat who made a successful debut to Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram in his maiden attempt at electoral politics, Gandhi said "he is working hard for the country".

In his posting on Twitter, a social networking site, Tharoor, who is Minister of State for External Affairs, had suggested that people should work rather than enjoy to celebrate the Mahatma Gandhi's birthday which the Congress had said was his "personal view".

Tharoor had earlier stirred a controversy with his twitter remarks dubbing travel by economy class as "cattle class", amid austerity drive by the government, which the Congress had strongly disapproved of.

I will visit dalit homes till I die: Rahul

Thursday,8 October 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: Rahul Gandhi has blunted UP chief minister Mayawati's criticism that his visits to Dalit homes were a political stunt saying he only saw people as "human beings" and that he will continue this till "I die".

Asserting in an emotional tone that these visits were a learning process which would end the day "I die", the AICC General Secretary said, "if she(BSP leader) doesn't like it my apologies to her".

He said he did not believe in the caste system. Rahul also said the media had thrust a Dalit "frame" on his visits to the backward districts of the country. Asked about his visits only to Dalit houses, he said, "I personally don't believe in caste system...I go to a human being's house and not a dalit's house. The frame of dalit is your frame, not mine... You see him as a dalit, I see him as a poor person,".

"The day I die I will stop learning. I hope I will continue to learn till the day I die," he told reporters. On a visit to Kerala to strengthen the party's youth wings, Gandhi expressed confidence that Congress will come to power in UP but did not want to hazard a guess on when it will happen.

"I can guarantee that this is going to happen and people are going to be proud of the Congress government in the state," he said. In a veiled attack on non-Congress parties ruling certain states, Rahul said the "inability" of the state governments there to reach out to the people was one of the reasons for spread of naxalism there.

In states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh or Orissa, the governments were not reaching out to the people, which was one reason behind spread of naxalism, he said.

Yesudas to help Thekkady boat driver

Thursday,8 October 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: Veteran playback singer K.J. Yesudas Thursday said he would provide all legal help to the driver of the ill-fated boat, which capsized Sep 30 at Thekkady lake in central Kerala's Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary killing 45 people. Speaking to a TV channel here, the singer said it is sad that the driver alone is being accused for the tragedy.

"The driver was doing his job. Are there no other officials who also need to be made accountable for the tragedy? It is not fair to target just the hapless boat driver. So, we have decided to help him fight the case," Yesudas said.

The driver, Victor Samuel, and his assistant are in judicial custody after the Crime Branch arrested them last week.

"The driver did not own the boat, it belongs to the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC). He alone should not be made the scapegoat," Yesudas said.

A shipping expert Wednesday confirmed the boat had some inherent faults and had a tilt about 2.9 degrees to its right side.

The state cabinet has requested the Kerala High Court to provide a sitting judge to probe the tragedy.

State Bharatiya Janata Party president P.K. Krishna Das Thursday demanded that Kerala Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and KTDC chairman Cherian Phillip should step down on moral grounds.

Monday, October 5, 2009

RSP slams LDF government's functioning in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 4 (PTI) Revolutionary Socialist Party, a constituent in the ruling LDF in Kerala, today criticised the functioning of the state government.

Left parties had drifted from the tribals, working class and marginalised sections, RSP general secretary T J Chandrachoodan said at a meeting of the party's trade wing.

Referring to the situation in Kerala, he said the government "failed" to take note of the growth of radical outfits like Dalit Human Rights Movement whose activists had recently been arrested in connection with the murder of a person at nearby Varkala.

On Thekkady tourist boat tragedy that claimed 45 lives, he said it the state government has appointed commissions to probe into the accident.

Chengara agitation 'resolved': government

5 October 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: The two year-old Chengara land struggle, a movement started by landless Dalits for ownership of land has ended following talks presided by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Monday.

The leader of Chengara struggle Laha Gopalan stated that they are withdrawing from the struggle though they are not in complete agreement with the package announced by the government.
The talks were held on the basis of a special package formulated by the government in consultation with leaders of Chengara struggle and Opposition leader Oommen Chandy.

Addressing a press conference the Chief Minister said as per the package houses will be constructed for 1432 families who are part of the Chengara agitation.

People belonging to Scheduled Tribe will be given one acre of land, scheduled caste 50 cents. The government will try to implement the package within three months, he said.

While those belonging to Scheduled Tribes will be given houses worth Rs 1.25 lakh, scheduled caste members will be given houses that cost Rs 1 lakh. People in other categories will be provided with houses that cost Rs 75,000.

The struggle led by Laha Gopalan began on August 4, 2007 in the southern plantation belt of Pathanamthitta to gain ownership of land that has been part of a long standing promise of the Government.

Eventually more than 5000 families from different parts of the region moved to the estate owned by the Harrison Malayalam Private Ltd and pitched makeshift tents with poles and plastic sheets signalling a symbolic take over of the land.

Rosaiah occupies chief minister's chair

5 October 2009

Hyderabad: More than a month after he took over, K. Rosaiah Monday entered the chief minister's office at the state secretariat here - at a time fixed by his astrologers.

Amid chanting of Vedic hymns by priests, the 77-year-old Rosaiah, who also holds the finance portfolio, occupied the chief minister's office at 9.19 a.m., the time fixed by his astrologers.

Though he was sworn in as chief minister Sep 3, a day after Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy died in a helicopter crash, he had been discharging his responsibilities from the chamber of finance minister due to political uncertainty.

After occupying the chief minister's chair, Rosaiah signed a memorandum to be presented to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on the flood situation. He also signed a file for compensation to be paid to the victims.

He then proceeded to the airport to accompany Sonia Gandhi for an aerial survey of flood-hit areas.

Rosaiah entered the chief minister's office at a time when the state is facing the worst-ever floods. For the last two days, he along with some ministers and senior officials had been spending the night at the state secretariat to monitor the situation.

Rosaiah had earlier stated that he would enter the chief minister's office only after getting a nod from the central leadership of the Congress. The leadership, which appears to have turned down the demand of a section of the party to name Rajasekhara Reddy's son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy as chief minister, at least for now, reportedly advised Rosaiah to occupy the chair to strengthen his grip on the administration.

The heavy rains and floods battering the state since last week also had its impact on 'Jagan for CM' campaign by the loyalists of the late chief minister.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Kerala to review safety of tourist spots

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 3 (PTI) The Kerala government has decided to make a thorough review of safety of tourism centres in the state following the Thekkady boat tragedy which claimed 44 lives.

As part of this, state Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has convened a meeting of Forest and Water Resources ministers and top officials of the departments here on Monday.

An official source said the meeting would take stock of the situation in tourism centres, especially of five major boating centres.

The meeting would evolve measures to be taken to ensure safety of tourists coming to major tourism spots, the source said here today.

Thekkady, located in the Periyar Wildlife sanctuary, is the oldest and internationally known tourism spot in Kerala.

"Safety of boating and allied activities have become vital since water tourism has emerged as a major attraction of Kerala," the source said.

Survivors blame lack of safety measures

2 October 2009

Thekkady: The Kerala government has suspended boating in the Thekkady lake after several survivors of Wednesday's boat tragedy blamed lack of safety measures for the capsize that claimed 41 lives.

A judicial probe would cover all aspects of the accident including safety following complaints of poor measures and the steerman's handling of affairs, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan said.

Driver Victor Samuel, who is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Theni in Tamil Nadu, blamed a group of tourists for the mishap saying they moved towards one side of the vessel. Dinesh Dinakaran, a tourist from Madurai, who lost his wife and two children in the mishap, said adequate safety measures were not in place and the boat did not even have life jackets.

Peter Rayan, a tourist from London who was travelling in another boat, said the vessel was tilting to the right which suggests 'there was something fundamentally wrong with it'. "The Centre was considering setting up a unit of the National Disaster Response Force in Kerala, which now exists only in Tamil Nadu for the south," Union Minister of State for Home Mullapally Ramachandran said after visiting the injured.

Meanwhile, wailing kin identified the bodies of their relatives who were on board the state-run double-deck boat that sank after cruising five km. The state has announced a solatium of Rs five lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.

Search operations by naval divers to recover the bodies of victims were called off this evening due to inclement weather and darkness even as relatives of three tourists claimed they were missing.

Ten bodies were fished out taking the death toll in the capsize to 41, state officials said, adding all the victims had been identified. Eighteen of the victims were women and seven children, Idduki SP Kuttappayi said.

Of the 41 deceased, 15 vacationers were from Tamil Nadu, 11 from Delhi, six from Andhra Pradesh, five from West Bengal, two from Karnataka and one each from Maharashtra and Punjab.

Sources in the hospital where the bodies were brought had earlier put the death count at 42 but later said it was 41. Meanwhile, eyewitnesses claimed that many life jackets were found in the boat's engine room without even their plastic covers being removed.

Dam survey: no nod for Kerala, says TN CM

3 October 2009

Chennai, Oct 2: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi Friday stated that the central government has not given its permission to Kerala to conduct a survey to build a new dam near the over century-old Mullaperiyar dam in Idukki district.

In a statement issued here, he said the government would take immediate action if proof is given that such an order has been passed by the central government.

The chief minister said it is not possible to get a stay order from the court as demanded by various party leaders.

"The state government is opposed to Kerala's move to build a new dam and we have expressed this to the centre. There is also a court case on the matter. As such, there is no order from the central government permitting any survey," Karunanidhi said.

Opposition leaders are hitting out at the state and central governments over the reported sanction to Kerala to carry out the survey.

On Thursday, Leader of Opposition J. Jayalalithaa accused Karunanidhi of taking a compromising stand on the Mullaiperiyar dam issue.

The Mullaperiyar dam is on the headwaters of the Periyar river in Kerala. According to a 999-year lease agreement signed during the British rule, it is operated by the state of Tamil Nadu.

Citing safety concerns, Kerala has been demanding the construction of a new dam, which Tamil Nadu has vehemently opposed.