News Flash – 6 July 2017

National News



Infiltration down, 92 terrorists killed in J&K this year


NEW DELHI: As counter-terror forces mount offensive against terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, the gains are starting to show. As many as 92 terrorists were killed till July 2 this year, against 79 in the corresponding period of 2016. In fact, the numbers of terrorists killed in counter-insurgency operations so far this year have surpassed the year-wise figures for 2012 and 2013 when UPA was in power at the Centre. While 72 and 67 terrorists were eliminated in J&K in 2012 and 2013 respectively, the numbers picked up during NDA’s tenure, touching 110 in 2014, 108 in 2015 and 150 in 2016. “Terrorists killed till July 2 this year are only slightly less than killings through 2014 and 2015,” a senior home ministry official said, attributing the successes to seamless coordination between the Army, central forces, state government and intelligence agencies. “The forces have been given a free hand to track and intercept the terrorists holed up in the valley, before launching intelligence-based operations with due mapping of the target and how to neutralize terrorists with minimum collateral damage,” said a senior home ministry functionary. The official underlined that among the 92 terrorists killed in J&K till July 2, most of the targets were big and prominent terror operatives. Infiltration figures also show a decline. As against 371 infiltration cases recorded in 2016, 124 were recorded till May-end this year. “Many of these 124 terrorists have been neutralized since,” said a home ministry official.


While terror-related incidents were higher at 168 till July 2 this year as compared to 126 in the corresponding period of 2016, stone-pelting incidents witnessed a dip with 142 incidents till June 2017. In July 2016 alone, there were 820 incidents, though this was largely on account of outbreak of violence after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani on July 8. The central security establishment feels that better statistics of terror-related violence in J&K, are largely to do with the Centre’s strategy to actively engage with the terrorists holed up in the valley with full backing of the state government. “Not only are pro-active operations being undertaken but the response of the Army and para-military forces to terror attacks against their personnel and installations has improved manifold,” said an officer. However, the momentum of the counter-terror operations needs to be sustained or intensified. “We are tracking top terrorist leaders including expelled Hizbul man Zakir Musa, and will engage them in encounters as and when they are cornered. Simultaneously, we are taking steps to choke terror funding and have also raised the J&K terror issue diplomatically, leading the US to designate Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist,” said the official.



Bengaluru police launch automated traffic signal system to gauge vehicular density

Om Shakthi Temple junction in Banaswadi is one of the junctions where the trial run is on



BENGALURU: Time comes to a standstill for motorists waiting at traffic signals on city streets, especially during the peak hours. This might soon become a nostalgic memory. The city traffic police have launched a pilot trial run of ‘smart’ automated traffic signal system that gauges vehicular density on each road at the signal and operates accordingly. The lane with the highest number of vehicles will be given preference over lanes which do not have too much traffic. These signals are called Vehicle Actuated Adoptive Signals (VAAS). As of now, the system is in place at two junctions on trial basis, one at Old Madras Road in KR Puram and another at Om Shakthi Temple junction in Banaswadi. Another VAAS signal is functioning at Mattikere bus stand junction, he added. “The trial run is being conducted on the outskirts and, based on the results, we will soon switch over to these smart signals even in central business district (CBD) areas in the coming days,” said R Hitendra, Additional Commissioner (Traffic), Bengaluru City Police. VAAS signals will be equipped with various detectors and cameras. Based on the vehicle density, the detectors will switch the signal to green for the road that has most number of vehicles. Unlike the system that is currently in use, these signals will not be fed with cycle periods.


“The signals operate with the help of cameras and detectors that gauge the traffic on a particular road,” Hitendra said. Initially, the city police attempted to synchronise traffic signals in the city so as to ensure smooth movement of traffic. But the proposal was put on hold as it was difficult to implement the synchronisation due to technical reasons such as infrastructure patterns in the city. “The distance between signals is not uniform. The roads are small in some places and wide in other places on the same stretch. So, the synchronisation could not be effectively done. In the automated mode, the timing is decided according to the density of the vehicles,” Hitendra added. Traffic signals in the city are currently maintained by Bharat Electronics Limited(BEL). For the period of 24 hours, the signals are fed with 16 cycle periods. For example, after 11 pm, the signals automatically change to 15 seconds for each road at the junction. And during peak hours, the maximum time for each signal is 180 seconds and it is split into 45 seconds for each direction.


TEST DRIVE: Bangalore Mirror visited the Om Shankti Temple junction to find out how effectively the automated signals work. The junction has four signal poles, one on each road. The signal poles have a camera pointing at each road. The camera calculates the density of traffic on each road. The camera has a red and green light which indicates the signal has to go green or remain red based on the density. We saw that the timing for the main road was set for 60 seconds and for the minor roads at 30 seconds. At a moment when there were only four to five vehicles on one of the minor roads, the signal remained red for all of 60 seconds allowing the traffic on the main road to pass. After that, the signal of the minor road turned green for 30 seconds. The cameras then calculated the density on the main road and the signal of the main road opened. An engineer who was at the spot said the traffic will be smooth and faster only when main roads are clear. The system gives preference to main roads and tries to reduce traffic on them by giving them longer periods of green.


Constables Unhappy: Traffic constables that operate some of these signals manually are not so happy with the move. They feel that not all the junctions in the city can be run on automated mode. Also, for the emergency vehicles like an ambulance, it is difficult to program the automated signals to change to green. According to senior officials, the instructions are very clear that ambulance should be given priority.


TRAFFIC EXPERT: M N Sreehari, advisor to government of Karnataka for traffic, transport & infrastructure, said, “It is good that police are gearing up to go for vehicle actuated signals, they should have done it a long ago. It’s a good move. This also increases the capacity of the road. It is similar to the synchronisation of signals”. However, he said, they can implement vehicle actuated signals by using cameras only at a few junctions. “In Delhi, they are using sensors. City police are collecting around Rs70,000 each day as traffic fines. Let them use this money to buy sensor devices for the betterment of the traffic movement,” he added.



Rs 2 crore valuables stolen on Western Railway up to May this year



MUMBAI: Commuters’ valuables worth Rs 2.21 crore were stolen on Western Railway trains and platforms in the first five months of this year. 905 cases of theft were recorded; mobile phones being the most stolen commodity. Besides theft, commuters lost another Rs 1.06 lakh to instances of drugging by conmen. According to the police, maximum mobile phone thefts occur at Andheri, Borivali and the Vasai-Nalasopara belt. “We have been studying the time and location of these thefts and posting our personnel accordingly,” said senior inspector Prasad Pandhre, Andheri GRP. According to Pandhre, the Andheri GRP outpost alone recorded approximately 260 to 280 cases of theft. Western Railway is in the process of stepping up electronic surveillance, particularly in non-suburban sections. “Currently, there are 1103 cameras in the entire division. We intend to increase the number to 2800. Tenders have been given out,” said a senior official.


Statistics for this year show that theft cases peaked in the month of February (209 cases). Commuters’ valuables worth Rs 55.91 lakh were stolen in February alone. To keep tabs on habitual offenders operating in Maharashtra and Gujarat, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) has compiled a booklet with their profiles. The booklet has their name, age, address, alias and number of offences registered, alongside their picture. To make the process of penalising thieves more stringent, the police have been filing charge sheets faster. “This prevents the accused from getting bail. Past records of the accused are also put up before court so as to argue for a longer sentence,” said a GRP officer. Sources said the reason for such a high number of theft cases is a change in the process of registration by the police. Earlier, FIRs were not recorded in instances where valuables were lost by the commuter. Now these too are recorded as thefts. Meanwhile, cases of drugging on long-distance trains are being tackled by shooting videos of passengers as they enter trains at its point of origin. “These videos can later be shown to a victim of drugging and would help identify the culprit who is usually a co-passenger,” an official said.



Mangalsutra rumour sparks panic in 6 districts in Karnataka



BENGALURU: Nobody knows how it began or who started it. But on Tuesday night, a sinister rumour started going around: that coral beads in the mangalsutra worn by women would bring misfortune to their husbands on Wednesday. Hour by hour, the rumour gained strength and by the next morning, many women were convinced that their coral beads would bring, not just misfortune, but death to their husbands. Across six districts in Karnataka and a few border districts of Andhra Pradesh, women began pounding the beads with stones to ward away the doom. Some smashed the coral while still wearing their mangalsutra, evidently to protect their husbands, while others took it off to ensure not one bead remained. Local television channels beamed visuals of groups of women smashing the coral and the mass hysteria spiralled through the morning. Panic spread in Koppal, Chitradurga, Ballari, Davanagere and Raichur districts.


As the situation seemed to get out of hand, the state government’s women and child development department issued a public appeal around noon, requesting women not to be misled by rumours. The department also issued instructions to deputy commissioners in the districts to immediately take steps to quell the rumours and create awareness among people. Authorities were also asked to crack down against those spreading the rumour. As was the case with Ganesha drinking milk some 20 years ago, the origin of the rumour remained unknown. Rationalists appealed to women to ignore such talk. “There is no connection between the red coral and one’s life. Red coral (known as havala in Kannada) has been associated with the mangalsutra for several centuries now because of their ornamental value,” one of them said.



Hundreds of ‘octopus’ commandos; a 6-hour long manhunt for armed robbers; orders to stay indoors.


It was an endless night, say residents of happy homes: It was a night of horrors; one which the 600-odd families of Happy Homes, Rajendranagar will remember for the rest of their lives. After all, how often does a sleepy, suburban neighbourhood in Hyderabad get to witness armed commandos knocking on their doors, marching up and down their neighbourhood, and literally combing through their apartment complexes in search of “armed robbers”? But that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday, when commandos of the anti-terror squad ‘Octopus’ descended on the residential complex, to flush out an armed gang of robbers who were suspected to be hiding in the complex, after their attempt to loot Muthoot Finance’s Rajendernagar branch was foiled. “Not once in the last 20 years of this colony’s existence have we seen anything like this,” recounts Arman Ali, a businessman, recalling Tuesday’s ordeal.


A Tuesday that was nothing less than a thriller: It all started in the afternoon at around 12 noon when a vehicle made its way into the building and pulled into the parking lot of the 6th block. Two men got out of the vehicle; one of them broke the number plate and threw it. The watchman, who saw this from afar shouted out to them, but they escaped from the second gate of the building. Alarmed, the residents duly informed the police. Soon it was confirmed that the vehicle was the same one which was used in the Muthoot Finance outlet hold-up earlier in the day. Suspecting that the armed robbers could still be holed up in the building somewhere, the cops cordoned off the entire area. What followed was an operation involving the Octopus commandos who threw a security ring around the entire area and went about searching each and every unit in the nine apartment blocks. The operation that lasted for the better part of the night, left the residents perplexed.


The cops didn’t let us step out to even buy milk; it was scary: “When I returned home around 6pm, there were already two police vehicles in the building. But it was when the commandos arrived at around 10 pm that we realised how serious things were. There was loud, insistent knocking on my door. When I opened it, there was a unit of 10-12 commandos. I requested them to knock gently as the door was delicate. They said they had to search the apartment. They did a thorough check of our home while we waited in the drawing room. Then they left without saying anything. Later, I tried to go out to get some milk, but was not allowed to do so. All the shops in the complex were closed as well. Neither were we allowed to go out nor were outsiders allowed in, unless they lived here,” says Arman Ali. Fatima, a homemaker, added, “My husband and children who had gone to a relative’s place watched this news on TV and called me, alarmed. I had never seen anything like this before: the police coming in and checking everything. I was so terrified that I did not even have dinner last night. Luckily, when my husband came home, they let him in”. Badruddin, who’s a shop owner in the neighbourhood points out that many of the residents didn’t even know what was happening for a long time. “I had to shut my shop at 7 pm, and we watched in silence as the operation went on till 3 am. The children, especially, were very scared; we didn’t know whether we could go to work or send them to school. Most of the residents here are Gujarati Muslims who have been allotted units here after the Gujarat riots. We don’t speak Telugu, so the news being relayed on Telugu channels didn’t help us either. When we adults didn’t know what was happening, what could we tell our children? We are used to watching such things on television but not in real life. The children are still scared. It was only by 4 am that we sensed everything was going to be okay”.


Friends kept calling all night; visitors were forced to stay back: Since the cops cordoned off the area, and entry and exit points were under strict check, visitors to the apartments were also not allowed to leave. Renish, a student says, “The police went about checking each and every building one after the other. We were told not to get outside because some robbers were holed up in our building. But we were surprised to see three busloads of commandos coming in to catch a few robbers”. His friend Aseem, adds, “Some of my friends who came to visit me were not allowed to leave the building. Later in the evening, they tried to go out through the Jamaat Khana at the rear of the building. But the police were present there as well. It was only after thorough questioning that my friends were released.”
Navin, a software engineer who resides in the building said, “We were alarmed at the sight of the huge force that arrived. We were holed up indoors all night, and worried relatives and friends were calling us throughout the night. I put my children to bed early and spent a major part of the night answering calls from well-wishers. But the cops were kind and reassured us”.



160 residents of unsafe buildings shifted to hotel



Kolkata: The evacuation of residents of the two unsafe buildings on Brabourne Road started on Wednesday afternoon. Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), the executing agency of East-West Metro, engaged seven SUVs to ferry the evacuees to Hotel Himalaya on MG Road, where they will stay till July 13. The passage of the first tunnel boring machine (TBM) below Brabourne Road may affect the century-old buildings at 42, Strand Road and 2, Raja Woodmunt Street. “This why the evacuation was necessary. Meanwhile, we will keep a close watch on these two buildings. They will carry out mitigation measures if any structural distress is spotted,” an Afcons engineer said. For the residents, it has come a break from staying away from their tiny hovels on the top floors of these rickety structures. “Children were very excited ever since they heard of our staying in hotel. My cousin Vishal, a student of Class I, was so excited that he could hardly sleep last night,” said Shreya Dubey, a third-year student of a north Kolkata college.


Vandana Sonkar and her cousin Priya were equally excited about their hotel stay. Students of Class IX and XII, respectively, their hotel stay will not be an unalloyed bliss. “Our examination will begin next week. So, we need to study a lot. But still, we will get some time to roam around in the hotel and relish the food the hotel will serve,” said Priya, who checked in the hotel straight from her school. A hotel stay is a dream Jharna Dutta could not even dare. “I earn around Rs 1,000 a month and have never eaten in a restaurant. It won’t be easy staying in a hotel, eating food that I am not used to,” Dutta, who cleans the floors of the offices at 2, Raja Woodmunt Street, said sitting in the AC hotel room. “On Tuesday evening, we told them about their shifting to the hotel post lunch. Since majority of the residents are vegetarian, we chose a veg hotel. Our men were at the hotel till everyone was allotted rooms. Kolkata Police allowed us to drive through M G Road, which is now exclusively used by buses and trams,” said an Afcons official.



Helpline in 10 languages to help foreign tourists



HYDERABAD: Foreign tourists in India who are in distress can call a helpline that has been set up by the ministry of tourismGovernment of India. In an advisory, the High Commission of India in Kampala, Uganda, notified about a 24/7 helpline for tourists in India. According to the High Commission, tourists can call a toll free number 1800111363 or a short code 1363 which is a multi-lingual help desk. Information will be provided in 10 languages including Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. “The helpline advises callers during the times of distress while travelling in India and also alerts the authorities concerned, if required,” the High Commission said in the note. Domestic tourists can also get in touch on the helplines. The objective of starting the helpline is to provide tourists a sense of security and safety.


According to official statistics, there were 9.05 lakh foreign tourist arrivals (FTA) in India during the month of March 2017. The number went up compared to the previous years during the same month. It was 8.17 lakh in March 2016 and 7.29 lakh in March 2015. From January to March, 2017, the total number of foreign tourists were 28.45 lakh. Most tourists come from Bangladesh with 21.31% with those from the US being a second with 10.39 per cent. The other countries from where tourists come in large numbers are UK, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Canada, Germany, Sri Lanka, China, France, Australia, Japan, Afghanistan, Singapore and Iran. The most arrivals are at Delhi, Mumbai, Haridaspur land check post, Chennai, Goa, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Cochin, Gede Rail Land check post, Hyderabad, Ghojadanga land check post, Amritsar, Tiruchirappalli, Ahmedabad and Thiruvananthapuram.



International News



Manchester Airport’s Terminal 3 evacuated due to suspect bag



LONDON: Manchester Airport said on Wednesday that its Terminal 3 building was being evacuated due to a potential issue with a bag, which was being investigated. “A precautionary evacuation is taking place while further investigations take place,” Manchester Airport said on Twitter.



Arab states rap ‘negative’ Qatari reply to demands but no new sanctions



CAIRO/LONDON: Four Arab states refrained on Wednesday from slapping further sanctions on Qatar but voiced disappointment at its “negative” response to their demands and said their boycott of the tiny Gulf nation would continue. Qatar earlier in the day accused Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt of “clear aggression” and said the accusations cited when they severed ties a month ago “were clearly designed to create anti-Qatar sentiment in the West”. The four Arab nations accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and allying with regional foe Iran, which Doha denies. Their foreign ministers met in Cairo on Wednesday after a deadline they gave Qatar to meet 13 demands expired. They had been expected to consider further sanctions at the gathering, but announced no new measures. “The response the four states got was overall negative and lacked any content. We find it did not provide a basis for Qatar to retreat from its policies,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said, reading out a joint statement after the meeting. “The political and economic boycott will continue until Qatar changes its policies for the better,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference. Qatar’s response to the demands has not been made public. The United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said in a tweet that Qatar faced “greater isolation, incremental measures and reputational damage” if it did not heed the demands. “For any real discussion with Doha to gain traction, it has to be responsible for past actions and recognize the necessity of changing course. The message from Cairo is zero tolerance for terrorism, (a) powerful message from Arab world to international community. Qatar can’t miss the bus,” Gargash said.


Shoukry later told an Egyptian privately-owned broadcaster that the demands were non-negotiable. “The matter from the beginning was not up for negotiations … there is no middle ground,” he told the On television channel. The foreign ministers said they would meet again soon in the Bahraini capital, Manama, but gave no date. Intelligence chiefs from the four countries also met in Cairo on Tuesday night, officials said. The worst inter-Arab rift for many years has aroused deep disquiet among Western allies who regard the region’s ruling dynasties as essential partners in energy and defense. The Arab countries have demanded Qatar curtail its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shut down the pan-Arab al Jazeera satellite TV channel, close a Turkish military base and downgrade its relations with rival Iran. Turkey, the biggest regional power to stand by Qatar, has sent to Doha 100 cargo planes with supplies since its neighbors cut air and sea links. It has also rushed through legislation to send more troops to its base in Doha. Two contingents of Turkish troops with columns of armored vehicles have arrived since the crisis erupted on June 5. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday dismissed calls for closure of the base and said the list of Arab demands amounted to an unlawful intervention against Qatari sovereignty. Saudi Arabia’s Jubeir said he hoped Turkey would stay neutral and Egypt’s Shoukry rejected any non-Arab interference.


Qatar along with Turkey backed a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt before it was overthrown in 2013. The Arab states have demanded Qatar sever any links to the Brotherhood and other groups they deem to be terrorist, ideological or sectarian. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke with US President Donald Trump by telephone about Qatar, Sisi’s office said on Wednesday. “The visions of the two presidents on dealing with current regional crises were in line, especially when it comes to reaching political settlements which contribute to regional security and stability,” Sisi’s office said in a statement. Trump has voiced concern to both sides. Qatar, a small peninsular country protruding into the Gulf, hosts the biggest US military base in the region as a bulwark against Iran. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also spoke by phone with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday, a State Department official said. Shoukry said Trump’s call had not affected the statement coming from the foreign ministers. The Qatari foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, told a session of London’s Chatham House think-tank that Doha was continuing to call for dialogue to settle the dispute. He said that this was “despite the separation of 12,000 families, despite the siege that is a clear aggression and an insult to all international treaties, bodies and jurisdictions”.


Qatar girds for long stalemate: He suggested Qatar, the world’s biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and second largest gas exporter after Russia, was preparing for a more protracted rift. “What we’ve done in the last few weeks is develop different alternative for ways to ensure the supply chain for the country not to be cut off”. Qatar announced on Tuesday that it planned to raise LNG production capacity by 30 percent in the next five years. Company and industry sources told Reuters that the West’s three biggest energy firms are lobbying Qatar to take part in a huge expansion of its gas output, handing Doha an unintended but timely boost in the dispute. Qatar has invested heavily in infrastructure projects in Western countries and works closely with the United States and other allies on Syria’s civil war. “Reading between the lines, the blockading countries (are) demanding that we have to surrender our sovereignty to end the siege, something which … Qatar will never do,” Sheikh Mohammed said. Responding to the accusation that it has drawn too close to Iran, he said Doha had to live alongside Tehran since the two states shared an offshore gas field. Gulf newspapers close to their governments appeared also to see little prospect of any immediate deal.


The editor of the Abu Dhabi government-linked al-Ittihad newspaper wrote that Qatar, with a population of two million compared to Saudi Arabia’s 31 million, was “walking alone in its dreams and illusions, far away from its Gulf Arab brothers”. Qatari officials say the Gulf states’ demands are so stiff they suspect they were never seriously meant for negotiation. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, on a tour of Gulf countries, said he was cautiously optimistic the feuding states would reach a solution once they had talks. “But it is also possible that it will continue to be difficult for some days,” he told reporters in Kuwait where he met with the Gulf state’s ruler who is mediating in the crisis. Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said any decision on ending Qatar’s membership of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) would come from the GCC itself and that such a measure would be considered when it next met.



77 dead in road accident in Central African Republic



BANGUI: At least 77 people died in a road accident in the Central African Republic, a hospital official said today, a day after the crash between Bambari and Ippy in the centre of the country. Fifty-nine bodies were taken to the hospital morgue in Bambari and 18 others were taken by relatives to be buried, hospital official Michel Zahandji told AFP, while the Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) charity said 60 injured people were treated at the hospital.

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