Do not panic, embassy tells Indians in Qatar
Passengers queue at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar.
NEW DELHI: As the Gulf crisis deepened with four major Arab nations closing sea, air and land links with Qatar, India is beginning to worry about its over 6,30,000 nationals living in that country. An advisory by the Indian embassy in Doha has asked Indians to “stay alert” while the government is monitoring the developments. “The embassy of India is monitoring the situation closely and is in touch with the Qatari authorities to ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals in Qatar,” an official statement said. Qatar has only one land route to Saudi Arabia, which is used for transport of essential commodities. The route is now closed after Qatar’s diplomatic isolation by Saudi Arabia-led allies. Sources said there should be no immediate sense of panic or shortage as Qatar is well stocked. Secondly, as one of the richest country in the world, Qatar is likely to put its considerable resources to maintain its people. Reports have suggested that the Indian government has offered to send in supplies. Sources said the Indian government is ready for any relief operations in future. Sources said the greatest danger is for people to fall prey to rumours.
IIT-B, IIT-D, IISc among world’s best institutes
MUMBAI: The premier IIT-Bombay entered the big league of institutes globally by bagging the 179th position in the QS World Rankings released on Thursday. The premier institute jumped 40 positions, from 219th rank last year, to join IIT-Delhi and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, in the elite club of top 200 universities. IIT-Delhi and IISc-Bangalore were among the top 200 since the last two years. While IIT-Delhi (172nd) moved up a few notches this year to be the top institute in the country, beating IISc (190th), which is placed third, IIT-Bombay, held second position. IIT-Bombay has made an improvement on all the three of the four parameters, taking the overall score to 49.7, from last year’s 44.6. The institute’s score in academic reputation progressed from 45.7 last year to 62.3 now. The faculty-student ratio also got 32.1 points over last year’s 25, and the citations per faculty increased from 48.5 to 50.8.
The employer-reputation, however, dropped from 79.1 to 77.9, but is also one of the highest contributors to the institute’s higher rank. Institute director Devang Khakhar said they have done well in almost all parameters. “We started off at a low pace in the QS rankings and have gradually gone up. The research has improved and our faculty numbers have gone up too. There are more international students on the campus and the numbers will gradually increase, and hopefully, we will do better than this year’s performance,” said Khakhar. Among universities, Delhi University is among the top 500 in the world rankings. Mumbai and Pune universities, ranked above 700 last year, fell between the ranges of 801-1,000 this year.
Another major fire in Old Delhi
NEW DELHI: A major fire broke out in a three-storey building at Kinari Bazar, just behind Gurdwara Sis Ganj in Chandni Chowk, on Thursday afternoon, damaging property worth several lakhs of rupees. Police suspect that the fire began as a result of a short-circuit. The blaze spread rapidly following a cylinder explosion. Fire officials said they received a call about the incident at 12pm. Soon after, 10 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. When the blaze could not be doused for over an hour, 10 more fire engines were sent to the spot. Finally, the fire was brought under control in two hours. The incident took place around two weeks after a blaze ravaged over 100 shops and destroyed property worth several crores in the same area.
The building was owned by four brothers. House numbers 2,115, 2,116 and 2,117 which were occupied by tenant—were completely destroyed, said a fire official. A shopkeeper, Ashwini Jain, who has been living in the complex for the past 20 years, said, “I initially smelt something burning nearby and within a few minutes, I saw people screaming and running. Then I realised that there was a fire.” The blaze was believed to have started on the ground floor, which was being used as a godown. Ram Lal, one of the owners, said he was in his office at nearby Dari Bagh when the fire broke out. He rushed back to his house to find it completely destroyed. A case of negligence has been registered against the owners.
Safety certificate issued, Metro heads south on June 17
Bengaluru: The seven-year-wait of Bengalureans to commute the length and breadth of the city on a rapid mass transit system is set to end on June 17, when President Pranab Mukherjee is slated to launch its southern corridor on the Sampige Road-Yelachenahalli stretch, operationalizing the entire Phase I of the ambitious project. Confirming the launch, Bengaluru development minister K J George said on Thursday that the route will be thrown open to the public on June 18. Earlier in the morning, commissioner for metro rail safety (CMRS) K A Manoharan issued a safety certificate for the 12km Green Line, with conditions. “I have issued a safety certificate to Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRC) but the conditions to complete civil work at KR Market and Chickpet stations stay. They have to send me a compliance report once they finish these minor works to ensure passengers are not inconvenienced.
Simultaneously, they can hold the launch, and commission it after full compliance,” Manoharan later told TOI. According to a note issued by the principal secretary to the chief minister, the President has agreed to launch the line between 6pm and 7pm on June 17. The 42km Phase I of the project was to be commissioned by December 2010, but has missed 10 deadlines since. The launch of the stretch will also completely operationalize the Majestic Interchange, enabling commuters to switch between Byappanahalli-Mysuru Road (East-West corridor) and Nagasandra-Yelachenahalli (North-South corridor) routes.
Police set rules to ease road traffic
Hyderabad: In order to regulate traffic without causing inconvenience to the general public for the “Distribution of Fish Prasadam” on Mrugashirakarti falling on June 8 and 9 at Exhibition Grounds, Nampally, the city police have placed a few traffic restrictions. For people coming on four-wheelers from Public Gardens, would have to park their vehicles at the Government Junior College for Girls in Nampally. From there on they would have to walk to the grounds. If, in case, the parking space at the Government Junior College for Girls, Nampally, is exhausted then the vehicles will be parked at the Public Gardens. However, people coming by bus would have to alight at the Bamboo Adda, Malakunta Road, and walk up to the Exhibition Grounds. All VIPs with car passes will proceed from the Taj Island and from Gandhi Bhavan towards the Central Warehousing Corporation. Their vehicles will be parked in the premises of Central Warehousing Corporation. Two wheelers will park their vehicles in the open space at Indira Bhavan at Chandra Vihar premises, at Gruhakalpa premises and lane beside Midas High School.
Why Chennai airport may fly into rough weather
Chennai: The plan for a second airport in Chennai looks jinxed. The state government now wants to explore other locations before acquiring land at Sriperumbudur for the project. Officials say acquiring land at Sriperumbudur may be expensive and hence the rethink. Nearly 10 years after it was mooted, land identified and a feasibility study by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) conducted, the state government has put the Greenfield airport project in the freezer. A senior official of Airports Authority of India (AAI), which facilitated the ICAO study for Sriperumbudur, said, “Government officials say it will be expensive to acquire land in the southern parts of Chennai which has developed rapidly. They want to find out if the airport can be built at some other location”. The indecision will put further pressure on the Chennai airport that is trying to accommodate increasing passenger footfall and airline traffic despite its limited capacity. The airport has reached its saturation point at terminals and runways. Expanding the existing facility is not easy as it is surrounded by residential and commercial areas. Plan for a parallel runway was dropped in the hope that a new airport will be built at Sriperumbudur. And the rate at which decisions for the now-shelved project were taken and studies done, it will take another 10 years for the government and the AAI to finalise a new location for the second airport. After finalizing the land, it will take another five years to build the runways, terminals and other facilities.
“We have asked the Tamil Nadu government to give us two locations. We will look whether they are feasible and a decision to have a new airport can be taken. The state government will look for land for a second airport as close to Chennai as possible,” said AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra at a press conference after signing an MoU with the state government for the regional connectivity scheme. Asked if the state government did not want the Sriperumbudur airport, Mohapatra replied, “They are not saying that either.” The AAI chairman said the need for more choices came up as the state government was not very keen on the project at Sriperumbudur. “The new airport should come up within one-and-a-half hours of travel time from the catchment area for passengers. The new site should also be selected on this basis,” Mohapatra said. Mohapatra said in the case of Pune, the Maharashtra government was looking at four to five sites. He said the project will take off quicker as the government had agreed to have review meetings for the second airport with AAI officials every two months. A senior official who was part of the delegation that met the Tamil Nadu chief secretary said review meetings will be held once in two months initially and then once a month.
Cyber cell spreads net wide to nab fraudster
AHMEDABAD: The cyber cell of city crime branch has written to the police forces of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bangalore seeking details of online fraud offences in their respective jurisdictions. Cyber cell officials said the letters were written on the basis of about 17,000 mobile numbers dialed by Mohammed Jilani Ansari of Jharkhand to cheat people by posing as a bank official. “He would ask for one-time passwords (OTPs), saying that their debit or credit cards had been blocked and he needed the OTPs to reactivate them. We arrested Ansari from Binsmi village in Jharkhand,” said a senior cyber cell official. Senior crime branch officials said they are now hunting for a man named Tiku Mandal of Panchsimi village in Jharkhand. “Tiku is an alias and it is very difficult to trace him by that name. We have activated sources in Jharkhand to find him,” added a senior crime branch official. Cyber cell sources said if Ansari, 23, a class VIII drop-out could call 17,000 people across 15 states to siphon off money from credit cards, crime branch is worried about how many numbers his “guru” Tiku Mandal could have tried with a 14-member team of cheats.
“Ansari revealed that he learnt the tricks of the trade from one Tiku Mandal of Panchsimi village in the same district. Mandal tutored 14 other cheats like Ansari and was like their gang leader,” said a senior crime branch official. “Mandal not only gave tutored them for Rs 70,000 but also provided them bank accounts and dummy sim cards. Mandal would to get the money transferred to his bank accounts from e-wallets of his gang members and would give them cash after deducting his commission,” Zala added. Cyber cell sources said Ansari revealed that Mandal would come to his village twice a week and settle accounts with his gang members. The cyber cell had busted a massive online cheating racket. Crime branch arrested Ansari from Jharkhand, who would call people posing a bank official and extract their card number and CVV number. He would then siphon off the money by online transactions.
Islamic State claims it killed two Chinese in Pakistan
A soldier stands guard near the site where two Chinese language teachers were kidnapped.
CAIRO/QUETTA: Islamic State has killed two Chinese teachers it kidnapped in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province last month, the militant group’s Amaq news agency said on Thursday, in a blow to Islamabad’s efforts to safeguard Chinese workers. China’s foreign ministry said it was “gravely concerned” about the report and working to verify the information. Armed men pretending to be policemen kidnapped the two language teachers in the provincial capital, Quetta, on May 24. The kidnapping was a rare security incident involving Chinese nationals in Pakistan, where Beijing has pledged $57 billion for its “Belt and Road” plan. “Islamic State fighters killed two Chinese people they had been holding in Balochistan province, southwest Pakistan,” Amaq said. A Balochistan government spokesman said officials were in the process of confirming “whether the report is true”. China’s foreign ministry said it noted the report and expressed “grave concern”. “We have been trying to rescue the two kidnapped hostages over the past days,” the ministry said in a short statement. “The Chinese side is working to learn about and verify relevant information through various channels, including working with Pakistani authorities,” it said. “The Chinese side is firmly opposed to the acts of kidnapping civilians in any form, as well as terrorism and extreme violence in any form”.
There was no immediate comment from Pakistan’s interior ministry or its foreign office. Islamic State, which controls some territory in neighbouring Afghanistan, has struggled to establish a presence in Pakistan. But it has claimed several major attacks, including one on the deputy chairman of the Senate last month in Balochistan, in which 25 people were killed. Earlier on Thursday, Pakistan’s military published details of a three-day raid on a militant hideout in a cave not far from Quetta, saying it had killed 12 “hardcore terrorists” from a banned local Islamist group and prevented Islamic State from gaining a “foothold” in Balochistan. China’s ambassador to Pakistan and other officials have often urged Islamabad to improve security, especially in Balochistan, where China is building a new port and funding roads to link its western regions with the Arabian Sea. The numbers of Pakistanis studying Mandarin has skyrocketed since 2014, when President Xi Jinping signed off on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, pledging to invest $57 billion in Pakistani road, rail and power infrastructure. Security in Balochistan has improved in recent years. However, separatists, who view the project as a ruse to steal natural resources, killed 10 Pakistani workers building a road near the new port of Gwadar this month, a key part of the economic corridor. China has also expressed concern about militants in Pakistan linking up with what China views as separatists in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where hundreds have been killed in violence in recent years.
100,000 cholera cases, 789 deaths, in Yemen in past month: WHO
GENEVA: A cholera outbreak of more than 100,000 cases has erupted in war-ravaged Yemen, killing nearly 800 people, in just over a month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. The UN health agency said that since the end of April, 101,820 suspected cholera cases had been registered across 19 of the country’s 21 governorates, including 789 deaths. WHO has warned that a quarter of a million people could fall sick with cholera by the end of the year in Yemen, a country where two-thirds of the population are on the brink of famine. British charity Oxfam also voiced alarm on Thursday at what it described as “a runaway cholera epidemic” in Yemen, pointing out that the disease is currently killing nearly one person every hour. Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water.
Reining in the disease is particularly complicated in Yemen, where two years of devastating war between the Huthis and government forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab military coalition has left more than half the country’s medical facilities out of service. Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 8,000 people and wounded around 45,000 since March 2015, according to the WHO. “Yemen is on the edge of an abyss. Lives hang in the balance,” Sajjad Mohammed Said, Oxfam’s Yemen country director, said in a statement. “Cholera is simple to treat and prevent but while the fighting continues the task is made doubly difficult,” he said, insisting that “a massive aid effort is needed now”.
Nearly 70 dead in al-Shabab attack on Somalia military base
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Heavily armed al-Shabab extremists have stormed a military base in Somalia‘s semiautonomous state of Puntland, killing close to 70 people and wounding dozens more, officials said on Thursday. Residents said civilians, including women, were beheaded during the rampage. Officials called it the region’s deadliest attack in years, highlighting the twin challenges facing security forces from the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab and the growing presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State group. The attack began with a blast at the remote Af-Urur camp, roughly 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of the commercial hub of Bossaso, before the extremists overran the base and killed soldiers at close range, said Ahmed Mohamed, a senior military official. Close to 70 people were killed, though an exact death toll was not yet available, Mohamed said. Abdi Hersi Ali, Puntland’s interior minister, said troops suffered causalities but he declined to give further details. Residents in the area reported chaotic scenes, with fighters beheading several civilians they encountered. One witness, Abdibasit Hassan, said women were among those beheaded.
“The situation is grim over there. This attack was an unexpected one,” Mohamed said. The extremists, including suicide bombers, reportedly attacked the base from three directions, forcing soldiers to retreat. Col. Hashi Ahmed, a senior military official, told The Associated Press that reinforcement troops reached the area and drove the extremists out of the camp. He estimated that at least 100 fighters were involved in the attack. Al-Shabab claimed killing at least 61 soldiers in the attack. The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist groups, said the extremist group issued the claim via its Shahada News Agency. Al-Shabab also said it seized a large amount of weapons and ammunition and more than a dozen military vehicles. Puntland in northern Somalia also faces a growing threat from ISIS-linked fighters who have split from al-Shabab. Liban Mohamed, a nurse at the hospital in nearby Armo town, said at least 40 wounded soldiers had been brought there after Thursday’s attack.