Separate authority to regulate construction sought

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State president Kummanam Rajasekharan has called for a stop to all constructions in Munnar and sought separate rules aimed at protecting its ecology.He was talking to reporters after visiting the land allegedly encroached upon by Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders in Munnar town. He said over 500 acres of government land had been encroached upon by the land mafia. He said the government had no proper records on Revenue land and those under government agencies. This, he said, had prompted the ‘mafia’ to encroach upon the land. Mr. Rajasekharan demanded an inquiry by the CBI to bring to book the real encroachers. If the encroachment upon land and illegal constructions continue to be permitted, the ecology and climatic conditions of Munnar would soon change. This was what happened in Ooty, he said and added that in order to avoid a natural catastrophe, a separate authority should be created to sanction construction activities in Munnar.

Mr. Rajasekharan alleged that there was a move to shift the Devikulasm Sub-Collector who had intervened in land encroachment cases.A large stretch of land had been encroached upon at Ikka Nagar and the area should be declared ecologically sensitive, he added.Mr Rajasekharan said there were provisions for the Union government to intervene considering the ecological sensitivity of Munnar. A report will be submitted the Centre detailing the land encroachments and illegal constructions in Munnar and adjoining areas, he said.The BJP leader also visited areas on the banks of Muthirapuzha River where illegal constructions have been reported and at Pallivasal where a rock fallen from a hilltop had damaged boundary wall of a resort.

Kochi-Muziris Biennale has catapulted the city to the global cultural map

The morning of December 12, 2012 was thick, almost uncertain, as a weary troop of artists got into a huddle in the courtyard of Aspinwall House, a rundown 19th century sea-facing building complex that lay supine by virtue of having remained shut for years on end in the otherwise vibrant urban topology of Fort Kochi.

Its spectral vistas had looked dazed, as if suddenly resuscitated back to life, even as the artists winched up a multicoloured flag marking the opening of a newly-founded art carnival, Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB).The odds were heavily stacked against the event – as litigations, cash crunch, hostility from a section of local artists, scepticism over the unfamiliar, and lampooning by the art orthodoxy made it a tall order.

The opening scene, no less than chaotic with work still in progress, fuelled further doubts about its sustainability. A fatigued Bose Krishnamachari, who along with fellow artist Riyas Komu, captained the project and also curated the opening edition, walked up to this correspondent and said: “Even if it were to close tomorrow, we can be proud that we managed to fight the odds to open India’s first biennale.”Much water has flowed under the Calvathy bridge since. With days now for the closure of its third edition curated by Sudarshan Shetty, its main venue is being spoken of with awe around the world.

“It’s the Arsenale of Kochi, the mother space in every sense. It’s to KMB what Arsenale is to the Venice Biennale,” affirms Mr. Komu, secretary of the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) and KMB director of programmes.Globally, it has become the face of the KMB. So much so, that the Government of Kerala has now promised to obtain it from its private owners to make the ancient spice trade hub, and the adjoining Cabral Yard, into a permanent cultural centre, which will anchor the biennale and host art events and cultural exchanges during the non-biennale period.

 

Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran recently announced that Aspinwall House is best-suited as a permanent locale for the KMB, a ‘perfect model of cultural tourism’ whose ongoing edition has already logged a footfall of over five lakh visitors comprising local people, domestic tourists and art enthusiasts, and foreigners, including the who’s who of the contemporary art world.

Exhibition of cloth carry bags by Kudumbasree Mission gets good response

If the demand for cloth carry bags is anything to go by, the district administration’s plan to make Kannur a plastic-free district does not seem impracticable.It is not for the first time that the district authorities have embarked on a ‘plastic carry bag-free Kannur’ plan. Such initiatives in the past had proved unsuccessful, mainly due to lack of positive response from the public, especially vendors.However, the huge response to a recent exhibition organised by the District Kudumbasree Mission featuring different varieties of cloth carry bags laid bare the enthusiasm of the public to abide by the plan to replace plastic carry bags with cloth carry bags.

“The three-day exhibition held here under the aegis of the District Kudumbasree Mission received orders for nearly 6 lakh cloth carry bags,” said District Kudumbasree Mission co-ordinator M. Surjith. The orders were placed by various traders’ bodies, he said, adding that the objective of the exhibition was to prove to the public that a sustainable alternative to plastic carry bags was available.

 

As many as 53 Kudumbasree units participated in the exhibition that concluded on March 22.The other participants included Dinesh Garments, Irinavu Weavers’ Co-operative Society, and a few entrepreneurs.The orders placed for cloth carry bags during the exhibition included two lakh bags by Chicken Merchants’ Association, one lakh bags by Bakers India, and 50,000 bags by a firm vending dies and chemicals.The Kerala Handloom Development Corporation also submitted an order for 25,000 bags, Kudumbasree officials said.The sales figures during the exhibition were also encouraging. The turnout at the exhibition was Rs. 80,000.

Memchoubi on a mission to preserve Manipur’s folk culture

Beneath the socio-political turmoil that the northeastern State of Manipur has been known for, lies a land with a rich indigenous culture. To Manipuri writer Thounaojam Chanu Ibemhal, it is the survival of this land that matters, over and above the storms that shake it up.For the past few decades, Memchoubi, as Ms. Ibemhal is known, has been exploring the mythology and folk culture of Manipur, reviving stories and imageries found in old scriptures and folktales.Recipient of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award and the Manipur State Kala Akademi award, among others, her published works include poetry, short stories, literary criticism and travelogues.

Talking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the Northeast and Southern Writers’ Meet, organised by the Kendra Sahitya Akademi on Saturday, Memchoubi was solemn yet hopeful as she shared her reflections on the current political situation in her State.“Do not speak to me about the BJP and Congress,” she said, “for both are only concerned about their business.” The fact that the Chief Minister of the new BJP government was earlier a member of the Congress party vindicates this, according to her.While the people of Manipur vote for one or the other, in the hope that support from New Delhi would bring about economic development in the State, what they actually need is to stand on their own feet and to develop an independent economy, she said.

On Irom Sharmila

 

When asked about Irom Sharmila, Memchoubi's face lit up. “I have been fighting on her behalf!”She may have only got 90 votes in the Assembly election, but it is the birth of a promising new journey, according to Memchoubi. That Sharmila would fail the election, however, was a foregone conclusion, the writer said, since the Manipuri people, who held her sacred, were shocked by her ‘descent to the dirty field of politics’.“Elections are like festivals in Manipur, since it is typical for candidates to pay voters, who then go shopping with that money.” But if Sharmila considers her failure a stepping stone, and perseveres in her journey, then one day she may hopefully succeed in changing the mindset of the voters, Memchoubi said.

The police on Saturday arrested five persons and registered cases against 21 others under the Explosives Act for holding a fireworks ritual before daybreak on Saturday in connection with the culmination of the annual festival of the Malanada Poruvazhi Peruviruthi temple, near Sasthamcotta.

Those arrested are the president and secretary of the temple devaswom committee and people who lit the fireworks. Cases have been registered against 21 others on the temple committee.

The fireworks was held in spite of a ban on it.

 

The police said that it was not traditional pyrotechnics but ‘Chinese firecrackers’ available in local markets. All those arrested were let off on bail. The arrests were on the basis of a case registered by the Sooranad police.In view of the ban, the traditional pyrotechnics ground of the temple will be taken over by the police to prevent any possible display of fireworks. But the crackers were burst at a location more than a km away from the temple.Pyrotechnics as a ritual used to be very famous at the temple.But after a fireworks tragedy on March 25, 1990 when fireworks caught fire during the annual pyrotechnics display killing at least 25 persons, the ritual was banned there.

Rampant encroachments and illegal constructions going on with tacit support of political leaders

Almost exactly a decade after the much-debated ‘Munnar Operation’ launched by the V.S. Achuthanandan government, Munnar appears all set to return to the centre of political debate in the State over the same issues of rampant encroachments and illegal constructions.Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and BJP State president Kummanam Rajasekharan would be in the hill resort over the coming two days to look into the allegation that the CPI(M) district leadership is thwarting attempts by the district administration to launch a drive against encroachers and illegal builders.The ‘Munnar Operation’ which ended without achieving much would turn 10 years in June this year. Munnar, which is part of the Western Ghats, has been witnessing uncontrolled developmental activities with the covert support of political leaders.

The illegal constructions, mostly on the encroached land, could not be stopped by the Munnar Operation and revenue records show that illegal constructions have only flourished despite the many stop-memos issued to them by the district administration. Stop-memos were issued to as many as 120 illegal multi-storeyed buildings under construction. When there was no positive response, the Revenue Department had initiated criminal proceedings against 50 builders.The Assembly Committee on Environment had recently sought creation of a Munnar Development Authority to oversee construction activity in the sensitive hill resort area and called for steps to check the ongoing illegal constructions. The State Land Revenue Commissioner too had, in a report, apprised the government of the seriousness of the situation and sought urgent measures to restore alienated revenue land and to put an end to illegal constructions, something that the Kerala High Court had stressed upon in a verdict in 2010.Mr. Chennithala and Mr. Rajasekharan are arriving in Munnar even as an agitation launched by the CPI(M)-led Kerala Karshaka Sanghom over alleged refusal of the district administration to accept land tax from farmers in the Anchunadu valley and refusal to issue no-objection certificates for construction of dwelling units.

 

The agitation is currently on in front of the office of the Idukki Sub Collector whom the Sanghom has accused of having handled the issue without sensitivity. However, the Opposition is of the view that the Karshaka Sanghom agitation is intended only to thwart the attempts of the administration to put the brakes on encroachments and illegal constructions.