Delhi’s ace cop turns leader of ATM-robbing gang
NEW DELHI: An ace investigator from Delhi Police’s crime branch had mysteriously gone missing for six months. But when the department finally got some news of him, it became a cause of deep embarrassment rather than relief. The cop, Aslup Khan, is the alleged mastermind of a gang that robbed banks and ATMs in Kerala and is also suspected of having operated in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. A special investigation team (SIT) of Kerala Police recently arrested one of the gang members, Suresh (37), in Delhi. Alappuzha district police chief V M Muhammed Rafeeq said Suresh was travelling in a Swift car when he was arrested on Kasturba Gandi Marg. Khan, a resident of Mewat, was attached with the RK Puram unit of the crime branch. He had gone on a month’s leave on December 15. Later, he extended his leave for one more month. That was the last the department heard of him. Khan was suddenly suspended and his salary was withheld. Days later, his role in the robberies was revealed after the Kerala cops arrested Suresh. Suresh, a resident of Karnal, spilled the beans on Khan and his other associates. Suresh said he had initially met Khan as an informer.
According to police, Khan’s gang had looted ATMs located at Cheriyanadu, Kazhakoottam, Ramapuram and Kanjikuz. Suresh’s role was to travel across Kerala and spot ATMs located in isolated areas which had no security. Khan and Suresh then chalked out the escape routes. Other gang members were proficient in ATM operations as they had a precise idea of the location of the cash and were careful not to burn the currency while using a gas cutter to get to the cash box. The gang usually stayed at a hotel near the ATM and observed the movement of people and cash before striking. The gang used mobiles with utmost care and switched them off at intervals. They also took care not to be spotted in ATMs’ CCTVs. The car used by the criminals had the number registered to an ambulance which was earlier used at the Thiruvananthapuram airport. Before crossing Kerala, the gang used to change the number plate with a Haryana registration. Khan, being a cop, claimed to be on an operation if flagged down at any check post. The cops, however, found that the same vehicle was around Kazhakootam ATM just before it was looted. The cops then fetched details of all mobile numbers active in the area to get to the suspects.
Mumbai: 40 traffic junctions to be revamped to reclaim pedestrian space
MUMBAI: Over 40 junctions in the city will undergo a transformation post October this year so as to reclaim underutilized space for pedestrians and save lives by averting accidents. Junctions with maximum footfalls such as CST, Churchgate, Bhatia Baug etc., are among those identified by the BMC. Pedestrians comprised around 50% of fatalities in traffic accidents last year. As an experiment, two busy junctions – Mith Chowki at Malad and HP petrol pump junction at Bandra – underwent changes in street geometry under the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS) and their partners. These simple modifications, using low cost material, reduce risk of exposure of pedestrians to moving vehicles. The changes have been welcomed by road users and would be made permanent by the BMC towards the end of this year.
At Mith Chowki, an analysis of how vehicles and people moved was conducted. “Too much space was given to cars. The narrow sidewalks were forcing pedestrians to walk on the roadbed, putting them in danger. There were wide and undefined travel lanes, dead-end crossings, and illegal parking at the intersection,” said Skye Duncan, director of the Global Designing Cities Initiative (GDCI). For three days, Duncan’s team along with architecture students from Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi College went to work at Mith Chowki. They drew up fresh designs, used 350 litres of paint for markings and 120 barricades. The results are: shorter pedestrian crossing distances, more direct crossing paths, wider sidewalks and tighter turning radii for safer speeds. Around 1650 square metres of underutilized street space was reclaimed for pedestrians.
Another team from the World Resources Institute (WRI) made modifications at the HP petrol pump junction in Bandra within 12 hours. “We observed that every time there was a conflict at the junction, motorists would end up honking incessantly. Better designs can move people faster with less honking. Post modifications at HP junction, pedestrians have started using residual space,” said Dhawal Ashar, managing associate at WRI. “Building ownership is necessary. For this, infrastructure that defines pedestrian exclusivity is a crucial first step,” he added. At least 10 junctions will be transformed as soon as possible in association with the BMC and traffic police, a spokesperson with BIGRS said. “562 people were killed in road accidents in Mumbai last year. That’s thrice the number of casualties in the 26/11 terror attacks or four times the casualties in the Paris attacks,” said Duncan. The GDCI is working on a similar project to transform junctions and save lives in the cities of Sao Paulo, Bogota and Addis Ababa. “Private automobiles is the least efficient way of moving people. The new approach to street design puts pedestrians on the forefront,” Duncan said.
‘Plastic rice’ cooks up a storm in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana
HYDERABAD/VISAKHAPATNAM: Rumours of alleged sale of plastic rice at some grocery stores caused jitters among the people of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday. Two days after a customer found plastic rice being used in a biryani point in Saroornagar in Hyderabad, another customer, this time from Meerpet, approached the local police on Tuesday claiming that the rice which he bought from a grocery store turned out to be a plastic one. By the evening, task force officials of the civil supplies department raided the shop in Meerpet and seized samples which are now being examined. Meanwhile, rumours went viral on social media that plastic rice was being sold on a large-scale at various stores in Andhra Pradesh triggering panic among the public. Meerpet police said Ashok, a resident of Nandanavanam colony, complained that for the last several days, he and his family members have been suffering from various health problems like stomach ache, pain in hands and legs. It was on Monday night that when Ashok returned home from work in the night, he found that the rice served to him by his wife was mashed and unedible.
Rumours of plastic rice and the continuous flow of posts, videos and messages on social networking sites, particularly Facebook and WhatsApp, created panic on Tuesday in Andhra Pradesh too. Even as the reports are yet to be verified, officials in the state are taking no chances. The department of weights and measures (W&M) is planning to keep a tab on this novel method of rice adulteration by forming a special enforcement team. “We also came to know about plastic or fake rice through media and social networking sites. We have not received any instructions from our higher-ups so far on this issue, but locally I am sending four food inspectors to check rice with the main rice traders in Visakhapatnam,” Srinivasa Rao, W&M assistant food controller, told TOI. Until then, he said, they had come across only cases of adulteration of red gram and other commodities. If any citizen lodges a complaint with the department, they would take it seriously, examine the facts and take action under the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, Rao added. Rice traders, however, rule out the possibility of plastic rice in the port city. “There is no sale of such plastic rice in the city. By God’s grace, Andhra Pradesh does not have any rice shortage to leave space for fake or plastic rice,” said K Bhima Rao, a rice trader.
College girls to help Delhi Traffic Police
NEW DELHI: Next time you post a complaint on traffic police’s Facebook page or Twitter handle, you may expect prompt redressal of your grievance. In their efforts, the police will be assisted by a group of students from Indira Gandhi Technical University – these girls will help them analyse data related to accidents and complaints received on social media. As a part of a two-month internship programme, the 10 girls — who are pursuing their masters in computer applications – would also work on developing an app-based system for policemen to analyse and categorize traffic complaints. This, police officers said, could reduce response time by as much as 50%. Ajay Kashyap, special commissioner (traffic), said: “We plan to take their help in data analytics as doing it manually takes up a lot of manpower. We approached the University for an Internship Programme for their students and they came up with this idea”.
These students will work with the IT cell of Delhi Traffic Police to collate complaints received on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. Actionable posts will then be separated from non-actionable ones. For every 10 complaints received on social media, officers said, just three were actionable. However, they have to sift through all of them manually. The app prepared by the students will automatically detect complaints on which action can be taken. The students would be provided with accident data collected for over a year to help them analyse cause, timing and nature of accidents. Work is under way to prepare an annual accident data report with an aim to bring down the numbers. The activity will be monitored by joint commissioner Garima Bhatnagar and deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) Aslam Khan. The students who have been inducted into the team have a more than 10 GPA score in semesters and have also taken part in national-level hackathons. “It’s not possible to have policemen everywhere; so, feedback from road users is an important source of information. We can use software to prepare apps that could be of immense help to police,” said a student.
Police ask schools to put up security cams on campuses
CHENNAI: With schools reopening on June 7, the city police have issued a set of guidelines to ensure safety of students, including the installation of CCTVs both inside and outside school premises. More than 300 people, including correspondents and principals, participated in a meeting convened by the city police at the police commisionerates. Police have asked school managements to monitor the safety of students during opening and closing hours by employing adequate staff. School managements have also been asked to provide adequate arrangements to pick up and drop children. School officials and parents were asked to ensure that staff employed in vehicles in which students are carried, do not have any criminal history, and school officials should secure police clearance certificates for the same.
They also stressed on the need to conduct periodical meetings with parents. Schools were asked to allot specific places for parents to pick up and drop their children to avoid traffic bottlenecks. They were also encouraged to collect phone numbers of the police inspectors in their jurisdiction and contact them in case of emergencies. In case of people other than parents or those employed to pick up children visit the school, teachers should ensure verification before sending them off, police said. School managements should also keep an eye on vendors outside their premises, police said. The senior police officials also took note of the grievances and the need of the school managements. Additional commissioners K Shankar, H M Jeyaraman and Joint Commissioners Prem Anand Sinha, Santhosh Kumar, Bhavaneeshwari also participated.
Fire at mall, jail canteen
Ahmedabad: Even with a slight drop in temperatures in the city, incidents of fire have continued as Ahmedabad Fire and Emergency Services (AFES) reported two major fires on Tuesday. While Satyam Mall in Vastrapur reported a fire in the basement parking in the afternoon, a part of a canteen at Sabarmati Central Jail caught fire early in the morning. According to AFES officials, they got a call from Satyam Mall near Mansi Crossroads at 4.30pm. “The fire had started in the basement used for parking. We suspect the fire started in the electric wiring and soon damaged the wiring in the upper parts too. The acrylic cover had caught fire and smoke was trapped in the basement with no vent. No vehicles were reported damaged,” said an AFES official. In another incident, a canteen at Sabarmati Central Jail reported a fire at 2am on Tuesday. The fire is suspected to have been caused by a short-circuit, said AFES officials. Utensils, a stove and other goods at the premises were reported damaged. In Gandhinagar, a blaze was reported at Rajmandir Apartment in Sector 29 on Tuesday afternoon. Officials of Gandhinagar Fire and Emergency Services (GFES) said that fire started at the electric meter box in the basement and spread to the parking area. Two parked vehicles were charred.
Carrying laptops in plane’s belly unsafe, warns IATA
CANCUN: Amid fears that the US government might extend the personal electronic device (PED) ban to all countries, the global airlines’ body International Air Transport Association (IATA) called for better solutions saying that the current practice of storing laptops in the aircraft belly is by itself unsafe. “Carrying 200 laptops in the belly hold of the aircraft is not safe. We have written to the US government saying that it violates all the safety rules that apply to the carriage of goods in the aircraft belly,” said Alexandre de Juniac, director-general of IATA, talking to TOI. With reference to the US government’s security concerns, he said that IATA doesn’t deny there is a risk. “There is a real threat. But the ban is not effective,” he said. “The US has planned to extend the ban. We’ve written to the US authorities about the lack of effectiveness of the ban and the dangers it poses to safety. We’ve asked them to please adopt another set of measures,” said de Juniac. In a panel discussion held earlier at the IATA annual general meeting, Peter Bellew, Malaysia Airlines CEO said: “I’ve put laptop on sleep mode and forgot about it, it heats up. Laptops that are not turned off are a huge risk. If you have about 200 laptops packed in check-in bags left inside the aircraft belly, it presents a huge risk. There could be a fire in the belly hold”.
Speaking on the manner in which the ban was imposed, de Juniac in this speech at the IATA annual general meeting in Cancun, rued that there was no consultation with industry and little time to implement. “The action caught everyone by surprise. And it was a big challenge for airlines to comply, and a huge inconvenience to our customers. It should not be that way,” he said. Taking electronic devices away from passengers has had a real cost. “In the ban’s current scope we estimate $ 180 million in lost productivity,” said de Juniac. The IATA traffic report for April says that passengers are avoiding routes where the large PED ban is in place. “As the US department of homeland security considers expanding the ban, the need to find alternative measures to keep flying secure is critical. If the ban were extended to Europe-to-US flights, for example, we estimate a $1.4 billion hit on productivity,” said de Juniac. Meanwhile, IATA statistics showed the effect of PED ban on West Asian carriers. For instance, passenger load factors for April 2017 for carriers from all regions, except West Asia, were higher than that of April 2016. Following the ban, in April the passenger load factors for West Asian carriers fell from 75.4 % to 74.7%. For the year 2017 so far, the profits earned by West Asian carriers too are at an all-time low. The route-level data from March showed a decline in passenger traffic on Middle East airlines to the US. It fell in year-on-year terms by 2.8% for the month. This was the first annual decline recorded for this market in at least seven years, the IATA report said.
Suspected bomb kills 7 outside mosque in Afghanistan’s Herat
HERAT (Afghanistan): A suspected bomb outside a mosque in the Afghan city of Herat killed at least seven people and wounded 15 on Tuesday, police said, the latest casualties in a particularly bloody week in Afghanistan. Officials in the western city believe explosives were hidden in a motorcycle left in a parking area outside the Jama Masjid, a large mosque dating from the 12th century, known for its intricate blue tiles. Abdul Ahad Walizada, spokesman for Herat police, said at least seven people were killed and 15 wounded as they made their way to the mosque for prayers. Near the border with Iran, Herat is one of Afghanistan’s largest cities. The attack came after a spate of violence in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, where on Wednesday more than 150 people were killed and hundreds wounded in a suicide truck-bomb attack. Several protesters were killed in clashes with police on Friday at the bomb site, and at least a dozen people were killed when suicide bombers attacked the funeral for one of the dead protesters on Saturday.
Passengers jump from plane at Australian airport in bomb hoax – media
SYDNEY: Passengers jumped from a plane at a rural Australian airport on Tuesday when a threatening note, which turned out to be a hoax, was found in the bathroom, police and media said, a day after a siege in Melbourne which police are treating as terrorism. “Nothing was found, there was no actual threat to anybody, just a note, so there was nothing in it,” a police spokeswoman who declined to give her name told Reuters. Police said the 68-passenger turboprop plane with 42 passengers on board on a domestic flight was evacuated at the airport in Albury, in southern New South Wales, and a man was arrested. Australian Associated Press quoted a passenger as saying he heard someone shout: “Leave your luggage. Get out and run, run, run.” It said passengers jumped on to the tarmac.
“Police and emergency services attended Albury airport after receiving information a note was located in the toilet area,” a New South Wales state police spokeswoman Emily Waters told Reuters. “All passengers disembarked and a man was arrested within five minutes,” Waters said, declining to provide further details. She did not say what was written on the note. Virgin Australia said police met the plane on its arrival “due to a security incident on board”. It could not immediately confirm how many passengers were on board. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said police were treating a deadly siege on Monday in the southern city of Melbourne as an “act of terrorism” after a claim by the Islamic State group that one of its fighters was the gunman responsible.