News Flash – 13 July 2017

National News

 

 

18 Mumbaikars die of TB every day, says study by NGO

 

 

MUMBAI: Not only do 18 Mumbaikars die of tuberculosis (TB) every day, the number of Mumbaikars dropping out of rigorous TB treatment increased from 9% in 2012 to 19% in 2016-17, said new data released by NGO Praja on Wednesday. However, civic officials dismissed the NGO’s analysis. “A health programme cannot be analysed based on some data randomly gathered using RTI,” said civic TB officer Dr. Daksha Shah. In fact, the BMC public health department had, in its RTI reply, asked Praja to analyse the data with Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) officials. Praja officials were adamant. “There is clearly something wrong with BMC’s TB control programme,” said Praja’s Milind Mhaske. “There has been a sharp drop in the number of people signing up with the RNTCP for treatment. This shows people prefer to go to the private sector for treatment. Moreover, the drop-out rate in the government programme has increased from 9% in 2012 to 19% in 2016,” he added. Praja brings out a health report every year, analyzing data gathered from BMC’s health department using RTI. It uses information mentioned in death certificates to calculate the toll due to various diseases – a step the BMC has been opposed to because its officials say death certificates are not scientifically filled out (BMC is in the process of conducting educational programmes for doctors on how to fill a death certificate in accordance with World Health Organisation norms).

 

At a press conference held on Wednesday, Mhaske said, “Mumbai’s health budget for 2017-18 was Rs 3,312 crore. This is only marginally lower than the entire budget for Thane Municipal Corporation (Rs 3,390 crore). Yet, there is a lot more that needs to be done”. BMC officials said the data was “unscientifically” put together. A senior BMC official on Wednesday said Praja sought data about “new registrations” in 2016 from the BMC. “We replied that new registrations are 15,767. Now, TB treatment stretches from six months to three years, leading to some patients continuing treatment for years,” said the official. Praja should have ideally asked for the total number of patients under treatment in a particular year. Dr. Shah added Praja data possibly has a lot of duplication as it had collated data from dispensaries, hospitals as well as the public health department. She added the BMC had done an analysis of the number of defaulters. “Around 30% of the defaulters’ list is made up of migrants who return home as soon as they feel better. The second major group is alcoholics,” said Dr. Shah.

 

 

Dengue mosquitoes breeding found in 39 government institutions, schools in north Delhi

 

 

NEW DELHI: Elaborate awareness campaigns against mosquito breeding to check dengue and chikungunya cases seem to hold no meaning for many government institutions. Breeding of aedes mosquito (responsible for spreading of dengue and chikungunya) has been found in 39 government institutions located under North Delhi Municipal Corporation in the last three months. During an inspection, in the last three months, aedes breeding was found in railway stations, residential complexes in hospitals, canteen of Delhi Jal Board, DMRC project manager office, CISF unit, PWD local office besides schools and even in one local office of the civic body. Being interest of the public and frequented by many every day, vector-borne diseases from such places can spread faster. A report from North Corporation said that aedes breeding was detected at PWD office at Outer Ring Road, Lawrence Road, Hindu Rao Hospital’s nursing hostel, DAV Public School, Samaypur Badli, Sarvodaya Vidalaya at New Police Line and Badli Station in Civil Lines zone.

 

The breeding was reported from the office of BSEB in Motiya Khan, premises of National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Pusa Campus, CISF unit under DMRC Inder Lok metro station under Karol Bagh zone. In Rohini zone the breeding was found in the civic body’s office in Paschim Vihar, CRPF school in Rohini, DTC depot Rohini among other places in Rohini zone. “Challan was issued against the caretakers of the premises. Now they will have to report to the municipal magistrates who will decide how much fine should be taken from them,” said North Corporation spokesperson Yogender Singh Maan. In most of these places stagnant water was found in abandoned containers, water coolers, fire buckets, uncovered drums and flower pots. The carelessness of the authorities coinciding with hectic awareness campaign the civic body has launched makes a mockery of the corporation’s efforts and exposes the visitors to health hazards.

 

 

Gridlock Hackathon sparks smart solutions to traffic woes

 

 

Bengaluru: In 2015, he first started offering free rides on his bike, stuck a sticker on his helmet reading ‘Free ride from JP Nagar from/to Bellandur’ and rode to his workplace daily. But there were no takers. So Vaidyanathan S, a young software engineer from Flipkart, began to research how he could improve on his experiment on ride-sharing. On Saturday, his idea By2Rides bagged the first runner-up award in Flipkart’s Gridlock Hackathon. “During my experiments on the ground, I faced typical behaviour where the ride seeker would treat the owner of the vehicle offering the ride as a driver for a small fee. But By2Rides is a complete Inverse-Uber model for carpooling. Keeping ride-sharing free for both parties makes things simple,” he says. He has already started testing his model at Cessna Business Park on Outer Ring Road, where he offers rides to employees working within a tech park. And his solution through By2Rides is the same for all tech enclaves in the city. Flipkart’s Gridlock Hackathon was floated a month ago, aiming to crowdsource solutions from citizens on traffic with the use of technology platforms. The jury — Binny Bansal, group CEO, Flipkart, Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO of Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) and Abhishek Goyal, DCP, Traffic (East) — selected three solutions put forward by 1,000 teams, totaling 3,000 entries. The e-tailer will form a committee with NBF to take these solutions forward, offer office space every month for the committee to meet and work with the government with the help of NBF, and offer technical guidance to the teams.

 

The winner of the contest, Affine Anonymous, pitched an idea to digitize the city’s traffic signals. “The idea is to put artificial intelligence into traffic lights — it should be on-demand. The light should turn green for the road with the longer traffic pileup, and this does not require major investment. Data on traffic at every signal is available on Google Maps and Bing maps, we just have to feed this into a platform and run the traffic lights accordingly,” said Supradeep Das, manager at Affine Analytics, a data analytics firm. This company undertook a pilot at Silk Board Junction and found that wait time reduced by 17% by this process. Eurus, the third team, intends to develop a Road Smoothness Detector, which will be app-based and collects data on potholes, road humps and bad road conditions from users of the app. The idea is to develop a qualitative analysis of roads that is vital to know for government authorities to work upon. Bengaluru has the potential to become a truly world-class business and social destination, if only its traffic was less unruly. The city is fast becoming infamous for its gridlock traffic. Any solution, however, can only have an impact if it originates from and has the support of citizens, the people who use the city’s roads and contribute to the traffic problem to begin with.

 

 

TIMES VIEW: With the civic and traffic authorities almost having given up on Bengaluru’s infamous traffic, it is now left to private players to come up with tech solutions to the gridlock. Flipkart’s initiative to open up their Hackathon to the public for a crowdsourcing solution, in the hope that it throws up smart solutions, deserves to be appreciated. The best solutions must now be taken forward by the civic authorities. Bengaluru’s talent pool of techies, who no doubt experience the gridlock on a daily basis, could give this practical experiment their best shot.

 

 

Traffic nightmare in Delhi as heavy rains choke roads

 

 

New Delhi: Driving on the city roads became a nightmare as heavy rains on Tuesday washed away the government’s tall promises on tackling waterlogging during the monsoon. Traffic moved at a snail’s pace as the civic bodies struggled to pump out the excess water. The situation became so bad that travelling five kilometres on Ring Road in south Delhi took more than one and a half hours against the usual 15 minutes. The knee-deep ‘pools’ caused several vehicles to break down on crucial stretches, leading to more chaos and stubborn gridlocks. Exactly a month ago, a pre-monsoon shower had choked the capital for hours. The rains, that started in the afternoon and continued intermittently throughout the day, resulted in choking almost all low-lying areas in south Delhi, including parts of Mehrauli, Govindpuri, Chittaranjan Park, Greater Kailash, Adchini and Malviya Nagar. According to a traffic police estimate, the average speed of the city traffic was reduced to 10kmph for more than four hours in the evening.

 

The worst stretches between 6pm and 10pm were Chirag Dilli, Nehru Place, Modi Mill, Dhaula Kuan and ITO that cater to the maximum volume of traffic. Police officers said even stretches like Chanakyapuri, Shanti Path, Tughlaq Road and Teen Murti Marg, considered free-moving, were choked. Traffic police sources said that apart from the 166 usual choke points, 25 new stretches have been identified in the past one month. Police officers said reminders about taking corrective actions on these stretches were also sent to the civic bodies. In some cases, the police themselves had pointed out the engineering problems on these stretches that could have been rectified. However, apart from desilting some drains, nothing much had changed, said sources. Police officers blamed bad maintenance of roads and poor drainage network for the waterlogging and the resultant chaos. Even an ankle-deep puddle near Sarai Kale Khan caused a jam for kilometres. Delhiites vented out their anger on the traffic police website. According to police officers, they have formed teams to click photographs of the worst affected stretches and bring it up for discussions with civic agency officials.

 

 

Denied Metro access, groups in the Old City launch protest

 

 

CHARMINAR: Fearing that the people of Old City will not be able to access the Metro, after the area was left out of the initial rollout plans, citizen groups have launched protests. While it has drawn flak from all corners of the Old City, the All India Muslim Sangam (AIMS), accused the MIM of not being sincere to the people of their constituency and also alleged that they want to keep the city backward and that they are playing vote-bank politics. The members of AIMS believe that travel will become very difficult for the Old City residents, who just depend on public transport for their daily commute. They also said that the roads in Badi Choudi and Sultan Bazaar were narrower than those in the Old City. They also raised the issue of widening the road for the six kilometres stretch from MGBS to Falaknuma, stating that most of the properties are old and need to be demolished and reconstructed. They added that the owners will be willing to hand over properties at a reasonable amount. In a statement, the AIMS stated that if the metro project is not begun by August 2017, it will lapse. The Old City will not be able to get connected to the rest of the city by metro rail. According to HMRL, the project is progressing at a brisk pace. It is expected to finish in a few months, except the 6 km stretch from MGBS to Falaknuma. Owaisi however had lashed out at L&T and HMRL on Twitter for changing the original alignment which was supposed to pass through Salar Jung Museum, Charminal, Shalibanda, Shamnseergunj, Jungampet and end at Falaknuma after MGBS.

 

 

Family asked to vacate home, first time in 3 centuries

The 300-year-old building.

 

 

Kolkata: They were among the first few Indian families to start living in the British settlement around old Fort William (Now GPO). The white town — as the European settlement was called then — stretched from Tank Square (Dalhousie) to Armenian Street. The family battled many odds to hold on to their property for the last three centuries. But on July 15, the Rohtagis will have to leave their ancestral home, albeit temporarily, to facilitate the tunnel boring for East-West Metro. Rohtagi is a worried man sitting behind his big secretarial table. “It is a very old house. I am anxious about the health of the house after the passage of the TBM,” said Prabhat Kumar Rohtagi, one of the many residents at 44 and 45 Armenian Street. The Rohtagi family, now scattered all over the world, gets united at this ancestral house only during family weddings. “Our wealthy forefathers, who came from Patna, became the banker for British East India Company. One of my forefathers bought this house — then a single-storied building — from an Armenian gentleman. My forefathers then added floors to it,” said Rohtagi added. According to him, the building has become “a white elephant” to maintain. “The rent I get is meagre. But the new tax regime would charge me on the basis of area I occupy. It would be very difficult for people like us to retain their ancestral property the way we have done so far,” he rued.

 

 

TGIF for hungry and homeless, Chennai woman opens doors to them

 

 

CHENNAI: On nights that are party time for most people. Jennifer Jacob has decided to Thank God It’s Friday by throwing open her home and heart to anyone who is game for a homely meal, laughter and fun. “Anybody who wants a change from their daily routine and is up for a few giggles and a nice meal can drop into my home on a Friday evening,” says Jennifer, who plans to launch her ‘Friday Friends’ programme this week. It was a video she viewed on social media that inspired her. “It was about a woman who had fought her depression. She had just had a nasty divorce, was a single mom and depressed. Though she wanted to overcome it by volunteering, nobody took her up on it,” says Jennifer. “So, the woman, who was living on food stamps, realised that the only thing she could do was cook a great meal on a shoestring budget. She mailed all her friends in the area and told her home was open on a particular day of the week and asked them to join her family for a meal. It helped her fight depression and also helped a lot of other people”. Jennifer was so moved by the idea that she thought of throwing open her own doors to people. “I am not a counsellor, but I can be there if someone wants a listening ear, a few giggles and a nice meal,” says Jennifer, who lives on East Coast Road.

 

So whether you need to talk about your break up, are an elderly parent away from your children or just a friend who lost touch, Jennifer and her family husband Murali Anand, her furkids (dogs) and little humanoid (her three-year-old daughter) is there for you. “I know elderly people whose children are overseas who would probably enjoy the company of a young child and family. We can probably be their family for a meal,” says Jennifer. All you need to do is give her a ring before Thursday so she can grab groceries. “And don’t expect anything fancy. I will serve anything that I cook for my own family,” she says. Being an animal lover, it will be all vegetarian, though she can customize the meal to be completely vegan. The few conditions she does have are simple she can only host a maximum of four people at a time, and her doggies run free. “They are part of our family and very friendly, though they are a little attention-seeking and you may find yourself having to pet them,” she laughs. Though she is planning to kick-start the initiative by reaching out to people she knows, she is not just looking to reconnect with friends. “Anyone is welcome, even if you want to vent about your awful boss,” she says, adding that the conversations will obviously be between just the ‘Friday Friends’!. Though she doesn’t know how the initiative will work, she hopes it helps people including herself. “My husband was very happy with the idea though a little skeptical as to how people will take it. But it will be a break from routine even for us to meet somebody new, somebody nice, every Friday,” says Jennifer. For a Friday with the family, you can mail jenniferjacob@gmail.com.

 

 

International News

 

 

Japanese PM Abe promises to help victims of floods; death toll up to 25

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, center, listens to a Land Ministry official as he inspects a damage by floods in Hita, Oita prefecture, southwest of Japan on July 12, 2017.

 

 

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday visited a region devastated by flooding over recent days and promised that the government would do everything possible to help rebuild. Torrential rain that began a week ago set off landslides and sent rivers surging over their banks on the southwestern island of Kyushu, at one point forcing more than 400,000 people from their homes. Twenty-five people were killed and 23 are still missing. Abe, whose support has plunged to its lowest since he took office in 2012, cut short a European tour by a day because of the disaster and went to visit the region less than 24 hours after returning. “I was able to talk with people in evacuation centres and hear their worries and troubles,” said Abe. “The government will make every effort to rebuild so that people can resume their former lives without worries”. About 11,000 soldiers, police and firefighters are combing through mud and piles of logs in the largely rural area, searching for the missing. “We finally found my wife, and held her funeral yesterday,” one man, his chin dusted with stubble, told NHK public television. “There’s nothing left of the house”. Abe knelt down to talk to survivors sitting on the floor of the evacuation centre and he also inspected the site of a destroyed railway bridge. One woman told media Abe had shaken her hand and commiserated with her about how tough things must be. “We want him to work hard for Japan,” she said.

 

 

19 killed in Boko Haram attacks in northern Nigeria city

 

 

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: Four Boko Haram suicide bombers killed 19 people in a series of attacks that targeted a civilian self-defense force and the people who gathered to mourn their deaths, police in Nigeria said Wednesday. It was the deadliest attack in months in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram’s eight-year insurgency. Borno state police commissioner Damian Chukwu said 23 others were wounded in Tuesday night’s attacks. The police commissioner said 12 of the dead were members of a civilian self-defense force and the other seven people had been mourning them. At least one of the suicide bombers was female, said a spokesman for the self-defense force, Danbatta Bello. The bombers specifically targeted his colleagues while they were on duty, he said. “A teenage female suicide bomber actually crept to the sandbag post of our boys at Molai and before they could realize what was happening she detonated herself and killed three of our boys,” Bello said.

 

“That happened simultaneously with the one that occurred at the tea vendor’s, where seven of our members who took their time off to eat their dinner were killed,” he said. Boko Haram has increasingly used girls and young women to carry out attacks on marketplaces, checkpoints and other targets. Some young women who escaped extremist group have said girls are drugged and forced to carry out suicide missions. An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw mourning residents preparing the bodies of the victims for burial. Nigeria’s government late last year declared that Boko Haram had been “crushed” but deadly attacks continue. The Islamic extremist group’s insurgency has killed more than 20,000 people, abducted thousands of others and spilled over into neighboring countries. Northeastern Nigeria is part of what the United Nations has called the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in more than 70 years, with the World Food Program estimating that more than 4.5 million people in the region need emergency food assistance.


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