Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Bonanza for Kerala Tourism

Mumbai: The State-run Air has decided to relocate the headquarters of its low-cost arm Air India Express from Mumbai to Cochin. The Main Engineering facility will however be located at Thiruvananthapuram.

Air India Chairman and Managing Director Aravind Jadav has signed on the ordinance on relocation.

The shifting of Air India Express headquarters to Kerala has been a long pending demand of the state and the non-resident community from the state is likely to benefit from the relocation.

The relocation of Air India Express HQ will also help in faster resolution of complaints regarding delay and cancellation of fights. More than 70 per cent of the flights of the low-cost arm of the Air India originate from Kerala. The airline also run the most number of services to Kochi after Mangalapuram.

The Central Administrative office of the Air India Express is likely to be located in the Indial Airlines building in Durbar Hall Road after renovation. Around 60 employees are likely to be transferred to Kochi. The engineering facility to come up in Thiruvananthapuram is likely to generate employment for around 500 people.

India’s first web TV "Indiavibes" to be launched on Jan 1

Kochi: India's first Web TV 'Indiavibes' would be launched here on Jan one. The new media platform, being promoted by the Kochi-based Vibes Visual & Media Pvt, will be inaugurated by media personality K Sasikumar on Jan 1 at Gold Souk Grande Kochi. This would be followed by a panel discussion on Journalism, New Media and emerging trends.

Indiavibes would be creating contents and programme of its own giving its users ultimate freedom to watch their choice of contents and appreciate the nature and demands of internet spectators, ultimately their taste and priority will be the content. "Web TV" concept has never been effectively tried in the market because the challenge of making visually appealing content to the general public is not an easy task. The backbone of this concept is the confidence; it can create visually appealing, quality content that has not been tried in any other mediums in the market before.

The team is backed up by people who have immense experience in terms of developing innovative concepts in the most challenging situations. "We cover all categories fashion, music, films, business, technology, blogging, lifestyle, current affairs and almost everything that this century and the years ahead would ever need. We are focused on targeting people and not on celebrities', Andrine Mendez, Founder Vibes Visual &Media private ltd told reporters here. There are plans to set up production hubs at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Banglore to start with and from then move on to er Tier 1 & tier II cities.

The company has also plan to set up production hubs at UAE, US & UK, he said. 'Our vision is to showcase the richness of India's entertainment culture to the world. We wish to make Indiavibes as its name suggests the one stop shop for all the entertainment for global audiences," he added. pti ud Public can access all contents from from Jan one onwards.

For best user experience, it needs to have atleast 1 Mbps broadband speed though. Through 3G these can also be accessed through mobiles. The company is looking for partnerships with ISPs and broadband providers to ensure more data traffic to these providers and it also helps to reach people better. Vibes Visual & Media Pvt Ltd is a fully fledged visual production company, with Indiavibes Entertainment portal its flagship project. English will be the primary language of communication. Internet having a viral effect for such concepts, the idea will spread like a wildfire in the market attracting people of all age groups.

25 paise and below coins not acceptable from June 30

December 30, 2010

New Delhi: Come June 30, 50 paise will be the minimum coin accepted in the markets as all denominations below it will cease to be legal currency. "From this date, these coins (denomination of 25 paise and below) shall cease to be a legal tender for payment as well as on account," the Finance Ministry said in a statement Thursday.

It further said that the minimum denomination coin acceptable for transaction will be 50 paise from that date.

Also, the entries in books of accounts, pricing of products, services and taxes should be rounded off to 50 paise or whole rupee from that date. "The procedure for call in shall be notified separately by the Reserve Bank of India," it added.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Krishna Iyer wants a probe into former CJI Balakrishnan’s assets

Dec 28, 2010

Former Supreme Court Judge Krishna Iyer , who completed 95 years last month, wants a thorough inquiry into the allegations claimed by a local Malayalam news channel, Asianet in to the assets of former CJI K.G Balakrishnan .

Asianet News had reported that Balakrishnan's son-in-law, PV Sreenijan, had amassed crores of rupees in the past four years. As a Congress candidate from the Njarackkal assembly constituency, Sreenijan in the 2006 had declared just Rs 25,000 in his bank and no land but later went on to amass property worth at least Rs 7 crore in the past four years.

Speaking at a press conference Justice Iyer said, “I myself feel sad that I was a judge. I used to say that an era had begun when K G Balakrishnan became the first Dalit chief justice. Now, I don’t feel that way”.

“The Press has disclosed now that the son-in-law and daughter have amassed wealth under suspicious circumstances indirectly due to dubious linkage with the Chief Justice. This is atrocious and must be inquired,” said Justice Krishna Iyer.

Deccan Herald has reported the growth in Sreenijan’s assets over the last four years. Sreenijan had declared he possessed no landed property and that his wife had only gold worth Rs 4.38 lakh and a little over Rs 1 lakh in cash in 2006.

Three years later, Sreenijin and his wife K B Sony, both lawyers, declared Rs 35 lakh while filing their income tax returns. However, according to reports now, the couple, who have not declared any sources of income other than their legal profession, own property worth crores and are constructing a river-front resort in Thrissur.

“We have more evidence to prove that the former CJI’s relatives have property in Dubai, Bangalore and Tamil Nadu. The needle of suspicion naturally points to Justice Balakrishnan himself,’’ said DYFI state president and MP M B Rajesh.

Justice Krishna Iyer also demanded a probe into to find the truth about Balakrishnan's statement regarding then Madras High Court chief Justice H L Gokhale's letter that a central minister had tried to influence a judge of that court.

Justice Balakrishnan is currently serving as the Chairman of the National Human Right Commission and several activist groups have even demanded his resignation from NHRC.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Karunakaran was a kingmaker in national politics: Antony

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 23: Defence Minister A.K. Antony paid glowing tributes to departed Congress leader K. Karunakaran Thursday, describing him as a kingmaker in national politics.

Four-time chief minister of Kerala, Karunakaran passed away Thursday evening at 5.30 p.m. at a private hospital here.

'At one point of time, Karunakaran went on to be a kingmaker of national politics, such was his stature,' said Antony.

Antony arrived at Karunakaran's home late in the evening to pay his tributes.

'I am sad that I was not able to see him after he was admitted to the hospital. I reached here cancelling a programme that I had when I learned that he was serious. I reached two hours late and hence could not see him.

'I first came in contact with Karunakaran 46 years back when I was elected as the Kerala Students Union president and since then, we have had a long and enduring relationship. It is true that at times we have had differences of opinion but even during that time, we had the best of personal relations and we made sure that there was always a mutual respect,' said Antony.

'I always believed that Karunakaran was one who led the party from the front in the state. I used to meet him every time I came to the city,' he added.

Antony occupied the Kerala chief minister's post thrice and also replaced Karunakaran on two occasions following political developments.

Centre of non-Marxist Kerala politics for 40 yrs

KOCHI: K Karunakaran rose to political prominence in the 1960s making the impossible possible. He pulled down a Communist-led coalition government that had swept the 1967 assembly elections and with the deftness of a magician, cobbled up an alternative front that could grab power by quietly breaking up the ruling alliance.

From being the leader of the opposition with only a handful of MLAs, the Congress leader became deputy chief minister and home minister under a CPI chief minister, and in later years headed government after government. For close to four decades, the non-Marxist politics in Kerala, if not the state politics itself, revolved largely around him.

The developments also made Karunakaran a close confidant and loyalist of the central party leadership — the Nehru household rather — with which he stood through thick and thin. The only aberration was his brief exit from the party, on his own volition, initially to form the Democratic Indira Congress (DIC) and later to join the Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar. Karunakaran returned to Congress within a short span.

Karunakaran was one of the best practitioners of the essentially all-encompassing Congress ethos. The Congress-led alliance in the state, the UDF which he had fashioned, represented a broad spectrum across the religious and communal divide — carrying with it Hindus, backward communities, dalits, Christians and Muslims in a happy embrace.

Simultaneously, he also had to face charges of communal appeasement and pitting one community against another.
Karunakaran's high point was in the early 1990s when he was CM and late P V Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister. He was Rao's closest adviser.

''It was a unique period in the political history of independent India when a CM had central ministers waiting for his appointment whenever he was in Delhi. It was Karuna-karan's tireless efforts and clever strategies that saw the Rao government succeed two no-trust votes after falling short of numbers. He must have spoken to 3,000 to 4,000 leaders within a span of three to four days preceding the no-trust vote,'' recalls K S Premachandra Kurup, a former aide and retired civil servant. ''No Congress leader was close to late Indira and Rajiv Gandhi as Karunakaran then,'' he added.

People of Kerala remember Karunakaran more for his decisive interventions in shaping the political, economic and social framework of the state. But for his determination, the international airport at Nedumbassery near Kochi would not have become a reality, considering the challenges it had to face, both economically and administratively.

There are, however, skeptics who feel that Karunakaran did not fully deploy his clout for the development of the state.

Sonia, Chidambaram pay homage to Karunakaran

Thiruvananthapuram: A steady stream of mourners led by Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday paid homage to veteran Congress leader K Karunakaran at his residence here where his mortal remains are kept.

The UPA Chairperson, accompanied by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, placed a wreath and paid her respects to
Karunakaran, who passed away at a private hospital on Thursday after a prolonged illness. Gandhi spoke to Karunakaran's politician son Muraleedharan and daughter Padmaja Venugopal and conveyed her condolences.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to attend the funeral, Congress sources said.Union Ministers A K Antony, Vayalar Ravi, and other senior Congress leaders from the state paid their respects to the departed leader.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to arrive in Thrissur Saturday where the veteran leader is to be cremated.

Sonia, who reached the capital along with Chidambaram in a special flight at 10 am, was welcomed by union ministers Vayalar Ravi, Mullapally Ramachandran and KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala at the airport.

At 8.15 a.m. Friday, his body was moved to the party headquarters where a huge crowd was waiting to have a last glimpse of the veteran. Karunakaran's body will be taken to the Durbar Hall in the State Secretariat.

By noon, his journey began to his hometown Thrissur where he will be cremated Saturday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to attend the last rites.

Party officials said all efforts are being made to see that the funeral procession makes brief stops at major towns like Kollam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam for people to pay their respects.

As a mark of respect to the departed leader, the state government has declared a public holiday Friday and all university and state public service examinations and interviews has been postponed.

Karunakaran's condition deteriorated last week and he was put on the ventilator. His condition improved in a few days but he suffered a stroke Wednesday. He died at 5.30 p.m. Thursday. He is survived by his politician son K. Muraleedharan and daughter Padmaja Venugopal.

Karunakaran's death has cast a shadow of sorrow on Kerala, almost eclipsing the Christmas spirit and joy.

Thiruvananthapuram comes to a halt, political leaders praise Karunakaran

Thiruvananthapuram : Huge crowds thronged the roads outside the hospital where four-time former chief minister K. Karunakaran died and along the route to his home as political leaders cutting across the divide acknowledged his tall stature.

The capital city came to a halt and traffic stopped when the ambulance carrying the body of Karunakaran, who passed away Thursday evening at 5.30 p.m., was taken from the Anathapuri hospital to his home near here.

A large police force found it difficult to control the surging crowds that had gathered at the hospital upon hearing of the demise of the 92-year-old veteran Congressman.

Tears rolled down the cheeks of many people. Senior Congress leaders found it difficult to come near the body of Karunakaran with his ordinary supporters jostling for space to have one last look of the departed leader.

Even Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who rushed to the hospital on hearing of the demise of his long time political adversary, had a tough time trying to come near the body.

'He was one who relentlessly worked for the development of the state and his attachment with the ordinary worker was something which was unique to him only,' said Achuthanandan.

Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy described Karunakaran as one who was a 'practical politician'.

'My relation with him dates 40 years back when I first arrived as a legislator in the assembly and he was the leader of party. Over the years through his hard work and determination he went on to be the senior most leader in our party. His greatest virtue as I see was his closeness with the ordinary supporter of the party and his loss is a great loss for the country,' said Chandy.

As the body reached his home in the city, the skies opened up. However, that did not deter the massive crowd of supporters who were waiting for the body to arrive.

Left Democratic Front convenor Vaikom Viswan, in his message, said that though he had differences of opinion with the departed leader, one aspect of Karunakaran that made him dear to even his adversaries was the way he used to behave with all.

'His behaviour was exemplary in nature and it was this character of his which won him accolades,' said Viswan.

K.M. Mani, who served in all of Karunakaran's four cabinets, said it was amazing to see him handle crises.

'Karunakaran's greatest ability was to come out unscathed from any crisis, and it was the thing that made him a great leader because in times of crisis he always appeared to be a man of great determination,' recalled Mani who heads the Kerala Congress (Mani).

R. Balakrishnan Pillai, a veteran Kerala politician who was close to Karunakaran and was in three of his cabinets, described him as a leader with a vision who used his Delhi connections for the development of the state.

'He was the one who virtually single handedly guided the Congress party when it went through bad times,' said Pillai.

The cremation will be held in his home town in Thrissur Saturday morning, president of the Congress' state unit Ramesh Chennithala told reporters outside the hospital where Karunakaran was admitted since Dec 10.

Friday has been declared a public holidy, and Saturday is a holiday on account of Christmas.

'The body would be taken to his home and Friday morning it would be taken to the Congress party office. From there it would be kept at the Durbar Hall at the State Secretariat and in the afternoon It would be taken through the national highway to Thrissur. The cremation would take place at the same place where his wife has been laid to rest,' a tearful Chennithala said.

The 92-year-old veteran leader's condition deteriorated last week and he was put on the ventilator.

He recovered a few days later and was removed from the ventilator, but his condition worsened Wednesday morning and he suffered a stroke. He breathed his last at 5.30 p.m. Thursday.

Kerala mourns as ’Leader’ departs, cremation Saturday

Thiruvananthapuram: Veteran Congress leader K. Karunakaran, a four-time chief minister of Kerala who was a pale shadow of his original self in his final days, died here Thursday evening of old age and illness, enveloping the entire state in sorrow.

Despite rains, thousands poured on to the streets as the body of the 92-year-old was taken from the Ananthapuri Hospital, where he was admitted Dec 10, to his home less than 10 km away in a closed ambulance as news of his death spread rapidly.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi will visit Kerala Friday to pay homage to a man who once rubbed shoulders with Jawaharlal Nehru and was a confidant of Indira Gandhi, a closeness that made him Kerala's undisputed Congress leader. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will attend the cremation Saturday.

The Marxist-led Kerala government announced a public holiday Friday. The cremation will take place in his hometown Thrissur Christmas day Saturday, the event expected to draw a mass of people from all over Kerala.

Karunakaran's condition deteriorated last week and he was put on the ventilator. His condition improved in a few days but he suffered a stroke Wednesday. He died at 5.30 p.m. Thursday. He is survived by his politician son K. Muraleedharan and daughter Padmaja Venugopal.

As Congress leaders described his death as a huge loss to the party, Marxist Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan rushed to the hospital to salute a man he had politically opposed all his life.

"He was a leader who relentlessly worked for the development of Kerala, and his attachment to the ordinary worker was something that was unique to him," Achuthanandan said.

So thick was the rush of mourners that the chief minister had to struggle to enter the hospital. Later, as the body was taken to his home, the rains began to batter the city, drenching everyone.

K.M. Mani, who served in all his four cabinets, said it was amazing to see Karunakaran handle crisis moments.

"It was a thing that made him a great leader because at times of crisis he always appeared to be a man of great determination," said Mani, who heads the Kerala Congress (Mani).

On Friday, his body would be taken to the Congress office and kept at the Durbar Hall at the State Secretariat for people to pay homage.

Born in Kannur July 5, 1918, Karunakaran tasted his first electoral victory in in 1945 when he was elected to the Trissur Municipal Council on a Congress ticket.

He was elected to the Kerala assembly seven times consecutively from Mala in Trissur, from 1967 to 1991. He was a minister, leader of the opposition thrice, chief minister four times, and was elected to the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha thrice and twice respectively.

Karunakaran survived two serious road accidents in the 1990s, one of which needed treatment in the US.

But even as he built up the Congress in Kerala, making it a formidable opponent of the well-entrenched Communists, no party leader could rise in the state unless minus Karunakaran's blessings.

His main rival in the Congress was A.K. Antony, now the defence minister.
He groomed more than three dozen Congress leaders including the present state party president, Ramesh Chennithala.

His first major setback came when he had to resign as chief minister a month after taking charge following a judicial stricture over the death of a young man accused of being a Maoist, post-Emergency.

The disappearance of Rajan, the engineering college student, haunted Karunakaran for the rest of his life.

He had to quit as chief minister again in March 1995 when his name was linked to a police official in what was known as the "ISRO spy scandal".

Karunakaran was the industry minister in the cabinet of P.V. Narasimha Rao.

It was his undisguised love for his son Muraleedharan, who took to politics after failing in business and was elected to the Lok Sabha, that began to turn many Congress members against him.

As rival Antony grew in strength, in New Delhi and Kerala, Karunakaran made political mistakes.

To hurt Antony, he did the unthinkable and supported the Left in a Lok Sabha election. Then, he dramatically dumped the Congress and formed his own party in 2005, with the intention of crossing over to the Left.

That did not happen and he returned to the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). He later merged his party with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a Left ally.

Finally, Karunakaran returned to the Congress. But his son refused to follow suit and, to his shock, renounced all ties with his father.

From then on, Karunakaran was a broken man. He occasionally visited the Congress office but was no more the giant of a leader that he was for four long decades.