News Flash – 1 November 2018

National News



For 2nd year in a row, Dengue tops monsoon deaths: 14 cases in 2018



Mumbai: For the second year in a row, dengue has emerged as the top killer among monsoon diseases in the city. With 14 casualties, dengue has claimed most lives this year followed by leptospirosis that killed 12. Malaria’s death toll at three was half of last year’s. The bi-weekly health report released by the BMC on Wednesday showed that monsoon diseases were responsible for 29 deaths this year, one less than the casualties reported in 2017. Dengue-like illnesses were responsible for more than 10,000 hospitalisations since June, besides malaria, gastroenteritis and viral diseases. The report stated that dengue continues to circulate in the post-monsoon phase. It claimed two lives, including that of a 7-year-old from Dharavi and a 24-year-old from Kandivli with a travel history to UP, in the last fortnight of October. Nearly 250 confirmed cases of dengue have also been reported. A civic official said that the child was treated by a local physician for fever and body ache. However, the boy developed abdominal pain and fever again after three days, following which he was admitted to a public hospital. The child died of dengue haemorrhagic shock and multi-organ dysfunction three days after hospitalisation.


The Kandivli resident, who was admitted to a public hospital in a serious condition, succumbed within 24 hours. A civic official said that the patient died of complications involving his lungs and kidneys. “The single most important thing to prevent deaths is to see a doctor without any delay,” said the official. Apart from dengue, the H1N1 viral infection, previously called swine flu, that has been wreaking havoc in several parts of the state reappeared in the city. After staying dormant for most of the year, as many as 16 tested positive for the flu in October. The BMC said only one case was reported in September. H1N1has claimed 268 lives and affected around 2,300 in the state since the beginning of the year. A majority of the cases and deaths have been reported from Pune, Nagpur, Satara, Ahmednagar besides others districts. The state recently framed guidelines for treatment of H1N1, including that of Paediatric patients, which it has shared with the Centre as well. A civic official said that the cases are scattered across the city and there is no clustering in any area. Most positive cases are in the 15-60 age group.



Navi Mum bus system ‘Smartest in country’


Navi Mumbai: Whenever a Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport (NMMT) bus speeds or has an unscheduled halt on route, the crew immediately gets a call, and assistance if needed. For, every NMMT bus is monitored through GPS at a command centre in Belapur since the Integrated Intelligent Transport Management System (IITMS) was started 18 months ago. “The IITMS helps us track the precise location of all buses real time. We immediately come to know if a driver skips a bus stop,” said NMMT general manager Shirish Aradwad. This has also made the drivers more alert as they don’t speed and properly halt at bus stops, said Ambadas Palav, an official from Turbhe bus depot. Thanks to the success of the smart bus tracking and monitoring system, the Central ministry of housing and urban affairs, on Tuesday, selected NMMT for the Award for Commendable Initiative in Urban Transport, among 24 transport bodies in the country.


“The IITMS is useful to not only our staff but also the public, who can track bus movement on their mobile,” Aradwad said referring to the NMMT mobile app on which commuters can track when a bus will arrive at a stop, and if there are delays. “If any bus suddenly stalls for over 60 seconds, the driver or conductor will get emergency help even before they call for assistance,” said an NMMT staffer. Aradwad said IITMS also helps them study which are the busy routes based on real-time data on purchasing of tickets and swiping of passes. All these changes may have brought relief and comfort to travelers, but it’s not enough, many say. Nikhila Khandarkar, an engineering student, said: “I have been using the app for over a year. The technology is good, but sometimes at certain locations and routes I do not get full info about the time when the bus will arrive. So, if such glitches can be resolved, commuting can become better by road”.



Security Agencies Misuse Emergency case clause



New Delhi: During the probe, technical surveillance was done and CDRs were also studied the mobile phones of middleman Somesh Prasad were kept on surveillance,” Bassi’s affidavit states. Any agency in Delhi needs to take written permission from the home secretary for executing lawful interception of any phone number. They also need to justify why they need the tap. However, there is a provision in the Indian Telegraph Act for “emergency cases” in which a top officer of that agency can provisionally authorise the interception. “Even then, the competent authority in home ministry needs to be intimated within three days and the authorisation obtained within seven days. On day eight, the telecom firm will automatically disconnect the interception,” a top cop said. While MHA did not confirm if the competent authority had authorised any interceptions in this particular case but sources said it was not possible to obtain prior permission in this case and interceptions would have been authorised by the CBI head, that is, Verma, citing “unavoidable circumstances”. Bassi’s affidavit also alleges how it was possible that the records of such interceptions can be tampered with or hidden.



Before short-term ban, long-term harm: How they’re throwing dust in your eyes


New Delhi: Delhi’s air quality fell to “severe” for the first time this season on Tuesday. While stubble burning is a factor — last Friday, it contributed 36% to the pollution, according to air quality forecaster SAFAR — localised sources, including the huge clouds of dust generated at construction sites, are aggravating the situation. Despite being fined by the Delhi environment minister and the Supreme Court-appointed EPCA, building sites are still lax about implementing the anti-dust measures, as TOI’s visit to different parts of the capital on Wednesday showed. In fact, projects were rushing to get the work done before a ban on construction comes into effect from Thursday. In as iconic an area as Rajpath near India Gate, there was construction material lying uncovered in violation of dust regulation norms. Sarai Kale Khan and its surroundings were enveloped in a haze like dust formation, and at Mayur Vihar, a contractor insisted water was being sprinkled to dampen dust despite the area being replete in open soil and debris. Then, right next to the Barapullah drain at Kotla, earthmovers were engaged in large-scale digging, and no visible steps had been taken by the agency involved to check the flying dust. A number of locations showed a complete disregard for windbreakers around the construction sites, as required. One thing was common at these sites — the workers were in a mad rush to finish as much work as possible. “Our target was to complete the project by next week, but the workers will work till midnight and finish it today itself,” disclosed a contractor at a building site near Sarai Kale Khan.


Such violations were not limited to the larger projects. Construction debris could be seen lying in the open across south Delhi localities in Chittaranjan Park, Greater Kailash, Kotla, Lajpat Nagar and Thyagraj Nagar. Civic bodies claimed to have amped up preventive measures to control dust over the past month. As per the data provided by the three corporations, the south body fined 271 violators and collected Rs 45 lakh in October, while the north corporation issued 154 challans and imposed Rs 28.5 lakh as penalties, taking care to also file FIRs for repeat offences. In the same period, the east body booked 259 and fined them Rs 18.9 lakh. Later on Wednesday, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation announced a ban on the dumping of any construction waste at any site within its jurisdiction, except at the Bhalswa landfill and the Jahangirpuri recycling plant. Dust is a big component of polluting particles and it is calculated that over 131 tons of dust is generated daily in the city. An IIT Kanpur study established recently that road dust makes up over 50% of PM10 pollutants and about 38% of PM2.5 particles. Experts pointed out that mechanical sweepers are only useful in curbing dust on well-maintained roads, not on coarse surfaces, so the civic bodies would urgently need to invest in road maintenance if their effort was to prove effective in controlling the dispersion of the roadside pollutants.



Bengaluru fails to battle air pollution as fog clouds data


Bengaluru: Ongoing efforts to tackle air pollution in the city have literally run into a fog. The reason being the city, spread over about 700sqkm, doesn’t have adequate air quality monitoring stations, which results in a lack of adequate data to tackle the problem. Urban expert Yogesh Ranganath from the Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives says the city needs at least 41 air quality monitoring centres, but has only 21. “There are also questions about how well-equipped the existing ones are. Besides, there is a lack of citizen engagement and the city, on the whole, lacks real-time air data monitoring,” he added. Though state budgets in the past, including the recent one, laid out plans to deploy more monitoring stations, the proposal remains on paper. In fact, if one were to go by World Health Organisation (WHO) norms, the city should have 160 air quality monitoring stations. WHO calls for a station for every 5sqkm. Though the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) discussed setting up live air pollution monitors in every ward, the plan hasn’t gained much traction. A senior Karnataka State Pollution Control Board official said that though the recent state budget has a mention of additional monitoring stations for Bengaluru city, we haven’t got any communication on their sanction till date. “Out of the 21 monitoring stations, only seven are robust and give real-time data. The rest are manual ones and need upgradation to provide real-time data. We are managing with whatever we have for now,” he added.


Urban expert ASK Pani said that decentralised air quality monitoring centres are the need of the hour to empower citizens about the quality of air they breathe. “At present, there are few monitoring stations. Often, overall air quality index of the city looks better, but is only an average. What about high levels of pollution at hotspots? Nowadays, air quality measuring sensors have come up and are quite cheap. Such sensors should be installed at the ward level, and real-time data on major pollutants should be made public,” he added. In July this year, during a deliberation of the C-40 network (a global initiative to battle toxic air) in Bengaluru, BBMP and KSPCB announced that a ‘Clean Air Map’ for Bengaluru, on the lines of London, will be set up through decentralised air quality monitoring stations. The plan is to enable citizens to have data on pollution levels in different parts of the city, at their fingertips. Using this, citizens can choose whether to venture through a particular road stretch/area or not. However, the city is yet to see progress on the same. A similar model, called Clean Air Route Finder, is currently operational in London. The real-time updates based map here gives information to the user on the level of air pollution in a particular area, ranging from low to very high, so that citizens can choose among the routes for their commute.



Karnataka sees 37% spike in H1N1 cases in 10 days


Bengaluru: The state is experiencing a sharp uptick in cases of Influenza A (H1N1) with 37% increase in positive cases in the past 10 days. While the number of H1N1 positive cases reported in Karnataka this year stood at 652 till October 20, it touched 895 as on October 30. With the H1N1 scare hanging in the air, 975 patients with fever underwent tests for the disease over the 10 days and 243 (25%) of them tested positive. Health department officials admit that H1N1 cases are increasing across the state, but claim their severity has come down. “There is herd immunity developing in the community to H1N1 virus. There is no need to test every suspected person. Only those who fall under the category C of the government guidelines must undergo testing. Those with symptoms like persistent high fever, breathlessness, drop in blood pressure, blood seen in sputum and drop in oxygen saturation level fall under category C,” said Dr Sajjan Shetty, joint director, national vector borne disease control programme, health and family welfare department. Manipal Hospitals, one of the referral centres in Bengaluru where throat swab samples from across the city are tested, is flooded with samples. The hospital has facilities to test 16 samples in four hours. Technicians are working in multiple shifts at the hospital lab, where the time taken for the result to be out is 48-72 hours. “A week ago, the lab used to get 100 cases a day; it has come down to 75 now. There’s a backlog of 50 samples a day,” lab officials said. “There is a surge in viral respiratory illness and flulike symptoms seen in both outpatient and inpatient wings. However, there’s no need to conduct H1N1 throat swab sample test on every patient,” said Dr HS Sudarshan Ballal, chairman of Manipal Hospitals.



After Armed attacks, cops to go for preventive arrests

A CCD employee checks the AD Block outlet’s CCTV camera range to figure out how many more cameras they may need. Cops are checking the images of CCTV cameras of neighbouring houses to trace the accused.



Kolkata: Stung by back-to-back shooting, armed robbery and extortion threat in its jurisdiction, the Bidhannagar Commissionerates has put all police stations on high alert and asked the officers to go in for preventive arrests of history-sheeters ahead of Diwali. “Such activities had reduced substantially in our area, but criminals seem to be raising their heads again, especially over the past one week. First, a promoter was shot at in Dum Dum Park, then a gang looted a coffee shop in Salt Lake, brandishing a revolver and then developers of a municipal project received extortion threats. We have asked the OCs of all the police stations in our jurisdiction to be extra-cautious and to round up notorious criminals in the area before Kali Puja as a preventive measure,” said Amit Javalgi, deputy commissioner (headquarters), Bidhannagar Commissionerates. He added they had also intensified police patrol inside the Blocks of Salt Lake as well as the lanes and alleys at Lake Town, Baguiati, Dum Dum Park, Keshtopur and New Town. “We have stepped up surveillance along all the entry and exit points of Salt Lake, especially at the footbridges and box bridges crossing over the Keshtopur canal,” said another senior officer. Probing the gunpoint-robbery at the Cafe Coffee Day outlet at AD Block in Salt Lake, the police have got all the call records around the time of the incident from the nearest mobile tower.


“Around 5,000 calls were captured in the mobile tower between 10am and 11.30am. We have found some leads about calls made from particular numbers, using one service provider, from outside the coffee shop. We are trying to track those numbers and their current cellphone tower location,” said a senior Bidhannagar Police’s detective department officer. Police also pointed out that grabs from CCTV cameras in nearby houses at AD and AC Blocks showed three suspicious men crossing the road, possibly after committing the crime, and taking an alley in AC Block to walk towards the canal and then head for the Golaghata footbridge. Their images matched with the description provided by Subhankar Ghosh, the lone employee at the coffee shop, whom the accused held at gunpoint, tied him up and fled with Rs 15,000 from the cash till. “The men were seen till the approach to the Golaghata footbridge. But the cameras at the footbridge have some glitch and so, no recordings were found. We suspect, they must have crossed over to the Lake Town-side while fleeing,” said the officer. He added from the images, the accused did not seem to be part of any of the organised gangs that operate in the township area. “They seem to be part of a new gang with limited criminal’s records”. The coffee shop officials, who have allowed Ghosh to take a four-day leave, are deciding on security measures at their outlets. “Ghosh is in shock. We have allowed him a leave for the time being. We are installing additional CCTV cameras at the store and are awaiting nod from our Bangalore head office to deploy guards,” said a cafe chain official.



Man attacks Jewellery shop owner, robs Rs.1.5 Lakhs of Gold



Chennai: A man on Tuesday night sprinkled chilli powder on the face of a jewellery shop owner and escaped with six sovereigns of gold jewellery worth nearly Rs.1.5 lakh in Thiruvottiyur. J Bhathram Chowdri, 47, owned a jewellery shop opposite the Thiruvottiyur police station. He told police that a man carrying a backpack and sporting a cap visited his shop around 9:30pm on Tuesday. He requested Chowdri to show him some jewellery from a bottom rack. Police said the man threw chilli powder at Chowdri’s face when he was getting up and escaped with the gold on the table. Neighbours heard Chowdri’s cries and tried to nab the robber but he escaped. The Thiruvottiyur police registered a case and collected the CCTV camera footage, but the man’s face was not visible due to the cap. Further investigations are on. “We suspect he is a local previous offender, as he targeted the shop when there were no customers,” said an investigating officer. Police have launched a hunt for the man.



International News



Teenager blows self at Russia intelligence HQ



Moscow: Russia launched a terrorism probe on Wednesday after a 17-year-old student blew himself up at regional headquarters of the FSB security agency, wounding three employees. Several minutes before the suicide blast in the city of Arkhangelsk, a post on an anarchist forum warned of an imminent explosion. Investigators said they were checking whether the suspected bomber was a member of any banned organisations. An explosive device detonated in the FSB building shortly before 9am (0600 GMT), authorities said. Investigators identified the bomber as a 17-year-old local. An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, named the suicide bomber as Mikhail Zhlobitsky, a student at a local technical college. Investigators probing the attack released a photo of the suspect — a skinny young man with a backpack — inside the FSB building. President Vladimir Putin was informed about the explosion, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, but declined to speculate on the motive.

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