Archive for ‘Kerala’


Fire alarms “faulty” at Delhi blaze hotel, prompting mass reinspections

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A hotel that caught fire in the Indian capital on Tuesday, killing 17 people, passed safety checks 14 months ago, but an investigation has revealed breaches of regulations, such as faulty alarms, prompting a mass reinspection of other hotels.

Poorly enforced regulations lead to thousands of deaths in fires across India every year and officials in New Delhi say an overstretched fire service is hampering safety efforts.

The Hotel Arpit Palace passed a fire safety check in December 2017, but a copy of the initial police investigation seen by Reuters showed several breaches of fire regulations, including a lack of signs to guide guests to exits and fire alarms that did not work.

Delhi’s fire service, which is responsible for safety inspections as well as fighting fires, is now reviewing certificates issued to more than 1,500 hotels in one of India’s tourist hubs, a senior fire official told Reuters.

“Fire officers have to do a lot of work,” said Vipin Kental, Delhi’s chief fire officer. “We have to be inspectors and fight fires. We do not have the manpower.”

The city has around 1,700 firefighters, he said, which is less than an eighth of the number in New York, a city with less than half of Delhi’s population.


The fire is believed to have begun on the hotel’s first floor, spreading quickly through wood-panelled corridors, police say. Among the dead were members of a wedding party from Kerala and a two Buddhist pilgrims from Myanmar.

“From the outside, the building looked intact, but inside everything was completely charred,” a police officer told Reuters.

Two of the 17 died after jumping out of windows in desperation after failing to find emergency exits, added the officer, who declined to be named as he is not authorised to talk to the media.

“Fire preparedness is a matter of shockingly low priority in most parts of the country,” said an editorial in the Indian Express, one of the country’s leading newspapers.

A 2018 study by India’s home ministry that found the country had just 2,000 of more than 8,500 fire stations it needs.

More than 17,000 people died in fires in 2015, according to data from the ministry, the last year for which figures are available, one of the largest causes of accidental death in India.

Fire safety is an issue for shanty towns and some of the country’s most expensive real estate.

A day after the Arpit Palace disaster, more than 250 makeshift homes were destroyed in a slum in Paschim Puri, a poor area of New Delhi, though no one was killed.

In 2017, 14 people were killed during a birthday party at a high-end bar in India’s financial capital Mumbai.

In several upscale neighbourhoods in Delhi, police shut hundreds of shops and restaurants last year for trading on floors meant for residential use, though many continue to operate illegally, residents say.

By the boarded-up Arpit Palace in the Karol Bagh area of New Delhi, wires from adjacent hotels still trail across the street, though staff there told Reuters they were complying with fire regulations.

Adding to the safety problems, poorly paid staff in the hotel and restaurant industries are often unable to help guests when fires break out, Kental said.

“They are not trained. They don’t know what to do in the event of a fire,” he said.

Source: Reuters


‘Oldest known elephant in captivity’ dies at 88 in India

Dakshayani, an elephant that died in February 2019 aged 88Image copyrightSTR/AFP/GETTY
Image captionDakshayani, pictured here in 2016, lived at the Chengalloor Mahadeva Temple in southern Kerala state

Dakshayani, thought to be the world’s oldest elephant in captivity, has died at the age of 88 in India.

Given the title Gaja Muthassi or elephant granny, Dakshayani took part in temple rituals and processions at the Chengalloor Mahadeva Temple in the southern state of Kerala.

But her vet said the elephant stopped taking food and died on Tuesday.

Keepers started feeding her pineapples and carrots in recent years after she began to have trouble moving around.

She had not taken part in any public event for several years.

The Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs the temple where she lived, says she was the oldest elephant in captivity and estimated her age at 88.

However, the current Guinness World Record holder for oldest elephant in captivity is Lin Wang.

The Asian elephant died at a zoo in Taiwan in 2003 aged 86, and served with the British Army in World War Two.

Another elephant, Indira, died in India’s Karnataka state in 2017 and was reportedly aged “between 85 and 90”.

Dakshayani, an elephant that died in February 2019 aged 88Image copyrightSTR/AFP/GETTY
Image captionThe elephant took part in temple rituals and processions

India has more than 2,400 elephants in captivity.

The former Travancore Devaswom Board president told AFP news agency that Dakshayani was well-treated.

“Due to various practical constraints, we could not let her loose, but instead ensured that she had more than enough space to move around,” he said.

However conservationists say many elephants suffer in poor conditions.

UK-based group Action for Elephants says around 800 elephants are held in Indian temples, particularly in Kerala state, and live in “generally abysmal living conditions”.

Media captionIndia’s first elephant hospital is run by the charity Wildlife SOS

Source: The BBC


One dead in Kerala protests over Sabarimala row, 100 injured during bandh

The Bharatiya Janata Party is supporting the shutdown while the Congress-led UDF is observing a “black day” on Thursday.

INDIA Updated: Jan 03, 2019 15:47 IST

Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times
Sabarimala,sabarimala protest,Congress on sabarimala
Police intervene as members of Sabarimala Karma Samithi try to disrupt a celebratory meeting after two women entered Sabarimala Ayyapa temple, at the High Court Junction in Kochi in the Indian state of Kerala on January 2, 2019(AFP)

More than 100 people, including 38 policemen, were injured on Thursday as a shutdown to protest against the Kerala government for helping two women enter the Sabarimala temple turned violent at several places in the state.

In Thrissur, four workers of the BJP were stabbed while enforcing the shutdown call by Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of various pro-Hindutva groups, spearheading protests against the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict, and Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP).

The Bharatiya Janata Party is supporting the shutdown while the Congress-led UDF is observing a “black day” on Thursday. (Live updates)

Police in Pandalam, Kozhikode, Kasargode and Ottapalam baton charged at protesters as several party offices and houses were attacked throughout the state. In Kozhikode, police used tear gas to disperse protesters who tried to enforce the 12-hour shutdown.

New agency AFP reported journalists were assaulted in Palakkad during a march organised by the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led party.

The shutdown forced the state to a standstill as shops and other small businesses were closed in many places. Most bus services were halted and taxis were refusing to take passengers as some drivers, who said they feared they could be attacked.

Various universities, including Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi, Calicut and Kannur have deferred their examinations scheduled for Thursday.

It was the first time that women aged between 10 and 50 had set foot in the gold-plated temple nestled in a tiger reserve since the Supreme Court in September last year ordered the lifting of the ban on women of menstruating age entering the hilltop shrine.

The temple has refused to abide by the ruling and subsequent attempts by women to visit it had been blocked by thousands of angry devotees.

Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga dressed in all black were escorted by police into the temple through a side gate early on Wednesday, catching the devotees off guard. The temple priests closed the shrine dedicated to the celibate Lord Ayyappa for purification rituals and protests against the women entering the temple erupted quickly.

A 55-year-old activist of the Samithi died after he was injured during a stone pelting incident in Pathanamthitta on Wednesday. Others have also been injured.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan defended helping the two women in gaining entry to the Sabarimala temple as he accused the Sangh Parivar of trying to incite trouble in the state.

Also watch: Two women below the age of 50 enter Sabarimala Temple

Vijayan said during a press conference it was his government’s constitutional obligation to help the two women and warned that troublemakers will be dealt with sternly.

“The Sangh Parivar is trying to sabotage the Supreme Court verdict. The real devotees are not against the verdict,” the chief minister said.

“Kanakadurga and Bindu were given protection after they sought security to visit the shrine. They were not airdropped. They visited shrine like normal devotees. None of the devotees protested,” he told reporters.

The BJP and held the chief minister responsible for the violence.


Kerala, which aims to become digitally literate by 2020, still doesn’t have an online RTI facility

A website with the domain,, that looked like it’s managed by the Kerala government, displayed the message, “This site is currently under maintenance. We should be back shortly.”

Only a few states in India such as Maharashtra and Odisha have set up portals to accept RTI inquiries.

By 2020, Kerala wants to be a fully ‘digitally-literate’ state in India. An ambitious policy framework, envisaged by the previous Congress-led government, involved several key objectives such as making digital infrastructure of the government accessible to the public and sustaining economic growth through digital knowledge initiatives. The present Left government has continued on that path by launching a unified governance app called ‘m-Kerala’ and making efforts to turn government schools digital.

However, sadly, Kerala still does not have an online facility through which the public can file Right to Information (RTI) applications. Only a few states in India such as Maharashtra and Odisha have set up portals to accept RTI inquiries apart from the nodal website that takes in queries regarding departments and ministeries under the central government. Since 2005, when the RTI came into effect, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) of the Centre has sent circulars to state governments to set up individual portals to accept RTI queries.

A website with the domain,, that looked like it’s managed by the Kerala government, displayed the message, “This site is currently under maintenance. We should be back shortly.” spoke with at least 10 officials of general administration, information and public relations and the state information commission to inquire whether the website belonged to the government and if yes, why it was down. Not a single official could say who managed the website.

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