Friday, October 27, 2006

Kerala police investigating threat to PM

It's an e-mail threat that Kerala police isn't taking lightly, the e-mail threatened to attack Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to Kerala.

Singh is scheduled to visit Kerala on November 1 to mark the Golden Jubilee of the state's formation.

Now sources say the email may just have been a prank but the security agencies in the state or at the Centre are taking few chances.

Kerala is on high alert now and the SPG in the capital held a two hour security drill to ensure they had the Prime Minister's security detail perfect as he heads for state's golden jubilee celebrations.

All the mails sent from the same address were mailed from an Internet cafe in Thiruvanathpuram.

It said that Dr Singh will be assassinated when he comes to Kerala next week on October 31.

Soon after, the police raided the cafe and took four people including the owner of the café a woman into custody. The café has been sealed and all computer systems are being examined

"We have located the source from where it was sent from a computer in the Internet cafe. There is an immediate threat to the Prime Minister and proposed threat to the president," said DGP, Raman Srivastav.

Afzal's release

The mail also asks for the release of Afzal Guru, the man sentenced to death in the Parliament attack case and Abdul Nasser Madhani, an accused in the 1999 Coimbatore bomb blast case, currently in jail.

The Kerala police startled by the sudden development went to an increased security mode with the Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan chairing a meeting of senior officials to review Dr Singh's security.

"The probe is being conducted by Cyber-Forensic Team and Hi- Tech Crime Cell. Also we have taken all measures to beef up security during Prime Minister's visit," said Balakrishnan.

Kerala has had no terrorist attack so far but intelligence agencies are now increasingly worried that certain fundamentalist outfits are using the state as a hideout.

After the e-mail threat, the central agencies have asked the state police to ensure maximum security in this area.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Satellite campus of IIT(Madras) in Kerala

Madras IIT has agreed to start one of their satellite campuses in Kerala, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan told the Assembly today.

The proposed campus, to be set up on 250 acres of land, required an estimated amount of rs.800 crore, he said while replying to a submission on the necessity for setting up an IIT in the state.

Achuthanandan said place for the IIT campus has not been finalised.

The state government has informed Madras IIT to start the first batch during the 2007-08 academy year in the Engineering College here. It was planned to commission the full-fledged campus of IIT within five years after starting the work of the campus,he said.

To a calling attention motion on setting up a Hight Court bench at Kozhikode,Achuthanandan said proposal for setting up the High Court bench at Thiruvananthapuram was under the active consideration of both the Centre and state governments.

There was no proposal before the government to set up a High Court bench at Kozhikode, he said.

An absence of an High Court bench at Thiruvananthapuram was causing difficulty in dealing with government cases, he said adding the state's capital was the only one in the country which did not have a High Court bench.

On speeding up the work of International Airport at Kannur, Achuthanandan said a special officer would be appointed to carry out the land acquisition process.

The State has also informed the Centre that the proposed airport coming up at Moorgkenparambu would be on a public-private partnership, he added.

To another submission, Achuthanandan said strict instructions have been given to departments and PSU heads to report the vacancies to Public Service Commission.

Action would be taken against officials who failed to report the vacancies, he said adding government would not allow persons to be appointed on daily wages in institutions and organisations where appointments were made through PSC.

A committee,under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary, has been constituted to monitor the vacancy report of various departments, he said.

A total of 14,614 vacancies have been reported to the PSC by various departments after the LDF government came to power, he pointed out.

Preliminary probe finds no irregularities: Balakrishnan

A preliminary probe has not found any irregularities in large-scale land deals in Kochi and nearby areas,Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan informed the assembly today.

However, the Government views seriously reports that counterfeit notes had been used for purchasing lands in Kochi and would make a detailed inquiry, Balakrishnan said while replying to Congress member K Babu's submission.

Raising the matter, Babu, quoting media reports, said counterfeit notes were used in land deals to the tune of rs 300 crore in recent weeks.

The counterfeit notes have come to Kerala in two containers and Pakistan's ISI agents were suspected to be behind the transport of counterfeit notes to Kerala, Babu said.

Three police commissionerates to be set up in Kerala

Fully empowered police commissionerates would be set up in Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Kochi, Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said on Wednesday.

A committee, which looked into the functioning of the police had suggested the Government to set up police commissionerates to strengthen the working of police forces, Balakrishnan said while replying to a submission in the State Assembly.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A day of prayers and merriment

Muslims in Kerala joined over a billion co-religionists around the globe to celebrate Id-ul-Fitr (Cheriya Perunnaal), the day of festival after the end of the fasting month of Ramzan, on Monday.

The clear, bright day set the mood for celebration, and the long weekend made it possible for relatives and friends to get together for the festival. The State Government had declared both Monday and Tuesday holidays.

Since the festival follows the lunar calendar and the date is determined by the sighting of the new moon, there was confusion until Sunday evening whether it would be on Monday or Tuesday.

However, organisations of religious pundits, on reports of sighting the new moon, declared Monday as the festival early, ending the confusion. Mosques announced the festival by chanting "Allahu Akbar" on the public address system.

Festive spirit

Children and women, with fresh henna (mayilaanchi) designs on their palms, kept awake all night, expecting the excitement of the day. Drawing intricate designs on the palms and hands with freshly ground henna leaves is a highlight of the festival, for women and children.

Mass prayers, a key component of the festival, were held on open public spaces and in mosques. In Kochi, the prayers were held at makeshift

"Id gahs" at Marine Drive, the international stadium and several mosques. Community members, including a large number of women and children, participated.

Senior clerics or community elders gave the sermons.

Having a sumptuous meal with friends and relatives is an important aspect of the Id celebration.

The camaraderie and visits to the homes of neighbours, friends and relatives add to the festival mood.

As part of the "fitr zakaat," free Perunnaal kits, comprising food items, new clothes and money, were distributed to the poor. This a trend which picked up momentum in the past five years. Fitr zakaat is an old custom of well-off people giving money and food items to the poor.

The custom has these days taken a collective form, with people pooling their resources to distribute the kits. In places such as Kozhikode, lines form in front of centres where the kits are distributed. In some places, the kits were supplied on a first come, first served basis, while in others, tokens were issued for taking the kits later.

However, many people who turned up for receiving the kits were "professional" beggars from outside Kerala. They started arriving a week ago and many of them wore Muslim garments.

Kerala CM against Centre's move for private post offices

Kerala Chief Minister, V S Achuthanandan, on Monday, opposed the Centre's move to allow post offices in the private sector and said it was against the assurance given by UPA Government to the LDF and employees working in postal department.

In a statement here, Achuthanandan said sanctioning private post offices was "With a view to destroy the postal department, one of the biggest public sector undertaking in the country."

The UPA Government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "was not learning a lesson" and was moving ahead with its globalisation policy, he said.

Instead of strengthening the postal department to improve its services, the Centre's move to privatise postal service was against the country's interest, he added.

Kerala has expectations from Antony: Achuthanandan

Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Tuesday said he had expectations from A.K. Antony, tipped to be inducted in the union cabinet.

Responding to reporters' query, Achuthanandan said he was not devoid of expectations from Antony for the state.

Both Achuthanandan and Antony hail from Alappuzha district.

When asked if he called up Antony to congratulate him after the news that he was likely to become cabinet minister, the chief minister replied in negative.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

'Classmates' reigns among Kerala's Ramadan films

The end of the month of Ramadan is near. New releases are still away, so this list remains unchanged.

The top five Malayalam films are:

1. "Classmates" - The Midas touch of director Lal Jose has given a new lease of life to young actors like Prithiviraj and Jayasurya.

2. "Keerthi Chakra" - Mohan Lal battling in Kashmir is still holding the audiences' interest.

3. "Mahasamudram" - Mohan Lal as a fisherman generated a lot of hope but the equation has gone wrong somewhere.

4. "Don" - Dileep wanted to do a trademark Shaji Kailas-style movie. His wish was granted but the audience has not accepted it wholeheartedly. It may not turn out to be the commercial success it was expected to be.

5. "Pathaka" - Yet another political thriller starring Suresh Gopi and biting the dust, but the film remains on this list for want of competition.

Kerala demands Thalassery-Mysore rail link

The kerala government would put pressure on the Centre to make provision for a Thalassery-Mysore railway line in next year’s railway budget, state law and parliamentary affairs minister M Vijayakumar said on Wednesday.

He said the railway line would give a tremendous boost to development of Malabar region. Home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had recently met the railway minister Lalu Prasad and submitted a memorandum urging the centre to revive the proposal for the line, mooted first by the British, he said.

A meeting to discuss issues connected with railway development in Kerala would be convened soon.

Kerala govt sacks Infopark chief

By sacking a former key Kerala negotiator with Dubai Technology and Free Zone Authority (TECOM), the Left government has reiterated its preference for a new business model for the Rs2.4bn Smart City.

Additional Secretary K Suresh Kumar in the Chief Minister’s Office confirmed that the government had issued orders ending the contract of K G Girish Babu, CEO of the State-owned Infopark at Kochi.“It’s been a personal decision of Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, who holds charge of IT and there’s no chance for reconsidering the decision,” said Suresh Kumar.

The Chief Minister’s office has given additional charge of Infopark to V J Jayakumar, the GM (technical) at the government-owned Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram. Babu, who had conceived and set up Infopark, said he had been tipped off about it nearly a week ago. “I’m packing up and handing over charge. I’ve several options but I wouldn’t comment further”, he said.

Babu had started his career with the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation and moved to Kerala Hi-Tech Industries, Kerala IT Mission and finally Infopark. TECOM authorities were nonplussed by the sudden removal of the Infopark mentor, who instrumental in TECOM’s evincing interest in an IT free-trade corridor in Kochi.

While it would be early to say whether the Babu factor will have a bearing on the fate of the Smart City proposal, the decision has come at a crucial stage when negotiations between the government and TECOM have slowed down over terms of Kerala participation, if at all, in the project.

Three crucial factors are weighing down on the proposal — government reluctance to hand over Infopark to TECOM, exorbitant land price and the government’s non-committal stand on the level of its equity participation. An IT source said the chances of the Smart City proposal materialising have whittled down to 30 per cent on account of this. TECOM has of late started looking at other destinations in south India other than Bangalore, which is overcrowded. It has a major project on the anvil in Andhra Pradesh and it’s seriously weighing the option of Tamil Nadu.

Upcountry, it’s still keeping its fingers crossed on a proposal in Calcutta. Both Achuthanandan and Law Minister M Vijayakumar had asserted publicly that Smart City would soon be a reality. Achuthanandan had announced the creation of an additional 200,000 IT jobs in the state in the next five years, possibly factoring in jobs to be generated at Smart City.

“I’m 120 per cent sure the proposal will materialize. TECOM likes to have a state guarantee for the project for which we’ve sought a reciprocal arrangement. We’re even ready for a joint venture. Our final terms would be sent to them in a week”, said Kumar.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Justice B S Reddy new Chief Justice of Kerala HC

Chief Justice of the Madras High Court Justice B Subhashan Reddy, would be the new Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court.

He succeeds Justice Nauvdip Kumar Sodhi, who has been transferred as Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, an official release said here.

Justice Reddy has been directed to take up his new assignment on or before December 1, 2004, it added.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Searches in Kerala to detect customs duty evasion

Officials of the Directorate and Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Customs have conducted joint searches in several parts of Kerala, including Kochi, Kozhikode and Thrissur, as part of a nation-wide operation.

The searches were carried out in the state in the last two days to detect customs duty evasion estimated to be running in several crores in the import of base oil by wrongly claiming it as rubber processing oil, customs sources said.

DRI officials from Mumbai conducted the searches here and elsewhere in the country.

Thirtyfive officials of the customs here coordinated the operation, the sources said.

However, they declined to divulge further details like where the raids were carried out.

A huge consignment of base oil, the basic ingridient for all varieties like automobile oil, lubricant oil were imported through major ports in the country reportedly by wrongly claiming it as rubber processing oil, thus resulting in duty evasion worth several crores, the sources said.

Efforts on to preserve police, govt. records

Over 200 year-old records lying in dusty police stations across Kerala, including those relating to the 1921 Mopalah rebellion of Malabar, may soon get a new lease of life as efforts are being made to preserve them.

'Old records of British officers of Malabar and other regions are still there in the police stations dotting the state. Now we are trying to get in touch with police officers to preserve them', K J Sohan, State Coordinator of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), said here. The British were good at keeping records. But they are all recorded in paper, which would soon wither away if not preserved, he says.

Sohan, a former Mayor of Kochi, said he had accompanied former DGP Kerala, Hormis Tharakan, to some police stations in Malabar, including the Pandikad police station, one of the oldest in the region. The old records of British officers of the Mopallah rebellion were still lying in the police stations in the region, he said.

The government offices and district collectorates are also storehouses of several old records, which also needs to be preserved. They are all kept in boxes and may not last long, he feels.

The aim is to create a police museum and store this for posterity, he said.

Cajoling the government departments to part with their records would not be easy, he admits.

INTACH's Mural Painting Conservation Research and Training centre at nearby Tripunithura, was presently involved in a project for preserving the metal images from 8th to 18th century. The altar of an Latin church at Mathilakam had been restored recently, he said.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Schemes for tourism promotion in Kerala

Development works to a tune of Rs five crore would be implemented at Athirapall waterfalls in Thrissur district to attract more domestic and foreign tourists, Kerala Tourism Minister Kodeyari Balakrishnan told the Assembly on Thursday.

The works included facilities for viewing the waterfall and dynamic lighting system, Balakrishnan said while replying to a submission of C Raveendranath (CPI-M).

The Centre had sanctioned Rs 3.5 crore for the projects and the remaining Rs.1.50 crore was the State's share, he said.

A tourist package linking Athirapally water falls, Peechi and Chimini dams were also under consideration, he said.

The Allapuzha District Tourism Promotion Council has been asked to submit a project report for the development of a tourist spot near Kayamkulam backwaters, he said.

The Government would take futher stpes on Kayamkulam tourism development after getting the report, he said.

Clean Kerala day

The State Health Minister P K Sreemathi said that as part of Kerala government's sanitation and anti-mosquito drive, 'Clean Kerala Day' would be observed today, People from all walks of life would take part in the sanitation drive, launched in the wake of the spread of Chikungunya viral fever, in different parts of the state, the minister said in a release here. The observance of October 13 as 'Clean Kerala Day' would mark the beginning of programmes to create awareness among the people for keeping their premises clean, the release said.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kerala to set up Railway Development Corporation

The Kerala government proposes to constitute a railway development corporation on the lines of that in Maharashtra to take up infrastructure development, the assembly was told on Tuesday.

Replying to a calling attention motion, law and parliamentary affairs Minister M Vijayakumar said the government would convene a high-level meeting to be presided over by Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan to discuss railway development.

A permanent monitoring cell comprising members of parliament from Kerala would also be set up, he added.

The Minister said the government would continue to exert pressure on the centre to fulfil Kerala’s demand for a separate railway zone. In the absence of a zone, the state was deprived of its legitimate share in the development of railways, he said.

Around 40 lakhs unemployed in Kerala

Minister P K Gurudasan told the assembly today that 40, 64,228 unemployed persons have registered in the state employment exchanges till August 31, 2006.Out of the total, 382 are illiterate.

Meanwhile Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan stated that a bill brought by the Central Law Reformation Panel would be passed to confiscate the illegal property owned by government officials and social activists.

Kerala to frame laws to confiscate wealth of corrupt

Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Wednesday said laws allowing confiscation of unaccounted wealth belonging to public figures and government officials are on anvil.

"In 2003, the centre had instructed the Kerala government to frame laws through which wealth accumulated beyond legal income of public figures and officials be confiscated. But the then Congress-led United Democratic Front kept it in abeyance without taking any action," said Achuthanandan in response to a question raised in the state assembly by three ruling front legislators.

The chief minister added he already acted on that recommendation of the central government and forwarded the file to the state's vigilance director for further consideration.

"We also plan to revamp the rules and guidelines of the Charitable Societies Act because it has come to our notice that many such organisations registered under this Act have accumulated huge wealth," added the chief minister.

Moreover, Achuthanandan also warned of stern action against officials in the ongoing Palmoil case, which is being currently heard in the Supreme Court.

The Palmoil case was registered in 1999 when E.K. Nayanar was the chief minister that accused K. Karunakaran and two currently serving top Kerala bureaucrats among others of a criminal conspiracy causing a loss of Rs.20.32 million to the state exchequer on account of importing 15,000 tonnes of palm oil from Malaysia at an enhanced price.

Kerala to be garbage free soon

Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan on Monday told the Assembly that the state government would strictly implement anti-pollution acts with a view for protecting the enviornment.

The scheme to make Kerala garbage free is being worked out and it would be launched on October 13, VS said.

VS said the Environment Department would be strengthened to implement the programmes.

The state government would take necessary steps to cancel licences of the factories that had not set up garbage disposal mechanisms and pollution treatment plants, the Chief Minister added.

Kerala's literary critic turns assembly reporter

Sukumar Azhikode, veteran literary critic and orator, surprised many including legislators as he turned up in the press box of the Kerala assembly Tuesday.

As Azhikode, wearing the badge of Kerala Kaumadi, a Malayalam newspaper, took his seat in the press box in the morning, ministers and legislators from both the ruling and opposition parties broke the assembly norms and chatted with him from the assembly floor.

Congress legislator Aryadan Mohammed had a word of appreciation for Azhikode, but another Congress legislator K. Babu objected to his presence and fellow legislators breaking the norms.

Speaker K. Radhakrishnan clarified: "He is a journalist sitting in the press box."

Azhikode told IANS that he was there to write a column on the assembly proceedings.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Doha Bank to hold investors' meet in Kerala

To mark the golden jubilee of the formation of Kerala state, Doha Bank - a premier bank of Qatar - is organising an investors' meet at Kochi next month.

Doha Bank, which has been in operation for the past 27 years, has been rated as the best bank of the Middle East. They have 25 branches with offices in US, Dubai, Singapore, Turkey and Japan.

"Our aim is to showcase Kerala to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to encourage foreign direct investment to the state and to India," R. Seetharaman, deputy chief executive of bank, told IANS Sunday.

Incidentally, this is the first time a reputed financial institution in the Middle East is taking a lead to promote investments in Kerala.

"We are confident that through this meet we will able to invite the cream of high value GCC companies, Sheikhs and leading personalities to Kochi. We are expecting around 250 top investors from various sectors from the six Middle Eastern countries," Seetharaman said.

Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan has agreed to inaugurate the daylong meet, likely to be held Nov 11 or Nov 12.

"The chief minister was extremely receptive to our initiative and has pledged us all support," K.V. Samuel, a top Doha Bank official, said.

The investors are looking at the banking, tourism and education sectors.

Doha Bank has plans to operate from India and it also intends to collaborate with financial institutions in the country.

"We are confident that this meet will set the ball rolling for increasing bilateral trade between India and GCC," Seetharaman added.

Taj to set up resort in Kerala

Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces will manage and operate a premium beach resort in Bekal, North Kerala, jointly with the state government and Khanna Hotels.

The proposed beach resort project, to be launched in the next two years, will be developed on a 24-acre site, and will be operated under the Taj Leisure Hotels brand, a release issued here said.

The resort will offer 75-rooms and suites, a restaurant and bar, an outdoor dining shack on a hillock overlooking the sea, meeting and conference facilities, full-fledged fitness centre, gym, tennis courts and children's play area, it said.

Raymond Bickson, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), The Indan Hotels Company Limited, said that "we are delighted to widen our presence in Kerala. We are honoured to partner with the Kerala Government and Khanna Hotels on the Bekal project."

"Leisure and hospitality in this region is growing tremendously and it is important for the Taj Hotels to be present in key strategic locations in the state," he added.

The resort will also feature a Taj Jiva Spa, which will be one of the key elements of the resort.

Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces currently operates seven hotels/resorts in Kerala.

South-West monsoon vigorous again in Kerala

After a few days gap, the South West monsoon has become vigorous again in Kerala with rain lashing almost all parts of the state since Friday night.

Rain or thundershowers occurred at many places in Lakshadweep too, the local weather office said on Saturday.

Heavy to very heavy rainfall was reported in Paravoor 13 cm and Thiruvananthapuram Airport 11 cm.

The other chief amounts of rain received were (in cm) Kochi Airport, Nedumangad, Varkala eight each, Thiruvananthapuram City, Cherthala, Kozha, Piravam and Thodupuzha seven each.

Kannur recorded the highest maximum temperature of 32 Degree C, while Thiruvananthapuram recorded the lowest minimum temperature of 22 Degree C.

Isolated heavy rain was likely in Kerala during the next 48 hours, the MeT office predicted.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Kerala's first railway station cyber-cafe

Kerala's first Railway station cyber-cafe, set up at an estimated cost of Rs seven lakh by Railtel Corporation Ltd, was inaugurated here yesterday.

The cafe will provide a unique broadband experience to travelers as they can buy a RailTel pre-paid card from one location and use at any other RailTel cyber-cafe, a press release said.

The cyber-cafes will be equipped with 10-20 high end multimedia PCs with flat panel monitors. Travelers can now browse the Internet for Rs 20 an hour.

RailTel, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, plans to offer other value added services like printing, scanning, mobile charging and CD writing through these cafes.

Passengers can also use the cafe for making net-telephony based ISD calls at affordable rates. RailTel has gone for a franchisee model to manage the cafes, with VSNL being the franchisee for Ernakulam.

Similar cafes would be provided at Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad and Kozhikode stations in due course.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Kerala govt. plans new Act on town planning

Kerala Government is considering enactment of a new Town and Country Planning Act which would remove obstructions in acquisition of land for developmental activities, Minister for Self-Governance Paloli Mohammed Kutty said today.

Replying to a calling attention motion by V Sivankutty (CPI-M) in the Assembly, he said the High Court had directed the Government not to give exemptions to individual applicants for construction activities in special zones identified for urban development.

In the new Act, there would be provisions for amending the masterplans and district town planning schemes in accordance with the requirements of local people.

The minister said peoples' representatives would be consulted at all levels while implementing developmental programmes

'Strings' denial raised in Kerala Assembly

Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Tuesday said the state government was ready to allow the Pakistani rock band Strings to perform here last Sunday had New Delhi given it the necessary clearance.

The chief minister was replying to a question in the state assembly by Communist Party of India-Marxist legislator M. Prakasan who criticised the central government for denying clearance to the band to perform in the state capital.

'They were allowed to perform in several cities in the country including communally volatile Ahmedabad, but not in Kerala,' said Prakasan.

'This is a band which has been given the goodwill ambassador status by the UN for AIDS,' he added.

The band was to perform on Oct 1 at the Thiruvananthapuram Engineering College but could not make it because the clearance was not given.

Bank staff strike work in Kerala

Banking services were hit in Kerala today as employees struck work protesting the proposed merger of the Lord Krishna Bank (LKB) with the Centurion Bank of Punjab.

The one-day state-wide strike was called by the Kerala unit of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella organisation of nine banking sector unions.

The strike affected the functioning of public sector and scheduled banks while the new generation banks were functioning normally, officials said.

Union leaders claimed that the response to the strike call was spontaneous and overwhelming.

The employees took out marches across the state demanding that the Centre give up the merger move to avoid adversely affecting the interests of depositors and employees of LKB in particular and the social banking cause in general.

The annual general meeting of LKB had yesterday adopted a resolution seeking RBI clearance for the merger proposal

Monday, October 02, 2006

Kerala police unravels letter bomb mystery

The Kerala police Monday unravelled the mystery behind the three letter bombs that had gone off hours before President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam arrived here Sep 21.

"We have taken into custody a 29-year-old man named Rajiv alias Sharma, son of a retired soldier, from the outskirts of the city. He has confessed the crime and said it was meant to frighten his adversaries to whom the letters were sent," Director General of Police Raman Srivatsava said here.

"This incident had nothing to do with the president's visit," he added.

The first two letter bombs exploded at the Manacaud post office in the heart of this Kerala capital when postal employees were sorting letters for delivery.

One letter bomb was defused by police at a post office. One exploded at Kesvadasapuram in a hardware shop later in the day when the shop owner opened a letter.

"Rajiv had sent a total of six letter bombs. Due to the postal delay, the remaining two letter bombs sent to addresses within the city went off last week," said the top police official.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Christian flavour to Vijayadashmi

As Hindus celebrate Vijayadashmi, the last day of Navratri celebrations, there will be a Christian flavour in Kerala.

Vijayadashmi is when many families initiate their children into the world of learning.

In recent times, as Hindus mark 'Vidyarambham' (commencement of learning), some Christians too have joined, in their own way.

On Monday, maximum crowds are expected in temples and at literary institutions, where eminent litterateurs and teachers would hold the hands of children and help them write Malayalam alphabets on a plate of rice.

The St George Orthodox Church here, which first held this programme three years ago, drew flak from a section of the laity for holding the ceremony in its premises. The event therefore is likely to be held at a daycare centre run by the church.

Media organisations, especially newspaper offices, have been holding such functions.

At the Malayalam Manorama's head office here, noted film personalities like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Sreekumaran Thampi, National Award winner Murali, eminent poet and writer O.N.V. Kurup and Kerala University Vice-Chancellor M.K. Ramachandran Nair are to initiate children into writing their first alphabets.

A leading personality who will be missed this year is veteran poet Ayappa Panicker, who helped six orphans write their first alphabets in 2005. Panicker passed away in August.

New book to promote Kerala as holiday destination

A comprehensive book on Kerala that includes some 1,300 pictures has hit the market.

The 816-page volume, claimed to be the first of its kind among destination books, captures the beauty of the land, the people, their culture, dances, festivals and everyday life.

The National Geographic Traveller has rated Kerala as "one of the paradises of the world".

"I always thought Kerala is beyond description, beyond explanation... it is impossible to capture the extraordinary beauty of Kerala... through books, pictures or even cinema. But, now, Stark World has done the impossible through their book Stark World - Kerala. This is a book that makes me proud of being a Keralite. This is a book that I can proudly gift to my friends across the world as the finest portrayal of Kerala," actor Mohanlal said while releasing the book in Kochi last week.

According to P N Shanavas, publisher of the book, it took 24 months to put together some 60 writers, 12 consultants and 12 photographers to finish the work.

"A team of designers and imaging experts has worked with great devotion to produce this book divided into 11 sections," he said.

The book has 27 maps that follow international cartography norms, with five types of maps covering the state, city, district, destination and circuit along with a detailed backwater map.

"We have also been successful is gaining 48 impressions of Kerala from renowned personalities like writers Shashi Tharoor, M T Vasudevan Nair and Anita Nair; journalists Ramachandra Guha, C P Ravindran and Anita Pratap; actors Mohanlal, Mammooty and Meera Jasmine; painter Yousuf Arakkal, and Arne Walther, secretary general of the International Energy Forum," he said.

The sponsors of the book include India Tourism, Kerala Tourism, CGS Earth and Geojit Securities. Partnering the book are Adobe and The Blue Yonder.

Part of the proceeds from the book will go towards four non-profit organisations: Lullaby@Varkala, a socio-tourism project involving play schools and tourists; Thanal which spearheaded the internationally acclaimed Zero Waste Kovalam (ZWK) programme; Nila Foundation which aims to revive and regenerate the River Nila, and the World Environment Protection Programme whose legendary founder Abdul Kareem created his own forest out of barren wastelands.

"Though Lonely Planet and others had published interesting books on Kerala and Kerala Tourism’s own publications are widely acclaimed, it was important to have a book that would comprehensively address the interests of the casual reader well as that of the deeply serious as traveller," Stark Communications chairman T K Harshan said

Kerala-Tamil Nadu dam row takes a new twist

A new twist has been added to the long simmering row over the 112-year-old Mullaperiyar dam with Tamil Nadu putting up a board at the dam site barring any "trespass" into the dam site.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan slammed the move as "ridiculous" and said Kerala was not going to fall into the trap to create provocation.

It was simply ridiculous that a board had been placed (by Tamil Nadu) at the land owned by Kerala even after the Supreme Court had asked the two states to settle the dispute over raising the water level through talks, Achuthanandan told reporters yesterday.

He was replying to questions on reports that Tamil Nadu had put up a board at the dam site cautioning against trespassing into the area.

While Kerala was against raising the water level of the reservoir above 136 feet on safety grounds, Tamil Nadu wanted the water level to be raised to 142 feet.