Thursday, September 20, 2007

Kerala Assembly adjourns sine die after stormy session

Thiruvananthapuram, Sept. 21 (PTI): The Kerala Assembly was on Thursday adjourned sine die after a 16-day stormy session, with the Congress-led UDF Opposition raising the banner of protest demanding a comprehensive probe into a land deal to set up ISRO's space institute at Ponmudi near here.

With the adjournment, the four-day-old hunger strike by five UDF MLAs in the foyer of the house was also called off.

The UDF was agitating inside and outside the house, seeking a probe and resignation of Forest Minister Binoy Viswam for his alleged role in facilitating the sale of 81 acres of Ecologically Fragile Land, that forms part of Merchiston Estate owned by realtor Xavie Mano Mathew, to ISRO to set up the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology.

Earlier, Speaker K Radhakrishnan had adjourned the house for an hour after Opposition members stalled proceedings during the question hour.

As the house re-assembled, Opposition leader Oommen Chandy stuck to the demand and accused the government of running away from the probe. "Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan is protecting a corrupt minister," he alleged.

When the protest continued, the Speaker took up the legislative businesses and the house passed without discussing three bills, including the Small Plantation Worker's Welfare Fund Bill, 2007.

Achuthanandan had yesterday expressed the state government's reservations in ordering a probe into the land deal between a private individual and ISRO, which is under direct control of the Prime Minister, and asked the Opposition to approach the Centre if they had any complaint.

Kerala starts year-long study on tourism impact

Kerala Tourism (KT) has launched a year-long study to find out the impact of tourism on ecology and infrastructure. The study comes in the wake of its initiative to promote eco-tourism in a big way.

The Responsible Tourism (RT) initiative is being implemented on a pilot basis in four destinations -- Kovalam, Kumarakom, Thekkady and Wayanad.

"The state is also set to host the second international conference on responsible tourism in association with the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT), India," Venu V, secretary, Kerala Tourism, said.

After promoting south Kerala as a tourist destination, KT is now focussing on north Kerala. Branded Wake Up to Malabar, KT is planning to promote the Malabar region comprising Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasargod. "South Kerala has matured as a tourist destination. So, we are now looking at north Kerala," added Venu.

KT has also launched an e-research initiative, Synergy Quest, aimed at collecting feedback from the toursim trade across the world to fine-tune marketing strategies to ensure that every promotional venture gave returns.

"Such initiatives have ensured that the state recorded a 25.89% increase during the first quarter this year over the corresponding quarter in the previous year in foreign tourist arrivals. Domestic tourist arrivals increased 7.95%," Sanjay Kaul, director, Kerala Tourism, said.