News Flash – 23 May 2018

National News



10 killed as cop’s fire on anti-Sterlite protesters in Tuticorin

Police personnel tackles agitators who were demanding the closure of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit as protest enters the 100th day, in Tuticorin, on Tuesday.



TUTICORIN: The movement for the closure of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant turned bloody on the 100th day of the agitation as 10 people, including two women, were killed when police opened fire on rampaging protesters in Tuticorin on Tuesday. Eight people died in police firing at the collectorate in the afternoon when protesters turned violent, while one person was killed in firing at Therespuram locality in the city in the evening. Karthik, 20, a college student, died in a hospital late in the evening. Around 65 people were injured, many of them critically, in the violence. Thousands of protesters had gathered on Tuesday to mark the 100th day of the agitation that began at Kumarattiyapuram village on the outskirts of the city on February 12. NGOs had rallied people demanding the closure of the copper smelting unit which they said was polluting the environment and causing ailments in the neighbourhood. With the TN Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) not renewing its licence, the smelter has remained closed since March. Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palaniswami has ordered an inquiry by a retired high court judge into events that led to the deaths. Governor Banwarilal Purohit, in a separate statement, while condoling the deaths, placed the toll at 11. The CM announced Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the kin of those killed in police firing. While those seriously injured will get Rs 3 lakh, people with minor injuries will get Rs 1 lakh. The CM also promised government jobs to one member of the families of those killed in the firing.


In a statement issued late in the evening, Sterlite Copper said: “It is with great sorrow and regret that we witnessed today’s incidents around the protest at Tuticorin. The company has appealed to the government and authorities to ensure the safety of our employees, facilities and the surrounding community. The Sterlite Copper plant is currently non-operational as we await approval for the consent to operate”. Preparations for picketing the collectorate on May 22 were in full swing when the district administration and police granted permission only for staging a protest at the SAV School ground on that day. This was turned down by a majority of the protesters, following which the collector clamped regulatory orders under Section 144 of CrPC. Around 1,500 police personnel from Tuticorin, Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Dindigul districts were deployed for maintaining. On Tuesday, the protest began around 8.30am near Our Lady of Snows Church close to the city’s old harbor, and the protesters marched towards the collectorate. Police tried to stop them at several points, but in vain. Vastly outnumbered by the protesters, the police personnel fled. As the crowd reached the collectorate, they went on the rampage, damaging and setting ablaze nearly 50 two-wheelers and a dozen four-wheelers. They attacked the collectorate building and the police personnel posted there, leaving a few cops injured. At this point, police retaliated by firing at the mob. Police officers refused to confirm who ordered the firing.


Cops chased down fleeing protesters, beat them up and secured hundreds of them, including those attached to radical outfits. Angered by the firing that left eight protesters dead, the public blocked the vehicle of Tuticorin district superintendent of police P Mahendran. This was when police fired at the crowd that claimed the life of one Vinitha. As the situation went out of control, police strength was increased to around 2,500 later in the day. There was palpable tension the city and the district, with security being beefed up. The bodies of the dead are yet to be handed over to the families. The condition of some of those injured is stated to be critical. The ruling AIADMK, which came in for much flak from opposition parties for the police action, maintained that the firing was warranted as the protesters, despite Section 144 CrPC being in force, went ahead with the march and indulged in violence.



Don’t panic, no Nipah virus patient in Maharashtra, says government



MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government on Tuesday clarified that there was no need to panic as there were no Nipah virus-affected patients in the state. But an advisory will be issued to local bodies, state public health minister Deepak Sawant said. He appealed to people from Maharashtra not to travel to Kerala’s Kozhikode and other places affected by the virus as a precautionary measure. He said, “Nipah is not a new virus, it’s like other viruses. It was found in West Bengal and parts of Siliguri in 1999-2000. People should take preventive measures and not panic.” People should avoid eating fruits fallen from trees in fields, jungles or other places, and isolate the patient. The state also said that if any symptoms are observed, patients should be rushed to BMC’s Kasturba hospital. Private and government hospitals have also been alerted and instructions have been issued to Kasturba and all major government hospitals to start isolation wards, said Sawant.


The minister held a high level meeting on Tuesday at the state secretariat to discuss measures to be taken. The meeting was attended by Dr Pradip Vyas, principal secretary, public health department, Dr Samjeev Kumar, commissioner of National Health Mission, Dr Samjeev Kamble, director, health, Dr Sanjiv Kamble, Dr Om Shrivastava, member of infectious diseases controlling committee, additional campaign director Dr Satish Pawar and others. The likely symptoms are fever, body ache, headache, drowsiness, mental confusion and unconsciousness. The virus is transmitted mainly from animals. The natural hosts of this virus are fruit bats, which may infect an intermediary that could be a plant, or an animal, consumption of which spreads the disease among humans.



JJ doctors call off stir after security boost; 254 buzzers to be put up in two months



MUMBAI: State-run JJ Hospital’s 400-odd resident doctors, who stayed away from work for three days to protest against an assault on colleagues by irate relatives, called off their strike on Tuesday evening after receiving a positive reaction from the state government about their security concerns. The state immediately inducted 28 security personnel and promised more after a review, started work on putting up 254 buzzers at 73 spots and promised to stringently observe entry of relatives into wards. “We felt JJ Hospital needs 282 guards but state officials explained the practical problems and have promised new guards in a phased manner over six months,’’ said Dr Amol Hekare from the Maharashtra Association of Residents’ Association (MARD). Eight new spots got extra guards on Tuesday morning. The state will conduct a review by experts before increasing guards. “We appointed a consultant to guide us about the alarm system. We have decided to get a wired system that requires civil work which will take time,’’ said minister for medical education Girish Mahajan. The state has promised 254 buzzers within two months. “We will implement the pass system more stringently to prevent crowding in wards,’’ said JJ Hospital dean Dr S Nanandkar. Three male relatives had entered a female ward and beat up Dr Atish Parekh and Dr Shalmali Dharmadhikari on Saturday. “A male pushed our female resident against the wall, beat her on her abdomen and back after she fell down. She was severely traumatized,’’ the dean added. Both doctors were discharged on Monday. MARD had wanted the government to ensure adequate stock of life-saving medicines so that relatives don’t need to rush out to purchase them at critical moments. “We have agreed to this and have made provisions for new residents to stay,’’ added the minister. He added that all resident doctors would be trained in grief counselling and communication.



Telangana on alert against Nipah virus



HYDERABAD: Telangana Health Minister C Laxma Reddy on Tuesday said the health department is on alert against the Nipah virus. Talks have been held with the National Institute of Virology at Pune on the tests to determine Nipah, he said. The state government has also spoken to the National Centre for Disease Control(NCDC) in Delhi and Manipal Centre for Virology and Research (MCVR), he said. The government is setting up special wards with five-eight beds in the state-run Osmania, Gandhi, Niloufer and Fever Hospitals in Hyderabad and MGM hospital in Warangal, he said. The government is also making arrangements to collect blood and others samples to determine the virus, he said. He said people should approach the nearest government doctors on noticing symptoms of the virus, and that they should not panic.



Kolkata to get first batch of women traffic cops

The team is being trained for on-road duty.



KOLKATA: They have been growing steadily in numbers. They handle important assignments, including late night duty at important crossings. And now, in a first, lady constables of Kolkata Police will be on vigil on Kolkata streets in their scooterettes either in blue-white or in pink-black shades. The primary job of the new brigade will be to assist cops to help out women on streets seeking help and also help cops pull up female riders who break rules. “You cannot strictly call them traffic cops. Their duty will not be the same as a traffic cop. But yes, the scooterettes — just like the Bullets — will increase our presence on the streets. We will provide all details about them once final deployment and role gets thrashed out,” said a top IPS officer at Lalbazar. Sources said that though this new woman battalion is likely to induct scores of lady constables, around 24 of them were present during their first official appearance at Lalbazar.


On Monday, commissioner Rajeev Kumar went to the Police Training School to inspect the new battalion. “As per our initial plan, some lady constables from here will be deputed to the traffic department for on-road duty. These lady constables will help traffic police in women related matters,” said an IPS officer. “So far, we had women in senior positions but never on the road. Even men cannot easily misbehave with women,” said an officer. The practical problems though remain. Till the other day, most traffic guards did not have a dedicated lady’s toilet. Neither was there any dedicated changing room or a drop-at-home at night. “We are trying to look into the practical problems and address them,” said an official at Lalbazar. Under the present law, woman motorists cannot be pulled up for inspection by policemen in absence of female officers. Male officers posted at traffic pickets have no authority to stop a car with a woman driver. “We need to account for the safety of women officials in our departments as well. Women officials in Kolkata Police are not many, but the numbers are fewer in the traffic department,” a senior traffic officer explained.



Nipah scare: Travellers to be screened for 18 days


BENGALURU: While efforts are on to contain the spread of the Nipah virus in Kerala, an epidemic scare is gripping Karnataka too. Two suspected Nipah virus infection (NiV) cases were reported in Mangaluru on Tuesday. The state health department has directed district administrations to screen persons travelling from areas infected by the virus for 18 days. The deadly viral infection is known to have a mortality rate of 70%. Dr P L Nataraj, director, health and family welfare department, said in both suspected cases reported in Mangaluru, there is an epidemiological link with Kerala. “While one person is from Kasaragod, the other person recently visited Kerala,” Nataraj said. The department has identified the districts of Chamarajanagar, Mysuru, Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Udupi, Shivamogga and Chikkamagaluru as vulnerable. District health officers have been asked to mandatorily report any outbreak of Nipah. The department is not only taking precautions in border areas with Kerala, but also in Shivamogga and Chikkamagaluru, which have a huge population of fruit bats.


District administrations have been asked to identify at least two beds to isolate suspected Nipah cases. “The instructions should be passed to all identified government and private institutions to monitor vital parameters of suspected patients and to record history of patients with flu-like symptoms,” the circular states. “ICU with ventilator should be identified and kept ready to receive emergencies. Healthcare personnel should follow standard precautions when caring for patients with suspected or confirmed NiV and handling specimens”. Dr B G Prakash Kumar, deputy director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, health and family welfare department, said that there is no clarity yet on the source of infection in Kerala. “In Kerala, live tissues of a bat were sent for tests to Bhopal and the results are awaited. We do not yet know whether the infection came from pigs or bats,” he said. Nipah virus does not spread through air, but only through body fluids.



International News



16 killed, 38 wounded by blast in southern Afghan city



KANDAHAR: At least 16 people were killed and 38 wounded on Tuesday when a minivan packed with explosives detonated as security forces were trying to defuse it in southern Afghanistan, officials said. Security forces in Kandahar had already cleared the area around a bus station where the van was found, provincial governor spokesman Daud Ahmadi said. “As the security forces were trying to defuse the van, it detonated,” said police spokesman Mohammad Qasim Azad. “The latest figures show 16 dead and 38 wounded people brought to the hospital. We still have two ambulances at the site because there might be more people under the rubble,” Dr Nehmat Barak, chief of the Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar, said. Ahmadi confirmed the toll, adding that the dead included four security forces personnel. At least five children and 10 members of the security forces were among the wounded. The blast was so powerful that the majority of the casualties were passers-by outside the cleared area. Ahmadi said security forces also found a large container of explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, suicide vests, and ammunition near the site. The terrorists planned to conduct a big attack at end of Ramadan in the city among crowds of people as they went out shopping for Eid… security forces prevented a disaster from happening,” one security official told AFP. No group immediately claimed responsibility.


The blast comes as the Taliban step up their spring offensive across the war-torn country. Last week the insurgent group attacked western Farah city, but were repelled by commandos backed by the Afghan and US Air Force. Yesterday, the Taliban warned Kabul residents to avoid “military centres” in the heavily fortified city, saying they are planning more attacks in the Afghan capital. A US government watchdog also warned yesterday that upbeat assessments of improving security in the country did not match facts on the ground. The Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General said there were “few signs of progress” in the fight against the Taliban. Top US officials and military commanders insist the Afghan security forces which have suffered thousands of casualties and are beset with low morale and corruption are now doing a better job of maintaining order. But the Taliban still control swathes of the country and are staging repeated attacks, while the Islamic State group has conducted a series of high-profile suicide blasts in Kabul and elsewhere.



53 injured as Saudi jet makes emergency landing

An Airbus A330 of Saudia airline company, also known as Saudi Arabian Airlines.



RIYADH: A Saudi Arabian Airlines Airbus A330 jet made an emergency landing in the western Red Sea city of Jeddah, injuring 53 people, aviation officials said on Tuesday. The Saudia aircraft was travelling from the Muslim holy city of Medina to Dhaka with 151 people on board, but had to be diverted to Jeddah late yesterday after it suffered a malfunction in the hydraulic system, the kingdom’s Aviation Investigation Bureau said. Footage posted online showed the plane leaving a trail of flame along the runway as it skidded on its nose before screeching to a halt. “The passengers were evacuated by emergency slides. 52 of them were slightly injured, while one female passenger suffered a fracture during the evacuation and is now receiving treatment,” AIB said in a statement. “AIB has launched an investigation into this accident”. The aircraft circled over Jeddah for several hours as its landing gear failed to drop, forcing the captain to make the emergency landing, Saudi media reported. In a similar incident in January 2014, a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 767 jet made an emergency landing in Medina, injuring 29 people, according to the aviation authority.



Madame Pele, Hawaii’s goddess of volcanoes, awes those living in lava’s path

A woman raises her arms to the sky while watching lava erupt from a volcanic fissure in Kapoho, Hawaii, on May 17, 2018.



PAHOA, Hawaii: When the rivers of lava forced thousands to flee this month, many people on Hawaii’s Big Island pointed with awe toward the drizzle-shrouded volcanic crater where Pele — known as “the woman who devours the earth” — usually dwells. “Our deity is coming down to play,” said Lokelani Puha, 52, a hula dancer and poet who evacuated as the lava encroached, referring to Hawaii’s goddess of volcanoes and fire. “There’s nothing to do when Pele makes up her mind but accept her will”. Hawaiians have endured the overthrow of their kingdom, annexation by the United States and policies aimed at obliterating the Hawaiian language. But in a striking display of the resilience and adaptability of Native Hawaiian culture, the exaltation of Pele has not only persisted through the centuries, but seems to be strengthening with every bone-rattling eruption of Hawaii’s volcanoes. The Kilauea volcano has already laid waste to dozens of homes this month, triggering earthquakes, releasing lethal gases and setting forests ablaze, and on Monday it showed few signs of subsiding. A lava stream over the weekend blocked a highway that people have been using as an escape route. It reached the ocean to produce a caustic plume of acid fumes laced with fine volcanic glass specks. On Monday, a new flow began moving toward a geothermal plant, raising fears over the potential release of volcanic gases from wells on the site. Flying lava shattered a man’s leg while he was on the third-floor balcony of his home on rural Noni Farms Road.


And yet many living in Kilauea’s shadow welcome the eruption, express reverence for Pele and thank her — even when the lava destroys their home. “My house was an offering for Pele,” said Monica Devlin, 71, a retired schoolteacher whose home was destroyed by a lava flow. “I’ve been in her backyard for 30 years,” she reflected, doing the math on when she moved here from Northern California. “In that time I learned that Pele created this island in all its stunning beauty. It’s an awe-inspiring process of destruction and creation and I was lucky to glimpse it”. In a state where ethnic tension sometimes simmers beneath a veneer of tranquility, proclaiming veneration for Pele is something uniting many Native Hawaiians and outsiders, though their methods for doing so often vary. Scholars of Hawaiian culture point out that the honorific name for Pele (pronounced PEH-leh) is Pelehonuamea, incorporating the deity’s sacred connection to the earth, the oceans and the red color of lava. Many Hawaiians call the goddess Madame Pele or Tutu Pele, using an affectionate term for grandmother while making it implicitly clear they are Pele’s descendants. Legends vary as to her origins, but chants suggest Pele followed her star to Hawaii from elsewhere in Polynesia, similar to the seafarers who reached the Hawaiian Islands in an epic feat of navigation and migration around the time Europe was mired in the Dark Ages.


Some say Pele was born in Tahiti to the fertility goddess Haumea, but was forced to flee to Hawaii in a great canoe after seducing the husband of her older sister, the goddess of the sea. At different islands in Hawaii, Pele used her stick to dig out fire pits, forging the archipelago’s magnificent volcanic craters. After the United States formally took control of Hawaii in 1898, appeasing Pele and accepting her force did not seem to be much of an official priority. Before rising to prominence as a general during World War II, George S. Patton, then the Army’s chief intelligence officer in Hawaii, tried bombing the lava flow from the eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano in 1935 in an attempt to divert it. While that tactic had mixed results, some on the Big Island put their faith in making offerings to Pele of items including crystals, money and incense, or foods such as whole cooked piglet and poi, a staple made from the taro plant. Many venture near fissures to place the leaves of the plant, also called the palm lily, in the cracks in the earth. “We believe in 40,000 gods, but Pele is in the highest echelon for obvious reasons,” said Kimo Awai, 67, a hula teacher and lecturer on Hawaiian culture. “Pele created Hawaii; she is that primordial force that exists within all land masses. And she can be vengeful, so watch out”. In Pahoa, a counterculture outpost where ganja smoke wafts through the air, a lava flow in 2014 threatened the town, but in the end destroyed just one home, stopping at the recycling facility. Paintings of Pele, often portrayed as a woman cradling fire in her hands, hang in shops. Visitors can dine at Pele’s Kitchen or stay at a bed-and-breakfast near Volcanoes National Park called Pele’s Breath.


A popular bumper sticker on the four-wheel-drive trucks that ply the bumpy back roads around Pahoa proclaims, “Pele is my home girl”. Some newcomers express an almost erotic fascination with Pele, comparing the experience of getting so close to steaming lava flows to sensual experiences. Richard Schott, 34, a bearded Pennsylvanian who moved here after teaching English in South Korea, trekked barefoot to a remote location in the Malama-Ki Forest Reserve over the weekend where he giddily performed yoga positions within feet of the lava flow. Schott, who goes by the moniker Son of Pele on social media, grinned as the police called on him to retreat. “The energy I’m feeling after seeing Pele up close is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced,” said Schott, racing over the jungle floor without shoes. There are some kanaka maoli, as Native Hawaiians call themselves in their resurgent language, who express irritation over such interpretations of Pele, contending that the deity is growing angry with outsiders settling in the forest without thoroughly learning about her ways. “It’s not the outsiders’ fault,” said Awai, the hula teacher, who has recited chants in recent weeks in an effort to appease the goddess. He emphasized that Puna, the region of the Big Island that is home to Kilauea, holds a position of religious significance in Hawaii that is unfamiliar to some newcomers. “Puna is to believers of Pele what the Vatican City is to Roman Catholics,” Awai said. “The outsiders, some of them, they don’t know any better”.


Aerial image released by the US Geological Survey shows a column of robust, reddish-brown ash plume that occurred after an earthquake shook the Big Island of Hawaii.


Written tales in Hawaiian of Pele flourished in the 19th century, but after Americans outlawed the teaching of the Hawaiian language in schools in 1896 a restriction enduring until the 1970s — the newspapers in which writers published versions of Pele’s ways went under.  In their place, white writers like the mythologist Nathaniel Emerson published their own simplified descriptions of the deity, producing caricatures of her as an excitable goddess or irritable old woman. A new generation of Hawaiian scholars is now seeking to describe Pele in her full complexity. Doing so, however, involves dealing head-on with a deity who remains sacred for many Native Hawaiians. Some feel at ease describing how stoic they can be in accepting the destruction unleashed by Pele, while others express hesitance about divulging too much information about a figure of extreme importance to many people here. Some in the lava’s path are embracing the uncertainty involved in their deity’s dance around the island. “Pele is a shape-shifter who can easily appear in human form,” said Puha, the hula dancer and evacuee who is waiting to see if Pele destroys her home. “If you see her hitchhiking, pick her up. If you have a bottle of gin, even better. Pele, like her descendants, likes a little mischief”.

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