News Flash – 22 June 2017

National News



Government allows district central cooperative banks to exchange old notes



MUMBAI: In a major relief to district central cooperative banks (DCCBs), the Union finance ministry has allowed them to deposit old currency notes lying with them since demonetisation with any RBI branch within 30 days and receive credit for the same. Five days after demonetisation, on November 14 last year, RBI had told DCCBs that they were ineligible to exchange or receive deposits of demonetised currency. The concern was that these banks, being politically connected, might be used for laundering black money. While the DCCBs ceased receiving demonetised notes, they found themselves stuck with them as the central bank refused to exchange them. Worst affected were the banks in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu where the cooperatives play a major role. DCC banks in Maharashtra alone hold nearly Rs 2,270 crore in such old notes. Many of the state cooperatives are controlled by the NCP and the Shiv Sena has a sizeable presence in their workers’ unions.


There are in all 31 DCCBs, of which Pune DCCB has the largest deposit of demonetised notes (Rs 811 crore), followed by Satara DCCB (Rs 399 crore) and Nashik DCCB with Rs 365 crore. With their money in limbo, the Maharashtra DCCBs were finding it difficult to raise money to extend crop loans for the upcoming agricultural season. They were also struggling to meet the government’s directive to provide an advance of Rs 10,000 to every farmer until the larger issue of loan waiver was formalized. Chief executive officer of Kolhapur DCCB, MLA Hasan Mushrif, said, “It is a moral victory for the bank, which has been sitting on Rs 279.78 crore in the form of old denomination notes and incurring losses of Rs 15 lakh as interest on this deposit. The government has not mentioned anything regarding compensation for the interest we have lost. Besides, the note ban tainted our image among the rural masses and has affected our deposit collection”.



SMS reminders for pollution check soon



New Delhi: The Delhi government’s transport department will soon start sending SMS alerts to owners of vehicles requiring pollution under control (PUC) certification. “We will send SMS alerts on mobile phones of vehicle owners, reminding them about renewal of PUC certificates,” said a government official. “For this, we are preparing a database of phone numbers. We don’t have phone numbers of many vehicle owners and that is why, we have asked PUC centres to take down the phone numbers of vehicle owners whenever they come for PUC certification,” the official added. The scheme is aimed at streamlining the PUC system, at the same time also ensuring that owners get their vehicles checked on time. The official said that a large number of vehicle owners don’t get their vehicles checked. The number of vehicles getting regular PUC certification is only a fraction of the number of vehicles registered in the city. “Moreover, some owners also provide fake phone numbers,” the official said.


It is mandatory for every vehicle owner to carry a PUC certificate after the expiry of a period of one year from the date of first registration. A vehicle not carrying a valid PUC Certificate is liable to be penalised by Rs 1000 for first offence and Rs 2000 for every subsequent offence. For vehicles following Bharat Stage (BS) IV emission norms annual PUC certificates are required, while for other vehicles it is mandatory to get PUC certificates every three months. Computerized facilities for checking pollution levels and issuing PUC certificates are available at many petrol pumps and workshops. In all Delhi has 970 PUC centres. The official said that a software has been developed for interlinking databases and sending SMS alerts with the help of the IT department of the Delhi government.



Penalty for traffic violators: Watch a film on road safety



CHENNAI: Imposing a fine on those violating traffic rules, it seems, is passe. A more effective penalty for the offenders, transport authority officials believe, is to make them watch a movie on road safety. On Tuesday, a few bikers caught riding without helmets were simply marched to the nearest RTO and shown a short film, complete with bloody details, on how helmetless travel can result in grievous injury or even death. The documentary, a motor vehicle inspector said, had the desired impact, with one biker saying it was scary and others speaking of how the pain-choked voice of a road accident victim had shattered them. Transport Commissioner Dayanand Kattaria said a copy of the film, which aims at making traffic violators realise the importance of wearing helmets, has been given to every RTO. The film talks about why one should avoid using a mobile phone while crossing a road, the need for car drivers and passengers to wear seat belt, the importance of not driving while drunk, why one should wear a helmet and respecting road rules. It also speaks about the 108 ambulance service.



An added attraction is popular film stars like Nassar, Suriya and Sivakarthigeyan making impassioned appeals on road safety, said the inspector. The next in the line to ‘nail’ violators, Kattaria said, was using speed guns, two of which were launched for North and South Chennai on Wednesday. The advanced guns can detect speeding more than 400 meters away. A former transport department officer said now all highways had toll plazas where sophisticated devices recorded the vehicle number, time and other details. Calculating the time taken by a vehicle from one toll plaza to the next is one way to determine if a motorist is speeding. For example, a vehicle travelling at 80 km an hour will take about 90 minutes to cover 140 km and anyone covering this distance in lesser time is definitely travelling at more than the required speed and should be penalised, he said.



Soon, CCTVs mandatory for commercial establishments and religious places in Karnataka



BENGALURU: Installation of closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs) will soon be made mandatory in all commercial establishments and religious places that have a footfall of 500 persons per day. This rule will be applicable in Bengaluru and other municipal corporations across the state. A bill to this effect, titled “The Karnataka Public Safety (Measures) Enforcement Bill-2017”, was passed in the legislative assembly on Wednesday. Outlining the government’s intention, law minister T B Jayachandra said the bill has been mooted to augment public surveillance and to aid the police in curbing crimes, preventing acts of terrorism and other illegal activities.


The bill makes it mandatory for all establishments – which also includes educational institutes, hospitals, sports complexes, industries, railway stations, bus stations and places of organized congregations – to install CCTVs at their own cost and to make available video recordings of up to 30 days to the designated police authorities as when required during investigation of specific crimes. According to the bill, establishments are required to file periodical returns every three months to the jurisdictional police inspector stating that public safety measures, including CCTVs, have been provided and properly maintained. Those failing to file periodical returns are liable to pay a fine of Rs 2,000 for the first time and Rs 4,000 the second time. The jurisdictional police inspector has been empowered to inspect the establishments to ascertain compliance. Those who refuse to share the CCTV footage will be penalized Rs 5,000.



TN, Kerala account for 70% of dengue cases in country



CHENNAI: In drought-hit Tamil Nadudengue cases have more than doubled this year compared to the same period in 2016. National vector borne disease control programme statistics show that seven out of every 10 dengue cases reported in the country were from Tamil Nadu and Kerala. With 3,259 cases and two deaths in 2017, Tamil Nadu had the second highest number of cases just below Kerala which recorded 4,735 cases. In 2016, Tamil Nadu had 2,500 cases and five deaths. According to officials, drinking water stored in large containers in Chennai and surrounding districts to tide over the water crisis and stagnant rainwater in western districts have led to an explosion in mosquito population. Officials also said the numbers don’t tell the whole truth as only those who tested positive for dengue were reported and those visiting private hospitals may have gone unreported. On Wednesday , at a meeting with chief secretary Girija Vaidhyanathan at the secretariat, public health officials discussed strategies to tide over the crisis and strengthen health surveillance in the border areas. While dengue is a problem in all tropical nations, Tamil Nadu had to tackle with the problem of monsoon and drought, said director of public health Dr. K Kolandaisamy. “We have two extreme conditions to cope with. The common message we give is don’t store water for long or don’t let it stagnate and get all fevers tested,” he said.


The spread of dengue is usually associated with heat and the rainy season, since the Aedes mosquito often comes in contact with humans after breeding in exposed still water. Despite government warnings on open water containers, the crisis has forced many families to store water wherever they can, providing more breeding grounds than usual for mosquitoes. “Health inspectors who check dengue mosquito breeding sites are often not welcome in places where mosquitoes are most likely to breed. We empty water containers that breed mosquitoes and people get visibly upset,” he said. The most number of cases in the state came from Coimbatore, Pollachi, Udumalpet, Palani, Theni, Kadaiyanallur, Kanyakumari and Sankarankoil. “Many areas bordering Kerala were affected after the recent rain. Our officials are coordinating with health department in Kerala to strengthen surveillance. If don’t keep a strong watch, we may have an epidemic there,” he said.



International News



Canadian man charged in stabbing of airport officer in Flint

A police officer stands in the back alley of the home of Amor Ftouhi in Montreal.



FLINT: A police officer was stabbed in the neck at the Flint airport by a man with a knife Wednesday in what authorities are investigating as a possible act of terrorism. The suspect was immediately taken into custody, and federal prosecutors hours later announced the Canadian man was charged with committing violence at an airport. They identified him as Amor Ftouhi of Quebec. The criminal complaint says Ftouhi stabbed Lt. Jeff Neville with a large knife and declared “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great.” The FBI, which is leading the investigation, said Ftouhi said something similar to “you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die”. The FBI added in the criminal complaint that Ftouhi asked an officer who subdued him why he didn’t kill him. Neville was in stable condition after initially being in critical condition. The attack just before 10 am at Bishop International Airport prompted an evacuation and extra security elsewhere in the Michigan city about 50 miles northwest of Detroit. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump was briefed on the stabbing. Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said “everything is on the table” as far as a motive for the attack. He said the primarily regional airport was “shut down and secure” and that no other threats had been identified. Witnesses described seeing the suspect led away in handcuffs by police, Neville bleeding and a knife on the ground.


“The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck,” Ken Brown told The Flint Journal. “I said they need to get him a towel”. Cherie Carpenter, who was awaiting a flight to Texas to see her new grandchild, told Flint TV station WJRT she saw the attacker being led away in handcuffs. She described the man in custody as appearing “blank, just totally blank”. Genesee County Commissioner Mark Young, a friend of Neville’s who retired from the Genesee County sheriff’s office in 1997, said Neville left that department two years after him. He said Neville served in various capacities with the sheriff’s office including in the jail, on road patrol and as a court officer. Neville retired from that department as a lieutenant. Young said he headed to the airport when he learned about the stabbing Wednesday. He said once he got there, he “tried to assess and work with emergency management and emergency response teams from the sheriff’s department, kind of trying to see what was going on”. “Things were chaotic, but very well organized and under control _ how the sheriff’s department was handling things and how Bishop International was handling things,” he said. A few miles away, officials stationed police officers at Flint City Hall after the incident. Mayor Karen Weaver said in a release the situation was “under control” but that officials sought to take “extra precautions”.



ISIS blows up Mosul mosque where Baghdadi became ‘caliph’



BAGHDAD: Jihadists on Wednesday blew up Mosul‘s iconic leaning minaret and the adjacent mosque where their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014 declared himself “caliph” in his only public appearance, an Iraqi commander said. The Islamic State group swiftly issued a statement via its Amaq propaganda agency blaming a US strike but the US-led coalition condemned the destruction as a crime against “the people of Mosul and all of Iraq“. “Our forces were advancing toward their targets deep in the Old City and when they got to within 50 metres (yards) of the Nuri mosque, Daesh (IS) committed another historical crime by blowing up the Nuri mosque and the Hadba” mosque, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah, the overall commander of the Mosul offensive, said in a statement. The destruction of two of Mosul’s best-known landmarks comes on the fourth day of an Iraqi offensive backed by the US-led coalition to take the Old City, where holdout jihadists are making a bloody last stand. It adds to a long list of Iraqi heritage sites and monuments the jihadist organisation has destroyed in Iraq and Syria since Baghdadi created his “caliphate” straddling both countries, almost exactly three years ago. IS proclaimed its self-styled “caliphate” in June 2014, after sweeping across Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland, an unprecedented experiment in jihadist statehood. The Iraq-born Baghdadi appeared at the Nuri mosque in Mosul, Iraq’s second city, days later to declare himself “caliph” and urge the world’s Muslims to move in.


It remains the last public appearance to date for the jihadist supremo, whose fate and whereabouts are currently unclear and whose “state” has been shrinking for two years. Iraqi forces on Sunday launched an assault on the Old City of Mosul, eight months into a huge offensive to wrest back the northern city from the jihadists, who had made it their de facto Iraqi capital. The ancient minaret known as “Al-Hadba” (Hunchback) lies next to the Nuri mosque and was the most loved and recognizable landmark in Mosul, sometimes referred to as Iraq’s Tower of Pisa. The “Hadba” was completed in 1172 and had distinctive ornamental bands of brickwork wrapping around its cylindrical shaft. It started listing centuries ago and has long been considered an endangered monument. The minaret, with its unmistakable shape, was the symbol of the city and featured in many local shops signs and advertisements. It gave its name to countless restaurants, companies and sports clubs. When IS imposed its tyrannic brand of sharia, or Islamic law, in the early stages of its “caliphate”, it destroyed several key heritage sites in Mosul, including the main museum and shrines to Jonah and Seth. It reportedly rigged the “Hadba”, which it sees as the subject of a cult that transgresses its own regressive and ultra-conservative brand of Islam, but was prevented from blowing it up by the local population. “The minaret of Al-Hadba has been here forever, it is part of the history of Mosul, it is the symbol of the city,” Ahmed Thilij Hamed, a 49-year-old resident of a neighbourhood near the Old City, told AFP on Monday.


It had become clear to most in Mosul that IS would not give up its last redoubt in the city without destroying landmarks whose capture by the Iraqi forces would have dealt them a massive symbolic blow. “When the minaret is destroyed, it will be the final blow to Mosul’s heritage because all the other landmarks are gone,” Hamed said. “I will be very sorry, I cannot imagine such a moment”. Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, one of the top commanders of the Counter-Terrorism Service that has spearheaded the fighting against IS, explained why he thought the Nuri mosque and nearby “Al-Hadba” would almost inevitably be destroyed. “The mosque has some symbolism for the terrorist gangs, being the mosque where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave his first sermon” as IS leader, he told AFP on Monday from his command post on the edge of Mosul. “Daesh might blow up these heritage landmarks for psychological reasons,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. “Perhaps they won’t want to leave this place that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took to the security forces and maybe they’ll send a message accusing Iraqi units of destroying them,” he predicted. The US-led coalition which carries out daily air strikes and has advisers on the ground supporting the Mosul operation condemned the destruction. “This is a crime against the people of Mosul and all of Iraq, and is an example of why this brutal organization must be annihilated,” said Major General Joseph Martin.



Philippines says school hostage drama over, 31 captives freed



Islamist militants who stormed a primary school in a southern Philippines town on Wednesday have fled, leaving behind 31 hostages unharmed, including 12 children, a spokesman for the military said. “The enemy made a hasty withdrawal, leaving behind 31 hostages, among them 12 youngsters,” Brigadier General Restituto Padilla told Reuters. Padilla said troops have cordoned off the school because the militants had planted improvised explosive devices around the area. He said troops were pursuing the militants, who are members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

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