News Flash – 5 September 2017

National News



8 special local trains to run post-midnight on September 6 for Ganpati Visarjan



MUMBAI: Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) will run 8 special locals on September 6 after midnight to cater to the passengers who have come for Ganpati Visarjan. On CR, CST- Kalyan and CST-Thane will leave at 1.30 am and 2.30 am, respectively. Kalyan-CST and Thane-CST will depart at 1 am and 2 am, respectively. CST-Panvel will leave at 1.30 am and 2.45 am. Panvel-CST locals will depart at 1 am and 1.45 am. WR will run Churchgate-Virar locals at 1.15 am, 1.55 am, 2.25 am and 3.20 am. Virar-Churchgate locals will depart at 12.15 am, 12.45 am, 1.40 am and 3 am.



Intrusion attempt at IGI airport foiled by CISF

CISF officials say the incident took place at around 2:45 am on Monday.



NEW DELHI: An intrusion bid at the IGI airport was foiled in the wee hours of Monday with alert CISF personnel on the boundary wall capturing an individual who scaled a perimeter wall near the Air India hangar of the airport. Preliminary investigation suggests the intruder is of unsound mind and was completely ‘naked’ when he attempted to scale the wall. CISF officials say the incident took place at around 2:45 am on Monday when the Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS) started generating an alarm when the individual came in close proximity to the wall near Air India hangar of the IGI airport. Officials say watch-tower number 35 and the quick reaction team (QRT) were immediately alerted that an individual was trying to scale the wall. “We were aware that he had reached the wall and as soon as he tried to scale and jump to the other side, he was caught by QRT and PSOs stationed there. He was completely naked and in no state to talk. He could not give a reason as to why he was there either,” said a senior CISF officer. Officials say the individual is aged around 35 years and is a resident of Sukoi in Jharkhand. Police say they are investigating the accused further but suspect him to be of unsound mind. “It appears that he is mentally unstable but we are investigating the case further. No FIR has been lodged so far,” said a senior police officer.



4 Bengaluru lakes breach banks, flood houses

Debris dumped on the banks of Vrishabhavathi river in Kengeri slid down and broke a retention wall on Monday.



BENGALURU: The scorecard for Bengaluru couldn’t read worse: 33mm rainfall between 11.30pm Sunday and 2.30am Monday , four lakes breached, hundreds of houses flooded, and roads came under sheets of water. Between late Sunday night and early Monday morning, Janardhana, Varthur, Bellandur and Yelahanka lakes breached their banks and overflowed. At least 60 houses around Janardhana Lake in Vasanthapura ward, near Konanakunte, were flooded with lake water. After the residents called ward corporator Shashirekha Jayaram, mayor G Padmavathi visited the spot on Monday and convinced them to let work on storm water drain begin. A BBMP engineer said the lake has neither a natural outlet nor linked to storm water drain.



Civic body jolted into action



HYDERABAD: Nearly a fortnight after TOI kicked off its ‘Crater Hyderabad’ campaign putting a spotlight on the pathetic condition of the city’s roads, the civic authorities finally seem to have been jolted out of their slumber. For, several un-motorable stretches in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) limits, reported in these columns, have been restored, including NTR Marg near Hussainsagar, Basheerbagh, Tankbund Road opposite GHMC office, Nampally Road, BHEL Road and Chintalkunta Road in LB Nagar circle. On the partially damaged NTR Marg where an accident took place on Aug 18, the victim hung his helmet from a stick on the road to alert other commuters. The patch was restored the very day TOI published the picture. “The road is maintained by HMDA. We informed the HMDA engineer responsible and it was restored the same day,” said a GHMC official. Another stretch was the busy Nampally Road, which has been re-carpeted. Though happy, commuters said the authorities need to maintain it properly. “This road needed urgent repairs as it used to turn into a nightmare, especially during monsoons due to potholes and rain water cascading down metro rail pillars. Now on, the road should be maintained and digging should not be allowed, at least till monsoon ends,” said Aron Ankit, a techie who commutes on the stretch. “For roads to remain in good condition, strict vigilance is required. The authorities should take strict action against companies and individuals who damage roads with activities such as digging or letting water flow onto the roads. Fines should also be imposed on those littering the roads,” said Anumula Vinod Kumar, a retired central government employee, who uses the recently restored Chintalkunta road in LB Nagar circle.



Burden of apathy: Karnataka dumps 2,500mld of sewage into its rivers

The pitiable state of Vrishabhavathi River.



BENGALURU: Every day, rivers in Karnataka collectively take in about 2,500 million litres of sewage, all because consecutive state governments have failed to put in place a system to treat it. Bearing the brunt of it all are waterbodies across the state -be it is Cauvery, Krishna or Tungabhadra. On an average, Karnataka generates about 3,777 million litres of sewage, a whopping 2,472.84 (65%) of which reaches its rivers. This translates to about 9.02 lakh million litres of sewage a year. In fact, the condition of rivers across the country is similar. A total of 61,948 million litres of sewage is generated in India every day and 38,671 million litres (62.42%) go into our rivers, according to the Central Pollution Control Board. Among the southern states, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh see 94% and 91.38% of the sewage they generate flow into rivers. While the situation in Telangana (59%) and Maharashtra (36.6%) is better than that of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu (68%) is close to Karnataka. While arguing that he isn’t being critical, Magsaysay awardee Rajendra Singh, popular as Waterman of India, says: “There is no foreseeable solution to the problem.” Experts, while blaming industries for most of this pollution, point to how successive governments have been shortsighted in letting factories come up close to rivers. “The riverbeds aren’t protected. The biggest problem we face across the country-and I’m not exempting Karnataka -is that there are no proper inspections and no due diligence is done before granting permission,” said Prof C P Rajendra, a senior scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR).


Singh further argues that there are not enough sewage treatment plants (STPs) and that even the ones that exist do not operate. “I am speaking based on my personal visits to rivers across India, including Arkavathy on the outskirts of Bengaluru. The STPs just do not work and, unfortunately, I do not see a solution to this problem as our democracy is driven by contractors and corporates working for profit and not by the people,” he said. The Arkavathy river is just one example of how untreated sewage in many places is turning rivers into sewers. Separate data accessed from the Central Pollution Control Board shows that at least 15 river stretches are highly polluted, which are part of the 302 polluted stretches along 275 of the 445 rivers the board monitors. Again, almost all states share a similar fate. If Maharashtra has 49 polluted stretches, it’s 28 in Assam, 21 in Madhya Pradesh, 20 in Gujarat, 17 in West Bengal, 13 in Kerala, 13 in Uttar Pradesh, 12 in Manipur, 12 in Odisha, 10 in Meghalaya, nine in Jammu & Kashmir, eight each in Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, and seven each in Tamil Nadu and Telangana. “The board has a clear policy that no industry, resorts or homestays are permitted within 500 metres of rivers. Besides, we also implement the Ministry of Forests and Environment rules, which bar such activities in 1.5km vicinity of rivers,” said Lakshman, chairman, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board Chairman. Lakshman said the board has been initiating action against industries that have been polluting waterbodies. However, he couldn’t immediately share the number of notices served on such defaulting firms as he was inspecting Vrishabhavathi River, checking for such polluting units.



Stay safe, stomach bug is on the prowl at schools



KOLKATA: Even as the dengue threat hangs heavy over the city, another virus has taken on scary proportions. Viral enteritis has affected thousands, predominantly children between five and 12 years, over the last few weeks. Characterized by high fever and a severely upset stomach, it has been leaving patients dehydrated and weak. Many are taking days to recover from the attack, which is often spreading from schools, say doctors. A range of viruses, including the norovirus and the rotavirus, trigger viral enteritis. While children are now compulsorily vaccinated against rotavirus, it has multiple strains that remain unchecked. The result has been quite alarming this time, according to Shantanu Ray, pediatrician. “While viral enteritis is common, it has taken on a very severe form this year. I have come across scores of children suffering from it over the last month. In some cases, the children were left so severely dehydrated that they had to be hospitalized and put on a saline drip. A couple of children even suffered convulsions due to high fever,” said Ray. He added that the infection has been spreading mainly through water and poor hand hygiene. A feature of the virus this year has been the unusually high fever. “Viral enteritis rarely pushes the body temperature beyond 100 degrees. But this time, I have come across several who had a temperature of 105. The more the virus has spread, the more severe the symptoms have got. It seems that poor hand hygiene among schoolchildren is a major reason. We must stress on washing hands as the first step to check the virus,” said Irfaan Akhtar, microbiology head at Fortis.


Those with lower immunity are vulnerable to the viral attack, pointed out medics. “Children and the elderly have lower resistance, which makes them prone to an attack. Children are at a greater risk for they are more likely to consume water from different sources. Many also tend to have a poor hand hygiene,” said Debashish Saha, consultant, AMRI Hospital. But it’s important to take immediate steps if loose motion and vomiting persists, Saha said. “Fluid intake has to be sufficient. If that can’t prevent dehydration, saline is the only alternative,” said Saha. Since viral enteritis has no specific drug the treatment is symptomatic. Paracetamol is prescribed to check fever and painkillers to counter body ache. “If symptoms remain uncontrolled for 4-5 days, hospitalization is recommended. Since it is difficult to assess the extent of the severity, it’s better to take precautions before they turn unmanageable. Even though mortality rate is low in viral enteritis, children below the age of three are vulnerable,” said Animesh Gupta, consultant, general medicine and critical care, RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences. He added that self-medication could be dangerous. “If one has fever accompanied by an upset stomach, a doctor must be consulted,” said Gupta. Viral enteritis often sets in with a severe stomach cramp. “It leads to loose motion and vomiting within 24 hours and the temperature starts climbing. The key is to counter the loss of body fluids. ORS is the best option,” said Akhtar.



‘Drug’ tip-off leads Chennai police to Rs 2 crore bathtub stash



CHENNAI: An anonymous call about a stockpile of illegal drugs on Monday led police to a haul of Rs 2 crore in cash, in wads of Rs 2,000 bills, which they seized from a bathtub in the Velachery residence of a cab operator. Police informed the income tax department about the seizure from the house of businessman Tamizhan, 35, a resident of VGP Avenue in Velachery, who has a fleet of 200 cars that he rents out to software companies in Sholinganallur and Velachery and on Old Mahabalipuram Road. Tamizhan — who was away when police searched his house — is yet to account for the money, an I-T officer said. Investigators said an unidentified male called the Velachery police station around 5pm on Monday to provide an address, saying police would find a large cache of drugs there, and hanging up without identifying himself. “The caller gave us an address on VGP Avenue in Velachery and abruptly hung up,” an investigating officer said. “We took a drug detection dog and conducted a surprise check of the house”.


There were only women in the house during the search and the police dog scared them into a huddle as the team combed the house. It initially appeared that the tip was a hoax, with the policemen failing to find any narcotics. “One of the policemen finally checked a bathroom attached to the master bedroom and found bundles of crisp notes in a bathtub,” the officer said. “We are checking Tamizhan’s background to see if he was a suspect in any crime,” he said, adding that the investigation would also probe if the businessman has any connections with drug dealers as the tipster’s call suggested. Investigators are trying to track down the anonymous informant who called the Velachery police station from a landline telephone, the officer said. The cash is in the safekeeping of the Velachery police who will hand over the cash to the I-T department on Tuesday. The I-T officer said the department would summon Tamizhan. “We will ask him about the source of the cash and check records of his financial transactions,” he said.



International News



Religious tourism: The white gold of Saudi Arabia

Muslims pray at the Grand mosque ahead of the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.



MINA (SAUDI ARABIA): With global oil prices flailing, Saudi Arabia is turning to another natural resource: billions of dollars gained from religious tourism as the kingdom hosts the annual hajj pilgrimage. Shops line the packed esplanade of the Great Mosque of Mecca, one of the holiest sites in Islam, lowering their awnings only at prayer time and re-opening their doors minutes after the mosque empties. Saudi authorities have reported 2.35 million Muslims are participating in this year’s hajj, the pilgrimage to the western Saudi Arabian city of Mecca that forms one of the five pillars of Islam. Of those, around 1.75 million pilgrims from 168 countries arrived from abroad, according to the state-run SPA news agency. Even at the foothills of Mount Arafat, where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed delivered his last sermon, carpet merchants were scouting for customers among the faithful. “The money spent by pilgrims this year could be from 20 to 25 billion riyals ($5.3 to $6.7 billion),” said Maher Jamal, head of Mecca’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry — an estimated 70 percent increase from the previous year. Jamal told AFP the jump in revenue stemmed from a 20 percent increase in the number of pilgrims compared with last year. Each of them contributes on average thousands of dollars to the kingdom’s domestic economy, spending money on food, lodging, souvenirs and gifts. The increase in numbers is no accident but rather part of the ambitious Vision 2030 plan aimed at diversifying the Saudi economy, which was dealt a serious blow after oil prices plummeted in 2014. According to historian Luc Chantre, whose research focuses on hajj during colonial times, “even before the advent of Islam, Mecca was a place for merchants”. “It was an area of international exchange, where religion and commerce were always linked,” Chantre told AFP.


“Until the discovery of oil, the hajj was Saudi Arabia’s primary source of revenue”. Saudi Arabia — the world’s top crude oil exporter — has announced a plan to shift the kingdom’s economy away from oil dependency toward other sources of revenue, including religious tourism. The Vision 2030 plan aims to draw six million pilgrims to hajj annually. In addition, the kingdom hopes to attract 30 million pilgrims to umrah, a lesser pilgrimage that can be completed during the rest of the year. Years before the 2030 targets were unveiled, work was already under way to expand the capacity to accommodate as many pilgrims as possible during the five-day hajj. The past decade has seen cranes rise above the Great Mosque for projects including the expansion of the holy mosques of Mecca and Medina, an underground metro line and new flooring built around the Kaaba — a black masonry cube which pilgrims circumambulate through now-air conditioned or ventilated corridors. The expansion projects have been met with some criticism for distorting the ancient sites, sparking major safety concerns along the way. In September 2015, a construction crane crashed over pilgrims congregating at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, leaving more than 100 people dead. Later that month, the hajj saw its worst ever disaster when a deadly stampede along the route killed around 2,300 people. The stampede drew fierce criticism, in particular from rival Iran which reported 464 of its citizens killed. After refusing to send pilgrims in 2016, Iranian authorities say more than 86,000 of their nationals are taking part this year. On Friday, as pilgrims carried out the last major ritual of the pilgrimage, Saudi authorities held a televised press conference to report that the 2017 hajj had passed without major health or safety upsets.



Jim Mattis on Pakistan: Responsible countries take terrorists down



WASHINGTON: The US intends to work with Pakistan to take down terrorists, defence secretary Jim Mattis has said, asserting that this is what a “responsible” nation does. He was responding to questions on Pakistan’s reaction to the Afghan and South Asia policy announced by US President Donald Trump last Monday. Trump hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to terror groups that kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. He also warned Pakistan that it has “much to lose” by harbouring terrorists. Mattis did not respond to questions on timeline, if any, for Pakistan to take action against terrorists and terrorist groups. “We intend to work with Pakistan in order to take the terrorists down. I think that’s what a responsible nation does,” Mattis said at a media briefing. His remarks came after the State Department notified to the Congress to place a pause button on $255 million foreign military financing for Pakistan.


US holds up $255m to Pakistan: The United States will hold up $255 million in military assistance for Pakistan until it cracks down on extremist groups that threaten neighboring Afghanistan, officials said Thursday, in the first concrete step since President Donald Trump vowed to ramp up pressure on Pakistan. In his new strategy for the 16-year Afghan war, Trump singled out Pakistan for harboring Taliban leaders and other militants that are battling American troops in Afghanistan. Trump’s tough words about Pakistan, a troubled US security partner, infuriated Islamabad and triggered anti-US protests that Pakistani police have had to use tear gas to disperse. Although the Trump administration had floated the possibility of curtailing aid, hitting Islamabad with sanctions or severing its status as a major non-NATO ally, it had been unclear until Thursday exactly what types of measures the administration would pursue, or how quickly. “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” Trump said in his Afghanistan speech. “But that will have to change”. Trump’s administration had faced a September 30 deadline either to say that it planned to spend the $255 million, or lose it. Ahead of that deadline, the administration told Congress that it will indeed use the money, but is putting a “pause” on spending it or on assigning any funds to specific sales of military equipment to the Pakistanis.


State Department officials said the funds won’t be released until the US sees that Pakistan is more successfully addressing US concerns about safe havens in the country for groups including the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Afghan Taliban and has been blamed for some of Afghanistan’s worst attacks. The officials weren’t authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity. But Pakistan has long maintained that its purported Taliban ties and tolerance of extremists groups are overblown, arguing it is already doing its best to help the US stabilize Afghanistan. And American officials wouldn’t describe any specific steps they were demanding that Pakistan take, nor would they say whether they’d even communicated such steps privately to the Pakistanis. The vague nature of the US demands on Pakistan, coupled with the split-the-difference approach of putting the promised funds aside indefinitely, suggested the Trump administration was still struggling to settle on its Pakistan policy even after the president unveiled it with fanfare in a prime-time address. On Afghanistan, too, the plan is a work in progress, with Pentagon officials still determining a final number for how many more US troops will be sent to Afghanistan. “This is symbolic more than significant, on both sides,” said Ambassador Jim Jeffries, a former longtime diplomat now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


“The Pakistanis will push the usual buttons of protests and complaints and diplomatic anger, but they will also think, ‘Boy, what else will Trump do?”. Islamabad has already reacted angrily to Trump’s allegation that the country harbors extremists, with the country’s lower house of parliament passing a resolution this week denouncing his claim. Security analyst have also warned that isolating Pakistan could lead it to seek closer ties with Russia, Iran and China — rival powers whose influence in the region is a longstanding concern for the US The US has sought before to use aid to Pakistan as leverage to secure its cooperation on Afghanistan, previously withholding Coalition Support Funds. To Pakistan’s dismay, Trump has also dangled the possibility of bringing India — Pakistan’s archenemy — deeper into the Afghanistan process unless Pakistan is more cooperative. Pakistan has fought for years with the Pakistani Taliban and homegrown extremists, but at the same time has tolerated the Afghan Taliban and the related Haqqani network. It’s widely accepted that Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders are living in Pakistan and that Pakistani hospitals treat the group’s wounded.

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