Film producer, director join AIADMKCHENNAI: Film producer and Congress member P. Karuppaiah and director Liyakath Ali Khan met All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary and Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, at her residence on Wednesday and joined the party. A press release said Revenue Minister O. Paneerselvam was also present. Special Correspondent

Salem court acquits Veerapandi ArumugamSALEM: Salem Chief Judicial Magistrate Bhoothanathan on Wednesday acquitted former minister and Salem district Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam secretary Veerapandi S. Arumugam and 11 others from a case in which they were charged with damaging government buses during a procession.

According to the prosecution, the procession on July 7, 2001 to protest the arrest of DMK Chief M. Karunanidhi turned violent. Windowpanes of about 20 government buses were damaged. The Kondalampatti police have registered cases.

After the hearing, the judge acquitted them from the charges on the ground that they had not been proved beyond doubt. Special Correspondent

'More tourists from Asia visit Australia'CHENNAI: The Australian Bureau of Statistics says Asia provided strong growth for Australian tourism. The assessment is based on international visitor arrivals data.

For the year ending December 2005 from the major Asian tourism markets including India, there was an increase of 22 per cent, Korea (18 per cent), Hong Kong (16 per cent), China (13 per cent), Taiwan (12 per cent) and Singapore (6 per cent).

According to Tourism Australia's Regional Manager, Asia, Greig McAllan, the results demonstrated the importance of the Asian region for sustainable growth of Australian tourism. She said 68,000 visitors from India travelled to Australia in 2005, registering an increase of 22 per cent over the last year. Australia received 5.5 million overseas visitors in 2005, with 1.4 million visitors arriving from the key Asian markets of China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Special Correspondent

Appointed UGC memberCHENNAI: Xavier Alphonse, director, Madras Centre for Research and Development of Community Education, has been appointed Member, University Grants Commission, for three years, says a notification. Special Correspondent

FICCI workshopCHENNAI: A day-long conference to analyse current trends and take stock of the potential of the outsourcing business will be organised here next Tuesday by the State council of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

Deliberations at the conference on Outsourcing business processes and services - a win-win situation,' will focus on different segments of the BPO industry, including technical and organisational issues. Governor Surjit Singh Barnala will inaugurate the conference. Those interested in participatingcan contact FICCI's Tamil Nadu secretariat on 42326330/42636331. E-mail: Staff Reporter

House burgledSIVAKASI: Unidentified persons broke into the house of a trader P. Selvam (41) and decamped with 30 sovereigns of jewels at Iyyappan Colony here on Tuesday.

The police said the inmates of the house were away on Tuesday. On return, they found valuables missing. Culprits gained entry into the house by breaking open the door.

Woman dies in road accidentRAJAPALAYAM: S. Muniyamal (38), a member of a self-help group, who met with a road accident near Tindivanam on Monday, died here on Tuesday.

The police said members of a few SHGs from Thambipatti had proceeded to Chennai to meet the Chief Minister to seek free group houses for them. On their way, one of the vans in which they were travelling met with an accident. On return, four of them were admitted to the Watrap Government Hospital. Muniyammal, who was referred to Government Hospital in Madurai, got admitted to a private hospital, where she died.

Bank employees strike workVIRUDHUNAGAR: Banking transactions were partially affected in nine branches of Union Bank of India in the district as over 50 per cent of employees struck work protesting against privatisation of the bank on Wednesday.

Thirty-three members, including four women, attached to All India Union Bank Employees' Association, stayed away from work.

16-year jail term for double murderTuticorin: The Principal District Judge S. Solaimalai on Wednesday sentenced Ayyappan (33) to 16 years of imprisonment for murdering two persons at Tiruchendur in 2003. The accused first murdered his sister-in-law Sitalakshmi (35) and ran away from the house on December 16, 2003. A neighbour of the deceased, Anand (26), who happened to witness the incident, tried to stop him. When he realized that he would be caught, Ayyppan threw a stone at Anand and fled. Anand was admitted to Tirunelveli Medical College and Hospital, where he died the next day.

Inspector diesTuticorin: U. Shanmugasamy (53) of Maniyachi in Tuticorin district and Inspector posted at Eppodumvendran police station died here on Wednesday. He was admitted to a private hospital on January 10 this year and was undergoing treatment for some prolonged illness.

Woman commits suicideNagercoil: A housewife committed suicide on Wednesday. According to police, Rajalakshmi alias Bama (26) of Padmanabhapuram who married Senthil Prasad (30) of Vadiweeswaram near here five months ago, committed self-immolation.

Fast observedTuticorin: About 90 cadres of Democratic Progressive Alliance observed a fast at Vallanad near here on Wednesday, urging the authorities to allow a halt for point-to-point' buses plying between Tuticorin and Tirunelveli at Vallanad.

Bank service hitVIRUDHUNAGAR: Banking transactions were partially affected in nine branches of Union Bank of India in the district as over 50 per cent of employees struck work protesting against privatisation of the bank on Wednesday.

Farmers' grievances day meetingTIRUCHI: Farmers' grievances day meeting will be held at the Conference Hall at the Collectorate here at 10 a.m. on Friday.

An official release issued here on Friday said that farmers in need of governmental assistance can participate in the meeting and submit their petitions. Staff Reporter.

Norms revisedTIRUCHI: The norms on eligibility for free power supply under the One hut-one lamp' scheme in panchayats and special grade village panchayats have been revised.

In a release issued here on Tuesday, V. Kalaivanan, Superintending Engineer, Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, Tiruchi, said all thatched huts each with an area of 250 sq. ft would be covered under the programme, against the previous norms of 200 sq. ft. The norms on the type of the ceiling materials have also been modified. Huts with tiled ceiling or asbestos or metallic sheets would also be covered under the programme.

Further, residents of group houses constructed under government-sponsored programmes were also eligible for the scheme. Eligible persons can get application forms from the divisional offices of the TNEB on or before February 28, the release added. Staff Reporter.

Free medical campTIRUCHI: A total of 177 patients were screened at a free medical camp held at Nagamangalam near here recently under the joint auspices of the Tennur branch of State Bank of India and the non-governmental organisations, Worth Trust, HEED and Sharon.

The branch manager, M. Kannan, and industrialist, Johnwesli, spoke. Staff Reporter.

Mettur levelTIRUCHI: The level at the Mettur dam stood at 112.33 feet on Wednesday. The inflow was 810 cusecs, and the outflow 1,000 cusecs. Staff Reporter.

DrownsERODE: A 12-year-old boy drowned in the Kalingarayan canal. According to the police, Ranjithkumar, son of Jaikumar of Periyavalasyu here, went to the canal in Periya Agraharam area. While having bath, he fell into the canal and drowned.

On information, the Fire and Rescue Service personnel rushed to spot and recovered body. - Staff Reporter

Body foundERODE: A Plus Two student is alleged to have committed suicide here on Tuesday. According to the police, Yuvaraj, son of Thangavel of Vellottamparappu, was studying in the Government Higher Secondary School at Ganapathypalayam. Two days back, he left the school before time. On Tuesday, one of the schoolteachers scolded him and asked him to bring his parents. Meanwhile, his body was found floating in a pond near the school on the night. Recovering the body, the Malayampalayam police registered a case of suicide. Learning about Yuvaraj's death, the school students boycotted classes and a holiday was declared to the school on Wednesday. The students pleaded the police to take action against the teacher who reprimanded Yuvaraj.

DemonstrationSALEM: Members of the Salem Region Construction Workers Association staged a demonstration here on Wednesday demanding the Government to take steps to abolish bonded labour in the construction industry.

Todas' pleaUdhagamandalam: The need to look into land-related problems of the Todas was stressed by the Toda Youth Forum of Muthanad. In a memorandum to the Central Government, the secretary of the Forum M. Thaikis Kuttan pointed out that the lands allotted to the Todas several decades ago by the then Government of Madras was entrusted to the Forest Department for maintenance. Alleging that without consulting the Todas the Department planted eucalyptus and wattle trees, he regretted that they were not being cleared despite repeated representation.

- Special Correspondent

Man held under Passport ActCoimbatore: Rajan (46) of Palakkad employed as helper in Sharjah was arrested at the airport here on Wednesday evening.

Police and Immigration officials took him into custody following discrepancies in the address mentioned in the passport and travel document.

According to the police, Rajan was asked to provide relevant documents when he arrived at Coimbatore on February 9. However, he failed to provide the documents but attempted to travel back to Sharjah with the passport having discrepancies in the address. Investigation is on.

- Staff Reporter

Grievances day meetingCoimbatore: The grievances day meeting for farmers in Coimbatore Revenue Division will be held at the Office of the Revenue Divisional Officer on February 16 at 11 a.m. - Staff Reporter

Training programme for supervisorsCoimbatore: MASS Consultancy Service dealing with placement and training workforce for spinning and weaving mills is organising a two-day training programme for spinning mill supervisors at Hotel CAG Pride on February 17 and 18.

- Staff Reporter

AlapanaCoimbatore:Alapana music concert will be at GKD Auditorium of the GKNM Hospital on February 19 at 6 p.m. R. Suryaprakash will be the vocalist with Pakala Ramdas on violin, Melakkavery K. Balaji on Mridangam and H. Sivaramakrishnan on Ghatam. - Staff Reporter

Fantabulous 06'Coimbatore: Nehru Arts and Science College, TM Palayam, is organising the South Zone Inter-Collegiate Cultural Extravaganza 'Fantabulous 06' on February 17. - Staff Reporter

DemandSALEM: Members of the Salem Region Construction Workers Association staged a demonstration here on Wednesday demanding the State Government to initiate measures to abolish bonded labour in the construction industry. - Staff Reporter

Man heldSALEM: The Hasthampatti police arrested a person here on Wednesday on charges of stealing lenses from a theatre. The police said Kanagaraj of Chinnatirupathi, a former employee of the theatre, reportedly stole projector lenses worth Rs. 30,000.

It was retrieved from him.

- Staff Reporter

Teachers block road; 22 arrestedNAMAKKAL: Computer teachers of various Government Higher Secondary Schools blocked road here on Wednesday demanding that the State Government regularise their jobs and disburse salary to them.

The Namakkal police arrested 22 teachers and released them later. The traffic was affected. - Staff Reporter