News Flash – 28 August 2018

National News



Filthy air affects young too, warns city Doctors


Mumbai: A new study has revealed that air pollution could do more damage than previously thought—it not only affects the lungs and heart but also the brain. Nearly 32,000 Chinese were surveyed between 2010 and 2014 and their short- and long-term exposure to air pollution was calculated. One of the main authors, Xiaobo Zhang, said the decline was steeper for verbal scores than math scores. Among males, the decline in verbal scores became more pronounced with age, and was greater in those who were less educated. The Chinese study’s findings could hold true for India, where roughly 25 lakh people died in 2015 due to causes arising out of air pollution. Sunil Dahiya, senior campaigner, Greenpeace India, said the impact of air pollution in China is comparable to India. “The trajectory of development for both China and India are similar and hence are the levels and sources of pollution. So, even if the magnitude of impact might vary for the countries, there could be a similar impact on health,” said Dahiya. Dr Sundeep Salvi of the Pune-based Chest Research Foundation said he isn’t surprised air pollution affects cognitive skills. “An American study last year showed a correlation between the brain size of elderly women and the levels of pollution in their areas. More the pollution, higher and faster is the shrinkage of the brain,” he added.


Mumbai-based pulmonologist Sanjay Mehta said cognitive damage due to pollution has been suspected for long. “What is really worrying is air pollution’s long-term damages such as cancer. Lungs of children exposed to pollution become shrunken and damaged, with these children suffering from diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or asthma early on,” he said. Salvi added that the younger people aren’t unaffected by air pollution. “It could be the reason for their aggression or hyperactive behaviour,” he added. The new Yale study seeks to highlight the indirect effect of pollution on social welfare. “The damage pollution has on ageing brains likely imposes substantial health and economic cost, considering that cognitive functioning is critical for the elderly to both running daily errands and making high-stakes economic decisions,” said Zhang. Cognitive impairment are risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. “India must apply the precautionary principle which means, however uncertain the risk is, we must work towards reducing the air pollution,” added Dahiya of Greenpeace India.



10 bridges, 2 Skywalks in city are beyond repair, will be razed and reconstructed


Mumbai: Ten bridges and two foot over-bridges (FOBs) in the city will have to be demolished as they are beyond repair, according to a recent audit commissioned by the civic body. After a part of Gokhale bridge’s pedestrian portion collapsed on July 3, killing two people, the BMC appointed a structural auditor to inspect all the bridges and skywalks in the city. A total of 296 structures were checked for damages, and it was found that 125 need major repairs, out of which 48 are in a dilapidated condition and some need reconstruction, states the auditor’s report. A civic engineer said, “Out of the 48 bridges, we need to rebuild 10 as they are in a bad condition and cannot be repaired. We also need to rebuild two FOBs. We have initiated the tendering process for these repair works and will complete it in a time bound manner”. A source said that the ten bridges and two FOBs are mostly flyovers and do not run over railway tracks, but refused to name them. There are 87 bridges that are in good condition and need only some denting and painting, said a senior civic official. Also, 14 skywalks are in need of repairs, states the port. Last week, the BMC’s bridge department updated municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta about the condition of these structures, following which the civic chief directed them to prepare a detailed refurbishment plan. Civic engineers have been told to gather technical details of bridges that fall in their jurisdiction and provide a roadmap on shutting them.


Alternate routes will have to be chalked out, so that citizens are not inconvenienced, added the official. Mehta has directed chief engineer Sanjay Darade (building proposal department), who is currently holding the additional charge of the bridge department, to estimate the cost of the repair work over the next few days and present it before him for a final discussion. BMC officials said that they have also been preparing a plan to prep up the remaining bridges and maintain them. Another civic official said, “Usually, after a bridge is constructed, engineers forget about it and do not pay much attention to the maintenance work. This is one of the main reasons for deterioration of bridges in the city. This time, we will have to plan maintenance of bridges after they are repaired and reconstructed”. “There have been past instances wherein the railways have asked us to shut down bridges for traffic at a short notice, leading to chaos as we did not have the time to plan an alternative. In order to avoid such a situation, we require the railways to conduct regular audits of bridges that cross tracks so that they can be regularly maintained,” said a civic official.



Woman Guard molested at Gurgaon mall



Gurgaon: A 30-year-old woman guard was molested inside a toilet at a mall on Sohna Road late on Sunday. Some movie-goers, who were coming out after watching a late-night show at a multiplex on the mall premises, heard her cries and nabbed a man in an inebriated state. The man, later identified as Shrikant Chauhan, was handed over to the police, who produced him in a city court and forwarded him to judicial custody on Monday. After preliminary investigation, the police said the guard, who worked at the multiplex inside the mall, had gone to a women’s washroom on the second floor around 10.45pm when Chauhan allegedly pounced on him. In her complaint, the woman, originally from West Bengal, who lives in Gurgaon’s Tigra village, claimed she was using the toilet No. 1 when she heard some noise coming from the adjoining one (toilet No. 2). Then, as she was about to come out of the toilet she saw a young man standing on the toilet seat behind her. She said she did not realize when he climbed the divider and came into her toilet. “I cried for help but he grabbed me from behind and pulled me inside the toilet. He then started touching me inappropriately and physically assaulted me,” she claimed in her complaint. Finally, some people, who were coming out of the cinema hall, came in and overpowered him. A mall official, on condition of anonymity, said the accused was working as a labourer for the past few weeks.



KIA gets second Hoax call in 7 days



Bengaluru: Just a week after a hoax bomb threat sent multiple security agencies on a wild goose chase at Kempegowda International Airport, another call on Monday wasted three and a half hours of their precious time before they finally declared it a hoax. On August 20, a similar call was made to KIA and the person claimed a bomb had been planted at the passenger drop bay. Around 10.30am Monday, an unidentified caller told the KIA information desk he had planted a bomb on a New Delhi-bound aircraft scheduled for take-off at 12.30pm and disconnected the call. A CISF team, dog squad, KIA outpost police and Devanahalli police followed the standard operating procedure and cleared the flight for take-off at 2pm. Police said around 1.30pm, the railway control room received a call that a bomb had been planted on a train leaving the City Railway station between 1pm and 1.30pm. After elaborate checks, police declared the threat to be a hoax. Till late Monday night, cops hadn’t identified either caller.



After dry days, Hyderabad gets a pleasant rain surprise


Hyderabad: After a lull, city was in for some light showers on Monday, recording an average rainfall of 3.5 mm up to 8.30pm. The intermittent showers also pushed down minimum and maximum temperatures below 30 degrees Celsius. The maximum and minimum temperatures on Monday stood at 29.7 degrees Celsius and 20.9 degrees Celsius, respectively, as against maximum and minimum temperatures of 29.6 and 22.2 degrees Celsius, respectively recorded on Sunday The widespread rainfall in Telangana, including Hyderabad, on Monday was due to the well-marked low-pressure system in north coastal Odisha adjoining northwest Bay of Bengal, southwest Bengal and southeast Jharkhand, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Though IMD has forecast “generally cloudy sky with one or two spells of rain or thundershowers” for the next six days in the state, IMD officials said the intensity of rains over the state will reduce from Tuesday. “The rainfall will increase if the intensity of low-pressure system increases and reduce if the intensity of the system goes down,” said Sridhar, meteorologist, IMD-Hyderabad. Rains across the city resulted in waterlogging in many areas and halted traffic. In areas like Malakpet, Hitex, Banjara Hills, Panjagutta and Kukatpally those returning from work faced a tough time navigating ankle-deep waterlogging on several roads. “Traffic at Saroornagar was dreadful. We had to take many detours because of waterlogging,” said Prashanth Kumar, a software professional.



Kerala Floods: Telugu IAS officer evacuated 2L people in 48 hours

Alappuzha sub-collector Krishna Teja (Center) during ‘Operation Kuttanad.



Hyderabad: A Telugu IAS officer is being hailed as a hero in the devastating floods in Kerala as his timely intervention has resulted in two lakh people being evacuated to safety in just 48 hours in what has come to be known as ‘Operation Kuttanad’. Krishna Teja Mylavarapu from Chilkalurpet in Guntur of Andhra Pradesh is the sub-collector of Alappuzha. As soon as Krishna Teja was posted as sub-collector of Alappuzha, he did what he loved to do most. In about two or three months, he practically travelled across the entire area under his jurisdiction, not once but several times. He had absolute knowledge of low-lying areas and when it struck him that the area could be flooded, he got down to action. “Overnight, we got hundreds of boats, kept personnel ready and plunged into action in the morning,” Krishna Teja told TOI on phone from Alappuzha late on Sunday night. At 10pm on August 16, it was clear that disaster would strike. He was in a meeting with Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac at that time. Both decided there was no time to lose. The opening of dams, as it happened, would certainly inundate Kuttanad and Krishna Teja calculated in how much time the water would reach.


Realising fully well the need of the hour, Krishna Teja got policemen onto the boats to ensure that there would be no hurdles in the evacuation as there was some resistance from people. At the break of dawn on August 17, Krishna Teja and Thomas Isaac were totally engaged in rescue and evacuation operations. “The thought of me being in danger did not strike me. I was completely engrossed in the rescue operations. Yes, there have been times when the water came up to my shoulder level,” Krishna Teja said. While 48-hour operation was the toughest, it was also the most satisfying for him. Did he think he would encounter such a situation? “I got into the IAS to serve. And this was what I got to do,” he said. All the evacuated two lakh people have been put up in camps and they are being provided all amenities and food. Asked what relief material the flood victims needed in his area, Krishna Teja said: “They have lost everything.” Krishna Teja’s work has gone viral.



Cops look for Indian conduits in ATM fraud



Kolkata: The Kolkata Police seems to have turned its attention now to Indian nationals who were acting as conduits for the Romanians arrested in the ATM skimming racket. Weeks after the arrest of three members of a Mumbai based gang, a Kolkata Police SIT has started raids there in search of their conduits. At least six Indians are in the list of suspects, a couple of who have been questioned. “The roots of this gang run deep. The fact that they were working with the Romanian suspects is not being ruled out yet,” a Lalbazar officer said. Police sources maintained that the Mumbaikars involved with the gang were identified through hours of studying footage – besides questioning the three accused. The cops are now looking for a fourth suspect, Taher, after the arrests of Rohit Nair, Sayeed Sayed and Sudhir Ranjan.



CCTV grab helps cops bust gang of burglars


Chennai: With a gang of burglars on the prowl in Mylapore and Mandaveli, police had just one lead – a CCTV camera grab of a dark grey automobile with a distinctive wheel having five spokes. A spell of painstaking detective work followed before they finally hit pay dirt on Monday, nabbing the four-member gang and seizing 53 sovereigns of gold jewellery, a car, autorickshaw and one kg of silver items. Police said the gang originally used an autorickshaw to ferry the stolen booty but decided to purchase a used car to make it easier to conceal the looted goods. The arrested men were identified as Srinivasan, 28, of Saidapet, Marimuthu, 26, of Puducherry, Shiva alias Shankar, 29, of Ullagaram, and Rajesh, 27, of Kunrathur. Following a complaint by Nirmal Kumar, 38, of Mandaveli that burglars had removed the bathroom grille and looted 56 sovereigns of gold jewellery from his house, a special team headed by Kotturpuram assistant commissioner Sudharshan investigated the case. After inspecting CCTV camera footage, police found a dark grey car moving around the locality in the early hours. Though the registration number was not visible, police found the car had a wheel with five spokes and confirmed it to be a Honda Civic.


A police team shortlisted all Honda Civic cars with a dark grey shade registered in the city, traced the addresses of the owners and questioned them. One of the owners told police he had sold the car to a man from Saidapet. When the man was questioned, he confessed to his involvement in the burglary and helped police trace the other three gang members. Interrogations revealed that the men parked their vehicle four streets away from the targeted house and scaled the compound walls of the houses on the intervening streets before reaching their destination. They usually operated past midnight when the residents were asleep, said a police officer. Police said the men were history-sheeters who had met in prison and exchanged phone numbers. Later, after their release, they arranged for a meeting and planned the burglary. “The men masked their faces and put on gloves when they were out on a mission. As of now, we have found that they were involved in at least four burglaries in and around Mylapore,” said an investigating officer. “We suspect the involvement of more people and will arrest them soon,” he added. The four men have been remanded in judicial custody.



International News



Try Myanmar gens for genocide: UN panel


Geneva: Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with “genocidal intent”, and the commander-in-chief and five generals should be prosecuted for the gravest crimes under international law, UN investigators said. A report by investigators was the first time the United Nations has explicitly called for Myanmar officials to face genocide charges over their campaign against the Rohingya, and is likely to deepen the country’s isolation. The investigators called for the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Myanmar, subject its officials to targeted sanctions and set up an ad hoc tribunal to try suspects or refer them to the International Criminal Court. The report also could serve as a major catalyst for change in how the world’s big social media companies handle hate speech in parts of the world where they have limited direct presence but their platforms command huge influence. The investigators sharply criticised Facebook, which has become Myanmar’s dominant social media network despite having no employees there, for letting its platform be used to incite violence and hatred. The UN investigators also blamed Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to use her “moral authority” to protect civilians. “Our findings are grim,” panel chairman Marzuki Darusman told a news conference on Monday. “We believe that establishing the facts is the first stepping stone towards change.” Contacted by phone, Myanmar military spokesman Major General Tun Tun Nyi said he could not immediately comment. Zaw Htay, spokesman for Suu Kyi’s government, could not immediately be reached for comment. The Myanmar government was sent an advance copy of the UN report in line with standard practice.


A year ago, government troops led a brutal crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on 30 Myanmar police posts and a military base. Some 700,000 Rohingya fled the crackdown and most are now living in refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh. The UN report said the military action was “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats”. “The crimes in Rakhine State, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts,” said the UN panel, known as the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. Suu Kyi’s government has rejected most allegations of atrocities made against the security forces by refugees. It has built transit centres for refugees to return, but UN aid agencies say it is not yet safe for them to do so. The report said Suu Kyi “has not used her de facto position as Head of Government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events”. In Brussels, the European Union’s executive said it would meet this week with the UN panel and discuss further steps. The US state department is preparing its own report that US officials say will document in grim detail a premeditated campaign of violence. The UN defines genocide as acts meant to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group in whole or in part. Such a designation is rare, but has been used in countries including Bosnia, Rwanda and Sudan. The investigators documented rapes, sexual slavery and abductions, including of children, said panel member Radhika Coomeraswamy. “The scale, brutality and systematic nature of rape and (sexual) violence indicate that they are part of deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorize or punish the civilian population. They are used as a tactic of war,” she said.

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