Monday, November 30, 2009

Mohanlal honored with Chithira Thirunnal Award Monday, November 30, 2009

Lt.Col.Padmasree Mohanlal With His Highness Sri Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma

Lieutenant Colonel Padmashree Bharath Mohanlal is honored with the Chithira Thirunnal Award. The award was presented to him by the Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor in Thiruvananthapuram.

Buzz up!The award is organized in the memory of the Travancore King, and is instituted by Sree Chithira Thirunnal Trust. The award includes a cash prize worth one lakh and a citation. Mohanlal said that he is very much obliged to receive the award that is in the name of a legendary king.

'No fixed term for CPM state secretary'

Monday,30 November 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: A senior leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) Sunday said the party's 'rectification document' prepared to reverse its electoral slides and strengthen cadre base does not limit the state units chief's term to three years.

T.Sivadasa Menon, a veteran CPM leader and party secretariat member, said no such decision has been taken.

"There is not a mention of such a thing in the document because such a decision just cannot be taken by the central committee of the party. It can be done only through an amendment at the party congress," said Menon at a meeting organised by the party mouthpiece Deshabhimani.

Reports of this surfaced soon after the party top brass met in Delhi in October and gave the nod for initiating a "rectification campaign" to overcome shortcomings within its ranks.

Speculations soon began that a cap on number of terms for state party secretary was put to take out Pinarayi Vijayan, who has been the CPM Kerala secretary since 1998.

Kerala wants Centre to compensate Gulf returnees

New Delhi, Nov. 28

Fearing a large influx of laid-off workers from Dubai, the Kerala Government has sought Central aid for compensating them. The Kerala Finance Minister, Dr T.M. Thomas Isaac, told Business Line that the State will be seriously hit even if around 50,000 workers return.

There are over 2 million people in the Gulf from Kerala. Around 4.5 million Indians are living and working in the Gulf. Remittances from the Gulf account for a quarter of the State's domestic product.

“Our Government has already announced an Rs 100-crore loan corpus from the Kerala Financial Corporation at an affordable interest rate for potential entrepreneurs among the Gulf returnees,” Dr Isaac said. “A flat interest rate of 7 per cent will be valid through out the period of the loan for such potential entrepreneurs,” the Minister said. He said the Kerala Government has already allocated a welfare fund of Rs 10 crore, adding that there is a Budgetary provision regarding the same.

Though the Centre had proposed a ‘return and resettlement scheme' for the returnees, such a scheme would not work as it is contributory in nature, Dr Isaac said.

“People moving to the Gulf for work spend around Rs 2 lakh just to get there. Since most of them are lowly paid, especially following the financial crisis, it takes around 2-3 years to recoup their investment. Therefore, the Centre's package for Gulf returnees should allocate greater compensation for workers whose duration of stay there is short, and comparatively lesser compensation for those who have managed to stay and work there for a longer period of time,” Dr Isaac said.

The Minister said the feedback he has received from Keralites in the Gulf, including some prominent businesspersons, was that the Gulf region would be severely affected in the short-term due to the Dubai debt crisis and it could spill over to India as well. He said apart from workers returning from the Gulf due to job loss, some important projects in Kerala that were funded by Gulf money - including the Smart City project near Kochi and Vallarpadam International Container Trans-shipment Terminal near Kochi - may find it difficult to raise money.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dubai World debt worries kins of expats

27 November 2009

New Delhi, Nov 27: The $59-billion debt woes of state-run Dubai World, one of the largest global conglomerates, has left thousands of Indian families worried, as the region accounts for half of the country's $25-billion remittances.

Gulf countries employ five million Indians, out of the 25 million total strength of the Indian diaspora in 130 countries, and Dubai being a key driver of the region's economy, a shakeout there is seen unsettling the job market -- and the incomes of relatives.

"The Middle East meltdown has been there for the past one year. People have been coming back to India for the past one year," said E. Balaji, director of a leading headhunting firm, Ma Foi Management Consultants.

"Now, there will be at least 25-percent contraction in the job market. There may be a ripple effect on most Middle East countries because of Dubai World bust," Balaji, whose company is part of the Netherlands-based Randstad group, told IANS in Chennai.

Former governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Y.V. Reddy also expressed concern over the prospect of Indians employed in the Gulf losing their jobs. "Much would depend on its impact on the real economy there and employment," he said.

"It's one thing if property prices or share prices come down. That will affect only one section of people. But how's it going to affect the living conditions, employment, real economic activity in those countries where we are employed?" queried Reddy.

Said K.T. Thomas, a retired state government employee in Changanacherry in Kottayam: "My son doesn't work in Dubai. He is in Sharjah. But things are not particularly good there either. He called me this morning. He is really worried about his job."

"We have this loan we have taken to build two more floors at our house. If my son is unable to send money, it will be impossible to repay the loan with my meagre pension," Thomas said, sounding despondent like many other relatives of Indian expatriates in the Gulf.

In Andhra Pradesh, which accounts for the largest share of remittances from the Gulf after Kerala, the realty industry feel there is an underlying worry that the Dubai World episode may just be the tip of the iceberg.

"Things might go from bad to worse when the Dubai companies announce their financial results in December and January," said A. M. Imran, a real estate dealer in Dubai, currently on vacation in Hyderabad. "Many more could lose jobs," Imran told IANS.

Analysts, nevertheless, maintained that while the future plans of Dubai World in India may be affected, the existing ones may not suffer much. These projects include:

Full ownership of the container terminal in Chennai

A joint venture with Bharat Hotels for five-star properties

A venture with Tata Realty and Infrastructure for logistics parks

Ownership of international container terminal near Kochi

A $12-billion realty project near Bangalore with DLF to house 750,000 people

Interests in Kulpi port project near Kolkata

Pact with Tata Strategic Management Group for consultancy outsourcing

Major stake in Nhava Sheva container terminal near Mumbai

-Major stake in Mundra international container terminal near Kandla

Major stake in Visakhapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh

Dubai World's default won't hit us: Kochi port

27 November 2009

Kochi, Nov 27: A debt default request by Dubai World will not affect the ongoing construction of the international container terminal near here, being funded by one of the subsidiaries of the Dubai firm, the Cochin Port Trust (CPT) said Friday.

Hit by mounting debts, the state-run holding firm of Dubai that manages several businesses of the emirate Wednesday asked creditors for an extension of six months for debt repayments.

DP World, a subsidiary of Dubai World, is funding the Rs.2,118-crore ($451-million) International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) at Vallarpadam near here, which, according to CPT, is "fast nearing completion".

"This is news to me that Dubai World faces financial problems. Here, the work is progressing smoothly as there's no crisis for funding from DP World," CPT chairman N. Ramachandran told IANS.

The first phase of the terminal will be completed as per schedule and commissioned April 1 next year, Ramachandran said.

DP World signed the agreement with CPT in 2005 to develop the terminal.

The company is building the 1,800-metre long, 14.5-metre deep container berth, while the basic infrastructure like roads and railway lines will be built by CPT.

"The construction began in 2007 and till today work has gone well with no problems at all. According to initial estimates, the budget for the first phase is around Rs.1,500 crore, but it is likely to go up," Ramachandran said.

"The developer has informed us that the work for second and final phase will begin after the inauguration of the first phase, and they expect to complete it in two years."

ICTT, billed as the country's first global hub terminal, is expected to alter the development map of the state and attract huge investments, government officials said.

A series of ventures including a Rs.1,600-crore LNG terminal, a port-based special economic zone (Rs.1,510 crore) and an international ship repair complex (Rs.315 crore), is also coming up in the area along with the ICTT project.

Dubai shock waves shake London stock market

London: The London Stock Exchange felt the shock waves of the Dubai World debt moratorium call Thursday, with the FTSE 100 index dropping 3.2 percent.

Banking shares were particularly hard-hit as the index closed at 5,194.13 points, down almost 171 points from Wednesday's 5,364.81

Barclays and the nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland both fell almost 8 percent in Thursday's trading, which was also interrupted for some three hours by a technical breakdown. It was the second such major technical breakdown within 14 months

Dubai World crisis bad for Kerala

November 27th, 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 27 - Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, a former economics professor at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) here, Friday said the $59-billion debt woes of state-run Dubai World will hit the state’s economy.

“This is certainly going to hit the Middle East, which means this is bad news for Kerala. Anyway, it is early days yet but we will have to closely watch the situation,” Isaac told IANS.

“Initial indication is that what happened in Dubai is a real estate collapse and one has to wait and see how they tackle it,” he added.

The financial woes at Dubai World, one of the largest global conglomerates, has left thousands of Indian families worried, as the region accounts for half of the country’s $25-billion remittances.

Gulf countries employ five million Indians, out of the 25 million total strength of the Indian diaspora in 130 countries, and Dubai being a key driver of the region’s economy, a shakeout there is seen unsettling the job market — and the incomes of relatives.

For Kerala, the Middle East too has been the backbone of its economy for close to three decades now.

A CDS study says the number of emigrants from the state went up from 1.84 million in 2003 to 2.19 million last year, while remittances shot up from Rs.18,400 crore to Rs.43,300 crore.

The United Arab Emirates accounts for the largest share of Kerala migrants.

According to the study by the CDS — an autonomous research institute — remittances from expatriates was the single-most dynamic factor in driving the otherwise dismal economic scenario of Kerala between 1975 and 2000.

The Dubai crisis comes at a time when Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan has challenged the financial health of Dubai-based developer Smart City, which has tied up with the state government to execute a Rs.1,500-crore IT park project in Kochi.

The foundation stone for the IT city was laid in November 2007, but there has been no progress since then due to unresolved issues between the government and the Dubai-based developer.

Referring to the proposed project, Isaac said the chief minister was right when he said Smart City Dubai was “financially broke”.

“See, they (Smart City) are also into real estate and the collapse there appears to have hit them too. So Achuthanandan was right.”

HC sets aside suspension of IAS officer

Kochi, Nov 26 (PTI) The Kerala High court today set aside the state government's suspension order against a senior IAS official who had made critical remarks about the functioning of the Chief Minister's office to the media.

A division bench of Justice Kurien Joseph and Justice C T Ravi Kumar said the suspension order against Suresh Kumar will have no impact on his service and he is entitled to all service benefits during the period.

The bench clarified that the petitioner was entitled to continuity of service for all purposes with effect from the date of suspension to the date of reinstatement.

Kumar was suspended on February 11 last year when he was holding the post of Managing Director of Kerala state Cooperative Agricultural and Rural Development board.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shilpa Shetty ties the knot, becomes Mrs Raj Kundra

Clad in a red sari and flaunting diamonds and emeralds, actress Shilpa Shetty on Sunday exchanged wedding vows with London-based businessman Raj Kundra in a close-knit family affair in Khandala in this Maharashtra hill station.
'Everything went very well. All parents want their children to get married happily and that goes the same for Shilpa's parents as well. They are very happy,' said Kiran Bawa, Shilpa's friend and business partner, after the wedding.
'Raj and Shilpa both were very nervous before the marriage but now they are happy. We are going straight to Raj's house in Mumbai,' she added.
Wearing a red sari designed by Tarun Tahiliani, the 34-year-old exchanged vows with Kundra as per the Bunt tradition, according to the Mangalorean community that the Shettys belong to.
The groom was sporting a maroon sherwani with golden embroidery and a turban with his face veiled by a sehra (string of pearls). He was also holding a sword in his hand, as per Indian tradition.
Kundra left Amrit Villa, located about five minutes away from Bawa Villa, where the wedding was held, in a two-horse chariot.
Photographers scrambled to train their cameras atthe goings-on while curious star-gazers were kept at bay by both private and police security.
Sunday's wedding was the climax of the two-day festivities that included a sangeet ceremony Saturday night here.
The buzz around the marriage started early this year and had been steadily getting louder even though Shilpa denied it officially before getting engaged to Kundra late October.
Expected at the marriage were celebrities like the Bachchan family, Shah Rukh Khan and family, the Kapoors, Rekha, Farah Khan, Salman Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Karan Johar, the Deols and Sushmita Sen.
However, noticed prominently on the occasion were only actors Rohit Roy, Jackky Bhagnani and Tahiliani.
Shilpa also delighted fans by posting a blog entry titled 'This is it' on her D-day.
'Thanks for all the best wishes from family and friends...Will write to you very soon... As Shilpa Shetty Kundra. This is it,' she posted on her blog on Sunday morning.
Shilpa met Raj after her win on the British reality show 'Big Brother' in 2007.

Navya Nair to enter wedlock

Popular Malayalam actress Navya Nair, who has also acted in Tamil and Kannada movies, is getting married early next year.
'Yes, I am getting married and it should be sometime in January. Everything was decided just a few days back. Now I want everyone's blessings. Please pray for me,' the actress told reporters Tuesday.

Navya is marrying Santhosh, who is from Kottayam in Kerala and works with a multinational company in Mumbai. The wedding will take place at Navya's hometown in Muthukulam in Alappuzha district.

Navya was in school when she got her first break in Malayalam films in Dileep starrer 'Ishtam' (2001). She has not looked back since then. In the last eight years she has featured in about 55 films.

Navya, who is a good dancer too, has won several awards. For her third film 'Nandanam', she bagged the Kerala State Film Award for best actress.

It was followed by another state award in 2005 for her role in the movies -- 'Kanne Madanguka' and 'Saira'. She is now working on five projects that are in various stages of production.

Santhosh is the son of Maadayil Veetil Shanta Menon and Narayana Menon. Presently, Navya has six film assignments.

Kerala tourism authorities unshaken by 22% drop in international visitors

23 November 2009
Keralan tourism authorities remain unconcerned by a 22% drop in international visitors this year.

Speaking at the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) conference in Cochin, Kerala, secretary of tourism and cultural affairs for the government of Kerala, Dr Venu Vasudevan, said the destination will receive around 600,000 international visitors, of which 140,000 will be from the UK.

This is because the number of international visitors is dwarfed by the 7.5 million Indians who visited the state in 2008, with half the number of visitors being there for leisure purposes.

Dr Venu said: "The domestic consumer market is expanding by about 10% to 15% a year.

"This is probably the reason why Kerala is not desperate to get the foreign visitors and why we don't feel like the world will come to an end when the visitor numbers drop."

Kerala's tourist authorities will continue to focus their main efforts on increasing domestic visitors by spending 60% of their marketing budget on this market.

The remaining cash will continue to be spent on attracting the international market.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lt.Colonel.Padmasree Dr.Mohanlal was Blessed by Bhagavan Baba

Padmasree Mohanlal Seeks Blessings of Bhagavan Baba

Mohanlal Talks to Singer Kavitha Krishnamoorthy at Puttaparthi

Puttaparthi - November 20

Lt.Colonel Padmasree Dr.Mohanlal was today had the rare blesiings of Bhagavan Baba at
Sai Kulwant Hall in Puttaparthi.

Mohanlal reached yesterday at Puttaparthi by Noon and had the Darsan of Sai Baba in the evening and later today had a rare chance of meeting Bhagavan very closely and Offered a Red Rose at his Lotus Feet.

Transpiring a few words with Mohanlal Baba blessed him and returned the blessed rose to the Super star with love.

Back to Santhi Guest House after the Morning Bhagans Mohanlal found some time to interact with the Visitors and later by afternoon left to Bangalore.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mohanlal Visits Puttaparthi to seek blessings of Sai Baba

Mohanlal In Santhi Guest House at Puttaparthi

Puttaparthi-Thursday Nov 19

Padmasree Mohanlal today visited Puttaparthi and attended the Bhajans and sought blessings of Bhagavan Baba.He sat near to Bhagavan Baba's podium in the
Kulwanth hall and attended the Bhajans and special programmes on the Birth Day eve of Bhagavan Baba.Mohanlal was in the Kulwant hall from 3.30 P.M to 7 P.M till the Programme was over.Later he spend a sometime with the Malayalee community from Puttaparthi paused for photos with them at the Santhi Bhavan Guest house inside Ashram where he is staying tonight.

Mohanlal was very cool and in a very Happy mood and stays inside Asharam taking food from the canteen just like any other devotee.

Mohanlal looks more young and charming for those who visited him

Wish Bhagavan Baba's Blessing will be always with Lalettan


Monday, November 16, 2009

Blame game and the city of lost opportunity

Kochi, Nov 16: Two years after the foundation stone for the Smart City IT park was laid here, the ambitious project is yet to see any progress, thanks to the unresolved issues between the government and the developer.

The government signed an agreement with Smart City Dubai to develop the Rs.1,500-crore project and operate it.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan laid the foundation stone Nov 16, 2007, but the company has not started construction as the government is yet to complete the registration of the land allotted for the project and settle a contentious stamp duty issue.

Another hurdle in the implementation of the project is the issue of awarding 12 percent free-hold land to the Dubai-based firm.

The company wants free-hold rights on 12 per cent of land meant for the project, but the government says this demand is not part of the framework agreement signed between the two parties.

Smart City Kochi chairman and State Fisheries Minister S. Sarma told reporters Monday that talks between the government and the developer "are still going on" and the government "is hopeful of sorting out issues".

"See, there is a framework agreement to the project and we are bound to honour that. When demands come from outside the agreement it has to be discussed in detail," said Sarma.

The proposed project is slated to come up on a 246-acre plot with 8.8 million square feet of built-up space, of which 70 percent is earmarked for IT and IT-enabled services.

Meanwhile, the state Congress party has announced that it will organise a "memorial service" Monday evening near the project site as nothing has happened at the site after the stone-laying ceremony.

State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala, who will inaugurate the memorial service, told IANS that the Left government was "incapable" of doing anything constructive.

"Isn't a shame that this government has played spoilsport to one of the biggest projects in the state? In the last three-and-a-half years, have they successfully implemented at least one project?" Chennithala asked.

The last round of bilateral talks between the Dubai team and the government was held in September and it ended without any solutions to the contentious issues.

The date for the next round of talks is yet to be announced.

Violation of rules by Indian Consulate in US in visa for Rana?

Generosity of the Indian Consulate in Chicago appears to have facilitated the entry into India of Tahawwur Rana, arrested by the FBI in connection with a terror plot against India.

Copies of visas issued to Pakistani-Canadian Rana and a woman Samraz Rana Akhthar, who he claimed to be his wife, show that both were issued multiple entry visas by the Indian Consulate in October 2008.

Both the visas were issued "under the discretion of the Consul General" in apparent violation of rules under which clearance of Ministry of Home Affairs is required for any person born in Pakistan. Rana is born in Chichawatni and woman is born Bahawalpur. Both the places are in Pakistan's Punjab province.

The two were exempted even from registering with the police if their stay did not exceed 180 days. Rana was given a year-long business visa and Samraz was here on a tourist visa valid for five years. Both of them arrived at Mumbai airport on November 12 last year after which they travelled to Kochi in Kerala on November16.

An associate of a US citizen David Headley, who has also been arrested on terror charges by the FBI last month, Rana and Samraz had stayed in a five star hotel for a night during which they were allegedly looking for recruits for Pakistan- based Lashker-e-Taiba.

Ahead of the Kochi visit, Rana had given an advertisement in a prominent English daily asking youths willing to immigrate to US and Canada to appear for interview, sources said.

Rana visited Kochi before 26/11: Kerala Police

Probe into Headley-Rana terror case reveals presence of woman

Did Tahawwur Rana, an associate of American terror suspect David Coleman Headley, travel to Kochi with his wife? Investigations into the visits of the two terror suspects have led sleuths to know about the presence of a woman who claims to be the wife of the latter and had visited India along with him, official sources said.

Tahawwur Hussain Rana, arrested along with suspected LeT terrorist David Coleman Headley of the US, had visited Kochi before the Mumbai terror strikes posing as an immigration consultant and was accompanied by a woman, Kerala Police said on Sunday.

Intelligence agencies and state police have come across evidences regarding Rana's visit. Rana, who arrived in Kochi on November 16, 2008, along with a woman called Samraz Akthar, had checked into a five-star hotel in the city and left for Mumbai the next afternoon, police sources said.

Besides confirming the hotel records, investigators had also found an advertisement that appeared in a newspaper stating that he would be in Kochi, New Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai for offering visas to United States and Canada for job aspirants.

The advertisement claimed Rana was a Chicago-based emigration consultant.

"A man named Tahawwur Hussain Rana had stayed in a hotel in Kochi on November 16. We are checking the details," state Director General of Police Jacob Punnoose told PTI.

State Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the police was examining if the person who had visited Kochi was the same Rana now under arrest in the United States.

IUML activist killed in police firing in Kerala

Kasargode: An Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) activist was killed Sunday as police opened fire to disperse a rioting mob in Kerala's Kasaragod district.

The deceased has been identified as K.Shefik.

The IUML was holding a reception to its leaders in the city and a large number of their supporters were present.

P.Karunakaran, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP from Kasargode, claimed IUML activists went berserk, tearing down party flags and banners
of other parties, forcing the small police force present to resist and then everything went out of control.

However, IUML's youth wing chief, K.Shaji said he came to know party activists faced stone throwing from some quarters.

Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan confirmed that the police had opened fire.

'We have asked Inspector General of Police Mahesh Kumar Singla to reach the place at the earliest. Additional police forces are moving to the place also,' he said.

Sabarimala pilgrimage begins Monday

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 15: Sabarimala, Kerala's famed temple, opens its doors Monday for the annual two-month pilgrimage that is expected to see over 40 million devotees visiting the hilltop shrine this year.

The health department has made arrangements for the devotees at the foothills and enroute to the temple top, including increasing the number of "oxygen parlours".

The Indian Railways has announced it will operate more coaches while the state state government will run more buses.

Earlier, the Devaswom (temple affairs) ministers and secretaries of south Indian states met to discuss arrangements for pilgrims coming from their states.

Last year, a record 40 million devotees visited the temple. This year a 10 percent rise in the figure is expected, temple authorities said.

More than 5,000 officials, including around 3,000 policemen, will be deployed in the temple town in Pathanamthitta district to oversee the daily administration of the festival season.

Additional chief secretary and head of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) K. Jayakumar told IANS that all arrangements had been made for the new pilgrimage season.

"Several review meetings have been held to look into the various pilgrim facilities for the smooth conduct of the festival," said Jayakumar.

Women who have attained puberty but not reached menopause are barred from entering the Hindu temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa.

Sabarimala temple is situated in the Western Ghats, at an altitude of 914 meters above sea level. The temple is accessible only by foot from Pamba, the main halting point.

Though the temple is now open throughout the year, the peak pilgrimage season begins on the first day of the Malayalam month in November and closes on the first day of the Malayalam month in January.

Some of the ardent devotees observe a 41-day penance before the pilgrimage during which they do not wear leather sandals, are attired in black dhoti and eat only vegetarian food.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

US terrorist visited India many times: Chidambaram

New Delhi: The US national arrested in Chicago last month on charges of plotting terror strikes visited India several times before the Nov 26 attacks in Mumbai last year, Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Tuesday.

The Home Minister said the Government would look into the possible connection between David Coleman Headley and the terror attacks in Mumbai that claimed about 170 lives.

Chidambaram, however, could not say if there was any link between Headley and the 26/11 attacks.

'I can't say,' Chidambaram told reporters on the margins of India Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum when asked if Headley was also involved in the Mumbai terror attacks that claimed 170 lives.

'Headley visited India several times before 26/11 and, therefore, there's something we have to necessarily look into,' said the home minister.

'But as of now, I can't say if there was a link or not.'

Headley was arrested at Chicago airport on charges of plotting a major terror attack in India at the behest of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Information provided earlier by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US had revealed that Headley operated a visa agency in Mumbai for almost two years until July 2008 and had travelled to India on business visas nine times between 2006 and 2009.

Ex-CPM poster boy leads Congress to win in Kerala

11 November 2009

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Communists received their second electoral drubbing in Kerala in five months when the bypoll ballots were counted on Tuesday. The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), which had been comprehensively beaten in the Lok Sabha elections, lost to Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in all the three assembly seats. CPM's former poster boy A P Abdullakutty, who contested on Congress ticket from Kannur, capped the Red's ignominy with a 'revenge win' over his former mentor M V Jayarajan.

"My victory is like a stroke for CPM. Now it will not enlist fake voters or indulge in violence," said Abdullakutty, who once was affectionately called "Miracle Kutty" by his then colleagues in CPM for his winning habits. In the other two seats, former UDF minister Dominic Presentation won in Ernakulam and district Congress president A A Shukoor won in Alappuzha.

The BJP — which contested all three seats — also improved its vote share. The LDF tried to put up a brave face. A statement issued by the CPM's state secretariat denied it was a verdict against the state government. The party reasoned that its vote share had gone up compared to the last assembly polls. The Left's loss comes only months after the drubbing in the Parliamentary elections. The bypoll results are worrying for the Communists because CPM has not been able to restore the people's confidence in it despite cosmetic changes in the faction-ridden party.

What alarms the party more is that even its hugely popular CM V S Achuthanandan failed to click with the voters. The CM campaigned in all the constituencies taunting the UPA government at the Centre. C P John of the rival Communist Marxist Party said, "Achuthanandan's image has taken a beating after his surrender to the CPM's stand in the SNC-Lavlin case. He is now a 'prisoner of war'."

Abdullakutty added, "This was a forerunner to the assembly polls. Prakash Karat should intervene at least now to prevent the CPM from trying to engineer victories and spreading the cult of violence. If not, the party will meet the same fate everywhere and not just in Kannur."

Miracle’ Kutty leads Congress charge in Kerala

10 Nov 2009 ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When he was the darling of the Left, they called him ‘Miracle Kutty’. Kannur’s former MP AP Abdullakutty worked another miracle today, this time for the Congress, trouncing CPM’s state committee member MV Jayarajan by 12,043 votes, and leading the Congress sweep of the by-elections to three constituencies in Kerala.

That leaves the CPM state leadership to expect nothing short of a miracle to bail the party out at the assembly elections that are due in a year and a half. The party’s concerns will only be heightened by the fact that historically by-elections have favoured the Left, with some exceptions.

Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan strained to find some sunshine in today’s results, stating that the Congress victory had been less spectacular than what the party scored in the Lok Sabha polls, but that hardly restrained the celebrations at the KPCC headquarters here.

“The people have given their verdict. The chief minister should not be giving statements, but going to the Raj Bhavan, in order to seek a fresh mandate”, said KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala, reminding him that the CPM had said that the by-poll result would be a verdict on the government’s functioning.

Political observers here say that the setback may intensify the misgivings between coalition partners in the LDF, which had exposed itself during the Lok Sabha polls. The CPI, they say, could use the opportunity to put more pressure on the CPM for a better say in the running of the government as well as a bigger seat share in the next assembly polls, holding the CPM primarily responsible for the poor showing at the Lok Sabha polls and the assembly by-elections.

While Abdullakutty surprised his CPM opponents in Kannur by becoming a Congress MLA just over six months after the Left had expelled him, the Congress victories at Ernakulam and Alappuzha were also convincing.

At Ernakulam, Congressman Dominic Presentation defeated CPM’s PN Sinulal by 8,620 votes, and AA Shukkur won the Alappuzha constituency for the Congress, defeating CPI’s G Krishnaprasad by 4,745 votes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Trinamool leads in six WB seats, Left in three

Kolkata: The opposition Trinamool Congress-Congress combine was ahead in six and the Left Front in three as votes cast in Saturday's by-elections in 10 assembly constituencies of West Bengal were counted Tuesday.
The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha-backed independent Wilson Champamari was leading by over 8,000 votes after the fourth round of counting at Kalichini in north Bengal's Jalpaiguri district.

Trinamool nominees were ahead in Belgachia (East), Bongaon, Contai South, Serampore and Alipore while Left Front partners CPI-M, Forward Bloc and Democratic Socialist Party were leading in Rajganj, Goalpokhar and Egra respectively. The Congress candidate was in the lead in Sujapur.

The Trinamool's lead in Belgachia (East) on Kolkata's outskirts was significant as the constituency had elected popular Communist
Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Subhas Chakraborty seven times. Chakraborty died earlier this year.

To cash in on a perceived sympathy wave, the CPI-M nominated Chakraborty's widow Ramala against Trinamool leader Sujit Bose.

The CPI-M and Trinamool Congress are contesting in five and seven seats respectively. The others have been left for the Left Front allies and the Congress.

With the Left losing its grip over the state under the assault of the Trinamool-led opposition, the by-elections are considered a trailer to the 2011 assembly elections.

However, Saturday's by-elections were mainly held in areas considered opposition citadels. Despite the Congress and the Trinamool fighting separately, they had managed to win seven of the 10 constituencies in the last assembly elections in 2006.

Income Tax authorities to question Madhu Koda today

Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda will be questioned by the Income Tax department in connection with the Rs 4000-crore money-laundering scam on Tuesday. Koda, who spent around a week in hospital evading taxmen, was discharged on Sunday.

On Monday, Devendra Mukhia, an alleged aide of former Jharkhand Chief Minister surrendered before the Income Tax department in Ranchi.
IT department sources said in New Delhi that Koda will be questioned on the 'concealment of income and illegal investments found during their searches'.

Meanwhile, the Income Tax (IT) department has sought help from US-based Google and its gmail e-mail service to get details of messages relating to foreign investments as the investigation into charges of money laundering by former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda progresses, an official
said on Monday.

nt agencies in the investigation. This is part of it,' said Ajit Srivastav, additional director, Investigations in the income tax (IT) department.
According to sources, the IT department seized laptops and hard disks of computers and came to know that mails exchanged related to foreign deals and investments. Though some formatted the hard disks in a bid to destroy the evidence when their establishments or houses were raided, the IT department is trying to recover the files deleted. It has also sought help of forensic laboratories in the investigation.

'We need details of mails exchanged between the people whose places were raided and investments made in or money sent to foreign countries. The print out of mail details will be a great help in the investigation,' a source in the IT department said.

Cong crushes LDF in Kerala assembly by-polls

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 10 (PTI) Continuing with its impressive performance in the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress- led UDF today retained all three assembly seats where bypolls were held, routing the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF.

The LDF suffered a blow in politically sensitive Kannur, where Congress candidate and former CPI-M MP A P Abdullakutty emerged victorious by a margin of 12,000 votes over CPI-M's M V Jayarajan.

Abdullakutty, who represented Kannur twice in parliament on a CPI-M ticket, was expelled from the party a few months back following serious differences with the CPI-M leadership, after which he joined the Congress.

Congress candidates Dominic Presentation trounced CPI-M's P N Sinulal in Ernakulam by over 8000 votes, while his colleague A A Shukur retained Alappuzha seat by defeating G Krishaparasad of CPI by 4000 votes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Noted public health expert Dr.Soman dead

6 November 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 6: Eminent public health expert C.R. Soman passed away at a hospital here Friday. He was 71.

Soman, a former professor at the medical college here, had been hospitalised a few days ago and had undergone a heart surgery, family sources said. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Soman came into prominence in 1985 when he and P.G.K. Panikkar, former director of the Centre for Development Studies, pointed out in a book the paradox between the high morbidity and low mortality in Kerala.

After retiring, he was the chairman of an NGO, Health Action by People, which did extensive research in the field of public health.

Kerala conducts road shows in Scandinavia

6 November 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala believes Scandinavian nations are among the biggest sources of tourists to the state, and has sent one of the largest travel delegations on a roadshow to the region. Led by Kerala tourism director M. Sivasankar, the 17-member delegation includes trade representatives, including hoteliers and tour operators.

"Within Scandinavia, Sweden commands the largest share of outbound travel market in terms of volume and value," the state tourism department said in a statement Thursday.

"Hence we are very keen to develop this market. Our objective is to showcase Kerala to tour operators in these countries," said Sivasankar in the statement.

The road shows began Monday from Norway before moving to Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

In 2008, tourist inflow into Kerala from Sweden showed a 103 percent growth, while it was 46 percent for Denmark.

Kerala will also participate in two consumers activities in Stockholm including a 10-day "Delicious Kerala" food festival and a three-day health and wellness exhibition.

"Swedes are one of the most frequent international travellers favouring sunny destinations. This combined with Swedish interest in good health has prompted Kerala to reach out to a market where there is growing interest in ayurveda," added Sivasankar.

More than 25,000 people are expected to attend the health exhibition Nov 6-8.

The food festival will be held Nov 5-15 at four restaurants in Stockholm, where diners will get a chance to win free holidays to Kerala provided by Qatar Airways.

Gunman kills 12 at US Army base

6 November 2009
Texas: An Army psychiatrist opened fire with two handguns at the Fort Hood Army post on Thursday, killing 12 and wounding 31 others, Army officials said, adding the suspect was shot several times but survived. Authorities identified the suspected gunman as Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who had treated soldiers wounded in foreign wars preparing for foreign deployment at the post.

"Our investigation is ongoing but preliminary reports indicate that there was a single shooter," Lieutenant-General Robert Cone, Fort Hood's commanding officer, told a news conference. "The shooter is not dead but in custody in stable condition." Cone said the suspect had been shot multiple times. He had previously said the suspect was killed by police officers during the attack at the biggest military facility in the world.

"He's not currently speaking to investigators," Cone said of Hasan.

Pressed on the suspect's condition, he said, "I would say his death is not imminent."

Asked if the shootings were a terrorist act, Cone said, "I couldn't rule that out but ... the evidence does not suggest that."

The Army said the gunman opened fire at about 1:30 p.m. CST (1930 GMT) at the Soldiers Readiness Processing Center, a group of buildings where soldiers were getting medical check-ups before leaving for overseas deployments.

Cone said the gunman had two weapons, one of them a semi-automatic. "There is no indication that they were military weapons," he said.

It was one of the worst killing sprees ever reported on a US military base. In May, a US soldier at a base in Baghdad shot and killed five fellow soldiers.

Cone said a college graduation ceremony for more than 100 soldiers was being held in an auditorium about 50 yards (metres) away when the shooting started. "Thanks to the quick reaction of several soldiers, they were able to close off the doors to that auditorium where there were some 600 people inside," Cone said.

"As horrible as this was, I think it could have been much worse," Cone said.

Cone said soldiers as a rule do not carry weapons on the base. Military police and security guards are armed.

A cousin of the suspected shooter, Nader Hasan, told Fox News that he had been ordered to serve a term in Iraq and had been resisting such a deployment. Hasan said his cousin was a US-born Muslim who had joined the military from high school. He had served as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., which treats many badly wounded troops.

"He was a psychiatrist at Walter Reed dealing with the people coming back and ... trying to help them with their trauma," he said. He said his cousin had been transferred to Fort Hood in April months ago and was very reluctant to be deployed to Iraq. "We've known over the last five years that was probably his worst nightmare," he said.

The incident raised new questions about the toll that six years of continuous fighting in Iraq and nearly eight years of fighting in Afghanistan have taken on the US military and on individual soldiers, many of whom have been on several combat tours.

US President Barack Obama, speaking in Washington, called the event a "horrific outburst of violence" and promised "answers to every single question about this horrible incident."

Fort Hood is home to about 50,000 troops, although Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said only about 35,000 were on base at the time. The fort, established in 1942, stretches across 339 square miles (878 square km) in central Texas and is the state's largest single employer.

Base personnel have accounted for more suicides than any other Army post since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, with 75 tallied through July of this year. Nine of those occurred in 2009, counting two in overseas war zones.

A former FBI criminal profiler highlighted the irony of the suspected gunman's reported expertise as a psychiatrist specializing in traumatic stress, which often affects combat soldiers. "It may be that he succumbed to that which he was supposed to heal," Clint Van Zandt said on MSNBC.

Fort Hood is halfway between Austin and Waco, about 60 miles (97 km) from each city. Nearby Killeen was the site of one of the worst US shooting rampages when a gunman drove his truck into a Luby's cafeteria in 1991 and shot 23 people to death and wounded 20 others before killing himself.

CBI books senior UGC official for corruption

6 November 2009
New Delhi: CBI has booked a senior UGC official for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 15 lakh from an educational trust for giving clearance to an engineering college during her tenure in All India Council for Technical Education, the apex body to standardise technical eduction in the country.

The CBI carried out searches at the office and residence of Manju Singh, presently a joint Secretary in UGC, and offices and residences of Chairman of Kollengode Educational Trust in Bangalore and Palakkad in Kerala last evening. According to the CBI, Singh, who was the then Regional Director AICTE, South West Regional Office, Bangalore had allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy with the educational trust seeking accreditation for an engineering institute.

During the period (December 2008 to June 2009), the Director of a private Institute of Science and Technology, without having the required facilities for starting an engineering college as per the AICTE Norms and Standards, submitted a proposal on December 26, 2008 to her for starting the College at Attayampathy in Palakkad. Singh vide her letter of January 12, 2009 informed the private institute about the shortcomings in the proposal as per the AICTE Norms and Standards, the CBI said.

The investigating agency alleged that later the two entered into a criminal conspiracy under which the director of the private institute, without rectifying the deficiencies and without having the required facilities, managed to obtain a letter of approval from the AICTE, New Delhi for starting the new engineering college.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Three months jail term for Congress MLA

Tuesday,3 November 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 3: Seven UDF activists including P.C.Vishnunath, MLA and Youth Congress former vice president M.Muneer have been sentenced to three months simple mprisonment by a court here.

The UDF activists have been sentenced in the case related to gheraong of Kerala University Pro Vice Chancellor in 2001.

LDF, UDF clash over deployment of central forces

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 4 (PTI) As the campaign for the November 7 byelections to three assembly constituencies in Kerala draws to a close, political rhetoric has become sharper with ruling CPI-M-led LDF and Congress-controlled UDF clashing over deployment of central forces for the polls.

Hitting the campaign trail in the last three days, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan alleged deployment of paramilitary forces in the three constituencies of Kannur, Ernakulam and Alappuzha by the Election Commission was the result of "machinations" by the Congress.

Rebutting the charge, Defence Minister A K Antony had said the action was well within the EC's powers and instead of getting "worked up", CPI-M should introspect on the circumstances that made the commission to do so.

Addressing rallies in politically-volatile Kannur, where election heat has shot up to abnormal levels, Achuthanandan accused the EC of conceding to the demands of the Congress.

Mammootty, Mohanlal to don sports cap for Kerala

November 04, 2009

While Mammootty has been made brand ambassador of the newly launched Kerala Volleyball League (KVL), Mohanlal has been roped in by the Kerala Athletics Federation to promote athletics in a land once famous for well-known sprinters like P T Usha and Shiny Wilson, among others.

Both the National award winning actors, who have served Malayalam film industry for nearly 30 years are still busy.

Mammootty's just released 'Pazhassi Raja', made on a Rs 27 crore budget, is still running to packed houses in theatres in the state. The film has also been released in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. The actor has reportedly signed his first Kannada film, according to industry sources.

The same is the case with Mohanlal, who is best known for his movies of late eighties and early nineties like 'Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal', 'Nadodokkattu', 'Kireedam ', 'Devasuram', and 'Vanarpastham'.

Both actors have essayed various roles in over 300 films each and their popularity graph continues to rise.

Mohanlal was recently made the honorary Lt Colonel of the Indian Territorial Army and conferred an honorary D.Lit degree by the Kalady Sri Sankara Sanskrit university.

'Presence of Central force due to govt failure'

4 November 2009
Kozhikode, Nov 3 Union minister for Defense A.K.Antony said Tuesday that the decision to deploy central forces in Kannur shows that the state government has failed in its duty of conducting free and fair polls.

The LDF government and the Chief Minister should ponder why such decision by the EC

Monday, November 2, 2009

'Malayalam must for Govt job applicants'

1 November 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 1: As Kerala marked 53 years of its existence Sunday, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan expressed concern about the decreasing use of Malayalam as the official language.

Achuthanandan, speaking at a function here, said that though Malayalam is the official language, less than 45 percent of the staff in the state secretariat use it.

"The State Public Service Commission has to see that government jobs are given to only those who can read and write Malayalam well. For this, laws will have to be amended," Achuthanandan said.

With Sunday being a holiday, Kerala Day was not celebrated with the usual enthusiasm as previous years though a few functions were held in the state capital. Many women dressed in traditional off-white and gold saris offered prayers at churches and temples.

Kerala came into existence Nov 1, 1956, on a linguistic basis as areas where Malayalam was the principal language were brought together.

The state was formed incorporating Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks, which were merged with Tamil Nadu), and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara.

Kerala created history when for the first time a Communist government headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad was voted to power and sworn in April 5, 1957.

State Education and Culture Minister M.A. Baby said that while the state had done well for itself in many fields, there was still a lot to be done for Kerala to achieve its "true potential".

"Areas such as the industrial sector, IT, tourism and bio-technology are where the state has done well but that is not enough because the state has not used its true potential. I would be glad if the society at large gets engaged in positive debates rather than getting caught in debates that will be of no help to the state," Baby told IANS.

"The quality of education has to improve and when it happens, Kerala will never have to look back because we have laid a strong foundation in this sector long back," he added.

'Love Jihad' a misinformation campaign: Kerala Muslim outfits

2 November 2009 - PTI

KOZHIKODE: Muslim outfits in Kerala today said the 'love jihad', where girls from other religious background are allegedly lured to marriage and converted to Islam, is a "malicious-and misinformation campaign" by Sangh Parivar outfits.

The term 'love jihad' is a misconceived notion "raked up" by Sangh Parivar outfits and reference of such a term by Constitutional establishments like the judiciary "is not a good sign", a joint statement by various prominent Muslim leaders here said.

"The misinformation campaign against the non-existent organisation in the name of 'Love Jihad' would only lead to vitiating the prevailing communal harmony and create suspicion among various communities and the parties concerned should keep themselves away from levelling unsubstantiated charges," the statement said.

The Kerala and Karnataka High Courts had recently directed the police to investigate allegations of 'Love Jihad'.

The signatories to the statement include State Muslim League president Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal, general secretary of All India Jem-uth-Ulema A P Abubacker Musliyar, and chairman of Peoples Democratic Party Abdul Naser Madhani.

LDF lodges complaint against Tharoor

2 November 2009

Kochi: CPI-M-led LDF in Kerala has complained to the Election Commission that Union Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor "violated" the model code of conduct during his visit to Ernakulam, where assembly by-poll is scheduled on November 7.

In his complaint, C M Dineshmani, MLA, Election Agent of the LDF candidate, alleged that Tharoor had attended a function at a college on October 30 and had explained the Union Government's development activities and urged people, most of them voters of the constituency, "to remember the significance of Nov 7".

He alleged that Tharoor had combined his official visit with electioneering. "Tharoor has violated the code of conduct, applicable to state and Central ministers by attending a meeting of management, teachers and students of St Theresa's College, Ernakulam, where a Congress candidate who belongs to the political party of the minister is contesting," he said in the letter, a copy of which was released to the press.

"There are instructions from the EC that the party in power whether at the Centre or in the state concerned shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign," he said.

The minister should not have combined his official visit with electioneering, Dineshmani alleged and demanded that stern action be initiated against him.

LDF had earlier complained against Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi for allegedly violating the model code.

The Commission had served a notice to Ravi for allegedly announcing some sops at a public meeting in Kannur where assembly by-poll is also scheduled on November 7.