Rumours of crisis drive rush to ATMs
NEW DELHI: Be it reduced cash flow in the economy or after-effects of panic created by rumours of currency scarcity, the shortage of cash in Delhi was actually felt on Wednesday when ATMs in a large number of areas went dry even as people hopped from one machine to another. A few machines that were functional had large queues of cash-seekers since early morning. Areas around south Delhi’s RK Puram, Munirka, Ber Sarai and old JNU campus had only a couple of functional ATMs by afternoon. ATMs of all major banks — SBI, PNB, Oriental Bank — were found with signs like “No Cash”, “ATM not functional” hanging outside. Varun Saxena, a UPSC aspirant trying his luck at an ATM in old JNU campus, said that an artificial scarcity has been created. “Everything was fine till yesterday. People started hoarding cash after listening to news of crisis in several states,” he added. On the other side of the city, areas like Kashmere Gate, Deoli, Paharganj, Jhandewalan and Dilshad Garden too faced a similar situation. There were few functional ATMs with long queues in front of them. Narendra Kumar Mishra, a resident of Lucknow who was visiting Delhi, said, “I checked six ATMs but all of them were not dispensing notes. I have run out of cash. It feels as if demonetisation days have returned. Such incidents, when we can’t access our own money, shake our trust in the banking system,” he added.
Some trade bodies claimed that the ATM crisis had led to reduced business on the occasion of Akshay Tritiya. “Many wholesale distribution hubs in Delhi are visited by thousands of traders from outside, but all transactions have stopped due to lack of cash. This is reminiscent of demonetisation days,” said Brijesh Goyal, convener of Chamber of Trader and Industries. When a TOI team visited 12 ATMs in east Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar and neighbouring areas, most of them were found operational. Even in Connaught Place and Khan Market most of the ATMs were working, but high denomination notes were not available. The situation was relatively better at Jangpura’s Birbal Road where a Kotak Mahindra ATM was found having both Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes. An HDFC ATM a few hundred metres away also had cash, albeit only in Rs 2,000 notes. “One of the machines is not working, but the other has Rs 2,000 notes. No cash arrived yesterday,” said a guard. NCR areas, like Noida, Greater Noida and Gurgaon, fared relatively better. By evening, there were reports of things returning to normal at few places when banks started replenishing the ATMs with cash.
Few ATM’s dispense cash, people fume at long queues
BENGALURU: The cash crunch on Tuesday continued to plague Bengalureans on Wednesday too. Many complained that banks have replaced ‘no cash’ boards outside many ATMs with ‘out of service’ or ‘out of order’ boards to escape the wrath of customers. “It’s common to see one or two ATMs having ‘out of service’ boards. But how can all ATMs of different banks in one area face technical snags?” asked Deepthi A, software engineer from southeast Bengaluru. A security guard at an ATM kiosk in north Bengaluru said: “As directed by bank officials, we changed the boards. We’re telling customers that the kiosks have developed snags”. ATMs with cash witnessed long queues. “There are nearly 20 ATMs in Jayanagar Block 9, but only two are dispensing cash. Some are drawing more cash using different cards,” said Rajat, a private firm employee. “Bank branches across the city are facing cash shortage. In such situations, we go to head offices as they distribute cash meant for ATMs,” a bank employee told TOI.
Cylinder blast could have started apartment fire, say officials
KOLKATA: Flat No. 44 D of Saptaparni Apartment wore an eerie look on Wednesday. A day after it was engulfed by a blaze, charred objects were strewn all over, half-burnt wires jutted out of the walls and a pungent smell lingered in the air. The lone occupant of the flat, Swapan Kumar Bhattacharjee, was charred to death on Tuesday evening. Prima facie, it seems the fire was caused by the explosion of an LPG cylinder as it originated from the dining area of the 1BHK flat. Police recovered the sexagenarian’s body on the floor near the bedroom. Reportedly, Bhattacharjee rushed down to alert the security guards about the fire, but went back to his flat to get some documents. This time, he could not make it to safety. Even as residents of the apartment on Ballygunge Circular Road tried to come to terms with the tragic incident, life was far from normal on Wednesday. “I still shiver at the thought about the fire that took a life. The screams of our neighbours and the fire tender’s siren still echo in my ears. Luckily, the fire did not spread to other flats,” said Niladri Sarkar, a school student who rushed out of the building with his mother. The 14-storey tower houses 56 flats. Bhattacharjee lived alone on the fourth floor. Residents said he mostly kept to himself. Power connection to all the five towers of the apartment were switched off for about two hours. Even as the lifts in other towers were functional by Tuesday night itself, the one in the tower where the fire broke out became operational from Wednesday morning. “We have been told there will be a meeting on fire safety on Thursday. Being residents of highrises, we need to learn how to escape safely in such situations. Tuesday’s incident is an eye opener for all of us,” said a resident of Saptaparni Apartment.
Heat surge: Mercury crosses 40°C in 15 towns
Ahmedabad: With north-westerly to northerly winds prevailing over the state, a severe heatwave swept Saurashtra on Wednesday, taking the maximum temperature in 15 towns over the 40°C mark. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a warning that heatwave conditions will prevail in Saurashtra, Kutch and south Gujarat on Thursday and Friday. The weather station at Kandla airport in Kutch district reported the highest temperature in the state, 42.9°C, on Wednesday. It was followed by Kandla port, which registered 42.3°C. Ahmedabad city also baked with the maximum temperature touching 41°C on Wednesday, which was 1.2 degrees above normal. The city recorded a minimum of 25.1°C, 1.1 degrees above normal. Relative humidity in the city ranged between 39% and 17% on Wednesday. According to IMD, the city will likely witness a 41°C maximum on Thursday too. The IMD forecast says there will be no change in maximum temperatures for the next two or three days, after which the mercury will fall gradually. As dry and hot winds swept the city all through the day, citizens avoided going outdoors. Doctors advise that those who do outdoors, should wear cotton clothes that cover them fully. Elderly people, children and pregnant women must take extra care and drink more fluids to prevent heatstroke.
More than 300 sentenced to death in Iraq for ISIS links
BAGHDAD: Iraqi courts have sentenced to death a total of more than 300 people, including dozens of foreigners, for belonging to the Islamic State group, judicial sources said on Wednesday. The suspects are being tried by two courts, one near the former jihadist stronghold of Mosul in northern Iraq and another in Baghdad which is dealing notably with foreigners and women. Since January in the capital, 103 foreign nationals have been condemned to death, including six Turks sentenced on Wednesday, and 185 to life in prison, according to a judicial source. Most of the women sentenced were from Turkey and republics of the former Soviet Union. In January, an Iraqi court condemned a German woman to death after finding her guilty of belonging to IS while on Tuesday a French woman was sentenced to life in prison. At the court In Tel Keif near Mosul, 212 people have been sentenced to death, 150 to life in prison and 341 to other jails terms, Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar said in a statement.
“It has been proven that they carried out criminal actions at public hearings conducted in accordance with the law during which the convicts’ rights were guaranteed,” he said. On Monday, the justice ministry said 11 people convicted of terrorism-related charges had been executed in Iraq, which according to New York-based Human Rights Watch is the world’s number four executioner. “These executions follow rushed trials of ISIS suspects which are riddled with due process violations, including convictions based solely on confessions which are sometimes extracted by torture,” said HRW senior Iraq researcher Belkis Wille. “Iraq’s mishandling of the ISIS trials not only denies victims real justice, but also risks sending innocent Iraqis to their deaths”.
World War II bomb to force mass evacuation in central Berlin on Friday
Three defused World War II bombs sit on the bed of a truck in Hannover, Northern Germany.
BERLIN: The discovery of an unexploded World War II bomb will force a mass evacuation around Berlin’s central railway station Friday, covering several government ministries and a hospital, police said. Buildings and streets in a radius of 800 metres (875 yards) around the site north of the busy train station will be cleared from 0700 GMT until the 500-kilogramme (1,100-pound) explosive is safely defused, they said on Twitter Wednesday. The evacuation zone covers the central railway station, the economy and transport ministries, an army hospital and the embassies of Indonesia and Uzbekistan, a police spokesman told AFP. Police said it was not yet clear how many thousands of people would be affected but predicted to local media that “it will be big, it will be a major hassle”. The Deutsche Bahn rail company and urban transport operators prepared for large-scale disruptions around the central hub for trains, trams and buses. The bomb, which was discovered during construction work on Heidestrasse in the district of Mitte, was “safe for now”, police said, reassuring nearby residents that “there is no immediate danger”. Allied planes blasted Nazi Germany during the Second World War, and vast urban and industrial areas remain littered with unexploded bombs and other ordnance often found during construction projects. Last Friday in the state of Bavaria, an ordnance disposal team defused a 500-kilogram bomb which had forced the evacuation of 12,000 people in the city of Neu-Ulm the third unexploded bomb to be disarmed in recent weeks in the city of 50,000 people.
UN security team came under fire in Syria’s Douma: official
UNITED NATIONS: A UN security team was fired at on Tuesday while on a reconnaissance mission in the Syrian town of Douma ahead of the deployment of experts investigating an alleged chemical attack, a UN official said. “Shots were fired yesterday at a UN security team doing a reconnaissance in Douma,” the official told AFP. “They were not injured and returned to Damascus”.