News Flash – 23 June 2017

National News

 

 

Nasa launches world’s lightest satellite designed by 18-year-old TN student

 

MUMBAI: On Thursday, India once again broke a global space record by launching the world’s lightest satellite weighing a mere 64 grams, called Kalamsat, designed and developed not by professional space scientists and engineers, but by 18-year-old Tamil Nadu student Rifath Sharook and his team. The tiny satellite, named after Abdul Kalam, was flown by a Nasa sounding rocket and the lift-off was from the space agency’s Wallop Island facility around 3pm (IST). Kalam had his training in the sounding rocket programme at Wallops Island in the ’60s. Kalamsat was the only Indian payload in the mission. Speaking to TOI post Speaking to TOI post launch from Chennai, mission director Srimathy Kesan said that the total flight time of the rocket was 240 minutes and the satellite, assembled at her T. Nagar residence in Chennai, separated from the rocket 125 minutes after lift-off.

 

“Kalamsat fell into the sea. It will be recovered and Nasa will be sending it back to us for decoding the data,” she said while pointing out in an emotion-choked voice that the flight was “out of the world and it was a divine intervention”. Explained Kesan: “I am calling it divine intervention because the previous Nasa mission from Wallops got postponed because of weather and we were able to launch successfully today.” This one-of-its kind satellite, which can be held in one’s palm is a 3.8cm cube and its structure is fully 3-D printed with reinforced carbon fiber polymer. It is equipped with a Nano Geiger Muller counter which will measure radiation in space. Added Kesan: “It is the only cube to be converted into a satellite in this mission,” she added.

 

 

Telecom to banking, most services to be costlier with GST

 

 

NEW DELHI: For some days now, several service providers — from insurance and banking to telecom and hotels — have been sending emailers to customers warning of a GST-driven increase in prices starting July 1. Alarmed and unconvinced, the revenue department in the finance ministry has roped in other ministries to impress upon industry to adjust input tax credit against possible increase in tax liability. The tax credit being referred to will be on taxes paid on the purchase of ACs and furniture used in the service providers’ offices. In the fast few days, banks have informed consumers that the tax burden on credit card bills will increase from 15% to 18% from July. Similarly, telecom companies have said that monthly bills will rise as the gains from input tax credit will not be significant. The only exception is state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. “Tariff will not be changed in the GST era. They will be maintained. They should remain at the same level,” the loss-making company’s chairman Anupam Shrivastava told TOI. In fact, citing financial stress in the sector, companies such as Idea and Airtel have pitched before an inter-ministerial group that telecom should be treated as an essential service and face a lower GST of 5% or 12%, instead of the current 18%. When the rates were decided last month, the government had said that the overall burden will not rise given that input credit will be available to companies. It had pointed to the telecom sector to argue that cost will reduce by 3%.

 

Insurance companies too have told policyholders that tax burden will push up the premium, with the maximum impact will be on pure term insurance plans, where the levy will rise from 15% to 18%. So, if your annual premium for a Rs 1 crore term plan works out to Rs 25,000, GST will result in a tax burden of Rs 4,500, compared to Rs 3,750 currently. the impact will be lower for Ulips, where insurers charge a fund management fee and mortality charges. If your premium is, say, Rs 10,000 a year you currently pay Rs 75 as service tax, and GST will push up this liability to Rs 90. “Term insurance will bear a higher burden when as a country we need greater insurance penetration in the pure term insurance segment. World-over such products are exempted from tax or it is limited to the commission and reinsurance fee,” said Neetu Gupta, vice-president for taxation at Aviva Life. Even five-star hotels have sent out mails to customers, some of them to those have not stayed with them for years, announcing higher tax burden, although the government had said that the overall incidence was near existing levels, which includes service and state taxes. The government is still not convinced with the argument being put forward by service providers. “They should pass on the benefits of input tax credit to consumers, which will reflect in lower cost. We will request ministries to take up the matter with the service providers so that consumers are not robbed of any benefit,” said an officer. Revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia has already got the housing ministry to shoot off letters to state governments, asking them to ensure that builders do not push up prices of under-construction houses or prompt buyers to get advance payments.

 

 

‘Oxygen supply cut’, 11 die in Indore hospital

 

 

INDORE: The death of 11 people, including two children, at MY Hospital sent shockwaves through the city on Thursday after reports that oxygen supply was mysteriously snapped for around 15 minutes between 3am and 4am, leading to the deaths. While panic spread, the administration went into damage control mode to insist these many deaths were “routine” in a large hospital. Divisional commissioner Sanjay Dubey ruled out the possibility that the deaths were caused by lack of oxygen or “any other negligence”, but said that the matter will be probed, if required. What fueled panic was the fact that when media persons sought to find answers, all the records of dead patients and the logbook where oxygen supply is recorded vanished. Everywhere, official sought to say all is fine but refused to show the files. Some highly placed sources in the hospital confirmed that there was “disruption” in oxygen supply around 3am. But with oxygen plant records missing and the staff manning the system not to be found, information about the incident was limited to a group of senior officials, who refused to comment.

 

Dubey, who is also chairman of autonomous body of MGM Medical College to which MY Hospital is attached, said, “There is no negligence. I have been to every ward of the hospital after certain local newspapers carried the misinformation. There was no break in oxygen supply. The deaths are routine in a 1400-bed hospital.” The hospital records 10-20 deaths a day, he said. As the panic spread, administrative officials, politicians and locals rushed to MY Hospital – the largest government medical facility in central India. What added to the worry is the hospital’s grim history. MY Hospital’s oxygen delivery system has been under scanner since the death of two children who were given nitrogen instead of oxygen in the pediatric OT on May 28, 2016. Officials on Thursday said that every day 60-70 patients are put on oxygen, which is supplied by pipe in almost all wards. “If the oxygen supply had been cut off, the rest of the patients should also have died,” Dubey pointed out. But that didn’t stop the panic, forcing hospital authorities to go into a huddle late afternoon. They seized records of patient deaths from the wards, ICU and neonatal ICU, and stopped flow of information. They later said 16 patients had died in the 24 hours since 8am on Wednesday. Hospital superintendent Dr. V S Pal claimed that 11 persons had died in the night but refused to give any details, including time of deaths.

 

 

Dispute over Navy land flares up, farmers riot

 

MUMBAI: Twenty-six people including 12 police men, 12 farmers and two journalists were injured near Kalyan after a protest by farmers against fencing of a 1,600-acre area turned violent on Thursday. Farmers blocked roads, assaulted policemen and burned four police vans, damaged two vans as well as around 20 vehicles of ordinary citizens. Six, including two cops, were stated to be in a serious condition following the violence, but were out of danger. Police finally had to use pellet guns to disperse the mob. At around 8.30am on Thursday , farmers from seven villages gathered to protest against the construction of a wall by Indian Navy around a plot of land which they claimed belonged to them. The land, acquired by the British around 1942, was later taken over by farmers for cultivation, though ownership has remained with the defence ministry. The protest was held at three different places -two spots on Kalyan-Badlapur Road and one on Kalyan-Haji Malang Road. As farmers had earlier protested too on the same issue, police initially deployed very few personnel. Police said the violence was pre-planned while villagers claimed they were protesting peacefully when police suddenly started a lathicharge and attacked some women following which the mob went violent. A police official present at the spot said villagers blocked the roads and policemen were attacked when they tried to dispel them. Police said as the protesters were farmers, for almost two hours they did not take strong action.

 

However after the mob burned a police van and attacked a team led by DCP Sunil Bharadwaj, injuring him, his squad, which is armed with five pellet guns, used them on the DCP’s instructions. The pellet gun firing, around 11am, brought the situation under control. Param Bir Singh, Thane commissioner of police, said, “Our DCP squad team used pellet guns as they are not fatal and only their use could bring things under control. Protesters had taken permission for a peaceful protest against construction of the wall by the Indian Navy but it appears some protesters had planned to target policemen”. One cop, ACP Sunil Patil suffered serious head injuries and is in Fortis Hospital, Kalyan. The mob chased Patil for up to 500 meters and attacked him with bamboo sticks. They also gheraoed two lady constables and assaulted them. Following the incident, police are filing a case of attempt to murder against unidentified protesters. Most of the injured protesters were aged between 18-25, while one is in Class X. They were admitted to several hospitals across Kalyan. A doctor at Metro Hospital said, “Of the 10 patients admitted here, eight are stable but two are still serious”. According to government records, the land in reference is owned by the ministry of defence. Commander Rahul Sinha, chief public relations officer (defence), Mumbai, said in a statement, “The Navy is constructing a peripheral boundary wall to protect and safeguard defence land from further encroachment. The Maharashtra government is fully aware of the subject and is providing police protection and support from state district administration and revenue authorities”. On March 21, 2017, the Nevali Sangharsh Samiti, fighting for the land, moved Bombay High Court on the issue.

 

 

Nod to 5 key projects to ease traffic in Delhi

 

NEW DELHI: UTTIPEC, the traffic and transport infrastructure planning body, approved 10 infrastructure projects, five of them crucial, on Thursday in a bid to ease traffic movement in the city. Making Mathura Road and Bhairon Marg signal free, corridor improvement between Modi Mill flyover and IIT Delhi, and extending Ashram flyover till DND Flyway (which TOI had reported on Feb 4, May 31 and June 4) are among the list of projects approved in the governing meeting chaired by the LG. The decongestion of Mathura Road and Bhairon Marg is a part of the Pragati Maidan redevelopment plan. The plan includes construction of several underpasses on Mathura Road and Bhairon Marg to make the two roads signal-free. The proposal to construct a tunnel that will pass through Pragati Maidan area connecting Mathura Road to Ring Road has been approved too. The project had hit the wall in March after ASI denied permission to PWD to build underpasses near Old Fort citing heritage conservation rules. As per the rules, no construction is permitted in the 100-metre periphery of a protected monument. PWD reworked the plan and now two underpasses will be constructed -on Purana Qila Road and before Bhagwan Das Road. PWD officials say tenders for the project will be floated soon. The Rs 800-crore project will be largely funded by the central government.

 

The corridor improvement project between IIT Delhi and Modi Mill flyover is essential for hassle-free movement for traffic going to the airport via Outer Ring Road. As per the plan, PWD will construct two half-flyovers parallel to the existing ones at Savitri Cinema in Greater Kailash II and Kalkaji (Maa Anandmayee Marg T-junction). It will connect the road over bridge near Modi Mill with Kalkaji flyover by constructing a 500metre-long elevated road. It will also construct a two carriage way flyover at the Malviya Nagar-Outer Ring Road T-junction. Another project PWD will now start work on is extending the Ashram flyover till DND Flyway. The extended portion will touch down before the flyway and PWD plans to provide a U-turn under the extended portion. The project has been planned to provide relief to residents of Kilokri Village, who have to take a de tour of nearly 2 km to get on to Mathura Road or go towards Lajpat Nagar. The proposal to widen the carriageway of the flyover at Sarai Kale Khan has also been approved. “These infrastructure projects are crucial to ease traffic movement in south and central Delhi. The projects were evaluated by the core group and technical committee before being placed in the public domain. After carefully reviewing the public’s response, the proposals have been cleared,” said a senior official.

 

 

The planning body also approved plans for providing safe pedestrian movement, apart from clearing proposals for multi-modal integration at the Delhi Metro stations of Nehru Place, New Delhi, Shastri Nagar, Jahangirpuri, Karol Bagh and Dwarka Mor. In the meeting, the LG stressed that traffic projections should be carefully reviewed and importance should be given to pedestrians and cyclists. “The LG advised to provide better traffic engineering solutions that help in removing chokepoints… Road design has to account for smooth movement of pedestrians without bringing vehicular movement to a halt,” read the release by the LG’s office. PWD officials say the proposal to double the existing flyover at Seelampur and a two-carriageway flyover at Shastri Park were required as congestion at these points was affecting traffic movement on GT Road. Other projects include the improvement of corridors in Najafgarh and Sarita Vihar, among other areas. The LG stressed on need for providing parking facility, but he asked agencies to explore new options to avoid concrete lots, which have not proved to be a success here. “Provision for stack parking’s in place of brick-and mortar parking complexes” is one of the points LG stressed on. PWD officials say the matter came up while considering a proposal to improve the corridor near Gandhi Nagar market. “Parking is needed near the market. We will explore the possibility of a stack parking there,” said an official.

 

 

Drones and CCTV cameras to be used for security at Mahamastakabhisheka

 

 

Bengaluru: It’s less than nine months to one of the most anticipated events – one that takes place once every 12 years – in Karnataka, and the murmurs, and bustle of activity at Shravanabelagola in Hassan district, 120km from Bengaluru, are hard to escape as it prepares for the Mahamastakabhisheka. While priests, devotees and Jain monks are immersing themselves in preparations for the event scheduled for February next year, Karnataka police too are busy seeking out innovative methods to ensure maximum security for the event, which is expected to draw 50,000 visitors per day. Police will be employing drones and closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras to keep a vigil on the crowd during the 20-day event, which commences on February 7. “Senior officials have already placed orders for 150 CCTV cameras, 20 drones, more than 100 metal doors and hand detectors,” said sources in the police department. In order to accommodate the surge of people, there are plans to construct as many as 15 temporary towns at Shravanabelagola during the Mahamastakabhisheka celebrations. “Our security arrangements are such that anyone entering Shravanabelagola will have to pass through three levels of security,” said a senior police officer.

 

He added, “Bomb disposal squads and sniffer dogs will be at the venue much before the celebrations begin.” Allaying fears of there being any threat to the Mahamastakabhisheka celebrations, he, however, added, “But the ritual could be targeted by anti-social elements”. Platoons of Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) and District Armed Reserve(DAR) will be deployed throughout the length of the ceremony, the senior cop said. “The greatest challenge is to control the crowd atop the hill, where nearly 7,000 people will converge at a time. We’ll probably have 200 armed personnel on the hill during the celebrations, and home guards will be deployed all across Shravanabelagola,” he said. Mahamastakabhisheka, which translates to grand consecration, is an important Jain ceremony that takes once in 12 years. The 57-foot high monolithic statue of Siddha Bahubali, better known as Gommateshwara, is bathed with holy water, and anointed with libations such as milk, turmeric paste, et al. Holy water is poured on the monolithic statue from 1,008 consecrated vessels, called “Kalashas”.

 

 

Traffic violators could lose licence for 6 months

 

 

CHENNAI: The government has decided to throw the kitchen sink at traffic violations in Tamil Nadu, which consistently records among the largest number of fatal road accidents in the country, by suspending the licences of offenders for up to six months. Over speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, jumping traffic signals, and using mobile phones while driving or riding, overloading vehicles and carrying loads above the prescribed limit in goods carriages will all attract the penalty. The government has issued a circular to this effect to the state police and transport department officials, instructing them to take strict action against offenders. The stringent punitive measure will come into immediate effect. There were 17,212 fatal road accidents – or close to 50 deaths a day – in Tamil Nadu in 2016, up by 10% from 15,636 in 2015, according to a report in April by the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety. Tamil Nadu had in 2016 and the three years prior to that accounted for between 10% and 11% of road accident deaths nationwide. The state government decided to take drastic action against violators of traffic rules after a recent consultative meeting of the State Road Safety Council, chaired by transport minister M R Vijayabhaskar.

 

 

International News

 

 

3 dead in suicide blast at police station in Somalia capital

A Somali woman walks past the scene of a suicide car bomb attack on a police station in Mogadishu, Somalia.

 

 

MOGADISHU, Somalia: At least three people are dead and several others wounded after a suicide car bomb blast at a police station in Somalia’s capital, police said Thursday. The bomber was trying to drive into the police station’s gate but detonated against the wall instead, Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press. Ambulance sirens echoed across Mogadishu, with dozens of soldiers at the scene. The blast targeted Waberi district’s police station on the busy Maka Almukarramah road, Col. Ahmed Warsame said. The Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group often targets high-profile areas in Mogadishu. On Tuesday, at least 15 people were killed when a suicide car bomber posing as a milk delivery van detonated at a district headquarters in Mogadishu. Most of the victims were civilians. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility. The extremist group has vowed to step up attacks after the recently elected government launched a new military offensive against it. The group also faces a new military push from the United States after President Donald Trump approved expanded operations, including airstrikes. Al-Shabab last year became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

 

 

Powerful earthquake shakes Guatemala and El Salvador

 

 

GUATEMALA CITY: A major earthquake struck off the coast of Guatemala on Thursday, shaking buildings and downing trees and causing powerful tremors in neighboring El Salvador. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the quake, which the US Geological Survey said registered at 6.8 magnitude and struck 38 kilometers (24 miles) southwest of Puerto San Jose at a depth of 46.8 kilometers. A deeper earthquake of similar magnitude struck the interior of Guatemala last week, killing at least two people and damaging buildings. Guatemalan emergency services said they were assessing the impact. Luis Felipe Puente, the head of Mexico‘s civil protection authority, told Reuters the quake was felt in the state of Chiapas on the Guatemalan border, but said there were no initial reports of damage.

 

 

Suicide car bomb in southern Afghanistan kills at least 29

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a powerful car bomb in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, on June 22, 2017.

 

 

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: A huge suicide car bombing outside a bank in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Thursday targeted Afghan troops and government employees waiting to collect their salaries ahead of a major Muslim holiday, killing at least 29 people, officials said. Most of the casualties in the explosion near the Kabul Bank in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah were civilians, according to Hayatullah Hayat, the provincial governor in Helmand. The bombing also wounded at least 60 people, he said. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but Helmand has been at the center of bitter battles between the Taliban and Afghan security forces, aided by NATO troops. The insurgents, believed to control nearly 80 percent of the province’s countryside, have increasingly been pressing a push onto Lashkar Gah and its environs in efforts to take the city. In recent weeks, the Taliban have overrun Helmand’s key Sangin district, where both British and US troops had fought for years to keep them at bay. The attacker struck as scores of people, including many Afghan soldiers and civil servants, were waiting near the Kabul Bank to collect their salaries ahead of the Eid -al-Fitr holiday, which follows the holy month of Ramdan, expected to end later this weekend. Esmatullah, an Afghan border policeman, who was at the scene of the explosion said the noise from the blast was deafening. He said many are missing in the ensuing chaos as witnesses, survivors and ambulances struggled to ferry first the most seriously wounded to hospital.

 

“We are taking children to the hospital,” said Esmatullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name. Twelve-year-old Hosnia, was crying outside the bank as she searched for her father who had brought her to buy shoes ahead of the Muslim holiday. “I couldn’t find anyone, my brother and my father,” she said. “My father told me he will take me to buy shoes. We came here and then there was the explosion”. President Ashraf Ghani called the attack deplorable, and assailed the attackers as “enemies of humanity.” He said the relentless assaults that have been carried out throughout the country are particularly offensive during the holy month of Ramadan, when the faithful seek forgiveness for their wrongdoings. “These brutal terrorist attacks … prove that they (insurgents) have no respect for any religion or faith. They are enemies of humanity,” Ghani said in a statement. Afghan has faced a series of large-scale attacks as the Taliban stepped up their war against the Kabul government after launching this year’s summer offensive. Also, the emerging Islamic State group affiliate in Afghanistan has tried to increase its footprint in the country with attacks in cities and bigger urban areas. The worst attack occurred in the Afghan capital of Kabul on May 31, shortly after Ramadan began, when a truck bomb exploded in the heart of the city, killing 150 people. It was the worst attack since the Taliban ouster in 2001.

 

 

Pakistan also condemned Thursday’s suicide bombing, saying that “we firmly stand with our Afghan brothers in this hour of grief and anguish”. Afghanistan and Pakistan routinely accuse each other of harboring the other’s insurgent enemy. Helmand is considered a key region because it is one of the largest opium producing provinces for the Taliban, who charge opium traffickers a hefty tax to move their contraband to market. Corrupt government officials also benefit from the production and trade of opium, the raw material used to make heroin. Afghanistan is the world’s largest opium-producing country, producing more than all other opium-producing countries combined, according to United Nations estimate. Meanwhile, a militant attack the previous night inside a mosque in the country’s east killed two members of the local council. Salim Sallhe, spokesman for the provincial governor in eastern Logar, said gunmen opened fire at worshippers during prayers at a mosque in Baraki district on Wednesday night. Two other local officials were wounded by the gunfire. Sallhe said police are investigating. No group claimed the attack but Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied the insurgents were behind the shooting.


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