News Flash – 19 August 2017

National News



New Rs 50 note to hit market soon, old note to continue

New Rs 50 note specimen



NEW DELHI: A new fluorescent blue Rs 50 banknote in the Mahatma Gandhi series, slightly smaller and slimmer than the existing note will soon be introduced by the Reserve Bank of India. All earlier notes will also continue to be legal tender. The dimensions of the new note will be 66mm x 135mm. While the height is the same as the new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 banknotes which were issued after demonetization, the width is lesser than the Rs 500 banknote. Besides the colour and the dimensions, a unique feature of the new banknote is the motif of Hampi with the chariot and the Swachh Bharat logo with the slogan on the reverse. The RBI on Friday disclosed the new-look Rs 50 note and provided details of the new security highlights. The announcement came after images of the new note started doing the rounds on social media. The central bank, however, remained mum on the Rs 200 note, which has also been cleared according to sources. Security features for the new banknotes include micro letters ‘RBI’, ‘Bharat’ (in Devnagri), ‘INDIA’ and ’50’. The banknote will also have a windowed demetalised security thread with inscriptions ‘Bharat’ (in Devnagri) and ‘RBI’. The existence of two types of banknotes of the same denomination will make it complicated to dispense them from ATMs. However, this will not be a major issue as most banks have stopped dispensing Rs 50 notes in ATMs according to Navroze Dastur, CEO, NCR India. “If the Rs 50 note has to be dispensed from ATMs there will have to be separate cassettes for new and old notes,” said Dastur.



Death toll rises to 170 in flood-hit Bihar, UP

A woman fetching banana leaves for having meal at a flood-hit village.



LUCKNOW: The current spell of flood, triggered by incessant rains in Bihar and neighbouring Nepal, has claimed over 130 lives, while nearly 98 lakh people in 18 districts of the state. Bihar reported 11 deaths on Friday alone. Araria district is the worst-affected with 23 deaths, followed by Sitamarhi (12), Kisanganj, East Champaran, West Champaran and Supual (11 each). As many as 114 boats of the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force), 92 of the SDRF (State Disaster Response Force) and 70 of the Army have been deployed for relief and rescue related works. Another baby was born on an NDRF rescue boat in the flood-hit Gopalganj on Friday. Earlier on Wednesday, an NDRF personnel had helped a pregnant woman deliver her baby on a rescue boat in Madhubani district. The flood situation in UP, which has claimed over 40 lives so far, also showed some signs of retreat. Bahraich district is the worst affected with over 10 deaths.



Probe to find out if hotel fired survivor

CCTV footage shows the accused, Pawan Dahiya (inset), molesting the woman.



New Delhi: The security chief of the five-star Pride Plaza Hotel near Delhi airport has been accused of molesting and trying to disrobe a female executive on the hotel premises. The incident -alleged to have taken place on July 29 -was captured by a CCTV camera. The woman has also alleged that when she complained to the hotel’s HR department, she was sacked as was the employee who had provided her the CCTV footage of the incident. After the alleged molestation was reported on Friday , police swung into action and arrested the accused manager, Pawan Dahiya. He was produced in court on Friday where he was granted bail. The police have filed an FIR under IPC Sections 354 (molestation), 354 A (sexual harassment) and 354 D (stalking). When contacted, the hotel authorities said the manager had been dismissed from service but denied sacking the complainant. The hotel’s spokesperson, Raja Singh, said trauma arising from the incident might be why she has not returned to work since then. A hotel executive who has accused the security manager of molesting her said he had been pressuring her for many weeks to begin a physical relationship with him. She had been working in the hotel’s guest relations department for two years, she said. The day the alleged molestation took place was the survivor’s birthday .According to her complaint, the manager called her to the CCTV monitoring room and began to misbehave. He tried to take off her sari but she managed to break free and came to the other side of the room, she claimed. The woman alleged the accused manager, Pawan Dahiya, said at the time that she would have to stay with him in one of the rooms at the hotel. He also took out his credit card and asked her to buy a gift of her choice, she said.


The CCTV footage shows the manager pulling the woman’s sari. There is a third person in the frame who does not molest the woman but doesn’t attempt to save her either. He is seen walking out of the room soon after. The woman also alleged that the manager tried to pull her into his Etios car after work and then drove alongside as she walked towards the Metro station. “Dahiya apni Etios leke bahar khada tha… wo mere saath apni gaadi chalaane laga aur gaadi ki khidki khol kar mera haath pakad kar gaadi me baithane laga… Wahan se bhi main apna peecha chhudaya aur jaldi Aerocity Metro station pe chali gayi. Metro station pe maine HR assistant manager ko phone karke saari ghatna ke baare me bataya aur ghar chali gayi (Dahiya was standing outside with his Etios… he drove along [as I walked], lowered his window, grabbed my hand and tried to get me into the car. There, too, I managed to get away and reached the Aerocity Metro station from where I called the HR assistant manager and told him everything that had happened and then went home),” she alleged. The woman later narrated the incident to her husband who then asked her to file an FIR with the police. The accused was arrested only after all the evidence was found to be “genuine”. “Two other pieces of footage, including one from the Metro station, were also examined to reach a conclusion,” a police officer said. Police sources said the accused, too, has submitted CCTV footage to place his version of the incident on record.


“We terminated the person immediately after the matter came to the fore and handed over the CCTV footage to the police for examination. We have also submitted all the required documents of employment to the investigators, who had approached us,” said Pride Plaza Hotel spokesperson Raja Singh. He said the survivor has not been suspended from work. “We registered the case after verifying the CCTV footage we recovered. The woman’s statement was also taken before a magistrate a few days after the incident,” said a senior police officer. The police have also recovered three sets of footage which have been sent for forensic examination. They said the investigation was still on and further action would be taken if anyone, including the hotel management, was found to be at fault. Other employees and administrative officers of the hotel will be examined, the police said, and the third person seen in the footage and the CCTV operator will be asked to depose as witnesses. Regarding the controversy about whether the survivor had been sacked, police said they would question the hotel management and check whether any letter or email in this regard was sent. Action will be taken against the hotel if there was any criminal culpability, the police officer added. DCW official Bhupinder Singh requested the survivor to approach the commission if she needed any help.



Bridge work to hit CR services tomorrow



Mumbai: Central Railway will suspend suburban services and cancel a few mail/express trains, including Deccan Queen Express, on Sunday owing to a power block between Dombivli and Kalyan. The block will be undertaken for launching four girders for the construction of road over bridge (ROB) at Thakurli from 9.15am to 12.45pm. “Suburban services will remain suspended between Kalyan and Dombivli stations from 9.10am to 12.50pm on Sunday,” said a CR spokesperson. While CSMT-Pune Deccan Queen Express, Panchvati Express and Godavari Express will remain cancelled on Sunday, Nagpur-CSMT Sevagram Express will be terminated at Nashik Road. It will also depart from there to Nagpur at 6.35pm. In addition, several long-distance trains have been rescheduled and will reach Mumbai late. Construction of the ROB will result in shutting down the level-crossing gate at Thakurli, which was affecting punctuality of train services. Over 100 services get delayed by an average 10 minutes due to level-crossing gates. A CR official said, “After the launching of the girders, work on ROB is expected to be completed in six months”.



Despite floods, India faces 5% rain deficit



NEW DELHI: The flood fury in Assam, Bihar, Bengal and Uttar Pradesh has taken attention away from poor monsoon rains in large parts of the country in August. The month has so far seen a 24% rain deficit (till August 18), with central India in particular reeling under a prolonged break in the monsoon. The lull in rains has opened up a huge 58% shortfall in central India, and 37% in the northwest, for the month of August, pulling down monsoon’s performance since June 1 to below-normal zone. The overall deficit now stands at 5% of the long period average. However, the good news is that the monsoon is set to revive, the India Meteorological Department officials said. “By the weekend, the monsoon will become more active as a low pressure system is forming in the Bay of Bengal. We expect the situation in central India, west coast and the peninsula to improve,” said D Sivananda Pai, head of IMD’s long-range forecasting division. The monsoon went into a break in the last week of July, when a weather disturbance, called Madden Julian Oscillation, appeared in the eastern Indian Ocean and depressed rains over the subcontinent. “Since then, no low pressure systems formed in the Bay of Bengal. Neither did any storm system move west from the Pacific to aid the monsoon here. There were no impulses from the Indian Ocean either,” Pai said. “Now, there’s some activity in the Indian Ocean which should progress northward towards India,” he added.


While central and south are expected to get wet spells in the coming days, northwest India will have to wait to more conducive conditions. “Northwest may not improve a lot unless there’s an interaction of a western disturbance with the monsoon system,” Pai said. The three-week monsoon break has led to several meteorological subdivisions becoming rain “deficient”, showing a deficit of at least 20%. These include Haryana, west Uttar Pradesh, east and west Madhya Pradesh, Marathwada, Vidarbha, entire Karnataka and Kerala. In most other parts of India, comprising 26 of the 36 subdivision, rainfall has been normal or excess. As is usually the case during a break in the monsoon, northeast India and the Himalayan regions continued to get rain in the first half of August, causing rivers to swell and flood the Gangetic plains. East and northeast India region has a 48% rain surplus so far in August, which IMD expects to decrease slightly in the second half. South India, which was the country’s driest region in July with a 36% deficit, has had better rains in August. It still has an overall deficit of 16%.



Why was Bengaluru ravaged by floods?



Bangaluru: Madiwala lake, with a watershed area of 71.74 sq. km and a depth of 4.5 metres, starts swelling two hours after a rainfall of 72.3 mm per hour. In case of 161 mm per hour rainfall, the flooding time shrinks to just 90 minutes. However, the inundation is almost immediate from the direct incidence of rainfall on the tank, followed by a run-off from the catchment. The inflow is escalated due to a high run-off rate, poor percolation and loss of upstream tanks. The cascading effect will be inundation of Agara, Bellandur and Varthur lakes. And, the areas surrounding these water bodies bear the brunt of flooding. Year after year, it is almost the same localities that are suffering, going from bad to worse. Last year, the city saw massive demolition operations — of properties built along the course of storm water drains hindering the flow of water. But sadly, the areas where the razing was carried out, were not spared of the worst flooding during the rainfall in the last two days. Encroachments, closure of natural water bodies, its waste weir, mindless dumping in the drains, shoddy desilting/cleaning work done by civic authorities, are oft-heard reasons. Going a step further, it is tampering of Madivala, Agara, Bellandur and Varthur lakes and its connected valleys that is also strongly contributing to the watery situation we are in. Considering that the city’s lakes are interconnected, and these four water bodies in the east and south of Bengaluru form a strong network, the closure of the catchment, embankments and valleys have had a cascading effect in the surrounding areas. A technical study carried out by environmental architect, Mohan S Rao, who did BMRDA‘s structure plan for the city with assistance from civic activist V Ravichandar some months ago after the massive demolition operations, has brought out how construction of outer ring road on a narrow valley and letting of residue from the treatment plants into water bodies, are also the prime factors for Bengaluru’s watery doom.


Workable Solutions: The study, titled “Urban flooding in Indian cities and natural drainage systems: The case of Bengaluru,” has dissected urban flooding and water scenario, with Bellandur and Madiwala tanks area as case studies. The study has also given workable solutions and the report is before every authority concerned, including the urban development department secretary and the BBMP commissioner. The study has sketched how the outer ring road that meanders along the areas where these water bodies are situated, is built on a narrow valley region enclosed by ridge formations that has resulted in a greater tendency for water to flow back and spread along the highway. The engineer who has dissected these lakes minutely has found that inflow has escalated, outflow is slower and the capacity of tank is lost. Take the case of Madiwala. It has a watershed area of 71.74 sq. km with a depth of 4.5 metres with the original capacity being 3,542 ML. With this capacity, the lake will start flooding after two hours for a rainfall of 72.3 mm per hour. For a rainfall event of 161 mm per hour, it will start flooding after 90 minutes. The capacity of the tank is lost as it is already full with sewage discharged from adjacent areas, the report highlighted.



Shot in arm for civic drive against dengue



KOLKATA: Waking up to the dengue crisis on the northern fringes of the city, the state government has appointed two entomologists to tackle the menace. Till now, the South Dum Dum Municipality and Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation didn’t have any entomologist to steer their vector-control programme. The entomologists will be under the State Urban Development Agency (SUDA) and the CMOH, Barasat, and work in the affected zones. According to health department sources, the entomologists have already been tasked to make regular visits to South Dum Dum, Bidhannagar and Baranagar, as well as other areas in the north, for conducting dengue inspections and other epidemiological work with the health department teams. “The norm is to have at least one entomologist per district. There are two now for North 24 Parganas, with special focus on South Dum Dum Municipality where dengue has wreaked havoc this year,” said a government official. The municipal affairs department is holding municipality-wise weekly review of activities in the districts. “The councilors have been asked to take up mass public awareness drives. Close monitoring will continue till the end of October,” said an official. The problem for the civic bodies to appoint an entomologist, according to an official of Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, is that most of them do not have a sanctioned post. “We are still in the process to appoint a retired entomologist for Bidhannagar,” said Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation MMiC (health) Pranay Roy.



Fire in school guts bags and uniforms meant for free distribution



Chennai: A fire gutted the chief educational office (CEO) and parts of the municipality higher secondary school near Kancheepuram early on Friday. Police said 9,000 school bags and 3,000 slippers meant to be distributed free to government school students were completely destroyed in the fire. Police said on Friday morning people saw smoke bellowing from the school premises and alerted the fire and rescue services personnel. Fire tenders from Kancheepuram and Vishnu Kanchi rushed to the spot and battled the blaze for nearly two hours. Due to the smoke, students complained of breathlessness and irritation in their eyes. On hearing about the incident, some parents rushed to the school and took their children back home. Police said the parents demanded to know why were the freebies not distributed to students despite it being stored in the school premises for the past two months. Traffic in Vaikuntapuram, where the school and office are located, was affected as a large crowd gathered around the school on hearing about the fire. Police said they suspected short circuit to be the reason behind the fire. They have registered a case and are investigating.



International News



14 dead in twin attacks as Spanish police launch manhunt

People gather pay tribute to the victims of the Barcelona attack, a day after a van ploughed into the crowd on August 18, 2017.



BARCELONA: Spanish police hunted Friday for the driver who ploughed a van into crowds of pedestrians on a busy avenue in Barcelona, just hours before a second such assault hit a nearby resort, in twin attacks that left 14 dead and over 100 injured. Police said they killed five “suspected terrorists” during the night and three others were arrested as Spain reeled from the double tragedy in Barcelona and in Cambrils, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) south. But the driver responsible for the carnage in Spain’s second largest city remained at large, authorities warned, while police said they believed the two attacks were connected. In a poignant moment, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, King Felipe VI and the president of Catalonia where both places are located held a minute of silence in Barcelona that was followed by applause and shouts of “not afraid”. Both attacks followed the same modus operandi, with drivers deliberately targeting pedestrians with their vehicles, slamming them to the ground or sending them flying in the latest such assault in Europe where cars and vans have been used as weapons of terror before. Javier Zaragoza, a prosecutor advising the attorney general in terrorism matters, told AFP the attacks were most likely the work of an organised “cell”. Otso Iho of Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre added there appeared to be “a much higher level of coordination than has been typically present in previous attacks”. In an additional twist, police said an explosion in a house in another part of Catalonia Wednesday evening was potentially linked to the attacks, believing those inside “were preparing an explosive device”. As world leaders united in condemning the violence, the Islamic State group propaganda agency Amaq claimed one of its “soldiers” carried out the rampage in Barcelona. In the Barcelona incident, a white van sped down the popular Las Ramblas avenue packed full of tourists on Thursday afternoon, knocking people down and killing 13 in a scene of chaos and horror.


The driver left the vehicle on the busy boulevard lined with shops and restaurants, and fled on foot. Witnesses recounted how the van pushed through the crowd, leaving bodies strewn along the boulevard as other people fled for their lives, screaming in panic in scenes of chaos and confusion. “We were on the city tour bus, we were 20 feet from the accident when it happened. We heard the van and the impact with people and then we saw people running,” said Alex Luque, a 19-year-old student from New York. “We got separated from my grandparents and I had to take my younger sister to try to find safety,” he said Friday, adding he has since been reunited with his relatives. Then just eight hours later attackers struck again in the early hours of Friday morning, this time in the seaside resort of Cambrils where an Audi A3 car rammed into pedestrians, injuring six civilians and a police officer. One of the civilians later died. Gunfire ensued during which police killed the five attackers. Markel Artabe, a 20-year-old restaurant worker, said he was on the seaside promenade when he heard what he initially thought were fireworks, but soon realised were gunshots. He said he saw a person lying on the floor “with a gunshot in the head. His friends were crying out ‘help'”. Police announced the arrest of three suspects, including a Spaniard and a Moroccan. Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s president, warned the suspect still on the run was potentially dangerous, saying “these types of people have already demonstrated they have the will to harm whatever happens”.  There were at least 34 nationalities among the dead and injured, who came from countries as varied as France, Venezuela, Australia, Ireland, Peru, Algeria and China, according to Spain’s civil protection agency.


At least two Italians were among the dead, according to the foreign ministry in Rome and the employer of one of the victims, while Belgium said one Belgian national died. “We’re united in grief,” Rajoy said Thursday in a televised address after rushing to Barcelona, the biggest city in Catalonia, a region in Spain’s northeast whose separatist government is defying Madrid with a drive for independence. Spain, the world’s third most popular tourism destination, had until now been spared the recent extremist attacks that have rocked nearby France, Belgium and Germany. It had even seen a surge in tourists as visitors fled other restive sunshine destinations like Tunisia and Egypt. But it is nevertheless no stranger to jihadist attacks, having been hit by what is still Europe’s deadliest in March 2004, when bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people in an attack claimed by Al Qaida-inspired extremists. It also had to deal with a decades-long campaign of violence waged by Basque separatist group ETA, which only declared a ceasefire in 2011. Police said Thursday that one of the arrested suspects in the Barcelona attack was a Spaniard born in Melilla, a Spanish territory in North Africa, and the other a Moroccan named as Driss Oukabir. This is believed to be the first IS claim of an attack in Spain. Catalonia has the highest concentration of radicalized Islamists in the country along with Madrid and the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla that border Morocco.



Death toll from Sierra Leone floods crosses 400: Red Cross

Mourners look on as victims of a mudslide are buried at the Paloko Cemetery in Waterloo on August 17, 2017.



FREETOWN: More than 400 people have died in mudslides and flooding in Sierra Leone with 600 people still missing in the stricken capital, the Red Cross said Friday, as Britain promised £5 million in fresh aid. The disaster began on Monday when heavy rains hit the city and the partial collapse of a hillside triggered mudslides, engulfing homes and wreaking destruction. “Today we are counting more than 400 people dead,” the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, Elhadj As Sy, told reporters in Geneva. Citizens and experts alike have questioned why the government has not done more to tackle illegal construction and deforestation on the outskirts of the overcrowded capital of Freetown. An unofficial morgue estimate had previously put the toll at around 400 dead, but the figure had not been confirmed until Friday. Sy said the government of the west African country was facing a crisis “way beyond (its) capacity” and appealed to the international community to significantly ramp up its support. The displaced are still sleeping outside “because there are not enough shelters for everybody,” he said. More than 300 victims were buried on Thursday in a ceremony in the nearby town of Waterloo, laid to rest alongside victims of the country’s last crisis, Ebola. Around a third of them were children. Britain meanwhile announced £5 million ($6.45 million) in funding for several charities working on the ground, targeting children’s bedding and clothing and clean water and sanitation for all survivors, as well as medical supplies. “Our new support will provide basic life-saving supplies like food, water, shelter and clothing to people who have lost everything. The international community must follow our lead and step up to the plate,” said Britain’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel.


The Red Cross said it will launch an emergency funding appeal later on Friday, while China has pledged $1 million, Togo $500,000, and Israel and several west African nations have contributed food and cash. The organisation has warned that smaller mudslides have occurred since Monday in eastern Freetown and in Sierra Leone’s second city of Bo, with the rainy season far from over. So far evacuations have been voluntary from affected areas, which Sy said would remain the policy for the foreseeable future. “Coming by force in the middle of hardship may not be the best way,” he added. Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, told reporters the toll “may rise” noting the number of people still missing. In affected communities, many said the emergency response had been too slow. AFP visited a school building in the devastated Regent community where 350 people were living crammed together. Aid workers said survivors lacked basic necessities to stay warm. “Nothing can be enough for now,” said Rosemary Blake of the Living Water SL charity. “We need blankets; we need used clothing or even unused clothing. We need shoes on their feet”. In Pentagon, the community directly below Regent where rocks and mud rained down on homes on Monday, resident Tamba James said the future looked bleak. “If they do not locate us to a better place, nobody will care about food. It is not the government that used to feed us; we used to feed ourselves. But we don’t have a place to live,” he told AFP. In recent years, trees have been cut down from the Western peninsular forest on Freetown’s limits, with everything from shacks to mansions springing up haphazardly on the slopes. The government has said that in the light of the catastrophe, relocation and a new settlement around the Freetown peninsula would be considered, but similar measures have failed in the past as people seek to live close to the city centre for work.

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