News Flash – 3 May 2017

National News



13.5 Crore Aadhaar accounts compromised



MUMBAI: Cyberspace security experts are worried about the risk to customers using Aadhaar numbers and one-time passwords for authentication of financial transactions after it was revealed that a large cache of Aadhaar numbers had become public. Bengaluru-based think tank, Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), has published a report highlighting how 13.5 crore Aadhaar accounts have been exposed by government departments. The report, by Amber Sinha and Srinivas Kodali, said the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, administered by the ministry of rural development, and the Chandranna Bima Scheme of the Andhra Pradesh government have made Aadhaar numbers public. In some cases, bank account details and mobile numbers of millions of citizens are available. While many officials say the availability of the Aadhaar number itself is not a breach, payment industry security experts disagree.


According to Nitin Bhatnagar, associate VP (business) at SISA, a payment security specialist, said the exposing of an Aadhaar number amounts to a breach. “Any element of payment data exposure is considered a breach in the payment industry,” Bhatnagar said. In December 2016, RBI had allowed banks to use a combination of an Aadhaar number and an OTP on the customer’s phone for completing “know your customer” requirements and opening a bank account. A fraudster with the Aadhaar details of a customer can obtain a cloned SIM card and use it for fraudulent transactions. The CIS report highlights how these public databases are exposing citizens to risk. “When Nandan Nilekani claims repeatedly that the Aadhaar data is secure, his focus is largely on the enrolment data collected by UIDAI, or authentication logs maintained by it.


With countless databases seeded with Aadhaar numbers, we would argue that it is extremely irresponsible on the part of the UIDAI, the sole governing body for this massive project, to turn a blind eye to the lack of standards prescribed for how other bodies shall deal with such data, such cases of massive public disclosures of this data, and the myriad ways in which it may use for mischief,” the report said. Bhatnagar, whose firm audits payment companies for compliance with security standards, says Aadhaar-enabled payment systems can follow PCI DSS as a best payment security standard. “There is no mandate for Aadhaar enabled payments to be part of PCI DSS scope but we have seen voluntary adoption of the PCI DSS standard for AEPS by security-conscious organisations,” Bhatnagar said. Based on these risks, SISA recently released a tool called Tipper to facilitate the discovery of Aadhaar numbers and help organisations mask them through a centralized console.



D-Radars to catch traffic violators



NEW DELHI: Evading punishment for speeding and jumping the traffic signals just got tougher. In a complete revamp of technology used in traffic-related prosecutionsDelhi Police is procuring equipment to automatically detect and prosecute violations. These systems are equipped with 3D radar technology and non-intrusive sensors capable of capturing the movement of multiple vehicles simultaneously. The devices have already been installed for trial at some road junctions. At each location where this new technology will be employed, 12 high-definition cameras would be installed. Equipped to automatically read number plates, the system would not only determine the speed of the vehicles, but also record stop-line and lane violations and improper parking. All these would be recorded in logs detailing the date, time, site and the GPS location of the infractions. Currently, police used cameras mounted on speed interceptor vehicles that are parked on the roadside.

The new systems will be installed in 100 locations in the city that have been deemed to be important for traffic management. These spots have a history of moderate level of offences and will help police to check the effectiveness of the system during peak hours. Until a dedicated control room is set up, these cameras will be linked with the existing traffic control room. Once a violator is caught on camera, the photograph of the vehicle will be developed to ascertain the identity of the owner and a notice will be sent to the registered address along with a photograph of the infraction. The violator will be required to reach a traffic court and deposit the fine. The project is part of the Rs 441-crore intelligent traffic management system (ITMS). “We are in the process of testing various systems with the eventual aim being to turn prosecutions into an automated process. The men on the ground will be mainly deployed for controlling traffic,” said Garima Bhatnagar, joint commissioner (Traffic).

The traffic police issues over 3,000 violation notices every day. Once the automated, camera-based system is in place the cops won’t have to stop the violators because the notices are sent to the registered addresses. This will ensure uninterrupted flow of traffic. Common violations for which notices are usually sent by post include jumping traffic lights, driving in non-designated lanes, not using seat belts, talking on the phone while driving and riding two-wheelers without wearing helmets. The intersections at RK Puram, Moti Bagh, Aurobindo Marg, Barakhamba Road, Sardar Patel Marg, ITO W-Point and Dwarka have been selected to trial red-light violations, while cameras to detect speeding would be put up at some intersections on Ring Road and Outer Ring Road. The purpose of the trials is for police to examine the photographic quality produced and the ability of cameras to identify number plates.



State to clean up 31,000 dams, give free silt to farmers



MUMBAI: The state government will desilt 31,459 dams across the state. A proposal to remove the silt and distribute it free to farmers, who can use it as manure, was approved by the state cabinet on Tuesday. The project, at a cost of Rs 6,236 crore, will be done in phases over four years. It is estimated that there are 5.18 lakh cubic metres of silt in the dams. The government will issue contracts to remove the silt. The dams have a water storage capacity of 43 lakh cubic metres and irrigate 8.68 lakh hectares. The silt will be provided free to local farmers but they will have to transport it to their farms. The government will pay for machinery and fuel to remove the silt; it will also permit funds from Corporate Social Responsibility to be used. The dams identified cater to less than 2,500 hectares and are over five years old.


“This will increase the water-holding capacity of dams and will provide rich silt to farms,” the government said. Farmers will have to apply to the local sarpanch for permission to take the silt. Committees will be set up at the state, district and taluka levels to implement the scheme. BMC had mooted a proposal to desilt Tansa Lake at a cost of Rs 200 crore in 2011 but the plan was dropped when it received good rainfall. “The quality of silt from dams is very good and will nourish our farms,” said Vishwas Gangadhare, a farmer and activist from Nashik.



Garbage nation? 70% of urban waste dumped unscientifically



BENGALURU: Residents in all major Indian cities -Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, among others -have been protesting against unscientific dumping of solid waste, but the fact that 70% of all the garbage generated continues to be “unscientifically disposed of “every day is no good news. Data accessed from the Central Pollution Control Board(CPCB), based on reports from various state boards, shows the total quantity of municipal solid waste generated -only from cities and towns – in the country is 1,42,870 (1.43 lakh) tonnes per day , and 9% (12,858 tonnes) of it is not even collected. Of the 91% (1.3 lakh tonnes) collected, the CPCB says: “Around 50% (65,000 tonnes) of the collected solid waste is dumped or disposed of unscientifically in the country.” Further, only 23% (29,903 tonnes) is treated, while 27% (35,103 tonnes) is dumped into landfills, which environmentalists say, is also “unscientific dumping”. In all, 1.13 lakh tonnes or 70% of the 1.43 lakh tonnes of waste is being disposed of unscientifically. While the CPCB says that such dumping “is not area specific”, experts and activists say the increasing number of citizen protests is only because of the “pick-up and dump” attitude of local bodies.

Conceding this, Union minister for urban development M Venkaiah Naidu, in a letter dated April 5, 2017, sent to all mayors and heads of municipalities, reads: “Municipal solid waste management is one of the biggest challenges that confronts our cities. Improper and unscientific handling of waste has its impact not only in terms of environmental and aesthetics of the surroundings but also poses a serious potential threat to public health”. He further writes that beginning June 5 -World Environment Day -the urban development ministry will start a massive movement to begin segregation at source in all 4,041 towns and has urged the authorities to set a target of October 2, 2017, to achieve 100% segregation. Satyarupa Shekhar of the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), Chennai, says: “Most major cities have reached critical levels of waste and are looking for solutions. Unfortunately, they invariably turn to technologies, which rather than address the problem, create new ones. On an average, waste in most Indian cities comprises 50%70% organic waste, 5%-10% sanitary waste and the rest is plastic and e-waste. Organic waste can be composted easily at household and ward levels to create valuable compost that can be used for gardening and urban agriculture”.

Sanskriti Menon of the Centre for Environment Education (CEE) says civic bodies must invest in helping citizens understand the importance of waste collection and recycling. “While protests in multiple cities helped high light the problem, the pick-up and dump way of dealing with waste is no solution,” she added. She is not alone in pointing out that just dumping of garbage into landfills isn’t the solution. Activists like Leo Saldanha of the Environment Support Group in Bengaluru and those from Civic Action Group (CAG) in Chennai, have been advocating segregation at source as critical for waste management. However, another key indicator of the government’s “pick-up and dump” philosophy is the latest draft released by the CPCB on creating buffer zones around landfills. The buffer zone, the draft guidelines say, is defined as an area of restricted activities.

While its primary goal is to “reduce impact of such dumping on environment and people”, the guidelines, released in February 2017, read: “It also ensures long-term availability of disposal sites by avoiding potential conflicts between disposal sites and adjacent land use”. But so long as garbage is just going to be dumped, people will continue to protest, warn activists. Ranjit Gadgil of Parisar in Pune says: “The way landfills work is contentious. While local bodies either do this, or spend crores of rupees on what they believe are magical solutions like big processing plants or waste-to-energy set-ups, there must be more investment in organizing and training waste collectors and educating the public”. Sanskriti adds that while agencies and the system understand the need for door-to door collection of waste and segregation -key to taking materials to the recycling sector -its implementation is found lacking in most cities.



Passengers left high & dry as goods train derails traffic



HYDERABAD: Train movement along the key Mumbai-Chennai railway route was badly hit from early hours of Monday till late afternoon after five wagons of a goods train derailed at the Dudhani station near Gulbarga in Karnataka on the Wadi-Solapur section of Central Railways. Several trains were diverted via Hyderabad and Bangalore, leaving scores of people on board stranded for six to 10 hours. The accident occurred at 12.40 am. The accident led to partial/full cancellation and diversion of at least 24 trains in South Central Railway (SCR) zone. As trains remained held up for one to two hours or were running on diverted routes, passengers remained clueless about what was happening around. Devoid of information, many took to social media to find which way they were heading and the reason for the delays. A passenger with twitter handle @jaldeepvasavada even tweeted to DRM Secunderabad, “Any update on train no. 11019? #TrainDiverted? 11019 Konark express started yesterday from CSTM. Will train come to Secunderabad? #Traindiverted? #5hrslate.” While another passenger Yogesh Gupta, who was on-board the Karnataka Express, tweeted to the railway minister, “Hello sir, train 12627 Karnataka express is not moving from last three hours, no information, what is going on?”.

Several passengers had to go without food or water for three to four hours at a stretch as they were stuck in the middle of nowhere in some cases. Rajgopal Singhal (twitter handle @rajgopalsinghal), a passenger aboard the Hyderabad-Mumbai Express, tweeted to the rail minister, “Train no. 17032 delayed by 12 hours. No arrangement of food at station either. No TTE available. There are a few senior citizens in my coach who are hungry since morning. Coach no. S2.” Another passenger, Abinash Panda with the twitter handle@abinashlucky24 tweeted, “I am on train 17032 which has taken diff route due 2 derailment. There is no food and water on train please help”. With many trains being diverted via same route, stations along the routes went short of food supplies within the first two hours. “My kids were asking for water for over three hours but I could not get one. We were told passengers on trains that passed through the route prior to us had bought bottles at premium rates,” said Vijay A, a passenger of Hubbali-Secunderabad Express.



Gujarat to launch ‘104’ fever helpline



AHMEDABAD: In an ambitious move, the state health department will be launching a 24-hour fever helpline later this week for the state. The service can be accessed by dialing ‘104’. It will provide service to both cities and rural areas. Upon call, a paramedic staff from nearby stations will visit homes and take blood samples for rapid tests and provide reports within a prescribed period to citizens. The AMC is already chalking out a strategy for implementation of the programme. “One of the main beneficiaries will be patients affected by vector-borne diseases, as they will come to know early symptoms and effective treatment that can be given,” said a senior AMC health official. The AMC will require a staff of more than 600 to cater to emergency calls. “Along with malaria, diseases like typhoid, cholera, and other such waterborne diseases will also be detected early,” said the official.



International News



China tightens rules on online news, network providers



BEIJING: China on Tuesday issued tighter rules for online news portals and network providers, the latest step in President Xi Jinping‘s push to secure the internet and maintain strict party control over content. Xi has made China’s “cyber sovereignty” a top priority in his sweeping campaign to bolster security. He has also reasserted the ruling Communist Party’s role in limiting and guiding online discussion. The new regulations, released by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on its website, extend restrictions on what news can be produced and distributed by online platforms, requiring all services to be managed by party-sanctioned editorial staff. The rules, which come into effect on June 1, apply to all political, economic, military, or diplomatic reports or opinion articles on blogs, websites, forums, search engines, instant messaging apps and all other platforms that select or edit news and information, the administration said. All such platforms must have editorial staff who are approved by the national or local government internet and information offices, while their workers must get training and reporting credentials from the central government, it said. Editorial work must be separate from business operations and only public funds can be used to pay for any work, it added.

Under the rules, editorial guidance measures used for the mainstream media will be applied to online providers to ensure they too adhere to the party line, such as requiring “emergency response” measures to increase vetting of content after disasters. The rules also stipulate that a domestic business that wants to set up a joint venture with a foreign partner, or accept foreign funding, must be assessed by the State Internet Information Office. Content on China’s internet has never been free of government censorship, though a number of internet companies run news portals that produce relatively independent reporting and opinion pieces. A number of these platforms were shut down last year, after Xi in April called in a speech for better regulation of China’s internet. The CAC separately on Tuesday released another set of rules that on June 1 will require “network providers and products” used by people who might touch upon “national security and the public interest” go through a new round of security reviews. Beijing adopted a cyber-security law last year that overseas critics say could shut foreign businesses out of various sectors in China.



Former guard reveals truth about life in a North Korean prison camp


North Korea: Thousands of inmates in North Korean prison camps face beatings, summary executions, starvation and rape, a former guard has revealed. Lim Hye-jin described watching interned political dissenters set on fire, beheaded and shot dead en masse in collective punishment following escape attempts, in an interview with the Daily Mail. The revelations come as tensions continue to boil on the Korean peninsula, stoked by the aggressive posturing of Donald Trump and senior members of his administration. After being briefly imprisoned herself for illegal training, Ms. Lim reportedly defected from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) 15 years ago, and now lives in the southern capital, Seoul. She said: “We were manipulated not to feel any sympathy for prisoners. We were told they had committed terrible crimes. Now I know they were normal people so I feel very guilty. I feel so betrayed by leaders who lied to us. We were told not to see these people as humans. Now I feel traumatised”.

In one incident, which Ms. Lim described to the Mail, a pair of brothers made a temporarily successful bid for freedom, and seven members of their family were executed on the spot in revenge. The brothers were later dragged back to the camp, pelted with stones by prisoners forced to participate in the punishment, then beheaded. Ms. Lim said this was done as “a warning” to the other inmates. Ms. Lim also reported seeing a woman stripped naked and set on fire, by guards who “do not see [prisoners] as human beings, just as animals”, and “affairs” between male prison guards and inmates which were “basically rape”. There are an estimated 200,000 people in prison camps across the pariah state, and tens of thousands more in so-called “re-education” camps run along similarly brutal lines. Tensions between the DPRK and the southern Republic of Korea, the US and other Western-allied nations such as Japan are higher than they have been for years.


US President Donald Trump has threatened Pyongyang with “major conflict” if it doesn’t halt its nuclear programme, while his Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to the demilitarized zone bisecting the peninsula and warned “the era of strategic patience is over”. A French amphibious assault carrier sailed into Japan’s naval base of Sasebo on Saturday ahead of drills that risk upsetting China, which faces pressure from the United States to intervene and put a stop to the DPRK’s increasingly frequent ballistic missile tests. Amid this geopolitical posturing, human rights have often been overlooked. One of the United States’ most experienced negotiators recently urged President Trump to lift sanctions and provide “humanitarian assistance” to North Korea, arguing that punitive measures and military aggression harm ordinary Koreans while leaving Kim Jong-un’s party elite unscathed.


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