News Flash – 5 August 2017

National News



Heavy rain kills 6 in Pauri; 7 injured in Uttarakhand


DEHRADUN: Incessant rain for the past few days has wreaked havoc in Uttarakhand with reports of building collapses pouring in from at least two districts. Six people died and three were left injured in rain-related incidents in Pauri district on Friday, while in Dehradun district four people were injured after a house in Vikasnagar collapsed following heavy showers on Thursday. In Kotdwar in Pauri district, Lakshya Arora and Jyoti Arora were killed after their house in Refugee Colony was hit by a flash flood triggered by excessive rainfall. The victims were asleep when debris along with water from a seasonal nullah entered their house and 50 other houses in the colony. “The duo was trapped under the debris and died,” said Jagat Ram Joshi, senior superintendent of police (SSP) Pauri. A 17-member State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) team led by deputy commandant Navneet Bhullar reached the spot to initiate relief and rescue operations. The SSP said, “Water from the overflowing nullah had entered several houses. It took the SDRF team hours to recover the two bodies”. Three more residents of the same colony sustained burn injuries after a short circuit led to a cylinder blast. They were identified as Harendra Bhatia, Om Prakash and Renu Bhatia. In another rain related incident, Shanti Devi and Ajay Kumar, both residents of Manpur in Kotdwar tehsil, died after a retaining wall collapsed due to incessant showers, burying them under it.


A 16-year-old girl, identified as Muskan Bano, also died after a wall of her house fell on her on Friday morning in Nayagaon area of Lansdowne. According to the meteorological centre, 90mm of rainfall lashed Lansdowne between Thursday night and Friday morning. Meanwhile, four people were injured after a house in Vikasnagar in Dehradun district collapsed following heavy rain on Thursday. Eight people were in the house when the incident occurred and four sustained injuries. According to the Met office, Dehradun recorded 140 mm of rainfall between Thursday and Friday morning. Rishikesh also received 140mm of rain while Haldwani and Haridwar were lashed by 100mm and 90mm of rainfall. “Showers are likely to continue till Saturday with chances of heavy rain at isolated places in a few districts, including Dehradun,” said Bikram Singh, director, Met centre. In Nainital, the SDRF had to rescue 20 people after they got stranded between swollen Naundhar and Kailash rivers. All of them were there to perform a person’s last rites.



Nurse loses Rs 23,000 in debit card fraud



MUMBAI: An Andheri resident, who is employed as a nurse in a private hospital, became the latest victim of a debit card fraud and lost over Rs 23,000. She learnt about the fraud 10 days later, when she checked her account and found only Rs 12 balance. DN Nagar police have sought details from the bank of the account where the money was transferred. The victim did not receive a transaction alert from the bank. In her complaint, the victim said on July 20, a bank ‘tele-caller’ and told her that her account would be blocked if she didn’t link it to her Aadhaar number. On the pretext on helping her, he asked her for her debit card details. “She also shared the one-time password and the fraudster transferred money from her account to another one,” said a police officer.



CISF starts entry-gate Express Security Check for passengers at Hyderabad airport



HYDERABAD/NEW DELHI: In another move to reduce waiting time and congestion during check-in at the airports, the Central Industrial Security Force on Friday started India’s first – “Express Security Check” facility for domestic passengers at the Hyderabad airport. The “Express Security Check” is done at terminal’s entry gate itself and will benefit close to 40% passengers, mostly those who travel without any checked-in luggage and frequent flyers like government officers and corporate travelers. CISF Director General O P Singh said that this facility will also benefit the airlines by reducing the queues at the check-in counters and improve their on-time performance (OTP), besides less congestion at the check-in area and better security and surveillance by agencies. Earlier, the passengers used to enter the airport all the way till security check area as only documents were checked at the terminal entry gate. The ESC has been started at Hyderabad airport as of now as it has 100 percent e-boarding facility while other airports in the country are yet to have such boarding mechanism. A large number of passengers still stand in queues, mostly due to non-availability of adequate self-service kiosks.


At Hyderabad, now the domestic passengers, after printing their boarding pass from the newly installed ‘self-service kiosks’ located conveniently at the departures forecourt area outside the terminal building, can enter the Express Security Check lane without getting into the check-in area and head straight towards the boarding area, Singh said. Singh, however, said that the force is exploring the possibility of starting the facility at other airports including Delhi and Mumbai. SGK Kishore, CEO, GHIAL, said, “We are excited to be launching India’s first Express Security check facility that lets domestic passengers without check-in baggage proceed straight to security check without going through the traditional check-in route”. In the wake of increasing passenger flow, recently the security check area at Hyderabad Airport was enhanced to offer over 40% more security lanes for domestic passengers. Additionally, a dedicated lane has also been earmarked for passengers with reduced mobility and airline crew members, helping them clear security check with minimum of hassles and waiting.



Delhi to get 20 more pollution monitoring centres



NEW DELHI: By October, the city’s average air quality readings are likely to change as the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) will start monitoring pollution levels in 20 new locations. These include two industrial areas, Najafgarh and Okhla, and far-flung locations such as Mundka, Narela, Bawana and Dwarka. The air quality in some urban villages like Masoodpur and Dayalpur will be screened as well. Currently, data is collected from 23 stations. An extensive network of monitoring centres can help the authorities tailor-make plans to deal with pollution in local pockets and will also give a more accurate picture of the overall air quality in the city, according to experts. “We will definitely have more representative data. This will ensure that prediction or forecast of air pollution is more accurate,” a DPCC official said. Currently, 13 areas are monitored jointly by the DPCC and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting Research (SAFAR) under the Union ministry of earth sciences keeps a tab on the air quality in 10 others centres in Delhi-NCR.


“We will definitely have more representative data. This will ensure that prediction or forecast of air pollution is more accurate. The implementation of the graded response action plan will become easier because we are not going to generalize air quality for the city but will have a fair idea of what levels may be like in different land use locations,” said a DPCC official. The project of setting up these stations has been tendered to an Australian firm and the equipment at most locations will monitor six gases and particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5). The real time data will be available on DPCC website, while CPCB will disseminate air quality index (AQI) of all these locations on their website. “One big hole that we are plugging this time is industrial areas and unauthorized industries located in different areas. This was a missing link in terms of monitoring. So land use representation will improve and we can do micro-mapping of areas for targeted management of air pollution. The monitoring for other areas in NCR also needs to improve and come at par,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). In a meeting called by Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) this January on enforcement of the graded response action plan, NCR states and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) officials said that 13 new real time stations will be set up in Haryana, 10 in Uttar Pradesh, and 2 in Rajasthan.


The new monitoring stations are also likely to help monitor far-off places in the capital which include Mundka, Narela and Bawana where pollution from industries is said to be affecting locals due to high PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels. According to an independent study conducted by CSE in 2016, the 24-hour average of PM 2.5 levels was found to be 556 micrograms per cubic metre in Mundka between February 5 and 6 – nine times the safe standard. In fact, pollution levels in Mundka-Kirari have even forced residents to file a plea in the NGT last year to increase green cover and provide play areas for children, as well as to convert industrial area into green-area in order to provide relief from respiratory problems. Diwan Singh, activist and convener of the Mundka Kirari Harit Abhiyan feels it is a good move to monitor such locations but has questioned what is being done in order to improve the pollution levels which are evident. “It is a good step to monitor places like Mundka where people are suffering from respiratory problems and lung cancer with more cases than the national average. However, what is the government planning to do in order to rectify it? Providing more green cover and keeping a check on the industries is essential in order to improve the air quality, which is nearly 10 times the safe limit in places like Mundka,” said Singh.



Aadhaar data theft: Techie tells police he did it just for kicks, to make an extra buck

Abhinav Srivastava



BENGALURU: Why did a software engineer working with a leading cab aggregator and earning Rs 42 lakh a year resort to stealing high-security Aadhaar data? Apparently, to earn an extra buck and experience the high of hacking into impregnable systems. This is what Abhinav Srivastava, prime accused in the data theft case, is said to have told interrogators. Srivastava, 31, a resident of Golden Grand apartment complex in Yeshwantpur and cofounder of Qarth Technologies Pvt Ltd, was arrested on Tuesday. On July 26, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had filed a complaint against him for allegedly stealing data of Aadhaar cardholders. Police said Srivastava accessed the UIDAI database through the e-Hospital application hosted by the National Informatics Centre.


MADE ATTEMPTS IN THE PAST TOO: Quoting from Srivastava statements, investigators said he had tried to hack into many government websites, including that of Bengaluru police, before he succeeded in breaching the e-hospital platform. “Srivastava’s repeatedly telling us that he didn’t hack into the e-hospital platform with criminal intention. All he wanted was to earn some extra money,” said cybercrime sleuths. He allegedly hosted an android mobile app, Aadhaar e-KYC, on Google Play store. Anyone downloading clicking on the app could gain access to Aadhaar data available on the e-hospital server. What’s also worrying police is the number of people who downloaded Srivastava’s app. Cops said they are investigating this angle and are in touch with NIC officials.


WIFE IN SHOCK; SLEUTHS STRUGGLE: Srivastava’s doctor-wife is said to be in a state of shock. “He would spend hours on his laptop. But I never thought he was into illegal activities,” police said quoting her. “According to his colleagues and close friends, Srivastava is capable of making phone calls using a dead SIM card. He called himself an ethical hacker and regularly interacted with hackers from foreign countries,” investigators said. Sleuths admitted it was a challenge for them to decode the software in Srivastava’s four laptops. “We are finding it difficult to understand his modus operandi,” a police officer said. According to police estimates, 40,00050,000 people had used Srivastava’s app to access Aadhar details as of Friday. “Who are these users and where did they operate from is what we are primarily investigating. We don’t think miscreants and anti-social elements, including terrorists, may have downloaded the app,” an investigator said.


HE EVADED ARREST BY HIDING AT FRIEND’S PLACE: Soon after UIDAI officials lodged the complaint, a Bengaluru journalist rang up Abhinav Srivastava, seeking his response. “This helped the accused evade police for two days. He locked his apartment in Yeshwantpur and took refuge at his friend’s house in Koramangala. Otherwise, we would have nabbed him by July 31,” police added.



Kolkata: Dengue invades new Dum Dum pockets



KOLKATA: The dengue menace continued its sweep across Dum Dum, affecting new areas. The outbreak, which had so far been limited to Madhugarh and had claimed five lives, has now reached areas like the outskirts of wards 12 and 14. About a kilometre from Madhugarh is Colony 1 at Maidan Pally near MC Garden Road in ward 12. This thickly populated area beside railway tracks has been reporting cases of dengue for the past few days. The latest victim is 27-year-old Hasan Mian who had to be admitted in a hospital in Beliaghata. Beauty Haldar, 50, a resident of Madhugarh, was diagnosed with dengue last week and is currently fighting for life in a hospital on E M Bypass. “When she was admitted five days back, her platelet count was 90,000 (per micro litre of circulating blood). On Thursday, it dropped to 12,000 and she is now on life support,” said Sona Haldar, her brother-in-law. Beauty is the fifth member of the Haldar family to be affected with dengue this year. While three others in the family who had been admitted to nursing homes have returned, Beauty’s condition was critical.


Parikshit Bera, the 24-year-old chartered accountancy student who died on Sunday after being hospitalized with high fever, lived barely 50m from the Haldars’ house. “We had sent his blood samples for tests on Saturday night after he was admitted. But he passed away the next morning before the reports came in. Nobody went to collect them after that,” said Arindam, his brother. Arindam, too, had fever 11 days ago and was subsequently diagnosed with dengue. “Parikshit had a fever while I was recovering,” he said. “We created teams well in advance this year and started vector control drives. But the most dangerous spots are not outside, but inside houses,” said Prabir Pal, councilor of ward 13. “We have witnessed the number of cases coming down in the last three-four days. But that may only be a temporary relief if we don’t get the disease eradicated fast,” he added.



Families relocated after floods in distress: Study



Chennai: The December 2015 flood wiped away more than 10,000 houses. Nearly two years later, residents who were relocated from the banks of rivers to ‘safer’ settlements have come to realise it wasn’t the deluge that uprooted them, but the state’s ad hoc housing project. Their dissent over loss of livelihood and lack of basic amenities in the new colonies on the city’s outskirts is among the various observations made by a team of housing policy researchers, who traced their lives from deluge to displacement. The report, compiled by New Delhi-based Housing and Land Rights Network, and Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC), is based on interviews with 1,020 of the 4,134 families who were evicted from Saidapet, Kotturpuram, R A Puram and Nandambakkam post the flood and shifted to Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance (TNSCB) tenements in Perumbakkam and Ezhil Nagar. “The entire project has been a violation of human rights,” said Vanessa Peter, a policy researcher from IRCDUC. A study on the background of these families revealed that at least 60% of them are dalits, and more than half of them work in the unorganized sector and earn a monthly salary of less than Rs 3,000.


The biggest blow to these families after relocation is the distance between where they live and work. Around 20% of those resettled lost their jobs immediately after being shifted. The study quoted a 2014 report by the Comptroller and auditor General (CAG) which said the Perumbakkam project had violated building norms: according to National Building Code norms only a maximum of 12,180 dwelling units is permitted in the 81.2 hectares the Perumbakkam project occupies. There are around 20,000 dwelling units now. Meanwhile, sources in TNSCB say plans are underway to shift close to 3,000 families from the banks of Cooum to Perumbakkam next week. “Right to housing is a basic fundamental right. Without this all the other rights, including right to education is violated,” said Shivani Chaudhary of HLRN, who was present at the release of the report. Reacting to the study, senior TNSCB officials said the state is moving towards constructing 500 to 2,000 houses in one location instead of building en masse housing projects. “TNSCB will coordinate with line departments to ensure that social infrastructure is in place before resettlement,” said the official.



International News



Italy begins naval mission to help Libya curb migrant flows



ROME: Italy began a limited naval mission on Wednesday to help Libya’s coastguard curb migrant flows, which have become a source of political friction before national elections expected early next year. An Italian patrol boat entered Libyan waters and headed towards the port of Tripoli within minutes of a vote in Italy’s parliament authorizing the deployment. A second vessel was expected to join it in the coming days. Italy announced the operation last week, saying it had been requested by Libya’s UN-backed government. It initially hoped to send six ships into Libyan territorial waters, but the plans had to be scaled back following protests from Tripoli. “(We will) provide logistical, technical and operational support for Libyan naval vessels, helping them and supporting them in shared and coordinated actions,” Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said ahead of Wednesday’s vote. “There will be no harm done or slight given to Libyan sovereignty, because, if anything, our aim is to strengthen Libyan sovereignty,” she told parliament, stressing that Italy had no intention of imposing a blockade on Libya’s coast. In Tripoli, a poster of resistance hero Omar al-Mukhtar, who battled Italian rule in Libya in the 1920s, was hung near the capital’s main square with the inscription “No to a return to colonization”. The Italian move also triggered irate statements from factions in eastern Libya that oppose the UN-backed government.


An eastern-based parliament warned against “attempts by Italy… to return tens of thousands of illegal immigrants to Libya”. Khalifa Haftar, a military commander aligned with the chamber, ordered his forces to repel “any naval vessel that enters national waters without permission from the army”, according to the Facebook page of Haftar’s Libyan National Army. Italy’s lower house voted by 328 to 113 in favour of the mission, while the upper house voted by 191 to 47. After a surge in migrant arrivals from Libya at the start of the year, the number of newcomers has slowed. The Interior Ministry said on Wednesday that 95,215 people had reached Italy so far in 2017, down 2.7 percent from the same period in 2016. Some 2,230 migrants, most of them Africans fleeing poverty and violence at home, died in the first seven months of 2017 trying to make the sea crossing. The Human Rights Watch group said Italy’s move may endanger migrants. “After years of saving lives at sea, Italy is preparing to help Libyan forces who are known to detain people in conditions that expose them to a real risk of torture, sexual violence, and forced labour,” HRW said in a statement.


Elections Ahead: Almost 600,000 migrants have arrived in Italy over the past four years, putting Italy’s network of reception centres under huge strain and causing increasing political tensions. Italy is due to hold national elections by next May, with voting widely expected in early 2018, and the migrant issue is expected to top the political agenda. Rightist parties accuse the centre-left government of doing nothing to halt the influx. “The (migrant boats) will not be being pushed back to the Libyan shore, so we don’t understand what we are going to be doing there,” Giancarlo Giorgetti, deputy head of the opposition Northern League party, told reporters in parliament. Italy hopes the Libyan coastguard can help prevent flimsy migrant boats from putting to sea and has been at the forefront of efforts to make the small force more effective, training its members and upgrading its fleet. Rome has also put pressure on non-governmental organisations that have played an increasingly important role in picking up migrants off the Libyan coast and bringing them to Italy. The government has introduced a code of conduct for the NGOs and has demanded that armed police travel on their boats to help root out people smugglers. Only three of eight humanitarian groups operating in the southern Mediterranean agreed this week to the Italian terms. A boat operated by German NGO Jugend Rettet, one of the five groups that did not sign up, was seized by the Italian coastguard on Wednesday on the order of Sicilian magistrates on suspicion it had aided illegal immigration. There was no immediate comment from Jugend Rettet.



UN reports 251 killings in Congo, 62 children among dead

Vendors and passersby walk along a street in the 3Z neighbourhood



GENEVA: The UN on Friday detailed more than 250 “extrajudicial or targeted killings” in the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s Kasai region from mid-March to mid-June, counting dozens of children among the dead. “The UN team was able to confirm that between 12 March and 19 June some 251 people were the victims of extrajudicial and targeted killings,” said the report from the United Nations human rights office. “These included 62 children, of which 30 were aged under eight,” it added, specifically accusing government agents of killing seven minors.

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