News Flash – 14 June 2017

National News



Ghatkopar Metro station cleared of stalls to pave way for crowds



MUMBAI: Mumbai Metro has cleared stalls at Ghatkopar station to pave way for more automatic fare collection (AFC) gates which will ensure faster dispersal of commuters. Traffic from Ghatkopar has seen an enormous increase and at present, it is the busiest station on Metro I corridor. On a weekday, nearly 3.6 lakh people take the Metro and Ghatkopar station alone sees a footfall of 95,000 commuters, which has increased by about 10,000 since previous year. A Metro official said, “We want to disperse the crowds as soon as possible, especially during rush hours. We have decided to take several steps, including increasing the frequency of the trains and raising the number of AFC gates”. The timetable too has been rescheduled to tackle the growing crowds. It has been done in such a way that as soon as one train leaves, another arrives, said the official, adding that the initiative has been successful and now there is hardly any build-up of crowds on platforms”. The entry-exit gates towards the Central Railway lines is another bottleneck at the Ghatkopar Metro station. “There were 13 gates for entry from the Central Railway-end, they have now been increased to 16 to increase the flow of commuters by 25%,” the official added.



This Mexican plant can save you from killer mosquitoes


NEW DELHI: A Mexican plant, widely available in India, is being promoted by National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as a handy weapon in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases. The leaf extracts of Agave Americana, also known as century plant or Kamal cactus, has larvicidal properties, say NCDC scientists. Simply put, when mosquitoes are exposed to the leaf extract of this plant at the larval stage (active, immature form), they die. “You can put the extracts in coolers and containers in which water has collected. Within 24 hours, the larvae will be dead,” Dr. L J Kanhekar, joint director and head of the department of medical entomologist at NCDC, told TOI. AC Dhariwal, NCDC director, added that municipal corporations are being advised to promote the use of such plants in the fight against vector-borne diseases through their information, education and communication (IEC) campaigns. “Unlike synthetic insecticides, the plant-derived larvicides do not have any harmful effect on the environment or mankind,” he said. In the past decade, vector-borne diseases have gone up significantly and so has the use of mosquito repellents. This has resulted in problems of resistance and side-effects. Scientists said use of natural repellents can help avoid these problems. “We are mulling over production of leaf extracts of Agave Americana in powdered or oil form for ease of use,” Dr. Kanhekar said.


Padam Chand Saini, who owns a private nursery in northwest Delhi, said Agave Americana is sold between Rs 100 and Rs 400 depending on its size. “Few people know about their larvicidal properties. Last year, when there was a spurt in chikungunya cases, we got many customers asking for the plant,” he said. Saini claimed that lemon grass and eucalyptus citriodora, two other varieties of potted plants, are also known for their mosquito-repellent properties. Agave Americana is a succulent desert plant native to Mexico. Many entomologists have reported that several other varieties of the Agave family have also exhibited larvicidal properties, for example Agave Angustofolia or Carribean Agave. “We need to think out of the box to fight against mosquito-borne diseases. It is causing public health crisis in many parts of the world, including India,” said a doctor. This year, in spite of high temperature, Delhi has reported nearly 100 chikungunya and 40 dengue cases over the past six months. Officials fear the incidence may increase significantly post-monsoon. Last year, 4,431 cases of dengue and 7,760 cases of chikungunya were reported in Delhi. Several people died due to the diseases. Experts said that early action against mosquito breeding is the only way to prevent outbreaks.



Aarey to lose 3,184 trees for car shed, admits Metro Corporation



MUMBAI: The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) has now revealed in an official document that more than 3,000 trees will be felled inside Aarey Colony to build a car shed. This high number overturns the 500-odd figure it had mentioned in submissions to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and in press statements. In all, 3,184 trees will be cut within Aarey, one of the city’s few remaining green lungs, and about 200 will be transplanted to make way for a shed to park trains running on the Colaba-SEEPZ metro line, says a tender document from MMRCL. To rub salt into the wound, the cost of felling the trees is estimated to be in the range of Rs 940 to Rs 28,000 each!. The new numbers of trees on the chopping block go against every estimate given so far. TOI had earlier reported that MMRCL had underestimated the extent of green cover that would be lost along the route. Weeks before tenders were called for cutting, transplanting trees and planting saplings on February 14 this year, MMRCL said 254 trees would be cut and 2,044 transplanted, in response to an RTI query. In a press release, it had said 350 trees would be cut and 1,000 transplanted.


An environment impact assessment (EIA) report given in 2012 to Japan International Cooperation Agency, which is providing concessional funding for the project, said 496 trees would be cut in Aarey and 660 transplanted. And in 2015, in an affidavit before NGT, MMRCL sought permission to cut 500 trees within the Aarey zone. MMRCL did not respond to TOI’s questionnaire on the issue. MMRCL’s EIA had pegged number of trees to be cut along the Colaba-SEEPZ route at 177 and those to be transplanted at 412. The actual numbers are much higher – 1,074 and 1,727 respectively. Inside Aarey, total cost of felling trees is estimated at Rs 3.2 crore — from Rs 940 for narrow varieties to Rs 28,548 for those of almost 7ft girth. In contrast, Rs 4,600 is earmarked for each of 200 trees for their transplantation and upkeep for three years. This amounts to a meagre Rs 100 per month for each transplanted tree. There is also no clarity on the actual area to be used for construction of the Metro III car shed in Aarey Colony. “Mumbaikars need to know the exact size of the plot to be taken. The notification issued by the government in 2014 states 33 hectares. In 2014, the government handed over 30 hectares to MMRCL and another three hectares in 2015. The detailed project report states 34.3 hectares. The agency in 2015 informed the NGT it needs 20.82 hectares and the tender document (in February) states it is 26.4 hectares,” said Priya Mishra, a member of the Aarey Conservation Group who has studied the tender document closely.


Reacting to the Rs 3.24 crore budget of the MMRCL for cutting 3,184 trees, Mishra said: “Why should the cost of cutting a tree be so high?” A member of the civic Tree Authority said the BMC estimate for cutting a fully-grown tree varies from Rs 2,000 to Rs 15,000, depending on height and girth. Jitendra Pardeshi, garden superintendent, said the BMC’s services are only in case of emergencies. “In case a private society approaches us, we charge 20% more,” he said. The tender document mentions that 9,552 trees will be planted as “compensatory plantation”. The cost of each sapling is estimated at Rs 1,583 but no mention is made of the cost involved in upkeep of these trees. Mishra questioned how a tree could be transplanted and maintained for three years at Rs 100 per month, why a sapling should cost Rs 1,583, and why no provision has been made for the upkeep of these saplings. She also wondered if it was ethical to invite bids for tree-cutting when the NGT is hearing a plea to declare Aarey as a forest. The next hearing is in July. Activist Zoru Bathena, who had filed the tree RTI query this January, said when MMRCL submitted a list of trees to be cut for Metro III in May this year, it informed the high court that “the number of trees to be cut/transplanted at Aarey has still not been decided”. “Through the intervention of the Bombay high court we were able to access the map of the area with trees marked that had been submitted to BMC. When we compared the map with the actual ground condition, we found that at least one-third of the trees had not been marked on the map,” he added. MMRCL had told the court it had withdrawn its application to the BMC seeking permission for cutting.



4 cybercrimes reported every day in Karnataka, 3 of them in Bengaluru



BENGALURU: At least four cases of cybercrime are reported every day in Karnataka – and three of them are from Bengaluru alone — data from specialized cybercrime police stations in seven districts, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and all other police stations reveals. Information accessed from the home minister’s office shows that 679 cases have already been reported in the first five months of 2017 (151 days) and 525 of these are from Bengaluru. The statistic is not very surprising, though: the city has taken first place on national cybercrime charts for years now. While Karnataka police do not maintain records of cybercrime in various categories, police officials dealing with these cases say the highest number (nearly 30% of all cases) are related to fake job offers. This is followed by bank frauds — credit and debit card frauds, phishing etc. — data theft and online harassment. Fraudsters, police say, advertise fake job offers through emails made to look like they are from reputed companies. These also come with attachments of fake letters. “They also create fake websites and lure people,” an officer said, adding that the communications begin with simple offers and eventually lead to demands of money to “process” the applications. The modus operandi of bank frauds, police said, are more or less in the public domain and people are aware of the traps. Together, bank frauds and fake job offers account for nearly 52% of the cases, say cops.


A surge in the number of such cases post-2005, especially after the 2008-09 global slowdown, prompted the state to create specialized police stations but experts argue that they are not equipped to deal with cybercrime adequately. “I think there is a lack of domain expertise and most of the officers dealing with cybercrime, not only in Karnataka but also in other states, are not well-versed with the ways of cybercriminals,” cyber expert Mirza Faizan Asad said. “They are several steps behind compared with their counterparts in other countries.” A retired police officer who did not want to be named said, “It has become like a punishment posting, a place most officers do not want to go to”. The state government, which gets some of its professionals trained by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) Lab, has recently introduced cybercrime in its police training syllabus. Superintendent of police Indu Shekar, who is also the principal of Channapatna Police Training School, said the change in syllabus would address the lack of expertise in the field. All 11 training schools, he said, “will eventually introduce the new syllabus which has an extensive focus on cybercrime”.



Malls need to innovate to beat the e-commerce boom: Report



HYDERABAD: Malls and retail outlets in Hyderabad and in other metros across the country need to constantly innovate and create to remain relevant to consumers, says the latest report produced by a real estate consulting firm. The report, produced by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), pointed out how post the e-commerce boom of 2014, malls have to constantly design strategies to keep drawing in the growing urban population. Today the pace of change has accelerated to such an extent that malls, hypermarkets and supermarkets need to constantly innovate in order to remain relevant, said the report. “Every mall across the country today is focusing on bringing new experiences to the customers. Entertainment, food and beverages have been identified as two categories that draw crowds to malls, apart from shopping. This is why while we keep trying to bring better brands to the mall, there is also an added focus on engaging the customers through innovative marketing activities and events,” said the centre head of Inorbit mall. While the vacancy rates in malls, for the first quarter of 2017, stood highest at Delhi-NCR (20.6%) and Pune (14.1), retail outlets in Hyderabad seem to have fared better with a vacancy rate of 8.9%. Describing the market scenario in Hyderabad as ‘bullish’, Sanjay Bhansal, head of GVK One mall pointed out that they were presently in the process of ‘upgrading’ the mall and giving it an entirely new look.



Traffic cops use peppy ‘gaana’ to create awareness on road safety

(From left) Singer Gaana Bala hands over the video song to police commissioner A K Viswanathan in the presence of ACP (traffic) Abhay Kumar Singh.


Chennai: In their effort to get motorists, particularly the young, to stick to the rules, the traffic police are using every trick in the book. The peppy ‘Salai vidhiyayai madhichipaaru, saavae ilama nilaichu vaazhu’ (Obey traffic rules, lead a long life) number, penned and sung by popular singer-lyricist ‘Gaana’ Bala, is just the latest. Police commissioner A K Viswanathan on Tuesday released a video of the song featuring tragic real life incidents of traffic violations where many youngsters end up losing their lives. The video will soon be released in public places and theatres. The four-minute video, directed by Niranjan J V J, is a remix of a popular song featuring actor Dhanush and tackles drunken driving, racing, triple riding and the importance of wearing helmets and seat belts. It will soon be uploaded on social networking sites and on video sharing platforms like YouTube and WhatsApp.


For Gaana Bala, this is not the first time he has sung to create awareness on public safety. His maiden number, belted out at the request of then Pulianthope Deputy Commissioner R Sudhakar on ‘maanja’ kite thread which took lives of many, became a hit among youth. Stating that very few youths followed traffic rules until they experienced pain, Bala admitted that he too had flouted rules in the past. “But I have changed myself these days and make sure that I stick to rules. As a reformed person, I decided to sing for the traffic awareness campaign,” he said. Later, commissioner Viswanathan appealed to the public to follow road safety at all times. “This is an effort to reach out to all youngsters and will be circulated on all online platforms,” he said.



International News



Firefighters battling huge blaze in London high-rise

Fire engulfs a tower block in Latimer Road.



LONDON: Firefighters are battling a massive fire in an apartment high-rise in London. One side of the building appeared to be in flames. 40 fire engines and 200 firefighters had been called to the scene early on Wednesday morning. The building is the Grenfell Tower in west London. The Metropolitan Police said two people were being treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and cordons were in place. George Clarke, the presenter of “Amazing Spaces,” told Radio 5 Live he was covered in ash even though he was 100 meters (yards) from the scene. He said he saw people waving flashlights from the top level of the building and saw rescuers “doing an incredible job” trying to get people out.



Rain-triggered landslides kill over 100 in Bangladesh

Rescuers search amid the mud after a landslide in Bandarban, Bangladesh on June 13, 2017.



DHAKA: A series of landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains have killed at least 105 people, including several army officers, in Bangladesh with the majority of the deaths reported from a remote hill district close to the Indian border, officials said on Tuesday. The worst affected Rangamati hill district alone has witnessed 76 deaths, including four military personnel, who were on duty to remove the rubble to clear a major highway. According to local media reports, the death toll has touched as high as 105 and could rise further as many people remain buried under tonnes of rubble. Landslides killed 23 people in Rangunia and Chandanaish upazilas of Chittagong, Dhaka Tribune reported. In Bandarban, six people were killed and five others injured in landslides, police officer Rafiq Ullah was quoted as saying by the daily. The reports said that over 100 people were injured, many of them critically, while searches were underway for more bodies as many remote areas were difficult to reach due to inclement weather.


“Most of the casualties were caused by landslides, but some died of electrocution, drowning and collapse of walls,” said an official at the southeastern port city of Chittagong. A military spokesperson in Dhaka said an army major and a captain were among four of the dead personnel. They were called to remove landslide rubble from a highway linking port city of Chittagong with Rangamati. “A fresh landslide at the scene buried the detachment killing the four while one soldier is still missing . . . ten personnel were wounded in the (fresh) landslide,” he said. Many of the victims belong to the ethnic minority or tribal groups in Rangamati and Bandarban who live in makeshift structures along the hills, officials said. The officials said many people were asleep when the landslides hit, causing more casualties, especially among children. “The rescue campaign is underway. We will get a clearer picture of the casualties later,” a spokesperson at the Disaster Management Ministry said, adding that the casualty figures could rise as many remain missing. The landslides triggered by the monsoon rains came two weeks after Cyclone Mora hit Bangladesh, leaving eight people dead and damaging hundreds of homes.



Hundreds sick, 2 dead in food poisoning at Mosul camp



BAGHDAD: A mass food poisoning at a camp for displaced Iraqi civilians outside Mosul has left at least two dead and hundreds requiring urgent treatment, officials said today. “There are 752 cases of food poisoning and two deaths, a woman and a child” following a meal last night, health ministry spokesman Seif al-Badr told AFP. He said around 100 of those affected required serious treatment after the iftar meal, which breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast during the holy Muslim month of Ramzan. Badr said the exact source of the poisoning would be revealed after a more thorough investigation. Other health officials from Nineveh province, in northern Iraq, confirmed the figures. The outbreak occurred at Hasansham, one of the many camps dotting the region around Mosul, where Iraqi forces are battling the Islamic State group.


More than 800,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since a massive operation against the jihadists in one of their last strongholds in Iraq was launched in October 2016. Many of them live in overcrowded camps, where soaring summer temperatures are compounding the difficulties faced by the government and the United Nations in maintaining acceptable living conditions. In a statement, the UN’s refugee agency said at least one child had died as a result of the food poisoning and that 200 people were hospitalised. “Extra clean water is now being provided at the camp and additional health agencies have been brought in to help in the response,” the agency said. “We are waiting for the police investigations to understand clearly the chain of events and to draw lessons from this tragic incident which will allow agencies to reinforce public health protocols to prevent such situations in the future,” it said.

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