News Flash – 21 March 2018

National News



Intelligence failure? WhatsApp group catches railways off guard

Several offices in South Mumbai saw low attendance early in the day as railway apprentices’ protest brought CR services to a halt.



MUMBAI: Several offices in South Mumbai saw low attendance early in the day as railway apprentices’ protest brought CR services to a halt. Several college students who were to appear for exams also could not make it on time. “Many of my colleagues from Ulhasnagar and Kalyan called to say they couldn’t leave for office once they heard of the disruption. They were scared,” said Dhaval Desai, an executive with think tank Observer Research Foundation at Nariman Point. And when stranded railway commuters spilled out on the roads, few aggregator cabs were available—they are on a protest since Monday. The scale of the protest seemed to have caught railway security agencies off guard. Sources blamed failure of intelligence as the agitation seemed to have been well-planned, but security agencies expected only 250-500 protesters outside the Matunga workshop. Nearly 3,000 not only turned up, but also pelted stones at RPF and GRP personnel, injuring 15 of them. A total of 800 protesters were booked, and two arrested. Sources said it’s not a coincidence that the two protests— by cab drivers and railway apprentices— were backed by MNS unions. The apprentices were in touch with Jitendra Patil, general secretary of the Maharashtra Navnirman Railway Kamgar Sena, for over a week.


After the police started lathi charge, MNS leader Sandip Deshpande took some protesters to Raj Thackeray. The MNS chief extended support to the protest, which caused cancellation of 68 local trains and rescheduling of departure of four long distance from Mumbai. Sajjan Paswan, a protester, said, “We had protested in Delhi but nobody took a notice of it. We took this extreme step as our livelihood is at stake”. Railway minister Piyush Goyal issued a statement, “We have already reserved 20% posts for apprentices.” In the assembly, CM Devendra Fadnavis pointed out that the protestors are demanding 100% quota, which will cause unrest among others. The protest was called off at 10.35 am after the CR chief personnel officer gave an assurance to take up their demands with the railway board. “Maximum city can no longer run at maximum capacity. It’s unfortunate that in one of India’s most progressive city’s a simple strike cripples traffic,” said Desirée Alemao, who works in Lower Parel.



‘Cops’ rob city Jeweler’s staffers of Rs 3crore gold in UP


Mumbai: Two employees of a bullion firm in Zaveri Bazaar were allegedly robbed of 10kg gold at gunpoint by four men, two of them in Delhi Police uniform, in Sahibabad in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district on Sunday night. The estimated value of the robbed jewellery is nearly Rs 3 crore. Police sources said the entire jewellery consignment had been insured by its owner. Rohit Jain (28), a marketing associate of Union Chains & Jewellers, and his associate Kishan had carried jewellery samples from Mumbai to Delhi via train and had taken it to Meerut in a taxi to show them to prospective clients. Police said the robbery took place when the duo was returning to Delhi from Meerut in a hired cab. They were accompanied by a business partner based in Delhi, identified only as Deepak. In his police complaint, Jain said around 10.45pm, four men in a hatchback, two of wearing uniform resembling that of Delhi Police, signaled their taxi driver, Ramashish, to stop the car on GT Road on the pretext of checking. “The two policemen, armed with pistols, got down from the car.


While one of the men sat next to our driver, the other got into the rear seat with us. Even as we protested, they began thrashing us. They forced our driver to take us to a secluded service lane near the Karan Gate police outpost where they snatched our bags and escaped in the hatchback that was following us,” Jain said. Sahibabad police on Monday registered a case of robbery and added IPC Section 394 for voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery against the unidentified accused. “From the description given by the victims, the robbers were wearing Delhi Police uniform…We have obtained CCTV footage that will prove crucial in the probe,” said superintendent of police (city) Akash Tomar. Rakesh Sanghvi, director of Union Chains & Jewellers, refused to comment as probe is on.



BARC Tarapur fire officer arrested for not rushing to emergency fire call



MUMBAI: The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) Tarapur fire officer who did not respond to an emergency call following an explosion and fire at five chemical units in Tarapur MIDC on March 8, has been arrested. Fire officer Suhas Borkar was booked under the Disaster Management (DM) Act based on a complaint filed by the Palghar district collector Dr Prashant Narnaware on March 10. Borkar was produced before the Palghar sessions court where he was granted bail. Borkar had received a call from the district disaster management control room asking him to send a fire tender to Novaphene Specialties chemical factory that was on fire. Borkar refused to rush to the spot saying that he had to seek permission from his seniors. The fire that began at 11.15 pm spread to the adjoining five chemical units killing four workers and injuring 14. A second call to Borkar after the fire spread to a larger area, too was futile. The district administration had to finally send the police and summon Borkar. The collector in his complaint to the Boisar police stated that lives could have been saved had the BARC fire tender reached on time. The BARC fire brigade was the closed at seven kms.


As chairperson of the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), the collector can call for services of any agency, public or private, in case of a disaster. The district administration had activated its disaster plan 15 minutes after the explosion. Fire brigade sources say BARC has one of the best foam engines to fight chemical blazes. Till help arrived from other stations, Boisar-MIDC fire brigade used water, which is dangerous and non-effective, and its two foam fire tenders did not prove to be of much help. By the time teams from Dahanu Reliance Thermal Power Station (33 km), Vasai-Virar (71 km), Thane (95 km) and Bhiwandi (93 km) arrived, the fire had engulfed four adjoining units and spread to over one acre land. Borkar was booked under sections 56 (failure of officer in duty) and 57 (contravention of any order regarding requisitioning) of the DM Act.



2 techies arrested in hoax bomb call to Chennai airport



CHENNAI: The city police on Monday said they had arrested two software engineers for calling the police control room and making bomb threats to Chennai International Airport on Sunday night. The threats proved to be hoaxes and, when policemen tracked down the culprits to a house in Pallikaranai, they found them partying, reeking of liquor and completely plastered. All Deepu Anand, 29, of Koppampatti village in Thuraiyur, Trichy, and K Sakthi Saravanan, 28, both of whom came to the city to find work in IT firms, could do once the police busted them late on Sunday night was to try to escape punitive action by blaming each other, a senior officer said. The two men are now sobering up in jail after a court remanded them in judicial custody. “Deepu, a software engineer, quit his job and started working as a librarian in his hometown while he waited for an opening,” the officer said. “He asked his friend Saravanan to help him get a job, but Saravanan demanded Rs 25,000 for the favour, claiming that he would have to bribe people to employ Deepu”.


Even two weeks after Deepu paid Saravanan Rs 25,000, however, there was no sign of an opening for the unemployed techie. Deepu found, after a while, that it was increasingly difficult to contact Saravanan. He finally arrived in Chennai and took a house in Ramapuram on rent. “Deepu and Saravanan met in the house of an acquaintance around 9pm on Sunday and started to have a drink,” the officer said. “Deepu demanded that Saravanan return his money and a fight broke out”. “Deepu suddenly snatched Saravanan’s cellphone and called up the police control room, stating that Saravanan was planning set off an explosion at the city airport,” he said. “Saravanan grabbed the phone back from Deepu and made the same allegation against him”. Officers at the police control room realised that the men were drunk. They tracked them down nonetheless and booked them under various sections of the IPC and the IT Act.



Cash van driver says mastermind duped him



AHMEDABAD: Sudhir Baghel, who was brought to the city on Sunday from Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh, by the Ahmedabad crime branch in connection with Rs 98 lakh cash theft, told police that his accomplice Mukesh Yadav, alias Fauji, had masterminded the theft. Baghel, the driver of a cash management firm’s van, had drugged a security guard and two employees of the firm on February 23 to steal the money. Police had learnt that Baghel was associated with Yadav, a former employee of the firm. “Baghel has told us that Yadav had brought him to Ahmedabad with theft in mind,” an investigator said. “Yadav had promised Baghel a job that came with Rs 9,000 per month salary. He used his contacts and got Baghel the driver’s job. As for the spoils of the theft, Yadav had promised Baghel a 50% cut.” Police said that as part of the plan, Yadav resigned from the job less than a week before the theft. He had sent his family back home late in January.


“Baghel wanted to help his father repay Rs 7 lakh debt. The loan had been taken for the marriage of Baghel’s sister and his brother’s education,” the investigator said. “That’s why Baghel agreed take part in Yadav’s operation.” Baghel’s family was distraught when it learnt that he had been involved in crime and was being pursued by Gujarat Police, the investigator said. In the end, Baghel got only Rs 50,000 from Yadav. Baghel told police that Yadav had been unable to take the cash into premises he had rented. The landlord had denied entry when he found that Yadav’s vehicle was full of money. Vastrapur police arrested Sudhir Parmar, a former employee of CMS Securities, on Monday for his alleged involvement in the theft. Police said Parmar had worked with Yadav to plan the theft. Parmar was in-charge of assigning responsibilities to employees. Parmar had been promised a cut by Yadav. Parmar was, however, fired from the job after an altercation with seniors just days before the theft. He had allegedly tried to destroy documents that could expose the nexus, investigators said.



International News



Several people shot at Maryland high school: Media report



WASHINGTON: Several people were shot at a Maryland high school on Tuesday, local news media reported, after school officials confirmed the campus was on lockdown and the incident had been “contained”. Multiple people were shot and their condition was not yet clear, ABC News reported, citing the St. Mary’s County sheriff. The shooting took place at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, about 70 miles (110 km) south of Washington. The sheriff’s office confirmed an incident at the school and urged parents in a Twitter post not to approach the campus. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were heading to the school, the agency said. It occurred amid a re-energized national debate over school shootings in the United States following an attack on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stone man Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman killed 17 students and faculty. The shooting came four days before the March for Our Lives – partly organized by student survivors of the Parkland rampage – takes place in Washington to urge lawmakers to pass tighter gun control laws. A student who said his name was Jonathan Freese said in a telephone interview on CNN that he had been on lockdown with classmates for nearly an hour, but he did not hear gunshots himself. The interview ended as police came to his classroom door. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said he was monitoring events at the school. “Our prayers are with students, school personnel, and first responders,” he said in a statement.



Bomb hoax emails sent to hundreds of schools in England



LONDON: Over 400 schools in England were on Monday targeted with bomb hoax emails that claimed a device would be detonated on the grounds unless online payments were made to an address. Scotland Yard said the “malicious communications” were under investigation but ruled out any threat to life. “These are currently being treated as hoaxes. At this stage there is no evidence to suggest that this is terror-related,” the Metropolitan Police said. Schools in London, Manchester, North Umbria and North Yorkshire were among those that received the email, which demanded $5,000 and warned against calling the police. A number of schools were evacuated while the threat level was assessed before resuming normal routine. “We have spoken to all schools who have contacted us, reassured them that there is no need to evacuate and offered them security advice,” said Detective Superintendent Tony Cockerill from Humberside Police, which received reports of 19 schools being targeted by the hoax emails. Greater Manchester Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine said: “I want to assure you that we are working closely with all of the schools to ensure the safety of pupils and staff.


“We are carrying out extensive enquiries to understand the full circumstances and although there is not currently believed to be any direct threat, as with any report of this nature, they are all being thoroughly investigated”. Police forces in Cumbria, Cambridge shire, Humberside, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Avon and Somerset also issued statements saying schools and colleges in their areas had been targeted. “Our cybercrime unit detectives, supported by local officers, have looked at these incidents and it is not believed there is any genuine threat,” North Yorkshire Police said. The emails are believed to originate from the US, written mostly in English but also including some Arabic sentences. The UK Home Office and the Department for Education advised any school that receives the email to contact their local police force.



Rebel rocket fire kills 29 in Damascus suburb: State TV



DAMASCUS: Rebel rocket fire on a market in a Damascus suburb killed 29 people on Tuesday, Syrian state television said. The rocket fire by “terrorist groups” hit the Jaramana area east of Damascus, state television cited a police official as saying, using an expression usually used for rebels. Initially it reported that 20 people had been killed in the attack.



20 dead as powerful storm hits Madagascar


ANTANANARIVO: A powerful tropical storm that lashed the island of Madagascar has left 20 people dead and affected 19,000 more, according to an official toll. The storm also closed several national highways that were flooded by the heavy rain, the country’s disaster management office said late Monday.  In a previous toll late Sunday, it said 17 people had died and 15,000 had been affected. Storm Eliakim slammed into the northeastern Masoala peninsula on Friday before barreling south down the coast. By Monday it had moved away from the Indian Ocean island and “presents no more danger”. Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries, is frequently hit by cyclones and tropical storms. In January, cyclone Ava claimed 51 lives and in March last year at least 78 people perished in cyclone Enawo.

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