Nipah Virus Outbreak in Kerala: Study

A comprehensive study on the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala has found that only the index case was infected in the community from fruit bats, but all other remaining cases were due to the transmission of the virus in three hospitals in Kozhikode district.

The research report, titled ‘Outbreak Investigation of Nipah Virus Disease in Kerala’, was recently published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, brought out by Infectious Diseases Society of America. The study, done by Dr G Arunkumar of Manipal Centre for Virus Research, was supported by the Indian Council of Medical Research under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The outbreak of the Nipah virus, a highly fatal emerging zoonotic virus, was reported in Kozhikode district during May-June this year. There had been 23 suspected cases of the disease. However, the laboratory could only confirm 18 cases, apart from the index case.

The outbreak had 17 reported deaths. The samples of the index case, 27-year-old Muhammed Sabith, were not sent for testing for Nipah virus.

The report said the fatality rate of outbreak in Kozhikode was 91 per cent. The WHO has put the fatality rate of Nipah in the estimated range between 40 to 75 per cent. The report said the human-to-human transmission pattern of Nipah is consistent with that of two earlier outbreaks in West Bengal – Siliguri (2001) and Nadia (2007). It says, “Only the index case was infected in the community. All remaining cases were due to nosocomial (taking place in a hospital or acquired in a hospital) transmission in 3 different hospitals.”

When contacted, Dr Arunkumar said, “The transmission of Nipah in Kerala called for effective implementation of infection control mechanism in hospitals in the state. All hospitals should be made to strictly follow an infectious control practices…”

He said the chances of another outbreak of Nipah in Kerala is rare.

Devotees Turnout At Sabarimala Tumbled Down by 50% This Year Following Rift

Sabarimala temple witnessed a fall of 50% in the number of devotees this year following the ruckus- embroiling in retaliation to Supreme Court’s accented to women’s entry into the hill shrine-  in the state.

The opposition parties and the right-wing Hindu organisations in Kerala have been dubbing the attempt by the Communist-led government to hastily execute the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple as part of a larger game plan to implement the ruling party’s atheist agenda in the famed temple.

Though the state government has vowed that it will not interfere with the belief of the devotees, the steps it took to facilitate the entry of women in the age group of 10 and 50 in the temple in accordance with the apex court verdict and the widespread protests it has triggered seems to have ironically led to a steep fall in the arrival of devotees at the hill shrine.

The temple has witnessed a 50 percent dip in the number of pilgrims since the court verdict. According to sources in the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which administers the temple, only about 90,000 devotees have visited the shrine since it was opened on 16 November for the two-month Mandalakala Makaravillakku festival season.

Leaders of Ayyappa devotee organisations see the steep fall in the number of pilgrims visiting the shrine following the Supreme Court verdict as a result of the government action as well as the protests against them.

Rahul Easwar, president of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena, said that the heavy deployment of police personnel at Sabarimala and the restrictions the police have imposed on the devotees and the rituals had created fear in the minds of the pilgrims.

Easwar said that the hartal called on Saturday and the road block on Sunday in the wake of the arrests of Hindu Aikya Vedi president P K Sasikala and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary K Surendran had confounded the fear among the devotees.

“I am confident that Supreme Court will accept the TDB plea since it is a quasi-judicial body. Normalcy would return to Sabarimala if the court defers implementation of the order till the conclusion of the pilgrim season,” said the Ayyappaa Dharma Sena leader, who was arrested for allegedly fomenting trouble at the hill shrine.

‘Mandala Makkaravillakku’ of Sabarimala to Set Soon; Will Women Get Waiver for Entry?

The grand meeting beckoned by Kerala Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan witness BJP and Congress backing out in the middle of the event. Entry of menstruating women in the Sabarimala temple was the focal point of the discussions that were hels on Thursday.

The two-month long annual ‘Mandala Makkaravillakku’ or the pilgrimage season, set to start on November 17.

“We have to see if particular days can be fixed for women…this needs to be discussed. The Supreme Court clearly said that the September 28 verdict stands and that means women should be allowed. The state government can not take any stand against this verdict, though we respect the feelings of the devotees,” said the Chief Minister after the two opposition parties walked out of the meeting.

The Chief Minister’s stand is “unacceptable and he is behaving like Stalin,” state BJP chief notified, while Ramesh Chennithala, the Congress opposition leader said, “This is very unfortunate. It’s for the first time that opposition’s advice has not been taken.”

The political stand-off over Sabarimala comes amid sparring of activists over the past few days. Nearly 500 young women have registered on the website of the Kerala police, for darshan, over the last one week.

Activist Trupti Desai, who had written to the Chief Minister, seeking security for her visit to Sabrimala on Saturday said, “I have not received any response from the Kerala government. If any incident occurs, it’s the responsibility of the Chief Minister and police chief.” Rival activist Rahul Eashwar, who is opposed to entry of women in 10 to 50 age groups, promised to fight Ms Desai tooth-and-nail to prevent her from entering the shrine.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan earlier accused the BJP and the RSS of conspiring to create trouble at Sabarimala. “The odious politics and perfidious ways of the BJP stand exposed. Evidence has surfaced that BJP leaders in the state connived to create trouble,” Mr Vijayan said on November 9.

Last week both the BJP and the Congress hit the streets in Kerala protesting the Supreme Court’s order, lifting ban on girls and women in 10 to 50 age groups, from entering the temple. While the BJP took out a rath yatra called ‘Save Sabarimala Campaign’, the Congress organized padyatras across the state, starting from five locations.

As many as 3,505 protesters have been arrested and around 529 cases were registered in connection with a series of incidents of violence in the state after the opening of the temple gate in October.

Sabarimala Chaos- Media Personnel Attacked

Protests again went rogue in the midst of the puja when the reports of a woman devotee, suspected to be in the menstrual age, trying to enter the temple. Protesters launched violent attacks on police personnel stationed in and around the temple.

During the clash the media officials were sagged as the protests turned violent. Those protesting claim that a female devotee trying to enter the shrine was under 50 years of age, while the police maintain that she was well over 52 years. In the clashes that followed, News18’s camera crew was pushed around.

The Sabarimala shrine opened yesterday for the second time in three weeks for a two-day special puja amid unprecedented security over fear of protests by those opposing the Supreme Court’s order allowing women of all age groups into the temple.

It is set to open again on Tuesday for the “Sree Chitira Atta Thirunal” puja to mark the birth anniversary of the last king of the princely state of Travancore Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma.

Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court has said that pilgrims should not be harassed under the guise of implementing the Supreme Court judgment.

“You can’t cause hardships to pilgrims,” the court said while hearing a petition seeking its direction to the government not to interfere with day-to-day affairs of the shrine.

The doors of Sabarimala had opened for six days on October 17 but no female devotee has been able to make it to its hallowed precincts amid a welter of protests and violent clashes.

Valiant attempts by around a dozen women, including activists and journalists in the 10-50 years age group, to script history came to nought as frenzied devotees of Lord Ayyappa heckled and hassled forcing them to retreat.

2,300 Personnel, 20-member commando team Deployed Ahead of Sabarimala Temple Reopening

The violent protests for prohibiting the entry of women in Sabarimala temple have rocked the state of Kerala with terror following the temple’s royal family Pandalam’s criticism of Supreme court’s verdict allowing women’s entry into the shrine.

2,300 personnel, including a 20-member commando team and 100 women, have been positioned in and out of the temple premises to prevent ruckus in the way.

The shrine will reopen today for a special puja.

The authorities added that if necessary, around 30 women police personnel in the rank of circle inspector and sub-inspector and above the age of 50 would be deployed at ‘Sannidhanam’ (temple complex) for security.

This is the second time the hill temple will open for ‘darshan’ after the Supreme Court allowed entry of women of all age groups into it.

Frenzied protests had rocked the temple last month and around a dozen women in the age group of 10-50 were prevented from reaching the shrine as protesting devotees sought to “protect” their customs and beliefs.

The situation led to a pitched battle between police and the agitators as thousands took to the streets against the decision of the LDF government to implement the court orders.

The shrine will open at 5pm for the “Sree Chitira Atta Thirunal” special puja slated for the next day, marking the birthday of last king of Travancore Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, and close at 10pm on that day.

Dismissing reports that media was being restrained from going to Sabarimala, Kerala Director General of Police Loknath Behara said there was no bar on entry of journalists.

The Pandalam royal family, closely associated with the Ayyappa shrine, said it was “pained” at the heavy security in and around Sabarimala.

“Saddened that devotees will have to offer prayers at the shrine amid thick police cover,” it said.

Protesting the apex court verdict, a ‘prayer yagna’ will be held, the family said.

Meanwhile, the Sabarimala Karma Samiti, a platform of right-wing outfits, including VHP, appealed to media houses not to depute women journalists in the menstrual age group to cover the developments in Sabarimala.

In its letter to editors, a copy of which was released to the media, it said even the entry of women journalists belonging to this age group as part of their job was also likely to aggravate the situation.

The samiti alleged that even though the Supreme Court has decided to hear the review and writ petitions on the issue on November 13, the state government was intentionally ignoring the “mass movement” against the judgment and was trying to “hastily” enforce it using police force.

“In such a situation, the devotees are left with no other choice but to continue with the peaceful agitation,” it said.

Activist Rahul Easwar, president of Ayyappa Dharma Sena that is among the outfits spearheading the protests, in a video message said, “Like police, we are also fully prepared”.

Easwar, belonging to the Thazhamon family of Sabarimala thantris, was arrested twice last month in connection with the protests in and and around Sabarimala against the government’s decision to implement the court verdict and also for making certain remarks and is out on bail.

Infant Mortality Rate Went Down for Kerala

The 5th National Summit on “Good and Replicable Practices and Innovations in Public Health Care Systems in India” Union health minister J.P Nadda felicitated kerala for achieving the highest annual decline in infant mortality rate followed by Mizoram and Karnataka

During the summit which is being held in Assam, Health ministry released a report ‘Healthy States, Progressive India’ which ranked Kerala on the top of the hierarchy in terms of health. The report aims at ranking states and UTs on improvements in common health meters.

While Himachal Pradesh stood first for the highest annual decline in Neonatal Mortality Rate 2015 vs 2016, Tamil Nadu and Delhi were ranked second and third respectively.

West Bengal was declared the best state in Family Planning category while Chattisgarh and Rajasthan were ranked second and third respectively.

Himachal Pradesh again was ranked the best state for highest annual decline in Under 5 Mortality followed by both Assam and Jharkhand in second position and Gujarat and Kerala in third rank.

For best performance in Revised National TB Control Program (RNTCP) Andhra Pradesh Gujarat and Arunachal Pradesh were declared top states.

Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were ranked as best performance states in National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS).

Speaking at the event, Nadda said the government is focused on promoting innovative approaches.

“The govt believes in cooperative federalism. The Health Ministry stands with the states. While the ownership is that of the states, we are ready to lend all technical and financial support. The essence of co-operative federalism lies not in decentralization alone but also in sharing and learning from each other,” he stated.

A Strict NO to Women’s Entry in Sabarimala; Journalist Suhasini Raj Was Stopped Midway

Ostensibly Journalist Suhasini Raj climbed the temple part way when she was stopped from heading forth. Raj was entering the temple to cover the story when 15-member-strong group of protesters from Ayyappa Dharma Sena and the Vishwa Hindu Parsidhad at Appachimedu near Marakkoottam began shouting at her.

The crowd swelled and continued heckling her as she continued up the hill and approached Marakkoottam, effectively forcing Suhasini, clad in a purple and red kurta with hair tightly pulled back, to decide to stop proceeding any further on the trek to the temple. She has currently just returned from Marakkootam to Pampa accompanied by policemen.

The New York Times journalist reportedly told protesters gathered at the base of the hill that she was 50 years old, but they remained suspicious and understood at some point along her journey that she was below the age of 50.

Marakkoottam is a place where the two routes to the shrine intersect. Pilgrims need to trek a few kilometres from here to reach the shrine.

A male journalist from Asianet present at the site reports that protesters who spotted Suhasini were chanting “Swami Ayyappa” and then hurling abuses at her in practically the same breath. Protesters also formed a human wall or chain to prevent her from proceeding further, while a group fifty policemen watched helpless.

Kamalesh from Asianet who had covered Suhasini’s journey told the channel, “The devotees were shouting at the police for bringing her, they were shouting at us for covering it. They were very abusive and finally a large crowd gathered on the path below her. This is when her male counterpart said it wasn’t safe to go further. People shouted at her even as she was going down. I believe that one of her parents is a Malayali.”

The police reportedly did offer to accompany Suhasini to Sannidhanam but a friend or colleague accompanying her, clad in a light brown shirt, who does not appear to be Indian or of Indian origin, reportedly said that there was no point in climbing the hill in such circumstances, and the two decided not to undertake the risk and to descend the hill instead. Suhasini later told the media that she did not wish to hurt anyone’s sentiments.

Suhasini Raj is currently the only woman between 10 and 50 years who has made it to the furthest up Sabarimala Hill. The other woman between 10 and 50 who attempted to climb the hill on Wednesday, Andhra Pradesh native Madhavi, did not manage to ascend as far up the hill as Suhasini has.

Suhasini is currently at the Pamba police station with top police officers.

Clouds of Uncertainty Swirls Around Sabarimala Temple

The march in the Kerala ended but uncertainty swathed the state as the temple is set to open on Thursday for the pooja.

The bone of contention between the state government of Kerala and Travancore Devaswom Board over the Supreme court verdict on September 28 lifting the ban on women of all ages to enter in the hill top shrine, is hoarsing day by day as the temple opens for monthly poojas on Thursday, the first time since the Supreme Court verdict.

While the State government reiterates its constitutional obligation to implement the verdict, the Travancore Devaswom Board opened a channel for parleys with the erstwhile royal family of Pandalam, members of the ‘Tantri’ (chief priest) family and organisations such as the Ayyappa Seva Sanghom and the Ayyappa Seva Samajam on Tuesday in a bid to evolve a consensus.

If the board and the agitators stick to their stated positions — to implement the verdict, on one side, and to retain the tradition by preventing the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years to the temple respectively — the talks may not yield a positive outcome.

Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) president A. Padmakumar said the primary task of the board is to conserve the tradition and rituals of the temple.

The Pandalam Palace as well as the Ayyappa Seva Sanghom and such others who focus on the service of the pilgrims have reiterated that they would not foment trouble. But women from different parts of the State collectively and individually have expressed their resolve to have `darshan’ and if the Sangh Parivar organisations decide to block them at Nilakkal, the base camp, it would lead to a commotion.

A long march taken out by the National Democratic Alliance from Pandalam concluded here on Monday is mostly seen as a bid to gain political mileage from the issue.

Though the BJP leaders had been reiterating that the party would not resort to violence in the name of the issue, any bid by Sangh Parivar organisations to stop women pilgrims would definitely lead to a showdown. Also the issue would come in handy for the BJP as well as the Congress-led United Democratic Front to lash the Left Democratic Front government.

The BJP leaders would soon meet to discuss the future course of action and that means it would sustain the tempo till the eve of the Lok Sabha elections due early next year. The government has clarified that it would offer protection to all pilgrims, including women and also that it is committed to protecting the ritualistic tradition of Sabarimala and other places of worship.

Nambi Narayanan Acquitted from Spy Case; Appealed for Prosecution of Police

After getting clean chit from the Supreme Court I ISRO Espionage Scandal, former space scientist urged for the prosecution of the police officer for falsely framing him into the case.

Charges of leaking highly confidential “flight test data” from experiments with rocket and satellite launches to Maldivian intelligence officers were levelled against him in 1994.

The Supreme Court on Friday, 14 September, announced Narayanan’s acquittal from the spy scandal and granted Rs 50 lakh compensation to Narayanan for being falsely indicted.

Apart from the Rs 50 lakh compensation, the apex court also ordered setting up a constitutional committee headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice DK Jain to look into the role of the police in framing the false charges against the ISRO scientist.

Narayanan had approached the Supreme Court after a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court refused his request to launch proceedings against the police. Narayanan accused Intelligence Bureau and Kerala Police of torturing him to extract information.

Later, when Narayanan approached the National Human Rights Commission, the NHRC awarded him a compensation of Rs 10 lakh in March 2001 after hearing both sides and taking the apex court’s judgment into account. The Kerala Government had tried to challenge this enhanced compensation, but had lost their cases.