News Flash – 6 December 2017

National News



Cyclone Ockhi weakens, may not hit Gujarat coast: IMD

People get drenched in waves during high tide in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai due to Cyclone Ockhi.



AHMEDABAD: Cyclone Ockhi is gradually weakening into a depression and may not hit the Gujarat coast near Surat as predicted earlier, the Meteorological Centre said here on the intervening night of December 5 and 6. Cyclonic storm Ockhi has already turned into a “deep depression” and may hit south Gujarat only as a “depression” late tonight, according to an official statement. The deep depression is located around 240 kms south-southwest of Surat. “The deep depression over east-central Arabian Sea moved further north-northeastwards with a speed of 18 kmph during the past six hours and lay centred over east-central Arabian Sea near latitude 19.4o N and longitude 71.5o E, about 240 km south-southwest of Surat and 150 km west-northwest of Mumbai,” the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast said. “It is very likely to continue to move north-northeastwards, weaken further and cross south Gujarat and adjoining north Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a depression by tonight (December 5-6 2017),” the bulletin read. However, there is also a probability of dissipation of the system over the sea before the landfall due to unfavourable environmental conditions, like high wind shear and colder sea surface temperatures near the coast, it added. Regional IMD officials said the cyclone had already weakened into a deep depression. “The cyclone has already weakened into a deep depression and it is highly likely that it will turn into a depression. There are possibilities that it does not hit the coast at all and, as there is a probability of dissipation over the sea before the landfall,” Jayanta Sarkar, director of the MeT office here, said.


“The system weakened mainly because of unfavourable environmental conditions, like high wind shear and colder sea surface near the coast. The system weakened because it is winter. The story would have been different had it occurred during the monsoon or pre-monsoon season,” he said. The IMD release said that the deep depression would bring light to moderate rain in several parts of state for the next three days as the sea condition would remain rough for the next 18 hours. The MeT Centre cautioned fishermen from venturing into the sea for the next 18 hours. After dumping rains in Mumbai, Cyclone Ockhi was likely to make a landfall near Surat. Several top political leaders were forced to cancel their rallies in the poll-bound state, which experienced showers. Although the cyclone has weakened, the state administration has made all the preparation to meet any eventuality. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani travelled to Surat and took a review meeting of preparations to deal with the situation. Around 1,600 people have been shifted to safer places in Surat, officials said adding that the security forces– NDRF, BSF, Army, Navy, Coast Guard have been alerted to take all necessary steps. “Conducted review meeting with officials in view of Ockhi cyclone at Surat. Instructed them to leave no stone unturned to counter any adverse situation…No need to panic,” Rupani tweeted.



Sanpada bank heist: Rs 1.5 crore loot recovered, 50% still missing


NAVI MUMBAI: After three weeks of investigation into the burglary at Bank of BarodaJuinagar branch, the Crime Branch and the Sanpada Police teams have succeeded in arresting 10 persons and have recovered 5523 grams of gold, 412 grams silver worth Rs 1.23 lakhs, Rs 12.19 lakhs cash, 744 Saudi Riyals (Around Rs 12,000) and 660 Dirhams (around Rs 11,000).The collective loot seized is worth Rs 1.52 crores, apart from four cars, worth Rs 24 lakhs, used in the crime. Four more accused, all labourers recruited for tunnel digging are still at large from whom 50% recovery of stolen booty has to be done. The total loot was worth Rs 3.43 crores. Police Commissioner Hemant Nagrale said, “The mastermind Hajid Ali Baig (45) claims that in 2014 when he was released on bail in a burglary case, he had seen on television the Punjab National Bank burglary in Sonepat, Haryana. Since, then he was planning a similar heist. After he met other criminals when he was lodged in different jails several times, he planned similar burglary with Shravan Hegde (37), Momin Khan (24), Anjan Mahanti (43) and Moiddin Shaikh (43). In April 2017, when all of them were out of jail on bail, they met at Asalpha village in Ghatkopar and chalked out a plan to target Bank of Baroda in Juinagar. Baig invested Rs 8.5 lakhs for committing the burglary. They bought digging tools and cutters, grinder machines, electrical equipment, exhaust fans and wood ply to be fitted inside tunnel”. The five key accused had roped in Deepak Mishra who brought four labourers from UP, who were engaged in digging the 40-feet-long underground tunnel from the store till the bank locker room.


While, the four labourers got their collective share of one kg gold and Rs 5,000 each to escape to UP after the burglary, Deepak Mishra got his share of 1.25 kgs gold and unknown cash, as he is yet to be arrested along with the four labourers. While Gena Prasad alias Bhawar Singh, who took the general store on rent has died due to prolonged illness on August 8 at Maharana Pratap hospital in Udaipur, Rajasthan much before the burglary was executed. DCP (Zone-1) Sudhakar Pathare said, “One gang member had conducted a recce of the bank by video recording using a hidden camera in a pen. Thus, getting an idea of the measurement of the floor tiling so as to properly reach the locker room”. Nagrale further said, “They started the tunnel digging work in June and continued for six months. To alert the labourers digging the tunnel, in case anyone came near their store and heard the digging and cutting sound, a gang member sat in a car parked on the road and used Chinese walkie talkie of ultra-frequency that had a range of 1 km, to communicate with the gang member provided with another walkie talkie inside the tunnel”. “On the night of Saturday November 11, three gang members reached the bank’s locker room by cutting the metal base of the flooring and then breaking tiles layer. The burglars being professional, they have used only three big screw drivers to break open each of the 30 lockers, which they later demonstrated in police custody. They checked the closed locker by inserting a long wire through the keyhole whether there was any belonging kept inside. Accordingly, out of the 225 lockers, the left 45 empty lockers untouched and broke open only the 30 lockers with valuables.


They were in the locker room for around 8 hours till 7.30 am on Sunday November 12. Hence, they got 24 hours to escape till the burglary came to light on Monday morning when the bank reopened”. The five key accused had sold 1740 grams of gold to the Malegaon jeweller Rajendra Wagh (52), for Rs 25 lakhs. While Rs 11 lakhs share was taken by Shrawan Hegde, Baig took 2800 grams of gold worth Rs 70 lakhs, which he had kept with his sister Mehrunissa Sayyad who was nabbed from Pune and the gold was recovered from her. While the cops have recovered Rs 6.5 lakhs cash from Shahnazbi Shaikh (33), the wife of one of the arrested key accused Moiddin Shaikh. Nagrale further said, “After seeing the demonstration by the arrested burglars, who could easily break one locker within 15 minutes by simply using three screw drivers, we have decided to conduct a seminar for all banks in the city. The locker manufacturers will be asked to make changes in their engineering pattern to ensure the safety of bank lockers. While, at the Bank of Baroda, Juinagar branch, there was a severe security lapse as there was no security guard, no alarm system in the locker room as a sensor would have raised an alert when the burglars broke the locker room’s flooring”. Nagrale said, ” We are considering to book the gang members under the stringent MCOCO Act, as there are more than 100 criminal case like robber, burglary, dacoity and Arms Act against them in Palghar, Mumbai, Pune, Dhule, Nagpur, Amravatil Silvassa, Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara.”



Cyclone Ockhi effect: Mumbai records highest December rain in 50 years

Rainfall during 8.30am-8.30pm at the IMD’s Santacruz observatory was 36mm, which beat the previous record of 31.4mm, recorded on December 12, 1967.



MUMBAI: Owing to Cyclone Ockhi, the city recorded the highest-ever December rainfall on Tuesday, in just 12 hours. Rainfall during 8.30am-8.30pm at the IMD’s Santacruz observatory was 36mm, which beat the previous record of 31.4mm, recorded on December 12, 1967. As Ockhi came close to the city on Tuesday, it brought in a day full of rains and gusty winds, leading to a steep drop in temperatures. The maximum temperatures recorded at both the Santacruz and Colaba observatories were 10 degrees lower than on Monday. As a result, at several places, noon-time unusually was much cooler than dawn. Also, there was barely a two-degree difference between maximum and minimum temperatures at most places. Ockhi’s threat had prompted the government to keep schools shut, which lead to an easing of school-time traffic. For adults, it was business as usual, barring minor absenteeism, though organizations had issued advisories to employees. While rainfall was moderate, rumour mongers were busy creating panic with fake news on the sea link and various roads, prompting the BMC to tweet: “Please don’t create panic.” In fact, no transport disruption was reported from anywhere in the city. The trains ran, as did the buses and cars. The BMC also had to make special arrangements in municipal and private schools in Dadar and Parel to shelter about 20,000 followers of Dr BR Ambedkar who thronged Chaityabhoomi in large numbers for Ambedkar’s death anniversary, observed on December 6. As many as 1.5 lakh followers are known to have already visited the site, with 6 lakh expected on Wednesday. Three persons were injured on Tuesday as a pandal at Shivaji Park fell on them.


Meanwhile, all 2,606 boats and other vessels off the state’s coast since Saturday have been accounted for, and no fishermen are missing. Passenger boat services, suspended because of Ockhi, are likely to resume on Wednesday. Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, scientist and head of the cyclone warning division at IMD, said that till Tuesday noon cyclone Ockhi was 230km west southwest of Mumbai. “In the evening it was closest to Mumbai (around 100km) and moved north-northeastwards and weakened gradually. From Wednesday it will be clear,” he said. By evening the cyclone had weakened into a deep depression as it was expected to cross the south Gujarat coast near Surat. Weather officials said that by Wednesday the cyclone was expected to dissipate. Tuesday’s 12-hour rainfall (8.30am-8.30pm) was more than the December 12, 1967 record of 31.4mm, received during a 24-hour period. Unlike the past few days, as the day progressed, it started getting progressively cooler. The maximum temperatures recorded on Tuesday by the IMD Colaba and Santacruz observatories were 23.2 degree Celsius and 23.3 degree Celcius. In both cases, the maximums were almost 10 degrees below normal, and also 10 degrees below what was recorded on Monday—32.8 degree Celsius and 33.6 degree Celsius recorded at Colaba and Santacruz. IMD records show that Tuesday’s maximum temperatures were the lowest ever recorded in the last 10 years. The rain led to not only maximum temperatures to fall, but also the usually considerable gap between night and day temperatures to narrow down to just two degrees. Minimum temperatures recorded on Tuesday were 21 degrees Celsius or thereabouts.



Sarjapur to be testing ground for drone-based governance



BENGALURU: The government is actively pushing for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), popularly called drones, in governance and considering pilot projects in Sarjapur(Bengaluru), Badami municipality (Bagalkot district) and Tumakuru district, based on recommendations of the Karnataka Knowledge Commission. Science and technology minister M R Seetharam said: “We want to be path-breakers in this field and efforts have been on to encourage the use of new technology, especially UAVs, in governance. We have gone through the Knowledge Commission report and will hold the first meeting this week”. On the agenda will be regulation for use of drones and police preparedness in implementation of the pilots in Sarjapur and Tumakuru. According to a report commissioned by the state government, “Every city has two important functions: property tax collection and planning ahead for the development. Both these require timely, precise and accurate, image and mapping information — presently, city authorities utilize traditional methods for these areas for which UAVs can be used”.  The UAVs, the report recommends, can independently and autonomously be utilized to determine property tax of each building by imaging and mapping it, determining its height and then estimating floor area.


“This can be done without humans visiting each building and surveying it and can be scientific and free from errors and fudging of data. The estimated floor areas and type of building can then be used to estimate Expected Property Tax – which will give a tremendous handle and efficiency to city authorities for proper property-tax collection,” it added. Also, every city needs to prepare its development master plan and be able to monitor it regularly. Preparing a plan requires timely and detailed information and maps and its regional resources. Knowledge Commission Chairperson K Kasturirangan told TOI: “We have detailed all these points in our report. Now, it’s for the government to follow up”. While Sarjapur has been chosen for tax collection, Badami has been chosen for master plan operations. In Tumakuru, UAVs will be used to collect real-time information on standing crops and their spread and for spraying pesticides and fertilizers.


TIMES VIEW: Drone-based governance has a suitably futuristic flavour to the commonplace exercise of ensuring city administrators deliver on basic amenities. While deploying technological aids to assist city managers is welcome, we must not lose sight of the core of good governance. Officers at the helm of affairs and all the support staff should be goal-oriented and focused on ensuring that people don’t have to run from pillar to post to take care of their day-to-day requirements and get problems sorted out. Using drones to improve property tax collection is laudable but let’s not forget that it’s people who finally make the difference.



Two pressure bombs hidden on the road defused by cops



BHUPALAPALLY: The police on Tuesday defused two pressure bombs hidden on the main road between Bhadrachalam and Kothaguda. According to police, an autorickshaw driver who was attending to the call of nature near some roadside bushes at Vijayapuri Colony in Venkatapur mandal noticed the bombs. They were placed in a cloth near a signboard. The driver alerted the police and a bomb disposal squad rushed to the site and defused the pressure bombs. Eturunagaram assistant superintendent of police Rahul Hegde said they suspect the bombs were planted by Maoists targeting police patrol parties.



Kolkata: CISCE orders blanket CCTV cover for all schools in 14 days



KOLKATA: The sight of guardians hitting the street in spontaneous protests, asking for their children’s safety at school, prompted the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) to send out a late-night mail to all affiliated schools on Monday, directing them to install closed-circuit television cameras in school premises within a fortnight. The council has also told schools that an updated “School Safety Manual” would be rolled out soon for implementation. The council’s move coincided with the Mamata Banerjee government repeatedly questioning it for doing little beyond issuing security-related advisories. Both the south Kolkata schools that are now facing guardians’ ire for sexual abuse of four-year-old girls on the campus are affiliated to the CISCE. The council has roughly 400 schools affiliated to it in Bengal, including some top Kolkata schools. In a letter to all affiliated school principals, CISCE chief executive and secretary Gerry Arathoon wrote: “All schools are hereby informed that they shall mandatorily install CCTV cameras and monitor them for complete safety and security of all its students and staff. The school should ensure that the recordings of all installed CCTV cameras are preserved for a minimum period of a fortnight”.


The Heritage School principal Seema Sapru said: “We have received the circular. We are holding meetings to expedite its implementation.” Rammohan Mission School principal Sujoy Biswas said: “We have started preparations after receiving the circular. We have CCTV cameras installed”. The CISCE, in its letter, reminded schools that it had asked them on September 12 to prioritise students’ safety and submit details about the steps they were taking. The letter said some schools had shied away from sharing these details and requested schools to update safety measures. CM Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday repeated that the “strongest possible action” would be taken against such “deplorable acts” and cautioned schools that they should get their act right when it came to children’s safety. Education minister Partha Chatterjee indicated that the state would convene a meeting of the self-regulatory school panel to address this issue. A school education department official said security inside the school’s gates could not be considered as a law-and-order subject. “The school and the CISCE must take responsibility of what happens on a school bus or the campus,” he added. “The schools should ensure they are run properly and the CISCE, too, should look into it,” Banerjee said. Chatterjee went a step further: “It is unfathomable why the schools didn’t have basic (security) steps in place. What is the CISCE doing? Isn’t it its responsibility to ensure basic safety steps are implemented by schools? If anyone feels we can’t intervene, let me clarify we can,” he told reporters.



First look at Chennai’s only ‘curved’ metro station



Chennai: If the underground metro station at Saidapet opens in March 2018 as planned, it will be both a transit system and a barrier that will partially protect the Anna Salai from flooding if the Adyar river overflows. The underground facility, being readied for trial runs scheduled to be held by December-end, is a curved structure built off Anna Salai. It has high flood walls to protect the tunnels, that connect to a ramp across the Adyar river, from inundation. “The tracks are getting finishing touches and so is the station. We will be ready within 10 days before we start preparing for the trial runs,” a metro rail official said. A four-car metro train will be tested in the tunnels from AG-DMS to Saidapet and across the ramp towards Little Mount before official inspections begin to get approvals for opening the line. The seven-kilometer AG-DMS Saidapet line will connect Anna Salai to the airport. The underground station has many firsts in terms of design, location and facilities. Unlike other underground metro stations in the phase, the design of Saidapet station is tweaked as the station box is a curved structure to accommodate it under a land that bends towards Adyar river. The facility is also built off the Anna Salai to one corner compared to the other six underground stations connecting the arterial road built right below it. As the tunnels built under the road proceed towards Saidapet metro from the Nandanam station, they bend towards the left side of the road. “Two tunnels bend under the YMCA grounds at Nandanam towards Saidapet,” an official said.


Besides the tweaked interior design, six-metre high flood walls have been built on either side of the tunnels connecting the ramp to prevent flooding if the Adyar is in spate. When the river overflowed in December 2015, water entered through the tunnels at Saidapet as localities near the station and the river got flooded. “The flood wall is at a height of seven metres from the river. So it will prevent water entering through the tunnels,” an engineer at the Saidapet metro construction site said. A 130m cut and cover tunnel, which is an excavated trench with a roof, connects the circular tunnel with the ramp from a depth of 18m underground to an elevation of 15m. An engineer at the site said except for the curved it is similar to the Thirumangalam metro station which connects Anna Nagar Tower underground metro station with the elevated corridor at Koyambedu. The station can accommodate expansion of intermodal transportation services in the future. Apart from a 600sqm parking space, officials said there was land available to build bays for buses to enter and exit the station similar to the Chennai Central railway station. “We have also built the tunnels in such a way that there is enough space for expansion of the road,” a site engineer said.



International News



50 injured in German train collision: Police



BERLIN: Some 50 people were injured in a collision between a passenger train and a freight train near the German city of Duesseldorf on Tuesday evening, police told AFP. The accident happened at around 7.30 pm (1830 GMT) in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany‘s most populous region, state rail operator Deutsche Bahn said. There was no immediate reason given for the crash. “DB, the relevant authorities and the rescue services are working at the scene to provide urgent assistance to those affected and to clarify the situation,” Deutsche Bahn said. The regional express train carrying passengers is run by the privately-owned British Operator National Express, while the cargo train is operated by DB Cargo, it added. A National Express spokesman told Bild newspaper the train had around 100 passengers on board. In May, seven people were slightly injured when a regional train derailed in eastern Germany.



Six killed in roadside explosion in Pakistan



PESHAWAR: A roadside remote-controlled bomb placed on a motorcycle on Tuesday exploded near a military vehicle in Pakistan‘s restive North Waziristan area, killing at six persons and injuring eight others. The bomb was planted on the motorcycle parked along the roadside in Mir Ali Tehsil of North Waziristan Agency. The blast targeted the vehicle and those killed and injured were civilians, said Kamran Afridi, a top administrator in the North Waziristan tribal region. At least six persons were killed in the explosion in the tribal region near Pak-Afghan border, he said. The injured were shifted to nearby hospitals, Afridi said. The explosion is the first major blast after the culmination of the military operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ against militants. Last week, five persons were killed in a similar blast in the South Waziristan Agency.



In a first, 20 women army, air force officers from Afghanistan to be trained in Chennai



NEW DELHI: For the first time, a group of 20 women army and air force officers from Afghanistan will be trained at the Officers’ Training Academy in Chennai. The group, who were given a celebratory send-off by the Indian ambassador in Kabul, Manpreet Vohra, will go through a rigorous training module in India. They left Kabul on Tuesday. This comes on the heels of yet another group of only women entrepreneurs who were sent by the Afghan government to India to participate in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Hyderabad last week. The current batch of officers and officials from the Afghan defence ministry will be given a preparatory training program at the OTA. They will go back to pick a fresh batch of women officers who will come in for full training modules from 2018. “We are expanding our armed forces and women will play a bigger role,” said Shaida Abdali, Afghan ambassador to India. At any given time, there are about 300 Afghan officers being trained in India, the largest number at the IMA in Dehradun. Afghan media quoted the Indian Embassy in Kabul as saying, “For the first time, a batch of 20 Lady officers from the Afghan Army and Afghan Air Force departed for a training module at Officers Training Academy, Chennai”.  This comes a day after Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani hailed India’s contribution in various sectors of the country. Emphasising that India is a good partner, President Ghani insisted that the Afghan government is committed to further strengthening bilateral cooperation with India.


The President made the remarks during a meeting with the members of the Lower and Upper Houses of the Parliament to brief the lawmakers regarding his recent foreign trips and interactions, Khaama Press reported. Dismissing misperceptions regarding the presence and role of India in Afghanistan, President Ghani said the Afghan government has no hidden deal with any country and no foreign state will be allowed to use the Afghan soil against the neighbours of the country. Kabul, he said, has shared interests with New Delhi and the Afghan government will continue to use the economic opportunities provided by India for the development of the country. Pakistan has long been opposing the presence of India in Afghanistan but Afghan officials have repeatedly rejected these protests and even the United States has endorsed the constructive role of New Delhi in the rehabilitation of Afghanistan. India has played a vital role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime and has invested over $2 billion in various projects. In 2017, India pledged an extra $1 billion including 116 small development projects as well as a new dam in Afghanistan.

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