Category Archives: About Kerala

Perumbalam, an island lost in time



The west wind smelled of betrayal and greater agonies. Kunjappan, who rowed the canoe, is used to this smell. For the last 65 years, he has rowed the boat across the river  to the ‘other’ world. Under the endless sky, Perumbalam and its natives have remained in isolation.

Nothing much has changed in this island in Alappuzha over the last 65 years. Even as the state heads for yet another polls, there is no hope to bring in development for the 12,000-odd residents of Perumbalam.

A visit to the island exposes the pathetic state-of-affairs. There are no roads. And except for private autos there is no public transport system. The 20-year-old government hospital is in a rundown condition, and the government-run school is almost closed down. Police stations do not exist here. Power supply often shuts down completely, and the shortage of drinking water supply is a perennial issue. Six ferry and two jankars connect the residents with Poothotta in Ernakulam and Panavally panchayat in Alappuzha. “Out of this, two ferry services and one jankar are not operational,” said K R Somanathan, the president of Perumbalam Boat Passengers’ Association. Around 6,000 people depend on these services daily. The stone-laying ceremony held in 2009 to construct a new bridge linking the island Poothotta is almost forgotten. “People are no longer interested in the bridge. They only hope to get the ferries and jankar back in service after repairs,” added Somanathan.

People working in the special economic zone, IT and construction sectors are the main commuters from Perumbalam. In all probability, the present woes are likely to continue for the islanders even after the elections.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kochi / TNN / May 12th, 2016

Cholanaikkans in the wonderland of science

Members of the Cholanaikkan community from Nilambur watch a water-rocket launch demonstration at the Regional Science Centre and Planetarium in Kozhikode on Thursday.Photo: K. Ragesh
Members of the Cholanaikkan community from Nilambur watch a water-rocket launch demonstration at the Regional Science Centre and Planetarium in Kozhikode on Thursday.Photo: K. Ragesh

A 40-member team from Cholanaikkan community gets a first-hand feel of planetarium; experts look forward to learning a thing or two from the tribals’ knowledge of astronomy

For most of them, it was the first time venturing out of their natural habitat, the forest. Yet, it was wonder, curiosity and enthusiasm rather than discomfort that reflected on the faces of Cholanaikkans who visited the Regional Science Centre in Kozhikode on Thursday.

Cholanaikkans, who live in the deciduous forests of Nilambur, are the only surviving hunter gatherer tribe in the country and the only tribal community in Asia that lives in rock-cave shelters. Except for a few who have ventured out on their own in pursuit of education and jobs, most members of the tribe live 10 km into the forest from Nilambur and do not even accept accommodation provided by the government.

These people from the tribal colonies of Mancheeri, Poochappara, Mannala, Karimpuzha and Kuppam Mala still live on fruits, berries and meat and do not engage in farming.

For the expedition on Thursday, the 40-member team had to leave their hamlets early in the morning and walk up to 5 km to catch a vehicle. The Calicut International Airport was their first stop and later, the Regional Science Centre and Planetarium. At the science centre, a water-rocket launch demonstration welcomed them. After lunch, they had a good time exploring the exhibits at the science centre. They were later treated to a magic show by Pradeep Hudinho. This was followed by cultural programmes.

Interestingly, officials at the Science Centre had an “ulterior motive” in inviting Cholanaikkans to Kozhikode: they wanted to record the tribals’ knowledge about astronomy. In fact, Mayank Vahia from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore, was here with the purpose of extending the horizon of his research on tribal astronomy by partaking in astronomical discussions with Cholanaikkans.

“I have studied the astronomy of tribals in central India. It is very different from our understanding of space. I guess Cholanaikkans have an entirely different understanding of it,” Mr. Vahia said, adding that he planned to record what they had to say when they were shown the constellations in the planetarium.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kozhikode / by Aabha Anoop / Kozhikode – March 04th, 2016

Exhibition of rare books

Thiruvananthapuram :

The State Central library, Palayam, is organizing an exhibition ‘A Series of Stray Papers’ that will showcase rare books, photographs, cartoons and library equipment from Wednesday to November 30. Minister for education P K Abdu Rabb will inaugurate the exhibition.

The exhibition will display over 300 rare collections of books including ‘A Series of Stray Papers’. The biographies, photo exhibition of world class laureates like Keates, Yates and Galsworthy etc will also be exhibited. “The exhibition will also display the digital print of digitised books. The rare collections in this segments include government gazettes and rare books,” said P K Shobhana, state librarian.

World famous cartoons from the library collections will be displayed along with library equipment that was used since the formation of library in 1829.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Thiruvananthapuram / TNN / November 17th, 2015

Showcasing the many moods of Madayippara

Kannur :

Madayippara is not just a photographer’s delight or a treasure trove of biodiversity. The laterite plateau, which changes its moods and colours according to seasons, is also a specimen as to how indiscriminate industrial activities could spell doom for a place and damage its ecology and biodiversity.

The exhibition of photographs of Madayippara and the news clippings about the place, makes a difference because it captivates not only the beauty of the place but also its history, heritage and the environmental threats it faces.

“When we hear about the place, the first picture that we get is of the bed of grass and flowers, as also the migratory birds that visit here on transit,” said P K Krishnan Master, chairman of Environmental Conservation Group (ECG), Madayi, which organized the show.

“But the real picture comes to the fore when you visit the place, because the biodiversity there is facing serious threat from the China Clay factory as well as the indiscriminate vehicular traffic there.”

This exhibition is expected to sensitize people about the importance of protecting the place, said the organizers, because it is not just the beauty of the place which is covered in the show.

“When I embarked on this mission, my aim was to bring to life not just a few picture postcard images, because it has everything ranging from history, like the remains of the Jewish pond, and also the biodiversity that attracts many migratory birds,” said photojournalist Rojith Ravindran.

However, if some strict measures are not taken to prevent the environmental degradation of the place, the biodiversity and the migratory birds that visit the place would be a thing of the past, warn the environmental activists.

The exhibition, which would be on till Tuesday, was inaugurated by K M Shaji, MLA.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kozhikode / by P. Sudhakaran, TNN / September 28th, 2015

Re-enacting the first bus trip, after 77 years

The launch of the first public road transport service on February 20, 1938, in the erstwhile Travancore will be recreated after 77 years on Friday, from East Fort to Kowdiar Square and back in a double-decker bus.

The bus will be flagged off by Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) CMD Antony Chacko at 11 a.m. as part of the ‘Bus Day’ celebrations by the Kerala State Road Transport Employees’ Association (KSRTEA) with the theme ‘healthy public transport for public health.’

Sree Chithira Tirunal, the then ruler of Travancore, inaugurated the service 77 years ago. He, along with Col. Goda Varma Raja and other members of the ruling family, were among the passengers. E.G. Salter, Assistant Operating Superintendent of London Passenger Board, drove the bus.

A fleet of 33 buses and a huge crowd joined the celebrations as the bus moved on. The first bus was operated from Thiruvanantapuram to Kanyakumari on February 21, 1938.

From England

Initially, the department imported Comet chassis for 60 buses from England and they were fitted with Frank Perkins-made diesel engines under the direct supervision of Salter. The experimental design of the body created by Salter became the standard design of the rest of the buses, say archival reports.

The early buses were like saloons with 23 soft leather seats. There were 10 First Class seats in the front. The schedules, fares and bus stops were fixed and published. A parcel service was also started. The services were extended to Kochi in 1949 and to Malabar, in 1956. The KSRTC came into existence in March 1965.

People’s representatives, top officials of the corporation, socio-cultural activists, and trade union leaders will be on the bus. The KSRTEA is trying to rope in the members of the ruling family of the erstwhile Travancore for the trip.

Bus Day is being observed as part of the second phase of the “Save KSRTC” campaign. KSRTEA general secretary C.K. Harikrishnan urged the public to shun private vehicles and to travel on KSRTC buses on Friday.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities. Thiruvananthapuram / by S. Anil RadhaKrishnan / Thiruvananthapuram – February 18th, 2015

Phase-II of Mission Kochi Project

Kochi :

The Kochi Corporation will launch the second phase of the ‘Mission Kochi’ project and the ‘City Beautification’ project on Tuesday.

As part of the project, a new campaign titled ‘One Kochi, One Colour’ will be rolled out.

The programme will be inaugurated by actor Mammootty at a function to be held at Njalipparambu, Fort Kochi.

“As part of the project, the Corporation authorities will enforce stringent restrictions on advertisements and flex boards in the city. A meeting will be held with representatives of the political, religious, cultural and film fields soon,” said Mayor Tony Chammany here on Monday. “The primary aim of the One Kochi One Colour project is to paint the important buildings in the Corporation limits and public spaces in the city in ‘blue’, as Kochi is described as the Queen of Arabian Sea. The paint required for the beautification project is supplied by Berger Paints, and the project will be titled Berger Paints One Kochi One Colour,” Chammany said.

He said that the official colour of Kochi will be blue, and that the public places in the city, especially the walls, will be painted blue.

We have identified Fort Kochi, which is already in a colourful mood owing to the Biennale and the Carnival, as the most suitable venue for launching the project, Chammany added.

source: / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Kochi / by Express News Service  / December 30th, 2014

Man who changed the course of a river

The statue of Chemban Kolumban, the Adivasi leader instrumental in the construction of Idukki dam, at Cheruthoni. Photo: Giji K Raman
The statue of Chemban Kolumban, the Adivasi leader instrumental in the construction of Idukki dam, at Cheruthoni. Photo: Giji K Raman

Memorial of Kolumban, who identified the ideal spot for a dam at Idukki, renovated.

Chemban Kolumban, the Adivasi leader who discovered the site of the Idukki dam, is finally being remembered by the authorities with the renovation of the Kolumban Park, close to the Cheruthoni dam of the Idukki Hydroelectric project here.

Kolumban had identified the ideal spot for a dam when he found the Periyar river flowing between the Kuravan and the Kurathi hills.

In 1922, Kolumban had joined a team of the Malankara Estate superintendent and his friend on a hunting trip in Idukki. They found it difficult to move as they reached Kuyilimala. It was while moving between the two hills that they found the spot. They thought of diverting the water to the low range of Malankara-Moolamattom for power generation. In 1932, the then superintendent of the Malankara Estate, W.J. John, submitted a project to the Travancore government regarding the possibility of constricting a dam connecting the two hills.

The Travancore government in 1947 entrusted Electrical engineer P. Joseph John with the task of conducting a feasibility study and a report was submitted to the Central Waterpower Commission which gave the nod for the construction of a dam in 1961. The construction was entrusted to a Canadian company in 1963 and it was commissioned by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on February 12, 1976.

A sculptor Kunnuvila Murali made a statue of Kolumban near the Cheruthoni dam then as a tribute to him. For long, it was a forgotten chapter in the history of the dam with weeds growing over the statue.

The park was renovated as part of a major project taken up by the Department of Culture to renovate the Kolumban memorial on the roadside near here, where his body was cremated.

His grandchildren are living at the Kolumban colony and are the carriers of a rich legacy. According to Roshy Augustine, MLA, visitors to the dam would be interested in the history of the dam, of which Kolumban is an integral part.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> National> Kerala / by Giji K. Raman / Cheruthoni (Idukki) – December 24th, 2014

E-Jalakam project wins Kerala CM’s public service award

Kochi :

The e-Jalakam programme of St Teresa’s College has been chosen for the chief ministers special awards for innovation in public service (2013).

E-Jalakam is a model e-governance literacy project that aims to enhance public access to various online government services. The award will be presented on Monday.

Principal coordinator of the project Nirmala Padmanabhan — who also heads the college’s economics department — said that the programme was a social initiative to educate girls/women on how to access government websites.

“Our aim was to educate people who didn’t know how to navigate government sites. So, students prepared a step-by-step handbook to guide them. The handbook helps a person track file movement in any department. Similarly, people can check birth, death and property details, even power and water bills too. The citizen’s handbook called ‘Vivara Nidhi’ and can be downloaded from the IT Mission website or the e-Jalakam website,” she said. Padmanabhan gives credit to her students whose meticulous efforts resulted in such a simple, easy-to-use guide. The group has managed to reach out to 12,000 families in 86 schools over the past one year.

“You can keep the book next to the computer and finish the entire process screen by screen. In the first two phases of the project, the e-Jalakam team trained 17 civic groups covering 2,000 persons,” she said, adding that a decision was taken in the third phase to train high students in government and aided schools where IT@school project was being implemented.

“Student feedback resulted in another handbook called e-Mithram which serves their interests like applying for entrance exams, checking results, application for driving/duplicate licence etc,” she said. The group plans to print these handbooks with their prize money that amounts to Rs 2 lakh. “Everywhere we go, people ask for a hard copy. We will be selling them at a nominal price to make printing a sustainable operation,” she said.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kochi / TNN / October 27th, 2014

Southern Air Command turns 30

The headquarters of the Southern Air Command, the fifth operational command of the Indian Air Force, in Thiruvananthapuram.
The headquarters of the Southern Air Command, the fifth operational command of the Indian Air Force, in Thiruvananthapuram.

The Southern Air Command (SAC), the fifth operational command of the Indian Air Force, would be 30 years old on July 20. To commemorate three decades of operations, it has lined up programmes lasting a year.

According to a press note, the events include a Sarang helicopter display, sky diving by the Akash Ganga team, fly past by various aircraft, a performance by Air Warriors Drill Team, a combat skill display by Air Force commandos (Garud), a community lunch and a commanders’ conclave.

The celebrations began with an ‘entertainment evening’ at the SAC headquarters here on Saturday.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Thiruvananthapuram / by Special Correspondent / Thursday – July 20th, 2014

Study reveals truth behind Malabar Manual

Kozhikode :

Colonial rulers and chroniclers of British rule had all along maintained that blessed with copious rains and unfailing monsoon, Malabar remained impervious to famine.

But a recent, first of its kind study on ‘Famines in British Malabar’ busts the myth which William Logan, the famous historian and administrator, had reiterated in his exhaustive treatise Malabar Manual, that ever since the East India Company (EIC) took over the administration in India and subsequently passed it on to the British Crown, there was no record of famine in the district, and he gave much of the credit to an efficient British government.

But the yet to be released monograph of ‘Famines in British Malabar’ written by food economist, Dr. M Raghavan, Former Director of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, says that Logan’s accounts about having a largely famine- free Malabar during the 18th and 19th centuries are factually icorrect.

“The archival records themselves reveal that Logan himself had received, under his official seal and date, periodic reports from taluk level officials about the ravaging epidemics and famines in the district. Interestingly, all these reports were received in the Collectorate under the official seal”, Raghavan says in the study.

“Fact being that the Malabar Manual was first published just eight years after the 1876-78 famine, the statement that post the 1727 famine there was no record of any famine in Malabar is more of a deliberate attempt on the part of Logan to conceal the truth,” he said.

Raghavan, who has worked for around 35 years in the realm of food security in various roles including as deputy economic advisor at the Planning Commission, said that there has not been any comprehensive study of famines in British Malabar.

“These assertions are clearly preposterous as in the first half of the twentieth century, Malabar alone had undergone at least four grievous famines in 1918, 1924, 1933, and 1943,” he added.

“Though the construction of railways has been generally perceived as the best long term guarantee against famines as it allowed movement of food quickly from surplus to famine-prone deficit areas, in reality the British administration tacitly allowed private traders to carry away whatever food stocks were available, either for exports or for indulging in speculation inviting disastrous famines at progressively shorter intervals,” Raghavan said.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kozhikode / by K R Rajeev, TNN / July 16th, 2014