Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sreedharan bids adieu to Delhi Metro

New Delhi: 'It was a very satisfying experience and I am very happy that Metro treads 190 km,' Delhi Metro chief E. Sreedharan said Saturday, his last day in office.

Till the last day of his work, 'Metro Man' Sreedharan was busy on an official tour and reached Metro Bhavan in central Delhi in the evening to bid adieu to the organisation and colleagues he has led for 15 years.

He retired from Delhi Metro Saturday passing the baton to his successor Mangu Singh. He met all the heads of departments to bid them adieu.

'Sreedharan was on an official tour to Chennai and came back today (Saturday) and reached the Metro Bhavan around 6 p.m. for a brief official ceremony,' a Metro official told IANS.

He was on the trip for the past one week. He had an eventful 15-year tenure as the Delhi Metro chief.

Sreedharan, then 65, joined the Delhi Metro in 1997. The first eight km stretch of the Metro opened in December 2002. Today, the network is spread over 190 km in Delhi and the national capital region towns of Gurgaon in Haryana and Noida and Vaishali in Uttar Pradesh.

Sreedharan formally handed over the Metro charge tom his successor Mangu Singh, a civil engineer, at a brief ceremony.

Mangu Singh was selected by a three-member panel consisting of union Urban Development Secretary Sudhir Krishna, Delhi Chief Secretary P.K. Tripathi and Sreedharan.

Mangu Singh, an Indian Railway Service of Engineers officer of the 1981 batch, also worked with Sreedharan on the Kolkata Metro project. He has been associated with the Delhi Metro since its inception.

Proposed high-speed rail corridor to boost Kerala’s economy: Sreedharan

Delhi Metro Corporation Ltd. (DMCL) Managing Director E. Sreedharan has said that the proposed high-speed rail corridor project linking the entire stretch from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod will give a boost to the State’s economy.

In his speech after accepting the 14th A.K. Nair Memorial Award instituted by the North Malabar Chamber of Commerce (NMCC) and the A.K. Nair Memorial Endowment Committee (AKNMEC) here on Thursday, Mr. Sreedharan said that the high-speed rail corridor project would have a carrying capacity of 15,000 people per hour. If the same number of people had to be carried on a road system, the State would require a motorway with a width of 70 to 80 metres, he said adding that such a road was impossible in a State like Kerala where availability of land was a problem. For the proposed 580 km-long rail corridor project with an estimated cost of Rs. 1 lakh crore (one lakh crore), land acquisition was not going to be a formidable problem, he said adding that the DMCL, which had been engaged by the State government to carry out a feasibility study of the project had commenced the work to prepare a detailed project report.

Terming the high-speed rail system as the safest mode of transportation, Mr. Sreedharan said that the proposed high-speed train could cover the 580 km-stretch in a matter of two hours. As the Japanese were the pioneers of the high-speed rail technology, the State could bring in the Japanese technology, he said adding that it was also possible for the project to obtain up to 85 per cent of project cost as linked loan from Japan. The State’s burden would be to mobilise Rs. 10,000 crore for the project, he pointed out.

Mr. Sreedharan said that the Public Investment Board meeting of the Kochi Metro project would be held soon and then the project would be submitted to the Central government. The DMCL, which has been entrusted to implement the project, was considering a proposal for bringing South Korean meglev (magnetic levitation) technology for the Kochi Metro. He said that he had requested the State government to develop the Kochi metro on this technology which requires no rails and allows soft and smooth riding with no vibration. The technology would allow a reduction in the capital cost by 50 per cent and operational cost by 15 to 20 per cent. Since the proposed Kochi Metro was an elevated metro, this technology would also reduce the requirement of land, he added.

The DMCL had also submitted a proposal to the State government a few years ago for introducing suburban train services for the entire State. At that time the prospect of such a service was not bright as track doubling was not over and electrification was incomplete. Now that that the doubling work was almost over and electrification of railway line was about to be extended, it was the most appropriate time to introduce the mainline electrical multiple unit (MEMU) suburban service in the State, he noted. As MEMU system did not require operation of many trains, it was for the State government to come forward for getting the system introduced as a public-private partnership scheme, he stated.

Referring to the proposed Thalassery-Mysore railway line, Mr. Sreedharan said that he was not very sure if the project would help Karanataka and the Malabar region. He said the detailed project report being prepared now would shed more light on the feasibility of the project.

Explaining his experiences as the architect of the 760 km-long Konkan Railway and the Delhi Metro, he said that while the greatest challenge involved in the implementation of the former project was the raising of finances from the market at a time when the market was in a topsy-turvy condition, funds were not the constraints for the latter thanks to the Japanese aid. The Konkan Railway could be completed in an incredibly short period of seven years, while the first two phases of the Delhi Metro could be completed in time and comfortably within the budget, he said adding that the DMCL had now taken up the third phase of the Delhi Metro which was estimated to cost Rs. 40,000 crore.

Delhi Metro was also a financial success as the DMCL was now paying back the loan amount and able to generate sufficient operational profit. He said that the successful implementation of the two projects was the result of the team work of competent technical personnel, he said.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Efforts to find a solution to dam row to continue: Antony

Thrissur: The Centre would spare no effort to find a solution to the Mullaperiyar Dam row between Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Defence Minister A K Antony said here Monday.

"The Centre's efforts to find an amicable solution to the vexed issue have not been fruitful so far. But that does not mean the government will lose heart and abandon efforts in that direction," he told reporters here.

Antony said it was painful that a solution acceptable to both states has been elusive and added that all political parties - big and small in the country feel the issue should soon be solved without harming cordial relations between the two states.

Asked whether the Centre would exert pressure on the two states to sit together to discuss the issue, he said the Union government would continue its earnest efforts to solve the issue amicably.

"The matter is before the Supreme Court. Let the court go ahead with its course of action. But other efforts should also be explored to settle the issue," he said.
Antony stressed on the need for the Centre to have the unstinted cooperation of both states to find an amicable solution to the issue.

Antony son set for film debut

Ajit Antony defence minister Antony’s younger son, is set to make his debut as hero in a multilingual thriller that he has also penned.

“The shooting is scheduled to begin in mid-January or early February,” the 22-year-old said.

The high-budget action movie, titled Oberoi, will be directed by Kerala-based filmmaker Aji John.

While it’s rare for an actor to be making his debut in a film he has scripted, Ajit isn’t resting on his achievements.

Far from it. He has been sweating it out, not out of nervousness but in the gym.

The junior Antony is busy working out at the Constitution Club multi-gym under the watchful eyes of two professional trainers.

The club, exclusively for MPs and their families, is a stone’s throw from Parliament.

“I have been working out in the gym for the past four months and have developed muscles and will soon have six-pack abs, too,” Ajit said, adding that he was also on a special diet.

The young man spends two-and-a-half hours every day at the gym and also pampers himself at the adjoining spa.

The 5-foot-8-inch budding hero, who graduated with history from St Stephen’s College, Delhi, was hooked to films — and acting — early in his life.

Despite his father’s initial opposition, Ajit was able to bring Antony around. “Of course, he was a bit shocked when I broke the news to him last year. But he agreed when I told him about my passion for films. It is natural for a person from a political family to carry on the political legacy but I always wanted to pursue acting,” Ajit said.

He now wants to make a name for himself in Bollywood like Riteish Deshmukh, the actor son of central minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag is also trying to make a mark in filmdom.

Ajit’s role model is Shah Rukh Khan. “SRK is my role model and I would love to act in romantic films as a lead hero. I like Salman Khan, too, as he is a perfect entertainer,” he said.

Politics does not excite the former vice-president of the St Stephen’s college union, but Ajit didn’t close that option entirely. “Right now, politics is not on my agenda…. It may be an option in the future because I don’t have any aversion to politics,” he said.

How does he rate his father as a politician?

“I think he is doing an excellent job as a politician,” he said. “He is also very supportive as a father.”

Antony’s wife Elizabeth recently retired from Canara Bank. His elder son, Anil, is a businessman based in America.

Business is also the theme of Oberoi. “I started writing the script in 2007 when I was in first year in college. The script is based on a business family and the struggle of the hero once he joins the business. Last year, I went to John with my script and he loved it. He also agreed when I expressed my desire to play the lead role,” Ajit said.

The film will be shot simultaneously in four languages — Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam — and most of the shooting will be outside India.

“Although I am not a born actor, I am confident of my acting skills,” said Ajit, who didn’t join any acting classes.

“I have got other offers from Bollywood, which I don’t want to disclose now,” he signed off, before hitting the gym again.

Kerala officials stay away from experts’ visit to dam

Idukki: Adding a new dimension to the raging Mullaperiyar reservoir row, Kerala officials Saturday stayed away from the visit of the Supreme Court-appointed empowered committee experts alleging that they had declined to properly hear the state's views on the dam's safety aspects.

The development comes against the backdrop of heightened sparring between leaders of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in recent weeks over building a new dam in place of the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar reservoir.

The Kerala team, comprising the state Mullaperiyar Cell Chairman M K P Nair, senior engineers and officials decided against joining the panel technical members, alleging they did not give due attention to their briefings, mostly concerning the safety of the dam, official sources said.

The two technical members on the panel - CD Thatte and DK Mehta - who began their inspection tour of dams in Idukki district Friday, visited the Mullaperiyar reservoir Saturday.

Official sources said there were also differences over the spot to be chosen for non-destructive sonic tests to be carried out on the dam to ascertain its strength.

The Empowered Committee under the Chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India A S Anand was set up in 2010 with the mandate of examining all aspects of the dispute over the dam between the two states.

Kerala wants a new dam to be built saying the existing structure was extremely weak and would put the lives of over three million people living downstream in danger in the event of a collapse.

However,Tamil Nadu has rejected this contention holding that the dam was as safe as a new one.

The apex court constituted the panel, which has one member each representing Kerala and Tamil Nadu, while considering Tamil Nadu's plea against the Dam Safety Authority bill passed by the Kerala Assembly, which empowered the state agency to decommission any dam in the state.

The Mullaperiyar dam is located in Kerala's Idukki district but managed under a 999-yearlease by Tamil Nadu whose five districts are fed by its waters for irrigation.

M K P Nair, a former chief engineer who has been heading the state Mullaperiyar cell for quite some time, told reporters later that a technical member did not even allow Kerala Chief Secretary (Irrigation) P Lathika to explain the state's views regarding the dam.

"This we felt quite badly," he said. It was quite natural on the part of two sides to present their views when the dispute involves two states, he added.

Karunanidhi seeks PM’s intervention on dam row

Chennai: DMK chief M Karunanidhi Monday sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention to end attacks on Tamils in Kerala in the wake of the Mullaperiyar Dam row and to ensure the neighbouring state abides by the 2006 Supreme Court order to raise storage level from 136 feet to 142 feet.

Karunanidhi submitted to Singh, who is on a two-day visit to the state, a memorandum, accusing Kerala of having created a situation where "people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been instigated to fight against each other like people of two different countries."

Alleging that the continued campaign by Kerala had resulted in many 'undesirable incidents' creating animosity between the people of the two states, the memorandum said it had forced Tamils living in Kerala to leave that state. The memorandum also referred to "sentimental outburst" of the affected people of southern districts of Tamil Nadu, whose irrigation needs are met by the Mullaperiyar Dam.

"This situation, unless contained and changed immediately, will lead to permanent strain and cleavage between the people of the two states," the memorandum by DMK, a key UPA ally said. It also said the dam issue was before the Supreme Court and any effort by Kerala government to reduce the water level and attempt to construct a new dam "has to be viewed as an attempt to subvert the judicial process and deny justice to the people of Tamil Nadu."

The memorandum said that even after works of strengthening the dam by Tamil Nadu government, Kerala continued to maintain the water level at 136 feet and seeking to reduce it to 120 feet, instead of abiding by the Supreme Court order. "If government of Kerala is persistent on its stand, at least five southern districts of Tamil Nadu will become deserts without water for irrigation," it said.
Waste issue: Harthal begins in Thiruvananthapuram

Thiruvananthapuram: The dawn-to-dusk hartal called by BJP in the state capital against the crisis in garbage movement evoked partial response. The protest was organised against the 'failure' of the city corporation and the state government to resolve the crisis concerning garbage movement, which has resulted in houselhold waste piling up in the city in the last five days. While shops and restaurants remained closed,the hartal did not seriously hamper bus and other public transport services. BJP workers took out a march accusing the government and the corporation of sitting idle while the entire city was

Emergency services like healthcare, milk supply and wedding parties had been exempted from the shut-down protest.
Garbage collection and disposal has come to a halt in the city following the stand-off between the city corporation and Vilapplil village panchyat on the outskirts, where the waste processing plant is located. People in village wanted the plant to be re-located,saying its presence caused serious health problems in the area. The village civic authorities had last week locked up the gates of the plant to stop the waste from being dumped there. Though Chief Minister Oommen Chandy held talks with the panchayat and corporation authorities last week, no solution could be found to the issue. PTI

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mullaperiyar row: MDMK blocks routes to Kerala

All the 13 routes from Tamil Nadu to Kerala remained sealed for hours on Wednesday disrupting the movement of goods and people after MDMK activists conducted an ‘economic blockade’ of Kerala protesting its stand on the Mullaperiyar dam issue.

The MDMK leader, Mr Vaiko, and the Tamil Nationalist Movement leader, P.Nedumaran, who led thousands of protestors to lay siege to the Kerala border at Kumily were arrested at Seelayampatti near Theni.

They were arrested while proceeding towards Uthamapalayam where prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPc were clamped.

MDMK had planned a meeting at Lower Camp earlier but as police denied permission, the party decided to shift the venue to Cumbum.

However, when Mr Vaiko, who commenced his journey from Theni in an open vehicle, was intercepted at Seelayampatti, hundreds of persons blocked the road and tried to prevent the police from arresting him. He finally persuaded them to disperse.

The MDMK leader accused the Congress-led Central government of betraying the interests of Tamil Nadu and its people and also criticised Kerala for refusing to heed the Supreme Court order to raise the water level in the dam to 142 feet.

More than 10,000 people gathered near Gudalur to protest Kerala’s stand on the dam issue. Traffic was completely disrupted in four border check posts in Idukki district following the protest.

Five check posts were closed down along the Palakkad border following protests from fringe outfits. On the national highway, K G Chavadi, Nadapunni, Meenakshipuram, Valanthai witnessed protests in which hundreds of people took part.

MDMK workers also organised protest at Aryankavu check post. Nanjil Sampath inaugurated the dharna.

Police blocked vehicles from Kerala at Aryankavu and those coming from Tamil Nadu were stopped at Tenkasi. The police swung into action and removed the protestors from the area by noon.

At Kalyikavila near Thiruvananthapuram, MDMK workers began the protest at 11 am and blocked the vehicles coming from Kerala. A large police posse led by the Kanyakumari SP, Ms Lakshmi and the Thiruvananthapuram rural SP, A. Akbar ensured there was no violence in the area.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Namukku Prarthikkam - 7.1-Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea – An earthquake measuring 7.1 magnitude hit Papua New Guinea on Wednesday afternoon, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The tremor struck at a depth of 75 miles, about 137 miles north-northwest of the capital Port Moresby at 3:05 p.m. local time.

Witnesses in Port Moresby told AFP that people came running out of buildings, power lines swayed and parked cars rocked.

"It was pretty strong. Everybody felt it. I was sitting in my car when it hit and it was rocking, rocking, rocking," an AFP photographer said.

According to Geoscience Australia, the tremor was not expected to create a tsunami.

"It's not tsunamigenic," seismologist Clive Collins said. "That's the assessment on the basis that it's about 2 miles inshore and also it's about 74 miles deep and that's too deep really to cause any tsunami problems."

But Collins said the quake could cause other problems for the nearest largest town, Wau, about 12 miles from the epicenter, and Lae, 55 miles away.

"It's in a mountainous area so there may be issues of landslides and things like that. That's what's the main problem in that particular part of Papua New Guinea," Collins said.

Papua New Guinea is regularly hit by earthquakes due to its proximity to the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Delhi Metro chief Sreedharan not to head Kochi Metro

Delhi Metro chief E A Sreedharan, who demits office on 31 December, is not to head the proposed Kochi Metro Rail project, contrary to speculation in Kerala, his home state that he had been chosen for the job.

The Congress government in Kerala had been extremely keen on using the services of the 'Metro Man' who revolutionised the way Delhi travelled, for building a similar advanced transport system in Kochi.

Sreedharan replied in the negative when asked whether he would be heading the Kochi Metro, approval for which would be given by the union cabinet soon.

He said Kochi Metro would be handled by the Delhi Metro and he would be involved if he was at Delhi Metro but he would not be involved if he was not at Delhi Metro.

The 79-year old 'Metro Man's comments put to rest, all speculation about his heading the project, which envisages construction of a 20-km Metro network.

Speculation has been rife over the past few months that Sreedharan would head the Kochi Metro after he stepped down as the managing director of Delhi Metro on 31 December, 2011.