News Flash – 18 October 2017

National News



37% of spots Delhi women find unsafe poorly



NEW DELHI: With the #MeToo campaign on social media leading to strong calls for action against sexual harassment by sharing their own experiences, data collected through the “Safetipin” application shows 37% of unsafe locations reported by women in Delhi have poor visibility at night. Real-time data collected by Safetipin, which allows women to report unsafe spaces, points to a major problem with public spaces with poor visibility adding to the prospects of abuse and harassment. In contrast in Mumbai and Bengaluru, 40% and 35% of the city’s locations reported by women have been positively rated in terms of visibility. However, in Bengaluru out of 1,881 bus stops audited, 25% scored poorly in terms of safety. The reports seem to tally with the tweets and posts on social media that show that besides incestuous abuse and harassment by colleagues, public spaces and transport are a major challenge as far as harassment goes. While the ministry of women and child development has no recent government study to bank on to assess the magnitude of the problem, it is planning to commission one on sexual harassment to establish concerns and look at measures to tackle it. For now, what is available are some past studies and safety audit reports that reflect the magnitude of the problem as reflected by the #MeToo.


Real-time data collected through the Safetipin application which allows women to report unsafe spaces how they feel about certain spaces, shows that in the national capital, 37% of locations reported by women on the application do not offer any visibility at night. Safetipin co-founder and women’s rights activist Kalpana Viswanath told TOI that there are an estimated 80,000 users and their responses are audited and assessed from time to time to understand problems on the ground. The parameters involved include visibility, lighting, openness, presence of security, walk path, availability of transport, presence of people and women and how one feels in a space. Studies by voluntary Organisation Jagori and UN Women on a sample of 5,010 respondents in 2010 reflected that 95% reported to have faced some form of sexual harassment in public spaces. The most common spaces were the street (69%), public transport (51%), waiting for public transport (41%) and markets (49%).



CR to build culverts at 29 spots to reduce flooding; BMC offers Rs 55 crore



MUMBAI: Flooding of tracks on Central Railway (CR) may reduce substantially by the next monsoon as culverts will be constructed at critical points in coordination with BMC to ensure proper disposal of sewage. Twenty-nine spots have been identified but work will be carried out at 15 spots in phase one. Eight sites have been initially finalised, for which designs have been submitted, and BMC has agreed to provide Rs 55 crore. CR divisional railway manager (Mumbai) S K Jain said they will begin work soon. CR also told BMC to provide bins at various locations so that garbage is not dumped on tracks. CR has blamed poor drainage and garbage for lack of maintenance, which are the cause of failures and poor punctuality. The authorities will also profile hawkers in the 150-metre radius of stations; the database will help identify repeat offenders.



Brace for a wet Diwali as Met predicts rain



HYDERABAD: Telangana will have a wet Diwali this year as a fall out of the well-marked low pressure area over central Bay of Bengal that is developing into a depression, Indian Meteorological Department said on Tuesday. “Heavy rains are very likely to occur in all the districts of Telangana,” the IMD said in its bulletin. Weathermen said a well-marked low pressure area over central Bay of Bengal is developing into a depression. “Associated cyclonic circulation extends up to 5.8 km above mean sea level. It is very likely to concentrate into a depression during next 24 hours. Subsequently, it is very likely to move north westwards reaching north Andhra Pradesh and ad joining south Odisha coast by October 19,” the IMD, Hyderabad said. “Southwest monsoon has withdrawn from northern parts of Telangana. Complete monsoon withdrawal over Telangana can be expected post Diwali after the depression moves towards Odisha,” said YK Reddy, director, IMD, Hyderabad.



Heavy traffic chokes Kolkata


KOLKATA: Traffic movement in several parts of the city was completely thrown out of gear on Tuesday evening due to massive inflow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic for Dhanteras and Diwali festivities. There were massive traffic snarls in central Kolkata. Traffic was halted for quite a few hours on APC Roy Road and there was heavy traffic on Central Avenue, MG Road and other parts of central Kolkata. “It usually takes only about 20 minutes to commute from Maniktala to Moulali by car. Today evening, it took me over one and half hours to negotiate that distance,” said a commuter. Heavy traffic congestion also occurred in parts of South and North Kolkata. The inauguration of Kali Puja at a few places in central Kolkata also added to the traffic woes.



Kolkata to get India’s first 24×7 information security helpline



KOLKATA: India’s very first information security helpline is set to begin in Kolkata. The 24X7 number will help to report incidents of cybercrime. Kolkata Police has undertaken this initiative with the help of Infosec Foundation, a nonprofit platform dedicated to cyber security. The organization will hold an international summit on November 3 in Kolkata and plan to launch the helpline number on that day. Infosec is working with the Kolkata Police to form a team of volunteers, called ‘Cyber Army’. The Chairman of Infosec, Sushovon Mukherjee said, “These volunteers will guide the persons looking for cyber solutions”. Mukherjee also said that this summit will be east India’s biggest ever summit, since organizations like IBM, Fire eye, Check Point will be participating. Another executive of Infosec Koushik Bhattacharya said, “We have no idea how to secure digital property. This is the biggest threat to Digital India“.



Your box of fireworks must have these details


CHENNAI: When you unwrap a box of fireworks on Diwali day, check for two things – the chemical composition of the fireworks and a disclaimer on sound emissions. Both are mandatory. If they are absent from the packet, the fireworks have not been manufactured by a government-licensed unit. They either have been made illegally or are of Chinese origin, and may not abide by the Explosive Act and sound limits prescribed by the government. An industry source said major players in Sivakasi display the chemical composition on the packets. In addition to that, the disclaimer on sound emission is also printed, the source said. Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) in Sivakasi has derived a formula for fireworks to keep the sound emitted under 125 decibels. Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers’ Association (TANFAMA) former president G Abiruben said Fireworks Research & Development Centre (FR&DC), Sivakasi under PESO had been testing random samples of all 800 licensed firework units in Sivakasi. “An entire lot of fireworks will be destroyed if a sample fails the sound emission test. FR&DC has drilled this formula into fireworks makers of Sivakasi. Fireworks manufactured in licensed units of Sivakasi naturally fall below the allowed sound limit,” he said.


While licensed manufacturers mention on the boxes that their products are made as per requirements of PESO, those made by the ‘parallel industry’ do not, sources said. And often the chemicals they use may be unsafe for end users. “Such fireworks will not have any information on the chemical composition printed on their packets. They will just have a flashy sticker,” said K Mariappan, secretary of TANFAMA. “Chinese fireworks do not even have a manufacturing address or customer care number. They come in more attractive packets than the Indian fireworks,” he said. Mariappan said Sivakasi manufacturers did not use chlorates or per-chlorates because they are dangerous to handle. Chlorates are not only cheaper but fireworks made from them burn brighter and longer as they produce oxygen when heated. However, these fireworks are unstable and in tropical climatic conditions, fireworks containing chlorates can explode if there is a sudden jolt. Mariappan said the chemicals used by manufacturers in Sivakasi were permitted by the explosive department and that sulphur was not mixed with chlorates.



International News



Suicide bombers, gunmen kill 71 in attacks on Afghan forces



GARDEZ: Two separate suicide and gun attacks on police and soldiers in Afghanistan left at least 71 dead and nearly 170 wounded on Tuesday in the latest devastating assaults on beleaguered security forces. The Taliban claimed the more deadly of the two assaults, a coordinated attack on police in the southeast city of Gardez in Paktia province. That assault killed 41 people and injured 158, according to the interior ministry, and left hospital officials calling for blood donations. There were desperate scenes as relatives queued for news of loved ones after the hours-long battle. A separate ambush blamed on the Taliban in the neighbouring province of Ghazni killed 25 security officials and five civilians with 10 wounded, the interior ministry said. Afghanistan’s army and police, on the front line against the Taliban since foreign combat forces pulled back in December 2014, have suffered shocking casualties over the past year. Their ranks are beset by corruption and desertion. “The hospital is overwhelmed and we call on people to donate blood,” said Shir Mohammad Karimi, deputy health director in Gardez, who put the number of wounded there at more than 200. Doctors and nurses rushed to attend to the wounded women, children and police filling the corridors where some bodies also lay. Outside, university students formed a queue to donate blood, an AFP photographer said. The attack, claimed by the Taliban in a tweet, began when two suicide bombers driving an explosives-laden truck and a Humvee blew them up near the training centre, which is close to the Paktia police headquarters. The blasts flattened a building and enabled gunmen to force their way inside the compound, according to officials and the interior ministry.


“Most of the victims are civilians who had come to the police headquarters to get their passports and national IDs,” a statement from the Paktia governor’s office said. A university student who was in class at the time said he heard “a big boom” which shook the building and shattered windows. “As we were trying to find our way (out of the building) I heard a second blast and then the dust and dirt covered us in the class. Several of my classmates were wounded by broken glass,” Noor Ahmad told AFP. The battle between the attackers, armed with guns and suicide vests, and security forces lasted around five hours before it ended with all five militants killed, officials said. Photos posted on Twitter showed two large plumes of smoke rising above the city. The second attack, in Ghazni some 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of Gardez, followed a similar pattern involving insurgents detonating an explosives-laden Humvee near a police headquarters then storming the building, Haref Noori, the Ghazni governor’s spokesman, told AFP. “Dozens of Taliban” were killed in the attack, Ghazni police chief Mohammad Zaman said. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attacks and praised the “bravery and sacrifice” of security forces. The attacks are the latest in a series of assaults on security installations, including one on a military hospital in Kabul in March which may have killed up to 100 people, and a devastating attack on a base in Mazar-i-Sharif which left 144 people dead. They came one day after four-way talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China were held in Oman with the aim of ending the Taliban’s 16-year insurgency.



Paktia province borders Pakistan’s militancy-plagued tribal areas where the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network has a presence. Tuesday’s attack in Gardez began hours after a US drone strike in Pakistan’s Kurram tribal district, part of which borders Paktia, killed at least 26 Haqqani militants, officials have said. A senior commander in the Afghan Taliban told AFP on condition of anonymity the attack was in retaliation for the US aerial assault, the deadliest targeting militants in the Pakistani tribal region this year. On Monday the US also carried out strikes in the Jaji Maidan district of Paktia “under counter-terror authorities”, said US Forces Spokesman Navy Captain Tom Gresback. In Kurram last week the Pakistani military rescued a US-Canadian family who had been abducted by militants in Afghanistan in 2012. US President Donald Trump has said they were being held by the Haqqani network. The extremist group is known for its frequent use of suicide bombers. The Haqqanis have also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom. These include the recently rescued hostages Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children — all born in captivity — as well as US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in 2014.



3,250 killed in Raqa battle, including 1,130 civilians: Monitor

US-backed fighters battled hundreds of jihadists holed up in Raqa



BEIRUT: The more than four-month-long battle for Raqa, which US-backed forces declared over on Tuesday, has left at least 3,250 people dead, more than a third of them civilians, a monitor said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least 1,130 civilians were among those killed since the start of the operation in early June. Hundreds more were still missing and may have been buried alive in their homes by shelling, bombs and air strikes.



Several injured in bomb attack on police vehicle in Turkey’s Mersin province

The police vehicle that was attacked



ANKARA: Twelve people were wounded in a bomb attack on a police vehicle in Turkey‘s southern Mersin province on Tuesday, Turkish broadcaster NTV said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Mersin Mayor Burhanettin Kocamaz told another broadcaster, Haberturk, that the attack took place on the street where the local governor’s office is located. He said the police vehicle was moving at the time of the attack. The government’s main spokesman, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, said it was a terrorist attack. Kurdish militants frequently target police vehicles and transports vans. “There was a bomb attack on a police vehicle in a terror attack in Mersin. The event is still fresh, it is not possible for me to give exact numbers at the moment,” Bozdag said. “Turkey’s battle against terror will continue under any circumstances in a strong and determined way”. Turkey is battling a three-decade insurgency in its mainly Kurdish southeast. The militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) frequently carries out bomb attacks on security forces in the southeast and elsewhere. The PKK is considered a terrorist Organisation by the United States, Turkey and the European Union. More than 40,000 people, most of them Kurds, have died since it first took up arms against the state.

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