News Flash – 29 July 2017

National News



Mumbai autos and taxis to be fitted with GPS



MUMBAI: To ensure the safety of passengers, auto rickshaws and taxis in the city will be fitted with a GPS device, minister of state for home Ranjit Patil told the state assembly on Friday. He was responding to concerns raised in the assembly about a woman passenger who had jumped out of a rickshaw to escape being molested. He said that Thane had 36,000 rickshaw license holders. As many as 30,000 had smart cards. The state now has a policy of giving a license to whoever asks for it. After the incident in Naupada police station, 104 licenses of auto rickshaws were suspended, after a special drive, he said.



You can use Metro smart card in buses from August

To begin with, 200 buses — 100 DTC and 100 cluster ones — will be enabled to accept Delhi Metro’s smart cards.



NEW DELHI: Come August and Delhiites will be able to use their Metro smart cards to travel in Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and cluster buses. The Delhi government will start a pilot project under which 200 buses — 100 DTC and 100 cluster ones — will be enabled to accept Delhi Metro’s smart cards, a government official said. If the pilot project is successful, the government plans to extend the facility to all buses operated by DTC and Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) that runs cluster services. The ‘common mobility card’, on the lines of similar facilities available in the public transport system in cities such as London, Hong Kong and Seoul, was conceptualized in 2010. However, the project has got delayed several times. It was almost final to be launched in July 2016 but got postponed yet again. DTC had conducted trials last year to check how the cards would work in its buses. It has also installed electronic ticketing machines (ETM) in its buses to read the mobility card and provide an e-receipt.


Transport officials said the software used by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) had been successfully integrated with the system at DTC and cluster buses. “All the modalities for the successful working of the common mobility card have been worked out. We plan to start the pilot project by mid-August,” an official said. One of the issues that had hampered the integration process was refund. There were apprehensions that commuters might top-up their cards from DTC and then get a refund from DMRC, which would result in revenue loss for the Metro. Sources said the issue had been sorted out now. The authorities have also solved the issue of sharing of revenue. “The statutory clearance has been obtained by DMRC from RBI to make the common mobility card operational. At present, the integration process is in progress with the transport department,” a DMRC spokesperson said.



BMC razes structure erected by Ghatkopar crash accused



MUMBAI: The day TOI reported about Shiv Sena man Sunil Shitap being under the scanner for his Powai lounge, the BMC swung into action and demolished an illegal structure erected by him in Ghatkopar to allegedly encroach an open space. Shitap, who owns several disputed properties, was arrested after the ground-plus-four-storey Siddhi Sai Co-op Housing Society in Ghatkopar collapsed on Tuesday, killing 17 persons. Resident of the building alleged that Shitap had carried out illegal repairs on the ground floor, causing the disaster. On Friday, officials from N ward pulled down the illegal structure in Altaf Nagar on Andheri-Ghatkopar Link Road. Though the BMC claimed that the demolished structure, which looked like a shanty from outside, was 1,200 sq. ft, when TOI visited the site, it did not seem to be more than 3,000 square feet. Shitap had rented out the structure to a local mandal as well to a caterer, who specialises in making biryanis for parties and marriages. Surprisingly, the BMC had provided a water connection at the site, which has now been disconnected.


BMC officials said that the electricity bill was in Shitap’s name. “The encroached plot was part of a BMC road,” said a civic official. Sources said that Shitap had allegedly brought two or three nearby slums and then encroached upon the open land adjoining them. “Like he did in Powai for Rumours lounge, Shitap here too encroached and then sublet it to someone else. When the BMC served him a notice and tried to demolish the structure in 2010, Shitap managed to get a stay from the city civil court. Shitap reportedly planned to build a hotel or pub as this property was bang on the main road,” said a source. Bhagyashree Kapse, assistant municipal commissioner, N ward, said that the court lifted the stay on July 12. The structure has been in existence prior to 2010. “As the stay was lifted, BMC officials, along with the police personnel, demolished the structure on Friday,” said an official.



52% of suspected chikungunya cases recorded in Karnataka



BENGALURU: Karnataka tops the country with the highest number of clinically suspected chikungunya cases since January 2017. According to data released by the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), until July 23, 2017, Karnataka accounted for 8,930 of the total 16,976 suspected cases. It was followed by Maharashtra (2,379) and Gujarat (2,103). The most recent chikungunya update for the state, published on July 25, reports 9,448 suspected cases, of which 5,880 blood samples were taken and 900 were declared positive; 73 confirmed cases were recorded on July 25 alone. There have been no fatalities. In Gujarat, as of July 24, 286 people tested positive for the fever. In Maharashtra, as of June 30, 186 out of the 2,317 suspected cases tested positive. The districts with the maximum number of suspected cases are Tumakuru (1,419), Chamarajanagar (1420), Kalaburagi (1,071), Mandya (1079) and Bengaluru Urban (850). According to BBMP reports, private hospitals have recorded 23 confirmed chikungunya cases over the same period. Dr. Prakash Kumar BG, deputy director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) said the reason for Karnataka’s high number of suspected chikungunya cases is the robust surveillance system. “If 100 people in a village come to us with chikungunya symptoms, we send 5% of their blood samples to be tested. If these test positive, then we treat all 100 patients as if they have chikungunya and medicate them accordingly. All these 100 are then counted as part of the suspected cases,” he said, implying that reported confirmed cases are only the tip of the iceberg.


Stating that this is the logic behind most public health programmes, he said, “Aside from taking 5% of the samples, we check the surroundings for larvae. If the symptoms match those of chikungunya, and the larvae are found around the houses of victims, then we confirm that chikungunya is in the locality”. While chikungunya is a non-fatal disease, the programme has confirmed that five people have died of complications caused by dengue since January this year. To counter this and reduce the mortality rate, NVBDCP launched a statewide programme about 10 months ago. “At the district level, we send a list of confirmed dengue cases to the 104 call centre. This centre contacts each and every one of these patients on the 5th or 7th day of their diagnosis, and asks them if they are suffering from any of the danger symptoms such as bleeding gums, persistent vomiting, and vomiting of blood. If so, they immediately direct them to the nearest hospital. We introduced this mechanism to bring down the mortality rate, and it is the only one of its kind in the country,” said Dr. Kumar. On July 15, they launched another programme ‘Naagarikarige Vandu Saval’ which seeks to conduct source-reduction as well as educate the public. Over the next 3-4 months, health workers will visit houses, schools and offices and conduct source-reduction. They will ask the owner 10 questions on vector-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria to get a clearer idea of public awareness. “Through this, we hope to eliminate the larvae at the spot as well as educate the public,” he added.



44 days and counting, Darjeeling shutdown breaks records



DARJEELING: Darjeeling has now endured its longest ever continuous general strike, with the shutdown that began on June 15 entering its 44th day on Friday, beating the 42-day strike called by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in July-August 2013. GJM claims to have bettered its own record but the long shutdown has left people in the Hills much worse off, with provisions running low and people short of cash. There seems to be no respite till at least August 1, when the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee has its next meeting in Delhi and will decide on its next course of action. The 44-day-till-date strike — and the apparent cold shoulder it has got from the BJP-led government at the Centre — has also frayed relations within this committee that is spearheading the fight for a separate Gorkhaland state. Jan Andolan Party and Gorkha National Liberation Front, its two major constituents besides GJM, have started asking uncomfortable questions, with GNLF even going to the extent of filing a “missing complaint” about Darjeeling BJP MP S S Ahluwalia. GNLF may have already sniffed a bigger role for itself at the expense of GJM. “We are in favour of Gorkhaland and our leadership has made it very clear that we are ready for talks if Gorkhaland is the only agenda. BJP at the Centre is playing with our sentiments; they want to keep this movement alive to cause trouble for the Mamata Banerjee government but will not openly say there will be no Gorkhaland,” a GNLF leader said. What would be more worrying for the GMCC leadership is the apparently thinning patience of people. “It wasn’t the same then,” Darjeeling resident Anil Subba said, recalling the 2013 strike. “There were relaxations after every week or 10 days. There would be two days in between when people could lead normal lives,” he added.


“People in Darjeeling town have already lost a lot as the tourist season — it actually saw a record number of footfalls — was cut short. Now, there seems to be no hope for the Durga Puja season as well. It will, in fact, take years for a sizeable number of tourists to return to Darjeeling. Nearly every family in the town is associated with tourism in some way. There seems to be no solution in sight and people are tired of living in this manner,” he added. The GJM’s rallies may be going on in the Hills but one aspect has not gone unnoticed: the faces that march up and down Chowk Bazaar are the same. Few new people, if at all, seem to have joined the movement over the last 44 days. Subba’s friend, Pravin Rai, says not many from the town participate in the rallies though local leaders maintain a roster. Most of the demonstrators are from villages close to Patlewas, home of GJM president Bimal Gurung. There has already been some friction between rallyists and townsfolk. On Thursday, during the GJM’s Shahid Diwas rally at Chowkbazar, outsiders threw away baskets of vegetables locals were selling for residents inside lanes and by lanes. “There was some enthusiasm initially but nobody from the town really wanted such an indefinite strike that would adversely affect their lives. Even GJM leaders have started to realise they may have gone a bit too far as there is no solution in sight. Darjeeling seems to have been forgotten both by the Bengal government and the centre,” Rai said. “The GJM leadership may have raised supporters’ expectations and risk losing support if it calls off the strike without a face-saver from either the state or the Centre,” he added.



Floods in Hooghly sweep away villages

The catastrophic floods that have swallowed large swathes of districts in South Bengal have erased the existence of Jangalpara village in Hooghly’s Purshura.



HOOGHLY: A layer of grimy yellow covers everything as far as your eyes can see. Lamp posts are bent sideways. The ground floor and first floor of school and college buildings have disappeared under water. Smaller houses have been just swept away without any resistance. The catastrophic floods that have swallowed large swathes of districts in South Bengal have erased the existence of Jangalpara village in Hooghly’s Purshura. Three hundred families that inhabited the village, that now resembles an overflowing river, have taken refuge on the elevated state highway connecting Arambagh with Bankura. “We were plain lucky to have escaped,” said Haripada Kundu, a 67-year-old farmer, looking out from a roadside perch onto the ruined village. “The water gushed in and swept away everything. My family could salvage only the basic things before we fled to save our lives”. Large parts of south Bengal have been inundated since early this week with incessant rains causing DVC to release water. The brimming rivers have unleashed havoc claiming at least 28 lives till now. Six people have died in Hooghly alone. A boat capsized in Chhtrashal on Friday morning killing one person. Early this week when Damodar began to swell and inundate villages, villagers watched from the safe perch of their new homes on the elevated state highway. People who once inhabited these live, numbering more than 2,500, said that this is a perennial problem in this area. “We become homeless like this every year though this year the situation is very severe. What is shocking is that the administration only comes to our rescue after the damage is done. No precautionary measures are taken to avert the disaster,” said Pushpa Hansda.


As people waited here for rescue and relief on rooftops, balconies and on the wayside, fear was gradually giving way to anger and resentment over what some saw as a slow response to flooding that began with heavy rains last week and has left thousands of families without any roof and relief. In Mirzapur village, where the water was about seven feet at its deepest point and several small homes were washed away, residents alleged that rescue boats and relief materials were being taken to another area. Some said only the politically connected were being rehabilitated. Others complained that the state administration was incompetent. The district administration has however claimed it has managed to reach every pocket of the flood affected areas barring a few areas in Khanakul which are completely cut-off. “We are distributing rice, baby food, potatoes, pulses, salt and water pouches at the panchayat level. The representatives are receiving the relief materials and taking to their areas to distribute among the affected people,” said Sanjay Bansal, district magistrate of Hooghly. Tapan Dasgupta, minister and MLA from Hooghly, admitted that there were not enough boats to access the hinterland submerged in water. “We will get five boats by tomorrow from Balagarh. This will help us reach every pocket,” said Dasgupta.



Not given a metro ticket Rs 5, man makes hoax bomb call



CHENNAI: Dejected over not being given Rs 5 ticket for his metro rail travel at Arumbakkam metro station on Friday, a 61-year-old man sent out a hoax call to the police control room warning that a bomb would go off at the station. Police apprehended the man, later identified as Kalyanasundaram of Shenoy Nagar, with the help of CCTV footage from the station. At 7.30am on Friday, Kalyanasundaram walked into Arumbakkam metro station and asked for a ticket to Airport metro station and handed out Rs 5. When the ticketing staff demanded Rs 5 more, the man picked up an argument. “He refused to move away from the queue unless he was given ticket for Rs 5. He told the staff that they were overcharging him for just a five-minute ride,” said an investigating officer. The man moved away when the staff threatened to call the police. But before moving, he told them that he would detonate a bomb that he was carrying. Within an hour, the police control room received a call that a bomb has been planted at Arumbakkam metro rail which would go off any time. The control room staff informed Choolaimedu police, who rushed in with bomb disposal squad and sniffer dogs. Preliminary inquiries with the staff revealed Kalyanasundaram’s bomb threat. Meanwhile, police traced the call to originated from SBI Colony in Arumbakkam. They also took the CCTV footage from the station which helped them in establishing the man’s identity. Police booked him under mental health act and sent him to Institute of Mental Health (IMH).



International News



One dead in knife attack in Hamburg supermarket, motive unclear

Police officials in the Supermarket



HAMBURG: A man killed one person and wounded four others in a knife attack at a supermarket in the German city of Hamburg on Friday before being detained by police. “There is no valid information yet on the motive” of the man, who “entered a supermarket and suddenly began attacking customers”, said police. German daily Bild published a picture of the attacker in the back of a police car with a white, blood-soaked bag over his head, and reported that he cried “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) in the supermarket. This account was not immediately confirmed by police. The suspect, who has not yet been identified, fled the supermarket after the attack. But witnesses gave chase and overpowered the man, who was slightly injured. “It was definitely a sole attacker. The first reports about a possible motive of a robbery have not been confirmed,” Hamburg police tweeted. Police have blocked off the area, in the northeast of the port city, Germany’s second largest and host of the G20 summit of world leaders in early July. Anti-terror police have also been deployed to the scene, according to Bild. Germany has been on high alert about the threat of a jihadist attack, especially since last December’s truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market that claimed 12 lives. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the carnage in which a Tunisian rejected asylum seeker and ex-convict, Anis Amri, 24, ploughed the stolen truck through a crowd. It was Germany’s deadliest attack by Islamic militants, but not the first.


In 2016, the IS group also claimed a bomb attack in the southern city of Ansbach which wounded 15 people and killed the Syrian attacker, and an Afghan man’s axe rampage on a train in Bavaria that wounded five, before the perpetrator was shot dead by police. In both of these cases, the attackers had been asylum seekers. But prosecutors think they were radicalized in Germany and not deployed from abroad to commit the attacks, like the jihadists behind the November 2015 Paris attacks were. Germany’s domestic intelligence service estimates there are about 10,000 radical Islamists in the country, including 1,600 who are considered potentially violent. Public fears about more extremist violence have grown amid Germany’s mass influx of refugees and migrants, mostly from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan as well as several African countries. Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders in 2015, bringing more than one million asylum seekers to Germany since. Germany is a target for jihadist groups, particularly because of its reconnaissance and refueling missions to support the coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria, and because it has deployed troops in Afghanistan since 2001.



US woman sets apartment on fire while trying to kill bug



HOUSTON: A woman trying to burn a bug inside her apartment’s bedroom in the US started a fire which resulted in the evacuation of people from the building and an estimated USD 140,000 damage to the property. The incident took place at an apartment complex in Topeka, Kansas, with Topeka Fire Marshal Mike Martin saying that an investigation determined the blaze occurred in the master bedroom of an apartment. The cause was listed as being accidental, resulting from an “occupant trying to kill a bug with a lighter”, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Ausha Scott said she was inside the apartment unit at the time of the fire with her mother, Monique Quarles, and 2- year-old child, Avionna Scott-Quarles. Quarles said the blaze started on Monday after she tried to burn a bug that was found in the unit’s master bedroom with a flip-style lighter that malfunctioned. Quarles said she had picked up the first bug, put it in her hand “and lit it on fire”. She said she and her daughter then looked under the mattress to see if there were any other bugs. They then found what Quarles said was a “medium-sized bug”. “When I grabbed the bug and I had it, I went to light it and then the lighter started sparking, so these sparks then went onto the box springs,” Quarles said.



“The sparks just started flying on it and inside of it”. The flames and heavy smoke led to the evacuation of the three-floor building. By the time the smoke had cleared, Topeka Fire Department officials estimated USD 140,000 in damage had occurred. No serious injuries were reported in the blaze. Multiple fire companies responded to the two-alarm blaze and remained on the scene for about six hours, clearing the scene. Quarles said her daughter saw the fire, then ran into the kitchen to get water to put it out. “As she’s coming, I’m going. By the time I came back, I was really seeing fire in there, so I knew we really shouldn’t keep trying to put it out. I said, ‘Get out — get the baby, call 911.’ And that’s what we did,” she said. Authorities said everyone was out of the building by the time firefighters arrived on the scene.



North Korea fires missile which lands in sea off Japan



TOKYO: North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Friday night which landed in the ocean off Japan, Japanese officials said. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council. “I have received information that North Korea once again conducted a missile firing,” he said. “We will immediately analyze information and do our utmost to protect the safety of the Japanese people”. There was no immediate announcement of the type of missile. On July 4, North Korea test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile. Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the missile launched Friday flew for about 45 minutes and landed off the Japanese coast in waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Japanese public broadcaster NHK said the coast guard issued safety warnings to aircraft and ships. South Korea and the United States also confirmed the launch. “We are assessing and will have more information soon,” said Pentagon Spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was launched from North Korea’s northern Jagang province. Analysts say the “Hwasong 14” ICBM launched by North Korea on July 4 could be capable of reaching most of Alaska or possibly Hawaii if fired in an attacking trajectory. It was launched at a very steep angle, a technique called lofting, and reached a height of more than 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean 930 kilometers (580 miles) away.

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