Monday, January 23, 2012

Tamil Nadu approves second phase of outer ring road

Chennai, Jan 23 : The Tamil Nadu government has approved the second phase of the Chennai outer ring road project involving the building of a 32-km road at an outlay of Rs.1,075 crore on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) model.

In a statement issued here Monday, the government said Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has ordered the laying of the 32-km outer ring road connecting Nemilicheri-Tiruvottriyur-Ponneri and Mijur on a public-private-partnership basis and annuity payment model.

According to the government, the first phase of the outer ring road project involving the laying of a 29.65-km road will be completed by November at an outlay of Rs.1,081.40 crore.

In addition, the government has allotted Rs.285 crore towards maintenance and upkeep of roads and bridges across the state.

With the completion of these projects, heavy vehicles carrying containers can reach the Chennai and Ennore Ports by avoiding the city roads, the government said.

Another former DMK minister arrested

Chennai, Jan 23: Tamil Nadu police Monday arrested former DMK minister M.P. Saminathan following a land grab complaint against him, officials said.

Saminathan, former minister for highways in the erstwhile DMK government, was arrested at his residence near Tirupur, about 400 km from here.

Many senior leaders and former ministers of the DMK have been arrested and jailed on land grab charges since the AIADMK government assumed office last May.

Former ministers K. Ponmudi, K.N. Nehru, Veerapandi Arumugham and others are amongst those arrested. The government has set up special cells to investigate land grab complaints.

State police have also registered a land grab case against former deputy chief minister M.K. Stalin and his son Udayanidhi Stalin

Fisherman injured in attack at sea

The fisherman who was attacked by Sri Lankan Navy being enquired by a policeman, in Rameswaram on Sunday. Photo: L. Balachandar
A fisherman of Rameswaram was injured when Indian fishing boats were attacked, allegedly by Sri Lankan naval personnel, near the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) at Kachchatheevu late on Saturday.
The attackers, who were seen patrolling near Kachchatheevu, allegedly pelted the fishermen with stones.
Several fishermen took evasive action and escaped. However, M. Jegadeesh (30) was hit by a sharp stone. He received injuries on his right leg. The boat's windshield was damaged in the incident.
“When we were fishing near Kachchatheevu, the Sri Lankan Navy men threw stones on the boats. We could not escape as they targeted us from a very close range,” Mr. Jegadeesh told The Hindu.
He said they also damaged fishing nets and gears of several boats warning the Indian fishermen to return from Kachchatheevu.
Mr. Jegadeesh added that though several other fishermen were attacked in the incident no one was ready to reveal their identity fearing a backlash from the Sri Lankan Navy.
Attack condemned
Condemning the attack on Indian fishermen allegedly by Sri Lankan Naval personnel, CPI leader D Raja said India should reopen the 1974 agreement ceding Katchatheevu to the island nation to find a lasting solution to the recurring mid–sea incidents.

Search still on for Sasikala's brother

Police continued their search for V.K. Divakar, brother of Sasikala, former aide of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, in connection with a complaint relating to demolition of a house for the second day on Sunday.
In her complaint to the police, Kasthuri, wife of Balasubramanian of Rishiyur in Needamangalam taluk in Tiruvarur district, said that her house was demolished on November 28 by seven persons with the help of some officials. This she alleged was done at the behest of Mr. Divakar. Police tried to meet Mr. Divakar for interrogation on Saturday. They went to his house at Mannargudi and his college (Sengamala Thayar Arts and Science College) at Sundarakottai near Mannargudi in search of him. But he was not available.
The police search continued on Sunday too, sources said.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

High security registration plates for new vehicles by April: official

By April, new vehicles hitting the city roads will come with high security registration plates (HSRP). The existing vehicles would also have to comply within two years.
A senior Transport Department official said that a schedule is being drawn and each vehicle owner would be given a specific date to visit their respective Regional Transport Office (RTO) for replacing the existing number plates with the HSRP.
The move to introduce the high security registration plates has been under review since 1989. After the Supreme Court criticised the State governments in September last year for the repeated delays in implementation, most of the States floated tenders for the project. The Supreme Court on Friday set a deadline of March 31.
In Tamil Nadu, five entities have prequalified, based on a set of technical criteria, and the financial bids were opened last week. The Transport Department official said that an evaluation is being carried out and the company that will implement the project will be announced shortly.
Based on the experience of other cities, the new embossed high-security plates are expected to be available for around Rs.300, which would have to be paid at the time of registration.
While the scheme would be implemented throughout the State, a pilot implementation would happen in a few RTOs in Chennai first. Eventually embossing/fixing stations would come up within the premises of all the RTOs and unit offices in the State.
The official said that the number plates would have features such as a laser hologram and a non-removable/non-reusable snap lock to prevent counterfeiting and duplication.
Any attempt to remove or replace the number plate will damage the snap lock making it impossible to install any other number plate in the vehicle.
All plates would also have a unique identification number and can be tracked all across India, the official added. It would also eliminate the problem of fancy number plates.

Panel to study heritage buildings in Chennai

A major fire broke out in Khalsa Mahal, a heritage building, destroying the offices of the directorates of Social Welfare, and Industries and Commerce, in the early hours of January 16, 2012. File photo: R. Ragu
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has asked a technical committee, formed to examine the stability of the fire-ravaged Kalas Mahal in Chepauk here, to study the state of heritage government buildings in Chennai.
It will submit a report on safety measures to be undertaken in such buildings, according to a government release on Saturday.
The Chief Minister has also directed officials to carry out periodic checks on fire safety equipment in government buildings, ensure they are kept ready in the event of fire and that electrical equipment are tested at regular intervals and defects, if any, rectified.
Headed by former Dean (Civil Engineering) of Anna University A.R. Santhakumar, the committee includes Engineer-in-Chief of the Public Works Department (Buildings) R. Gopalakrishnan and Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA)'s Chief Planner and convener of the CMDA's heritage committee C. Palanivelu.
Ms. Jayalalithaa instructed the panel to submit its report on the Kalas Mahal in five days. Besides studying the issue of stability of the structure, it would explore the possibility of restoring the heritage building or constructing a replica of the old structure.
The damage suffered by the Social Welfare Directorate has been estimated at Rs.1.2 crore and the Industries and Commerce Directorate, Rs.1.5 crore.
The offices of the two directorates have been provided with alternative accommodation.
The Social Welfare Directorate has started functioning from an unused building of Chennai Corporation's primary school at Chintadripet and the Directorate of Industries and Commerce from the headquarters of the Industrial Cooperative Bank's at Raja Annamalaipuram.
As an initial measure, the Social Welfare Directorate has been allotted Rs.96 lakh and the Industries and Commerce Directorate Rs.1.5 crore for purchasing furniture and stationery.
Ms. Jayalalithaa asked officials to re-construct employee service records and files. She held a meeting with senior Ministers and officials at the Secretariat to review the situation in the wake of the fire at Kalas Mahal.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Kalas Mahal fire: CM sets up panel on heritage buildings

Fire-fighters try to douse a major fire at Ezhilagam in Chepauk, Chennai, on January 16. Photo: R. RaguTamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Saturday announced the setting up of a committee to inspect heritage buildings in Chennai and submit a report on their safety following last week’s blaze that severely damaged Ezhilagam, a heritage structure housing some government departments.
The committee, comprising former Anna University Dean A.R. Shanthakumar, PWD Principal Chief Engineer (Building) R. Gopalakrishnan and officials of Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority will work out possibilities of restoring Ezhilagam to its original beauty or build a ‘replica’, an official press release said.

The Commitee has been asked to inspect all heritage buildings in the city and submit a report on their safety by Ms. Jayalalithaa, it said.

The January 15 blaze had resulted in loss of property to the departments of Social Welfare and Industries located there to the tune of Rs. 2.7 crore, the release said, adding the Chief Minister allotted an initial sum of Rs. 2.46 crore towards purchasing furniture and stationery.

The fire at Ezhilagam killed a Fire and Rescue personnel and injured two others, including a senior Fire Officer.

HC stays move to alter new Secretariat complex

A view of the Assembly complex at Omandurar Government Estate, in Chennai. Photo : R. RavindranIn a setback to the AIADMK government, the Madras High Court on Friday granted an interim injunction restraining authorities from making any structural alterations to the new Legislative Assembly-cum-Secretariat complex at the Omandurar Government Estate on Anna Salai here until a writ petition challenging the decision to convert it into a multi-specialty hospital is disposed of.
A Division Bench comprising Justices D.Murugesan and P.P.S.Janarthana Raja passed the interim order on a writ petition by R.Veeramani, a city advocate. It directed the authorities to file their counter by February 10. The case has been posted for February 13.
The petitioner said the present government took a policy decision on August 19 last year to convert the new building into a multi-specialty hospital. This decision was irrational, “tainted with mala fides and is against public interest.”
The petitioner's senior counsel, P.Wilson, contended that environmental clearance given for the Assembly/ Secretariat complex could not be taken as clearance for conversion and housing a multi-specialty hospital.
The Bench noted that the PWD had issued the tender notice in two dailies for carrying out civil and electrical works.
Admittedly, as on date, no environmental clearance was obtained for the proposed modification in the new building. It was not in dispute that for a project exceeding 15,000 sq.metres, environmental clearance should be obtained from the Centre's Environment Impact Assessment Authority.
Though such clearance had been obtained before constructing the building, the fact remained that it was not obtained for the modification, the Bench said.
The court said the authorities' only contention was that the government was taking necessary action to get clearance before the building was put into use. The question as to whether the clearance was necessary prior to any modification/alteration or not should be gone into at the time of final disposal of the petition.
For the present, it was of the prima facie opinion that the environmental clearance given for constructing the building would not include clearance for any modification. If that be so, the structure constructed at a cost of Rs.551.80 crore could not be altered and any money spent on such modification would cause huge loss to the exchequer if the writ petitioner succeeds. In that view of the matter, it said the authorities should be restrained from altering or modifying or in any manner changing the structure till the petition was disposed of.
The Judges said their order would not stand in the way of the government obtaining environmental clearance and also taking other steps as per the policy decision.

New chief for TNPSC

R. NatrajR. Natraj, retired officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS), was on Friday appointed the Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Public Services Commission (TNPSC).
He will hold the post till he attains the age of 62 years [March 2013], according to the order issued by the Personnel and Administrative Reforms Department.
He fills the vacancy caused by the resignation of R. Sellamuthu following the allegations of large-scale irregularities in the selection of candidates to various government posts.
Mr. Natraj is likely to assume charge on Saturday.
Belonging to the 1975 batch, Mr. Natraj served the State and Central governments in various capacities.
While in the Central Reserve Police Force, he worked in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir. Between 1986 and 1990, he was First Secretary in the Indian High Commission in Kathmandu.
During 2003-2006, he held the post of Chennai Police Commissioner in two spells. Later, he was Director General of Police in-charge of Prisons and Fire and Rescue Services.
In the recent past, Mr. Natraj was in the limelight when he challenged the appointment of Letika Saran as the State DGP in 2010. The Madras High Court last week upheld her appointment.

Anti-nuke group lays down terms for attending January 31 meet

The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which is leading the ongoing anti-Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project agitation, has decided to send some of the members of its 28-member experts' panel for the proposed talks scheduled for January 31 with the Central Expert panel at the Tirunelveli Collectorate.
“If the Central panel, which is now addressing the students of various colleges on the issues pertaining to the KKNPP, refuses to talk with our representatives, our members in the State panel will not participate in the talks to be conducted on January 31 with the Central Expert panel members,” said S.P. Udayakumar.
Speaking to reporters here on Friday, Dr. Udayakumar said that PMANE's experts, based on scientific facts and findings had raised several doubts pertaining to the insecure geology of the region surrounding the KKNPP. The Central government's expert panel had the responsibility of answering all these queries and clear their doubts. If the Central experts' team refused to speak to the PMANE's specialists, then anti-nuke representatives in the State panel would not be part of the talks to be held on January 31.
He claimed that the ongoing agitation against KKNPP was being carried forward only with contributions from villagers agitating against the upcoming nuclear power programme. He dismissed allegations that PMANE was getting succour from abroad and some of the non-governmental organisations funded by foreign agencies.
NGOs being threatened
“The Central government, which is levelling all these baseless allegations to divert public attention, is also threatening the NGOs being run by Christian churches through surprise raids though it did not yield any information to prove their charges. In fact, the officials who conducted these raids have lauded the manner in which these organisations are being administered,” Dr. Udayakumar said.
He said that PMANE was prepared to show to anybody except Congress functionaries all its “well-maintained” financial transaction details pertaining to the funds being raised by them after the struggle commenced, its expenses etc. “We've nothing to hide.”
Pro-nuclear activist criticised
Dr. Udayakumar, terming pro-nuclear activist T.K. Sathya Seelan “a thug as per the police records of Ambattur police station in Chennai since 2008,” added that the Department of Atomic Energy should not solicit the services of “such unruly elements” for mobilising support for KKNPP.
Petition against daily
Earlier, he, along with a few PMANE members, submitted petition to District Collector R. Selvaraj seeking filing of case against a Tamil daily “for publicising private information about some PMANE members, including addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses etc. that caused untold agony.”

Highest priority for education in the 12th Plan: E. Ahamed

E. Ahamed, Minister of State for HRD and External Affairs, with S. Irudaya Rajan, Professor, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, in Chennai on Friday. Photo: R. Ravindran
The 12 Plan seeks to place the highest priority on education as a central instruments for achieving rapid and inclusive growth, E. Ahamed, Minister of State for HRD and External Affairs, said on Friday.
Inaugurating a national symposium on “2011 Demographic Characteristics: A Road to Development” hosted by the Department of Economics, Loyola College, Mr. Ahamed said the Plan would present a comprehensive strategy covering all segments of the education pyramid.
During a brief interaction later with the media, the Minister said the allocation for education in the 12 Plan was likely to be about seven times more than the amount earmarked in the 11 Plan. He also hoped that the redrafted Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation), Bill would be introduced in the upcoming Budget session of Parliament.
In his address to students, Mr. Ahamed said the Centre had adopted a neo-liberal approach to expansion of education in recent years. On the higher education front, the Centre had been following a multi-pronged strategy —strengthening existing institutions of higher learning along with a massive plan of setting up a large number of public funded institutions —with the aim of doubling the access ratio to higher education.
Other initiatives included creating national level resource institutions such as the National Commission for Higher Education, National Authority for Regulation in Accreditation of Higher Education Institutions and Educational Tribunals, he said. He hoped that the strategy would pay off in terms of enabling India to leverage its demographic dividend.
In his view, making an asset out of the exploding population for fostering economic growth and development was possible only through a joint effort by politicians, administrators, educational institutions and employers.
At present, India with 1.2 billion people was next only to China as the most populous nation. The demographic changes were opening up new economic opportunities for India. With 50 per cent of the population below 25 years of age, engaging the working age population in productive employment would accelerate economic growth, Mr. Ahamed said.
In his key-note address, S. Irudaya Rajan, Professor, Research Unit on International Migration, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, said the surplus labour available in India in the form of its educated youth could be a demographic dividend if managed well through literacy, education and productive employment; or else it could be a demographic bomb.
He also pointed to demographic imbalances within India where declining population growth in the south and galloping growth rates in the north was rendering the age pyramid unattractive.
Mr. Irudaya Rajan said it was important for India, which had an estimated 400 million people on the move for work, to promulgate an Emigration Bill to protect future potential emigrants and a migration policy to facilitate safe, orderly and legal migration.
Rev. Fr. B. Jeyaraj, Loyola College Principal, Rev. Fr. K. Amal, Rector, C. Joe Arun, secretary and T. Eugene, Head, Department of Economics, also participated.