Assam flood: Animal casualty in Kaziranga at 73
One horned Rhinos take shelter on higher ground of a flooded Kaziranga national park.
GUWAHATI: The toll in the Assam floods rose to 53 on Friday, with three more bodies retrieved from Dhemaji, Dhubri and Nagaon districts, even as the overall situation improved slightly with the number of people affected coming down to 15 lakh from 17.4 lakh on Thursday. However, the prospect of the floods intensifying looms large with the Brahmaputra and its tributaries flowing well above the danger mark at several areas in the state. Meanwhile, the casualties of animals in Kaziranga National Park increased to 73 on Friday, with receding flood waters bringing more carcasses to the surface. The world heritage site, 250 km from here, was inundated on the first week of this month, and the animal death count stood at 53 till Thursday. “As on Friday, there is significant improvement in flood situation. Now 50% of the park area is under water but the water levels are coming down. More carcasses of animals killed in the peak of flood are surfacing now with the water receding,” said Kaziranga divisional forest officer, Rohini Ballab Saikia. Saikia said water levels had reached up to six feet in several parts of the park during the peak of the deluge. “Most of the park is being patrolled by our staff on boats. At the same time, we are also taking care of hygiene of the anti-poaching camps,” Saikia added.
Heavy rain and potholes hit traffic
Mumbai: Heavy rain disrupted vehicular traffic in the city on Friday. Potholes, many of them only partly fixed by authorities, made the situation worse. Western Express Highway was among the worst hit. The slowdown started from 8am. Traffic snarls were reported at Prabhadevi near Siddhivinayak temple, Shivaji Park, Gandhi Nagar flyover towards IIT, Juhu and Santacruz. “There was bumper-to-bumper traffic near Kherwadi on the north-bound lane,” said a motorist. Another motorist said he took one hour to cross the Goregaon east-west bridge. The road towards Bandra SV Road was also congested. Snarls were also witnessed on Ghodbunder Road towards Borivli after a truck overturned. The Sion-Panvel highway towards Panvel was also congested. “Streets in Andheri East have developed a large number of potholes. It’s two months into the rainy season but barely any have been filled up,” a motorist tweeted.
Bengaluru: Village makes a silky cashless switch
From a silk farmer to a kirana store owner, 350 families in Vondaraguppe have ATM cards and run their business entirely by cheque.
VONDARAGUPPE (RAMANAGARA DISTRICT): Until a few years ago, Srinivasaiah had not seen the inside of a bank. Now, the 74-year-old silk farmer is among the 350 families of Vondaraguppe village who have put away cash for ATM cards and run their business entirely by cheque. The village, 60km on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway, is the first cashless village in Ramanagara district. Vondaraguppe is a sericulture hub and nearly 90% of its households rear silk. “For many decades, I never visited a bank as my silk business was done through cash transactions. Today, I have an ATM card and I walk to the bank whenever I need cash,” says Srinivasaiah. “I don’t accept cash when I sell my produce. We transact only through cheques. I know my money is safe in the bank”. Going cashless and convincing villagers to open bank accounts was not easy, says deputy commissioner of Ramanagara, BR Mamatha Gowda. “We had to conduct workshops to tell them why it’s necessary for them to transact through banks. We demonstrated how to use RuPay. The women in the village played a huge role in making this happen. They held awareness programmes and brought in confidence among all”. From a silk farmer to a kirana store owner, everyone in the village has moved away from cash transactions. Like everyone else in the village, Srinivasaiah was trained to operate ATMs. “I just observed them and began using it. It’s very easy,” he says. The Bank of Baroda branch on the highway is bustling with activity, with officials scrambling to ensure all villagers have bank accounts and use ATM cards. “They will lose confidence in the cashless system if there is even a small error in the functioning of the cards or our machines,” says bank manager Praveen Kumar.
Venkatappa S sells around 100kg of silk every month. Until four months ago, he would carry his produce to the silk auction market, 5km from his village, sell it and come back feeling cheated. “Today, the transactions are through cheque. So everyone is aware of how much is exchanged between the merchants and the growers,” says the third-generation silk grower. Vishakantaiah L, another silk grower and a former employee of the Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation, says the biggest challenge was to convince villagers their money was safe with the bank and they could withdraw it anytime. “The old practice of stocking up cash at home is no longer prevalent in the village,” he says. Along with ATM cards, news of ATM card frauds has reached the village. “We have been told not to give out any card or bank details to anyone on the phone. A police team regularly conducts awareness drives for the villagers,” says Vishykumar, a kirana store owner who proudly shows off his ATM card. “All my purchases for the store are done through cheque and cards,” he adds. While RuPay is used for small transactions, small traders like him are awaiting swiping machines to do their daily business without cash. The women have gone further than just doing away with cash in daily dealings. They have formed small groups to create awareness on the benefits of going cashless. “We tell the women that their money is safe in the bank and that they must keep the bank or the group informed whenever there is some transaction,” said Anusuya D, who leads a small self-help group in the village. Even in the gram panchayat, the transactions are through cheques and cards. “Various government allowances and pensions are transacted only through their bank accounts. All of them have Aadhaar too, so there is no scope for cheating,” says Bhagyalakshmamma, Gram Panchayat member.
BANK AT THEIR DOORSTEP: Armed with handheld swipe machines, Shobha VR and Shakuntalamma, both employees of Bank of Baroda’s Vondaraguppe branch, head out to the village at 7am to disburse cash. “Many women and senior citizens cannot come to the bank. The village is situated across the highway, so we take cash to their doorsteps… They can swipe their Aadhaar and verify their credentials.” The duo also disburses widow pension, PF and salaries for the anganwadi workers. “Their Aadhaar cards are linked to the bank account. So we ensure their transactions come to our notice and they don’t get cheated,” says Shobha.
TIMES VIEW: Vondaraguppe’s transition to cashless transactions is laudable. While its silk farmers are accepting payment through cheque, villagers are using RuPay for smaller transactions and obtaining pension funds etc. by swiping their cards. Such cashless modes will bring in much-needed transparency in payments. It, however, remains to be seen if Vondaraguppe can sustain the momentum and move on to online payments. As of now, many village traders are waiting for card machines which will allow residents to make even everyday purchases with a swipe. This will make it easier for villagers, especially for the old and infirm, to buy essential items without having to make frequent trips to the bank to withdraw cash.
Rains lash Delhi-NCR
NEW DELHI: Fresh spells of rain lashed parts of Delhi and the National Capital Region(NCR) on Saturday, bringing respite from the oppressive heat and humid weather. The city had woken up to a partly cloudy sky, which quickly grew overcast. Light to medium showers lowered the temperature to around 30 degrees celsius. The Met department has predicted a generally cloud-laden sky along with light rain and thundershowers on Saturday. The maximum temperature will hover around 36 degrees celsius and the minimum will be 28 degrees celsius. “The maximum and minimum temperatures are expected to hover at 36 and 28 degrees, respectively,” the weatherman said. On Friday, the maximum temperature of 36.4 degrees celsius was recorded in Delhi, one degree above the season’s average, while the minimum was 28.4 degrees celsius. The humidity oscillated between 82 and 57 per cent.
Major fire in chemical unit in Bhiwandi
A major fire broke out in a chemical factory in Bhiwandi.
BHIWANDI: A major fire broke out in a chemical factory in Bhiwandi on Friday morning. No one injured in fire but entire unit was gutted in a major fire. The fire brigade teams from Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Ambernath and Thane is still trying to control the blaze. The fire officials said they are trying to control the blaze as it could spread in to neighbouring chemical units. They have asked neighbouring chemical units’ staff to leave the place till the fire is doused. The blaze erupted at around 10 am inside the premises of Raunak Warehouse situated in Shreeram Compound area in Bhiwandi. The fire official said cause of the blaze is yet to be ascertained, adding eight fire tenders were rushed to the spot.
As violence continues in Darjeeling, Centre to send 4 more CRPF companies
People brandish their local weapons as they participate in a protest rally in Darjeeling.
Kolkata: Four additional companies of CRPF are being sent to maintain law and order in Darjeeling and Kalimpong which have been hit by the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland, the Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court. The government told a three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra that 11 CRPF companies are already deployed in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and a decision has been taken to send four more companies to ensure the safety of citizens and maintain law and order there. Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench, which also comprised A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar, that the Calcutta High Court has today asked the government to deploy four additional companies of CRPF there and they are sending additional paramilitary forces there. The bench made it clear that the 11 companies which are already deployed there and the four additional companies shall be utilized by the West Bengal government only for the purpose of maintaining law and order in the two districts. The bench also asked the authorities to ensure smooth movement of traffic and safety and security of passengers travelling in vehicles on the National Highway-10, the sole road link connecting West Bengal’s Siliguri with Sikkim. “Needless to say, the citizens of these areas must understand that sustenance of law and order and living in peace is the hallmark of progressive civilisation and therefore, they shall also see that free flow of life is not in any way disturbed or affected,” the bench said. The apex court’s order came on a petition filed by Sikkim for a direction to ensure safety of vehicles plying on NH 10 which connects the state with the rest of the country.
The Sikkim government has approached the apex court seeking a direction to the Centre and West Bengal that NH 10 be protected and uninterrupted vehicular movement be ensured in the wake of ongoing agitation for separate Gorkhaland. NH 10, also referred to as lifeline of the hill state, connects it to Siliguri and any blockade or interruption on the highway leads to severe scarcity of goods and stalls passengers’ movement. The plea, filed by Sikkim Chief Secretary A K Srivastav, Lok Sabha MP P D Rai and Rajya Sabha lawmaker Hissey Lachungpa, has sought a direction to the union ministries of Home Affairs, Roads, Transport and Highway and the West Bengal government that the national highway is “kept free” for vehicular movement. The state government has said the safety of passengers, goods and vehicles should also be ensured besides the uninterrupted traffic on the stretch. The plea has referred to the incidents of violence on June 8 against Sikkim-bound vehicles on the national highway during the Gorkhaland agitation. Sikkim-bound vehicles have been targeted during the protests in and around Siliguri from the last week of June. Sikkim has been alleging that miscreants were not allowing essential commodities and fuel to be loaded in trucks at New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri and even the West Bengal police was not taking any action. The situation along the national highway in West Bengal has been “worsening” with each passing day, and despite assurances by West Bengal government, incidents of violence and loot of Sikkim-bound vehicles have become a regular affair, officials have said. According to Sikkim police, 20 trucks ferrying supplies to Sikkim from Siliguri were vandalized and looted and their drivers assaulted. Truck drivers and transporters in Sikkim said they have decided not to ply vehicles if security is not provided.
RPF office, police outpost, library set afire in Darjeeling: A Railway Protection Force (RPF) office, a police outpost and a state-run library were set on fire in the Darjeeling hills as the indefinite strike demanding a separate state entered its 30th day on Friday, police said. As unrest simmered, internet services remained suspended for the 27th day. The RPF office in Kurseong and a police outpost in Sukhiapokhri were set afire in the early hours of the morning while the state-run library in Mirik sub-division was reduced to ashes by pro-Gorkhaland supporters last night, a police official said. The Army continues to be deployed in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sonada. The Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) decided to postpone its fast-unto-death programme from July 15 due to the upcoming presidential elections. “We have decided to postpone the programme of fast-unto- death as presidential elections are nearby. We’ll take a call on it at our next all-party meeting on July 18,” a GMCC member told PTI. The 30-member GMCC represents all hill based parties, including the GJM, the GNLF and the JAP.
ATM’s to usher in round-the-clock banking
CHENNAI: Would you like to bank in a box? Well, going by the feedback after the roll-out of three such NCR ATM machines in Pune and Bengaluru, a lot of Indians do. These machines can do everything that one does at the bank from account opening, accepting bearer cheques, passbook printing, editing KYC details and withdrawing cash. ATM-maker FIS says its bank-in-a-box can be used for internet, mobile banking, loans, deposits, connecting to an ATM or PoS switch, regulatory and MIS reporting. For India, which is largely underbanked, such low-cost, but comprehensive solutions could be of use to the newly-emerging small finance banks (SFBs), price-sensitive micro-finance institutions (MFIs) and NBFCs. “Small finance and payment banks with a small investment capital can greatly benefit from the bank-in-a-box model. NBFCs looking at venturing into the deposit-accepting segment can also benefit by deploying this model. It enables them to enter new markets without large-scale investments in technology, human resource, etc. by using technology for high growth with low customer acquisition cost,” says Ramaswamy Venkatachalam, MD, FIS, India and south Asia. NCR, which is trying to promote the concept of 24/7 banking, says the new solution can also help customers block their debit or credit cards in case of an emergency. “It is quite possible to block your lost debit card as there will be a live human teller/bank official on tele-conference at the ATM. Once you give your credentials you will be able to block or unblock your card. Any accept of banking that is done at branches can be done with the assistance of our machines and the 24/7 teller,” said Navroze Dustur, MD, NCR India.
“It will be an effective to reach out too many underbanked villages in India. And far cheaper than a brick and motor set-up,” said Dustur. In recent months, the Reserve Bank of India has also put out guidelines encouraging banks to set up more virtual branches and multi-functional ATM kiosks. Another technology innovation that is soon to hit the ATM industry are QR codes and NFC technology with players like FSS, AGS currently in pilot mode. Just this month, more than 200 bank customers in Bengaluru lost as much as Rs 10 lakh due to illegal withdrawals from ATMs as advanced card skimmers and pinhole cameras were employed to read debit card numbers and PINs. With the use of contactless cards, QR code, mobile app banking and NFC, customers have a higher level of security. “How it works is that customers get the OTP for cash withdrawal from their registered mobile number. Another method is initiating transaction by generating a QR code for ATM usage,” said V Balasubramanium, president, ATM services, FSS. FSS also said that is in advanced stages for deploying NFC technology in ATMs. “Just like tap-and-pay pre-paid cards, you can now have tap and withdraw cards. And the NFC card can be on your mobile or a virtual card or on a wearable. We are still working out the modalities with some of our clients,” said Balasubramanium. “When it comes to technology, hacking, companies like us always have to be ahead of the curve – so the necessity to constantly innovate, find new solutions,” he added.
70 Pakistanis killed in rain-related incidents in 3 weeks
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority says at least 70 people have been killed in rain-related incidents in various parts of Pakistan in the past three weeks. It a statement, the agency said today that 90 people were also injured since June 26 when rains started lashing the country. In Pakistan and neighbouring India, deadly floods occur regularly during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September. The disaster management authority said it has transported food, tents and other relief supplies to affected areas. Flash flooding triggered by the rains damaged a bridge in the eastern Punjab province and landslides disrupted normal traffic in the north. This week’s rains flooded some streets in an upscale area of Islamabad. However, most rivers in Pakistan are still flowing at normal levels.
Gunmen kill five Egyptian police south of Cairo
CAIRO: Gunmen ambushed an Egyptian security checkpoint on Friday, killing five policemen in an area just south of the capital, the state-run MENA news agency said. The attack in al-Badrasheen area of Giza province, 30 km (20 miles) south of Cairo, killed two officers and three conscripts, the agency said citing a security source. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but Egyptian security forces have been battling the local affiliate of Islamic State in the northern Sinai area and attacks have extended to other parts of Egypt.
Over 800,000 people still displaced from Mosul: UN
GENEVA: More than a million people were displaced from Mosul by the battle in the Iraqi city against the Islamic State group, but nearly 200,000 have returned home, the UN said Friday. Out of nearly 1.05 million people who fled the fighting after the offensive against IS began last October, 825,000 remain displaced, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a statement. The city on the Tigris river in northern Iraq had an estimated population of two million in 2014. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday declared Mosul fully retaken from the jihadist group after a Western-backed operation. But it is still near-impossible to access the Old City, where sweeping and demining operations continue. IOM’s chief of mission in Iraq, Thomas Lothar Weiss, said the new displacement figures underscored “the enormous crisis” in the area.