News Flash – 1 June 2017

National News



Jet staffer held with Rs 1.2 crore worth gold in Mumbai



MUMBAI: A senior employee of a private airline was arrested with four kg of smuggled gold worth Rs 1.2 crore at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on Tuesday night. Nadeem Ansari, 29, employed as a senior service supervisor with Jet Airways, was intercepted by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials while leaving the airport with five pouches containing 4.05 kg gold. Ansari was promised Rs 75,000 if he could manage to sneak out of the airport the gold that had been smuggled into the country by a carrier from Dubai that evening and left in an airline bus. Jet Airways has suspended Ansari pending enquiry and will take further action based on the outcome of the probe. The identity of the passenger who smuggled the gold has been withheld. Interestingly, the passenger travelled business class as they enjoy the privilege of exiting the aircraft first. “Ansari was not on duty and should not have been there at the airport. Moreover, his job was to supervise operations at the passenger counters,” an official said. According to instructions, the passenger left the gold on the back seat of the bus ferrying passengers from the airline to the terminal. After the passengers got off, Ansari hopped on, collected the gold and exited. “He gave vague explanations to the bus driver,” the official added.

DRI had specific information about Ansari’s role. The passenger who arrived with the gold had left by then. Ansari, who joined Jet six years ago, is said to have been part of the racket for about six months and removed 2-3 consignments a week, earning a minimum of Rs 1.25 lakh. “He came in contact with the smuggling syndicate through a Keralite whom he met at a marriage function,” the official added. “We have a strict employee code of conduct, which is based on the values and ethos of the airline. Any violation of this policy will lead to severe disciplinary action. As regards the said incident, a full-fledged investigation has ensued, based on specific inputs from concerned departments and agencies. All airline staff are required to comply with company’s rules and regulations and with the customs and security laws of the land,” said a Jet spokesperson. Officials said the customs department had asked airlines to direct their employees to deposit the airport entry passes with their offices once duty is over. “But no one is willing to follow it,” he said.



Wet, cool day brings relief to Delhi, more rain likely



NEW DELHI: Delhiites got a ‘monsoon’ feel on Wednesday, although the rain system is weeks away from the capital. Grey, overcast skies since late morning, cool winds and showers in most parts of the city kept temperatures six notches below normal and the met office said there could be more rain in store on Thursday. Delhi’s base observatory, Safdarjung, recorded 11.8mm of rain between 8.30am and 5.30pm, with the maximum temperature staying at a comfortable 34.7 degrees Celsius. Cool, gusty winds helped keep the mercury down. Adding to the ‘monsoon’ feel were traffic jams reported on the Mahipalpur-Gurgaon road and Rao Tula Ram Marg due to waterlogging in the afternoon. Traffic ran slow from Moti Bagh to Shanti Path.



Soon, dial 100 and fix appointment with police officers



BENGALURU: Soon, city residents can dial 100 and fix an appointment with police officers at their local stations for verification or filing non-emergency police complaints. The city police, as part of its efforts to redeem its often non-responsive Dial 100 facility, is now all set to induct 270 call officers, outsourced from private agencies to handle 90 new lines installed at the command centre. The trial run for the new City Control Room, equipped with real-time Updation and monitoring, is being carried out ahead of the formal launch slated for the first week of June. The department is expected to spend as much as Rs 30 crore for the 247 centre which will work in three shifts. “In the first phase, we are concentrating on our emergency response and in the second phase, we will extend Dial 100 as a single line for public to interact with the department.


Apart from emergency response, we will also have services like fixing appointments at the local police station for verification or other formalities,” said Praveen Sood, Commissioner, Bengaluru City Police. Hoysala emergency response to all calls received at Dial 100 will also be monitored on a real-time basis with the help of screens installed at the City Police Commissioner office which will also be extended to deputy commissioner offices in all seven subdivisions in the city. The screen also shows the entire Hoysala patrol GPS clusters, including the 221 regular and 51 pink Hoysalas. These will also be colour-coded to identify whether patrol vehicles are on call or idle. “Since we will have real-time Updation of the calls received and dispatch activities our senior officers can continuously monitor it. We have started the trial run, “Sood added. The city police have also started recording feedback from Dial 100 callers in an attempt to assess and improve their own performance.



Runaway locos cause panic among railway officials in Trichy



TRICHY: Two locomotives moved on their own for 11 kilometers from Trichy railway junction after a brake failure on Wednesday morning, causing panic among railway officials. The locos crossed two railway stations — Palakkarai and Fort — and two road over bridges and a river bridge before coming to a halt at Mutharasanallur railway station, after completing a 15-minute travel. The runaway locos didn’t cause any accident as no trains were scheduled for crossing in the stretch between Trichy railway junction and Mutharasanallur railway station on the Trichy-Karur section when the incident happened. According to officials in Trichy railway division, a shunting loco pilot brought two locos (No 40441 and 16881) to platform number A1 from the loco shed to couple them with the Trichy-Erode passenger train around 5.50am. While the technical staff were preparing to couple them, the No 16881 loco started moving due to a brake failure and pushed the other loco (No 40441). The driver realised the situation and tried to stop the loco. However, he could not stop them and jumped out of the loco.

On being informed, station manager and others tried to stop the locos by placing stones on the tracks. However, their efforts went in vain. Control room officials were alerted who in turn cautioned the station masters of Palakkarai, Fort station and Mutharasanallur station to stop the locos. The locos travelled on the tracks and came to a halt after passing the last stopping signal (LSS) on Mutharasanallur railway station, which is situated on the outskirts of the city, around 6.00am. Since the loco crossed LSS, officials technically termed the incident as signal passing at danger (SPAD), which is considered to be an accident. Divisional railway manager Udaykumar Reddy rushed to Mutharasanallur station. Later, he ordered a probe in the incident.



With 1,080 aircraft orders, India to be 3rd largest buyer of passenger planes



MUMBAI: With over 1,000 aircraft set to be on order, India is poised to become the third-largest buyer of commercial passenger planes in the world, with only the US and China ahead of it. The aircraft order book of the Indian airline industry will soon touch 1,080, which would mean that for every aircraft in service, there will be 2.2 aircraft on order, said a report released by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), a Sydney-based aviation think tank. There are an estimated 480-odd aircraft in the country at present. Currently, a total of 880 aircraft are on order, with most of the orders placed by low-cost carriers such as IndiGo and Spice Jet. In the coming weeks, full service carriers Jet Airways and Vistara are expected to add to the tally and take the total order placed by Indian carriers to a four-digit number. The 2.2 ratio would be the highest of any major aviation market in the world. But what should have the government and airport operators worried is that of the expected 1,080 aircraft, more than 700 are scheduled for delivery within the next decade, and 400 within the next five years. This excludes orders yet to be placed and equipment to be taken on lease.

“In addition to the incumbent carriers, it is possible that India might see the entry of 1-2 new large start-ups, including Qatar Airways‘ proposed venture. Aircraft induction on this scale will require massive infrastructure development, skilled resources and aircraft financing at a pace that has not been seen before in India,” said the CAPA report. The CAPA report pointed out that airport infrastructure challenges could constrain growth and lead to sub-optimal operations and network economics. “Parking bays and runway slots will become increasingly scarce over the next few years, especially at metro airports. Signs of congestion are already emerging at Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi and the situation will become more acute unless airports are able to construct 400 parking bays and enhance airside capacity within five years. Otherwise airlines will face challenges in implementing their base and network plans,” the report said. In March, India became the third-largest domestic aviation market in the world, beating Japan. India’s domestic air passenger traffic stood at 100 million in 2016 and was behind only the US (719 million) and China (436 million). In contrast, though, is the poor infrastructure growth. In the year ended March 31, 2017, Mumbai airport beat London’s Gatwick to become the world’s busiest airport with a single runway.

The other concern comes from safety risks the growth would bring about. “The projected industry growth rates will heighten safety risks due to the regulator being overstretched. Institutional strengthening of the DGCA is a national interest issue. If unaddressed, another downgrade by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration, US’s civil aviation regulator) cannot be ruled out. India’s regulator, the DGCA, will struggle to provide adequate regulatory oversight for the projected size of the market,” said the report, adding that the DGCA is already under-resourced and short of expertise to meet current requirements, let alone future growth. “The increase in airprox incidents (when two aircraft are within 30 seconds of colliding with each other) in the last 12 months is a concern. In addition, it will be stretched by the entry of new operators and equipment as a result of the launch of the Regional Connectivity Scheme. If oversight capabilities are left unaddressed, another FAA downgrade to Category 2 is not out of the question,” it warned. For airlines, the way ahead is turbulent, with pilot poaching set to become a serious challenge. The DGCA is likely to increase the notice period for pilots to exit from six to 12 months. The report zeroed in on low-cost carrier IndiGo, stating that the airline’s insatiable demand for crew to support its rapidly expanding fleet, and its strong financial reserves which allow it to fund a hold pool of pilots, has it leading the way in poaching crew.



International News



Foreign aid arrives as Sri Lanka flood toll exceeds 200

Areas cut off from access to provide supplies due to mudslides and floods in Ayagama area in Ratnapura district, Sri Lanka on May 31, 2017.


COLOMBO: International aid arrived into Sri Lanka on Wednesday as the death toll from the island’s worst floods and landslides in well over a decade climbed to 202. Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake said 16 countries had rushed relief supplies and medicine to assist more than 600,000 people driven from their homes following Friday’s monsoon deluge. “We also have a lot of enquiries from other countries and organisations wanting to know our immediate needs. We are moved by the spontaneous response,” Karunanayake told reporters in Colombo. India and Pakistan also deployed medical teams on the ground in some of the worst-affected areas, he said. The Disaster Management Centre confirmed the death toll rose to 202 after the discovery of more landslide victims beneath tonnes of mud in Sri Lanka’s hard-hit southwest. Another 96 people were listed as still missing. As the floods receded in most areas, hundreds of volunteers have fanned out to begin cleaning drinking wells to bring fresh water to survivors, officials said. Government spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne said additional medical teams were also being deployed to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases. In May 2003, 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes destroyed after a similarly powerful monsoon.



Massive Kabul truck bomb kills 90, Afghanistan’s intelligence blames Haqqani network


KABUL: At least 90 people were killed and hundreds wounded on Wednesday when a massive truck bomb ripped through Kabul’s diplomatic quarter, bringing carnage to the streets of the Afghan capital just days into the holy fasting month of Ramzan. Bloodied corpses littered the scene and a huge cloud of smoke rose from the highly-fortified area which houses foreign embassies, after the rush-hour attack tore a massive crater in the ground and blew out windows several miles away. No group has so far claimed the powerful blast, which officials said was caused by 1,500 kilograms of explosives hidden inside a sewage tanker, in what appeared to be a major intelligence failure. Afghanistan’s intelligence agency blamed the Taliban- allied Haqqani Network for the attack. The Taliban – currently in the midst of their annual “spring offensive” – denied they were involved, while strongly condemning the blast. The insurgent group rarely claims responsibility for attacks that kill large numbers of civilians. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for several recent bombings in the Afghan capital, including a powerful blast targeting a NATO convoy that killed eight people earlier this month.

Rescue workers were digging bodies from the rubble hours after the explosion, many of them disfigured and charred, as anguished residents searched for missing relatives. Dozens of mangled and upturned cars choked the roads as wounded survivors and panicked schoolgirls scrambled to safety. The attack underscores spiraling insecurity in Afghanistan, where the NATO-backed military, beset by soaring casualties and desertions, is struggling to beat back insurgents. “In this powerful attack 90 people have been killed and 400 wounded, including many women and children,” said the government’s media centre, with health officials warning the toll could climb further. President Ashraf Ghani slammed the attack as a “war crime”. The sound of the bomb, which went off near Kabul’s busy Zanbaq Square, reverberated across the Afghan capital, with residents comparing it to an earthquake. Most victims appear to be civilians. “The vigilance and courage of Afghan security forces prevented the VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) from gaining entry to the Green Zone, but the explosion caused civilian casualties,” NATO said in a statement.

The BBC said its Afghan driver Mohammed Nazir was killed and four of their journalists wounded. Local TV channel Tolo TV also tweeted that a staff member, Aziz Navin, was killed. The explosion damaged several embassies in the area, which houses diplomatic and government buildings and is a maze of concrete blast walls, vehicle barriers and armed security guards. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the “despicable” attack killed an Afghan guard from the German embassy, and added that some employees had been injured, though he did not give further details. He said the bomb had gone off “in the immediate vicinity” of the German embassy. France, India, Turkey, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Bulgaria similarly reported damage to their embassies, including shattered windows, as the blast drew an avalanche of international condemnation. The White House issued a scathing statement condemning the “atrocious” attack. “That this attack would occur during the holy month of Ramadan underscores the senseless and barbaric nature of this attack,” a White House spokesman said.

Amnesty International said the bombing shows that the conflict in Afghanistan is “dangerously widening in a way that should alarm the international community”. Germany was forced to postpone a scheduled deportation flight of rejected Afghan asylum-seekers in the wake of the attack. The European nation has drawn criticism for sending back Afghans to an increasingly dangerous country. Wednesday’s blast was the latest in a string of attacks in Kabul. The province surrounding the capital had the highest number of casualties in the country in the first three months of 2017 due to multiple attacks in the city, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has warned of “another tough year” for both foreign troops and local forces in Afghanistan. Afghan troops are backed by US and NATO forces, and the Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more soldiers to break the deadlock in the battle against the Taliban. US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 now, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies. They mainly serve in an advisory capacity — a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.

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