News Flash – 28 July 2017

National News



50 schools to be prepared for tackling disasters



NEW DELHI: Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS) has launched a ‘safe school’ project for 50 Delhi government and east corporation schools to prepare them for disasters. The project will cover 25,000 students, 40,000 parents and 1,000 teachers. The schools were identified after a study was conducted on how safe they were. Of those surveyed for the study, 93% had no idea if there was a disaster management plan in their child’s school and nearly the whole surveyed population did not know of a disaster helpline number. In Delhi, most parents were only concerned about road accidents, sexual harassment and bullying, and did not recognize earthquakes and floods as serious threats, the survey revealed. SEEDS executive director Manu Gupta said all the identified schools were in east Delhi. “They face the maximum risk and need intervention,” he said. The 3,070 schools across Delhi that lie in the high-seismic zone include all 624 schools in east Delhi and 3,16,321 students from this area are at risk as the schools are on the Yamuna floodplain.


The study identified potential risks related to natural and man-made disasters, and revealed that parents were not aware of them. About 60% of the respondents blamed inadequate response systems for losses during disasters, but 99% of them did not know of any helpline number. The three-year safe schools programme involves structural assessment of each school by engineers and architects; evaluation of risk perception among children, teachers and parents; and examination of preparedness in the face of any natural or man-made disaster. Experts from SEEDS will work closely with children, schools and communities to train them in preparing for disasters and reducing risk. This will be done through interactive sessions, mock drills, peer-to-peer learning and non-structural mitigation of risks. The programme will also address issues unique to a specific location to ensure children go to school without fear, remain safe there and also return home safely. The project was launched with support from Honeywell, a Fortune 100 conglomerate company.



5,067 farmers commit suicides in Maharashtra in two years



MUMBAI: As many as 5067 farmer suicides have taken place in the state in the last two years. In the three-month span between March and May, there have been 721 farmer suicides, revenue minister Chandrakant Patil said in a written reply in the state assembly on Thursday. Patil said that the families of farmers who committed suicide due to indebtedness were given an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 1 lakh by the state government. He also said that the state had launched a special campaign in Yavatmal and Osmanabad districts to improve the condition of farmers, besides announcing a farm loan waiver in June.



Flashlight stun guns, body-worn cameras to ward off terror threat



NEW DELHI: The capital is getting more teeth to fight terror. Commandos, part of the newly launched Parakram teams, are going to be equipped with advanced gadgets, TOI has learnt. Police commissioner Amulya Patnaik has given his nod to a proposal to procure hi-tech flashlight stun guns, body-worn cameras, push-button batons, especially-made knee and elbow pads and tactical belts for these commandos — NSG-trained policemen deployed in PCR vans at 10 strategic locations. According to officials, the flashlight stun guns will be especially-made taser pistols (non-lethal weapons), which will serve multiple functions: illuminate way, light up the target and help aim properly, and give high-voltage electric shocks. The body-worn cameras will record videos in MP4 format, which would have a playback resolution of 1080 pixels and a frame rate of 30fps. They will have snapshot, recording and playback facilities, which will work even in pitch-dark conditions. In line with the West, the camera system will also have evidence-management software to manage conflict. The commandos will have pepper spray to cripple an attacker. The tactical belts will be made with durable nylon web with a three-point locking buckle and the pouches will be of made of thermo-bonded four-layer laminate with denier nylon. The belts will also have 14 pouches for storage. These are different from the 10,000 utility belts being procured — earlier reported by TOI — which have around 5-6 pouches and are suitable for general police.


Special commissioner Dependra Pathak is overseeing the project, along with officials of provision and logistics, say sources. These highly equipped commandos will be stationed at places like Connaught Place, ITO, Vijay Chowk, Palika Bazar, IP Marg, Saket Select City Mall, Vasant Kunj Mall, Pacific Mall (Subhash Nagar), Market/Mall Complex (Netaji Subhash Place), Akshardham, Lotus Temple and Jhandewalan. In May, Patnaik had decided to put in place dedicated PCR vans in the wake of rising terror threats. These commandos will be the first-resistance wall in case of a 26/11-style terror attack. “In case of a terror attack, these men will be able to hold back until SWAT teams arrive. We have trained 10 teams and will get more,” Patnaik had told TOI. The Parakram vans are Toyota Innova’s with an open hatch, which are manned by three commandos armed with AKM rifles. The men are trained along with NSG personnel to take on suspects at crowded locations. All these vans are GPRS-enabled and fitted with Pan-Delhi wireless communication. Their drivers are also armed with small weapons and have been trained by NSG on offensive and evasive driving, and firing in mobile mode. The commandos will be in the alert mode round-the-clock and attired in fatigues enabling agility. The contingent will have a fair mix of women commandos. “Though these vehicles resemble the PCR vans we already have, they will not respond to usual calls from the PCR, except terror cases,” said Pathak. The 10 existing Parakram vans are part of a pilot project and after a realistic impact assessment, the scheme could be extended to more locations.



Thousands dial 100, but no takers for appointment facility



BENGALURU: The top cop’s idea to enable callers to fix appointments with police officials hasn’t fetched the desired response — no one has used the facility for nearly two months now. In the first week of June, chief minister Siddaramaiah had inaugurated the modernized police control room with multiple services. The number 100 was IVRS enabled and provided callers the option of fixing appointments with senior police officials, especially station house officers (SHO). “Those seeking appointments with SHOs or inspectors should dial 100 and select option 3. But not a single caller has availed of the facility,” said police commissioner Praveen Sood. He said the idea was to make it easier for citizens when they visit police stations for verification or other purposes. “Often, senior citizens and women are forced to spend long hours inside police stations to get their work done. People may not be comfortable sitting and waiting at police stations. Instead, they can schedule an appointment with SHOs, drop by at the police station at the specified time and get the job done,” he explained. The police control room receives about 6,500 calls per day. “The number of calls has increased after the control room was upgraded with 100 lines. Of these 6,500 calls, 4,000 are to do with law and order issues, while 1,000 are related to traffic,” a source said.



Keep up vigil: IT advisory to city cyber-hub



HYDERABAD: After the Special Investigation Team (SIT) identified 40 software professionals using narcotics, the information technology department has issued a set of directions to software firms identified. The department has asked the firms to be extra vigilant and keep a close watch on employees in order to identify signs of drug intake. “I have personally contacted many centre heads of the respective IT companies, whose list has been shared with us by the excise department. Since no employees have been named, firms have been asked to maintain strict vigil and monitor all their employees, within the office premises and check for any signs or symptoms of drug usage,” IT secretary Jayesh Ranjan said. “If such signs are detected in an employee, we have directed firms to act on it strictly and inform police,” he added. Experts say that a stress-free work environment might encourage employees to refrain from using drugs and increase their productivity. IT firms have now lined up a slew of awareness programmes and employee-engagement activities in order to tackle the issue of drug usage among employees. “It is unfortunate that such a trend has been noted among workers in the IT industry despite the fact that most companies, including us, conduct drug tests before recruiting a candidate. We have now decided to tackle the issue by educating employees about the side-effects of narcotics,” said Vijay Ranganeni, chief executive officer at Tech Mahindra BPO.


Other tech firms pointed out how there have been no instances of drug abuse within IT parks. “Thanks to foolproof security, there have been no instances of drug abuse within office premises. What we have observed, however, is that after dealing with work pressures, many employees consume drugs as a stress-relieving activity over the weekends. This is why we have decided to focus on conducting team-building activities over the weekends in order to engage employees and keep them occupied and in tune with the company’s interests and policies,” said Viswam Vemula, vice president of Polaris. Those working in the city’s IT hub, which employs close to 4.7 lakh people as per latest figures provided by the IT department, however, were not very amused by this stance by the authorities as they felt it was ‘unfair’ for anyone to even name the industry in this unfolding drug saga in the state. “It is a law and order issue and it is unfair to drag IT companies. The only way for the authorities to tackle this is to work towards proper enforcement of rules,” a techie said. Another techie pointed out that instead of pinpointing the IT industry, the government should be worrying about schools.



Dacoits in raincoats clean out Kolkata jewellery store in 10 minutes



KOLKATA: Four armed men entered a reputable jewellery chain in Jodhpur Park in the midst of blinding rain on Thursday afternoon, thrashed the lone guard, spent 10 minutes seizing every item on display and then split, with one even boarding a public bus, to make a quick getaway. The scene of the daring robbery at one of the busiest commercial-cum-residential blocks of south Kolkata — barely 150 metres from Dakshinapan and Dhakuria bridge — was a Chandrani Jewellers showroom, just across the road from a UBI bank branch that was looted of Rs 20 lakh in January. Police officers pegged Thursday’s loss at a minimum of Rs 20 lakh and said the robbers took whatever they could: gold ornaments, rubies, pearls and other expensive jewellery that were on display. Shop proprietors Sushanta and Soma Roy said there were three sales personnel at the desk around 2.30pm and the shop was empty of customers, probably because of the downpour. “Four men, wearing raincoats and pollution masks and helmets, entered through the main entrance. One of them hit the guard with a revolver butt and pushed him inside the shop. The other three, too, were armed and, within 10 minutes, they had taken every item on display,” Soma said. None of the CCTV cameras inside the shop was working, Sushanta said, though investigators said they had collected CCTV footage from a nearby fitness centre and an optical store. The four men could not lay their hands on cash. “The keys were with my husband and perhaps they had no idea where it was kept,” Soma reasoned. The four exited the store and threw away their raincoats and one of them, who was wearing a helmet, boarded a bus. “Another fled with most of the booty in a car that was parked nearby,” claimed Soma.


Cops, however, claimed that none of the accused wore a helmet and the exact number of robbers was yet to be ascertained. “We have identified a bus on route 234 that was used by one of them to flee. We have concrete leads that we are working on,” said an officer. That no neighbouring establishment had any inkling of what happened till an alarm was raised and cops arrived showed how meticulously the entire operation had been planned, an investigator officer said. Owners of four large neighbouring shops and a petrol pump told TOI they were all inside because of the rain and had no clue about what was going on inside the jewellery store. “I had no clue till I saw cops swarming the area. This is the second incident this year and we are planning to sit down with local police to discuss how we can boost security in the area,” nearby food joint owner Saswata Majumdar said. The Lake area has seen a spurt in crime of late, with the UBI Bank case being solved only last month, and residents said Thursday’s incident had added to the feeling of insecurity. Deputy commissioner (southeast division) Gaurav Sharma rushed to the spot as did several teams from the detective department. The anti-dacoity section will assist the Lake police in the probe. Officials said they had detained at least two persons for questioning later in the evening even as a couple of store employees were taken to Lalbazar for questioning. “The modus operandi hints at an insider hand,” said an officer. Officials also say, like in some past cases, a Bihar-based gang might have colluded with insiders to commit this crime. “We are showing the victims some snaps. We are hoping to develop some leads on this front too,” said an officer. “The probe will be using all available sources and dedicated teams have been formed to work on the case,” joint commissioner of police (crime) Vishal Garg said.



Another robbery: Chain snatchers run riot in city



CHENNAI: Another day, another brazen mugging in public. Robbers on Thursday targeted a 57-year-old bank employee returning home after puja at a temple festival in Triplicane, taking her 13 sovereign gold chain worth Rs 2.8 lakh. Police said R Jayanthi, of Arumugam Chetty Street in Triplicane, was walking home on the Aadi Pooram festival day at Parthasarathy Temple nearby, when two men robbed her. “Pretending to be looking for directions to an address, two men on a motorbike snatched her gold chain and escaped,” a police officer said. “Based on a complaint her, the Ice House police are searching for the perpetrators. Admitting to a rise in robbery, he said the cases of robbery, he said the culprits in most instances are young men on motorcycles who snatch chains and evade capture by fleeing at high speed. “This is why we insist that households and even small establishments install security cameras,” the officer said. “They help us nab first-time offenders who do not have criminal records. Police do not have the photographs or fingerprints in such cases”. Police said they are taking every possible step to stop these crimes. “On Thursday we arrested three men, G Parthiban, 21, and S Vinodh 25, of Kolathur, and S Aravind, 34, of Parry’s, for chain snatching in Anna Nagar,” the officer said, warning members of the public not to resist in situations -such as while riding a two-wheeler -in which they may be injured.



International News



Iran in ‘successful’ test of satellite-launch rocket



TEHRAN: Iran today “successfully” tested a satellite-launch rocket, days after warning Washington of a response to new US sanctions over the Islamic republic’s ballistic missile programme, state television said. It said the launch vehicle, named Simorgh after a bird in Iranian mythology, was capable of propelling a satellite weighing 250 kilograms to an altitude of 500 kilometres above earth. The launch marked the official inauguration of Iran’s Imam Khomeini space centre, named after the late founder of the Islamic republic, built for sending satellites into space, the television said, without giving its location. Western states suspect Iran of developing the technology capable of launching long-range ballistic missiles with conventional or nuclear payloads, a charge denied by Tehran which insists its space programme has purely peaceful aims. Iran’s four other launches of domestically produced satellites since 2009 have all sparked condemnation in the West. President Hassan Rouhani said yesterday that Iran would respond in kind to any breach by the United States of a 2015 nuclear deal after the House of Representatives passed a new sanctions bill.


“If the enemy steps over part of the agreement, we will do the same, and if they step over the entire deal, we will do the same too,” Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting. The Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee said it would hold an extraordinary session on Saturday to discuss its formal response. The parliament voted earlier this month to fast-track a bill introduced in June that would increase funds for Iran’s missile programme and Revolutionary Guards. “We must always develop our defence capability and we will strengthen our defensive weapons regardless of the opinion of others,” Rouhani said. The US House passed a new sanctions bill on Tuesday targeting the Revolutionary Guards over its missile programme. As part of its space programme, Iran has also sent two capsules into space, the first in February 2010 carrying a rat, tortoises and insects, and the other in January 2013 when a monkey was sent into space and returned to earth safely, according to official media.



Russia signs deal to use Syria air base for 49 years


MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin has signed a law ratifying a deal with the Syrian government allowing Russia to keep its air base in Syria for almost half a century, official documents show. The original deal, signed in Damascus in January, sets out the terms under which Russia can use its Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province which it has used to carry out air strikes against forces opposing President Bashar al-Assad. Putin approved the agreement on Wednesday, after the two chambers of the Russian parliament backed it earlier this month, according to the government’s official information portal. The document says Russian forces will be deployed at the Hmeymim base for 49 years with the option of extending that arrangement for 25-year periods. The base has been at the heart of Moscow’s military foray since it intervened in the conflict in September 2015, helping turn the tide in favour of Assad, one of Russia’s closest Middle East allies.

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