Thursday, August 31, 2006

Forty Injured as Stray Dog Goes on Biting Spree

At least 40 persons including two children were hospitalized after they were bitten by a stray dog here on Wednesday, police said.

The dog targeted passers-by one after the other, at Chungathara in Nilambur, leaving them bleeding, the sources said.

While 20 of the injured had been admitted to the Nilambur Taluk Hospital, 17 persons had been rushed to the Kozhikode Medical College for want of better medical services on a day, which has already been affected by the state-wide doctors' strike demanding higher wages.

Frantic attempts by the people to stone the dog turned futile as the animal gave them the slip every time it bit a person, they said.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Experts mull options as Kerala logs Microsoft out

With Kerala government expelling Microsoft from schools, entrepreneurs attached to the state government’s e-literacy project now have to decide between proprietary and free software. This is because after schools, the government may think of making the Akshaya State e-literacy project take up free software. Project director T K Manzoor said, as of now, “it’s the choice of entrepreneurs and their customers. Akshaya entrepreneurs already have the option to decide for themselves as to which software to choose. I do not think that the government will force them to migrate to Linux,” he said. Last week, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan received free software guru Richard Stallman at his office, a few days after he had banned Coke and Pepsi.

Achuthanandan had turned a Stallman fan after the his maiden visit to the state few years back and he had aggressively campaigned against monopoly in software industry.

But he did not respond to the reports then that his personal computer was working on the Microsoft operating system. “Stallman has raised resistance against attempts of capitalists to monopolise knowledge, especially in the IT sector. He has made IT, a free enterprise,” Achuthanandan said while inaugurating a seminar on free software. The previous Congress-led government provided schools the option to choose between free and proprietary software and trained the instructors in both.

However, Education Minister M A Baby said schools will now have to stick to the free software alone.“We are not against Microsoft and have not banned it. What we are opposing is monopoly and we’re going to encourage free software,” he said.

Experts feel that shifting to Linux from Windows is easier said than done though a significant number of people have started using the former in the last couple of years. This was because of the different applications offered by the two platforms and the reliability of proprietary software.“More than their advantages and disadvantages, what matters is that competition will ensue and monopoly will crumble. Nobody is going to come out against the destruction of monopoly,” another official who did not want to get into the controversy said.

Returned to power in Kerala in May, the Communist Party of India-Marxist(CPM)-led government announced a three-year plan to promote the rapid adoption of open source operating systems.“There may eventually be a few individuals at the margins who still choose to use Microsoft, but the majority should be free of this hardship,” the Education Minister said. Under the proposed transition plan, children in 12,500 high schools will learn how to use Linux instead of Windows.

AI launches new facility for premium class passengers

Air India today launched 'Meet and Greet' facility for its premium class passengers at the nearby Nedumbassery airport.

Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) Managing Director, Shreeram Bharath, launched the facility at the airport at a simple function here.

Air India Company Secretary, S Venkat, Air India Executive head at Kochi, M K Hingorani, Airport director, A C K Nair, Commercial manager, Kerala, K M Kurien, were among those present.

The premium passengers would be received at the entrance of the terminal building and escorted to the executive lounge. Their luggage would be taken care of by Air India staff. They also would be provided preferable seats.

Three-time Kerala chief minister A.K. Antony may get a cabinet berth

Three-time Kerala chief minister A.K. Antony may get a cabinet berth in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government, reliable political sources say.

Sources close to the veteran said such a development should not come as a surprise because Antony is the sole Congress Working Committee (CWC) member from Kerala and is also chairman of the Congress disciplinary committee.

Antony's proximity to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the known soft corner Manmohan Singh has for him, and his modest lifestyle all add up to the likelihood of his getting an important portfolio, the sources told IANS.

This is the third time Antony has been elected to the Rajya Sabha. He was civil supplies minister (1993-95) in Prime Minister P.V. Narashima Rao's cabinet.

He resigned in 1995 when a ministerial colleague linked his name to a corruption scandal.

Antony started his political career in 1956 as a student leader in Shertallai in Alappuzha district. He became president of the Kerala Students Union in 1964. He has held several posts since then.

In 1979, he became state Congress president and served twice more in that capacity. He became Kerala chief minister the first time in 1977, again in 1995 and for a third time in 2001.

He was named the Congress national general secretary for the first time in 1984.

A new Cultural akademi formed in kerala

A new cultural Akademi, christened 'Malayalam' took shape in Kerala today with its formal inauguration by cultural affairs minister, M A Baby.

Speaking on the occasion, Baby said the Akademi should promote the state's traditional art forms like Kathakali and Mohiniattam. With the erosion of cultural values, there were hardly any promoters for these art forms, he said.

The academy honoured renowned theatre personality Kavalam Narayana Panicker by presenting him with the academy's first 'Rangapratibha' award.

A musical tribute was paid to late music director Ravindran.

Food for thought: Kerala libraries stick to curriculum

A century after the first library in Kerala, the library movement in the state gathered momentum, sowing radical ideas in the minds of people across the state.

Today, there are over 6,600 Gram Panchayat libraries in villages across Kerala.

The purpose of reading, nowadays, has become more need based than for any kind of intellectual stimulation.

For students at the Government Boys School at Thiruvananthapuram, days begin and end with endless tuitions.

In their intensely competitive world, reading is strictly restricted to their curriculum. Everything else is a distraction and a waste of time from them.

"I hardly get time to study even for entrance exams. After schools and tuitions when we reach home it is 8 pm (IST). We hardly get time to read anything else," said Vishnu, a 12th standard student.

"There is lot of pressure on us. We get it out by playing computer games," said Fahad, another student.

Quest for marks

Teachers say this is a result of the quest for maximum marks with minimum knowledge.

It's a generation with a low level of interest in humanities subjects, like literature, political science and history.

Subjects that not only give broader perspective but also make for well-rounded individuals.

At a 60-year-old Gram Panchayat library in Perunkavu village, 15 km from Thiruvanthapuram, it's clear that youngsters here are as disinterested in libraries as their counterparts in the city.

It is a cause for concern in a state that has set up and funded a unique and vast network of 6,600 libraries.

Relevant to the state

Experts say the libraries contributed to Kerala achieving the highest literacy rate in the country.

"We have 850 members. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary, we have started a campaign to rope in more members. Somewhere down the line the importance of libraries is getting reduced. We want to make people aware of the library's relevance," said Santosh, a former librarian.

This trend among young people has politicians also worried.

In a first for the country, former Education Minister E T Mohammed Basheer had introduced the concept of "Grow up by Reading" to encourage reading habits.

The scheme also emphasised the modernisation of school libraries and the introduction of a library period in the school timetable.

However post-elections, the project seems to have lost its impetus.

Be it politics, culture or economics, the average Malayalee is a well-informed person, thanks to the neighbourhood library.

However, the youth today are marching to a different tune. The demands made by their career-oriented education, leaves them with little time to read anything else.

Sand sculptors to welcome Onam in Kerala

With Kerala's most popular festival Onam just a week away, the spirit of festival is already in the air.

Sand sculptor Deepak has arrived on the Kerala Coast, creating the replica of Malayalee's all time favourite King - the legendary Mahabali on the famous Shanghumughom Beach in Thiruvananthapuram.

With Onam round the corner, people in Kerala are gearing up to welcome Mahabali in style.

"I do it for fun. It's nice to see so many people coming and watching my work. It gives a lot of happiness to them and to me as well," said Deepak, sand sculptor.

Mahabali, the Asura King, had immense love for his praja and his rule was known as the golden period.

Legend has it that Mahabali visits his people every year on the Onam Day. And the crowd reveals just how much they love the Asura King and also the artist's work.

"It's a neat work. Whosoever has done, this has been done with lot of dedication and talent. Only a true artist can do this," said a devotee.

Deepak wants to follow the footsteps of Orrisa's famous sand sculptor Sudarshan Patnaik. But even as he pursues his dream, he has just one prayer on his lips - may Onam bring peace and prosperity to everyone.

22 year old Keralite awaits death in Kuwait jail

A 22-year-old Muslim, hailing from Elathur near Vengali village of Calicut district of Kerala, is awaiting a death sentence in the Sulaibiya jail at Jehra in Kuwait following the collapse of a tragic love affair with a Nepali girl.

While the girl died in a suicide pact reached between the two, the boy survived, only to be charged with murder.

Shoukath, the son of Koyadeen of Pulparappil house, the eldest child in a poor fisherman family of six, has been in the jail since December, 2005.

The Jehra court awarded Shoukath capital punishment recently. His relatives came to know about his fate through a report that appeared in a vernacular daily.

Stunned by the court verdict, Shoukath's family has now approached Union Minister of State for External Affairs, E Ahamed, and asked him to intervene in the matter. They called upon the Minister last week when he came to Kozhikode, and has prepared a memorandum to be sent to the ministry.

"He could never do this kind of an act, he and his brother is always been known for his good character in the whole village, he is not that kind of a guy and we are very sure that he cannot do any wrong to anyone," said Koyadeen Pulparappil, Shoukath's father.

"A few days back he had telephoned our relatives and said tht he is going though some kind of tension, but he never said what he was worried about," said Sodaha, his mother.

"The Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre in Kuwait has also offered support. But they cannot do anything without the backing of India government," says Noushad, Shoukath's younger brother, who performs odd jobs to make a living.

Shoukath had gone to Kuwait on January 8, 2005 on a visiting visa. After working in many shops he got a job in a Malayali-run restaurant. He fell in love with a Nepali girl Yamuna, who was working as a maid in a house nearby. The duo decided to commit suicide after the families opposed the marriage, on December 13, 2005.

"Both of them hanged themselves and my brother failed in the attempt as the fan came down with him. People hearing the commotion rushed in and prevented him from making further attempts," says Noushad. But the girl died and Shoukath was arrested by the Kuwait police.

There are, however, reports that Shoukath had told police that he had strangled Yamuna to death as per an agreement between them.

His suicide was the second part of the scheme, which got failed, he had said. Among his family which awaits a miracle that can save him include mother Souda, younger brothers Noushad and Siddique and two sisters Faheema and Shameeda.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Supreme Court verdict: State to seek legal clarification on two aspects

The State Government will seek a legal clarification on whether Friday's Supreme Court verdict on self-financing colleges case is applicable to both Government self-financing colleges and private self-financing colleges.

Minister for Education M. A. Baby told The Hindu here on Saturday that a clarification was needed on two things; whether the 50:50 principle was applicable to Government-owned self-financing colleges also and whether the directions regarding the fee were applicable to these colleges too.

"The AG would be asked whether we need to get back to the Supreme Court for this clarification or whether he himself can clarify it for us. Anyway I have not seen the copy of the verdict. I hope to get it on Monday," Mr. Baby said.

Minimum marks

He said the issue of the fee in Government-owned self-financing colleges could be finalised only after this clarification was received. The Government, the Minister said, was yet to apply its mind on the discrepancies between the policy of the AICTE and that of the University of Kerala regarding the minimum marks to be scored in the qualifying examination in order to be eligible for admission to engineering courses. The AICTE had pegged this at 35 per cent and the University of Kerala at 50 per cent. Now that the Government had no choice but to ask students to submit their engineering/medical options afresh, it would also become imperative on its part to first set right this discrepancy.

According to sources in the Government, the students need to be given at least five days-to-a week to resubmit their engineering/medical options. Those in the EB category who submitted options for `freeships' would now have to rework their options in the backdrop of full fees in self-financing colleges. According to officials of the National Informatics Centre here , once the resubmitting of options was over, it would take only a few hours to effect a fresh allotment.

Kerala puts forward new proposals for Smart City

The Kerala government has finally set out its conditions for the proposed Smart City IT project in Kochi to Dubai Internet City (DIC), its promoters.

An official in Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan's office told IANS that the state government had informed DIC about the conditions.

Unwilling to reveal many details, the official said that around 210 acres of land would be given to DIC on lease. The total value of the land they would have to pay for would be around Rs.800 million ($17.2 million).

"The existing Infopark at Kochi, which was part of the deal signed by the Oommen Chandy government, is not going to be given to them," said the official.

According to reports, the government has stipulated that the Rs.15 billion-project should provide 90,000 jobs in 10 years time.

Achuthanandan, who also holds the IT portfolio, held discussions with DIC officials here on Aug 5 - his first talks with DIC after taking over as chief minister on May 18.

In early 2004, the then A.K. Antony government had begun the first discussions on the project. The MoU was signed by his successor Oommen Chandy on Sep 9 last year at Kochi.

Achuthanandan, the then Leader of Opposition, had claimed the deal was not favourable to the state and that many in the forefront of the discussions had pocketed money.

The new proposals put forward by Achuthanandan will be far less attractive to DIC as the Chandy government had agreed to hand over the 100-acre Infopark at a cost of Rs.1.09 billion ($22.83 million), 136 acres of land at Rs.2.64 million ($602,189) per acre and another 100 acres of land on a 99-year lease free of cost. DIC had agreed to create 33,000 new jobs in lieu of the 100 acres of land.

Speaking to IANS, Chandy said he was pleased that Achuthanandan had agreed to discuss the project with DIC officials. "The biggest objection he had was that DIC is a real estate company. The only thing I would say now is that Kerala needs the project."

Colachel, Vizhinjam port projects caught in high seas

Two port projects, at a distance of just 40 km on the West Coast. The project sites are very close and the maritime, topographical and environmental features are more or less similar. But there's a hitch-- they are in two different states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Had this not been the case, the country’s shipping and international trade story would have been quite different. The mother vessels that anchor at Colombo, Singapore or Kalang for Indian cargo from feeder vessels wouldn't have been there, saving enormous amount of money and time for Indian manufacturing and business. Yes, what is being referred to is the Vizhinjam port project in Kerala and Colachel in Tamil Nadu.

While the Kerala government has finalised the project plan at an estimated investment of Rs 4,360 crore, and has received global bids, it is facing hurdles in the name of national security. An all-party delegation from Kerala is set to meet the Prime Minister on August 31, to seek his intervention.

The apprehension in Kerala is that TN ministers in the Union Cabinet are creating obstacles for the Vizhinjam port to get the Colachel project going.

TN wants to develop Colachel into an international hub. The state has taken up the matter with the Centre on the need to develop Colachel as a container transshipment hub. and is seeking assistance in preparing a detailed feasibility/project report, minister for highways, Vellakovil MP Saminathan, has said.

However, experts on maritime affairs say Vizhinjam has certain distinctive advantages over Colachel. The natural draft is 17 to 20 meters within 500 meters to one km from the shore. The sandy bottom makes dredging and deepening for construction easier, and the current velocity and tide levels are in acceptable range.

At Colachel, they say, the natural draft of 15 meters is found only one km from the shore and 20 meter draft is available only four-five km away. The sea bottom at Colachel is rocky requiring substantial amount of blasting for dredging or deepening, impacting marine ecology.

A hub port on the West Coast, close to the international sea route, is essential for India’s industrial and economic development.

Both Colachel and Vizhinjam can serve this purpose, may be with a variance in cost. Hence, from a national perspective, experts feel that instead of competing with each other, TN and Kerala should co-operate and jointly develop India’s star port.

members of Kerala Samajam today celebrated Onam

The members of Kerala Samajam today celebrated Onam with fanfare at the Pastoral Centre of Christ the King Cathedral in Sector 19.

Over 700 Keralites, most of them dressed in their traditional Malyalam attires, thronged the venue. Apart from a colourful, traditional cultural programme, a sumptuous feast of traditional Malayalee dishes was served to the guests. Though Onam is on September 5, the festivities started today itself.

The festivities were inaugurated by Kumara Verma, Chairman of Department of Indian Theatre, by lighting the traditional lamp. Pawan Kumar Bansal, Minister of State for Finance, was the chief guest. Various other dignitaries were also present on the occasion.

A sumptuous feast, comprising 21 vegetarian delicacies, was the highlight of the day. Served on banana leaves, the dishes were prepared by the families of the Kerala Samajam. A rangoli depicting Kathakali, created by different flower petals was also appreciated by the visitors.

Speaking on the occasion, Bansal assured the audience that the Sampark Kranti Express would be made a bi-weekly train. He said the facilities at the Chandigarh railway station would be enhanced in the coming days.

Earlier, Samajam president C. Haridas Menon welcomed the guests on behalf of the Kerala Samajam.

Kerala banks on lucky coupon to boost revenue

In order to boost tax revenues, Kerala would introduce a novel scheme Tuesday where all cash purchases above Rs.1000 with bill from shops having value addition tax (VAT) registration would get a lucky scratch coupon.

'In Kerala, there are 130,000 traders who have VAT registration. This is the first time in the country that such a scheme is being introduced by a state government. All states are now looking forward to find out how this scheme would work,' said state Finance Minister Thomas Isaac to reporters here Monday.

He said they expect the tax revenue to go up by more than 50 percent and would bring in an additional Rs.16 billion as compared to previous year.

In the last fiscal the total tax revenue was Rs.30 billion in the state.

Among those who are currently exempted from VAT in the state are gold shops, cement dealers, luxury hotels and liquor. These shops follow the compounding method of tax.

'One in 15 coupons would get a prize and in order to see that this is fair to all, we have seen that all purchases in a month when added up to Rs.1000 or more would get a lucky coupon. The minimum prize would be Rs.10 and the maximum would be Rs.100,000,' the minister said.

Isaac added the financial position of the state is precariously placed and the total public debt of the state has crossed Rs.50 billion.

He asserted he does not believe in coming out with a white paper on the state's finances as demanded by the opposition.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kerala logs Microsoft out

After the cola ban, it is now the turn of Microsoft to log out of Kerala. Children in 12,500 high schools in the state, India’s most literate, will not be taught Windows. Instead, instructors are lining up Linux for them. This is because Kerala has chalked out a plan for migrating its high school students to free software platforms in three years.

Although Linux was already blipping on the Kerala IT@School project radar, and the plans of VS Achuthanandan’s government to develop the state as a Foss (free and open software systems) destination has expedited the open software plans.

“Free software guru Richard Stallman’s visit last week had nudged the schools to discard the proprietary software altogether,” state education minister MA Baby told FE. “Stallman has inspired Kerala’s transition to free software on the lines of an exciting model of a Spanish province, which did the same,” the minister said.

The Left Democratic Front government targets implementing an earlier government order that was issued during the previous United Democratic Front regime. The decision was taken in 2004 to push open source systems, but this was not actively followed, said Baby. Initially, schools were given the option to choose whether teachers were to be trained in Linux systems or Microsoft. The option has now narrowed down to migration.

In the current year, class VIII students have shifted to Linux. By 2007, class XI students and by 2008 class X students will follow suit.

Linux PC dealers are upbeat. “Offers of pre-loaded Linux operating system could fetch good hardware sales margins,” says PK Harikrishnan, president, Kerala Computer Manufacturers’ and Dealers’ Association. There are other reasons as well. A sting operation by Microsoft in October 2005 had not endeared the proprietary software to PC and peripherals dealers. Often PC vendors are caught between customers’ demand for free pirated software along with hardware, and the fine print of law. Some dealers in Kerala even see the Foss market as a narrow, but a safe corridor out of this mess.

Autorickshaw driver from Kerala to run 1,000 km to enter Limca Book

A 26-year-old man in Kerala is preparing to run a thousand kilometres to secure a place in the Limca Book of Records.

R.S. Vinod, a winner of several middle distance and long distance races at state and national levels, hopes to cover the distance in 15-20 days.

Vinod, who trained to drive an autorickshaw, told IANS: "I have won awards and taken part in three national athletic meets, but I have to still drive an autorickshaw (to earn my livelihood)."

"This 1000-km run is yet another effort to draw the attention of the authorities who I hope will give me a job," Vinod said.

The going may not been easy for Vinod. Although he has received a confirmation from Limca for recording his run he is yet to find a sponsor who can give him Rs. 100,000.

Vinod needs the money to appoint observers who will track the run.

"I plan to run about 75 km to 100 km everyday. The run will commence from Parasala here which is on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border and end at Mysore in Karnataka.

"If I find a sponsor I am prepared to run from Thiruvananthapuram to New Delhi - a distance of 3,200 km. I plan to cover the distance in 90 to 125 days. In a trial I ran 243 km in two days," Vinod added.

Vinod, who earlier undertook a weeklong fast to draw the attention of the government on his plight, may just find a saviour in Paniyan Ravindran, an MP.

"I'll see what I can do to help Vinod," Ravindran said.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Kerala logs on to free software

It’s the free software mantra that is doing the rounds in the state these days. When free software guru Richard Stallman came calling, he too supported the idea.

The thoughts got louder with chief minister V S Achuthanandan, known for his stance against monopoly companies, coming out strongly in support of free software.

With the state administration all for freeware, Akshaya, Kerala’s much lauded e-literary initiative, foresees that all the talk about free software is going to make a welcome impact on its activities.

Says T K Mansoor, state coordinator for Akshaya: “We are seriously thinking about logging on to free software. In fact, even in the current scenario, state-level content made available to various Akshaya centres is provided in both free software and Windows versions”.

On whether Akshaya will make free software mandatory, Mansoor said, “Akshaya centres across the state are run by private entrepreneurs. I don’t think the government will force them to use only free software. But, they will have the option to choose between Windows and freeware. We are looking at more and more migration to free software.”

There have been reports here that Free Software Foundation president Richard Stallman has urged the state government to completely switch over the Akshaya programme to free software. On his visit to the city on Tuesday, Stallman had met the chief minister at a seminar on “The importance of free software for the development of Kerala”.

According to the chief minister, the Kerala government would take the lead in popularising free software.

While Stallman said that free software aimed at 'liberating the inhabitants of the cyberspace from the clutches of the monopolists, Achuthanandan pointed out that the “capitalists are trying to monopolise knowledge, especially in the IT sector”. Pointing out that proprietary software had malicious features, he said the only way out was to use and popularise free software.

With Stallman’s visit with a mission and the state chief minister’s inclination towards popularising free software being the talk of the town, it is great times for the promoters of free software. However, there are complaints that free software is not user-friendly. It remains to be seen how far the campaign would go.

With Akshaya entrepreneurs having been given the right to choose between Windows and free software, it may take a while to see Kerala logging on completely to the free software.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bollywood stars in Kerala

Bollywood stars Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai are in Kerala for the picturisation of a song in ace director Mani Ratnam's new movie 'Guru'.

According to reports, the actors came here yesterday from Mysore on their way to Athirapally for the shooting along with the director, cameraman Rajiv Menon and choreographer Saroj Khan.

Abhishek and Aishwarya are playing the lead roles in the film made under the banner of Madras Talkies.

The first part of the song was shot in Mysore and the scene at Athirapally, near here known for waterfalls, was decided at the last moment considering the scenic beauty of the place. The shooting work would be completed in two days, the reports added.

Eventhough the song features only Aishwarya, Abhishek is acompanying her.

Kerala to host workshop on NRI marriages

Concerned over the increasing number of complaints of fraudulent non-resident Indian marriages, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) will hold a workshop in Kerala in September to address the issue.

The MOIA, which has already held such a workshop in Chandigarh in collaboration with the National Commission for Women (NCW), has published a guidance booklet on marriages to overseas Indian and publicity has been given through print and electronic media to increase awareness, MOIA Minister Vayalar Ravi told Lok Sabha, in a written reply Wednesday.

Ravi said his ministry had taken note of the problems relating to NRI marriages. He said it had passed on the recommendations made by the high-level committee on Indian diaspora and the NCW to all the state governments to contain the fraudulent marriages.

'A proposal that India join the Hague conference on private international law as a member state is also being processed by the government,' the minister said.

V M Sudheeran gets Rashtriya Prathibha Award

The 'Rashtriya Prathibha' Award instituted by the Kerala Dheshiyavedhi Congress, a Dubai-based organisation working in the social and cultural fields, for the last three years, was conferred on senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran, here on Tuesday.

The award consists of a memento and a cash prize of Rs 25,000.

The winner was selected by a three-member jury through a gallop poll, Venugopalan, president, Kerala Dheshiyavedhi Congress, said.

Sudheeran's fearless approach for the welfare of society and his unblemished political life had contributed for his selection for the award, Venugopalan said.

Justice K P Radhakrishna Menon, gave away the award.

Replying to the felicitation, Sudheeran said he had always fought for the welfare of the people and awards like this would give him the strength to take up the cause of the people.

Those who spoke included Ernakulam District Congress Committee, president, K P Dhanapalan.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Kerala tourism expo from Sept 7

The 'International Travel Expo 2006,' a three-day exhibition of the Kerala tourism industry, will be held at the St Joseph's School Exhibition Centre here from September 7 to 9.

The expo is being organised by Kerala Tourism, the Indian Trade Fair Foundation, Tourism India Publications and the South Kerala Hoteliers Forum.

The tourism boards of Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia , Sri Lanka, Maldives and around 80 companies connected with airlines, hotels, resorts, houseboats, water theme parks, travel agents, tour operators and hospitals will participate.

Hotels and tour operators from Gujarat, Pondicherry, Lakshadweep, Goa, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh will also participate in the event along with the respective state tourism departments.

Exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen arrives in Kochi

Taslima, who arrived in Kerala for a four-day visit,today visted well-known indo english writer, Kamala Surrayya, at her residence and exchanged pleasantries.

"I am a woman.Women are not allowed to talk much," she said when asked if she was being persecuted as she was a Muslim woman.

Taslima said she yearns to go back to her country.

"I am not allowed to go back to Bangladesh.The government does not allow me to go there. If I go to Bangladesh, I do not know what will happen," said the writer, who is facing death threats from some fundamentalist organisations in Bangladesh.

"But I want to go back to my country," she told reporters.

She said she would be approaching the Indian government for a one-year resident permit.

Taslima, who was granted only six months extension of resident permit by the Indian government recently, said she was disappointed at not been given a one year resident permit. However,she said approach the government once again for a one year resident permit in February next year.

Kerala, TN in row over Rs 10,000 cr port projects

A major battle is underway between Kerala and Tamil Nadu over the development of international container trans shipment terminals worth Rs 10,000 crore.

Kerala has alleged that its Rs 4,500-crore Vizhinjam terminal in Thiruvananthapuram is being underplayed by Shipping Minister TR Baalu for promoting a Rs 5,500-crore container hub at Kolachel Port near Kannyakumari.

According to the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation, the state is in talks with the Malaysian government to execute this as a government-to-government project.

The Kerala project hit a roadblock when the Chinese firms that had won the mandate for the project along with a Mumbai-based company failed to get security clearance from the Centre.

“Both Kolachel and Vizhinjam are non-major ports which are coming directly under state governments. The shipping minister is ignoring the Vizhinjam project and he is taking more interest in Kolachel. He had recently visited the plot to boost its prospects,” sources said.

Speaking to Business Standard, KT Roy of Kerala-based NGO Capital City Development Forum said: “Vizhinjam Port was being sabotaged by the shipping minister to promote Kolachel Port. Kolachel is a commercial port with just a 10-metre depth but Vizhinjam will have a depth of 27 metres and it is very close to the international route.”

In addition to various NGOs fighting for Vizhinjam, the MPs of both the Marxist-led ruling Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led Opposition United Democratic Front have united for this cause.

“We have convened an all-party meeting and a delegation will meet the prime minister next week,” a state government official said. Sources close to the development said Tamil Nadu had already completed the techno-economic feasibility study for the project with Malaysian participation.

The Malaysian government had signed an agreement with the Tamil Nadu government for construction during the previous term of the DMK front.

Some hope in Beenamol's struggle to own house

One of India's greatest woman athletes, K.M. Beenamol, finally has some hope of owning a piece of land to build a house after being assured of the same by the state sports minister Sunday.

She has been running from pillar to post for the past two years for a land that is supposedly gifted to her by the Kerala government.

The athlete, along with her husband, met M. Vijayakumar at his residence and the minister assured them that the matter would be sorted out within two weeks.

'I have come to know about this issue for the first time so please give me two weeks time to sort it out,' Vijayakumar reportedly told the athlete.

However, Beenamol seemed happy that her two-year wait was finally bringing results. 'I can now wait for two weeks more,' she remarked.

Ace middle distance runner Beenamol, who excelled in 400 m, 800 m and 4X 400 m, has won two Asian Games gold and one silver medals (both in Busan, 2002) and was a finalist in the 4X400 m in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

She is also the recipient of the Padma Shri, Arjuna Award and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.

It was almost two years back that the athlete and her husband first approached the state government.

While former chief minister Oommen Chandy could not do anything for the ace athlete who is now retired and works as an officer on special duty with the Indian Railways and stays in a railway apartment here, the V.S. Achuthanandan government also seems to be sitting on their file.

Reports indicate that the weekly cabinet meeting held Aug 16 cleared it, but the chief minister later decided that the land be given to build a memorial in the name of a late Malayali film actor and identify another land for Beenamol.

Vijayakumar said that he was not aware of what transpired on the already allotted land and added it would be improper to comment on it.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Stir against Coke plant off in Kerala

A major anti-cola resistance group called off their four-year-old struggle demanding closure of the Coca Cola plant at Plachimada in Kerala.

The Adivasi Samrakshna Sanghom leaders Velur Swaminathan and Mailamma said they were calling off the agitation as one of their major demands had been met with the LDF Government.

Kerala's LDF government has banned two soft drink giants Coca Cola and Pepsi in the state after Centre for Science and Environment reported pesticides in the drinks.

The Sanghom leaders said they would approach the Government and court seeking compensation for the losses suffered in the course of agitation, which had drawn national and international attention.

They said the demands made by them when the agitation was launched in 2004 were closure of the cola plant and compensation for "losses caused by the plant" in the area.

The first demand had been met with the Government banning production and sale of Coca Cola. Political and legal efforts would be launched to secure the second demand, they said.

Personal losses

The Sanghom leaders said since they had suffered "personal losses" in the course of the agitation, the government should help them financially.

They called for a detailed study to assess the "losses caused by the plant" in the predominantly tribal area.

The study will help carry out political and legal struggles for compensation, the leaders said.

The tribal group launched its anti-Coke agitation on April 22, 2004, alleging that the plant belonging to the Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Ltd was exploiting groundwater and causing pollution.

The struggle soon attracted national attention with several environmental groups, NGOs and human rights campaigners extending support to it. (PTI)

Friday, August 18, 2006

SC to Kerala: Why can't women enter Sabarimala?

The ban on the entry of women in the age group of 10-50 into Sabarimala Temple in Kerala and the harassment of Kannada actress Jayamala for touching the feet of Lord Ayappa 20 years ago were questioned by a PIL before the Supreme Court.

The PIL filed by Indian Young Lawyers' Association and five of its women members was entertained by a Bench comprising Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, Justice S H Kapadia and Justice C K Thakker. The Bench issued notice to Kerala government, Travancore Devaswom Board, Devaswom Commissioner, chief tantri of the Temple and the local district magistrate.

The petitioners have challenged the validity of the provisions of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1956, under which women were not allowed to enter temple premises at such time during which they were not by custom or usage allowed to enter places of worship.

Such restrictions on women in modern age are violative of the right to equality and right to freedom of religion guaranteed under the Constitution, their counsel Ravi Prakash said.

The petitioners also decried the attempt to prosecute Jayamala for desecrating the temple after she disclosed that she had touched the feet of the deity, Lord Ayappa, in 1987. They said discrimination against women in the matter of entry into a temple is neither a ritual nor a ceremony that could be associated with the Hindu religion.

"The practice of exclusion of women from worshipping Lord Ayappa is not universal. In Kolar district of Karnataka, a Dalit woman, Shantha Kumari, is the priest-in-charge of the Lord Ayappa temple, where all rituals are akin to thosefollowed in Sabarimala," the petitioners said, seeking parity in treatment of women in the two Ayappa temples.

Kerala village to achieve Class 4 literacy

A village in Kerala's Malappuram district is all set to become the first village in the country where everyone would be Class 4-literate, and credit would go in some measure to the efforts of ace filmmaker Aryadan Shoukat.

At Nilambur Grama Panchayath in north Kerala, 1,500 of its residents in the age group 15-50 have not passed Class 4 and of them 900 were illiterate, said Shoukat.

But under the Jyothirgamaya programme, being organised at the village by the Kerala State Literacy Mission that is involved in the spread of non-formal education, these people are being taught so that they attain education up to Class 4.

'I first found out that many in my village can't even sign and felt that I should do my best to see that something is done. I got in touch with the literacy mission officials who said that this could be done. And that is how this programme was launched,' Shoukat, also president of the Nilambur Grama Panchayath, told reporters here Friday.

The literacy mission conducted a survey in January and found out that of the nearly 39,000 population, around 1,500 had not passed Class 4.

'We identified 142 study centres and 300 teachers who were willing to cooperate for free to educate the identified students. The classes began in March this year,' said Shoukat.

Classes are held at the centres for two hours between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. everyday where the students are taught math, English, Malayalam and environment studies.

'We have decided to have an examination in November. As per rules we are unable to make students above age 50 take the examination. However, many of them do attend the classes,' said Konni Gopakumar director of the literacy mission, told IANS.

The state literacy mission is now planning to replicate this programme in three other villages in the state.

'Once we finish the examination we plan to start the next phase, which is for Class 7. All those who are interested can participate,' said Shoukat, who is the son of top Congress legislator Aryadan Mohammed.

Kerala can attract major investments: Worbus Capital

Worbus Capital Resources Ltd. has initiated talks with the Kerala Government to study investment areas for international investors. This will range from real estate development to KPO (knowledge processing outsourcing) industry.

Talking to reporters here, George Molakal, international director of Worbus, said Kerala had a huge talent pool and could bring major investments and joint ventures in electronics engineering, engineering design service, knowledge processing, etc. He said the Kerala talent was channelled to other States owing to poor government support to multinationals.

Mr. Molakal said Worbus proposed to set up an office in Kochi soon. It is now working with client NeST, for which it brought about several global alliances. These alliances would bring more than $100 million (Rs. 450 crore) in sales for NeST over the next four years.

Answering a question, Mr. Molakal said foreign investors were looking increasingly towards India after the none-too-pleasant experience in China. About 450 CEOs of American companies would come to Mumbai next month to explore the possibilities of investing here.

Worbus urged the Kerala Government to appoint a strategic investment head with a good team to chalk out a plan for bringing investors. He described the West Bengal Government as pro-investment, even offering concessions in land, power and other infrastructure.

Mr. Molakal said the strategic investment team should ideally be headed by a person who had lived in North America and Europe for a considerable period, so as to understand the cultural requirements of Western companies and the problems of merging them with the culture of Keralites. This initiative would bring in revenues for the State and help in building infrastructure and capabilities for continued future growth.

Worbus intended bringing about Rs. 750 crore investment (gross transaction volumes) to Kerala by 2008. Chairman Michael Lewis and Thomas Mathew, head of the company in North America, were likely to visit Kerala in the second week of September to study the political and economic climate, he said. Mr. Molakal said Worbus had crossed $300 million (Rs.1,200 crore) in gross transaction volume for projects across India. The company looked forward to exceed $ 1 billion in GTV by 2008 in India.

Worbus Capital Resources Ltd is a mergers and acquisition company working globally with offices in the U.S., Canada, Europe, West Asia, India and China.

It works with small to medium enterprises (Rs.10-crore to Rs.2,000-crore companies), analysing current performance and recommending growth strategies through global alliances, joint ventures, and funding the growth requirements through investment funds from institutions, venture capitalists and corporate financing.

Kerala gets set for Rs 140-cr convention centre

After Hyderabad, it is Kerala that might be home to another state-of-the-art convention centre. The Rs 140 crore project, that is still awaiting a final cabinet approval, is expected to come up in Thiruvananthapuram and might take approximately three years to get completed.

The government of Kerala has promised to provide the land on lease while the entire investment will come from the private sector. A consortium has already been formed between three private players who are part of the consortium and are leading names in their area of specialisation - namely a prominent party from the real estate business to look after the construction of the project, a leading hotel chain and an international body who are specialists in the MICE business. However no names were revealed.

Kerala govt under fire over police excesses

In the two and a half months since the LDF took power in Kerala, there have been 14 deaths connected to police including custody deaths.

Under fire from the Opposition, human rights activists and the public, the government is now desperately trying to curb the incidents of police excesses.

However, for people like the family of Rajesh are yet to come to terms with their loss.

The 23-year-old jumped into a lake while being chased by the police. Rajesh's uncle says that he pleaded that he couldn't swim, but the police - instead of helping him - pelted stones at him till he drowned.

However, after the rising number of deaths, public outrage has forced the government to order a judicial probe into the deaths.

"We want the cops responsible for his death to be booked on the charges of murder. We are not demanding any compensation but we want exemplary punishment to be given to them," said Surendran, Rajesh's uncle.

Promises unfulfilled

The LDF came to power in Kerala with the promise of putting an end to police excesses and custodial deaths.

But what has happened on the ground is quite alarming and a worried government now wants the cops to mend their ways.

Therefore, Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan sent a strong message during a meeting with top police officers. The minister is under pressure from his own CPI(M) and the Left Front to take strong action.

But many police officers feel any harsh measure could demoralize the force at a time when there is a need to crack down on terrorist activities in the state.

But clearly the Kerala government needs much more than meetings and promises to check the alleged excesses by the police, which should be a force to protect citizens and not victimise them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

'MM TV' to go on air today

Malayala Manorama group, publishers of Kerala's leading daily in the same name, is scheduled to launch its 24-hour Malayalam news channel 'MM TV' today.

The channel will use advanced technologies like electronic news production system and latest tapeless cameras for news-gathering and broadcast, company sources said.

Besides hourly news bulletins, the channel will also telecast sports and science-based programmes.

Collection and dissemination of news will be on par with international standards using state-of-the art equipment, they said.

"The mission of the channel is to disseminate live, the heat generated by news," they said.

The ground work for the channel had been on since the past several months and recruitment of journalists had been made well in advance.

MM TV is likely to give a tough competition to existing news channels Asianet and Kairali TV besides India Vision, media industry observers said.

Malayala Manorama enjoys the widest circulation in Kerala.

Anju ranked joint eighth

A long lay-off from the international circuit has resulted in Anju Bobby George slipping one spot to joint eighth in the latest IAAF women's long jump rankings.

The lanky athlete from Kerala, who has been nursing a heel injury for the past few months, has had a forgettable time this season. She could not repeat her performances of last year, most notably a silver medal at the World athletics finals in Monaco, which catapulted her to number four in the world rankings.

The ace athlete will make her return at the South Asian Games in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which could be a good platform for her to get into the groove for the athletics World Cup in Greece this September and the Doha Asian Games in December.

The long jump rankings are dominated by the Russians with Tatyana Kotova leading compatriots Oksana Udmurtova and Tatyana Lebedeva.

India's Vikas Gowda fell two spots to 26th in the men's discus throw rankings and Manjeet Kaur has lost an equal number of places in the women's 400m charts to be 40th. — PTI

Mallika Sherawat rocks Kerala

Bollywood sex-kitten Mallika Sherawat has been taking Kerala by storm.Mallika is drawing large crowds to the shooting of the film ‘Fauj Mein Mauj’ as she shoots at Kovalam, Kerala.The crowds went berserk when they saw Mallika in limited clothing and wanted to paw her.

Mallika seemed to be enjoying the fact that lusty men were watching her as well, knowing that she had enough security.The film is helmed by director Murali Nagavally and has Upen Patel starring opposite Mallika.Malayalam comedians Innocent and Abu Salim are also in the film

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Kerala to have IIT soon, says Achuthanandan

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala will soon have an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan said on Tuesday in his Independence Day address.

"An IIT in Kerala will soon become a reality. It would come up in a 250-acres area at a cost of Rs 8 billion," said the Chief Minister.

Achuthanandan earlier took the salute at the Independence Day parade, which had to be cut short due to rains.

He said Kerala would have a record 200,000 IT jobs in the next five years with the development of the Infopark in Kochi and the Technopark in the capital.

The Chief Minister stressed that it was extremely important to weed out corruption altogether.

"Corruption at all levels will be tackled and for this purpose, vigilance operations will be strengthened. Likewise, there would be no mercy shown on people indulging in sex scandals and those engaged in illicit liquor trade."

Further, Achuthanandan said he took pride in his government's decision to ban both Coke and Pepsi for their alleged pesticide content.

"We feel it is a big achievement that we have been able to stop the production of both Pepsi and Coke. For the past four and a half years, people of Plachimada village in Palakkad district, where Coke had its production unit, have been waging a bitter struggle against water exploitation by the Coke factory."

Independence Day parades were held in all the 13 district headquarters of the state where various ministers took the salute.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Monsoon active over Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 15. (UNI): The South West Monsoon was active over Kerala with rain lashing many places in the State and a few places in Lakshwadeep.

The Local Met office said, Palakkad had the highest rainfall of 10 cm and was followed by Kunnamkulam with eight cm.

Nilambur received rainfall of seven cm, it said and added that Thalassery, Pattambi, Kochi and Thodupuzha got six cm rains each.

Kozhikode, Perinthalmanna, Ambalavayal, Thrissur and Haripad received five cm rains each, the Met office added.

It also warned of isolated heavy rains over Kerala in the next 48 hours and strong onshore winds from the Westerly direction with a speed of 45/55 kmph along and off the Kerala coast and Lakshwadeep.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Leading Kerala media group to launch TV channel

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 13 (IANS) The Malayalam Manorama group, publishers of Kerala's leading daily of the same name, is all set to launch a TV channel Aug 17.

Called MMTV, it would be a 24-hour news channel with news and news-based programmes.

'The newspaper's chief editor K.M. Mathew will light a lamp at our new studio at Kochi on Aug 17 and that would be the only event for the launch of our channel,' a close aide of the media baron told IANS.

The groundwork for the channel began some time back though their operations have been a closely guarded secret.

Mathew's grandson, Jayanth Mammen Mathew, is said to be the key person behind the setting up of the channel.

There are seven media groups in Kerala that run several television channels, apart from the regional channel from the country's public broadcaster Doordarshan. MMTV would be the eighth to join the bandwagon.

Ever since the news of MMTV's launch became public, Kairali TV and Asianet TV have launched their second and third channels respectively and on the anvil is a second channel from India Vision too.

Industry watchers say the state would see the launch of two more news channels soon.
© 2006 Indo-Asian News Service

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Payippad Snake Boat wins Kerala race

The Payippad Snake Boat Saturday won the Nehru Trophy for the third year in succession at Kerala's annual boat festival at the Punnamada lake.

Eighteen snake boats and 42 small boats took part in the various events, which climaxed in the famous snake boat race.

The Payippad Snake Boat from Kumarakom in Kottayam has been a regular participant in this annual event for several decades.

An added attraction this time was the participation of a 10-member multi-national women's team from Dubai - led by British national Julie Amer - that was part of the Alleppey Boat Club team, which finished first in the women's category.

Watching the race from a houseboat parked near the finishing point is Belia Klagers, a 60-year-old German, excitedly witnessing one of the most breathtaking water events.

'I have been to Kerala 16 times, but this is the first time I am watching the race. Believe me, I am yet to see a better sport than this. I feel sad that I was not able to see this race before,' said Klagers, who is a landscape consultant in Munich.

Tomy Pullikattil, one of the organisers, said: 'This year appears to be one of the best seasons for us. Close to 5,000 foreign tourists witnessed the race. From my experience of seeing close to three dozen Nehru boat races, this time there were nearly 300,000 spectators.'

The biggest cheer as always is reserved for the snake boat competition. The length of a snake boat varies from 120 to 140 feet. There are about 120 oarsmen, with the captain and his associates giving directions.

Christiana from Spain has been in Alappuzha for the past few days waiting to see 'one of the most exquisite sporting events'.

'No other place in the world has such a marvellous water-sporting event. I am happy to be here and enjoying every moment of the race,' she said.

The history of this race is associated with former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's visit to the state in 1952 when a pageantry of boats accompanied him on his trip from Kottayam to Alappuzha.

An impromptu race conducted in Nehru's honour. Nehru, who was thrilled by the performance of the oarsmen, jumped into the 'Nadubhagam Chundan' (a snake boat) forgetting all security arrangements. The boat proceeded to the jetty with the then prime minister on board.

On returning to Delhi, Nehru donated a silver trophy, a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus with an inscription and his signature. This is the trophy that the winner in the snake boat category is awarded.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Kerala's beauty

It takes centuries of peace in a region for art to blossom. The southern part of India has been fortunate in this respect. Except for the European traders in the last three centuries, there has not been much of international aggression here. Art and craft did thrive here.

Among the many crafts that evolved, textiles was an area that evolved considerably. There is something subtle and nice about the wonderful textiles from all over south India. The fact that they are mostly made from natural fibres and dyes makes them specially favourable for those who are environment conscious.

An interesting perspective lies in the textiles from Kerala. Traditionally the garment worn by the working women just covered their body below the waist. Called the mundu (which means lower), a similar garment was also worn by the men. The mundu seems the perfect textile for the hot and humid climate of this region.

An interesting point of contrast lies in comparison with the women of the north, who traditionally had to hide even their faces. The working women of Kerala could expose their full upper body till a few decades back without any fear of disrespect or lechery visible in the community. Raja Ravi Varma enamoured by their poise accurately captured this beauty on canvas.

Recently the neryathum (kind of duppatta) has been added to a blouse making it a three piece ensemble. The mundu is made of cotton and is traditionally woven by hand, peacock or simple temple designs embellish the pallu. The mundum neriyathum is also known as set mundu, kasavu mundu, mundu-sari, set-sari, or set veshti. The kasavu or the golden border is either pure golden layer, copper coated or now synthetic material is also used for the cheaper versions.

The karalakudi are white or unbleached textiles finely woven, light muslin with fine zaree border and pallu. The mundu veshti , normally worn on festive occasions has a Zari border whereas the ordinary textiles woven in Kerala have thread borders.

The kasragod sarees, which were once respected as masterpieces with the finest of yarn using traditional hand made methods. Unfortunately these have been relegated to a place of family heirlooms by the cheaper versions available. These cheap options are generally made with synthetic yarns and industrialisation. The original price of the kasragod sarees is anything between Rs 5,000 to Rs 9,000 depending on the silk yarn, gold zari and the colour patterns used. The cheap imitation is available for only Rs 300. These low cost solutions however do not have the same energy or feel.

An interesting point in the process of creating kasragod sarees is while weaving the cotton thread a special starch paste is applied on the yarn, which makes the yarn long lasting and the colours fast. It normally takes a week to weave the kasragod silk saree.

The Kerala handloom sector employees two lakh people directly or indirectly. With public favour, this figure could easily be in the millions, but without it, the end of this sector seems inevitable.

One of my favourite textiles for summer are the ones made in Kerala. These unbleached finely woven muslin with gold, red and green borders, are just wonderful to use for a kurti, kurta, skirt or a even a dress. Its simplicity with the right amount of gold zari gives it an urbane flavour with a gentle reminder of our fine heritage.


In Kerala, cultures intermingle for last rites

Dr Paul Christian, the first dental surgeon in Kollam, died at a private hospital on Monday evening. He was 76.

Dr Christian had a last wish that would carry the news of his death beyond an obituary column. On Tuesday evening, he was cremated in a Hindu crematorium after a prayer service in his parish church, as per his will. Later, his ashes were put inside the family grave in Kollam.

The surgeon, survived by wife and four children, had obtained permission from the Church for his wish ten years ago. Former Kollam bishop Jospeh Fernandez got the Vatican's permission to cremate the bodies of Christian and his wife Pamela once they were dead. The current bishop Stanly Roman endorsed the decision.

What made Christian insist on cremation rather than burial? “He was always close to Indian culture and customs. A decade ago, he had made up his mind to cremate his body. He spoke to the parish priest, who in turn put the matter before the bishop. They granted his wish,” Christian's elder son Kevin told DNA.

“It's high time the Christians turn to cremation of the dead. Burial has become a social problem with the overcrowding of cemeteries. It creates environmental problems too. My father wanted the community to follow his suit,” he added. The family stood by Christian when he announced his wish to deviate from convention.

Both Kevin and his brother Roy are dental surgeons like their father, who studied dentistry in Mumbai and had been practicing in Kollam since 1952. Christian, who belonged to the Latin Catholic community, was active in the social life of his town.

Though many Christian communities have turned to cremation globally, it is still a rarity in Kerala, where the pressure on land is increasing day by day. “We have been experiencing tremendous difficulty for burying the dead for want of space. That's why we have turned to vaults from tombs. We may have to opt for cremation one day,” Fr Paul Antony, secretary to the Kollam bishop, said.

He said the Vatican has approved cremation as a Christian funeral. “The Church does not prescribe any method other than the prayer service. Believers are left with the choice according to their local custom. But our people are yet to accept it. Many of them were emotional when we had to adapt the vault system,” he added.

Kerala University results goes online

Now you can have all the information regarding B Tech and PG (semester) examination results at your fingertips, any time.

The computer centre of the Kerala University has developed an internet facility called ‘Anytime Exam Information’ (AEI). Using this, B Tech, MA, MSc, and MSW students of affiliated colleges can access information on all university examinations they have attended.

This facility was developed by a team of programmers lead by computer centre director V Ajayakumar. The candidates can log on to the Kerala University website (, go to the AEI link, enter the register number and can obtain the details concerning their examinations. This facility on the university website will become functional from Monday.


Chelakkulam Jai Bharat Arts and Science College's MBA students debarred

All the 17 4th semester MBA students who were caught copying at Jai Bharat Arts and Science College, Chelakkulam, Perumbavoor on Wednesday in a surprise inspection conducted by the university exam squad, have been debarred from writing the remaining papers of the examination


Kochi to have Hi-Tech City campus

Hi-tech City, a campus for firms engaged in IT, biotech and similar sectors, will come up in Kochi with an investment of Rs 50 billion ($1.07 billion), Kerala's Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem said here on Wednesday.“We have already completed the preliminary round of discussions with the Bangalore-based Shobha group that will execute the project,” Kareem told reporters.The proposed campus would come up near the Kochi international airport in an area of around 400 acres, which the company would acquire, the minister said.He added that the project would be completed in eight years and it would offer jobs to 54,000 people.“Hi-tech City will house firms engaged in IT, bio-technology, education, entertainment, education and similar sectors. The government will only act as a facilitator to get licenses and other things for the Shobha group and will have no other role,” said Kareem.


A southern Indian state on Wednesday banned the sale and production of Coke, Pepsi, Sprite and other soft drinks made by the Indian subsidiaries of Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc., an official said.

Four Indian states have already banned the sale of Coke, Pepsi and other soft drinks at schools, colleges and government offices after a research group in New Delhi last week claimed they contained high levels of pesticide residue. But the state of Kerala was the first to impose a total ban on production and sales.

The moves likely will hurt sales of Coca Cola and PepsiCo beverages in India. The two companies account for nearly 80 percent of India's $2 billion-plus soft drinks market.

Kerala's health secretary, Viswas Mehta, told The Associated Press the state banned the drinks because of concerns over pesticide contamination and said his department began collecting its own samples of Coke and Pepsi for independent testing.

Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi insist their drinks are safe.

"For three years we have looked very hard at this and engaged the best scientific minds in the world, and all of the data and all of the science point to the fact our products in India are absolutely safe, just as they are elsewhere in the world," said Dick Detwiler, a spokesman for PepsiCo's international division in Purchase, N.Y.

Kari Bjorhus, a spokesperson for Coca-Cola, said the company has not received a copy of the order, but is "disappointed that the government would make a decision like that based on inaccurate information."

"Our products are perfectly safe and there is no reason to take them away from consumers," she said.

The Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi said it found pesticide residues in samples of Coke and Pepsi that were 24 times above the limits set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

The center said it carried out tests on 57 samples taken from 11 soft drink brands made by Coca-Cola India and PepsiCo India and found a "cocktail of three to five different pesticides," all apparently present in water used to make the drinks.

The toxins could, if consumed over a long period, cause cancer, damage to the nervous system, birth defects and disruption of the immune system, the center said.

India's Supreme Court has since asked the two companies to disclose the contents of their soft drinks. Four Indian states -- Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh -- have already imposed a ban on sale of Coke and Pepsi at colleges, schools and government offices. Several other states have said they are examining the issue.

On Tuesday, PepsiCo placed advertisements with several Indian newspapers saying the company follows Indian government's regulations and the "pesticide residues present in soft drinks are minuscule."

Insisting that food items across the world are bound to contain residues of pesticides used by farmers, the company said what is important is whether the residues conform to norms set by the World Health Organization and other national authorities.

"Our beverages in India are suitable for anyone, anywhere," the statement said. "We drink them. We share them with our families and friends. And we know they are safe for you."

This is not the first time Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in India have faced charges of pesticide content in their soft drinks.

The allegations surfaced three years ago, when the Center for Science and Environment said its tests revealed PepsiCo and Coca-Cola drinks sold in India contained pesticides that were respectively 36 and 30 times higher than European Union safety standards.

At the time, the companies acknowledged that their sales had gone down for several months, until the controversy slowly faded from public memory.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


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