News Flash – 26 September 2018

National News



Phone theft on trains up 1,000% in a year as GRP starts registering FIR’s


Mumbai: A little over 2,000 cases of cellphone theft on local trains were registered in 2016. In the years before that, the numbers were similar or much smaller (see graphic). But last year, over 20,700 such cases were registered—a more than 10-fold rise. By the end of this year, the number is projected to cross the 25,000 mark. What explains this sudden increase?. It turns out that before 2017, the government railway police (GRP) didn’t take cellphone theft complaints seriously. But in the beginning of that year, police higher-ups decided to crack down on burking—a practice whereby the police water down cases by registering mild, non-cognizable offences instead of FIRs. Now, when someone approaches a GRP unit with a cellphone theft complaint, an FIR is promptly filed. “Hiding such offences is not the remedy. We have adopted a zero-tolerance policy and ordered all railway police units to register cases which they would earlier ignore,” said additional director general of police (railways) Jaijeet Singh. “This is the reason why the number of registered cases has increased dramatically”. A source said GRP units used to avoid registering cellphone theft cases to maintain a low crime record. “The thinking was that a high number of cases reflected badly on them and invited criticism from the public. But then senior officers acted against some GRP officials for underreporting cases to send a strong signal down the line”.


Singh said the GRP has requested an increase in manpower to deal with cellphone theft cases. Now that such cases have officially increased, it has put a huge investigative burden on the force. An official said Mumbai GRP has only 228 investigating officers, and each handles 112 cases on an average—the highest of any GRP jurisdiction in the state. In comparison, the city police have nine cases per officer. “The state government has agreed to our request for personnel, but it needs financial approval from the railway board,” said Singh. Calling for preventive measures, a senior officer said, “In almost all the cases, it was found that cellphone thieves were travelling ticketless. This indicates that they randomly roam around on trains, in search of opportunity. There should be access control at railway stations, just like at metro rail stations, which will help curb crime”. TIMES VIEW: If burking has gone down, it is a welcome step in the right direction. But a pat on the back is not what is deserved here: it’s simply that the railway cops were not doing their fundamental duty earlier, and now they have started doing it. That’s a beginning. The pat will come once cases are cracked swiftly and incidents of crime actually reduced on the railway network. And then it will be truly deserved.



Prices soar, thieves steal 80 Litres of Diesel in Nashik



Nashik: Criminals are turning their attention to petrol and diesel due to the skyrocketing prices of the fuels. Three men allegedly emptied 80 litres of diesel from the tank of a truck after assaulting its driver, Bhimsingh Chandansingh of Haryana, on Sunday morning in Chunchale Shivar area of Ambad. The trio, Dnyaneshwar Ambore (30), Nitesh Kalynankar (22) and James Martin (38), have been arrested and have confessed to the crime. Chandansingh had parked his truck in front of a restaurant in the industrial area on Sunday. Suddenly, three men arrived on a bike and started beating him up. One of the suspects snatched the keys and drove the vehicle to Chunchale Shivar, about 3km away. The other two forced Chandansingh to sit on their bike and followed the truck. The trio allegedly roughed him up and threatened him before stealing the diesel. But an injured Chandansingh lodged a complaint. Sub-inspector Mithun Mhatre told TOI that the trio may have taken the fuel for personal use or for selling it. “We are investigating the matter”.



Rohtang tunnel helps in rescue of 300 Tourists



Shimla: The under construction Rohtang tunnel is proving to be the lifeline for hundreds of tourists and other people, stranded in Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul-Spiti district after the region was caught in unusually heavy snowfall. As many as 306 people were rescued and brought to Manali through the tunnel on Monday. Manali SDM Raman Garsangi said most of the rescued people were stranded at Koksar, Sissu and other nearby areas. The remaining 50 to 60 people in these regions would be brought out either on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. A lot of recusing still needs to be done with 250 people stranded at Keylong, 65 at Chandertal lake and 60 at Batal. About 30 people are stranded at Losar in Spiti valley. Five people, including three women, were airlifted from Patsio along Keylong-Leh highway and dropped off at Bhuntar.



Number of Woman Pilot’s doubles to 1,000 in 4 years


New Delhi: “Watch out Mr. Trump, all our ladies are headed your way!” This message had gone viral on Air India pilots’ WhatsApp groups a few months back when the airline celebrated Women’s Day by having all female crew on its non-stops to and from the US. Twenty women pilots were deployed for the four routes to US that day — Delhi to New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Mumbai-Newark — apart from a SFO Delhi direct. With 280 women pilots, representing 12.8% of its entire pilot workforce, the Maharaja did not have any difficulty in rostering them for flights to and from the US in one day. The AI Group mirrors the growing number of women pilots in India which today stands at 12.4% with 1,092 of the total 8,797 pilots in schedule domestic airlines being ladies. India has, in fact, seen the number of women pilots almost double in last four years. In 2014, 586 of the 5,050 pilots (11.6%) in domestic schedule airlines were women. All ‘old’ airlines here have seen almost doubling of women pilots in this period.


In percentage terms, India has among the highest ratio of female pilots working for schedule airlines globally. In big aviation markets like US and Australia, the percentage of women pilots to the total workforce is about 5%. Estimates from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots published show there are 7,409 women pilots across the world accounting for 5.2% of total pilot workforce, said an airline official. According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, India has seen the maximum growth in number of women commercial pilots in recent times. A woman pilot of an Indian carrier said on condition of anonymity: “We are breaking the myth of being bad drivers on roads in the sky. Very often passengers applaud either in flight or later on social media when they realize their flight was operated by women pilots. While Indian flyers know there are more women in flight decks than earlier, foreigners at times seem to be very surprised as they have a very old opinion of women in India”.



North pounded by heaviest two-day rainfall in 3 years


New Delhi: The remnant of cyclone Daye, which hit Odisha coast last Saturday and surged inland, brought the wettest weather seen over north India in three years. The system dumped an average of 38.9mm of rain on Sunday and Monday, the highest two-day spell of rainfall in the region since July 2015, with Himachal Pradesh witnessing its rainiest September in at least the last 14 years. Monday was the wettest September day over north India since 2014, India Meteorological Department (IMD) records reveal. It was also the heaviest day of rain in the region, for any month, since July 2016. “North India saw extreme weather over the past few days caused by the interaction of moisture brought in by cyclone Daye in the form of low pressure with a westerly system that circulated that moisture across the region. The system has almost passed now and rainfall will significantly decrease from Wednesday,” said K J Ramesh, director general of IMD. Himachal Pradesh was ground zero of the deluge. In four days, the state received nearly 33% more rain than its normal for the entire month of September. Rainfall totaling 166.7mm battered the state during this period, triggering flash floods and landslides. Normal rainfall in the state for the whole month of September is a little more than 125mm.



This device can purify air over 500 square meter

LET DELHI BREATHE: Fifty-four more such localised pollution control devices will be installed at busy intersections around the capital.



New Delhi: On a day when Delhi’s air quality level was ‘good’ on CPCB’s Air Quality Index (AQI), falling to as low as 38, Union environment minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan unveiled two localised pollution control devices in the capital. The device, called WAYU (Wind Augmentation Purifying Unit), was installed at ITO and Mukarba Chowk. The minister said they were planning to install additional 54 such devices at busy intersections before October 15. The device has been developed by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) as a part of a project being funded by Department of Science and Technology, officials said. Vardhan said that while this particular device is capable of purify air in an area of 500 square meters, they have plans of developing much larger devices that can cover an area of 10,000 square meters. “The device only consumes half a unit of electricity to run for 10 hours and has a maintenance cost of Rs 1,500 per month. We are in the process of developing a bigger version,” said Vardhan.


According to Dr Rakesh Kumar, director at NEERI, each device has been built at a cost of Rs 60,000. “The larger device is being planned at a cost of Rs 2 lakhs. Meanwhile, we will be installing 54 more devices, which will be encased to ensure no one can break or vandalise the unit,” said Kumar. WAYU makes use of filters to remove particulate matter, alongside activated carbon and UV lamps to remove gases like carbon monoxide and VOCs. The device has been built to take in air, purify it and release cleaner air back into the surroundings, officials said. Experts, however, feel the effectiveness of such devices is still up to question and more work needs to be put into controlling the source of emissions. “We first need to establish how effective such devices are and the role outdoor conditions play in air quality around the device. Even abroad, such devices have been used in recreational places like parks but not to as a regulative measure to curb pollution. More efforts need to go into curbing and cutting emission at source, especially at busy intersections,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director at CSE.



Road under Hebbal flyover turns into one huge drain

WATER WORLD: The flooded carriageway below the Hebbal flyover caused huge traffic jams right through Tuesday.



Bengaluru: The road below the Hebbal flyover, the link between Kempegowda International Airport and interior Bengaluru, was completely flooded following Monday night’s rain. Motorists said carriageway resembled a storm water drain. The flooding brought traffic to a virtual standstill from midnight on Monday to well past noon on Tuesday. Even then, with water standing knee deep, vehicles moved at a snail’s pace, causing a traffic jams that extended a few kilometres. Several vehicles, including a BMW (in pic), broke down and had to be pushed or towed by their owners. Traffic police who were monitoring the situation and pumping out the water said the snarls extended till the Yelahanka flyover. “There is complete misery below the Hebbal flyover. The road is completely flooded and traffic has been backed up for more than an hour,” tweeted Sonal Asthana around 10am on Tuesday. Another Twitter user said that more than 50 vehicles had stalled at some time or another due to water entering their engines.


With traffic police barring two-wheelers from moving towards the Ring Road, vehicles heading towards the city from the airport side were stuck in huge traffic snarls. “The natural drainage point in that area has been blocked by the nearby BMTC depot, so the area is flooded,” said BDA engineering member Shiva Kumar. “We are building an artificial drainage system near Esteem Mall. About 50% to 60% of the work is complete. This will minimise flooding in the area although there will be a little temporary flooding if there is heavy rain like the downpour on Monday night. However, flooding will not be to the extent that we saw on Monday/Tuesday”. The Nagashettyhalli railway underpass was completely under water on Monday night. In addition, a pedestrian underpass near Navarang in Rajajinagar collapsed, while the Okalipuram underpass, which was inaugurated recently, developed leaks.



Bellandur froth scales 10-foot wire mesh, angers residents

FAR FROM PRISTINE: Froth from Bellandur Lake threatened to blank out roads in the area, but the levels subsided once the sun came out on Tuesday morning.



Bengaluru: Following Monday night’s rain, froth from the highly polluted Bellandur lake in East Bengaluru rose beyond the 10-foot high wire mesh and spilled onto the road in the early hours of Tuesday. “The foam covered roads around the mere early on Tuesday morning before it began to recede,” said Sonali Singh, a resident of Bellandur. “The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has erected a 10-foot high wire mesh and smoothed the gradient and installed sprinklers to ensure water does not cascade with force, but these did nothing to contain the foam”. Residents say the lake tends to catch fire in summer and froths during the monsoon season. When it rains heavily, the froth even floats into nearby houses and shops. The BDA responded to the frothing by installing sprinklers, which they claim reduces the frothing by over 75%. However, residents say the measure is an “eyewash”. “We have installed a sluice gate at one end of the lake,” said BDA engineering member Shiva Kumar. “Work on two other sluice gates is ongoing, and is likely to be completed by the end of November/early December. While this will contain the froth to some extent, the BWSSB must build sewage treatment plants. This is the only long-term measure that will help”. When asked about the froth, deputy chief minister G Parameshwara admitted the sluice gate has not helped. “Despite the gate, we have witnessed froth again. We are looking at a permanent solution for this problem”.



Swine Flu back to haunt, 20 cases reported in two weeks statewide


Hyderabad: After a break of eight to nine months, the deadly H1N1 (swine flu) virus seems to be back in action with fresh cases being reported across the state. As per the latest records available, as many as 20 new cases have been reported over the last two weeks, of which four were reported on Saturday alone. While swine flu cases had peaked during the summer months last year after a mutated Michigan strain (mutated from the earlier California strain) of the virus was found, there had been no cases since the beginning of this year up to last month. With a drop in temperatures, H1N1 activity usually picks up, and winter season is the peak season for the virus to spread. “We are seeing 20-25 suspected cases of H1N1 virus per day. This is just the beginning of the swine flu season and the numbers are expected to go up further. People need to be doubly cautious and avoid going to large gatherings to avoid the H1N1 virus. Since the virus mutated last year, no study has been done to assess whether it has become more virulent. Hence, it’s not possible to predict its course. Moreover, the dengue virus seems have become more virulent as well,” said a senior official from the state health department. Apart from the swine flu virus, the dengue and chikungunya viruses too have been particularly active over the last two months, resulting in a spurt of cases. With the three dreaded viruses becoming active, experts advise extra precautions like avoiding crowded places, maintaining personal hygiene, seeking medical help in case of fever and protecting oneself from mosquito bites.



18 Stations, 1 Lakh Footfalls but Zero Surveillance


Chennai: Each time 20-year-old Nivedita enters the Taramani station, a chill goes down her spine. The young law student from a college opposite the station has heard about the spate of attacks on MRTS commuters, and the lack of enough lighting, security personnel and CCTV cameras inside the station only adds to her fears. Those entering the station at dusk are greeted by a defunct escalator, long and poorly-lit corridors spread across three floors and shrubs that have started to creep out of crevices. “What this station currently needs is security personnel and proper lighting because the entire station looks unsafe after dark. Before 6pm, the situation is still better as there are a lot of people travelling together but after dusk, very few people take the train. Most of the time there is no RPF to man the station and any commuter could be robbed with no cameras around,” said Nivedita. Commuters said they had to plan their travel before sunset and leave office accordingly, even if that meant forgoing a cup of coffee with colleagues. P Shanthi, a housekeeping staff at an IT Park near Thiruvanmiyur said, “CCTV cameras will act as deterrent for criminals.


They will think twice before striking brazenly. Moreover, if things go wrong, these cameras will help with investigations. Cameras will give a sense of safety to women passengers travelling at night”. In nearby Perungudi, a liquor shop near the station bothers most passengers, but despite several protests and complaints by commuters and residents, no steps have been taken to shut it down. While the sprawling MRTS stations at prime locations may appear to be potential sources of good revenue to several urban planners, they remain badly maintained and poorly utilized. Thiruvanmiyur station despite its vicinity to many IT parks remains isolated. Only the space near the booking counter is well-maintained. With a long distance to walk from one end of the station to the booking counter, commuters said lighting and CCTV cameras were a must. Tatheer Fathim, a corporate employee, said, “It will be good to have CCTVs given the size of the station. For those using the trains at the night, the station remains isolated and susceptible to crimes”. A senior official from Southern Railway said under the Nirbhaya Funding, 82 stations will get CCTV camera networks. “Only Nungambakkam station has got the cameras installed but others are also in the pipeline. They will be taken up soon,” he said.



International News



UK’s Sikh Guard may be booted out for Drug use

Charanpreet Singh Lall made history by becoming the first to wear a turban during an annual parade to mark British Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday ceremony.



London: The first turban wearing guardsman, who made history by participating in an annual parade to mark British Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday ceremony, could be kicked out from his post after he was tested positive for cocaine Charanpreet Singh Lall, 22, from Leicester, reportedly registered high levels of the illegal Class A drug during a random drugs test last week at Victoria Barracks in Windsor. The Sikh soldier from the elite Coldstream Guards, the regular army’s oldest regiment, was one of three soldiers who failed the drugs test, according to the Sun. He now faces expulsion from the army. Guardsman Lall, who joined the army in January 2016, made headlines in June when he took part in the “Trooping the Colour” parade in front of the Queen and other members of the royal family. It marked the first time a member of the Coldstream Guards had taken part wearing a turban instead of a bearskin hat. The Coldstream Guards are the infantry soldiers who protect the royal palaces. His parents and sister were among the thousands of spectators to line Horse Guards Parade for the ceremony.

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