News Flash – 10 October 2017

National News



DMRC fare hike: Pay more for your Metro ride from today


NEW DELHI: The DMRC Board refused on Monday to interfere in the matter of the Metro fare hike, which will come into effect from Tuesday. The decision, which will lead to an increase of Rs 10 for all travel beyond 5 km, came on a day the Delhi assembly passed a resolution against the fare hike. A tweet from chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, however, indicated that the political slugfest over the fare hike wasn’t over yet. “Out of 16, the Delhi government has five directors, who opposed but Centre adamant. Hike too steep. Centre should have been more considerate for common man,” Kejriwal tweeted. An official, meanwhile, quoted from the minutes of Monday evening’s DMRC Board meeting, saying, “The Board noted that it does not have the competence to consider defer the implementation of the recommendations of the fare fixation committee (FFC). Delhi government nominees on the board, including chief secretary M M Kutty, informed the Board that the chief minister desired the hike to be postponed and a fresh FFC be constituted to examine various aspects of the fare fixation”. The official added that the board meeting convened at the behest of housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri had discussed all issues, and that it was informed that under Section 37 of the Metro Railways (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002, the FCC’s recommendations were binding on the Metro rail authorities. TOI has learnt that earlier on Monday urban affairs secretary Durga Shanker Mishra, who is also DMRC chairman, had informed DMRC managing director Mangu Singh that there was no need to convene a board meeting. But Puri intervened and suggested to the secretary that a special meeting be called since CM Arvind Kejriwal had pressed for this in his letter to the Union minister to break the deadlock.


Following his suggestion, Singh wrote to the ministry stating, “I agree the Board does not have competence to change the recommendations of the fare fixation committee. However, since the state government representatives have been requesting to discuss the issue in the board and are pressing for it, I would request you to reconsider the decision and hold the board meeting today itself for discussion on the issue”. Mishra approved and an emergency meeting was called late in the evening. Though Central government officials said the board’s decision should put an end to the controversy , there is little chance of an early end to the political blame game. The Delhi government had earlier termed the Metro fare hike as “anti-people” and had issued orders to the DMRC MD to put on hold its implementation till the government had examined the matter and checked how fares were decided. Saying the hike was likely to hit 30 lakh daily Metro commuters hard, the city government had justified its order to the DMRC to put the hike on hold, saying it was being done “keeping in mind the interests of the people”. According to the DMRC, the capital-intensive construction of the Metro network had been possible due to a soft loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which it has been paying back in instalments. As a result, all the income from fare box collections and other sources are ploughed into repaying the loan. ” As on March 31, the outstanding JICA loan to be repaid is Rs 26,760.28 crore, along with interest thereon,” a DMRC spokesperson said. “The per day operating profit earned by DMRC for financial year 2016-17 is Rs 1.58 crore,” he said. The spokesperson said till date the total repayment made by DMRC towards the JICA loan was Rs 3,770.79 crore, of which interest paid was Rs 2,263.67 crore and principal paid was Rs 1,507.12 crore.


Rebate likely for students? : The Centre and Delhi governments can discuss whether any provision of monthly passes could be issued to certain categories of passengers including students and physically challenged at discounted price, a top Union government official said. He said such a possibility could be explored only for those who take the Metro service regularly.



Monorail and traffic halted after gas leak



MUMBAI: A gas leak triggered panic in the eastern suburbs on Monday morning as traffic and monorail services were halted for a few minutes to avoid any untoward incident. The situation was soon brought under control by Bharat Petroleum officials. The leakage was of C3 propane gas at a BPCL gantry in Mahul, said an official, adding, “We detected a leak in a tank lorry that was being fueled. We immediately stopped all traffic in the area and adopted measures to plug the leak,” A MMRDA official said, “Monorail services were stopped from 10.30am to 10.41am”.



CCTV nails three armed robbers



NEW DELHI: Three men were arrested on Monday after they were caught on CCTV cameras robbing a businessman in Okhla industrial area on Saturday. Rajkumar (25), Harikishan (22) and Mahender (30) — were arrested from Sangam Vihar under sections of armed robbery. The incident occurred on Saturday evening, when the businessman, a wholesale seller dealer of cold drinks, was leaving for home after work from Okhla Industrial Area. As the man was about to get in his car, three men approached him and asked for directions. When the victim started to the help, the accused suddenly pulled out their guns and robbed him of Rs 13,000. Police started the investigation and got the visuals from the CCTV cameras installed near the shop where the faces of all the three accused were visible. Police circulated the images in the nearby area and received information about the accused hiding in Sangam Vihar. A raid was conducted at their hideout from where all the three were arrested. They have been involved in multiple criminal cases in the past and a semi-automatic pistol was also recovered from them.



3 deaths, 17,000 potholes, 15 days; CM Siddaramaiah cracks the whip

CM Siddaramaiah and minister KJ George along with BBMP officials at the spot where a woman fell off a bike and was run over in Nayandahalli on Saturday; (below) A bad road.



BENGALURU: Chief minister Siddaramaiah has set the BBMP a deadline: Fill up all 17,000 potholes scarring the city roads in a fortnight. Siddaramaiah issued orders to the Palike after inspecting the road stretch on Mysuru Road near Nayandahalli, where a woman riding pillion died after the vehicle rider lost balance while negotiating a pothole on Sunday. Hers was the third such death within a week. Heavy spells of rain have exposed the bad quality of roads, with 17,000 potholes dotting the city. While describing the incident as unfortunate, the CM blamed heavy rain in the past few weeks for the poor condition of roads. “The stretch on Mysuru Road, where the accident took place, is maintained by the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL), which was directed to asphalt both sides of the road stretch to avoid further casualties,” he added. When Bengaluru development minister KJ George and BBMP commissioner N Manjunath Prasad tried to explain to the CM that the death happened due to a truck running over the victim, the CM shot back, “The fact that the person fell on to the road itself is worrying. Things like which side he or she fall, what happened later, are not important. Roads should be set right,” he said. He also directed the BBMP commissioner to direct engineers at various levels to ensure roads are in good shape. The CM said that as a long term measure, white-topping of roads has been taken up on selected stretches at a cost of almost Rs 1,000 crore. “In future, all roads in Bengaluru will be white-topped. “As white topping involves a lot of expenditure, we can’t take up all roads in one go,” he added. “The pothole filling drive has been delayed due to continuous rain and we don’t have the technology to fix roads when it is raining,” he said.


A NEAR-MISS : In a similar incident, a family on a two-wheeler had a close call on Monday . A man riding a two-wheeler with his wife and child skidded while trying to negotiate a pothole ridden stretch. He lost his balance and fell to his left, while his wife, child in hand, fell on to the right side, in the middle of the road. Luckily, a government bus and a private vehicle behind them stopped at a safe distance. The couple sustained minor injuries, and workers nearby, associated with BMRCL, rushed to help the victims.


COVERING UP FOR CM : The stretch of Mysuru Road where three lives were lost within a week due to the pothole menace, was quite the pits till Monday morning. However, road construction equipment and concrete mix soon arrived, as BBMP engineers and traffic cops descended on the scene and worked together to fill up potholes. Their preparation was to ensure a smooth ride to the convoy of CM Siddaramaiah, who was on his way for an inspection of the accident spot where a pothole claimed a woman’s life on Sunday. However, service roads and other stretches a few metres away were ridden with potholes.


GEORGE AND POTHOLE LOGIC : When media persons asked Bengaluru development minister KJ George for his opinion on potholes resulting in accidents, the minister said, “I am not denying that there are potholes on the roads and they are a problem. But the two accidents on Mysuru Road are due to vehicles running over the victims and not directly due to potholes”. When told that the reason for them falling on to the road was potholes, George said, “One can say so. But if we declare the death was due to a pothole, the victim’s family will face problems in claiming accident insurance. One should understand this. On humanitarian grounds, we do give compensation. But that’s a different issue”.



3,000 brave rain for cancer awareness



HYDERABAD: Close to 3000 people braved the rain and gathered at KBR park on Sunday to take part in the ninth edition of the 2K Pink Ribbon walk, an initiative to create awareness on the importance of early detection of breast cancer and to honour survivors. Cancer survivors and their family members, doctors and students participated in the walk jointly organized by the Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation (UBF) and KIMS Ushalakshmi Centre for Breast Diseases. Dharini, a survivor diagnosed with breast cancer at age 24, lead the walk.



New virus on the prowl in Kolkata



KOLKATA: Even as Kolkata reels under a dengue outbreak, a new virus is on the prowl and has laid hundreds low with fever, body ache and respiratory distress. Human metapneumo virus, which is activated by a sudden temperature drop, is active in the city, say experts. Like other seasonal viruses, this one too spreads through cough and sneeze droplets. The sporadic showers since last week have cooled the city by a couple of degrees, a condition which is ideal for viruses to thrive, according to Arindam Biswas, senior consultant, general medicine, RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS). Metapneumo, it seems, is the most prevalent this time. The typical symptoms are high fever, body ache, respiratory trouble and fatigue. It affects all age groups, but children and the elderly are more vulnerable. Those suffering from cardiac ailments or high blood sugar could have very severe symptoms due to their low immunity. Public places like buses, trains, auditoria and classrooms are ideal locations for the spread of the virus, said Debashish Saha, consultant, AMRI Hospital. “It spreads through sneeze and cough droplets that often collect on bus handles, chairs, window sills and handkerchiefs. So, hand hygiene is very important. Hands should be washed regularly and tissues should be used instead of handkerchiefs,” said Saha. With schools shut for vacation, the spread has been checked among children so far, said Shantanu Ray, pediatrician. “But once the vacation ends, a spurt is imminent. Children are obviously less careful and so more susceptible to infections due to their low immunity. Metapneumo leads to respiratory problems in some children and there have been cases where hospitalization was required,” said Ray.



With symptoms similar to that of dengue, physicians have often been left confused. Like dengue, metapneumo, too, kicks off with high fever and body ache. In many cases, it has been leading to diarrhoea. “Symptoms have been overlapping with dengue, which too has changed symptoms this season. Previously, dengue never caused diarrhoea, but now it is common. Dengue type II and type IV have been common this year and both are life-threatening. So, we are taking no chances and recommending a blood test even if we suspect it’s a virus like rhino or metapneumo,” said Biswas. Unlike dengue, metapneumo virus is always accompanied by a respiratory infection. Asthma and COPD patients, those suffering from chest infection and children are more vulnerable, according to Irfan Akhtar, head of microbiology and infection control, Fortis Hospital. “While fever and body ache are the most common dengue symptoms, in the case of metapneumo it is always accompanied by coughing and wheezing. For those with a history of chest ailments, the symptoms are likely to be more severe,” said Akhtar. But like most other seasonal viruses, metapneumo. too, can be countered with just paracetamol and symptomatic treatment. Antibiotics are not recommended unless there is an accompanying bacterial infection. “Bacterial infections are rare but could lead to severe complications. But seasonal viruses usually recede with time and rest,” said Biswas. The feature of this year’s spread has been the scare of dengue. With the outbreak of dengue continuing, a panic has set in. “people are scared and many are rushing to get a blood test done. It’s good to be careful, but treatment of viral diseases should be different from that of dengue,” said Saha.



Tamil Nadu to switch to automatic vehicle fitness test



CHENNAI: In an attempt to do away with the manual inspection to evaluate fitness of vehicles, the state transport department is planning to set up Tamil Nadu‘s first automated vehicle fitness and certification centre in Chennai soon. The Motor Vehicle (MV) Act, 1989 mandates a fitness certificate for all vehicles. At present, fitness test of vehicles — both light and heavy motor — are carried out manually after a visual check by officials from Regional Transport Offices (RTOs). Experts say, the process which is time consuming is not foolproof, and with more than 2 lakh vehicles in the state not possessing fitness certificates, the efficacy of the system is questionable. To eliminate this shortcoming, the state had proposed to set up an automated fitness testing centre and the Union road transport ministry has recently given its nod, said government sources. “This centre would analyse the safety and quality of vehicles and certify whether they are road-worthy or not”. A top official in the state transport department told TOI that land near the IT corridor in Sholinganallur has been identified for the project. Vehicles would be tested in three different phases for nearly seven parameters prior to the registration. Noise levels of the exhaust and accuracy of the speedometer would be anaylsed in the first phase, while brake force and road contact per value (suspension) would be examined in the subsequent phase.



Alignment and intensity of the headlight (low and high beam) besides auxillary light would be checked in the final phase. According to the preliminary design, three vehicles can be tested simultaneously, thereby reducing the delay. The vehicle to be tested will be parked on the testing floor, which would be fitted with various sensors, electronic motors, speedometers, vibration plates and beam testers. “It would take 40-50 minutes to test a vehicle and a full report would be printed at the end of the inspection,” sources said. Similar centres have been setup in other states including Kerala, Odisha and Delhi in the past two years. Tamil Nadu will follow their footsteps in constructing and producing necessary testing devices, said transport officials. The state government is yet to decide on the fees to be collected from vehicle owners for using the facility. Every transport vehicle, used for commercial purpose, must go through an annual vehicle fitness test at RTOs where they are registered as per MV Act. Also, vehicles used for personal use should get their certificates after 15 years of registration.



International News



At least 10 dead as fires burn in California wine country

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a home as they battle a wildfire in Anaheim Hills, California.



SANTA ROSA: Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through California wine country Monday, killing at least 10 people, destroying 1,500 homes and businesses and sending thousands fleeing as flames raged unchecked through high-end resorts, grocery stores and tree-lined neighborhoods. As he fled through the ember-strewn streets of his neighborhood in Santa Rosa, Jeff Okrepkie knew it was probably the last time he would see his home of the past five years standing. His worst fears were confirmed Monday morning, when a friend sent him a photo of what was left: a smoldering heap of burnt metal and debris. “We live in the valley, where it’s concrete and strip malls and hotels and supermarkets,” Okrepkie said. “The last thing you think is a forest fire is going to come and wipe us out”. At least 10 people died and two were seriously injured in the blazes that started on Sunday, fire officials said. The flames were burning “at explosive rates” because of 50 mph winds, said Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Fourteen large fires were burning, spread over a 200-mile region north of San Francisco from Napa in the south to Redding in the north. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties. It was unusual to have so many fires take off at the same time, fire officials said, though October has generally been the most destructive time of year for California wildfires. The ferocity of the flames forced authorities to focus primarily on getting people out safely, even if it meant abandoning structures to the fire. The fire area covered more than 100 square miles (160 square kilometers) over eight counties.


Elsewhere in the state, a fire churning through canyons in hilly neighborhoods of Orange County burned multiple homes and forced residents of about 1,000 homes to evacuate. Some of the largest blazes were in Napa and Sonoma counties, home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world. They sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) away. What caused the blazes was not known. Fires also burned in Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties – all north of the state capital. The inferno blackened miles along one of the main gateways into wine country, State Highway 12 into Sonoma County. Wooden fence posts and guard rails burned fiercely. Thick smoke roiled from one winery, JR Cohn. The fires also damaged the Silverado Resort in Napa and a Hilton hotel in Santa Rosa, the largest city in the fire area, with a population of about 175,000. Kim Hoe, a 33-year-old tech worker from Penang, Malaysia, was staying at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, which was gutted by flames. He said the power went out around 1am, and he and his colleagues started packing up when someone knocked on the door and told them to run. “We just had to run and run. It was full of smoke. We could barely breathe. It was dangerous,” Hoe said. They returned in the morning to find the hotel had been destroyed along with most of their possessions. Hoe was relieved he had taken his passport and a few essential items. Santa Rosa lost a Kmart, restaurants and an unknown number of businesses and homes.



The blaze shut down schools and forced more than 200 patients at two city hospitals to evacuate. Firefighters rushed to a state home for the severely disabled when flames reached one side of the center’s sprawling campus in the historic Sonoma County town of Glen Ellen. Emergency workers leapt from their cars to aid in the evacuation. Crews got the more than 200 patients from the threatened buildings, one firefighter said, as flames closed within a few dozen feet. Residents throughout the area described a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames. Mike Turpen, 38, was at a bar in Glen Ellen early Monday when a stranger wearing a smoke mask ran in and yelled that there was a fire. Turpen raced home through flames in his Ford F-250. “It was like Armageddon was on,” Turpen said. “Every branch of every tree was on fire”. He woke later to find all his neighbors’ homes on fire, but stayed behind to try to defend his own rental home. By late morning, Turpen, wearing shorts, a kerchief mask and goggles, was the last man standing for miles along one abandoned road. His yard and all those around him were burned, smoking and still flaming in a few spots. But his home was still standing.



At least 14 dead as Rohingya refugee boat sinks off Bangladesh


SHAH PORIR DWIP: At least 14 Rohingya refugees, most of them children, drowned and scores more were missing today after their overloaded boat capsized in the latest tragedy to strike those fleeing violence in Myanmar. Authorities in Bangladesh said the boat was carrying between 60 and 100 people when it overturned and sank in rough seas last night. The bodies of 11 children, two women and a man were washed up on Shah Porir Dwip island in Bangladesh and border guards pulled 13 survivors from the sea, but the fate of the others remains unknown. Alif Jukhar, a Rohingya refugee who has long lived in Bangladesh, lost nine relatives in the disaster including his mother and father. “Yesterday I spoke to my parents on the phone and they told me they would arrive in Shah Porir Dwip tomorrow,” he told AFP as he used his bare hands to bury their bodies. Shortly afterwards, overcome with grief, he collapsed screaming in the middle of the cemetery. More than half a million Rohingya have left Myanmar since militant raids on police posts on August 25 prompted a brutal military backlash against the Muslim minority that the United Nations has said could amount to ethnic cleansing. Around 150 have drowned trying to make the journey in small and rickety fishing boats that coastguards say are woefully inadequate for the rough seas. Survivor Sayed Hossain wept as he watched the body of his two-year-old son being taken away to the local cemetery for burial. “We set off at around 6pm. We did not have any choice but to leave our village,” he said, telling how the overloaded boat overturned when it hit a shoal and sank in rough water.


“They (security forces) have restricted our movements. Many are starving as we could not even go to shop or market to buy food,” said the 30-year-old Rohingya farmhand, who lived in a village east of Myanmar’s Buthidaung township. Hossain’s mother, his pregnant wife and two children were all still missing. The International Organisation for Migration said some children on board had lost their entire families in the disaster and were now alone in a strange country. Jashim Uddin, a teacher at the local madrassa, said he received a call from the coastguards at 5:00 am to tell him that bodies had been found on the beach. As tracking their relatives down is impossible, the victims are routinely taken to the madrassa to perform their last rites. Late last month more than 60 refugees are feared to have died when the boat carrying them from Myanmar capsized in rough weather in the Bay of Bengal. Villagers at Shah Porir Dwip where the boats mostly land told AFP the Rohingya were increasingly travelling at night to avoid strict border patrols in Bangladesh, making the journey even more dangerous.



Last week the guards destroyed at least 30 wooden fishing vessels amid increased concern they were being used to bring the popular methamphetamine drug known locally as Yaba into the country and using the refugee crisis as cover. Gangs of boat owners, crew and fishermen have also been charging the fleeing Rohingya upwards of USD 250 for the two- hour journey that normally costs no more than USD 5. The government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar refuses to recognise the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group and considers them illegal migrants from Bangladesh. While the worst of the violence appears to have abated, insecurity, food shortages and tensions with Buddhist neighbours are still driving thousands of Rohingya to make the arduous journey to Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi authorities initially refused them entry but relented as the numbers became overwhelming, and have set aside land for a giant refugee camp near the border.



Saudi woman booked for driving before lifting of ban


RIYADH: Saudi police have penalised a woman filmed driving a car, a spokesman said Monday, warning against violations of a ban on female drivers set to be lifted next June. Authorities summoned the woman and booked her for flouting traffic regulations after she appeared in a video driving out of a luxury hotel in the capital Riyadh. “We call on all Saudi citizens to respect the law and wait until the ban on women driving formally ends,” the police spokesman told AFP. He did not specify the nature of the penalty, but added that the woman filmed leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel had not been arrested. He said the owner of the car was separately booked for violating traffic regulations. Saudi Arabia last month said it would allow women to obtain driving permits under a royal decree to take effect in June, sparking euphoria and disbelief among activists who long fought the ban. The Gulf kingdom was the only country in the world to bar women from taking the wheel, a ban seen globally as a symbol of repression. Many women fear they are still easy prey for conservatives in a nation where male “guardians” – typically their fathers, husbands or brothers – have arbitrary authority to take decisions on their behalf.

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