Monthly Archives: April 2018

News Flash – 30 April 2018

National News

 

 

SECURITY GUARDS FOR DOCTORS LEAVE POOR IN LURCH

 

Mumbai: Five government facilities write to director of Directorate of Medical Education and Research, saying they have been forced to turn poor patients away after paying out of their pockets to clear salaries of security personnel. Five government hospitals in the state have shut their doors to the poor, owing to the state’s ill thought-out plan to provide doctors exclusive security cover at 13 healthcare facilities. Swami Ramanand Teerth Rural Government Medical College and Hospital in Ambajogai, Government Medical College in Latur, Dr Panjabrao Deshmukh Memorial Medical College and Hospital in Amravati, Government Medical College and Hospital in Akola, and Shri Vasantrao Naik Government Medical College in Yavatmal have made this alarming admission in a letter to the director of the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER). They said their personal ledger accounts dried up in January because of payments made to security personnel, leaving no money for the care of poor patients. The other eight facilities — Sir JJ Group of Hospitals in Mumbai, Indira Gandhi Government Medical College and Hospital in Nagpur, BJ Medical College in Pune, Dr Vaishampayan Memorial Government Medical College in Solapur, Government medical College in Chandrapur, Government Medical College in Nanded, Government Medical College in Jalgaon, and Government Medical College in Aurangabad — have very little funds left. Daily collections from the outpatient department — a fee of Rs 10 a patient — surgeries and room charges as well as donations are used to fund personal ledger accounts of state-run hospitals.

 

These accounts have to be used only to treat poor patients, buy emergency medicines in the event of mass casualties, or perform urgent repairs of machinery used in operation theatres or blood banks. But a year ago, this rule was violated. Following the agitation of over 4,000 resident doctors across the state in March last year — demanding better security in the wake of a spate of attacks from patients’ families and attendants — the Bombay High Court ordered the state government to increase the number of security guards at hospitals. A month later, the DMER issued a circular stating that 800 more personnel were being recruited from the Maharashtra State Security Corporation (MSSC) for 13 hospitals. Here’s where the plan went haywire. The state finance department has failed to sanction the salaries of the 800 guards. In the absence of funds from the department, the DMER was forced to ask hospitals to dip into their personal ledger accounts. A senior doctor from the Latur hospital said as per the practice, if a hospital diverts money from its personal account for other purposes, the government has to reimburse it immediately. “What we saved up over years has been spent in just a year”. A doctor from the Akola facility said a majority of the patients there lives below the poverty line. “We have to ensure that all of their treatment is free. Now, we are being forced to ask them to pay. We have cleared around Rs 1 crore for MSSC guards’ salaries”. A senior doctor from the Yavatmal hospital said the facility has had to divert money from its personal ledger account for the time for other purposes. “We have seen emergency situations in the past. Last year, more than 200 farmers suffered toxic chemical exposure after spraying pesticides on their cotton crop.

 

We had to use the personal ledger account to buy emergency medicines for them. If such a situation arises again, what will we do?”. A senior doctor from JJ Hospital said the facility has to pay around Rs 20 lakh a month to its MSSC guards. “We stopped payments in January after we realised that very little money was left in our account. If there is a large-scale disaster, how we will manage?”. St George’s Hospital, which functions under JJ Group of Hospitals, said it has paid Rs 1crore to its MSSC guards over the past year. The DMER has thrown up its hands. Dr Pravin Shingare, director of DMER, said Rs 10 crore has been paid in total from the 13 hospitals’ funds to the 800 guards. “We have to make payments of Rs 8 crore. We can’t remove these guards wing to the HC order”. He admitted that personal ledger accounts cannot be touched for purposes other than those intended. “But, what other option do we have? We haven’t received any money from the state finance department. It has told us it is still figuring out the budget for these new guards, and that it will soon give the sanction”. Sources said this year’s state budget had no mention of an allocation for the 800 MSSC guards’ salaries. DK Jain, additional chief secretary, (finance), however, claimed that there is enough money to make the payments. “Such payments are usually made from office expenses. The allegation that we are not willing to clear the salaries is incorrect”.

 

 

Rs 6 lakh jewellery looted from shop

 

 

New Delhi: A gang of armed robbers attacked a jewellery store in northwest Delhi’s Shalimar Bagh and fled with valuables worth Rs 6 lakh on Saturday. The incident happened at 2pm at AB block of Shalimar Bagh. The showroom owner, Pravesh Arora, told police that there were seven people in the shop, including his brother and workers when three people wearing helmets entered. They wielded pistols and threatened to shoot him and the workers, Arora said. They pushed the people to a corner as two of them collected jewellery and cash in their bag. After collecting the valuables, the men fled on their motorcycle, he said. Arora later informed the cops about the incident following which a case under sections of robbery and Arms Act was registered. Police are scanning the CCTV footage from the area and inside the shop to ascertain the identity of the accused. Details are also being sought from the transport department about the registration of the motorcycle.

 

 

Balloon in Air India plane’s engine causes emergency landing at Delhi’s IGI

 

 

NEW DELHI: In a bizarre incident, a Srinagar-bound Air India flight returned to Indira Gandhi International airport on Sunday morning to make an emergency landing after a balloon got stuck in one of its engines. The flight with 188 passengers on board, however, landed safely, said officials. The incident took place around 10.30am with the Airport Operation Control Centre (AOCC) informing about the emergency landing, soon after flight AI 825 had taken off from IGI. Officials said that clearance was given by air traffic control and within minutes, the plane landed back safely at the airport on runway 28/10. “The emergency was terminated at 11.14am with all passengers landing safely. The Delhi to Srinagar flight which had departed at 10.20am had to land back after a balloon got stuck on one of the engines,” said an official. Flying objects coming in contact with a plane is often a hazard, which forces airlines to make an immediate landing, a majority of which are bird-hit related incidents. Officials said the passengers were deboarded and taken to the destination in another flight soon after. AI’s flight from Amritsar to Delhi had recently been in the news after a video, which surfaced online, showed a window panel falling off due to severe turbulence. Three passengers were reportedly injured and the turbulence continued for several minutes, resulting in chaos on-board.

 

 

South Zone traffic police hold mega awareness Mela

 

 

HYDERABAD: Hyderabad South Zone Police organized a mega traffic awareness programme on Saturday. Addressing the gathering, City Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar said the city has been recognized as one of the best in the country and urged local motorists to become role models for others by following traffic norms. “For the last three years, the fatal accidents ratio has come down. Almost 25 per cent of road accidents are fatal, however, people following traffic laws will ensure that this hurdle will be solved. If you people cooperate by obeying traffic laws, then within a short period of time old city will emerge better than new city. For that your(people) cooperation is necessary,” said Commissioner Anjani. However, Traffic additional Commissioner Anil Kumar expressed concern on the rise of traffic violations by minors, and said that parents would be accountable if any minor was involved in accidents. He urged parents not to encourage their kids to use vehicles. South Zone Traffic DCP Tajuddin Ahmed told TOI that more than two thousand people participated in the awareness programme and a photo exhibition was also conducted to educate violators of their responsibility. “The traffic police have also organized a license Mela in which certain applicants were also issued learning license on the spot. The programme was successful and more like would be held in coming days to educate people towards traffic norms and help to make the hurdles and accidents free city,’’ DCP Tajuddin told TOI.

 

 

Security upped on Marina to keep protesters at bay

Policemen deployed near Marina Beach on Sunday

 

 

CHENNAI: The usually crowded Marina wore a deserted look on Sunday as police threw a tight security blanket around it to keep out protesters demanding the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB). Anticipating demonstrations by various outfits, police deployed at least 3,000 personnel along the roads leading to the Marina. On Saturday, a single judge of the Madras high court had directed the city police to grant permission for a fast on the Marina but a division bench of the court stayed his order within a few hours following an urgent writ appeal preferred jointly by the home secretary, director general of police and commissioner of police. Entry to Wallajah Road from the beach was blocked after 3pm and vehicles from Anna Salai were diverted at Bells Road to join the beach. Vehicles were denied entry to the service lane along the beach from the morning until 7pm. However, parking was totally blocked on the stretch even after 7pm. Visitors were asked to park their vehicles near Bharathi Salai or Avvai Shanmugam Salai. Meanwhile, around 500 members of the Tamizhar Vazhvurimai Kootamaippu (TVK) staged a protest at Chepauk seeking the constitution of the CMB.

 

 

Heat surge: Over 160 emergencies every day

 

AHMEDABAD: It’s raining fire in the city. According to data released by EMRI 108, April 27 reported the highest number of emergencies in four days, at 170. The previous high was 183 reported on April 23. April 28, considered to be the hottest day of the season so far, recording 42.4°C, reported close to 100 emergencies till 5pm. “The pattern of emergencies has remained almost the same. If we take the example of April 27, abdominal pain (39) made up the highest number of emergencies, closely followed by unconsciousness (36), fall (33), fainting (19), vomiting (16), chest pain (12), dehydration (9) and blood pressure fluctuation (6),” said an EMRI official, adding that the cases are received even after evening. “Other major emergency, not reported in the day, is of ENT bleeding,” he said. Ahmedabad heads the tally of Gujarat’s four major cities. More often than not, the city alone reports more emergencies than the three cities combined. Officials said that there are two explanations. “There are 24 108 ambulances, the highest for a single city,” said an official. “Moreover, being the economic capital of the state, the city sees more activity during peak afternoon hours”. According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), April 27 recorded the temperature of 42.4°C which will climb to 43°on Sunday and is expected to remain stagnant till May 1. In Gujarat, Rajkot was the hottest city (43°C) followed by Gandhinagar and Surendranagar, both reporting 42.7°C.

 

 

International News

 

 

3 killed, 8 injured in New York City house fire

 

 

NEW YORK: Three people have been killed and eight others injured in a house fire in New York City. The blaze broke out late Saturday night at a two-story home in Queens. An 82-year-old woman, an 87-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman all were killed in the fire. Eight other people were taken to area hospitals. Three, including an 8-year-old girl, are listed in critical condition. The other five are hospitalized in stable condition with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening. On Sunday morning, three people including two children were hospitalized in critical condition after a blaze broke out in a Harlem apartment building, the Fire Department said. The causes of the fires remain under investigation.

 

 

Afghan children set off unexploded mortar round, 3 dead

 

 

KABUL: A group of children set off an unexploded mortar round in a residential area in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, causing a blast that killed a woman and two children, according to provincial official. Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said another seven children were wounded in Sunday’s explosion. He said the mortar round had been fired by insurgents the night before but failed to explode. Afghanistan is littered with land mines and unexploded munitions left over from decades of war, which kill and wound hundreds of people every year. In Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar, a rickshaw loaded with explosives blew up near a mosque and registration center, wounding a policeman and six civilians, Khogyani said. No one immediately claimed the blast. Both the Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate are active in Nangarhar. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a bombing in Jalalabad on Saturday that wounded 12 people, including two traffic police.


News Flash – 27 April 2018

National News

 

 

Delhi: Cash van guard, staffer killed in Rs 12 lakh heist

 

NEW DELHI: Criminals intercepted a cash van in outer Delhi’s Narela area on Thursday afternoon, shot dead the guard and the custodian and escaped with Rs 12 lakh. The entire heist took less than five minutes, witnesses said. The guard was shot close to 15 times and the custodian took about four bullets to the body. Thursday’s robbery and murders came just over 48 hours after armed men had shot at cash van personnel in the same area. The incident, which took place at around 2.30pm in a crowded market near Vardhaman Plaza shopping complex, triggered panic amongst residents and traders. The criminals are learnt to have fired around two dozen bullets during the holdup. While police are clueless about the identity and whereabouts of the perpetrators, police brass are learnt to have ordered the crime branch and special cell to track them down. The deceased guard has been identified as Prem Kumar and the custodian as Rajani Kant Singh. The van, belonging to SIS Securities, had arrived there to collect cash from a businessman after making collections from six-seven points. The guard and the cashier had been stowing the cash in the van when three men on a motorcycle, all wearing crash helmets, arrived and started firing indiscriminately. Prem and Rajani Kant, hit multiple times, were killed where they stood. The bikers then took the cash box and fled after firing a few rounds in the air to scare the public. Cash vans and cash collections agents have been targeted in the city by armed criminals on at least three other occasions — apart from Thursday’s robbery-murders and an abortive attempt on April 24.

 

On March 26, criminals had attacked and looted a cash van of Rs 16 lakh in Sultanpuri area; on March 14, two cash collection agents were robbed at gunpoint of Rs 16 lakh in Dwarka; and on February 4, three people had fled with Rs 10 lakh after shooting at a cash van in Rohini’s Sector 5. Devender, an employee of the liquor shop from where the two had collected cash on Thursday, said, “They had left the shop barely two minutes ago, after collecting the cash, when we heard gunshots. I rushed to see what had happened and saw them firing nonstop”. Later, people at the attack site put the bodies in the cash van itself. The police were informed and a person then drove them to the nearby Harishchandra Hospital where they were declared dead on arrival. Police teams then rushed to the spot to inspect the crime scene. All border check posts and beat officers have been alerted to keep a watch on suspicious movements in the area. DCP (Rohini) Rajneesh Gupta said a case has been registered under IPC sections dealing with murder and under sections of the Arms Act. Since the robbery and murders occurred barely a few kilometers from the Delhi-Haryana border, cops suspect the involvement of criminals based in Haryana. “The criminals were aware about the route and timings of the van so there is a high possibility of an insider being involved,” a senior police officer said. The antecedents of the driver who escaped despite the fusillade are being ascertained and he is being probed for more details.

 

 

13,000 CCTV cams to watch you when you enter Delhi Metro network

 

NEW DELHI: At the upcoming new corridors of Delhi Metro, commuters will be under watch from the moment they enter the metro premises. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is installing state-of-the-art CCTV cameras at its new corridors that will become operational this year, taking the total number of cameras in metro network from the present 9,029 to more than 13,000. At present, there are 183 operational stations in the Delhi Metro network, which will go up to 227 this year with the opening of the remaining sections of the Magenta and Pink Lines. DMRC and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) plan to provide a tight security blanket across all the new corridors and stations and as a result, the total number of CCTV cameras installed at stations and depots will go up by almost 45%. Moreover, the new cameras being brought by the corporation are technologically more advanced than the present ones installed at operational stations.

 

“Cameras are procured and maintained by DMRC and the new ones have the best and latest features,” said a senior CISF official. “The live feed from the CCTV cameras are monitored by both DMRC officials such as station controllers and our personnel as part of parallel monitoring,” he said. CISF has two security control centres – one at Shastri Park from where Yellow, Red and Green Lines are monitored and the other at Metro Bhawan near Barakhamba Road, from where Blue, Violet, Pink and Magenta Lines are monitored. The 9,029 CCTV cameras in the metro network are installed at metro stations, including station’s mid shafts and ramps, apart from those at depots. “Usually, 65 cameras are installed in an underground station, 55 in an elevated station and 28 cameras in each depot. The numbers may change depending on the size of the station, interchange facility and number of exist and entry points,” a DMRC spokesperson said.

 

 

Alert driver saves 32 lives before bus catches fire

The driver couldn’t douse the fire with extinguishers (insert) Vijay Kumar RN.

 

 

BENGALURU: A quick-thinking driver succeeded in saving the lives of 32 passengers when the Airavat club-class bus operated by the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation caught fire on Wednesday night. The bus (bearing registration KA-57-F-212) was on the way to Hyderabad when fire broke out around 10.30pm near the engine in the rear compartment of the bus. Driver Vijay Kumar RN told TOI: “Everything in the bus looked normal when we left Shantinagar terminus. After the bus crossed the Kempegowda International Airport trumpet interchange and neared Devanahalli, there was a loud noise from the rear of the vehicle. Not wanting to take chances, I pulled over”. Kumar got off the vehicle and inspected the engine. He was shocked to see fire in the compartment. “I knew I had very little time. Several passengers, including a few senior citizens and women, had dozed off and I had to get them out of the bus safe before something went horribly wrong,” he said. The passengers got off and gathered at a distance from the bus. Just as the fire started spreading, the crew and a few passengers pulled out passengers’ luggage from the bus. By then, some passengers had called the police control room and the fire service personnel. Preliminary investigations said the diesel pipe connecting to the engine had got snapped, resulting in the fire. KSRTC officials lauded Kumar, with 12 years of experience at the wheel, for his presence of mind and swift action. “If he had continued to drive without stopping to check what was causing the noise, there could have been a tragedy,” an official said.

 

 

Despite efforts, few ATMs have no cash

 

 

HYDERABAD: Denizens continue to face a severe cash crunch in ATMs despite several efforts by the government to improve the situation. “I visited several ATMs, only to be disappointed. I usually do my grocery shopping from a local market, but I am now dependent on online payments to shop. I wish the government had plan things better this year,” Jaya, an SBI ATM user in Panjagutta said. IndusInd, Andhra Bank, and State Bank ATMs stand right next to each other at Mehdipatnam, but all three were out of cash for the week. M K Mouinnudin, a Jet Airways employee also said he failed to find cash in several ATMs. Mohammad Riyad, a travel agent, who was standing in a queue to withdraw money at the Axis Bank ATM at Bandlaguda said cash is available occasionally. “I am coming from Hitech city and have visited every ATM on my way. Despite having three bank accounts, I can’t even pay for a tire puncture or my rent. Banks aren’t any help either,” said Nagraj, a worker at DLF. The scene seems to be different at the Axis Bank ATM at Bandlaguda where Sanjeev Reddy, a cop, and Rama Rao, an Army official said they haven’t faced any problems and that money is available 24/7. “Because RBI is supplying enough money and people are depositing more money, we are able to fill ATMs with ₹10-15 lakh once a day and that seems to be enough.” said a branch manager, SBI, S Acharya.

 

 

Two bungalows burgled in Satellite

 

 

Ahmedabad: Thieves targeted two bungalows in the Satellite area of the city on Wednesday. According to a complaint by Kalpesh Mehta, a resident of Ambawadi, his maternal uncle Janak Mehta left for the US in early April and told Mehta to watch his residence at Jay Shefali Society near Shivranjani Crossroads. On Thursday, Mehta got a call from his uncle to check if a courier had arrived at his house. When Mehta went to check, he was shocked to find that the house had been burgled. “He told his uncle about this and was given an inventory of valuables. According to the FIR, the thieves entered after breaking the lock on the main door and stole Rs 3 lakh cash and $2,000. More details will emerge once his uncle returns,” said an investigator. In another incident, Sanjay Shah, 68, a resident of Woodhouse Bungalows on IIM Road, reported the theft of valuables including gold and diamond ornaments, cash and silverware. Shah is a chartered accountant. His wife has gone to the US and he had gone to Delhi on April 24 on business. “When he returned at 11pm on April 25, he found gold and diamond ornaments worth Rs 3.5 lakh, Rs 15,000 cash, silverware worth Rs 17,000 and $200 were stolen from the house,” said a Satellite police official.

 

 

International News

 

 

US-led anti-IS coalition admits 28 more civilian deaths

 

 

WASHINGTON: The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq acknowledged on Thursday the deaths of another 28 civilians, increasing the overall toll of non-fighters killed to at least 883. The coalition said in a statement that it had completed a review in March of 49 reports of potential civilian casualties from air and artillery strikes, of which all but three were deemed not credible. These three incidents occurred in Iraq and Syria last year. On May 25, near Al-Mayadin in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor, 15 people were killed during an air strike on an IS “media center and headquarters”. “The investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the law of armed conflict, unintended civilian casualties unfortunately occurred,” officials said in a statement. An April 27, 2017 strike on an IS headquarters in the Syrian city of Raqa saw 11 civilians killed, and a May 16 strike saw two people killed. Investigators were still looking at another 476 reports from the campaign. The coalition conducted a total of 29,254 strikes between August 2014 and the end of March 2018 in Iraq and Syria. Monitoring group Airwars says the number of civilian deaths acknowledged by the US-led coalition is well below the true toll of the bombing campaign, estimating that at least 6,259 civilians have been killed. The US-led operations to fight IS in Iraq and Syria have largely wound down, with the jihadists ousted from more than 98 percent of the territory they once held. The coalition’s toll of non-fighters killed dates from 2014.

 

 

China sends bombers around Taiwan in new show of force

A placard with an image of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen is pictured on a barricade at the entrance to the parliament during a demonstration in Taipei.

 

 

BEIJING: China flew bombers and fighter jets around Taiwan today, officials said, in a new show of force that the defence ministry said was directed at “independence forces” on the self-ruled island. H-6K bombers, early warning aircraft, reconnaissance planes and several types of fighter jets took off from multiple airports for “combat drills”, the air force said in a statement on its official microblog. The planes flew over Bashi Strait, south of Taiwan and the Miyako Strait, near Japan’s Okinawa Island, it said. The air force said its H-6K bombers have completed several drills that involved circling Taiwan since April 18 “to strengthen its capacity to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity”. “The series of operations we are carrying out is directed against Taiwan independence forces and activities in the island,” defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a monthly press conference. “Their purpose is to prevent that the Taiwan independence forces’ plot damages the welfare of the Taiwanese people. If the independence forces continue to wantonly take rash actions, we will take further actions,” Wu said.

 

China sees the democratically-governed island — which has never formally declared independence from the mainland — as a renegade part of its territory to be brought back into the fold, and has not ruled out reunification by force. Taipei has accused Beijing of “sabre rattling” and trying to stoke regional tensions with its recent drills. Taiwan announced on Tuesday that it will practice thwarting a Chinese “invasion” in annual live fire drills in June by simulating surprise coastal assaults. Chinese H-6K bombers and spy planes had previously flown around Taiwan last week. Chinese combat helicopters conducted live-fire drills with missiles off southeast China on April 18, state media said last week without confirming whether the exercises took place in the sensitive Taiwan Strait. Beijing has stepped up military patrols around Taiwan and used diplomatic pressure to isolate it internationally since President Tsai Ing-wen, of the traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, took office in 2016. Beijing’s sole aircraft carrier and two destroyers crossed waters south of Taiwan Saturday and carried out “offensive and defensive” drills in the Pacific, China’s navy said.


News Flash – 26 April 2018

National News

 

 

13 children killed in bus-train collision in Uttar Pradesh

The accident site in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh

 

 

NEW DELHI: As many as 13 children were killed this morning when the school vehicle they were in collided with a moving train at an unmanned rail crossing near Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, reported Times Now. Eight students were injured in the accident. Between 20 and 30 children were traveling in the school vehicle. The accident occurred at a rail crossing in Dudhi near Kushinagar town. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath expressed his deepest condolences, and directed the district administration to provide all help and medical aid to the injured. He also declared an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakhs and directed an inquiry into the cause of the accident. This is the second accident this month involving a school vehicle. On April 9, 23 children and four adults accompanying them were killed when the driver lost control of the school bus and it fell into a 100-metre deep gorge at Malkwal area in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.

 

 

Pollution check: 50 cycle stations soon in Delhi

 

NEW DELHI: New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has awarded the work to develop50 cycle stations under the “bicycle sharing” project to offer people an alternative way of commuting. The cycle stations will rent cycles starting at Rs 10 per hour, from where people can drop it off at any other station. Senior officials claimed that the idea is to encourage non-motorised mode of transport and provide an alternate way to control the rising level of pollution. The Delhi Master Plan 2021 has suggested cycle tracks on all roads but in the current scenario, hardly any dedicated cycle tracks can be seen across the city. NDMC chairman Naresh Kumar said that private organisations have been made a part of this project and all important places under the jurisdiction will be linked. “We will develop 50 stations in the first phase, and will expand it further, based on reviews for the first phase. The project will be initiated on ground by mid-May,” said Kumar. The council is planning to link places like metro stations, office complexes, markets etc., where the footfall is high. Connaught Place will see multiple cycle stations connecting the outer and inner circle. “Metro stations, office complexes, market and tourist’s places will be linked in the first phase, and cycle tracks will also be developed gradually,” he said.

 

Kumar pointed out that taking a cue from Noida, footpaths and service lanes will be used as cycle tracks. “The cycles can be taken from a station and people can deposit them at any station near their destination. It will be beneficial for both their health and the environment. Cycling is a habit and these projects will help bring behavioural changes in people, which is the major idea behind this project. We have taken example from Noida, and will develop service lanes and footpaths for cyclists,” said Kumar. The Mysuru City Corporation was the first city in the country to introduce public bicycle sharing service in 2016, followed by Chandigarh in February 2017. NDMC had conceived the project earlier this year and it was in the pipeline to get the nod from the council. Senior officials claimed that the service will be extremely beneficial. “The cycles will be available at a minimal cost of Rs 10 per hour and people can drop the cycle at any of the 50 stations. Soon we will also issue cards to the public on similar lines of metro card,” said a senior NDMC official. “Cycle stations will be constructed near metro stations including — RK Ashram Marg, Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhawan, Lok Kalyan Marg, Janpath etc.,” said the official.

 

 

Armed dacoits strike landlord house, decamp with booty worth Rs 1 crore

 

 

Bengaluru: A gang of armed dacoits allegedly broke into a house in Attibele town on the outskirts of the city, threatened the landlord at gun point, blindfolded and tied him up before looting his house on Tuesday night. The gang fled with booty worth more than Rs 1 crore including 2.8kg of gold. Attibele police say the gang of about 10 broke into the house of Venkatesh Reddy, 60, a resident of Pillareddy Layout, at about 8pm. Reddy was alone at home at that time and gang assaulted him when they barged in. “My wife and two daughters were out at the wedding of a relative,” Reddy said. “I also attended the reception and returned home by 7.30pm. About half an hour later, somebody knocked on the door and I opened it. Four people barged into the house”. One of them slashed Reddy’s hand with a knife and another brandished a gun while warning him not to scream for help. They then tied Reddy’s arms and legs and blindfolded him. Reddy claims they were joined by others as they began to ransack the house.

 

“Initially Reddy wasn’t sure of what the gang had stolen and said he would enquire with his wife and daughter,” police said. “This morning (Wednesday) he informed us that the gang fled with Rs 4.5 lakh in cash, 2.8kg of gold ornaments and 6kg of silver articles. They also took his ring and watch which he was wearing before fleeing”. Reddy claimed the dacoits spoke to each other in Urdu and used broken Kannada with him. All of them wore black shirts, were unmasked and were aged between 25 years and 30 years. Reddy insisted that he would be able to identify them if he sees them again. Police said that there was a power cut in the area due to rain and wind a few minutes before the gang struck. The incident came to light around 9.40pm when Reddy’s neighbor found the door open and entered the house out of curiosity. The victim then informed the police. Police have collected fingerprints and other evidences from the spot and have launched a probe.

 

 

International News

 

 

Chemical weapons inspectors visit second site in Syria town

 

BEIRUT: Chemical weapons inspectors collected samples Wednesday from a new location in the Syrian town of Douma, their second visit to the area that was hit by a suspected gas attack nearly three weeks ago. The Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said samples taken by the team in Douma will be sent to the organization’s laboratories for analysis. An earlier visit took place on Saturday after the inspectors were delayed for days from getting to the town, just east of Damascus, over security reasons. The United States, France, and Britain have blamed President Bashar Assad‘s government for the April 7 attack, which Syrian activists said killed more than 40 people. The three countries struck suspected Syrian chemical weapons facilities in joint airstrikes a week later. The OPSW visit to Douma and sample collection would allow the international watchdog to proceed with an independent investigation to determine what chemicals, if any, were used in the attack. The watchdog is not mandated to apportion blame for the attack. The mandate of a joint U.N.-OPCW body delegated to investigate who may be behind such attacks has expired and Russia has vetoed its renewal. The joint body had found the Syrian government responsible for several previous attacks. Syria’s government and its main backer Russia have denied responsibility for the April 7 attack. They repeatedly blamed the rebels and opposition activists for possessing and deploying chemical weapons. Russia had even said the attack was staged and on Wednesday, Russian diplomats said they plan to bring evidence of this to the OPCW. Russian Embassy spokesman Mikhail Sobolev said it would bring a group of 15 Syrians who they claim were filmed in “staged videos” of the alleged attack to a meeting at the OPCW on Thursday.

 

The development is part of an ongoing clash of narratives between the West on one side and Syria and Russia on the other concerning the suspected attack. Thousands of Douma residents left the town after the attack while Russian military police and Syrian security forced deployed in Douma, raising criticism from opposition activists the evidence may be tempered with. Others have said that those Douma residents who stayed in the town under government control would be too afraid to challenge the Russian and Syrian narrative, fearing persecution. Responding to Russian plans to visit its headquarters with the Syrians, the OCPW in The Hague, Netherlands, said Wednesday it has advised the Russian delegation that “these persons should be first interviewed” by the inspectors who are currently in Damascus. “It was also recommended that such a briefing take place once the (fact-finding mission) has completed its work,” the statement said. “Nevertheless, the Russian delegation stated that it would go ahead with the briefing and that its intention was not to interfere” with the work of the mission currently in Syria. Six days after the suspected attack, Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Britain of direct involvement in staging video images of alleged victims. Britain vehemently denied the accusation. The suspected attack and retaliatory strikes ratcheted up tension between the West and Russia. On Wednesday, Russian Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said Russia will supply Syria with “new missile defense systems soon.” Rudskoi’s statement did not specify the type of weapons, but his remarks follow reports in Russian media that Moscow is considering selling its S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Syria.

 

Top Russian officials said that in light of the airstrikes on Syria earlier this month, Moscow may reconsider a pledge it gave a decade ago not to provide Syria with the S-300 system. Transferring upgraded air-defense systems to Syria could be seen as an escalation by neighboring Israel and raises the risk of Israeli attacks. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Tuesday that if Syria uses Russian-made air defense missiles against Israel, the Israeli military would strike back. “What’s important to us is that the defensive weapons the Russians are giving Syria won’t be used against us,” Lieberman told Israeli news website Ynet. “If they’re used against us, we’ll act against them”. Israel has not taken sides in the Syrian civil war, but its air force has carried out dozens of airstrikes during the fighting, most believed to have been aimed at suspected arms shipments to the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah, another key Assad ally. More recently, Israel has warned that it will not accept a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria. Iran is also a staunch supporter of Assad. In February, Israel shot down what it said was an armed Iranian drone that penetrated its airspace from Syria. Israel responded by carrying out airstrikes in Syria, drawing anti-aircraft fire that shot down an Israeli warplane. Israel then retaliated by destroying Syrian anti-aircraft batteries. Israel and Russia have maintained close contact in order to prevent any clashes between their air forces in the skies over Syria. In the interview, Lieberman said Russia already has air-defense systems in Syria. “For several years we’ve been constantly in coordination and able to avoid friction with the Russians,” he told Ynet. “The only ones to act against us are the Syrians. When the Syrian systems acted against us, we destroyed them”. “One thing should be clear. If anyone’s shooting at our planes, we’ll destroy them,” he said.

 

 

North Korea nuclear test site partially collapsed after massive blast: Chinese experts

 

 

BEIJING: North Korea‘s underground nuclear test site has partially collapsed following a massive bomb blast last year, making it unusable, Chinese seismologists have concluded. The North’s leader Kim Jong Un declared last week that his regime would halt nuclear and long-range missile tests + and shut down its nuclear site at Punggyeri under Mount Mantap in the country’s northeast. The offer came days before his summit this Friday with the South’s President Moon Jae-in, which is scheduled to be followed by a summit with US President Donald Trump. North Korea conducted five of its six nuclear tests at the site, with the biggest one last September triggering a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that was felt across the northern border with China. The North claimed it tested a hydrogen bomb. Landslides and earthquakes following the explosion led to speculation that the site was suffering from “tired mountain syndrome”. Two studies involving Chinese experts have found that a 4.1-magnitude aftershock that took place 8 1/2 minutes after the first quake caused the collapse of rock inside the mountain. “It is necessary to continue monitoring possible leaks of radioactive materials caused by the collapse incident,” said the University of Science and Technology of China in a summary of one study posted on its website. The university said the study would be published in Geophysicial Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. An English-language abstract by the study authors in another section of the university’s website concluded: “The occurrence of the collapse should deem the underground infrastructure beneath mountain Mantap not be used for any future nuclear tests”.

 

The line about the site being unusable does not appear in the Chinese-language summary and it was unclear whether it would be included in the journal. One of the study’s authors, Lianxing Wen of New York’s Stony Brook University, did not immediately respond to emailed questions. A second study led by Chinese scientists, including experts from the China Earthquake Administration, also concluded that the September aftershock had caused a collapse. “The aftershock was neither a secondary explosion nor a triggered tectonic earthquake,” said the second study, published last month, also in Geophysicial Research Letters. “It occurred due to a process comparable to a ‘mirror image’ of the explosion, that is, a rock collapse, or compaction, for the first time documented in North Korea’s test site,” it said. The second study, however, did not determine whether the site was unusable or leaking radiation. “Seismic models, like in this paper, provide only partial understanding of the underground explosions,” it said, adding that further studies are necessary to look at radioactive leaks or possible groundwater contamination. The two studies reached their conclusions by looking at data from seismic monitoring stations. China has deployed radiation monitoring stations along its border with North Korea. A state-run newspaper in the northeastern province of Jilin last year published a list of tips on how civilians can protect themselves in the event of a nuclear attack.


News Flash – 25 April 2018

National News

 

 

Cash van custodian, driver fight off bullets

 

NEW DELHI: The custodian and driver of a cash van heroically resisted a robbery bid despite being shot at outside a Shahbad Dairy ATM on Tuesday afternoon. The bid was foiled and Rs 27 lakh saved in the process. The incident occurred around 3pm when the cash van belonging to a well-known logistics company had gone to Metro Vihar to replenish an Axis Bank ATM. The custodian, Tarachand, was waiting outside for the cashier to finish putting the money into the ATM while driver Ram Varan parked the vehicle in such a way so as to guard the gate. Three youths ran out of a lane near the ATM and held Tarachand at gunpoint. “Initially, I thought it was a case of road rage but soon realised their intention,” Tarachand said in his statement. Seeing Tarachand facing a gun, Ram Varan stepped out of the vehicle and confronted the men. They shot him in the leg. As Ram Varan fell, Tarachand tried to run inside the ATM and close the door. At this, he was shot in the leg too. But despite being hit, Tarachand managed to pull down the shutter, thereby locking himself and the cashier inside.

 

“The men kept hitting on the shutter for a while, but left after sometime. We were saved since they did not have a way to get inside,” Tarachand said. Though DCP (Rohini) Rajneesh Gupta could not be contacted, sources said the assailants could be local criminals from Metro Vihar. Locals said that a similar incident was reported last year when some youths tried to attack two employees of a cash van. But the bid had been foiled by alert bystanders. Bank officials said the custodians of cash vans are instructed to carry less amounts of cash in these areas to prevent such incidents. A case of attempt to murder has been registered against the youths, and both Tarachand and Ram Varan have been admitted to a hospital. Doctors said that they are out of danger.

 

 

Woman and her 2 kids critical after blast, was alerted about gas leak but ignored it

 

MUMBAI: A 40-year-old woman, her teenaged daughter and son were grievously injured after a gas leak at their Dahisar (E) residence caused an explosion and fire on Tuesday morning. All of them sustained major burn injuries. Meenakshi Ravan and her daughter, Prachi (15), have been admitted to Babasaheb Ambedkar Hospital at Kandivli. Her son, Chirag (13), has been moved to Kasturba Hospital in Chinchpokli, which has a burns unit. Meenakshi’s husband Sanjay was away at work when the incident took place at their house in Rajpoot chawl in Rawalpada, Dahisar. While Meenakshi is a housewife, Sanjay works as a security guard. “The gas seems to have leaked over several hours in the night. Some residents said that they could smell the gas early on Tuesday but could not find the source. When residents started inquiring and a youngster knocked at Meenakshi’s door to ask her, she sent him away thinking it was not in her house,” said a police official.

 

Around 7.45am, when Meenakshi stepped into the kitchen to prepare breakfast and lit the stove, there was an explosion due to the accumulated gas, sparking a fire. As Meenakshi was in the kitchen, she was injured the most – 90% burns. “The children were sleeping. Prachi suffered 60% burns while her brother 50%. The explosion has almost demolished their house as the roof has come down and the door has been smashed. A neighbouring house too was impacted. Locals put out the fire and called up Sanjay,” added the official. A passerby, Subhash Patkar (47), who was walking outside the house too was injured. He was admitted to Ashoka Hospital with 18 to 20% burns. Police said that Patkar, a local, was the first to alert everyone about a suspected gas leak in the morning. He was heading to work when the explosion occurred. A relative of Meenakshi told TOI that they wanted to move her and Prachi to Masina Hospital in Byculla, which has a burns unit but they cannot afford treatment there. Doctors at the Babasaheb Ambedkar Hospital said Meenakshi and Prachi are not stable and it’s not advisable to move them.

 

 

Caught on cam: Armed robbers flee with Rs 11 lakh

 

 

NEW DELHI: A gang of robbers took approximately Rs 11 lakh cash from a wholesale tobacco shop in southwest Delhi’s Kapashera on Sunday evening. They entered the shop with a gun even as the whole incident got recorded by a CCTV camera. The complainant, Harsh Khandelwal, told police that he was manning the shop in the absence of his father who had gone to Mumbai. Khandelwal was sitting along with two workers. “At 8.45pm, a man came to the shop and bought a packed of cigarette. As I handed him the change, the man pulled out a gun and aimed it at me. He then entered the shop and sat on the counter,” Khandelwal said in his complaint. Moments later, two more men entered the shop and collected all the cash present in the shop. In the CCTV footage accessed by TOI, a man in a T-shirt, blue jeans and blue sports shoes is seen sitting on the shop counter with a gun in his hand. The shop owner and his workers are sitting with their hands raised. In the footage, two more men are seen walking through the shop. One of them is seen carrying a gun and taking the money in a white plastic bag while the other is trying to disconnect the DVR device of the CCTV camera. Later on, all three are seen going out of the shop with two white bags containing cash. Just as they leave, Khandelwal is seen using his phone. Police officers said that a case has been registered. CCTV footage has been taken to ascertain the identity of the accused.

 

 

Major fire at rubber factory in Patancheru, no casualties

 

 

HYDERABAD: A major fire mishap occurred at Agarwal Rubber Limited at Patancheru in Sangareddy district, early hours of Tuesday. Fire control room received the fire call at around 2.40am and nearly 10 fire tenders were deployed at the spot. “There have been no casualties, but it is a major fire accident. We are expecting to completely douse the fire till evening, several rubber raw materials have caught fire. we are trying to control the fire from spreading to other industries located nearby. We are yet to find the cause of the fire,” said S Sreedhar Reddy, district fire officer, Medak. According to the officer, nearly 85 firemen are present at the spot, while, nearly 40% of the factory property has been damaged in the mishap. “We are able to save 60% of the factory property, however, one of the shed has been completely destroyed, including the rubber raw material. So far the owner is expecting nearly Rs 40 crore property damage,” said the DFO. The officer further added that few workers were on duty at the time of the mishap but managed to escape.

 

 

Kolkatans in Toronto edgy over van attack

 

 

KOLKATA: Several Kolkatans, now settled in Toronto, were left shaken by the van attack in the Canadian city that killed 10 and injured 15 on Tuesday. They feared terrorism may have cast its shadow in the country and wished the incident turned out to be an accident and not an attack. Finance professional Rana Dutta, who has been living in Toronto for the last four years, was returning from office at Richmond Hill when transport officials informed him that no conveyance was available due to an emergency. Even as Dutta walked along Yonge Street — the incident spot — he stumbled upon bodies of victims that were still lying on the sidewalk. “It was a horrible sight. Initially I thought some construction work was going on or an accident occurred. It was only after I came close to the spot I got to know about the terror attack. The entire area was cordoned off by police and pedestrians had to take a detour to avoid the spot. Some of the bodies were still lying on the sidewalk and there was blood all around. I found it difficult to imagine that it actually happened,” he said. Management consultant Shouri Bagchi was having lunch at a downtown eatery around 15km away when the news of the attack was flashed on TV. Bagchi, who is in his early thirties and has been living and working in Toronto for more than a decade, couldn’t believe his eyes.

 

“I was shocked that such a thing happened in Toronto — a perfectly peaceful place. It was terrible to see the bodies being carried off. There was fear in the eyes of those present in the area. This is an alien feeling for us living here, far from the shadows of terrorism. Everyone around me was equally horrified,” he said. He added that if the incident was linked to the terror that happened in Europe last year, then it was a matter of concern for Toronto. Suman Nag, an application analyst working in Toronto for the last three years, said the news made him jittery. “It was a terrible day for Toronto. I was working from home when I saw the news on TV. The spot is near the downtown core financial area which is a far from where I stay. But it could have happened in my neighbourhood,” he said. Nag added that even though it was reassuring that initial investigation revealed it was not associated with terrorism, it remained a matter of concern. “Toronto is very peaceful and I have never heard anything like this in my seven years of stay in Canada,” Nag said. Datta, too, wished that the investigations proved that it was not an act of terror. “The Toronto police is still investigating it and the motive is unclear. I hope this is just one of those accidents and not an act of terror,” he said.

 

 

International News

 

 

500,000 Afghan children affected by drought: Unicef

 

 

KABUL: Unicef announced on Tuesday that 500,000 Afghan children have been affected by a drought in the country. Out of the country’s 34 provinces, 10 were worst hit where 20 to 30 per cent water sources are reportedly dry, threatening the lives of about 1 million people, Xinhua news agency quoted Unicef as saying in a statement. An additional 2 million people could feel its effects over the coming months. “These areas have pre-existing high rates of malnutrition. Without adequate nutritious food and safe water for drinking, as well as for hygiene and sanitation, children’s health will only worsen,” the statement said. The impact of the drought couldn’t have come at a worse time, as cases of severe acute malnutrition, or seasonal malnutrition, are on the rise by about 25 per cent. Some 1.6 million children and 443,000 pregnant and lactating women suffer from malnutrition across Afghanistan, according to the statement. “The priority is to prevent the situation from deteriorating, by responding to the needs of children and families in the worst affected areas,” said Adele Khodr, Unicef’s Afghanistan Representative. The Unicef estimate that emergency nutrition assistance is needed for 92,000 Afghan children and 8,500 pregnant and lactating women. Between July and December 2018, some 121,000 acutely malnourished children under five and 33,000 pregnant and lactating women could need life-saving nutrition services.

 

 

China opens its first bank without bankers

Bank customers speak with a robot at an automated branch in Shanghai. The outlet opened by Beijing-based China Construction Bank has been dubbed China’s first ‘unmanned bank’ and is equipped with face-scanning software, a virtual reality room and talking robots.

 

 

SHANGHAI: Missed paying dues on your Communist Party membership? There’s a bank for that — and it’s fully automated. A state-owned Chinese bank has opened an automated branch equipped with facial-scanning software, a virtual reality room, a hologram machine, talking robots and touchscreens for paying utility bills, among other functions. The branch opened last week in central Shanghai’s Huangpu district and is being hyped as China’s first “unmanned bank”. Beijing-based China Construction Bank says the high-tech branch is meant to make banking more convenient, personalised, and efficient. It also reflects growing competition from cashless payment systems that are giving the banks a run for their money. A robot greets customers at the entrance and answers questions using voice recognition software. Clients can swipe their national identification cards to enter the bank — or scan their faces using the bank’s facial recognition device. Machines inside allow visitors to buy gold, change currency, or scout real estate investments using virtual reality googles.

 

The bank isn’t totally unstaffed. Guards still stand sentry, and a room equipped with teleconference software allows VIP clients to request help from human employees based elsewhere. News of the newfangled bank spread rapidly online, drawing throngs of curious observers. Tian Ting, a finance worker, said she was impressed after touring the branch. “These days, people are less and less likely to be inclined to want other people to come and bother them,” Tian said. The trend toward automation is not new. Retailers in China and elsewhere have been tinkering with automated supermarkets and convenience stores, and Bank of America last year piloted three automated banks in the US, calling them “advanced centers.” Still, the China Construction Bank branch takes technology a step further, with You and others citing its face-scanning abilities as a breakthrough. “Through the use of facial recognition, even without a human in the loop, the system can ensure uniqueness of the individual at the time of enrollment and can verify each time the person conducts a transaction,” said Joseph Atick, a biometrics expert and chairman of Identity International.


News Flash – 24 April 2018

National News

 

 

743 black spots in Maharashtra, 12,000 road deaths last year

 

MUMBAI: Maharashtra roads have 743 black spots, or accident prone zones, and witnessed more than 12,000 fatalities last year. It is learnt that 52 of these black spots are in Mumbai, with most of them in the suburbs. Launching the state-wide Road Safety Fortnight on Monday, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis the government has adopted a three-pronged strategy—Enforcement, Education and Engineering (roads) —to curb accidents. “We have been successful to some extent in the past one year which saw a 10% dip in the number of accidents,” he said. “This is mainly due to road safety campaign being carried out not just during a fortnight, but 365 days of the year. In Mumbai, the e-challan system introduced by traffic police also helped a lot in curbing mishaps and disciplining motorists,” he said, adding that there are over 700 black spots across the state. Transport secretary Manoj Saunik later told TOI that the exact number of black spots in the state was 743. According to the data provided by the state government, 35,853 accidents (serious offence) were reported in 2017, as against 39,848 the year before—a drop of 10%. The number of fatalities also dipped from 12,883 in 2016 to 12,264 in 2017.

 

The CM expressed concerns over the increasing vehicular population, specially two-wheelers, in Mumbai and appealed to citizens to wear seatbelts and helmets for safety. In Mumbai, there are nearly 1,000 bikes per km of road. Fadnavis said there was an urgent need to create awareness among motorists on ‘No Honking’ to reduce sound pollution. He stated that use of technology will help prevent accidents on the Pune Expressway and also on the Mumbai-Nagpur super communication highway in future. Transport minister Diwakar Raote said the Rs 161 crore collected as Road Safety Fund will be utilised for accident prevention measures. “We have created vehicle inspection facilities /brake test tracks at 35 RTOs and will introduce the same in 15 other RTOs soon to ensure that only road worthy vehicles are plying across state,” he said. Joint police commissioner (traffic) Amitesh Kumar said there would be more speed cameras, CCTVs for e-challans and breath analysers to reduce mishaps on Mumbai roads. “We also plan integrated traffic management system with signals being controlled by sensors and based on density of traffic to avoid congestion,” he added.

 

 

Child charred in afternoon fire at slum, hundreds left homeless

While the reason behind the fire was yet to be ascertained, it had spread rapidly due to the wind and an abundance of inflammable material.

 

 

NEW DELHI: A devastating fire swept through a large slum in east Delhi’s Mansarovar Park on Monday afternoon, killing a six-year-old girl, destroying over 300 shanties and leaving hundreds homeless. While the reason behind the fire was yet to be ascertained, it had spread rapidly due to the wind and an abundance of inflammable material. Fire officials said they received a call at 1.05pm after which 10 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. When the fire couldn’t be doused even after half an hour, 10 more tenders were pressed to action. The blaze was finally extinguished over an hour later. For some occupants, it was déjà vu. A similar fire at Seelampur a few years back had left them homeless. “I shifted to this place after my house in Seelampur was gutted. I had never thought that I would have to go through this all over again. I have lost everything and my daughter is missing,” said Petal, a slum dweller, who later found his daughter’s charred body. Another resident, Jai Singh, said all his life savings were reduced to ashes. He claimed that the situation could have been salvaged had the fire tenders arrived on time. Seventy-one-year old Jamila said she raised an alarm when she saw smoke emanating from one of the shanties. She claimed that by the time fire tenders arrived, the devastation had been total.

 

“Around 1pm, I started to choke because of the smoke. First, I thought someone had burned garbage outside my house,” Jamila, a widow who has a family of five to take care of, said. “I started screaming and alerted everyone. As I ran out with my son, I saw the roof collapse behind us,” she added. Services on the Delhi Metro’s Red Line (Dilshad Garden-Rithala) were suspended for more than one hour as a precautionary measure. “At 1.15pm, heavy smoke was reported to have originated from the nearby slums beneath the viaduct between Mansarovar Park and Shahdara metro stations. As a precautionary measure, train services were suspended between three stations between Dilshad Garden and Mansarovar Park during this period,” DMRC said in a statement. “Rest of the line remained unaffected. At 2.33pm, normal services were resumed after due clearances,” it added. “Although our metro train system is fireproof, we could not take chances and run the trains through smoke, which could have hampered the visibility as well. We suspended the operations the moment it occurred to us that it could pose some threat,” an official said. Police said they had registered a case and were trying to find out the cause of the fire. The affected families would be shifted to temporary tents, officials said.

 

 

Chennai man robs bank of Rs 6.4 lakh, arrested as gun abruptly fires

A customer helped nab Manish Kumar.

 

 

CHENNAI: It was a caper straight out of a heist film with a comic twist – up until a 22-year-old itinerant ice cream seller, having robbed a bank in Adyar of 6.35 lakh during business hours, armed with a pistol in each hand, found himself busted at a traffic halt after accidentally firing one of the guns. The armed robbery was anything but funny for everyone involved but at least one person turned out to be as daring as the perpetrator: Mohanraj, 26, a customer held at gunpoint during the stick-up, helped nab the robber, Manish Kumar, of Bihar, giving chase and ramming his motorcycle with his own bike at a traffic signal 500m from the bank. Investigators said Manish – slightly-built and just 5’5″, was wearing a white T-shirt with horizontal stripes and a full-face helmet when he entered an Indian Bank branch in Indira Nagar, Adyar, at 1.25pm – took less than 15 minutes to menace customers, staff and the manager at the bank at gunpoint and make away with the money from a cashier’s till in a sling bag. “The suspect went straight into the bank manager’s room, acting as if he wanted details about a loan,” an investigating officer said. “Seconds later, he was brandishing two pistols and herding the manager, four employees and six customers into a corner”. Manish, who investigators said had purchased the country made pistols in his home state, then led the manager at gun point to a teller’s cubicle and ordered a cashier to stuff all the cash in the registers into a bag. Fearing for their lives, the terrified bank employees and customers cooperated, the officer said.

 

“He calmly walked out of the bank with the money, got on a motorcycle and sped away, heading south on Rajiv Gandhi Salai (the IT Expressway),” the officer said. There was no Security guard on the premises at the time, he said, noting that this, and the fact that the bank had just one security camera, may have emboldened the suspect. Manish did not count on a customer having the courage to pursue him. Mohanraj, who had come to deposit a check in the bank, followed the robber on his motorcycle and spotted him at the Indira Nagar junction traffic light. “Mohanraj smashed his bike at speed against the suspect’s motorcycle, the impact causing the suspect to fall to the ground,” the officer said. “In a panic, the suspect reached for a gun, accidentally fired the weapon and then took off on foot. But the traffic policemen and a bystander caught him after a brief chase.” The accidental discharge of the pistol did not harm anyone, he said. Mohanraj later told TOI that the sight of the Manish Kumar’s pistols terrified everyone in the bank. Another customer, Poongavanam, said, “He seemed to be speaking to someone through a Bluetooth device inside the helmet,” he said. Investigators later discounted the possibility that Manish Kumar had an accomplice. “It does not appear from his cellphone call records that anyone else was involved in the robbery,” another police officer said. “We seized four bullets and two country-made pistols from the suspect,” a senior officer said.

 

 

International News

 

 

Van plows into Toronto crowd in ‘deliberate’ act, leaving 10 dead

 

TORONTO: A driver deliberately plowed his white Ryder rental van into a lunch-hour crowd in Toronto on Monday, killing 10 people and injuring 15 along a roughly mile-long (1.6-km) stretch of sidewalk thronged with pedestrians, police said. The incident – which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “tragic and senseless attack” – was one of the most violent in recent Canadian history. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders identified the suspect as Alek Minassian, 25, who he said had not previously been known to authorities. “The actions definitely looked deliberate,” he told a late-night news conference close to the site of the incident in the northern section of Canada’s biggest city, noting the van had been driven along sidewalks. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp, citing government officials, said Minassian was not associated with any organized militant group. Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, standing next to Saunders, said: “There would appear to be no national security connections”. The driver steered his vehicle toward people just before 1:30pm (1730 GMT). A Reuters witness saw at least two tarp-covered bodies at the site of the incident. The CBC aired a video it said was shot by a bystander that showed police arresting a suspect at the scene as he shouted: “Kill me” and pointed an unidentified object at an officer. The video later showed what appeared to be the same man lying down, being handcuffed. Ryder System Inc. spokeswoman Claudia Panfil confirmed that one of the company’s rental vehicles had been involved and said the company was cooperating with authorities. There has been a string of deadly vehicle attacks in the United States and Europe, including an October 31 attack in New York that killed eight. The Islamic State militant group encourages its supporters to use vehicles for attacks.

 

The tragedy in Toronto struck as Canada was still shaken by a highway crash in Saskatchewan earlier this month that took the lives of 16 people on a bus carrying a junior hockey team. “It was with great sadness that I heard about the tragic and senseless attack that took place in Toronto this afternoon,” Trudeau said in a statement. “We should all feel safe walking in our cities and communities”. Last month, a former Canadian university student pleaded guilty to killing six men praying in a Quebec City mosque in January 2017. In September, a Somali refugee was charged with attempted murder over allegations he ran down four pedestrians with a car and stabbed a police officer outside a sports stadium in Edmonton, Alberta. Monday’s incident occurred about 30 km (18 miles) from the site where Toronto is hosting a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers from Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, but had no noticeable effect on that event’s security. A man who gave his name as Ali told CNN he saw the van and that the driver appeared to have been targeting people. “This person was intentionally doing this, he was killing everybody,” the man said. “He kept going, he kept going. People were getting hit, one after another”. He said a number of the victims were older people and that he saw at one point a stroller fly into the air. At least one person was struck outside an Anglican church, north of where the van came to rest in front of a condominium tower. Some of the victims were struck in a public square popular with office workers on lunch breaks. Aerial photos of the scene posted on social media showed a food truck parked just a few feet away from where emergency workers transferred people onto stretchers.

 

 

Fire in China kills 18, injures 5; could be arson

 

 

BEIJING: Police in a southern Chinese city say a fire at a three-story building has killed 18 people and injured five others and that it was likely caused by arson. The public security bureau of Qingyuan City in Guangdong province said police received a call around half-past midnight on Tuesday about the fire. It said on its official account on the microblog site Sina Weibo that police, fire, health and other departments sent rescuers to the site and that the fire was put out at 12:55 a.m. Police say that according to preliminary investigations, the fire was caused by arson and that authorities were stepping up investigations.

 

 

14 Taliban militants killed in Afghanistan

 

 

KABUL: At least 14 Taliban militants were killed in military operations in two Afghan provinces, authorities said on Monday. “Six terrorists were killed and five others injured following an Afghan National Army (ANA) cleanup operation in Takhar province on Sunday,” Xinhua news agency quoted defence officials as saying. In the neighbouring Kunduz province, eight militants were killed and four others wounded after Afghan army and intelligence agency operatives launched an operation in Aqtash district. The victims included two Taliban commanders, the sources added.


News Flash – 23 April 2018

National News

 

 

Nearly 1,000 bikes/km on roads, experts alarmed

 

MUMBAI: The number of two-wheelers on city roads is growing at an alarming pace, with 975 bikes for every km of road in Mumbai currently. It translates to nearly 1 bike per metre, while the length of an average two-wheeler is around 1.8 metres. The total population of bikes and scooters will cross the 20 lakh mark in just two to three months, according to the state transport department’s latest statistics, and this could lead to more congestion and pollution. Taking cognizance of these figures, the city RTOs plan to lay special emphasis on preventing mishaps due to reckless driving by bikers and also create awareness on the compulsory use of helmets. This will part of the ‘Road Safety Fortnight’, which will be launched by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday morning. Newly appointed state transport commissioner Shekhar Channe said that the road safety campaign will deal with general awareness on safe driving, aspects of traffic rules and habits such as compulsorily wearing helmets. “We are concerned with the rising number of bikes and scooters and will make efforts to ensure riders follow proper rules and wear helmets to prevent fatal mishaps,” he said. “The number of two-wheelers is rising exponentially, even as the city’s road length remains almost the same at around 2,000 km,” said another transport official.

 

Transport experts pointed out that motorcycles were a “scourge” in urban areas as they made a lot of noise while at the same time speeding bikes posed a hazard to road safety. “We often come across bikers jumping signals, driving in wrong direction and failing to stop at Zebra lines. There is need to inculcate self-discipline,” said A V Shenoy of Mumbai Transport Forum. “I feel that the government has failed to provide proper public transport for citizens,” said Arun Mhetre, an office-goer from Mulund. “With poor frequency of bus services and refusals by autos, it is better to purchase a two-wheeler to commute 2-3 km to the station daily,” he said. Motorcycle and scooter sales have gone up significantly in recent years, with the need for a two-wheeler for running errands, dropping child to school and coaching class, or to travel from home to station daily being some of the reasons. Many two-wheeler owners are women and college students, an official said. The statistics released by transport department show that the bike density was 522 bikes per km of road in 2010-11. This has gone up by more than 85% in seven years. “Nearly 12 lakh two-wheelers were registered in the past one decade,” an official said. Transport expert Sunil Mone said, “I call bikes flying polluting machines. They should be curbed as much as possible”.

 

 

Caught on camera: Youth dragged, crushed by bus

 

NEW DELHI: A 22-year-old man was crushed by a speeding bus in east Delhi’s Madhu Vihar on Saturday afternoon. A CCTV camera installed in a shop captured the chilling incident in which the victim was dragged for several metres until the driver was forced by passengers to stop the bus. The incident was reported around 2pm. A police team rushed the victim, Sonu Choudhary, to a nearby hospital where he was declared brought dead. The driver, identified as Sukhpal Singh (49), was nabbed while trying to flee the spot. Chaudhary had come to Delhi from Bihar just 20 days ago. He had gone to meet a couple of friends on Friday. He was returning with them when the incident took place. The man had gone to buy a soft drink while his friends waited for him on the other side of the road. The cluster bus hit him while he was crossing the road. CCTV footage showed Choudhury crossing the road. After the bus hits him, it slows down slightly. The man tries to regain balance, but before he can do that he is hit again by the bus. After crushing him under the wheels, the bus drags him for several meters before finally coming to a halt. “When his friends raised an alarm and started shouting for help, the driver got scared and kept going. He didn’t know that Choudhary was under the wheels and getting dragged along,” said a police officer. A case has been registered at Madhu Vihar police station.

 

 

Alert neighbours foils kidnapping bid

 

NEW DELHI : An alert neighbours prevented the kidnapping of a one-year-old girl in outer Delhi’s Mangolpuri area on Saturday. The girl was playing outside her home when a man picked her up and started walking away. A woman, who was sitting nearby, saw the man and alerted others in the locality who nabbed the man. According to the police, the accused was identified as Yashpal. Locals thrashed Yashpal before handing him over the cops. Initial probe revealed that the incident took place on Saturday afternoon when the child was playing outside her house. In a CCTV footage that captured the incident, the accused is seen wearing a blue shirt and walking around the house. Yashpal then stops by and after looking around to ensure that no one is watching him, picks up the child and starts walking away. Cops said that as the accused was walking with the child, a woman, who was sitting outside her house recognised her and asked the man who he was and where he was taking the girl. The accused tried to dodge the questions, which raised the suspicion of the woman. She raised an alarm and called in the neighbours and the girl’s father, Ajay. Yashpal, who works in a gas agency, was frisked by the locals who found around 100 tablets in his pocket. He was beaten up and handed over to the police. Locals suspected that the accused wanted to sexually assault the child. During questioning, Yashpal told the cops that he had conducted a recce around the house beforehand. Cops are interrogating him to ascertain if he had committed similar offences in the past.

 

 

Huge withdrawals come under I-T scanner, ATMs see 80% cash load

Customs form a queue to collect cash from an ATM at the head office of SBI in Koti Bank street on Friday.

 

 

HYDERABAD: Even as cash availability in ATMs in Hyderabad and Secunderabad touched close to 80% on Friday, heavy cash withdrawals dampened the euphoria as ATMs were quickly getting dried up. In fact, cash availability in Karimnagar went a few notches up by recording 91% but withdrawals continued to peak as the day wore on. Apart from Hyderabad, Rangareddy district saw huge withdrawals when compared with other districts in Telangana. With withdrawals seeing an upward trend all day, the income-tax department has begun making enquiries about individuals withdrawing large sums in a series of transactions at ATMs and in bank branches. Sources said that IT sleuths are taking information from the banks on those who withdrew large amounts. But, what could cheer the people is the fact that ATMs are getting cash refilling’s thrice a day. State Bank of India Hyderabad circle chief general manager J Swaminathan told TOI, “We have airlifted supplies from other states. In Karimnagar, cash availability in ATMs is 91% and in other districts it’s around 80-85%.

 

But, Hyderabad and Secunderabad remain a big challenge as withdrawals are more. Undoubtedly, residents of the city are withdrawing more cash”. Sources said cash was airlifted from surplus states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Major banks received supplies of 300 crores to 500 crores each to fill their ATMs. Swaminathan said they are also ensuring supplies to rural and semi-urban areas with the arrival of cash from RBI. “SBI ATM’s in Hyderabad and Secunderabad are reporting 80% cash availability. We received more supplies on Friday evening as we do not want the public to face cash crunch during the weekends,” he asserted. Bank of India reported 100%cash in ATMs, while IDBI had 94%, Axis Bank 84%, Canara Bank 78%, SBI 75, Andhra Bank 73%, Indian Overseas Bank 73% and Syndicate Bank 72%. Meanwhile, the cash management committee said focus was on rural and semi-urban areas and to fill up the cash chests.

 

 

Tamil Nadu plans to setup a control centre to monitor taxis and buses

 

 

CHENNAI: The state transport department is planning to set up a control centre to monitor all registered taxis and buses involved in public transportation. In an attempt to improve passenger safety, the Union road transport ministry in January set an April 1 deadline for the installation of GPS-based tracking devices and emergency or panic buttons in the above-mentioned category of vehicles for registration. This deadline was extended for a year as many states including Tamil Nadu did not set up control centres thereby turning the exercise futile. There needs to be a control centre to respond to the alarms raised through the panic buttons and track vehicles through GPS, said a ministry official on condition of anonymity. “Without this setup in place, installing such devices would not serve the intended purpose,” he added. Once the order originally came into effect in April 1, the cost of these automobile products shot up, both in the open and grey market. Sale of spurious devices too spiked up in the city’s suburbs attracting raids by the police. Old and duplicate parts were rented out by brokers, gathered outside RTOs, for the sake of registration, said Raja (name changed), driver of an app-based taxi. “Many opted to pay Rs 500- Rs 1,000 demanded by these brokers instead of spending Rs 4,000- Rs 10,000 towards permanent installation of these devices”. Responding to this, an RTO from Chennai said that it was impossible to check the genuineness and installation status of these devices.

 

Even before the ambiguity surrounding the issue could be resolved, the Centre has put the orders on hold thereby giving Tamil Nadu a break to set things right. As a first step, the state transport department is planning to submit a proposal to set up control centres in all districts and integrate them. “Setting up such centres is not completely new for the state. We have successfully two such centres — for autos and police patrol vehicles — in Chennai city. The recent proposal under consideration would be an extension of the same,” said a senior official from the transport department. The challenge would be in integrating data received from every nook and corner of the state to the control centre in the headquarters given the magnitude of vehicles involved in public service. At present, more than 20 lakh commercial vehicles are playing on TN roads and 10% among them were categorised as public service vehicles including call taxis, tourist buses and vehicles used by educational institutions. “We expect the government to come out with a fare slab for these devices so that automobile firms do not fleece us,” the taxi driver added.

 

 

International News

 

 

Gunman kills four at Tennessee restaurant

Bullet holes are seen at a Waffle House after a fatal shooting in the Antioch neighborhood of Nashville, Sunday, April 22, 2018

 

 

WASHINGTON: A nude gunman shot dead four people and injured at least four more in the early hours of Sunday at a restaurant on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, police said. The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said in a statement that the shooting occurred at a Waffle House restaurant in Antioch, a suburb southeast of Nashville, at 3:25 am (0825 GMT). “A patron wrestled away the gunman’s rifle. He was nude and fled on foot. He is a white man with short hair,” the statement added. A following statement named 29-year-old Travis Reinking, of Morton, Illinois- a village located some 450 miles north of Antioch- as a person of interest. Police said the suspect arrived in a car registered to Reinking. They added the gunman, who had shed his coat, was last seen walking on Murfreesboro Pike, where the 24-hour diner is located. Local media citing police on the scene reported the gunman was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle- a weapon commonly used by mass shooters in the US, where debate over gun control is fierce and shootings are all-too-frequent.

 

Reports added at least one victim was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, located in Nashville itself. AR-15 rifles were used to kill 58 people in Las Vegas last October, while Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz in February opened fire on his former high school with an AR-15 style rifle, killing 17 students and staff members. In the wake of the Florida massacre, student survivors launched a gun control campaign- drawing hundreds of thousands to demonstrations- and businesses including Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods took measures to restrict access to assault weapons and firearms in general. However, Congress is sitting on its hands when it comes to the issue. Meanwhile, an ABC News/Washington Post poll published Friday suggested that support for a ban on assault weapons has risen sharply in the past few months. Sixty-two percent of those polled said they support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, up from 50 percent in mid-February and 45 percent in late 2015.

 

 

Tourists at iconic French abbey evacuated after threat

Police attend the scene of an evacuation at Mont Saint-Michel, on France’s northern coast, on Sunday April 22, 2018.

 

 

PARIS: French authorities evacuated tourists from the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey and were searching houses Sunday on the famed outcropping in the English Channel for a visitor who apparently threatened to attack security services. Details of the threat were unclear, but the national gendarme service said authorities ordered the evacuation of one of France’s most-visited tourist sites as a precaution. A police helicopter circled over the peninsula, notably famous for being isolated by high tides, and the surrounding region. A shuttle service official told The Associated Press that large crowds are being evacuated or turned away but the mood is calm. The abbey, whose origins date to the 10th century, and surrounding sites attract several thousand tourists every day, year-round. There was contradictory information about the circumstances of the threat. An official with the national gendarme service said the man made the threat Sunday on one of the shuttles serving the site.

 

The head of the regional administration, Jean-Marc Sabathe, told broadcaster France TV info that the man made the threat when he was trying to stage a street performance and got in an argument with a cafe worker. He said the man was caught on video surveillance cameras. “I am ordering house-by-house searches to verify if the individual is still on Mont-Saint-Michel. It’s possible that the individual left the Mont with the flux of tourists,” Sabathe said. Hotels on the Mont were being evacuated, but its few permanent residents were being told to stay indoors, the site’s administrator, Xavier Bailly, told broadcaster France-Bleu from his home.

 

 

Two Chinese dragon boats capsize in river, 17 killed

 

 

BEIJING: Two dragon boats practicing to race on a river in China have overturned and 17 people drowned, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday. Television pictures showed one of the long, narrow boats packed with paddlers going over on Saturday on a stretch of a river near the city of Guilin where the current appeared to be strong. Another dragon boat arrived at the scene, also full of paddlers, and it too capsized, the pictures showed.  Xinhua said 57 people had gone into the water and 200 rescuers were sent to help. The rescue effort went on late into the night. The accident happened where two flows of the river converge causing a powerful current, the CCTV broadcaster said. Most of those who went into the river were not wearing life jackets, media reported. Two people had been detained in connection with the accident, Xinhua said. Dragon boat racing is popular in various parts of Asia and the Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional holiday in China, this year on June 18.

 

 

Two suicide bombers kill four in north Nigeria mosque

 

 

KANO: Two suicide bombers killed four Muslim worshippers in a mosque in a northeast Nigerian town still being rebuilt after virtual destruction by Boko Haram in 2014, sources said today. The bombers, a man and a woman, detonated their explosives inside the mosque during morning prayers on Saturday in the town of Bama in Borno state. The pair “blew themselves up in a mosque while people were praying” Baba Shehu Gulumba, Bama local government chairman, told AFP. An earlier toll listed three deaths. “Another victim died at the hospital in Maiduguri,” taking the toll to four, Shehu Gulumba later told AFP. A senior military officer in Bama earlier confirmed that three people had died, adding that nine people were also injured. “Some of the injured are in a critical condition and may hardly make it. They have been transferred to Maiduguri for better medical care,” said the military officer, who asked not to be named. The attack came two weeks after residents began returning to the town which was destroyed by Boko Haram four years ago. Bama, a major trading hub on the road to Cameroon and home to 270,000 people, was captured in September 2014, forcing residents to flee to Maiduguri, the state capital. When it was retaken by the Nigerian military in March 2015, 85 percent of the town had been demolished by the jihadists.

 

Borno state officials said it would require 40 billion naira (94 million euros, USD 111 million) to rebuild the town, a staggering amount in the impoverished region. According to officials 11,000 homes had been rebuilt which residents said represent one-third of those destroyed. On April 5 the state’s information commissioner Mohammed Bulama said 1,200 people had returned to the town in a phased resettlement of the 100,000 displaced residents living in camps in Maiduguri. Boko Haram has been notorious for suicide attacks on civilian and military targets in response to army offensives that have put pressure on the militant group. Recent days have seen a lull in such attacks. However on Friday 10 people including four militia fighting the militants were injured when two female suicide bombers attacked Amarwa village in Konduga district, 38 kms from Maiduguri, according to militia sources.


News Flash – 21 April 2018

National News

 

 

Alert! High energy waves to hit Tamil Nadu coast this weekend

A barge bound for Gujarat from Odisha was stranded off Pamban railway bridge on Friday after it was caught in strong sea current.

 

 

CHENNAI: The multi-model based operational wave forecasting system of Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services has indicated that southern coastal districts of Tamil Nadu, especially Kanyakumari and Ramanathapuram, are likely to experience high-energy swell waves on Saturday and Sunday. Fishermen and coastal population have been advised to be cautious. INCOIS officials said it was unlike the usual wave event that is normally experienced during cyclones. “In the present case, the swell waves come from very far off areas in the Southern Ocean. There is high wave period and the waves are very energetic. It will cause an unpleasant situation like inundation of low-lying areas. We explicitly make it clear that this is not anything like a tsunami, but will cause flooding in low lying areas,” a senior scientist told TOI. Discomfort is expected in the Gulf of Mannar region since the other side of the Tamil Nadu coast is sheltered by Sri Lanka. Wave surges are expected between Kolachel and Ramanathapuram. In a communique sent to the state government, the agency said the sea would be rough near the shore and the low-lying areas would experience the surges intermittently from 8.30am. on Saturday to 11.30pm on Sunday due to the high period swell waves. The waves could go up to a height of 11.5 feet. “As the coastal areas will experience the effect, plying of boats could be avoided during those two days. The boats could be anchored at a distance from each other to avoid any collision and leading to damage,” Revenue administration and disaster management commissioner K Satyagopal said.

 

Those at sea have been warned not to come to the shore as the waves will be rough close to the shore. Water-based recreational activity in the coastal areas was a strict no. “If there are advisories from the district administration, the people along the coast should be ready to move to safe locations immediately,” Satyagopal said. INCOIS advised the public to check its website (www.incois.gov.in/portal/osf/osf.jsp) for further information and updating of the event like early warnings and withdrawal of warnings. Ramanathapuram collector S Natarajan appealed to the public to avoid taking bath in the sea at Arichalmunai, Dhanushkodi and Agnitheertham in Rameswaram where pilgrims usually take a holy dip after visiting the Rameswaram temple. Similarly, the public have been asked to avoid playing on the beaches. The Kanyakumari district administration has warned tourists to avoid playing on the shores as well, as the giant waves could drag them into the sea. Boating for tourists to the Vivekananda Rock and Thiruvalluvar Statue will be suspended in Kanyakumari this weekend. The fire and rescue services department and all emergency vehicles like ambulances have been alerted and asked to keep ready their vehicles for any emergency. The multi-purpose cyclone centres in coastal areas have been asked to be ready as well. Collectors said the public and fishermen could contact toll-free number 1077 to seek help.

 

 

Delhi: All metro stations to go counterless soon, tokens only from machines

Manual sales counters have been substituted at 118 stations by 519 TVMs and all of them were already operational.

 

 

NEW DELHI: Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is planning to make almost all metro stations ‘counterless’ soon by replacing manual token counters with token vending machines (TVMs). Almost all running and upcoming Phase III stations — except those having interchange facilities with railway stations and bus terminals— don’t have manual counters and DMRC has started replacing them at many Phase I and II stations as well. A DMRC spokesperson said manual sales counters had been substituted at 118 stations by 519 TVMs and all of them were already operational. The network’s first TVM was installed at Rajiv Chowk station in 2011. “All new stations are having more and more TVMs and very few manual token counters,” DMRC’s managing director Mangu Singh told TOI. Eventually, very few stations will have manual counters, but the pace at which these will be replaced by TVMs will depend on the experience at the stations and the confidence level of passengers in using these machines, Singh added. “We are ultimately attempting to move people towards TVMs”.

 

So far, the shift hasn’t been easy with most passengers finding it difficult to use TVMs to get tokens. At many stations, DMRC initially deployed customer care executives to guide commuters on how to use the machines. “If somebody has a problem, he can go to our customer care centres at every station,” Singh said. The measure will let DMRC deploy a reduced workforce at the stations. It will also encourage commuters, DMRC hopes, to shift to smart cards. Singh said that in the past few months, more commuters had been using smart cards. “As per the TVM policy, all stations where the daily sale of tokens is under 5,000 are provided with TVMs as it increases transparency, takes less time once people get used to it and we can avoid change issues and human error,” the spokesperson said. However, the system is subject to review at every station, keeping in mind passenger convenience and overall usage and ridership pattern, he added.

 

 

Home Guards jawans become ‘police impersonators’

 

 

AHMEDABAD: An alert citizen caught a person who had extorted Rs 25,000 from him a month ago. Police arrested two women whereas three other accused, including two Home Guards jawans, are absconding. Sola police said, Darshit Patel, 31, a resident of Ghuma, is a manager at a car showroom near Sola Bridge. On April 20, he was going from Bhopal to Vaishnodevi Circle at about 9.45am when two women sought a lift. On SG Road, they drove for barely a kilometer when two persons standing near a private car stopped him. The women then claimed that Patel was molesting them. The women left in the private car with a driver and two persons sat in Patel’s car and took him near Jaspur. They robbed Rs 25,000 from Patel’s car, to not take him to the police station, before letting him leave.

 

“On April 18, Patel spotted the same two women at the same spot. When he approached them, the duo rushed to the same private car involved in the previous incident. Patel realized it was an elaborate scheme and gave chase. The car stopped at a signal near Pakwan Crossroads and the two women got down and car driver managed to flee, damaging a few cars in process,” said an official. The two women were identified as Kanchan Parimal, 42, a resident of Vatva, and Radhika Dixit, 27, a resident of Chandkheda. The duo identified the other accused as Yogesh and Gemar Parmar, both Home Guards jawans from the Sabarmati area, and Sunil.

 

 

International News

 

 

Plane skids off runway in Nepal; close shave for 139 on board

 

KATHMANDU: All 139 people on board a Malaysian passenger plane had a miraculous escape when the Kuala Lumpur-bound flight skidded off the runway and got stuck in mud while attempting to take off from Nepal’s only international airport here, officials said. Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) was forced to halt all international flights after the incident involving Malindo Air jet late last night, The Kathmandu Post reported. TIA today resumed international flight operations after a suspension of over 12 hours, the report said. At least a dozen of international flights were cancelled after the incident. There were 139 people, including four crew members, on board the aircraft, Boeing 737-900, registration 9M-LNJ. No casualty has been reported, the report said. “The flight captain aborted takeoff at the final moment after he saw an error at the monitor inside the cockpit,” TIA general manager Raj Kumar Chettri said quoting the captain. The aircraft apparently could not stop because of the takeoff speed and load at the final moment and overran 50 metre south from the runway threshold and rested in a grassland at around 22.08pm (local time), Chettri said.

 

The runway was closed following the incident. However, the aircraft has not suffered any damage but the front tyre has been stuck in the mud. Chhetri said the aircraft was towed away from the grassland to the runway and kept at the parking area. He further informed that the airport runway did not suffer any damage during the incident and all international flights have resumed. The latest incident is one of the many plane accidents that Nepal’s TIA has witnessed in recent years. Last month, a Dhaka to Kathmandu US-Bangla Airlines flight, with 67 passengers and four crew members on board, caught fire after it careened off the runway and ploughed into a football ground near TIA, killing 51 people. In 2015, a Turkish Airlines plane also suffered a runway excursion during landing, closing the airport for four days, creating chaos among travellers.

 

 

Evacuation in Slovakia after unexploded WW-II bombs found

 

BRATISLAVA (SLOVAKIA): Slovak authorities have started evacuating people in a town near the southern border with Hungary after four unexploded World War II bombs were found. Police said Friday they are evacuating people from a street in the town of Sturovo after the 100-kilogram (220-pound) Soviet bombs were found in a field. The number being evacuated as experts remove the bombs and transport them to a safe place was not immediately clear. The bombs were discovered by a man walking his dog. The finding came as Berlin police were evacuating thousands of people from a central area of the German capital and shutting down the main train station in preparation for the removal of an unexploded World War II bomb found during recent construction work.

 

 

Indonesian fishermen rescue Rohingya in seas off Aceh

 

 

JAKARTA: Indonesian fishermen rescued 76 Rohingya Muslims from a boat stranded off Aceh province on Friday, police said, in the latest attempt by members of the persecuted ethnic group to flee Myanmar by sea. The police chief of Bireuen regency in Aceh on the island of Sumatra, Riza Yulianto, said the group of eight children, 25 women and 43 men was brought ashore Friday afternoon. Several were in weak condition. It was unclear how long they had been at sea. Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority has sparked a massive exodus of people over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August, though some have also tried to flee by boat. An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya Muslims found in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province on April 6 after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died. Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore. About 700,000 Rohingya have fled western Myanmar’s Rakhine state to neighboring Bangladesh in the past seven months to escape a brutal counterinsurgency campaign by Myanmar’s army. Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional concern.


News Flash – 20 April 2018

National News

 

 

Mumbai: Major fire guts hotel in Dombivli, no casualties reported

 

MUMBAI: A major fire broke out at a hotel near Dombivli in Mumbai gutting all the furniture on Thursday afternoon. Luckily, no one was injured in the mishap as before the fire could spread, eight people, including the customers and the staff, had escaped from hotel. The fire spread after a gas leakage on Thursday at 2.30pm in the Dombivli Darbar Hotel situated inside Shram Safalya building at Mahatma Phule Road near Dombivli station. According to the fire officer, during the fire, three customers and five staff were inside the hotel, but they managed to come out before the fire could spread. As the fire spread, a scared residents living inside the building came out. The owner of hotel Rajesh Deshmukh said, “The fire took place due to gas leakage but all are safe”.

 

 

SBI says 70% cash in ATMs, Telangana government wants more traction

 

HYDERABAD: A day after promising to load ATMs with currency twice daily to overcome the massive cash crunch, State Bank of India (SBI) on Thursday said it started loading ATMs in three batches and hoped to restore normalcy by next week. But, not happy with the prevailing situation, the Telangana government urged the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and bankers to ensure adequate supply of cash, so that citizens are not made to run around with empty wallets and forced to wait in long queues near the ATMs. Chief general manager, SBI, Swaminathan J in a press release said cash availability reached 70% after the loading custodians filled some of the ATMs in the evening. “Other banks are also reporting similar availability of cash in their ATMs. The situation is getting better. As far as we are concerned, our cash loading custodians loaded cash in three batches,” he said. Swaminathan said the local RBI office has also started supplying cash since Wednesday night. “We have witnessed a reduction in the number of withdrawals and people are cooperating. Hopefully, if the trend continues, the situation will ease considerably by next week,” he added.

 

Earlier in the day, finance minister Eatala Rajender, addressing the state-level bankers’ committee meeting, asked the banks to immediately cut the deficit running into a few thousands of crores and supply an additional ?5,400 crore towards the input subsidy scheme for farmers beginning on May 10. When Rajender pressed, bankers, however, refused to provide details of the deficit Telangana is facing. Sources said out of ?70,000 crore cash deficit across the country, as per an SBI report, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are facing a major chunk of the deficit. The minister urged the RBI to ensure adequate cash supplies to banks so that farmers and common man are not put to any inconvenience. “You (RBI) must repose confidence among people on the banking system by making adequate supplies,” Rajender said. The RBI officials promised that more supplies are expected to reach the banks in coming days. Agriculture minister Pocharam Srinivas Reddy was also present at the meeting.

 

 

Mobile medical care to help heal street dwellers

Volunteers will tend to those in need of medical care in neighbourhoods between Purasawalkam and Broadway.

 

 

CHENNAI: From the time she started her NGO in 2014, Angelin Prince has been distributing free food to homeless people. Over the years, she came across many people, especially leprosy patients, with open sores and was determined to alleviate their suffering. Last Sunday, Angelin launched ‘Wound Care On Wheels’, an initiative wherein she and her team will clean and dress the wounds of those living on the streets. “We will be taking dressing materials like betadine, gauze, gloves and approach people in need of help. We will get their permission before we do the dressing,” says Angelin, director of The Candles that works in the field of mental and physical health. “Along with a couple of colleagues, I will be visiting areas between Purusawalkam and Broadway,” she says, adding that the team will start work from Friday and will be visiting the areas twice a week, as dressing needs to be changed. The Candles runs several projects, including awareness programmes on menstrual hygiene in schools and colleges across TN. As part of their project, Amudha Surabhi, the organisation gives health mix porridge to government school children. Feeding the homeless is part of their Share with Care programme. “We distribute food thrice a month in the areas between Anna Nagar and Broadway.

 

We get parotta and kurma or idli’s from hotels,” says Angelin. “Or our volunteers cook vegetable or tomato rice”. And that’s when they came across people on the streets who needed medical aid. “Many of them have wounds that are not bandaged properly or are covered with dirty rags,” says Angelin. “They are hesitant to go to a government hospital as they have to wait in long queues. We did do dressing for a few people but then thought we should have a sustained programme.” Angelin, who has done a diploma in hand and leprosy physiotherapy, prefers to use the term Hansen’s disease instead of leprosy. “Stigma still exists around the word leprosy,” she says. At the moment, they will be using their own bikes to get around. “We are looking for donors who can help us with basic medical supplies or an autorickshaw for us to go around,” says Angelin. Psychologist Dr Mini Rao, who has been involved with the NGO for several years says, “Many still hesitate to interact with people with leprosy. This initiative will touch several lives”.

 

 

International News

 

 

Iraq carries out air strikes on Islamic State in Syria

The former rebel Syrian town of Douma on the outskirts of Damascus is seen on April 17, 2018 after the Syrian army declared that all anti-regime forces have left Eastern Ghouta, following a blistering two-month offensive on the rebel enclave.

 

 

BAGHDAD: (Reuters) – Iraq on Thursday carried out air strikes on Islamic State positions in Syria a week after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said his country would defend itself from militant threats across the border. Irai F-16 warplanes crossed into Syria to carry out the strikes after coordination with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, an Iraqi military spokesman said. “Carrying out air strikes on Daesh gangs in Syrian territories is because of the dangers posed by said gangs to Iraqi territories and is proof of the improved capabilities of our armed forces,” the Iraqi military said in a statement. Earlier this month, Abadi had said Iraq would “take all necessary measures if they threaten the security of Iraq”, referring to the jihadist militants who just three years ago overran a third of Iraq. The prime minister declared final victory over the ultra-hardline group in December but it still poses a threat from pockets along the border with Syria and has continued to carry out ambushes, assassinations and bombings across Iraq. Iraq currently has good relations with Iran and Russia, Assad’s main backers in the seven-year Syrian civil war, while also enjoying strong support from the US-led coalition.

 

 

No-go warning as Japan volcano erupts for first time in 250 years

 

 

TOKYO: A volcano in southern Japan erupted for the first time in 250 years on Thursday, spewing steam and ash hundreds of metres into the air, as authorities warned locals not to approach the mountain. “There is a possibility that (Mount Io) will become more active,” said Makoto Saito, an official from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), confirming the eruption. In a televised press conference, he warned residents in the area to stay away from the mountain, part of the Mount Kirishima group of volcanoes, as major ash deposits spread from the crater. It was the first eruption of the mountain since 1768, the JMA said. The agency warned that large flying rocks could fall over a three-kilometer (two-mile) radius. The eruption threw smoke and ash 400 metres (1,300 feet) into the air. Footage captured by the JMA and local media showed thick white and grey smoke rising from several areas of the mountain. There were no immediate reports of injuries, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, adding that the government was “taking all possible measures” to prevent damage and casualties. The eruption occurred a few kilometres away from Shinmoedake, which featured in the 1967 James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” and erupted in March. Japan, with scores of active volcanoes, sits on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire” where a large proportion of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are recorded. In January, a Japanese soldier was killed and several other people injured after an eruption near a popular ski resort in northwest of Tokyo. On September 27, 2014, Japan suffered its deadliest eruption in almost 90 years when Mount On take, in central Nagano prefecture, burst unexpectedly to life. An estimated 63 people were killed in the shock eruption which occurred as the peak was packed with hikers out to see the region’s spectacular autumn colours.

 

 

China flies bombers around Taiwan, holds live-fire drills

 

 

BEIJING: Chinese bombers and spy planes have flown around Taiwan, the air force said today as Taipei accused Beijing of trying to stoke regional tensions with its military drills. China sees the democratically-governed island as a renegade part of its territory to be brought back into the fold and has not ruled out reunification by force. In a statement on its microblog, the Chinese air force said it had “recently” flown a patrol, which included H-6K bombers, around Taiwan. “We are confident to meet any challenge. The motherland is in our hearts, and the jeweled island is in the bosom of the motherland,” an H-6K captain, Zhai Peisong, was quoted as saying, referring to Taiwan. Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said it served as a warning against those pushing for Taiwanese independence. Taiwan’s defence ministry said today multiple Chinese aircraft including bombers and reconnaissance planes were spotted on yesterday afternoon flying over Miyako Strait — near Japan’s southern Okinawa island — into the western Pacific before returning to their base via Bashi Channel off southern Taiwan. “China has deliberately manipulated (the exercise) to pressure and harass Taiwan in an attempt to spark tensions between the two sides and in the region,” Chiu Chui-cheng of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council told a regular briefing. “(We) will never bow down to any military threat and incentive”. Chinese combat helicopters also conducted live-fire drills with missiles off southeast China, state media said, without confirming whether the exercises took place in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

 

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) exercise took place yesterday and involved various types of helicopters that tested “all-weather operational capability of the air force at sea,” the official Xinhua news agency said. State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of helicopters firing missiles at distant objects in the water. The reports did not say exactly where the exercises took place, but they occurred on the same day that China conducted live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait. Beijing had announced the Taiwan Strait drills last week, further ramping up tensions following stark warnings against any independence moves by the self-ruled island. Vessels had been ordered to avoid a certain area off the Chinese mainland, triggering speculation that a flotilla spearheaded by China’s sole aircraft carrier would take part in the exercise. But Taiwan’s defence ministry said yesterday that the drills only involved land-based artillery conducting “routine” shooting practice, accusing Beijing of exaggerating its plans as a form of “verbal intimidation and saber-rattling”. The drills coincided with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to Swaziland, one of Taipei’s few remaining international allies. Beijing has stepped up military patrols around Taiwan and used diplomatic pressure to isolate it internationally since Tsai took office. Beijing has also been angered by Washington’s arms sales to Taipei, and China protested last month after President Donald Trump signed a bill allowing top-level US officials to travel to Taiwan. Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979 but maintains trade relations with the island.

 

 

Over 5 lakhs still affected by Sri Lanka drought

 

COLOMBO: Over 500,000 people still remain affected by the drought in 10 districts of Sri Lanka, according to a report released by the Sri Lankan Disaster Management Centre (DMC) on Thursday. The DMC said the 10 districts located in the northern, northwestern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka had been affected. The Puttalam district in the northwestern province is the worst-affected with 216,670 people suffering from the drought, Xinhua news agency reported. DMC spokesman Pradeep Kodippili said people had been affected in terms of scarcity of drinking water and crop failures. However, he said the southern, central and western parts of Sri Lanka were experiencing rain.