News Flash – 22 August 2017

National News



Police verification for passport to go online within a year


NEW DELHI: Delays in issue of passports due to lack of timely police verification are set to go with the government planning to replace physical verification of the applicant’s antecedents with online verification using a link to the newly-created national database on crimes of criminals. The national database was rolled out on Monday as part of the home ministry’s Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and Systems (CCTNS) initiative. The much-delayed CCTNS project, first approved in 2009, finally got off the ground with Union home minister Rajnath Singh launching the Digital Police portal that e-integrates the country’s 15,398 police stations and allows citizens to report crime and request antecedents verification online. The TOI was the first to report the impending rollout of CCTNS on Saturday. The national digital police portal is linked to various state police citizen portals and empowers the central investigating and research agencies to use their secure login to access the national database on crime and criminals as well as crime statistics and analytics. “The police portal will provide the citizen facility for online complaint registration and request for antecedent verification…the CCTNS project will help in realising the Prime Minister’s dream of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’,” Singh tweeted on Monday. Though CCTNS will for now allow the law enforcement agencies to track crimes and criminals in real time, apart from enabling citizens to report crime and seek antecedents verification online, the home ministry hopes to integrate it with e-courts and e-prisons software over the next couple of months.


“This will allow police to access court and prison records, aiding investigation,” said a home ministry officer. The police agencies can conduct 11 searches with the national crime & criminal database and also track 46 crime analytics reports for data-based action and policy interventions. Stating that integrating the CCTNS with other citizen-centric services would be an ongoing process, Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said it will also be linked to the passport Seva software, allowing online police verification for passports within a year. The link will enable police verification requests to be transmitted online by the passport office followed by online verification using the database on crime and criminals. Even where physical visits to the applicant’s neighbourhood are required, the inputs and comments may be fed on hand-held mobile/tablet devices and transmitted back electronically to the passport office. “Police in some states like Telangana are already using CCTNS for passport credentials. They will be given hand-held devices to go to an applicant’s address and upload his or her details on to the network. It will minimise contact with police and reduce time,” Mehrishi told reporters. Asked about safety of the database, the home secretary said though any IT resource comes with the risk of hacking, enough safeguards were being put in place with the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre roped in for the same.



Chandigarh under water: Homes turn pools, cars float

A house flooded with rainwater in Sector 44 of Chandigarh on Monday



CHANDIGARH: Heavy rainfall on Monday led to a flood-like situation for a few hours in the Tricity, making cars float and creating pools in courtyards, drawing rooms and even bedrooms. The four-hour rainfall (134mm in Chandigarh) that started at 7am caused waterlogging of a span not seen in years in Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali. Almost all roads were submerged in 3ft to 5ft deep water, causing cars to float in Mohali, something witnessed for the first time. Only roofs of vehicles were visible in Phase 3B2 and Phase 1.



All roads leading to Mohali were choked with vehicles, either stranded or stuck in traffic jams. The city experienced between 2ft to 3ft waterlogging at many places. Around 5ft of waterlogging was witnessed at phases I, II, 3A, 3B2, IV ,V , X, XI, Sector 70, Kumbran, Mohali and Balongi villages. The power grid sub-station was also submerged, leading to a power breakdown at many places for five hours. In Chandigarh, water entered houses in most parts of the city, including that of councilor Chandrawati Shukla in Sector 45 and sectors 21, 37, 38, 40, 43, 43, 44, Khuda Lahora and Manimajra. Chandigarh fire brigade received over a dozen complaints from the Sector 43-based district court, Punjab and Haryana high court, Mauli Jagran, Sector 36 police station, Chandigarh Housing Board to drain out water. Almost all external and internal road were flooded. Parents had a tough time in dropping their children to schools. Officergoers reached offices late by two hours to three hours. Almost all the main rotaries comprising Piccadilly roundabout, labour chowk in Sector 33, Kisan Bhawan roundabout, Matka Chowk, Sector 7-8 rotary were inundated. Many commuters had to push their vehicles to bring them out from the water. Both MC and fire brigade received over a two dozen serious nature complaints to drain out the water. The working at the district courts was affected. The district bar association finally announced Monday as no work day as advocates and judges had major problem in reaching the court. Electricity was cut at the district court to avoid electrocution cases as there was waterlogging in the complex.



Boulders roll down, crash into train at Monkey Hill; 3 hurt



MUMBAI: Passengers of the Hubli-LTT Express had a miraculous escape after boulders fell from a 200-metre-high hillock near Monkey Hill on Monday morning. Three passengers were injured in the freak episode, two of whom have sustained grievous injuries. The incident took place around 5am when the train was on its way to Mumbai on the middle line. Most passengers were asleep when the boulders came crashing down. The injured passengers occupied berths 31, 32 and 29 in S-6. Central Railway chief public relations officer Sunil Udasi said, “One boulder came crashing inside the coach after piercing the roof of the S-6 coach. All the three injured passengers were in this coach”. One of the boulders pierced the roof of the S-4 coach but did not fall inside the compartment. It also damaged the roof of the S-5 coach. Passenger Adam Dalwai said, “We experienced a huge jerk accompanied by a loud sound, which was frightening. We then saw a hole in the roof and a boulder in the aisle. There were cries of pain. I pulled the alarm chain and bought the train to a halt”. The guard and the loco pilot found that S-6 was badly damaged. They also noticed a boulder atop coach number S-4 whose top had been pierced but the rock was stuck on the roof. A CR official said, ” We were worried whether the train would pass through the hill with a rock stuck on top. However, the loco pilot and the coach assessed that the rock will not hit the tunnel and decided to proceed as the injured had to be taken to a hospital at the earliest”.


The train left for Karjat at 5.32am as the in-between stations were not easily accessible by road. “At Karjat, the rock was cleared and the injured were shifted to an accident relief train that had already reached there. They were then taken to Kalyan to be shifted to a hospital”. Two of the injured passengers—Hasansaab Belavanki (59) and son Asif Belavanki (25) have been admitted to Fortis Hospital, Kalyan. The third injured passenger Shiv Prasad (27) has suffered minor injuries and is being treated at Kalyan Railway Hospital. Hasan has suffered multiple fractures on the shoulder, chest and foot. The accident has left him with three shattered bones on the left shoulder and four broken ribs on the left side. He has also sustained a fracture on the left foot. His son has suffered a wound on the left scalp. The head injury could leave him hospitalized for a while. He also suffered a fracture of the right wrist. Shiv Prasad said, “I was sleeping on the side lower berth. But as soon the boulder hit the side upper berth, I felt a jerk and fell in the aisle”. Central Railway officials, including general manager D K Sharma, rushed to the site and also visited the patients.



Delhi reports 74 fresh cases of dengue in last seven days



NEW DELHI: A total of 74 fresh cases of dengue have been reported in Delhi in last seven days. According to latest report from anti-malaria operations headquarter of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, till August 19, a total of 325 people have tested positive for dengue in Delhi. The cases of chikungunya and malaria have also witnessed a spurt with a total of 194 cases of chikungunya and 215 cases of malaria being reported till August 19, 2017. At 325 cases the cases of dengue are more than what was reported in 2016. The national capital reported just 162 cases of dengue in 2016. But the number of people found positive for chikungunya and malaria till August 19 are the highest since 2013. Altogether 194 cases of chikungunya have been reported this year; it was just 20 in 2016, zero in 2015, only two in 2014 and 2013. Delhi reported 186 cases of malaria in 2013, 73 in 2014, 56 in 2015 and 165 in 2016 and it has grown to 215 in August this year.



BBMP finds 3 potholes for every 1km of road


BENGALURU: Back-breaking rides and drives are common across Bengaluru, especially after last week’s rain ravaged the roads leaving it riddled with potholes. But the BBMP claims there are only around 3,360 potholes in the city , citing an about-to-conclude counting exercise it has done along 1,300km of arterial and sub-arterial roads. The BBMP counted 3,360 potholes till 8pm Monday , and said the exercise would conclude in a couple of hours. At best, the final count could be marginally more. This means almost three potholes per kilometre of road. The BBMP said the exercise covered eight zones. BS Prahallad, chief engineer (road infrastructure), BBMP , said most potholes were found in east and west zones of the city, which are part of Bengaluru’s core areas. This could be because of heavy traffic in these zones. These potholes will be fixed with the required quantity of bitumen emulsion of tailor made cold mix and the process will begin from Wednesday,” he added. Sources said the BBMP found more potholes in Majestic, Shanthinagar, Koramangala and Rajajinagar. It may be recalled that the civic body had spent Rs 45 crore in July to fill potholes. But heavy rain in the past six days seems to have exposed the quality of work. Road contractors who laid the roads will be asked to fill the potholes, the sources added.


EXPERT SPEAK: Capt. S Raja Rao, who headed the expert committee constituted by the high court to look into the status of roads, said there is no fixed dimension or diameter for a pothole. It can vary from 3-4 inches in depth to several feet. It’s the same case with diameter or length as well. PAST COUNTS: Counting potholes has been part of the civic body’s action plan to fix roads. However, the numbers claimed by the civic body are always at variance with the ground situation, citizens said. Prakash PK, a resident of Mallathahalli, west Bengaluru, said he could count more than 50 potholes along major roads in his ward.



These Hyderabadis grow their own food, produce clean energy and live in harmony with nature


Hyderabad: While the rest of us may be busy complaining about how traffic woes, polluted air, living in concrete jungles and eating pesticide laden food have affected urban lives, 40-odd Hyderabadi families have decided to do actually do something about it. Their solution? To move to the outskirts of the city, and form an eco-friendly community by adopting a sustainable lifestyle. The 70-member-strong community in Aziz Nagar, who call themselves “ru-urban“, cultivate their own fruits and vegetables, rear cattle, produce energy from solar panels and live in eco-friendly homes, which make use of recycled bamboo and energy-efficient layouts.


It all began with a love for preserving nature: It was a coming together of like-minded people who cared for nature that led to the creation of this commune, says Rajendra Kumar G, one of the founders. “Most of us have an architecture background, but what made us bond was our sheer passion to preserve nature and the desire to lead a sustainable life, while battling the evils of urbanization. We realised that producing our own food was the key to accomplish this mission. So four years ago, we started this collective farming initiative, today, we make our own food, energy and have even adopted four small hamlets near our farm. Our urban farm also provides employment to 400-odd villagers,” says Rajendra Kumar.


Urban hyderabadis living a full-fledged farm life: The members realised that the one important step in producing non-toxic food is by rearing native breeds of cattle. “We now have about 45 cows and over 30 goats. Also we have a lot of chicken and ducks, all rescued from slaughter houses. Here they help create an invaluable eco-system and rejuvenate the soil of this land that was lying barren for decades.” The homes are all fitted with rooftop solar panels that produce around 0.8 megawatts of energy every hour, making them fully energy sufficient.


In pursuit of a healthy, happy ‘slow life’: Madhu Reddy, a civil engineer and entrepreneur who was one of the first residents of the community loves the fact that his friends think he lives in a “jungle home”. “When my wife and I moved here we had no neighbours, save the flora and fauna around us. I lose track of time when I’m home. I spend a lot of time capturing the birds and animals on my camera,” he says. What his wife Suneetha, loves are “the quality of the vegetables and fruits that grow in our farm.” It was a desire to live in harmony with nature that drew fashion designer Kajal here from Bengaluru. “We have a nice home in Hitec city, but there are no trees there. Here we can provide a better quality of life to our four-year-old daughter,” she says.



800 flood-hit Indians take shelter in Bangladesh


KOLKATA: Around 800 flood affected victims from West Bengal have taken shelter in Moghalhat and Aditmari Upazila of Bangladesh‘s border district of Lalmonirhat. Habibur Rahman, chairman of Moghalhat Union, confirmed that around 800 people came to Mughalhat and Durgapur due to the heavy floods of Dharla River. Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) said people of two Indian villages near the Bangladesh border were severely affected by flood. Considering the matter on humanitarian grounds, the BGB allowed them to enter Bangladesh. “We would have been washed away by flood-waters had the BGB not helped us,” said 75-year-old Basiruddin, a flood victim. Most people who crossed over from India took shelter in the streets. Once situation improves, they will return back to their villages on the Indian side.



Chitheri train accident: Loco pilot gets jail for accident that killed 12



VELLORE: A mobile phone-wielding loco pilot, whose train rammed a stationary rake in Chitheri killing 12 people in 2011, has been found guilty of committing culpable homicide, and sentenced to 10-year imprisonment. Vellore principal district sessions judge S Ananthi convicted loco pilot A Rajkumar who drove the Chennai Beach-Vellore MEMU on the fateful day, under two counts and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for maximum period of 10 years. According to A Dilli Babu, public prosecutor, a total of 74 witnesses were examined in the case, and 12 material evidence too were submitted. This included the mobile phone of the loco pilot and speedometer of the train engine. Rajkumar had made phone call to a fellow loco-pilot, Ravi, when he was in-charge of the train. During the conversation, he told Ravi that he had to return from Vellore to Chennai the same night and hence he was rushing to Katpadi. During the course of the conversation, the phone call got disconnected and then it became not reachable, Ravi had depose during the trial. Police stated that the train was being driven at 97 kmph, as against the permitted speed of 75 kilometres per hour. During trial, police also produced the call details of Rajkumar’s mobile number, which clearly showed that he was speaking on the mobile while driving the train, which is against rules as per the Railway Board orders. While on the call, he missed the signal and dashed against the Arakkonam-Katpadi passenger train.


On September 13, 2011, the Chennai Beach-Vellore Cantonment Mainline Electrical Multiple Unit-66017 driven by Rajkumar rammed into a stationary train Arakkonam-Katpadi Passenger at Chitheri at 9.24 pm. Twelve persons died, while 71 were grievously injured in the accident. Of the 12 deceased, 11 had died on the spot, while another person died at the hospital. The then station master of Walajah Road station Krish Kumar, 31, was one among the deceased. He had gone to Arakkonam to buy gifts for his son’s first birthday. Sessions judge Ananthi sentenced that Rajkumar must serve 10 years of rigorous imprisonment for offences punishable under Section 304 (ii) of IPC besides five years and Rs 1 lakh fine under Section 3 of Tamil Nadu Public Property Prevention of Damage and Loss Act, 1992 read with 151 of Railways Act. Though he was also booked under section 308 of IPC, he was acquitted of the charge. He will serve the imprisonment concurrently. Police had filed a 395-page charge sheet in the case and said Rajkumar was speaking over the phone, jumped a signal and violated the speed limit. They also listed 165 witnesses in the charge sheet and quoted Southern Railway’s assessment that Rs 2 crore worth property was damaged in the accident.



Cops suspect presence of bomb stockpile in Hills



JALPAIGURI: Investigators probing the back-to-back blasts in Darjeeling and Kalimpong said there might be a substantial stockpile of arms and explosives in the strife-hit region. Cops also suspected that rogue elements among the agitators believed to be behind the blast were refusing to toe the party’s political line and were running loose. The gelatin powder which was used to pack Saturday’s bomb appeared to be the same which that was stolen from an NHPC site at Neji Basti in Pul Bazar less than a month ago. Investigators sniffed a larger plot which hinted at a possible role of a few foreign nationals who have been helped by a northeast militant outfit. GJM assistant general secretary Binay Tamang said, “The GJM once again reiterates that we do not have any tie-up with any insurgent organization either in northeast India, Nepal or anywhere else in the world. Therefore, we reiterate our demand for setting up of a high-level committee to examine the blasts”. Investigators claimed two arms consignments were sent to Darjeeling in November 2014 from the northeast. “The third such consignment was confiscated in Assam’s Chirang, which gave us the lead that the then GJYM vice-president Sanjay Thulung, who was also a GJM central committee member, was the man behind ordering the consignments. From then onwards, Thulung has been living in Nepal,” an official said.


Police sources also indicated they were probing the possible northeast links of the attackers. “The grenades hurled were manually operated and of high intensity. Traces of nitroglycerine and gelatin powder were also found at the sites,” an officer said. “This movement was non-violent even in the past, is non-violent today, and will continue to remain democratic, non-violent and peaceful in the days to come. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha unequivocally condemns any and all forms of violence. We are equally worried at the acts of arson and violence that have taken place in these past 65 days in Darjeeling, Tarai and Dooars, and condemn such acts that are perpetrated to destroy peace in our region,” Tamang said. “We have already demanded a high-level committee comprising NIA officials to investigate these blasts and we want the investigations to be handed over to the NIA for a fair probe into these acts of terrorizing our people and our nation. All those who are responsible for perpetrating the blasts need to be arrested and dealt with in the most stringent manner as prescribed under the law,” Tamang added.



International News



Italy earthquake rocks resort island of Ischia, at least 1 dead


ROME: An earthquake rattled the Italian resort island of Ischia at the peak of tourist season Monday night, killing at least one person and trapping a half dozen others, including children, under collapsed homes. Police said all but one of the people known to be trapped were responding to rescuers and were expected to be extracted alive. One person, however, wasn’t responding, raising worries the death toll could increase, said Giovanni Salerno of the financial police. Italy‘s national volcanology institute said the temblor struck a few minutes before 9 pm, just as many people were having dinner. The hardest-hit area was Casamicciola, on the northern part of the island. There was great discrepancy in the magnitude reported: Italy’s national volcanology agency put the initial magnitude at 3.6, though it revised it to a 4.0 sustained magnitude with a shallow depth of 5 kilometers (3 miles) in the waters just off the island. The US Geological Survey and the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center gave it a 4.3 magnitude, with a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles).


While such discrepancies and revisions are common, Italian officials complained that the Italian agency’s initial low 3.6-magnitude greatly underestimated the power of the temblor. At least one hotel and parts of a hospital were evacuated. A doctor at the Rizzoli hospital, Roberto Allocca, told Sky TG24 that some 26 people were being treated for minor injuries at a makeshift emergency room set up on the hospital grounds. He said the situation was calm and under control. Salerno confirmed one woman was killed by falling masonry. At least three people were extracted from the rubble, the civil protection said. Civil protection crews, already on the island in force to fight the forest fires that have been ravaging southern Italy, were checking the status of the buildings that suffered damage. Together with the nearby island of Capri, Ischia is a favorite island getaway for the European jet set, famed in particular for its thermal waters. Casamicciola was the epicenter of an 1883 earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people.



Russian jets kill over 200 IS militants near Syria’s Deir al-Zor



MOSCOW: Russia’s air force has destroyed a large column of Islamic State fighters on their way to the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor, killing over 200 militants, Russian news agencies cited Russia’s Defence Ministry as saying on Monday. Islamic State is concentrating its forces around Deir al-Zor after being pushed out of the south of Raqqa Province and the west of Homs Province by Syrian land forces and the Russian air force, the ministry said. It said its planes had also destroyed the militants’ military equipment. It did not say when the strike took place.



Lebanon says it helped foil plot to down plane in Australia



BEIRUT: Lebanon’s interior minister said Monday that the country’s police intelligence played a major role in foiling a plot to bring down an Emirati passenger plane that was supposed to take off from Sydney bound for the United Arab Emirates’ capital, Abu Dhabi. Nouhad Machnouk told reporters that four Lebanese-Australian brothers, including one who is in detention in Lebanon, had planned to blow up the plane with bombs hidden inside a large Barbie doll and a meat grinder. He said the bombs did not make it onto the plane because the handbag they were placed in was 7 kilograms (15.4 pounds) above the weight permitted by the airline. Machnouk said the bombs were sent back to the would-be attacker’s home in Australia. He said the attacker tried to bring two explosives on the plane in case one of them did not work. The second would be detonated by one of the brothers who was supposed to be the suicide attacker. It was not immediately clear how authorities uncovered the plot. Australian authorities said late last month that they thwarted a credible terrorist plot to down an airplane by smuggling a device onboard. They have provided few details, including the precise nature of the threat or any airlines involved. The United Arab Emirates’ national airline said it is working with Australian police in the ongoing investigation. But Etihad Airways refused to confirm if it had been targeted. Earlier this month, Australian police said two men were charged with terrorism offenses in Australia in connection with an alleged plot to bring down the airplane. It was not immediately clear if they were two of the four brothers.


Four Lebanese-Australian men had been arrested by police, who also reportedly seized a meat grinder that investigators thought may be the basis of a bomb. One of the four was released later without charge. Machnouk said two of the brothers, Khaled and Mahmoud Khayyat, are held in Australia, while another, Tarek, is a senior member of the Islamic State group based in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. He added that the fourth brother, Amer, was supposed to be on board the plane, working to bring it down 20 minutes after takeoff, but was arrested in Lebanon after he arrived in mid-July from Australia. “The operation was foiled because of the extra weight,” Machnouk said. “Intelligence branch followed on the case and found that Amer was involved in this act and it appears that he was supposed to carry it out”. He said that since Tarek Khayyat moved to Raqqa and became in IS commander, Lebanese police intelligence started tracking his brothers. Machnouk said that Amer Khayyat traveled between Australia and Lebanon several times under pretexts such as coming to get engaged or get married. Machnouk said that about 400 passengers were on the plane, including 120 Lebanese. He said the four brothers wanted to punish the UAE and Australia for being part of the US-led coalition that is targeting the extremists. “When four Lebanese brothers in Australia decide to blow up an Emirati jet this means that the whole world should work together to fight terrorism,” Machnouk said. “Coordination should be 24 hours a day between all security agencies to stop such attacks”.



Barcelona attack: Main suspect shot dead, police say

Bomb defusal experts on the site where Moroccan suspect Younes Abouyaaqoub was shot.



BARCELONA: Spanish police confirmed that they have shot dead the main suspect behind the Barcelona van attack from last week that killed 13 people. Police said that he had appeared to be wearing an explosive belt in the “incident” in Subirats, a town near Barcelona. They said only that a bomb squad was using a robot to approach the man’s body. Some Spanish media, citing investigative sources, said police had shot dead 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub, on the run since Thursday when he drove at high speed into heavy crowds strolling along Barcelona’s most famous avenue, Las Ramblas. It was Spain’s worst militant attack in over a decade, with Islamic State claiming responsibility. “The suspect wore what appeared to be an explosive belt. He has been shot down,” police said in an official tweet, later confirming that he has been killed. Local media said the man was spotted by a woman in the early afternoon and then fled through vineyards but police managed to find and shoot him on a road near a sewage treatment plant. Police had asked the rest of Europe to join the manhunt for the Moroccan-born man. They say he fled Las Ramblas on foot amid the chaos of the attack then hijacked a car, stabbing the driver to death, before crashing through a police checkpoint.


Abouyaaqoub had been the only one of 12 accomplices still at large. His mother, Hannou Ghanimi, had appealed for him to surrender, saying she would rather see him in prison than end up dead. Four people have been arrested so far in connection with the attacks: three Moroccans and a citizen of Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla. They will be taken to the high court in Madrid, which has jurisdiction over terrorism matters. Abouyaaqoub lived in Ripoll, a town north of Barcelona close to French border. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack as well as a separate deadly assault hours later in the coastal resort town of Cambrils, south of Barcelona. In Cambrils, a car crashed into passersby and its occupants got out and tried to stab people. Five suspects were shot dead by police, while a Spanish woman died in the attack. In the roughly seven hours of violence that followed the van’s entry into the pedestrian boulevard of Las Ramblas on Thursday afternoon, attackers killed 15 people: 13 on Las Ramblas, the Cambrils victim and the man in the hijacked car. Of the 120 injured on Las Ramblas, nine remain in a critical condition in hospital.

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