News Flash – 26 July 2018

National News



Police chowky & cars torched, 75 vehicles damaged in rioting


Mumbai: The bandh called by the Maratha Kranti Morcha may not have caused much disruption in Mumbai, but it resulted in largescale violence and arson in Navi Mumbai and Thane. The violence in Kalamboli and Koparkhairane, in particular, in Navi Mumbai continued till late evening, despite the umbrella organisation of Maratha groups having called off its shutdown at 3pm. A mob attacked a police chowky in Koparkhairane and damaged furniture. Earlier in the day, on the Sion-Panvel highway, near Kalamboli, agitators torched a police jeep and damaged a riot control van. Police opened fire in the air as stone-pelting protesters blocked traffic on the Pune Expressway. Cops also used teargas and lathicharge to disperse a mob at Nitin junction in Thane which, armed with rods, was intimidating motorists and forcibly emptying buses and auto rickshaws. Crowds burnt tyres at traffic junctions and damaged vehicles in Vashi, Ghansoli, Airoli, Kamothe and Kharghar in Navi Mumbai. Though life in Mumbai’s suburbs was affected to some extent, south Mumbai was largely unaffected. At Mankhurd, a mob hurled Molotov cocktails at a BEST bus, burning its seats, and breaking its panes and the windscreen, sources said. Nobody was hurt. In Mumbai, schools and colleges remained open and offices saw full attendance. However, children were asked to get off a school bus in Koparkhairane, and another school with branches in Gorai and Kandivli was shut after its buses were stopped and drivers threatened.



Flood claims rise, insurers levy higher premiums in low-lying areas


Mumbai: On the penultimate day of August last year, a sudden downpour caused the Dahisar River to overflow. The river broke through the wall of the nearby Shantivan multi-storey complex, swamped its line of ground-floor shops and restaurants, and drowned parked cars. It also carried away the neighbourhoods Ganpati. The damage was almost as bad as it had been in the 2005 floods. Society members were thankful their building was insured. But when the time for claims came, they were shocked —only the structure was covered, not its contents. In Europe and the US, flood damage to homes and businesses are mostly covered by insurance. But the scenario is quite the opposite in Asia, where natural hazard exposure is high but insurance penetration is among the lowest in the world. Just 11% of the losses in Mumbai’s 2005 floods were covered by insurance. Insurers attribute the low numbers to lack of awareness and to cultural factors like the tradition of relying on family and friend networks during times of hardship. Or even, to what surveyor Sarabjit Singh Bright called “a habit of not thinking about the future”. That may change if natural calamities increase. Insurers are seeing flood claims rise and fall reflecting the recent spate of cyclones and floods. Residential flood claims peaked in 2015 for ICICI Lombard, probably because of the Chennai floods. Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, on the other hand, is seeing a consistent rise in flood claims. These accounted for 47% of all claims made under its Standard Fire and Special Perils Policy.


Mumbai had the highest percentage of flood claims among five major cities in 2017, said Bajaj. Flood claims in the city have tripled in the past four years, said the company. The absolute number of claims may not run very high. Nevertheless, they reveal something about the calculus of risk, tolerance and loss in flood-prone Mumbai. For one, insurers often see a spike in enquiries from home owners immediately after a calamity. “But once the fear passes, they forget,” said KG Krishnamoorthy Rao, CEO and MD of Future General India Insurance. “Even if they take a policy, they’ll forget to renew the next year”. Given low penetration and high competition—there are some 25 private insurers and several public ones—one might think that insurance would be a buyers’ market. But that’s not the case in a chronically flooded city. Insurers have their own flood maps and revise them frequently with field visits, said Sasikumar Adimadu, chief technical officer at Bajaj Allianz General Insurance. Insurers charge higher premiums in low-lying areas or try to avoid them entirely. One way of doing that is to name such an astronomical premium that “they will run away”, said an agent. Premiums for low-lying areas can be 15-40% higher. No-go areas include flood prone Bhiwandi and Gandhi Market at King’s Circle. In the case of Bhiwandi, large companies with bank loans will pay high premiums for the mandatory insurance. In Gandhi Market, however, shopkeepers must go to a public insurer if they want a policy. Few do, they said, because of the hassle of getting claims settled.


One problem, says surveyor Bright, is that people don’t pay attention to policy details at the time of signing up. That’s what happened to Shantivan in Borivali East. Former society chairman Gajanan Pednekar said they discovered too late that their policy did not cover the lift or motor. The society ended up paying Rs 75,000 for repairs. Insurance is going to be important in future, says Archana Patankar, an economist who has studied flood loss in the city. For now, many small enterprises simply build flood risk into their business model. “Flooding is here to stay,” Patankar said, “The only question is how much flooding can you tolerate?”. That calculus is evident at Masrani Industrial Estate in Kurla, near the Mithi River. The Masrani family’s auto-component manufacturing unit is routinely flooded in the monsoon, thanks to its low-lying ground and the area’s garbage-clogged drains. After 26/7, the unit was shut for a month and the company filed a Rs 60 lakh claim. It took a year to settle and their premiums skyrocketed. Now, the Masranis don’t claim smaller, annual flood losses. They’ve placed their machinery on a platform and raised the height of the managers’ office. Everyone works in gumboots. “And sometimes,” says Ravi Masrani, “there’s nothing you can do but wait for the rain to calm down and take the day’s loss”.



Short-staffed cybercrime squad saddled with a barrage of cases


Bengaluru: Human resources at the city cybercrime police station are being stretched to the limit with each of its 21 personnel handling at least one fresh case every day. The station, which began operations in May 2017, has received 4,423 criminal cases and 4,759 non-cognizable ones till June 30 this year, according to police statistics. This means it gets an average of 21 complaints every day. The police station, located on the premises of the police’s commissioner’s office on Infantry Road, has one inspector, two sub-inspectors, three assistant sub-inspectors, three head constables and 12 constables on its rolls. What’s worse, it has only one official vehicle — a Mahindra Bolero jeep. “Most of the time, the jeep is used to ferry an accused to court/prison. Officers have to use other transport modes like cabs, autos, Metro or private vehicles to go around the city for investigation,” a staffer rued. The staff shortage is reflecting on the sleuths’ performance. An abysmal 8.5% of the cognizable criminal cases have been cracked till now — 300 in 2017 and 75 in the first six months of 2018. In the first 14 months of the station’s existence, cybercrime police have arrested 93 accused: 35 in 2017 and 58 in the first half of 2018. Station personnel say they put in at least 13 hours of work every day. “Cybercrime investigation is different as we have to approach third parties like social media entities, banks, cyber cafes and private individuals on a regular basis.


Also, we depend only on the internet, computer and other devices used in the crime to gather evidence. This kind of investigation, involving more machines than humans, takes its own time. On an average, we need at least 40 days to ensure that a case reaches its logical conclusion,” the officer explained. “We need more staff. Logically speaking, at least three personnel, including an inspector, are required to handle 50 cases at a time. There should be separate staff to receive complaints and register cases. Field officers, who work on cases and carry out the investigation, shouldn’t have to double as receptionists,” said another officer. This is the only station that exclusively deals with cybercrime. Most police stations forward cybercrime complaints to this station since it’s technically equipped to handle them. Criminal cases are registered in case of complainants getting affected, physically or financially, while non-cognizable reports are registered in cases where there are threats issued and inducements offered without anyone falling victim to them. Financial frauds that go beyond Rs 50 lakh in case of debit/credit cards and Rs 1 crore in case of online transactions are forwarded to the cybercrime station under the CID.



Now, fly out of Bengaluru airport easily if you have only a handbag

EASY AND FAST: India’s first express security check facility for domestic passengers was started at Hyderabad airport about a year ago.



New Delhi: Domestic flyers travelling with just handbags may soon be able to go straight to security checkpoints at major airports. Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has asked large airports to have “express security check facility” for such passengers to reduce congestion at check-in and frisking areas. A senior CISF official said, “The country’s first express security check facility for domestic passengers travelling with just hand baggage was started at Hyderabad airport about a year ago. An enclosure with three pre-embarkation security check (PESC) facilities with one booth for women and five for men was placed close to departure gate number 1”. Enthused by the result, the security force now wants similar facilities at other large airports. “The load on check-in area can be reduced as passengers with hand baggage and with printed boarding cards can straightaway go to a dedicated PESC. This will reduce waiting time for passengers in other security hold areas,” said the official. A spokesperson of Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) said, “The security infrastructure at IGI is adequate to handle the current passenger traffic. On average, a passenger takes only 1.2 minutes to clear the security check. These efficiencies have been achieved through regular monitoring and cooperation from CISF.


DIAL is taking into consideration all proactive measures in the future terminal design, which can further enhance passenger experience and throughput”. Severe congestion at PESC is one of the main points identified by CISF that did not see capacity expansion at choked Indian airports even as traffic grew manifold in the recent past. It is now pushing for hi-tech automatic tray retrieval system (ATRS) or hand baggage belts at security checkpoints. “We are asking airports to have ATRS that are able to scan boarding cards of passengers when they put their bags in trays for scanning. Handbags that have been cleared will reach the other side to be picked by passengers after they have been frisked. With boarding cards scanned, our staff will know who the bags that need further checks belong to and they will be called for opening them,” said the official. While CISF is pushing for these changes inside terminals, passengers will soon notice a change when they alight from their vehicles outside. The number of sniffer dogs is going to be increased substantially at terminal entry points at all airports, beginning with the large ones.



40 more spots to get speed cameras


Kolkata: The police have identified 40 spots where they want to put up the specialized Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras that can register speeding and simultaneously generate traffic chalan. These spots are likely to cover some of the most accident-prone stretches of the city like Basanti Highway, Central Garden Reach Road, Lake Gardens and Diamond Harbour Road and some with heavy traffic like BT Road and EM Bypass. The thrust will be to cover the new areas of Kolkata, especially on the fringes,” an officer said. Lalbazar sources said tenders for the installations have been floated based on two requirements – to record the volume of traffic at a particular crossing and to identify speeding vehicles across the city. “Many drivers know there are three ANPR systems on Maa flyover and are aware that they need to control speed. There are only a couple of those on BT Road. We want them all over the city so that motorists think twice before breaking the speed limit that will attract penalty,” he said The tender document specified that vehicles going up to a speed of 120kmph will be detected by these cameras. “The set up will generate citation notices through the existing system of generation of challans.


Accuracy of counting vehicles at any time should be around 90%. In addition, the system shall perform OCR (Optical Character Recognition) in real time. The system will also identify vehicles marked as ‘wanted’, ‘suspicious’ and ‘stolen’ using in-house data,” the tender document read. “Additionally, they will allow stitching of multiple lane videos,” the tender documents stated. The cops want 15 ANPR cameras, each for three and two-lane roads and 10 each for single-lane ones. Apart from the usual accident ‘hotspots’, names of certain roads, which were considered harmless till now, have cropped up in the mapping. EM Bypass topped the accident-prone zones’ list. James Long Sarani emerged as a deadly stretch after it was turned into a high-speed corridor. The cameras will be set up on Strand Road and Taratala Road, too, as accidents have been rising in these areas.



Met spies heavy rain today; deficit dips after recent spells


Kolkata: This week’s drizzles and occasional heavy downpours have reduced the rain deficit in Kolkata to 23% in July. While the rain count in Gangetic Bengal is still in the red, Kolkata now has a seasonal excess of 13%, which could rise by July, according to the Met office. A cyclonic circulation over Bangladesh is set to trigger heavy showers in the city on Thursday and Friday. The seasonal deficit in Gangetic Bengal stood at 23% till Wednesday. Till last week, Kolkata’s rain count in July was 51% below normal. While the deficit was big, it has dropped considerably after last week’s depression over north-west Bay of Bengal. “Monsoon rain is driven by systems like the one that had hit Odisha last week. The more we have them, the higher will be the rain count. But there are bound to be dry periods in between when the deficit will be pushed up. We had seen such a lean period, which is now over. Presently, there is a cyclonic circulation over Bangladesh, which is set to trigger showers over the next 48 hours,” said Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) director GK Das. If the circulation triggers a spell of heavy rain, Kolkata’s July deficit will further fall while the seasonal excess will climb, added Das.


July 2017 has been the second wettest in Kolkata since 2008 with rain count clocking a phenomenal 72% above the normal mark for the month. The city was drenched by showers at regular intervals with almost equal intensity. Only once in the last decade has Kolkata received more rain in July and that was in 2015. In July 2017, Kolkata received 621.5 mm of rain. July and August are the rainiest monsoon months. The normal July rain count in Kolkata is 522 mm. Now, Kolkata has a healthy seasonal excess of 13%. “It had rained heavily during the last week of June. The beginning of monsoon was dry this year, though. The monsoon trough came to a halt for 10 days, immediately after the onset of monsoon in June. In fact, Kolkata had the warmest day of the year after the onset of monsoon, something which has not happened in at least 25 years,” said a Met official. Low-pressures and circulations were more frequent in July 2017, pointed out weathermen. “This July has been relatively dry, resulting in a monthly deficit. But the seasonal excess hasn’t been neutralized, thanks to the drizzles that continued. Since monsoon rain happens in cycles, we are now entering a wet period,” said Das.



App helps Chennai Police clear 1.20 lakh passports in 5 months



Chennai: After the M-passport scheme was introduced in Tamil Nadu on February 10 to speed up the verification process, police in Chennai cleared about 1.20 lakh passports, highest in the state, till July 24. They now have only 2,500 verifications pending. Under the system, the designated intelligence department official has the M-passport app installed in an iPad to access data shared by the regional passport office (RPO) at passport seva kendra (PSK). This activity is also monitored by the inspector of the passport section. This, police say, has helped reduce the verification period to less than a week. As soon as an individual completes the procedure for a passport at the RPO or a PSK, the details are sent to the iPad of the police officer who makes a house visit and provides remarks. This then goes to the police inspector who will relay it to the passport authorities for immediate issuance. The process earlier lasted longer than a month. The details of an applicant were sent to the police passport section within three days and were then dispatched to the intelligence section. A couple of days later, the file would reach a field-level police officer who would personally visit the address for a check before sending it to the police inspector. The file would then return to the passport office for dispatch to the applicant by post.



International News



41 killed in IS terror attack, other poll-related violence in Pakistan


Islamabad: At least 41 people, including six police officials, were killed and nearly 50 injured in terror attacks and separate election-related violence across Pakistan on Wednesday. Around 11am, just three hours after the country-wide polling began, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside a polling station in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s restive southwestern Balochistan province, killing at least 31 people, five of them policemen, and injuring 40 others. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq website. “On Wednesday morning, a suicide bomber blew himself up after he was stopped from entering a school, which was serving as a polling station,” Quetta police said. The death toll was feared to go up as doctors at Quetta’s civil hospital declared the condition of several wounded persons, including a senior police official Muhammad Hameed, critical. According to Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS), 18 to 20 kilograms of explosives were used in the attack. Following the suicide bombing, the polling process was temporarily halted at the polling station.


At another polling station, in Koshk village of Khuzdar district in Balochistan, a policeman was killed and three others injured in a grenade attack. It was followed by firing at a polling station in Naseerabad town of Balochistan, injuring two people. Earlier, a shooting between supporters of secular Awami National Party (ANP) and Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf left one person dead and two wounded in Swabi district of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Clashes were also reported in Mardan, Rajanpur, Khipro and Kohistan regions of the country that left at least seven persons dead. Polling was also halted at a polling station in Larkana, the hometown of slain ex-PM Benazir Bhutto, where a cracker blast killed one person and left four injured. At least 203 people were killed in the weeks leading up to the elections, with a series of suicide attacks targeting election rallies throughout the country. On July 13, 154 people were killed in an attack on a political rally in the southwestern city of Mastung, the second deadliest attack on Pakistani soil in the run-up to polls. The Mastung blast was also claimed by the IS.



Pak-origin man behind Toronto mass shooting claimed by IS



Toronto: A Pakistan-origin man has been identified by the Canadian police as the gunman who killed two persons and injured 13 others in a mass shooting incident in Toronto claimed by the Islamic State terror group. Faisal Hussain, 29, was suffering from psychosis and was getting professional help, Canada’s public broadcaster CBC News reported. IS said Hussain was “one of the soldiers of the Islamic State”. “He carried out the attack in response to calls to target nationals of countries of the coalition” fighting IS since 2014, the outfit’s propaganda agency Amaq reported on Wednesday. Toronto Police chief Mark Saunders, however, said officials have found no evidence to support the Islamic State’s claim. Saunders said officials will continue to explore every investigative avenue, including interviews and reviewing the online activity and mental health experiences of Hussain. The Ontario special investigations unit said it was releasing his name due “to the exceptional circumstances of this tragic incident”. A resident of Toronto, Hussain, who worked in a grocery store, was not on any federal watch lists associated with the national security. His family, originally from Pakistan, said their son was in the grips of untreatable and severe mental illness for “his entire life”. Eight years ago, Hussain had disclosed to his friend that he was suffering from psychosis and was getting help.

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