Kerala has been rated as one of the 10 best travel destinations for family for 2014. Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide book publisher gave this prestigious award to Kerala at World Travel Mart in London, attended by representatives from the tourism industry from all over the world .
Kerala was put in fourth position among the top 10 overseas family destinations by Lonely Planet while the first three positions were bagged by Denmark, Thailand and Belize. The other child-friendly destinations in this prestigious league include New York City, Hawaii, Prague, Italy and Iceland.
The World Travel Mart that was held from 4-7 November 2013 attracted a huge crowd of visitors and delegates. Some of the dignitaries who visited the WTM Kerala pavilion that had been themed on the Ayurveda included Jonty Rhodes, the former South African international cricket player and brand ambassador for South African Tourism.
“The intensity of travel in India could put you off taking a trip here with family, but Kerala is a family-friendly version, more laid back than other regions, greener, slower paced. There are also lots of national parks for elephant spotting, palm fringed beaches and boat trips along the lush canals of the backwaters,” The Lonely Planet said.
The award function which was held in London has a special significance for Kerala considering the fact that Britain is one of the most important markets for Kerala tourism industry, Kerala had recorded a footfall of over 1.5 lakh tourists from Britain last year.
The coveted award was received from the Lonely plant by the Kerala Tourism director S. Harikishore. “With the British economy registering the fastest growth in the last three years in the previous quarter, the mood at the World Travel Mart hosted by London was upbeat” opined Harikishore.
The Kerala delegation included 12 co-exhibitors from the hospitality segment of the state. The annual event of the WTM, London is feted as one of the premium most travel and tourism events in the world. Over 5,000 exhibitors from 184 countries and different regions attended this year’s WTM.
Kannur in Kerala gets the rare distinction of being the first district in India where every family owns a piece of land.
“It is a historic step. Every family of landless poor in the district is going to get three cents of land for building a house,” Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said while declaring Kannur as India’s first landless-free district.
He urged all states to emulate the example of Kerala in distribution of land, saying it requires “political will and hard decisions”.
The ambitious project has already chalked out the list of beneficiaries who will get state and central government aid to construct houses under Indira Awaas Yojana.
Though the national land reform policy stipulates that every landless person should be provided 10 cents of land to construct a house, that allocation was not possible in Kerala due to shortage of available land in the state.
Considering the tough task for the state administration to spot adequate land, this project becomes a laudable effort, which will indeed make Kerala a role model for other states in the country.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will be on a 9 day trip to India starting November 6, which will also include a stopover in Kerala. The royal guests will start their Kerala tour on Nov 11 with their arrival in Kochi, according to the schedule provided by the British High Commission in New Delhi.
The royal couple will make a visit to the Kerala Folklore Museum and Theatre in Kochi and also watch a demonstration of traditional dance forms of the state. They will next join urban planners and city dignitaries to view the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) marking the participation of Kochi in the Future Cities project. The couple is also scheduled to attend a reception for civic and business leaders hosted by Kerala Governor Nikhil Kumar.
The next day, the royal guests will visit the Vazhachal Forest Range and the elephant corridor and see the elephant conservation measures being adopted. They will also meet the local community and the WWF outreach workers. On Nov 14 Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles will visit the Jewish Synagogue in Kochi where they will meet the community members besides getting a traditional Jewish prayer of blessing. A trip to the Mattancherry Palace Museum will be their last item in their Kerala tour itinerary.
All the major tourist spots in Kerala are likely to come under CCTV surveillance soon. The Police Department will set up a surveillance system in tourist spots across the state and a fund of 2 crore has been sanctioned by the Home Department for this purpose.
CCTV cameras will be installed in 20 tourist spots that are popular among foreign and domestic travelers. These will be connected to the nearest police stations and an advanced patrolling vehicle would also be purchased for the tourist police. This advanced surveillance mechanism is expected to counter the increasing number of crime cases against the tourists.
The installation of CCTV will be taken up in different phases and in the first phase all the important tourist places would be covered. The second phase will ensure CCTV surveillance in all tourist destinations across the length and breadth of Kerala. It is expected that this ambitious project would be completed by March 2014.
Some tourist places like Fort Kochi, Kollam and Mattancherry are already under electronic surveillance and the police could bring to book many culprits using this surveillance mechanism. Apart from enhancing the security cover for the tourists, this mechanism has enabled the police to comb the entire Fort Kochi area from their control room without having to do extensive patrolling.
Unlike many other tourist destinations, Kerala has always been a safe and peaceful destination for tourists. The CCTV surveillance will surely add up to the safety credentials of God’s own country in the days ahead.
It seems that the hotly fought sea -saw game between the pro and the anti liquor campaigners in Kerala is likely to end in a tie. For every step to prevent alcoholism in Kerala, a counter step is being designed to promote drinking! For a cash starved treasury, the revenue of Rs.8841 crores last year from government controlled corporation selling Indian Made Foreign Liquor was something too big.
Now a few enterprising guys have devised a cheeky mobile application named ‘Kuppi’, (which literally means bottle in Malayalam ) that gives you the available liquor brands at BEVCO and its price in a few clicks. The the anti liquour campaigners says that this app violates Act 47 of the Indian Constitution as well as Cable Network (Regulation) Amendment Bill as Act 47, bans the use of intoxicating drinks and drugs for non-medicinal purpose, while the cable network amendment says that mobile being an electronic medium, cannot advertise liquor.
However, the illusive creators of the app who have gone underground following the controversy says that the details on the mobile apps carry only the details that are already available on the BEVCO website and does not promote any specific brand or drinking in general.
Kerala already holds the dubious distinction of being the first State to open an exclusive supermarket for premium brands of liquor so that the rich and the famous can get their favorite brand without having to stand in queue in the roadside outlets. The kick of ‘Kuppi’ is likely to linger on for many days considering the heated debate that it has set off!
Kerala schools will start incorporating lessons on the harmful effects of tobacco in the school curriculum soon. Framing laws alone will not succeed in curbing the surging tobacco use among Keralites unless the younger generation is made aware of the dangers of smoking.
Among a slew of measures to make Kerala tobacco free, school authorities have been asked to ensure that no sale of tobacco occur within 100 yards of schools. Over 250 high school students took the oath to desist from using tobacco products and to dissuade others from using them. On the occasion, documentaries were also screened on tobacco-induced cancer forms.
Kerala has a high smoking prevalence rate than the national average and studies have shown that more than one-third of the male population in Kerala use tobacco products of some form. The average smoking prevalence in Kerala is pegged at 28%, which is higher than the national average of 24%.
The survey further revealed that smokers in Kerala spend nearly 9% of their income on smoking. The steep rise in the number of smokers in the health conscious state of Kerala is attributed to various factors like stress, lifestyle changes and high income. Most youngsters opt for costly cigarette brands and on an average smoke eight to 10 cigarettes a day.
Additional Director of Health Services A.S. Pradeep Kumar said that of the 60 per cent of smokers who wanted to quit the habit, only 2-3 per cent was successful, because of the addictive nature of smoking.
Though there is a smoking ban in public places in Kerala, people often break this law as there is no fool proof surveillance mechanism in place. In the initial days of smoking ban, police were active in penalising the offenders in the bus stops and railway stations. However once the initial zest died down, things recoiled to where it started.
As they say, habits die hard and to put out the raging passion for smoking among Malayalees, the youngsters should be encouraged to play a proactive role in spreading the message of the harmful effects of smoking and its addictive nature!
Kerala has succeeded in guarding its envious health care track record of having the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in India successively for many years now. The latest data released by Registrar General of India shows Kerala has retained the lowest Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in India at 12 per 1000 live births.
Kerala is way ahead of the Indian average of IMR of 42 per 1000 and the health credentials of this tiny South Indian state has earned accolades from far and wide
The committee, headed by the then chief economic advisor Raghuram Rajan (the present RBI governor) was set up by the government amid demand for special category status by Bihar. The report also has suggested a new methodology for devolving funds on states based on a multi dimensional index (MDI) under which the the 28 states can be split into three categories — least developed, less developed and relatively developed — depending upon their MDI. scores.
The index ranges from 0 to 1 with 1 being the most backward and 0 the least backward. Paradoxically, Gujarat, which has grabbed the media headlines for its Gujarat Model of developmental activities in the last decade is also listed among less developed states. It is ranked 12 in terms of development. Based on the MDI scores, the 10 least developed states are Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The report also suggested that each state should get a basic fixed allocation and an additional allocation depending on its development needs and performance. According to these recommendations each state will have a basic allocation of 0.3% of overall funds.
As per the committee’s calculations, Bihar should get 12.04% of the total funds allocated for states by the centre, as against its current share of 7.42% under the total central assistance to state plans and centrally sponsored schemes. Rajasthan should get 8.42% as against 4.79% at present, Odisha 6.53% as against 4.62% amd Madhya Pradesh 9.56% as against 6.91%.Uttar Pradesh will continue to have the largest share of central assistance at 16.41% of total funds, as against 10.09% earlier.
The committee opined that the the fixed allocation of funds and the MDI classification will address the demand of funds from states.
Google search results have unveiled an interesting pattern that put South Indians way ahead than the rest of the country when it comes to online searches on healthy food. From garlic to pomegranate and egg whites, the health conscious south Indians do not seem to get enough of their online health updates.
The highest number of searches were recorded from the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Kerala topped the search results for items such as oats and olive oil and the recent dengue epidemic scare triggered a whopping 250 percent increase in the searches for the popular herbal remedy of the papaya leaves.
Apart from papaya, Pomegranate too topped the search lists of South Indians thanks to its medicinal value and anti-cancerous properties. The highest number of searches for pomegranate came from Tamil Nadu, to be followed by Karnataka.
The netizens of Karnataka searched the most for garlic, green vegetables, oats, sprouts and egg whites. Oats which is thought to be effective in controlling obesity is evolving as a popular breakfast item for South Indians while garlic is favored for its anti viral and anti oxidant properties that can slow down the process of natural aging.
Interestingly , the online community of Kerala was not very keen on other popular health foods such as skimmed milk, turmeric, green vegetables or sprouts unlike the other South Indian states. The highest number of searches for turmeric were from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh while the keyword skimmed milk got the maximum hits from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi and Maharashtra. It is heartening to note that the next generation of Kerala is not leaving anything to chance in health matters, which in turn will go a long way in safeguarding the healthcare credentials of Kerala .
Malayalis have endorsed liquor as their best companion in their happy and sad moments and no celebration can be complete without a peg for any native of Kerala. It is paradoxical to note that Kerala, which takes credit for being one of the most literate States in India also tops the list of the highest per capita liquor consumption in the country. The state-owned Kerala State Beverages Corporation Ltd, the sole distributor of IMFL ( Indian Made Foreign Liquor) records an all time high in its sales during Onam, Christmas and New Year.
Bars in Kerala remain open 7 days a week ( except the 1st of every month and a few red letter days like Gandhi Jayanthi) from 9 am to 9 pm. The moment shutters open, the winding queues start taking shape outside liquor stores. Bars fill the Government coffers as it earns millions of rupees as revenue, which will go up many times during festival seasons like Onam and New Year.
Now that Onam is only a few days away, all the State run BEVCO outlets are fully stocked with all the popular brands of drinks to cater to the revelers who wish to have a kick. Last year, the beverages sale set a record of sorts in Kerala as the alcohol sales touched a record as Kerala consumed liquor worth a staggering Rs 143 crore, which does not include the sale of liquor through private bars.
This year too the Bevco is hopeful of keeping up with its double digit annual rise. Apart from the authorised Bevco outlets and bars attached to hotels, gallons of spurious liquor too will flow to Kerala across the borders to quench the undying thirst for liquor of Malayaless. It seems that when it comes to buying their favorite liquor brands, recession and rupee value depreciation never comes to the mind of Malayalees!