Thursday November 23, 2017
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‘269 dead in Tamil Nadu floods, Chennai turned into island’

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(Source: ADGPI - Indian Army)

New Delhi: The heaviest rains in Tamil Nadu in over a century and floods have left 269 people dead, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday, describing the situation as “alarming”.

The minister also told the Lok Sabha that 54 people had been killed in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and two in Puducherry.

“There are no two opinions that the situation in Tamil Nadu is alarming. It is not an exaggeration to say that Chennai has turned into an island,” Singh said.

He said all highways leading to Chennai were closed.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Thursday told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the flood destruction must be declared a national disaster, and requested Rs 5,000 crore as immediate aid to the state.

Responding to Jayalalithaa’s request, Modi announced the release of Rs 1,000 crore from the NDRF.

Chennai, the Home Minister said, had received torrential rains, and the meteorological department had forecast more rains in the next two-three days.

Singh said 30 teams of the National Disaster Response Force and seven columns of the army were engaged in relief and rescue work. The navy had also deployed boats and divers.

He said the central government would provide all necessary assistance sought by the Tamil Nadu government.

Singh said he spoke to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa as well as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Puducherry Chief Minister A N Rangasamy.

Referring to Odisha, he said more money would be released in the wake of Cyclone Phailin which hit the state in 2013.

He said the centre would take necessary steps on West Bengal’s demand for central assistance in the wake of the heavy rains in the last monsoon.

Sudip Bandopadhyay of Trinamool Congress said the central team decided on assistance without consulting the chief minister.

He said West Bengal had suffered both drought and floods. Expressing unhappiness over the minister’s reply, Trinamool Congress members staged a walk out.

Bhartruhari Mahtab of Biju Janata Dal said the minister had not given a concrete reply over the state’s demands in the wake of cyclone Phalin during which nearly 10 lakh people were evacuated to safer places.

Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai, an MP from the AIADMK, said the central government should accept all the demands of the Tamil Nadu chief minister relating to the flood situation.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the central government should call a meeting of Niti Aayog and increase the amount of assistance to the states.

Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav suggested creating a separate department to deal with natural disasters.

Rajnath Singh said: “The central government has been providing maximum assistance to states and will continue to do so.”

(With inputs from agencies)

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The major Challenge is to make the Youth of the Country Entrepreneurial and not Job Seekers : Venkaiah Naidu

"The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers," Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government's various initiatives.

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Venkaiah Naidu
Venkaiah Naidu. Wikimedia Commons
  • At a time of tepid job growth and continuing income disparities, the major challenge is to make the youth of the country entrepreneurial and not job seekers, Vice President  Venkaiah Naidu said on Thursday.

“Disparities continue to remain in India and so there is a need for inclusive growth… there is the need to take care of the suppressed, oppressed and depressed,” Venkaiah Naidu said at the Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust’s (BYST) silver jubilee celebrations here with Britain’s Prince Charles as the chief guest.

“The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers,” Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government’s various initiatives to encourage youth enterprises like Startup India, Standup India and the Mudra financing scheme for underprivileged sections.

Modelled on Prince Charles’ Trust for business startups, BYST, founded by Lakshmi Venkatesan, daughter of former President R. Venkatraman, is engaged in building rural entrepreneurship — “grampreneurs” — as also enterprise among under-privileged sections, which includes business mentoring. The current BYST chairman is Bajaj Group chief, Rahul Bajaj.

“Without mentoring, it would be very difficult to set up startups, with all the business, marketing and other vital issues involved in the first two-three years,” Prince Charles said in his address at the International Mentoring Summit organized by BYST to mark its 25 years.

“What amazes me are the sheer number of jobs these young entrepreneurs had created. The aim of such a project should be to create a virtual cycle of creating entrepreneurs who can then invest in the future of business,” Charles said referring to his trust.

BYST was officially launched in 1992 by Prince Charles and expanded its operations to six major regions of India.

Out of these six regions, four — Delhi, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad — run the urban programme while two regions — Haryana and Maharashtra — run the rural programme.(IANS)

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Prime Minister celebrates Diwali with Soldiers at LoC

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Facebook

Srinagar, October 19: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday arrived in the border town of Gurez to celebrate Diwali with soldiers protecting the country’s borders.

Official reports said in summer capital Srinagar that the Prime Minister arrived at the Dawar Brigade headquarters of the Indian Army in Gurez border town on Thursday to celebrate Diwali with soldiers protecting the Line of Control (LoC).

Sources here said the Prime Minister is also visiting the far-flung Tulial area near the LoC in Gurez sector to spend some time with the soldiers there.

A day ahead of Modi’s visit, Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat had visited the area on Wednesday to review the security situation in the Kashmir valley.(IANS)

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Lost in Time : The Less Explored Pamban Island and the Rameswaram Island | Travelogue

The land of temples, picturesque locales, architecture, and the home of the 'Missile Man' of India - welcome to the Rameswaram Island!

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Rameswaram island
We take you through a town lost in time, Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram island. Wikimedia

Rameswaram, September 15, 2017 : Off the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, some 500 km south of Chennai, lies Pamban Island. Seemingly a stone’s throw from neighboring Sri Lanka, this is an island steeped in historical significance, and with some of the most resilient people alive.

One of the longest sea bridges in the country, the iconic Pamban Bridge connects the mainland with the island, also known as Rameswaram Island. With breathtaking views of the Bay of Bengal, the journey to the island over this bridge rewinds one to colonial times, when it was built by the British to improve trade relations with Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Built in 1914 as India’s first-ever sea bridge, the 6,700-foot structure is in itself an engineering and historical marvel that has withstood several of nature’s furies — from storms to cyclones.

Rameswaram island
An overview of the Pamban Brindge. Wikimedia

The bridge initially ran up to the southeastern tip of the island, Dhanushkodi, now a ghost town. After a cyclone hit it in 1964, Dhanushkodi was washed away by the sea and is now a mere skeleton of the town it once was.

Remnants of its railway lines, church and the devastated dwellings of people can still be seen, though in very poor shape.

From the tip of the region, cell phone networks welcome one to Sri Lanka.

Visible from here is the Adam’s Bridge — a former land link between India and Sri Lanka, now undersea — that is also known as Rama Setu, the bridge believed to have been built by Lord Rama’s army to rescue Sita from Lanka.

Nambavel, a 50-year-old, says there can be no other home for him than Dhanushkodi, of pristine waters and picturesque views of the Bay of Bengal. Three generations of his family have lived here. Although the deadly cyclone forced many to migrate to villages around, some 50 families, including Nambavel’s, refused to leave.

“This has been our home for as long as we’ve known. We grew up playing in the sea water, then learnt to make our living through fishing or running petty shops,” Nambavel told this visiting IANS correspondent.

Rameswaram island
Residents of Dhanushkodi refuse to abandon their small town; for them the “sea is everything”. Wikimedia

“Even as many people we know migrated to nearby villages, there’s no home like Dhanushkodi for us — the sea is everything,” he said.

With sea levels rising around the world due to global warming, the region is constantly threatened by nature. But that does not deter Nambavel: “Even if another cyclone is close, most of us would like to be here, a land we’ve grown up in.”

Surrounded by sea and sand, the town cannot grow any crops and has no provision for electricity due to the wind velocity in the area. It is only the solar panels, an initiative of late President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam who hailed from Rameswaram, that light up the shacks of the few residents.

With Rameswaram considered one of the holiest places for Hindus, a majority of visitors make temples the focus of their travels.

Aiming to showcase the rich cultural and historical heritage of the island, apart from the much-visited temples, Utsa Majumder, the General Manager of the newly-launched Hyatt Place, Rameswaram, is working extensively on various itineraries that uncover the untrodden places in and around the region.

“There’s a lot more that the Rameswaram Island can offer than just the temples it is mostly known for. We want people to know that Rameswaram can be an experiential destination and not just a pilgrimage spot,” Majumder told IANS.

“From historic places that have stood the test of time to some incredible architecture and engineering like the Pamban Bridge, there’s a lot a tourist can see here,” she added.

The hotel offers these itineraries to travelers according to their interests, allowing them to explore different facets of the region, along with menus that present the cuisines of the land — from kuzhi paniyaram (rice batter dumplings) to kara kozhumbu (a spicy tamarind gravy).

Rameswaram Island
Local cuisine at Dhanushkodi. Wikimedia

The region also celebrates its much-beloved son Abdul Kalam. His two-storeyed house on Mosque Street is filled with thousands of his books and is always bustling with people.

A Rs 15-crore memorial to India’s “Missile Man”, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 27, has also grown rather quickly as a tourist attraction. The memorial houses a copy of the last speech Kalam delivered at IIM-Shillong on July 27, 2015, a number of pictures of his meetings with world leaders, and a host of other objects.

As an island that is yearning to receive a boost to its tourism, even a bottle of water bought from a shack in Dhanushkodi goes towards supporting a family.

FAQs:

Reaching there: Flights to Madurai, the nearest airport, from all major cities. From Madurai, Rameswaram can be reached in 3 hrs 30 min (160 kms) by road.

For the picturesque views from a train, pick one that is available almost every hour to Rameswaram from Madurai Railway Station.

Stay: There are four-star, three-star hotels and smaller lodges in the town.

Best time to visit: October to March as the temperatures drop and stay between 20 to 30 degrees C, making travel easier. (IANS)