News Flash – 23 April 2018

National News



Nearly 1,000 bikes/km on roads, experts alarmed


MUMBAI: The number of two-wheelers on city roads is growing at an alarming pace, with 975 bikes for every km of road in Mumbai currently. It translates to nearly 1 bike per metre, while the length of an average two-wheeler is around 1.8 metres. The total population of bikes and scooters will cross the 20 lakh mark in just two to three months, according to the state transport department’s latest statistics, and this could lead to more congestion and pollution. Taking cognizance of these figures, the city RTOs plan to lay special emphasis on preventing mishaps due to reckless driving by bikers and also create awareness on the compulsory use of helmets. This will part of the ‘Road Safety Fortnight’, which will be launched by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday morning. Newly appointed state transport commissioner Shekhar Channe said that the road safety campaign will deal with general awareness on safe driving, aspects of traffic rules and habits such as compulsorily wearing helmets. “We are concerned with the rising number of bikes and scooters and will make efforts to ensure riders follow proper rules and wear helmets to prevent fatal mishaps,” he said. “The number of two-wheelers is rising exponentially, even as the city’s road length remains almost the same at around 2,000 km,” said another transport official.


Transport experts pointed out that motorcycles were a “scourge” in urban areas as they made a lot of noise while at the same time speeding bikes posed a hazard to road safety. “We often come across bikers jumping signals, driving in wrong direction and failing to stop at Zebra lines. There is need to inculcate self-discipline,” said A V Shenoy of Mumbai Transport Forum. “I feel that the government has failed to provide proper public transport for citizens,” said Arun Mhetre, an office-goer from Mulund. “With poor frequency of bus services and refusals by autos, it is better to purchase a two-wheeler to commute 2-3 km to the station daily,” he said. Motorcycle and scooter sales have gone up significantly in recent years, with the need for a two-wheeler for running errands, dropping child to school and coaching class, or to travel from home to station daily being some of the reasons. Many two-wheeler owners are women and college students, an official said. The statistics released by transport department show that the bike density was 522 bikes per km of road in 2010-11. This has gone up by more than 85% in seven years. “Nearly 12 lakh two-wheelers were registered in the past one decade,” an official said. Transport expert Sunil Mone said, “I call bikes flying polluting machines. They should be curbed as much as possible”.



Caught on camera: Youth dragged, crushed by bus


NEW DELHI: A 22-year-old man was crushed by a speeding bus in east Delhi’s Madhu Vihar on Saturday afternoon. A CCTV camera installed in a shop captured the chilling incident in which the victim was dragged for several metres until the driver was forced by passengers to stop the bus. The incident was reported around 2pm. A police team rushed the victim, Sonu Choudhary, to a nearby hospital where he was declared brought dead. The driver, identified as Sukhpal Singh (49), was nabbed while trying to flee the spot. Chaudhary had come to Delhi from Bihar just 20 days ago. He had gone to meet a couple of friends on Friday. He was returning with them when the incident took place. The man had gone to buy a soft drink while his friends waited for him on the other side of the road. The cluster bus hit him while he was crossing the road. CCTV footage showed Choudhury crossing the road. After the bus hits him, it slows down slightly. The man tries to regain balance, but before he can do that he is hit again by the bus. After crushing him under the wheels, the bus drags him for several meters before finally coming to a halt. “When his friends raised an alarm and started shouting for help, the driver got scared and kept going. He didn’t know that Choudhary was under the wheels and getting dragged along,” said a police officer. A case has been registered at Madhu Vihar police station.



Alert neighbours foils kidnapping bid


NEW DELHI : An alert neighbours prevented the kidnapping of a one-year-old girl in outer Delhi’s Mangolpuri area on Saturday. The girl was playing outside her home when a man picked her up and started walking away. A woman, who was sitting nearby, saw the man and alerted others in the locality who nabbed the man. According to the police, the accused was identified as Yashpal. Locals thrashed Yashpal before handing him over the cops. Initial probe revealed that the incident took place on Saturday afternoon when the child was playing outside her house. In a CCTV footage that captured the incident, the accused is seen wearing a blue shirt and walking around the house. Yashpal then stops by and after looking around to ensure that no one is watching him, picks up the child and starts walking away. Cops said that as the accused was walking with the child, a woman, who was sitting outside her house recognised her and asked the man who he was and where he was taking the girl. The accused tried to dodge the questions, which raised the suspicion of the woman. She raised an alarm and called in the neighbours and the girl’s father, Ajay. Yashpal, who works in a gas agency, was frisked by the locals who found around 100 tablets in his pocket. He was beaten up and handed over to the police. Locals suspected that the accused wanted to sexually assault the child. During questioning, Yashpal told the cops that he had conducted a recce around the house beforehand. Cops are interrogating him to ascertain if he had committed similar offences in the past.



Huge withdrawals come under I-T scanner, ATMs see 80% cash load

Customs form a queue to collect cash from an ATM at the head office of SBI in Koti Bank street on Friday.



HYDERABAD: Even as cash availability in ATMs in Hyderabad and Secunderabad touched close to 80% on Friday, heavy cash withdrawals dampened the euphoria as ATMs were quickly getting dried up. In fact, cash availability in Karimnagar went a few notches up by recording 91% but withdrawals continued to peak as the day wore on. Apart from Hyderabad, Rangareddy district saw huge withdrawals when compared with other districts in Telangana. With withdrawals seeing an upward trend all day, the income-tax department has begun making enquiries about individuals withdrawing large sums in a series of transactions at ATMs and in bank branches. Sources said that IT sleuths are taking information from the banks on those who withdrew large amounts. But, what could cheer the people is the fact that ATMs are getting cash refilling’s thrice a day. State Bank of India Hyderabad circle chief general manager J Swaminathan told TOI, “We have airlifted supplies from other states. In Karimnagar, cash availability in ATMs is 91% and in other districts it’s around 80-85%.


But, Hyderabad and Secunderabad remain a big challenge as withdrawals are more. Undoubtedly, residents of the city are withdrawing more cash”. Sources said cash was airlifted from surplus states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Major banks received supplies of 300 crores to 500 crores each to fill their ATMs. Swaminathan said they are also ensuring supplies to rural and semi-urban areas with the arrival of cash from RBI. “SBI ATM’s in Hyderabad and Secunderabad are reporting 80% cash availability. We received more supplies on Friday evening as we do not want the public to face cash crunch during the weekends,” he asserted. Bank of India reported 100%cash in ATMs, while IDBI had 94%, Axis Bank 84%, Canara Bank 78%, SBI 75, Andhra Bank 73%, Indian Overseas Bank 73% and Syndicate Bank 72%. Meanwhile, the cash management committee said focus was on rural and semi-urban areas and to fill up the cash chests.



Tamil Nadu plans to setup a control centre to monitor taxis and buses



CHENNAI: The state transport department is planning to set up a control centre to monitor all registered taxis and buses involved in public transportation. In an attempt to improve passenger safety, the Union road transport ministry in January set an April 1 deadline for the installation of GPS-based tracking devices and emergency or panic buttons in the above-mentioned category of vehicles for registration. This deadline was extended for a year as many states including Tamil Nadu did not set up control centres thereby turning the exercise futile. There needs to be a control centre to respond to the alarms raised through the panic buttons and track vehicles through GPS, said a ministry official on condition of anonymity. “Without this setup in place, installing such devices would not serve the intended purpose,” he added. Once the order originally came into effect in April 1, the cost of these automobile products shot up, both in the open and grey market. Sale of spurious devices too spiked up in the city’s suburbs attracting raids by the police. Old and duplicate parts were rented out by brokers, gathered outside RTOs, for the sake of registration, said Raja (name changed), driver of an app-based taxi. “Many opted to pay Rs 500- Rs 1,000 demanded by these brokers instead of spending Rs 4,000- Rs 10,000 towards permanent installation of these devices”. Responding to this, an RTO from Chennai said that it was impossible to check the genuineness and installation status of these devices.


Even before the ambiguity surrounding the issue could be resolved, the Centre has put the orders on hold thereby giving Tamil Nadu a break to set things right. As a first step, the state transport department is planning to submit a proposal to set up control centres in all districts and integrate them. “Setting up such centres is not completely new for the state. We have successfully two such centres — for autos and police patrol vehicles — in Chennai city. The recent proposal under consideration would be an extension of the same,” said a senior official from the transport department. The challenge would be in integrating data received from every nook and corner of the state to the control centre in the headquarters given the magnitude of vehicles involved in public service. At present, more than 20 lakh commercial vehicles are playing on TN roads and 10% among them were categorised as public service vehicles including call taxis, tourist buses and vehicles used by educational institutions. “We expect the government to come out with a fare slab for these devices so that automobile firms do not fleece us,” the taxi driver added.



International News



Gunman kills four at Tennessee restaurant

Bullet holes are seen at a Waffle House after a fatal shooting in the Antioch neighborhood of Nashville, Sunday, April 22, 2018



WASHINGTON: A nude gunman shot dead four people and injured at least four more in the early hours of Sunday at a restaurant on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, police said. The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said in a statement that the shooting occurred at a Waffle House restaurant in Antioch, a suburb southeast of Nashville, at 3:25 am (0825 GMT). “A patron wrestled away the gunman’s rifle. He was nude and fled on foot. He is a white man with short hair,” the statement added. A following statement named 29-year-old Travis Reinking, of Morton, Illinois- a village located some 450 miles north of Antioch- as a person of interest. Police said the suspect arrived in a car registered to Reinking. They added the gunman, who had shed his coat, was last seen walking on Murfreesboro Pike, where the 24-hour diner is located. Local media citing police on the scene reported the gunman was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle- a weapon commonly used by mass shooters in the US, where debate over gun control is fierce and shootings are all-too-frequent.


Reports added at least one victim was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, located in Nashville itself. AR-15 rifles were used to kill 58 people in Las Vegas last October, while Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz in February opened fire on his former high school with an AR-15 style rifle, killing 17 students and staff members. In the wake of the Florida massacre, student survivors launched a gun control campaign- drawing hundreds of thousands to demonstrations- and businesses including Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods took measures to restrict access to assault weapons and firearms in general. However, Congress is sitting on its hands when it comes to the issue. Meanwhile, an ABC News/Washington Post poll published Friday suggested that support for a ban on assault weapons has risen sharply in the past few months. Sixty-two percent of those polled said they support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, up from 50 percent in mid-February and 45 percent in late 2015.



Tourists at iconic French abbey evacuated after threat

Police attend the scene of an evacuation at Mont Saint-Michel, on France’s northern coast, on Sunday April 22, 2018.



PARIS: French authorities evacuated tourists from the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey and were searching houses Sunday on the famed outcropping in the English Channel for a visitor who apparently threatened to attack security services. Details of the threat were unclear, but the national gendarme service said authorities ordered the evacuation of one of France’s most-visited tourist sites as a precaution. A police helicopter circled over the peninsula, notably famous for being isolated by high tides, and the surrounding region. A shuttle service official told The Associated Press that large crowds are being evacuated or turned away but the mood is calm. The abbey, whose origins date to the 10th century, and surrounding sites attract several thousand tourists every day, year-round. There was contradictory information about the circumstances of the threat. An official with the national gendarme service said the man made the threat Sunday on one of the shuttles serving the site.


The head of the regional administration, Jean-Marc Sabathe, told broadcaster France TV info that the man made the threat when he was trying to stage a street performance and got in an argument with a cafe worker. He said the man was caught on video surveillance cameras. “I am ordering house-by-house searches to verify if the individual is still on Mont-Saint-Michel. It’s possible that the individual left the Mont with the flux of tourists,” Sabathe said. Hotels on the Mont were being evacuated, but its few permanent residents were being told to stay indoors, the site’s administrator, Xavier Bailly, told broadcaster France-Bleu from his home.



Two Chinese dragon boats capsize in river, 17 killed



BEIJING: Two dragon boats practicing to race on a river in China have overturned and 17 people drowned, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday. Television pictures showed one of the long, narrow boats packed with paddlers going over on Saturday on a stretch of a river near the city of Guilin where the current appeared to be strong. Another dragon boat arrived at the scene, also full of paddlers, and it too capsized, the pictures showed.  Xinhua said 57 people had gone into the water and 200 rescuers were sent to help. The rescue effort went on late into the night. The accident happened where two flows of the river converge causing a powerful current, the CCTV broadcaster said. Most of those who went into the river were not wearing life jackets, media reported. Two people had been detained in connection with the accident, Xinhua said. Dragon boat racing is popular in various parts of Asia and the Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional holiday in China, this year on June 18.



Two suicide bombers kill four in north Nigeria mosque



KANO: Two suicide bombers killed four Muslim worshippers in a mosque in a northeast Nigerian town still being rebuilt after virtual destruction by Boko Haram in 2014, sources said today. The bombers, a man and a woman, detonated their explosives inside the mosque during morning prayers on Saturday in the town of Bama in Borno state. The pair “blew themselves up in a mosque while people were praying” Baba Shehu Gulumba, Bama local government chairman, told AFP. An earlier toll listed three deaths. “Another victim died at the hospital in Maiduguri,” taking the toll to four, Shehu Gulumba later told AFP. A senior military officer in Bama earlier confirmed that three people had died, adding that nine people were also injured. “Some of the injured are in a critical condition and may hardly make it. They have been transferred to Maiduguri for better medical care,” said the military officer, who asked not to be named. The attack came two weeks after residents began returning to the town which was destroyed by Boko Haram four years ago. Bama, a major trading hub on the road to Cameroon and home to 270,000 people, was captured in September 2014, forcing residents to flee to Maiduguri, the state capital. When it was retaken by the Nigerian military in March 2015, 85 percent of the town had been demolished by the jihadists.


Borno state officials said it would require 40 billion naira (94 million euros, USD 111 million) to rebuild the town, a staggering amount in the impoverished region. According to officials 11,000 homes had been rebuilt which residents said represent one-third of those destroyed. On April 5 the state’s information commissioner Mohammed Bulama said 1,200 people had returned to the town in a phased resettlement of the 100,000 displaced residents living in camps in Maiduguri. Boko Haram has been notorious for suicide attacks on civilian and military targets in response to army offensives that have put pressure on the militant group. Recent days have seen a lull in such attacks. However on Friday 10 people including four militia fighting the militants were injured when two female suicide bombers attacked Amarwa village in Konduga district, 38 kms from Maiduguri, according to militia sources.

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