News Flash – 29 March 2018

National News



Fire brigade can conduct mock drill at Wadala highrise, MMRDA tells HC



Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) on Wednesday told the Bombay high court it will ask the fire brigade to conduct a mock drill at a Wadala highrise which is adjacent to a monorail station. A bench headed by Justices Naresh Patil heard a petition by residents of 22-storey Bhavya Heights, which said the station’s staircase was barely two metres from its entrance, with no space for a fire engine to pass. The court on March 9 allowed MMRDA to consider fire-fighting options. MMRDA’s advocate said it decided to conduct a mock drill. “We will find out if an advanced technique is sufficient to tackle a fire,’’ she added. She said to it will be necessary to remove the compound wall between the building and other rehabilitation buildings to ensure the drill. The bench directed MMRDA to contact Slum Rehabilitation Authority to demolish it.



Guard of goods train smells gas leak in bogie at Vasai, alerts fire brigade



MUMBAI: A bogie of a goods train carrying Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) leaked at Vasai station on Wednesday morning. The guard of the train smelt the leakage and alerted the station master. The Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC) fire brigade reached the track number 4 where the train was halted and fixed the leak. The goods train carrying tonnes of LPG gas was headed from Uran to Gujarat. When the train reached the bridge at Vasai, the guard smelt gas leakage and informed the station master Harish More who alerted the fire brigade. A fire man told TOI that a mishap was alerted as there are petrol pumps in the vicinity of the bridge from where the train was passing. He said that a 37-ton cylinder is believed to have leaked. BPCL officials from Uran are on their way to Vasai. The train has been put on the siding and the power supply to the overhead wire has been discontinued. Suburban services were not hit.



Bomb threat delays Air India Kolkata flight by 4 hours at Delhi’s IGI



NEW DELHI: An Air India Dreamliner was taken to the remote bay of the IGI airport after the airline received a bomb threat call in Mumbai on Wednesday afternoon. The call, which was later declared to be a hoax, came when 248 passengers and 11 crew members had already boarded AI020 for its 2.25pm departure to Kolkata. The caller warned that the plane would be “blown mid-air”. “As per the standard operating procedure for security drill, the baggage loaded on that plane was offloaded for checking. The process took about two hours. Later, the security agencies also asked AI to make passengers deboarded as the plane needed to be taken to a remote bay for more checks,” said an AI official. The pilot reportedly made an announcement that the flight had been “sabotaged” and the passengers were asked to leave it. After the passengers were offloaded with their hand baggage, a physical as well as scanning check of the flyers and their luggage was carried out, said Sanjay Bhatia, DCP (IGI).


Another aircraft was arranged and the Kolkata flight finally took off around 6pm. Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officials said they received a message from Mumbai around 2.45pm. “The caller said the plane would be blown off mid-air, following which the bomb threat assessment committee (BTAC) was alerted and the threat was declared specific,” said a senior CISF official. CISF said the call was declared a hoax by the evening after nothing was discovered on-board. Confirming the incident, Delhi Police said a complaint had been registered in Mumbai following the threat call. “The call was received in an informative pattern at the call centre of Sutherland Global Services of Air India in Mumbai,” said DCP Bhatia. The police are trying to trace the call.



Cash being shipped in from Kerala, Maharashtra to feed dry ATMs in Telangana & Andhra Pradesh


HYDERABAD: The worsening cash crunch in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has forced banks to move cash from neighbouring states over the past two months to replenish ATMs and disburse money to customers waiting in snaking queues at their branches. While Telangana had to ship in cash from Maharashtra and Kerala, Andhra Pradesh did so from Odisha and Tamil Nadu. So severe is the cash crunch that despite efforts made by banks to replenish cash, currency is available in ATMs of big banks only 60 per cent of the time on any given day, while some banks have stopped ATM services for the past three months. Social security pensioners like Aasara and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act works too have been hit in Telangana as people have to visit post offices multiple times for money as they get their money supply from banks. There is also a severe shortage of Rs2,000 denomination currency notes as they are neither being supplied by the Reserve Bank of India since September 2017 to banks nor are they coming back from customers in the form of deposits. “With the approval of RBI we moved cash from Maharashtra and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala to Hyderabad to tackle the situation of accelerated withdrawals from ATMs and bank branches in January and February, but did not do so in March. We usually try to ensure that cash is available in ATMs at least 94 per cent of the time. Post demonetisation, following the cash crunch, we had taken several measures to ensure that ATMs had cash available for at least 85 per cent of the time but in January 2018.


This came down to 70 per cent and is now hovering around 60 per cent,” State Bank of India’s (SBI) Hyderabad circle chief general manager Swaminathan J told TOI. SBI has 2,200 ATMs, of which 1,500 are operated and maintained by the bank and 700 are maintained by third parties with the cash being supplied by SBI. However, currently only 1,400 to 1,500 of its ATMs are operational. “There are no deposits of Rs2,000 notes by customers, and we have the least reserves of Rs2,000 currency notes,” Swaminathan said, adding that Reserve Bank of India is primarily supplying Rs200 and Rs500 denomination notes. “We have most of the government salary accounts with us. Post offices and treasuries also have to be supplied cash for the Aasara social security pension. Every month, Rs290 crore has to be given to post offices for Aasara. There are instances of people visiting post offices multiple times for their pensions and NREGA wages,” he pointed out. An analysis of transactions revealed that members of the salaried class, who usually draw only Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 in the first phase of every month have begun withdrawing the entire amount from ATMs immediately after salary is credited. Also banks putting an indent for cash requirements to Reserve Bank of India are getting only 50 to 60 per cent of the money they have sought.



660 unsafe buildings on EW route, 67 need evacuation


KOLKATA: A Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation survey has identified around 660 old and unsafe buildings above the 2.5-km stretch, where the next phase of tunneling for the East-West Metro will be done, and has recommended evacuation of at least 10% of the buildings situated right above the tunnel alignment. The results of the survey, done by the agency implementing the East-West Metro line, make it the trickiest section of the construction of the route that will connect Howrah Maidan to Salt Lake’s Sector V and will cut through some of the city’s oldest and most congested parts. “The final phase of tunneling will be the most challenging one, with over 60 buildings in very poor condition requiring evacuation before the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) pass under them. The first TBM is set to begin its journey from Esplanade to Sealdah in May,” a KMRC official said. A pair of TBMs has already drilled through five sections: between Howrah Maidan and Howrah Station; under the Hooghly; between the river’s eastern bank and Dalhousie Square; between Dalhousie Square and Esplanad and between Subhas Sarovar and Sealdah. The section under the river was the least problematic, engineers said, as there was no building to worry about. KMRC to tally list of unsafe buildings with civic body. The preliminary building condition survey on 25-40 metres on either side of the central line of the tunnel along the Esplande-Sealdah stretch is now over and the buildings that have been earmarked unsafe will go through a further round of checks.



Before that, however, the KMRC will tally its list of unsafe buildings with a similar list that is there with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s building department. A KMRC team recently visited the KMC headquarters to talk to building department officials about the plans for structures identified as weak. Buildings that already have cracks will be marked and the owners notified so that they do not blame the KMRC and demand compensation later. Those buildings that are extremely vulnerable and need reinforcement will also be identified so that adequate precautions are in place before the TBMs pass under them. “The structural strength of the buildings’ foundations will determine our remedial measures,” said an engineer.


The TBMs faced a similar situation in Howrah, with old railway property and a section of crucial tracks along its alignment. Once the TBMs reached Kolkata after tunneling under the Hooghly, 25 buildings along Brabourne Road were identified as unsafe; 12 of them required evacuation when the TBMs passed under them. “We will be adopting similar measures along this stretch. We will be taking safety measures for residents as well as the buildings to prevent any damage because of soil settlement,” KMRC spokesperson A K Nandy said. KMRC will also carry out a geo-technical investigation, a ground-movement structural assessment and pre-tunneling mitigation measures before the TBMs start the journey for Sealdah. Two major curves — a sharp left turn from S N Banerjee Road into Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road and a sharp right turn from Nirmal Chandra Street into B B Ganguly Street – fall on this route and buildings situated along these curves will require strengthening.



Crime soars, Chennai cops under siege


CHENNAI: The attack on an unarmed head constable near Poonamallee on Tuesday night has raised questions about the safety of police officers, especially of junior-rung, on patrol duty. Around 11pm, a three-member gang hacked. Anbalagan, attached to the Poonamallee police station, for trying to prevent a robbery. The gang had waylaid a pedestrian, Raghu of Hudco Nagar near Poonamallee. After Anbalagan, accompanied by a friends of police (FoP) member Gautham apprehended the three, they chased the policeman and attacked him with a machete, the sequence captured by a CCTV camera nearby. Although police traced the gang with the help of Faceting application and photographs that Anbalagan had taken, the attack on the policeman, whom the FoP and the victim had deserted, has prompted former jurists and police officers to demand basic weapons for police personnel on duty at night. “Policemen engaged in night patrolling must have the means to safeguard themselves,” said retired judicial magistrate V J Arulraj. He cited the R Poornalingam recommendations, submitted in the early 2000s, which talked about safety of police personnel. The recommendations were never properly implemented, he said. As per the police standing order, police personnel in the rank of sub-inspector and above can carry a government-issued pistol. Those below the rank of an SI are entitled to a lathi and a torch.


“What will a policeman do with a lathi? Those guarding the streets at night shall have to be provided with proper weapons to counter criminals,” said S Aravindan, a retired police officer. But not all see the need to arm policemen on patrol duty. Retired police officer S Mohan said most of the policemen, if put to the test, would not be able to disassemble and assemble a rifle or a pistol. “The reason is that they have never handled weapons,” he said. Some policemen skip firing practice and even give the ammunition they receive to senior police officers who use it for their training, Mohan said. Also, a large number of policemen at all levels routinely skip the mandatory annual firing practice, said activists. “The police personnel require guile and fitness to overpower armed criminal. Just the weapon will not suffice as many police personnel even forget to handle such weapons,” said social activist and lawyer Saravana Kumar. To avoid policemen being targeted by anti-socials at night, police commissioner A K Viswanathan — who met Anbalagan’s family and the doctors treating him — had instructed his subordinates to patrol in groups. As per the new plan, each team has to be accompanied by one youth brigade wing member and home guard personnel. The team members would carry three lathis, five torches, flickering lights and reflector jackets.



RPF holds women safety awareness programmes in Chennai



CHENNAI: The Railway Protection Force (RPF) held awareness and cultural programmes at the Moore Market Complex suburban station here on Wednesday as part of the Women Safety Fortnight event. March 26 to April 9 is being observed as the Women Safety Fortnight. RPF principal chief security commissioner S C Parhi and senior divisional security commissioner Louis Amuthan were among those who participated. RPF female personnel also participated. The railway ministry has declared 2018-2019 as the Year of Women Safety.



International News



10 killed as warehouse building collapses in Pakistan



KARACHI: A warehouse building collapsed in Pakistan‘s Sindh province on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people including six women and injuring over 12 others, police said. The roof of the building, where dates were being prepared, caved in after an explosion in the furnace in Rohri area of Sukkur city, they said. Those killed include two minor girls and six women while the injured include teenage boys and some women. Sukkur Deputy Commissioner Raheem Bux Maitlo said that around 40 people were working in the house it collapsed. “The rescue operation was on. Some people may be trapped under the rubble,” he said. The incident took place following an explosion in the furnace where the dates were being prepared, the officer said, adding that there were chemicals and a gas boiler in the room. Maitlo said a case of criminal negligence will be filed against those found responsible. The warehouse had been sealed long ago and a probe will be carried out regarding its opening, he added.



Greek authorities search for migrants after emergency call



THESSALONIKI: Greek authorities say they are searching for a group of migrants who made an emergency call saying they were in danger while crossing a river marking the border between Greece and Turkey. Police and fire department officials said Wednesday an unidentified person called an emergency number Tuesday afternoon saying they were among a group of 15 people trying to cross the Evros river, which was swollen by heavy rainfall. Rescue crews have been searching the area near the Greek village of Praki but had found nothing by Wednesday morning. Hundreds of people attempt to cross from Greece to Turkey each week. Most make the crossing from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands, but many also attempt to cross the river, on the land section of the Greek-Turkish border.

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