News Flash – 27 July 2018

National News



When Koparkhairane cowered on a terrifying evening


Navi Mumbai: A day after a stone-pelting mob ran amok unchallenged by the law enforcement agencies for over an hour, residents of the Teen Taaki area in Koparkhairane are still in shock. Tension was high even on Thursday, a day after a bandh called by the Marathi Kranti Morcha, leading to schools in the area remaining shut. “It was a terrifying Wednesday evening,” said Aslam Mulani, resident of the Tridal Ex-Servicemen’s Cooperative Housing Society. The locality witnessed the mob systematically target vehicles, shops, restaurants and even housing societies without any resistance. The attack, the worst in Mumbai and its satellite cities during the bandh, is all the more shocking since the area targeted is less than a kilometer from the Koparkhairane police station. “I personally made several calls to the police emergency number 100 and also to various local police officials to help us. All we got was that they were busy at the D’Mart junction (about a kilometer from Tridal) of Koparkhairane,” said Mulani. The group of over 50 men carrying stones poured down the main road around 6.30pm, over three hours after the bandh had been called off in Mumbai amid reports of violence. “Many had masked their faces and were randomly attacking buildings and vehicles. They made three rounds along the main road and a few lanes to wreak damage,’’ said Babu Shetty, one of the owners of Spices Restaurant, whose glass windows were shattered. “We had earlier seen such violence only in J&K; now it is happening in ‘KK’ (Koparkhairane) as well,” Shetty added dryly. The mob dispersed on its own around an hour later, indicating the hooligans were working to a plan. The residents said the police came well after they had gone, to assess the damage.


They are irked with the police, who, they said, failed miserably to control the mob. Now, they are demanding the miscreants be identified from videos and CCTV footage, arrested and booked under stringent laws. Sixty-five-year-old Noorjehan Shaikh, cowering in the living room of her first-floor flat at Tridal society as the mob rampaged, recalled that a stone hit their window with a thud. “My husband, Dawood Shaikh, who is bedridden, was alarmed. We had locked our building gate, but the mob was trying to break into our complex. They were throwing stones. Everybody was very worried. I was extremely tense because of my husband’s condition and felt helpless.’’ Sitting Shiv Sena Corporator Shivram Patil too faced the mob’s brunt. His ground-floor office was badly damaged. “Five of my vehicles have been damaged. In the entire area, I feel more than 80-90 cars have been damaged. A local youth standing outside my office was hit on the head with a stone and had to be rushed to hospital,’’ said Patil. He received 10 stitches. Residents across the satellite city were united in their anger that a handful of miscreants had been allowed to hold Navi Mumbai to ransom. “Innocent people were at the receiving end for no fault of theirs. Public property was damaged by hooligans… The perpetrators should be brought to book,” said activist Santush Patil. Srinivas Shetty, an Airoli resident, missed his flight to Hyderabad on Wednesday. “I missed the flight, and the rasta roko was led by some known faces, like former Corporator. They should be punished,” he said.


TIMES VIEW: Police may have been ordered by the government to go easy on these protestors bearing in mind the political sensitivities around the agitation. But that still does not absolve the law and order machinery for its slow-footed and deficient response to the vandalism and arson perpetrated during the stir. What prevented officials from deploying more personnel to protect public property, especially in areas where the violence continued even after the Maratha Morcha organisers called off the bandh.



Rain leaves gaping holes in Ghaziabad


Ghaziabad: As many as 96 flats in two housing societies in Vasundhara were evacuated on Thursday after a major cave-in washed away a portion of a road and left a 30 feet deep by 20 feet wide crater. Residents panicked after the cave-in extended right up to the boundary walls of Vartalok and Pragya Kunj housing societies. Raj Kumar Tiwari, who lives on the ground floor of Vartalok society, said, “The cave-in happened a few metres away from my flat. The sight was frightening – I could see water gushing into the crater that had been created and I started shouting impulsively”. Recalling the sequence of events, Tiwari said, “At 8.30am, I was getting ready for office when I heard a thundering sound. I rushed out and saw the boundary wall of my society suspended as the ground below disappeared… Beyond the boundary wall, where once a road had been, there was nothing”. Another resident Vikas Tomar, who lives on the ground floor of the same society, said, “I ran to the terrace to get a clear view and what I saw sent shudders down my spine. There was no road and in its place, was a massive opening… I quickly ran down and started shouting ‘get out of the house’ and my family and others soon joined me”. Residents crowded outside their buildings and stood guard, warning others to not get close to the cave-in site. Soon afterwards, officials with the district administration cordoned off all roads leading to the cave-in site and advised residents to not go inside their flats. Police vans were stationed at all entry points.


Himsanshu Gautam, ADM (city), said, “As a precautionary measure, we evacuated two blocks including 32 flats in Pragya Kunj society and four blocks including 64 flats in Vartalok society. A team of CRRI has been summoned to carry out a safety audit of the buildings after which residents will be allowed to go inside their flats”. Meanwhile, residents have been forced out in the open with their families, including children. Some of them have sought refuge in neighbors’ houses but others have packed their cars with their belongings and left for relatives’ houses. Lal Chand, who lives on the fourth floor of the society, said, “The area was cordoned off and we are not being allowed to go inside our flats. We have no idea where we will spend the night. I am planning to move to my relative’s house in Delhi.” Roop Kishore, a resident of the neighbouring Pragya Kunj society, said, “There are close to 120 anxious residents loitering around the society”. On the reason behind the cave-in, Gautam said that some residents had dug up a 4000 square metre vacant plot, creating a 30 feet deep pit, to channelise rain water. “Earthing pillars should have been constructed around the plot to arrest the loose soil from sliding into the pit but the pillars were absent which led to the cave-in,” he said, adding that the area was under the supervision of UP Housing Board and the administration would be issuing a notice to the board shortly. Superintendent engineer of Uttar Pradesh Housing Board KA Singhal said, “The land in question is currently under litigation and belongs to a builder. He should have taken care to fill the vacant plot which was dug up.”



Offering help, gang duped 300 ATM users; 2 held



New Delhi: A gang of cheats has been busted by the crime branch for duping at least 300 people by swapping their ATM cards while pretending to help them withdraw money. Cops have recovered 17 used cards and some blank debit cards from the accused. The arrested men have been identified as Mohammad Arif and Sameer. The police had received a tip-off that the accused would come to Azadpur to exchange ATM cards, after which a trap was laid and the accused were arrested. The accused told police that they would target ATMs in isolated locations and wait for elderly or uneducated men to arrive. While one of them would note down the ATM pin of the target, the other would engage the victim in a conversation and exchange their card with a blank one. Arif was born in a poor family and studied till class XII. He joined the gang to earn easy money. Sameer was also born in a poor family and is a drug addict. He joined the gang to fund his addiction.



Nothing will escape the eye of this baggage scanner at metro station


New Delhi: Screening of baggage at metro stations will soon be more secure and thorough even as the checks become faster. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation is installing new state-of the-art baggage screening machines at metro stations. These machines have next-generation features, such as explosives and narcotics detection and a camera that keeps a watch on who is keeping a baggage in the scanner and who is taking it out. The new screening machines will make the process of baggage security checks faster, thanks to its high-speed scanning and a new type of conveyor belt, which is inclined, as compared to the straight belts in the existing machines. DMRC has installed a prototype of the new baggage machine at Barakhamba Road station, one of the busiest in the metro network. “The new machine is developed for trial purpose by M/s ECI Rapiscan as per the inputs provided by the security wing of DMRC and Central Industrial Security Force, based on their experience of functioning of such machines in past ten years or so at metro stations,” a DMRC spokesperson said. “These machines are being provided with features, which are more passenger and CISF friendly, and based on its performance and feedback, the old machines may be replaced with this make,” he added. The average life of a baggage scanning machine is around ten years and DMRC plans to replace the old ones in phases.


The feature-heavy machine also has a camera with a 360-degree view and the feed of which is monitored in real time. Through the camera, CISF would be able to check if the passenger, putting a baggage for scanning, is the same person who retrieves it after scanning. Apart from detecting firearms, the new machine can also detect explosives and as soon as it does so, an alert will be generated. Unlike the present machines, the new ones can detect narcotics too. “The new machines are sleek and take up less space than our existing baggage screening machines,” the spokesperson said. They also have extra-long ‘counters’ or rollers, which helps in accommodating more baggage when there is a rush of passengers. It also has an auto belt stop mechanism in case something suspicious is detected while scanning. At metro stations, oversized baggage often gets stuck in screening machines and damages them. The new machines come with in-built plastic baggage stoppers, which prevent oversized baggage from entering the scanner. Once DMRC and CISF are satisfied with the performance of the new machine and perhaps feel the need for more customization, DMRC will float tenders to buy these machines at a large scale and gradually install them across the network.



Roads vanish under water as monsoon changes gear


Kolkata: It was a night Brahmapur resident Dipak Guha won’t forget for the rest of his life. On Wednesday, he first lost his wife and to add to his trauma, he then had to face unforeseen challenges to cremate her body. The hearse he had called for refused to drive down to his house, citing a broken road and waterlogging. Guha, with the help of locals, carried his wife’s body on a stretcher for around 1km to reach the hearse. Local CPM councillor Chayan Bhattacharya on Thursday came down heavily on the civic inaction in providing relief to thousands of people residing in and around Garia. “Guha had contacted me, requesting to send a hearse to his place. But the driver flatly refused to take the van to the area as the road was dug up and inundated. Nobody knows when the ongoing KEIP scheme will come to an end,” Bhattacharya fumed. He was referring to the incomplete drainage upgrade programme undertaken six months ago under the Kolkata Environment Improvement Project (KEIP) and funded by the Asian Development Bank. Bhattacharya’s disgust was shared by Left Front councilors representing large areas in Behala. Speaking at KMC’s monthly meeting at the civic headquarters, Ratna Roy Majumdar, the opposition leader in the KMC, put the blame on an incomplete KEIP scheme. “The entire project, which was supposed to take care of the failing drainage network, has come to a halt. A reputable contractor has backed out of the project, leaving roads in a battered condition. The results have been obvious. More than 3 lakh people are bearing the brunt of severe waterlogging during the monsoon,” Roy Majumdar alleged.


Tarak Singh, mayor-in-council member overseeing the KMC drainage department, conceded that delay in implementing the KEIP in Behala has led to a collapse of the drainage system in some areas. However, he assured that the residents would not have to go through the ordeal next year. “It is true that residents of eight wards have no respite from waterlogging as the progress of KEIP has been slow. Some of the worst hit pockets in Behala include Silpara, Dakshin Behala, Becharam Chatterjee Street, Biren Roy Road (west), Parnasree and Sarsuna, among others,” he said. Mayor Sovan Chatterjee echoed that the progress of the modernization project had been slow due to non-completion of a drainage pumping station. “We have been closely monitoring the construction of the drainage pumping station near Joka and functioning of two other pumping stations close to Beghor canal and Behala Flying Club. We are confident that we will sort out the issues soon,” Chatterjee said. Besides large-scale waterlogging in Behala, Kidderpore, Watgunge, several areas in central and north Kolkata also went under water on Thursday. These areas include Camac Street, Loudon Street, Thanthania, Muktarambabu Street and MG Road, among others. The stretch between Science City and Topsia also got submerged due to a non-functioning drainage system. However, storm water receded after the rain stopped on Thursday.



2 rob trader of Rs.15L diamond Jewellery at Knifepoint



Chennai: Two bike-borne men robbed a textile merchant of diamond jewellery worth Rs.15 lakhs at knifepoint on Poonamallee High Road on Wednesday night. Devadas, 48, of Anna Nagar East, who owns a textile shop in Broadway, had gone to a club along with his brother Ram and friend Vinoth Kumar. The men were carrying a bag of diamond jewellery worth Rs.15 lakhs that was delivered to them from Surat on Tuesday for the wedding of Devadas’ niece. When they were returning to Devadas’ house in Chinthamani in an autorickshaw, two men on a motorbike intercepted, snatched the bag at knifepoint and escaped. Police suspect the robbers to have followed them knowing they were carrying valuables, after an insider alert. Based on a complaint, police are skimming through the CCTV footage for leads.



International News



Man triggers blast near US embassy in Beijing, hurt



Beijing: A Chinese man set off a small explosive outside the US embassy in Beijing on Thursday, sending smoke into the air and injuring his hand before security officials rushed to the scene and took him into custody. Police said that the explosion was caused by “a firework device”, but the US embassy described it as “a bomb” and the perpetrator as a “bomber” in a statement. Police said a 26-year-old with the surname Jiang from China’s inner Mongolia region triggered the device just outside the boundary wall at the southeast corner of the US embassy compound. The spot is where visa seekers usually queue for application forms. It is not clear how the man managed to dodge government security cameras as well as CCTV cameras of the US embassy. Chinese authorities ruled out the possibility of a terrorist strike. Officials hinted that the man may have had personal reasons for the attack. “Other than the bomber, no one else was injured and there was no damage to embassy property,” the US embassy said. In another incident, police detained a woman who doused herself with gasoline in a suspected self-immolation attempt outside the embassy, reported the state-backed Global Times. The paper did not clarify if the two incidents were linked.

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