News Flash – 2 August 2018

National News



Two arrested for stealing Rs. 1.7 Crores from 14 ATM’s



New Delhi: Two employees of a cash logistics firm were arrested after the company found that they had siphoned off approximately Rs 1.7 crore in a short span of time. The two were designated to recalibrate the ATMs located in west and northwest Delhi. DCP (west) Vijay Kumar said that one of the accused, Satpal, has been arrested while the other suspect, Manish, was already arrested in a case of Arms Act and will be taken for remand later. The company got a case registered at Rajouri Garden police station. Cops said that senior officials of the logistics firm approached them after they conducted an internal audit of their ATMs and found a large amount of cash missing from them. During the inquiry, it was found that Manish and Satpal had been given the duty to recalibrate 14 ATMs and took Rs 1.8 crore from the vaults on July 27. However, they only deposited Rs 72 lakh in the ATMs’ cash boxes and returned Rs 9 lakh back into the vault and also kept the keys of the cash trunk. The next day, the company officials contacted Satpal and he told them that he had gone to Agra for a family visit while Manish’s mobile phone was switched off and he didn’t turn up for his duty. Later, Manish’s elder brother called the company and told them he couldn’t come for work for a few days. However, the officials got to know that he had been arrested in Bindapur for an Arms Act case. Cops found that the two are in possession of passwords for 14 ATMs and have not deposited approximately Rs 1.2 crore in 10 of them, which was demanded by the banks and even took out approximately Rs 70 lakh from four other machines.



Security Guard gives himself Rs. 60k hike, held



Mumbai: A science graduate, employed with a security agency, has been arrested for fudging his salary cheque. Amboli police on Tuesday arrested Nirmal Jha (22) after his employer got alarmed at seeing a transaction alert from the bank. Jha had tried to withdraw Rs62,700 instead of the actual amount of Rs2,700 on the cheque. Jha, who hails from Bihar, has been employed with the Mumbai-based security agency for the past two years. He claimed to have committed the offence because he received his salary in instalments instead of the entire sum of Rs14,000. “Jha’s employer did not notice the forgery earlier,” said a police officer. Jha was emboldened as his cheque-tampering on the previous two occasions went unnoticed even by the bank. Both times earlier, he’d added an extra ‘one’ to the figure. This time, he decided to go for the kill.



More Security Guards? For banks, it doesn’t make money sense


Kolkata: Kolkata Police is planning to ask banks to increase security guards at ATMs until they implement RBI’s order to install anti-skimming devices. Canara Bank’s Gariahat ECorner, which housed the compromised ATM, had no security guard. Deployment of security personnel at ATMs has always been a contentious point between security agencies and banks. “Deploying security personnel at all ATMs is not only costly, but also unviable,” said a senior bank official. “ATMs, with their embedded security features, indestructible vaults and CCTV monitoring systems, require no additional physical security. An ATM can only be comprised technically, not physically harmed. So, banks are slowly doing away with security where footfall is less.” The cops, however, say security guards act as a deterrent. “In several ATMs in the city, the CCTVs don’t work. Even if they do, the images are indecipherable. A security guard is critical,” said a senior officer.


The RBI wants banks to adopt several measures. While this will force most banks to upgrade to second-generation ATMs, police are worried that until that happens, ATMs running on Windows XP and other unsupported operating systems will be targeted. “Hackers know their time, too, is running out,” said an officer. Banks also argue that unionization of security guards in Bengal, particularly Kolkata, had forced them to cut down on security. “The security unions even resorted to strikes. Among the demands, one was to allow the guards sit inside the ATMs. How can this be allowed? ” said a senior bank official. Central Association of Private Security Industry (CAPSI), Bengal, general-secretary and the CEO of Kolkata Response Group Private Limited, Satnam Singh Ahluwalia, said: “It is imperative that banks invest in specialised security to man ATMs and other banking installations. At night, ideally, two guards need to be deployed. These measures can add up costs but we are urging our members to adopt this as an extra security measure”.



3 of Nerul family hurt in building slab collapse

Swapna Sakaar building; (above) the first floor’s ceiling slab crashed into the ground floor flat, injuring the residents.



Navi Mumbai: One male and two female ground-floor residents of a two-storey building in Nerul sustained injuries after the ceiling slab of the first-floor flat came crashing down on their flat. The incident occurred on Wednesday afternoon at Swapna Sakaar building in Sector 23, Darawe village, Nerul. Those injured are Anusaya Chavhan (60) and her children Sumiti (34) and Pritam (40). Nerul fire officer Arun Bhoir said, “We received the emergency call at 3pm informing us about the slab collapse in the residential building in Darawe village. Before we reached the spot, local residents and Nerul police had already taken the three injured persons to Terna-Sahayadri Hospital in Nerul”. Belapur ward officer Shashikant Tandel said, “The ceiling slab of the first floor flat collapsed. As the rubble fell, the ground floor ceiling broke on impact too. The three family members sustained injuries as huge chunks of rubble fell on them from a height of eight to 10 feet”. Tandel further said, “The building was constructed in 2003 under the Gaothan Extension Scheme (GHS). Also, it is not on the list of residential buildings declared as dilapidated by the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation”. Nerul police station’s senior inspector Sachin Rane said, “The building’s residents and cops arranged an ambulance and took the three injured family members to Terna-Sahayadri Hospital in Nerul. But they insisted on seeking treatment at Bombay Hospital and went there on their own, considering that they were able to move around. They did not sustain grievous injuries”.



Tears, sneezing aplenty after fire ravages godown



New Delhi: Residents of Lawrence Road in northwest Delhi’s Keshavpuram were left with running noses and incessant sneezing after a major fire ravaged a chilli powder godown in the vicinity. Firemen had to battle the blaze for almost four hours before it was brought under control. Some of the firemen had to be sent for a medical checkup, after they complained of burning eyes and incessant sneezing. The fire started around 11.50am when locals noticed thick flames billowing from a factory, which had a few tonnes of chilli powder stored. As the fire soon spread across the building, the fire department pressed more than 30 fire tenders into service. Initially, the firemen tried to douse the flames through the factory’s windows, but soon a large amount of plastic packets, in which the spices were stored, caught fire. Firemen then had to use boom lifts to spray water into the factory. Officials said that while dousing the flames, their eyes had started watering, despite them wearing till late night, since the fumes from the spices kept spreading through the residential colony nearby. “The chili fumes are hampering the firefighting operation. Some passersby, travelling almost a kilometer away from the spot, have also complained of eye irritation due to the fumes,” said a set their security equipment. Locals in the area where asked to vacate their houses until the flames were completely doused as many of them could not stop sneezing due to the powder. Fire department officials classified the blaze as a medium category fire with cooling operations going on nor fire department official. The firemen also used foam to suppress the fumes. It was later found that the building was stacked with spices, due to which the fire had spread rapidly. Police have registered a case of causing mischief due to fire and are questioning the owner of the godown.



Complaints grow, skimming targeted more ATM’s in city


Kolkata: The footprint of Kolkata’s first ATM skimming case grew bigger on Wednesday, with the number of complaints increasing from 50-odd to 76 and police and bank officials finding one more ATM that was used by fraudsters to rob bank customers. The first full day’s probe showed that an ATM belonging to Punjab National Bank, located at the Park Street-Mullickbazar crossing, was compromised (besides the Canara Bank ATM at Golpark). The 76 complainants, who have lost money from these two ATMs, are customers of several banks, including State Bank of India, United Bank of India, Kotak Mahindra and HDFC Bank. What has grown along with the number of affected ATMs and the number of complainants is the geographical spread of the victims: they now come from several city areas, including Gariahat, Rabindra Sarobar, Lake, Park Street, Kasba, Tiljala and Beniapukur, besides the Golpark zone that is in the immediate vicinity of the Canara Bank ATM. The growing scale of the crime has prompted Lalbazar to set up a Special Investigation Team and contact their counterparts in Delhi from where the fraudsters appear to be operating. “We have found that most of the complainants are customers of Canara Bank, PNB and Kotak Mahindra,” joint CP (crime) Praveen Tripathi said on Wednesday.



“COPS ADVISE ATM SECURITY AUDIT” Banks to return money in 10 days. Cops met administrators of the affected banks where the latter assured cops that, in accordance with RBI guidelines, robbed customers would be getting their money back within the next 10 days. “We want to tell every affected person to contact us — either at the police station or the detective department’s antifraud section or cyber cell — to get complaints registered. You can use this FIR or general diary to contact your bank and reclaim money,” Tripathi said. The SIT, headed by DC (cyber cell) Santosh Pandey, has officers from the anti-bank fraud section, the cyber cell, deputy commissioners of south and southeast divisions and officers from the Gariahat and Park Street police stations. The team started its job on Wednesday, with cyber experts accompanying them to the Golpark ATM and recovering “tell-tale” signs that it was compromised. Wednesday’s probe also revealed that the lost money had been withdrawn from Palika Bazar near Connaught Place, Hauz Khas and Munirka in Delhi, which prompted cops to seek ATM footage from these places.


“We have the timings of the withdrawals and will start matching footage soon. Several officials of the firm servicing the ATMs of the two banks have also been asked to join investigations,” said an officer. The cyber cell of Delhi Police confirmed receiving tip-offs about the skimming fraud and officials said they were “already on the job after receiving a letter from Kolkata Police”. Investigators said it was likely that the skimming machine was fitted for a duration of five to seven days before being removed. “The withdrawals by fraudsters began on July 24 and continued till July 30. Complaints began reaching us from July 26. The fact that the withdrawals continued even as complaints poured in showed the gang was equipped with all information,” said an official. Officials also said both the affected ATMs were unguarded. “We have asked each bank to carry out a security audit of all the ATMs and submit a report if they find any criminal offence has been carried out there. We have asked banks to beef up security, including installing anti-skimming devices as mandated by RBI,” an official said.



Any Time Misery: Cash fear brings queues back to bank


Kolkata: The city’s biggest ATM fraud has also acted as one of its biggest unifiers. From a homemaker to a senior citizen, and from a former PSU director to a pavement hawker, everyone who has used the affected ATM recently turned up at Canara Bank’s Gariahat branch office on Wednesday. And they had just one question on their lips: “Is my account safe?”. Victims of the fraud, too, went to the bank to complete formalities — mainly writing out applications and filling in insurance claim forms so that they could get back their money. The bank has asked for a minimum of 48 hours and a maximum of seven days to return the money to the affected customers. Officially, there have been 37 complaints so far, said Sukumar Dafadar, the bank’s senior manager, who said the total loss of Canara Bank customers could be pegged at around Rs 9.5 lakh. “We are a people’s bank and our priority now is to look after the welfare of our customers. We are helping out all victims and have assured them that we will return the money at the earliest, within seven to 10 days,” Dafadar said. Bank employees at the branch office said they understood and had anticipated a rush at the bank counters. “There are several customers who are coming in to update their passbooks,” said an official. Rina Sarkar from Kasba was one of them. “I received two text messages around 8.30am on Monday, each informing me that Rs 20,000 had been deducted from my account at Delhi’s Kalkaji. I informed the bank, which asked me to complain to both the local police and the anti-bank fraud section at Lalbazar. I am back here today to complete the insurance form and check whether my husband’s account is safe. I am relieved that his account has been spared.


But the bank is refusing to write down its verbal assurances. I will feel assured once I get back my money,” she said. Eighty-five-year-old Prabir Nag, a local resident, came to the bank accompanied by a person to check his bank account. Fearing the worst, he climbed the stairs slowly but came out relieved. “My account is safe. I have had an account in this bank for the last 15 years,” he said. Robin Sapui, a Gariahat hawker, said he had come running after his daughter Rinka Sapui, a third-year college student, lost Rs 40,000 from her account. “I had not even received any SMS alert after Rs 30,000 had been withdrawn from her account. It was only after another Rs 10,000 was withdrawn last Sunday that I realized the huge loss. I was at Tarapith and have had to cancel my plans in order to rush back. The bank officials have listened to us patiently but I want them to assure us that such an incident will not get repeated,” he said. Senior citizen Anil Kumar Srivastav, a resident of Gariahat who has some money deposited in his account, had also come to check whether everything was fine. “I am relieved my account is safe,” he said. Retired financial director of Coal India, Abhijit Chatterjee, a resident of Ballygunge Terrace, said he considered himself lucky that he did not lose any money. “I heard the news only on Tuesday evening and spent a tense night. I had withdrawn money from the ATM on July 26. I am extremely lucky that I escaped the hackers,” said Chatterjee. “I was a bit worried after learning about the matter. I checked my account today and am greatly relieved that it is safe,” said local resident Sujit Kumar Shaw.



Despite heavy showers, July ends with 15% rain deficit


Kolkata: Despite the occasional spells of heavy downpour and steady, continuous drizzles this July, Kolkata remained relatively dry and ended with a rain deficit of 15%. The city’s seasonal rain count, however, remains healthy with an excess of 15%. This is the second time in the last five years that the city had a rain deficit in July. The city received 40.9mm rain till 5.30pm on Wednesday. But the July deficit is not a major and can turn in the coming weeks, said weathermen. The normal July count in Kolkata is 522mm. Since monsoon rain is driven by low pressures and cyclonic circulations, the frequency of the latter will determine the eventual rain count, they said. “We had just one depression and three low-pressures last month, which is normal. The deficit is not big one and should be wiped out in the course of August. Kolkata receives showers till late Septembers so the final seasonal count could be an excess,” said Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) director GK Das. In 2017, Kolkata received 72% excess rain in July. The deficit, though, could come down in the next 2-3 days, weathermen pointed out. The city received a continuous downpour through the night on Tuesday. It didn’t stop before Wednesday afternoon, leaving several areas waterlogged. It was the cyclonic circulation over Bangladesh and adjoining West Bengal that triggered the heavy rain, according to Das.


“The circulation has slowly started moving towards Bihar, which will gradually reduce the impact on Kolkata and south Bengal. It may continue to drizzle occasionally in Kolkata till Thursday afternoon and the sky will remain overcast. But heavy or continuous showers like Wednesday are unlikely,” said Das. The city may remain cloudy and occasional drizzles may remain cloudy till August 4. Since monsoon rain occurs in cycles, occasional lean patches are usual, said a weather scientist. “The volume and intensity of rain depends on the frequency of systems like low pressures and circulations. Systems were rare in early July so it mostly drizzled, with fewer heavy spells. A depression formed during the last week of the month, triggering heavy rain and it made up the deficit,” he said. Till the third week of the month, Kolkata’s July rain count was 51% below normal. While the deficit was huge, it dropped considerably after a depression over north-west Bay of Bengal that triggered heavy showers across the region. July 2017 had been the second wettest in Kolkata in a decade with rain count clocking a phenomenal 72% above the normal mark for the month. The city was drenched by showers at regular intervals and with almost equal intensity. While Kolkata has a July deficit of 15%, Gangetic Bengal has a smaller deficit of 6% for the month.



Balloon cylinder blast at CRPF fair, 27 hurt



Durgapur: Twenty-seven people, including several women and children, were injured when a helium cylinder exploded at a fair organised by the CRPF to mark the golden jubilee of ‘Raising Day’. The incident took place at Amarabati in West Burdwan’s Durgapur on Wednesday. The injured were rushed to a nearby private hospital, where three (two kids and a woman) were put on ventilation. “We had programmes since the morning for the golden jubilee of our ‘Raising Day’. We also hosted a fair at the Amarabati ground for the locals. Among the stalls was that of a balloon seller, who had a helium gas cylinder. The fair ended at 3.30pm and we asked everyone to leave. The balloon seller was winding up when the cylinder exploded suddenly, injuring 27 people,” said the commandant of CRPF, Kamalesh Kumar. When asked whether the safety of the revellers were compromised, the CRPF officer said, “We are looking into the matter and considering all aspects. If the seller used a cylinder that is not permissible, then action will be taken against him”. “The patients sustained varied degrees of injuries caused by the cylinder explosion. The condition of two children and a woman is critical as they were bleeding profusely and had deep facial injuries. While two of them have been put on ventilator support, one had to get her left wrist amputated. The other patients are stable,” said Manish Kumar, deputy superintendent of the hospital.



Chennai accounted for over 49% of mall space absorption in first half of 2018


Chennai: Chennai accounted for more than 49% of mall space absorption in the country in the first half of 2018. Out of about two million sq. ft. space absorbed in malls in seven major cities, Chennai’s share was 9.57 lakh sq. ft. Hyderabad with 3.58 lakh sq. ft. and Delhi with 3.25 lakh sq. ft. followed suit, said a report released by JLL India on Wednesday. Chennai is expected to add another 5.1 lakh sq. ft. of mall space in the next six months. During this period, Delhi will add about 7.15 lakh sq. ft. and Bengaluru 5 lakh sq. ft., said JLL India CEO Ramesh Nair. The total net mall absorption in the major markets in the first half of 2018 was 19.45 lakh sq. ft. This is a 75% year on-year growth compared to the corresponding period last year. Meanwhile, new completions saw a 25% year on-year decline between H1 2017 and H1 2018. As against 2.88 million sq. ft. of new completions in H1 2017, only about 2.14 million sq. ft. was completed in the first half of this year. Chennai, with 46%, topped in new completions too. However, with robust leasing, the reduced supply would help the rentals remain stable and firm up over a period of time, the report said.


Pune is the only market which will not see any new addition of retail mall space in 2018. Both international and domestic brands are active in leasing. There is also a renewed interest in investment in retail market, the report said. “The trends of retail supply and absorption are linked as malls usually are reticent in starting operations without complete or near complete absorption of malls. Only in very limited cases, do malls start with noticeable vacancies,” the report said. “The retail scenario in India has started to show signs of maturity now, by concentrating on malls that will have longevity, sustainable business and have scope of refurbishment and renovations in the future”, said Nair. “As the Indian consumer becomes more discerning, the physical asset surrounding retail has become important in creating the right experience. Therefore, developer companies are now creating retail destinations rather than mere shopping centres. In the next few years, we will see a concentration of large format malls that will allow shoppers a variety of experience beyond purchase,” he added.



International News



Heatwave toll may rise by 2000% by 2080, says study



New York: The death toll from heatwaves could rise by up to 2000% in some parts of the world by 2080, according to a study released on Tuesday, as large parts of the northern hemisphere reeled from unusually high temperatures. Scientists have long warned that climate change will bring more extreme weather across the globe, from heatwaves to hurricanes. The researchers behind the latest study say it is the largest yet on the death toll of heatwaves, which they predict will increase in frequency and severity. “Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer,” said Yuming Guo, associate professor at Australia’s Monash University, in a statement. “If we cannot find a way to mitigate the climate change (reduce the heatwave days) and help people adapt to heatwaves, there will be a big increase of heatwave-related deaths in the future”. Heat waves sweeping through the northern hemisphere have dominated the news in recent weeks, with dozens of deaths registered from Japan to Canada. The study, published in the online journal PLOS Medicine, looked at 20 countries on four continents and found the rise in mortality was likely to be highest near the equator. Hardest-hit Colombia could suffer 2,000% more premature deaths from extreme heat during the period of 2031 to 2080 compared with 1971 to 2010, it said. The Philippines and Brazil were also likely to see large increases in numbers of premature deaths, it found. Countries located further from the equator such as the United States and European nations would see smaller hikes.



Swedish crown jewels stolen in daylight heist

The crowns and orbs dating back to 1611 belonged to King Karl IX and his wife, Queen Christina. Originally interred with the couple, the jewels were later exhumed and put on display in Strangnas Cathedral.



Stockholm: Two men walked into a small Swedish town’s medieval cathedral on Tuesday and stole “priceless” crown jewels dating back to the early 1600s before escaping by speedboat, police said on Wednesday. The two vanished after the noon heist into a vast patchwork of lakes around Strangnas, 60 km from Stockholm. They snatched two gold crowns and an orb made for King Karl IX and Queen Kristina in the daring robbery. The king’s crown is made of gold and features crystals and pearls, while Christina’s is smaller and made of gold, precious stones and pearls. The stolen items were on display at an exhibition in the cathedral. Visitors were inside when the alarm went off as the burglars smashed the security glass and stole the artefacts. However, no one was hurt in the robbery. Police said the thieves could have fled further on jet skis. While the items are of great historic value, police expressed doubt whether the burglary would bring the perpetrators financial gain. The items are “national treasure” and hence “impossible to sell” because of their uniqueness and high visibility, Maria Ellior of the Swedish Police’s National Operations Department said. The theft would be logged at Interpol, enabling an international search.



Plane carrying 103 people crashes and burns, all survive

Wreckage of a jetliner that crashed with 97 passengers and four crew on board on takeoff at the airport of Mexico’s Durango on Tuesday.



Mexico City: An Aeromexico jetliner taking off in a blustery storm smashed down into a nearby field but skidded to a stop virtually intact, and all 103 people aboard were able to escape advancing flames before fire engulfed the aircraft. Passengers expressed gratitude to be alive, but many were extremely shaken after the crash on Tuesday afternoon. “It was really, really ugly,” said Lorenzo Nunez, a passenger from Chicago who fled the plane with his two sons and wife. “It burned in a question of seconds,” he told reporters, snapping his fingers for emphasis. Survivors said the Embraer 190 plane burst into flames right after it hit the ground. “We felt the flames coming quickly. There was a lot of smoke,” Jaquelin Flores told the newspaper El Sol. Romulo Campuzano, head of a political party in Durango state who was on the plane, told Foro TV that both wings were on fire as he bolted from the aircraft. Durango state governor Jose Aispuro said a gust of wind hit flight AM2431 heading from the city of Durango to Mexico City just as it was lifting off the tarmac, forcing the pilot to abort takeoff. Passengers said they heard a loud noise as the plane’s left wing banged to the ground, and both engines tore loose. The plane stayed upright, though, and the escape slides activated. Aispuro said it was too soon to speculate on the cause of the crash. Mechanical failure and human error could be factors, but certainly the weather wasn’t favourable. Strong wind and heavy rain with marble-sized hail lashed Durango city, even damaging hangars at the airport. “The most important thing in the seriousness that is an accident of this nature is that there were no deaths — that’s what is most encouraging for us,” Aispuro said at a news conference.

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