News Flash – 22 February 2018

National News



Student vents anger on ATM, gets thrashed



CHENNAI: Venting anger on hard, inanimate objects is usually foolishly self-harmful. It turned out to be even worse for an engineering student from Ambattur who, finding that an ATM near the Koyambedu metro rail depot was on the blink on Wednesday morning, smashed a security camera in the kiosk. A customer outside mistook Samuel, 21, for a burglar, shut the kiosk door and alerted passersby. A large crowd gathered and, refusing to believe the student’s pleas of innocence, gave him a sound beating. They bound his legs with a cord and handed him over to the police. “Samuel entered the kiosk at 9.30am and tried several times to swipe his debit card and withdraw cash,” a police officer said. “The customer outside grew suspicious at the time he was taking and was startled when he turned violent. He assumed that Samuel was trying to break open the machine”. Samuel, a third-year BE student whose father is a headmaster in a Tiruvallur school and mother a nursing superintendent at a city hospital, told the police that he lost his anger when the ATM failed to work. “The youngster apologised and his parents promised to replace the camera, so we let him off with a warning,” the officer said.



Daily passenger traffic at Kempegowda International Airport crosses 91k

The number of passengers passing through KIA every year rose from 12.78 million in 2013 to 25.04million in 2017.



BENGALURU: The Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) on Monday recorded the highest-ever passenger movement— 91,339 people in a single day. It also reported a record 628 air traffic movements (ATMs) on the same day. BIAL officials said this is the highest since it began operations in 2008. The previous record was on December 23, 2017 which saw 87,815 passengers and 603 ATMs. “It’s part of the schedule of flights, and therefore, business as usual,” the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) said. Every day, KIA handles an average of 85,000 passengers and 600 ATMs. Radhakrishna Holla, president of Bengaluru Tourist Taxi Owners Association, which operates taxis in airport, attributed the rise in passenger traffic to increase in number of national conferences and meetings being held in the city. The 73rd annual conference of the Association of Physicians of India began at GKVK campus on New Airport Road on Thursday. It has nearly 8,000 participants, a majority of whom came in flights.


The number of passengers passing through KIA every year rose from 12.78 million in 2013 to 25.04million in 2017. “BIAL is keeping up with this growth with use of technology, innovation and digitalisation as well as enhancements to the existing infrastructure to ensure a seamless customer experience,” BIAL stated. BIAL managing director Hari Marar had recently said the second terminal (T2) will be operational from June 2021 and the building design will incorporate themes such as technology, environmental sustainability and the culture of the state. The second runway, which is expected to be operational by October 2019, will have an upgraded instrument landing system (CAT IIIB), which will facilitate aircraft movement during fog.



Traffic plans to make crossing Bypass easy


KOLKATA: Days after Kolkata traffic police proposed a host of measures to ensure pedestrians’ and motorists’ safety on EM Bypass – including over bridges near Metro stations and using the upcoming Metro stations as pedestrian crossovers – it has now come out with a second set of recommendations. The local police had recommended a pedestrian subway at Ajay Nagar and Kolkata Police has written to government agencies proposing an underpass at the earliest at the crossing that connects Bypass with Santoshpur. “People have to cross the long stretch with a bit of risk. There is no allotted time for pedestrian movement and most of us have to reach the meridian separator and wait for a second time for the traffic lights to turn red for cars. With slow-moving and two-wheeler vehicles also sharing space with cars and buses and the adjoining service load carrying heavy load, the Ajay Nagar crossing is a major source of trouble. Also, when the Metro gets operational, pedestrian movement will increase manifold,” said an officer. “There are vehicles from Garia taking the open left and cars from Ajay Nagar taking an open left towards Ruby, making it difficult for pedestrians to cross this junction,” said Sreeparna Roy, a resident of Survey Park.


At Ruby crossing, the new traffic guard outpost will make it easier to transmit signals between this spot and the Kasba police guard at Rashbehari connector. It will also provide a spot for officers to analyse CCTV footage and strategize about deploying manpower at two major points — the pedestrian crossing and the ongoing Metro work. Both Kolkata Police and their counterparts in Bidhannagar agree that they require better coordination to make the Chingrighata crossing accident free. “We currently allow 40 seconds for pedestrian dispersal. But vehicles are allowed to come out of Sector V and turn towards Ultadanga and Beliaghata Canal Road to cross over during the same interval to avoid major stagnation on the Bypass. But in the process, movement of vehicles from Sector V towards Science City is getting restricted and snarls can form from as far as Nicco Park during rush hours,” said an officer. “The waiting time has climbed up to more than 20 minutes between Nicco Park and Chingrighata crossing in the evening. Sometimes this stretches to around half-an-hour,” said Arnab Mondal, a government bus driver plying between Jadavpur and Karunamoyee.



Network hit as demand for portability chokes Aircel


CHENNAI: Staring at bankruptcy, telecom major Aircel is creating manual codes to facilitate porting requests, which have risen exponentially over the past few days. With networks down for most part of Tuesday in Chennai, it was near-panic situation for subscribers who rushed to apply for mobile number portability. A senior Aircel official confirmed that the company has received 10 times more requests for porting in the past few days. “The systems are unable to handle the surge. However, we are not going anywhere. It is our responsibility to serve customers till the end. We are devising a way to create manual codes to facilitate the porting process,” said the official. Chennai and Tamil Nadu remain the biggest markets for Aircel with a quarter of its 8 crore subscribers coming from these circles. Idea snapped interconnection services on non-payment of dues. Aircel, owned by Maxis Communications of Malaysia, is in a debt trap with banks freezing credit limits and competing telecom operators insisting on immediate payments of interconnect charges. Its CEO — Kaizad Heerjee warned employees of “tough times” couple of days ago. The telecom firm is learnt to be exploring filing for bankruptcy with National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). A company spokesperson told TOI, “Aircel is facing network issues and we are trying to find a way to resolve this at the soonest possible”. “We have had no funding for some time and have been dependent on cash generation from our current business operations,” Heerjee said.


“As competition remains intense in a hugely financial stressed market, we too are being impacted…The company expects things to get even more difficult in coming days,’ his letter to employees read. Aircel’s operations has been reeling under financial stress after banks cut credit lines due to viability issues of the sector. With the onslaught from Jio and legal issues with erstwhile promoter has rendered the telecom a pauper. From quarterly operating profits in July 2016 the company swung to operating losses in December quarter forcing its lenders to tighten the screw further. Idea Cellular recently snapped interconnection services with Aircel for unpaid dues of 60 crores. Shankar Subramanian, who works with a publication house said, “Business was disrupted because customers couldn’t reach us. Payments couldn’t be made as OTPs couldn’t be received,” Subramanian said. “My entire family has only Aircel numbers. Since morning, we have not been able to connect with each other. I have already applied for portability and will port all the other numbers soon” said Anahita Mishra, resident of Chennai.



International News



12 military men among 19 injured in Sri Lanka bus explosion

Hundreds of security personnel were also killed in the fight till 2009, when the LTTE was finally crushed by the Lankan military with the death of its supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.



COLOMBO: A pre-dawn explosion on a bus in Sri Lanka on Wednesday injured 19 people, including 12 defence personnel, the military said, rekindling scenes of the island nation’s brutal civil war against the LTTE. The cause of the explosion that took place around 5.45 am was not immediately known, amid suspicion that somebody was carrying a grenade on the bus that went off. “Among the passengers were seven Army personnel and five Air Force personnel. The condition of two Army personnel is reportedly critical,” the Army said in a statement. The injured which included seven civilians have been hospitalised. “The Army denies any terrorist involvement in the incident. Police investigations are in progress,” it said. The bus had started from the northern peninsula of Jaffna for the military base town of Diyathalawa. The explosion occurred at Kahagolla area in Diyathalawa, military spokesman Brigadier Sumith Atapattu said.


However, Daily Mirror newspaper quoting the spokesman said “the explosion cannot be ruled out as an act of terrorism as of yet. Nevertheless, a highly explosive substance inside the bus may have caused the explosion. The cause can be ruled out after the government analyst inspects the scene”. Atapattu said the police and the military are conducting separate investigations. Sri Lanka saw a brutal civil war involving the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) and had witnessed large scale violence during the 30-year-long separatist movement that claimed over 100,000 lives. Hundreds of security personnel were also killed in the fight till 2009, when the LTTE was finally crushed by the Lankan military with the death of its supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran. There have been hardly any reports of attacks on the military ever since.



UN vote expected on 30-day cease-fire in Syria to help needy

The UN human rights office said Wednesday that at least 346 people have been killed in eastern Ghouta since the Syrian government and its allies escalated an offensive on Feb. 4.



UNITED NATIONS: Sweden and Kuwait called for a vote Thursday on a UN resolution ordering a 30-day cease-fire throughout Syria to enable delivery of humanitarian aid to millions of people in acute need, and the evacuation of the critically sick and wounded. But the Security Council resolution would exempt attacks directed at extremists from the Islamic State group, al-Qaida and the Nusra Front – targets the Syrian government and its Russian allies say they are pursuing. The proposed resolution, put in a final form Wednesday, expresses “outrage at the unacceptable levels of violence” and attacks on civilians in several parts of Syria, particularly in Idlib governorate and the rebel-held Damascus suburbs of eastern Ghouta. Whether Russia uses its veto or abstains in a vote on the resolution remains to be seen. Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called a 30-day cease-fire unrealistic, and diplomats said during negotiations on the text he argued that it couldn’t be enforced. Instead, he proposed a change that would have the parties agree to a cease-fire themselves which was rejected by the sponsors, the diplomats said. “We cannot simply decide that there is a cease-fire,” Nebenzia said Wednesday in an audio recording from Russia’s UN Mission. “That’s a long and complex process to achieve. Cessations cannot be established by putting a word in the resolution”.


Soon after final draft of the resolution was circulated, Nebenzia called for an open Security Council meeting Thursday on eastern Ghouta. Some diplomats complained privately that Russia was trying to delay action on the 30-day cease-fire resolution. The UN human rights office said Wednesday that at least 346 people have been killed in eastern Ghouta since the Syrian government and its allies escalated an offensive on Feb. 4. Nebenzia told the council it’s important that all sides in the conflict present their understanding of the situation in eastern Ghouta “and come up the ways of getting out of the situation there”. Russia understands “there are terrorists there who the Syrian army is fighting and the terrorists are shelling heavily Damascus – and that has been neglected,” he said. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier urged an immediate suspension of “all war activities” in eastern Ghouta, where he said 400,000 people are living “in hell on earth”. The UN chief said a suspension of fighting must allow for humanitarian aid to reach all in need and the evacuation of some 700 people needing urgent medical treatment. “This is a human tragedy that is unfolding in front of our eyes and I don’t think we can let things go on in this horrendous way,” he said. US Ambassador Nikki Haley supported the UN chief saying “it is time for us to realize that we can’t continue to look away”. Later, she accused “the barbaric Assad regime” of attacking men, women and children.


“It is simply preposterous to claim that these attacks on civilians have anything to do with fighting terrorism,” Haley said in a statement. “The Security Council must move to adopt a resolution establishing a cease-fire”. But since the Syrian conflict began nearly seven years ago, the Security Council has been deeply divided, with Russia backing President Bashar Assad’s government and the US, Britain and France supporting the opposition. The result has been paralysis and inaction. The proposed Syria humanitarian resolution drafted by Sweden and Kuwait expresses “grave distress” that more than 13.1 million people in Syria need urgent humanitarian assistance and “outrage” at the escalating violence and lack of access to civilians in need. It calls for a cease-fire throughout Syria to begin 72 hours after the resolution’s adoption. It states that 48 hours after a cease-fire starts humanitarian convoys must be allowed “unimpeded and sustained access” and the UN and its partners must be allowed to evacuate urgent cases. The draft resolution also calls for the immediate lifting of sieges including in eastern Ghouta, Yarmouk, Foua and Kefraya.

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