News Flash – 17 July 2018

National News



Teen is season’s 4th Lepto casualty, had waded through flooded Worli Seaface


Mumbai: A 17-year-old Worli resident became the latest victim of leptospirosis this monsoon, making him the fourth casualty of the bacterial disease since June. The teenager is suspected to have contracted the infection while recently wading through Worli Seaface and other flooded areas in the vicinity. Medical records analyzed by the BMC’s public health department showed a delay in seeking advanced care for complications and finally his death on Friday. The teen developed fever on July 3 and is said to have taken treatment from a private physician for a day. As symptoms persisted, he approached a municipal dispensary where he was advised to visit a tertiary hospital. “He had begun to vomit blood and needed advanced intervention immediately but he went to the hospital only on Thursday, after seven days had passed,” said a civic official. By then, he had developed respiratory distress and was coughing blood. He was admitted to Parel’s KEM Hospital in a critical condition and put on a ventilator. He passed away in 24 hours. “Leptospirosis is completely treatable. It’s therefore imperative that people who have waded through flooded areas for over 30 minutes take the preventive medicine that is readily available in municipal dispensaries and hospitals,” said Dr Padmaja Keskar, BMC’s executive health officer.


Following the Worli teen’s death, nearly 2,000 residents of 574 houses in the vicinity were screened, of whom two were treated for fever, two for upper respiratory tract infections and three for diarrhoea. In 248 homes, 17 burrows were treated with rodenticides. In July so far, 19 confirmed leptospirosis cases have been reported against five in the entire June. Keskar said over 17,000 people have been given preventive doses of doxycycline. Last year, there were 239 leptospirosis cases and seven deaths. “While most leptospirosis cases are mild, some can be severe. The illness starts with fever, chills, body ache and red eyes. This makes it difficult to distinguish it from dengue and malaria. It can affect every organ system,” said Dr Preeti Chhabria, consultant, internal medicine, H N Reliance Foundation Hospital. Incessant rain and flooding have led to a spike in almost all monsoon diseases. In July, nearly 400 people were admitted to civic hospitals with dengue-like symptoms; only 16 cases came positive in lab tests. Hospitalization due to malaria and gastroenteritis is up too.



Potholes slow down traffic near entry points to city


Mumbai: Traffic disruption in the metropolis is usual on a day of heavy rain. But responsibility for what occurred on Monday must surely lie with the authorities. Potholes on the Sion-Panvel Highway brought traffic almost to a halt. It took 30 minutes to cover a particularly bad 2km stretch along the highway’s Kharghar-CBD section as vehicles slowed down before the CBD flyover on the Mumbai lane to avoid craters on the road. While motorists suffered, the PWD (public works department), MSRDC (Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation) and MEPL (Mumbai Entry Point Limited; toll collector) squabbled on who should fill potholes. In Thane, Monday morning began for most with anxiety and anger. The choicest of cusswords could be heard as officegoers and students headed for Mumbai were caught for over an hour in a snarl-up on a choked 3km stretch from Viviana Mall up to the Mulund toll post on Eastern Express Highway; usually, it takes 10-15 minutes to cover the stretch. The culprit? Potholes. Adding to noise pollution were thousands of almost-stranded cars, motorbikes and buses.


In Mumbai, Western Express Highway, Andheri subway and Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road witnessed massive congestion. Fashion designer Masaba Gupta tweeted of being stuck on the highway for two hours; she wrote she was able to reach work not before 2pm. “Congestion on WEH worsened due to an exhibition at Nesco Ground, Goregaon. I took two hours to cross a 5km stretch,” a motorist said. Another motorist said there were jams stretching from Bandra to Jogeshwari on the northbound stretch. Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road was jammed on both sides. Congestion was also reported on Eastern Express Highway, LBS Road, BKC towards Kalanagar, Parel, Sion and SV Road in Bandra. A motorist said he took 20 minutes to cross less than a kilometer at Andheri subway. Meanwhile, in Kharghar, a resident, Dr R Venkata Kesavan, lamented, “People here can’t reach the railway station to catch trains on time. On Monday morning, a five-minute drive to the station took me more than 30 minutes. Imagine the harrowing time emergency and ambulance services must have gone through”.



State government moves to make digital driving licence legal


Delhi: The state transport department plans to bring out a fresh notification in the next few days making it legal for any citizen in the state to carry a digital format of his driving licence, car registration certificate or the permits issued to commercial vehicles. The digital documents, which need to be stored on the government cloud-based platform Digi-Locker, will be accepted by government agencies as genuine. The move comes in the wake of the Centre planning to amend the Motor Vehicles Rules to make it compulsory for all state transport authorities across the country to accept the digital version of all vehicle documents, including, ‘pollution under control’ certificates and insurance documents. Sources said that officials at the Centre are taking the step as some states transport authorities and traffic police were not accepting the digital version of government documents such as the driving licence. “We want citizens to use the DigiLocker facility of government to store driving licence and registration certificates,” an official from the transport commissioner’s office said. “If you are asked by a traffic police official, you can simply switch on a smartphone and display your licence and vehicle RC”. The documents can be flashed on any digital device using the DigiLocker facility.


The government notification is likely to issue instructions to the traffic police to accept digital documents as genuine. At present, the traffic police ask for the original smartcards from drivers and vehicle owners for driving licence and car registration and refuse to accept digital copies, said sources. Officials said that once the notification is issued, it will also benefit taxi, private cab, auto and truck owners as their permits can be stored digitally and accessed from the DigiLocker. The ministry also proposed that vehicles up to eight years old would require to undergo fitness test once in two years instead of annually. The draft rules notified by the road transport ministry propose to make it mandatory for trucks to carry construction materials such as sand, soil and cement in a “closed body” or “container”. The draft rules also do away with the mandatory norm of two drivers in long-haul vehicles. The ministry proposed mandatory installation of FASTags, reflective tapes and vehicle tracking system in all national permit vehicles.



Gang that duped people at ATMs busted, 2 arrested



New Delhi: An interstate gang of fraudsters who duped scores of people at ATM kiosks was busted on Sunday and two people arrested. The gang members would note down PINs of ATM users and convince them to swipe their card again. Then they would carry out fraudulent transactions from those accounts. DCP (Dwarka) Anto Alphonse identified the two men as Sumi Chaudhary (26) and Narender Singh (31). Both are residents of Bijwasan in southwest Delhi. The gang came on police radar when a 15-year-old girl committed suicide in Dwarka on May 7. The girl had gone to an ATM to withdraw cash to buy medicines for her ailing father. When she was coming out of the ATM, one of the criminals stopped her and told her that her transaction hadn’t ended and that she should swipe her card again. She followed their advice, swiped her card again and left. Chaudhary and Singh had already noted down her PIN when she was withdrawing money. They then withdrew Rs 30,000 from that account.


When she realised what happened, the girl went to the police and got an e-FIR registered. But she was so disheartened that she hanged herself the following morning. A team led by ACP (Dwarka) Rajender Singh started investigating the case and scanned CCTV footage from the area. Chaudhary and Singh were spotted and their images were circulated among area staff and informers. Meanwhile, while scanning phone calls made from that area, police zeroed in on three phone numbers out of 5.6 lakh numbers active in the area. Through these, police tracked the criminals to their hideout and arrested them. The two said they are a three-man gang that targets ATMs without CCTV cameras. Two of them would engage a target and the third would stay outside to keep a watch. They were active in Uttarakhand too. About 15 ATM cards were seized from them.



Surging Cauvery gushes over bridge, floods villages on banks



Mysuru/ Mandya: Increased inflow into the Cauvery, leading to more water being released from KRS Dam, has flooded vast swathes of land in Mysuru, Mandya and surrounding districts, with villages along the river particularly at risk. The National Disaster Response Force is on high alert and temporary helipads are being built in preparation for emergencies. Following heavy rain in Kodagu, the inflow into KRS Dam on Monday morning was 65,777 cusecs, while outflow was 71,583 cusecs, irrigation department authorities said. By evening, inflow had dipped to 63,375 cusecs while the outflow increased to 80,227. Villages along the Cauvery are facing floods. Water has entered streets and homes in Mahadevapura, Naguvanahalli, Doddapalya and Angarahalli, and other villages. Water is gushing over Wellesley Bridge in Srirangapatna. Paschima Vahini, the pilgrimage centre where ashes of the dead are immersed, is filled with water too.


Mandya police said no casualty due to inundation has been reported from any part of the district. “At Rampura, inmates of Gajanana Ashram have refused to leave the building, saying they are safe. The ashram may face problems once outflow crosses 1lakh cusecs,” said an officer. At Gautami Kshetra, local fishermen rescued a youth from the swelling river. Chetan and his two friends had gone to an island to celebrate his birthday. The Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is also flooded. Deputy conservator of forests Siddaramappa visited the sanctuary and instructed officers to take measures to protect the nests, eggs and offspring of thousands of migratory birds. The district administration has deployed a dedicated officers’ team and asked them to work with the disaster response personnel. Police personnel have been deployed at all vulnerable places, including the Cauvery banks, where crowds are thronging to get a glimpse of the swollen river.



Two die, 4 missing in Kerala; heavy rain forecast till Friday

PRECARIOUS SITUATION: Perjinjankadavu bridge built over the Neyyar river submerged after the recent rains.



Thiruvananthapuram: The death toll in monsoon havoc in the state since July 9 touched 13 with two people, one in Kottayam and one in Malappuram, losing their lives on Monday. Four people, two each from Pathanamthitta and Malappuram districts, are reported missing, the state disaster control room officials in for med. The state, which has been experiencing intense rain, landslides and flash floods for the past one week, will have to brace for more as heavy to extremely heavy rains of 21cm or more is forecast till Friday. Strong winds and high waves up to 15ft is forecast along Kerala coast and the state has reissued the alert in the coastal districts. Through video conference from the US, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has directed not to delay the disbursal of relief grant to the disaster-affected and the district collectors have been directed to be on alert after a review of the monsoon havoc control measures. He also directed to ensure precautionary measures to prevent outbreak of monsoon-related epidemics. Currently, 186 relief camps are functioning in the state, accommodating 26,833 people belonging to 6,065 families.



53 rescued from Vamsadhara fury

Rescue operations in full swing.



Visakhapatnam: Villagers along the Vamsadhara and Nagavali rivers in Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts were put on alert on Monday, because of a threat of floods due to incessant rain, even as 53 people and 20 sheep were rescued from the rising Vamsadhara, district officials said. Fishermen were also advised not to venture into the sea. The high waves would be in the range of 3.5-3.8 meters till July 18 along the Srikakulam coast. While the people living close to the riverbanks had a tough time on Monday with the water swirling towards their dwellings, government departments like police, revenue, animal husbandry, health and fire were put on high alert to meet any emergency, the officials said State irrigation officials opened all the 22 flood gates up to one-meter height at Gotta barrage over the Vamsadhara to release nearly 24,000 cusecs into the sea. The 53 people rescued were engaged in quarrying sand in the river at 1.30am on Monday when the flash floods reached them at Purushottampuram village of Sarubujjili mandal. Meanwhile, search teams found the body of Thirikoti Priya, a student of Class 8 of Kaliningrad village, who died after a boat capsized in East Godavari. The body was brought to Yanam base camp.



Cloudburst washes away houses, shops, vehicles in Uttarakhand



Dehradun/Gopeshwar: Nearly a dozen houses, ten shops and six vehicles were swept away following a cloudburst in Tharali and Ghat areas of Chamoli district early on Monday, officials said. No casualties have been reported. Over 10 shops and six vehicles were washed away after a cloudburst flooded Pranmati River on way to Ratgaon in Dharbagad area of Tharali at around 3 am, the District Disaster Management Centre in Chamoli said. Heavy rains also caused landslides in Dhurma-Kundi village in Ghat area of the district where muck and rubble swept away five cowsheds and as many houses, an official spokesman in Dehradun said. There were also reports of seven houses being washed away in Maukh Malla village of Serabagad area of Chamoli. Relief and rescue teams have been rushed to affected areas, Chamoli District Magistrate Ashish Joshi said. The Badrinath Highway was also blocked for some time this morning at Lambagad, Pipalkoti and Gauchar due to heavy rains. The highway at Pipalkopti has been opened while JCBs are being used to clear the road at Lambagad and Gauchar, the district disaster management centre in Chamoli said. Karnaprayag-Gwaldam motor road, which connects Garhwal with Kumaon, is also blocked near Gwaldam, it said.



Cops to launch fresh drive to check taxi tout menace at Kolkata airport



Kolkata: From deploying officers in plainclothes, who would pose as passengers to nab touts, to positioning men in uniform in front of all the exit gates of the airport terminal — the Bidhannagar Commissionerate is all set to start a fresh drive against taxi touts at the airport. Deputy commissioner (headquarters) of Bidhannagar Commissionerate Amit Javalgi said, “We are aware of the problem. We do take action from time to time in this regard. We shall start a fresh drive again to ensure the airport premise is free of touts. Our primary intention is to bring the passengers’ focus to the pre-paid taxi counters. Hence, we shall deploy policemen outside every exit gate to guide passengers leaving the airport to the pre-paid taxi and app-cab booking counters”. TOI has been highlighting since last week how touts have returned to the airport and are taking frequent flyers and tourists for a ride once they land in the city and come out of the terminal. While airport authorities raised the issue in the recent airport advisory committee meeting and blamed cops for not being able to rein in the touts, the police passed the buck onto the former. Cops alleged non-cooperation on part of the airport authorities and claimed that they were not allowed to set up multiple police helpdesks by airport officials citing space crunch. Sources at the airport said the taxi tout business was controlled by groups belonging to three persons — Kalidham, Rajkumar and Shakti. Each of them have multiple touts and several cars operating under them. The three groups have carved out the arrival zone amongst themselves.


“Touts owing allegiance to the Kalidham group get hold of unsuspecting passengers that exit through 1A/1B and 2A/2B. Similarly, touts in the Rajkumar group pick up passengers from gate 3A/3B while those in the Shakti group operate in the most lucrative international section, targeting passengers that exit through 4A/4B and 5A/5B,” a source said. All the touts are adept at profiling passengers and prey on either first timers to the city or those from the Northeast in the domestic section and foreigners, mostly Bangladeshis, exiting the international arrival terminal. According to the source, the Kalidham group has a fleet of 30 cars, the Rajkumar group has 45-50 cars and Shakti group controls 40-45 cars. The vehicles have both private and commercial registrations and are parked either in the driveway before the terminals or at the old parking lot next to the Volvo bus stand. In order to curb the tout menace, cops have also started profiling the cars parked on the airport premises and have started carrying out random checks of parked cars. Both private and commercial number plate-bearing vehicles are being checked to find out if they are run by the unscrupulous agencies. “We have started a drive to check parked cars, especially the ones with private number plates carrying passengers out of the airport. We are questioning the passengers as well while they leave the premises. If we find that they were misled to book cars, we immediately penalize the drivers to the tune of Rs 3,000,” a senior officer of the traffic department said. The officers have also asked the agency manning the parking lot to keep an eye out for cars with fake parking tickets. “We recently caught a number of cars using fake tickets within the parking lot. We have handed over those drivers to the police,” an official of the parking lot management agency said.



Police tender for Robo bomb sniffers


Kolkata: Kolkata Police has floated a global tender to acquire a miniature remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that are widely used by top-notch security forces. An ROV helps in detecting bombs planted in places that are difficult to access or where there are chances of loss of human lives. “The ROV is now a necessary weapon of any technically suave police force. It is a part of the Safe City project. The ROV will also be useful during natural calamities,” said a senior officer at Lalbazar. The tender makes it clear that the cops are looking at a high-end device. Besides working continuously for two hours, the cops want the ROV to be weather-proof. The machine, sought by cops, should have arms that can lift up to 8kgs when arms are retracted the total permissible weight to be lifted should go up to 18kgs. Besides the front-drive and rear drive cameras, it will come armed additionally with an auxiliary pole camera and weapons camera. The vehicle can transmit video image up to 1km (non-line of sight). It will also have PTZ cameras and X-Ray mounts.


“Prior reconnaissance — to avoid calling in the specialists unnecessarily and to ensure a confirmed threat — is an essential element of our anti-terror processes. In this scenario, special remotely operated devices can drastically reduce the risk to human beings involved in such activities, with high-precision micro motors replacing manpower to undertake necessary hazardous operations at the bomb scene,” explained an officer why the specifications have been carefully laid out in the tender document. The police modernization programme though will not end with this latest acquisition. The entire city will be mapped using the Geographic Information System (GIS), and the spots where crimes against women have been reported frequently will be identified for installation of panic buttons. On pressing the button, alert will be sent to the nearest police station, which can rush its personnel to the spot. “Women travel a lot by buses, taxis and auto rickshaws. We are planning to provide QR codes and a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags (as seen as Howrah station) to these vehicles so that they can be tracked,” said a police source.



Now, breathalyzers with cams to nail drivers in court


Chennai: Motorists causing accidents under the influence of alcohol can no longer wriggle free by pinning the blame on someone else as the Chennai traffic police are all set to commission breathalyzers equipped with cameras that will not only reveal their blood alcohol content but also click their pictures. Each device costs ₹50,000. The traffic police plan to purchase at least 100 machines in the first phase for distribution at important junctions in the city. The devices, which are manufactured and assembled in India, with in-built cameras like those of mobile phones, access to a printer and a disposable straw on top. When the suspect blows into it, a snap of him is clicked and printed in the e-challan itself. The procedure will be completed in ten seconds and a copy handed over to the driver. The GPS attached to the machine will mark the exact location where the drunken driver was caught along with the exact time. A senior police officer said, “We have ordered 100 gadgets as a test run. If the system works well, we will buy more for other police personnel engaged in traffic enforcement work in the city.” The officer also added that a team of technicians will monitor the functioning of the machines to ensure that there are no glitches.


The gadget will emit LED lights to help photograph the motorists intercepted for suspected drunken driving at night. “With these modern breath analysers, drunken drivers cannot manipulate the truth. The moment their breath is analysed, a picture is taken and immediately sent to the central server at the traffic control room where it will be fed into the database,” said a traffic official. Drunken driving cases are mostly registered during weekends, festive seasons and New Year celebrations. Police have so far registered more than 8,000 such cases this year for which drivers have to pay fines in court. “On many occasions, owners drive the vehicles which cause accidents but as soon as a case is booked, they pin the blame on their drivers and make them surrender. This is not possible with these devices which will help us prove the case in court,” said a senior officer. Police said these breath analysers will also help them keep track of habitual offenders, who will lose their driving licences if they are caught for the third time after a recommendation to the regional transport department.



International News



Saudi bans 47 video games after kids’ deaths



Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia says it’s banning a long list of popular video games after allegations surfaced that two children killed themselves after being encouraged to do so in an online game. The Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media said Monday it was banning 47 games, including Grand Theft Auto V, Assassins Creed 2 and Witcher, for unspecified violations of rules and regulations. The ban was in response to the deaths of a 13-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy who reportedly killed themselves after playing the so-called “Blue Whale’’ social media game, though the agency did not say what the connection was.

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