News Flash – 6 September 2017

National News



India has 5 times more private Security Guards than Police personnel


Increasing levels of wealth and growing global inequality have proven the real driving forces behind the inexorable rise of private security. Here’s a look at how India compares with other countries when it comes to private security and which sectors are most dependent on it.



This year’s floods worst in a decade

Flood-hit Morigaon district in Assam



NEW DELHI: As the monsoon prepares to recede, India faces a mammoth recovery task from the worst floods in a decade. Over 3.4 crore people across 280 districts have been affected by floods that left more than 1,000 dead. Very preliminary estimates indicate that over 3 lakh hectares of crops, mainly paddy, have been destroyed. Over 8 lakh homes, mostly kachcha units have been damaged or destroyed. An estimated 16,000 schools too have suffered damage. The vast network of state-run health centres in far-flung rural areas has also suffered extensive damage although concrete numbers are not available. Records show this year’s monsoon floods were the worst since 2007, when 4.1 crore people were affected. The past few days have brought some respite as most rivers in UP, Bihar and West Bengal are now flowing at normal levels and rainfall too has been scattered or isolated, although it continues in Assam and adjoining states. Flood waters are reportedly receding across the affected swathe but lakhs of people continue to receive food and other essentials from relief camps and community kitchens set up by state governments. The immediate issue will be preventing the spread of diseases, especially waterborne ones such as diarrhoea, and mosquito-borne ones like dengue, malaria and encephalitis, warn experts. Subsequently, the onerous task of recovery faces the affected people who are mostly dependent on agriculture. The flooding was mainly in UP, Bihar, north Bengal, Odisha and Assam.


Although most of these states received normal or even slightly below par rainfall this monsoon season, rivers flowing down from the Himalayas were in spate because of heavy rains in the mountains and upper catchment areas. Excess rains caused unprecedented flooding in Gujarat, Rajasthan and parts of western Maharashtra, including Mumbai. IMD officials say that nearly all flood-prone areas in the country have experienced flooding at some point this season. The same rivers — Brahmaputra and Ganga with their numerous tributaries — which inundated the northern and eastern plains caused flooding in downstream Bangladesh, affecting 80 lakh people in 32 districts. Meanwhile, upstream catchment areas falling in Nepal experienced some of the worst floods with 17 lakh people impacted in 35 districts of the country. Over 140 people have perished in the floods and an estimated $8.8 billion worth of crops destroyed, mainly in the terai districts of Nepal. While Pakistan has not been as extensively affected, 136 persons have lost their lives in heavy rains and floods in Sindh and Balochistan. The death toll in these devastating floods across the subcontinent has crossed 1,200 and the population affected is 4.5 crore, according to UN agencies, making 2017 monsoon floods one of the most destructive in recent years.



With clinics around, even Wankhede Stadium would have to be silence zone: Centre


MUMBAI: The Supreme Court, staying the Bombay High Court’s September 1 order on silent zones on Monday , seemed to agree with the government counsel that there cannot be a vacuum. CU Singh, counsel for Awaaz, a Mumbai-based NGO founded by activist Sumaira Abdulali, said the SC has no cause to stay the HC order when it itself had stayed its effect till October and no prosecution for sound pollution could take place till then. SC bench asked Singh what would be the effect of a stay and said it would have to consider the issue. “These silent zones have been in force since 2003 after the HC order in a PIL,” said Singh. There are over 1,500 such silent zones in Mumbai which had been restored pursuant to the stay order by the HC on September 1. A full Bombay HC bench of Justices Abhay Oka, Anoop Mohta and Riyaz Chagla, constituted after the state versus judiciary face-off last month, had heard pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the August 10 amendment to the noise pollution rules. While the HC bench had posted the next hearing in October, the SC said it hoped now that they are seized of the matter “we expect HC will not pass any further interim order”. The SC issued notices to Maharashtra State and the original PIL petitioner in the matter and posted it for hearing on September 22. Tushar Mehta, additional solicitor-general who appeared for the Centre, pointed out the definition of educational institutions and hospitals is wide. For instance, even a tuition or gymnasium or playground would fall under definition of educational institution and even a clinic, dental clinic would be a hospital, around which a 100metre zone would be a silent zone under the HC decision.


Mehta said the famous Brabourne and Wankhede stadiums would be silent zones because some people in the neighbouring flats are running clinics. Suggesting an entire city could literally be covered by the definition of 100 metres around educational, medical and religious institutions, Mehta said near Churchgate there is a government law college so it would have to be a silent zone too. The HC termed the recent 2017 central amendment to the Noise Pollution Rules as “ex-facie unconstitutional” as it violates a citizen’s fundamental right to life. The controversial amendment, effected by the government of India, on August 10 to the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, said no area can be a considered a silence zone unless notified by the state government. Maharashtra told the HC that following the amendment there are no silent zones. But the three-judge bench of the HC said the state’s stand new rules offended Article 14 (Right to Equality) as there is no nexus between the new rules and the object the rules sought to achieve. The HC also faulted the amended rules, pointing out the Centre had not followed the mandatory requirement under the Environment (Protection) Act,1986, to publish a draft amendment calling for objections and suggestions from the public. Neither was any order passed for dispensing with the procedure in public interest. The HC declined the state and Centre’s plea for a stay on its order on silence zones on the grounds that it will lead to a law and order situation.



Centre sensitises Delhi-NCR on air pollution ahead of FIFA U-17 world cup



NEW DELHI: Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday sensitised Delhi-NCR for taking necessary actions to check air pollution and keep close watch on all polluting activities in the city in view of the upcoming FIFA U-17 soccer world cup which would attract thousands of foreigners here next month. Seeking to avoid the situation like what Delhi had experienced post-Diwali last year, the minister during his review meeting on air pollution issues asked senior officials of neighbouring states to ensure cleaner Diwali through awareness campaign and take all measures to stop stubble burning. Concerns were expressed in the meeting while referring to such a situation last year as the harvest season would coincide with the world cup and the onset of the winter season. India will be hosting the world cup from October 6 to 28 and Delhi will host all league matches involving India. Harsh Vardhan, however, later claimed that Delhi- NCR were better prepared to handle air pollution issue ahead of winter this year and said the situation would, hopefully, be not as grave as it was during November-December last year. “We will do our best not to land in a situation like last year. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has already constituted 40 teams for the purpose of monitoring implementation of identified actions on the ground so that remedial measures can be initiated against defaulters”, said the minister. Delhi and cities in neighbouring states had seen worst ever air quality for almost a fortnight during late October-early November period.


Stubble burning in agricultural fields in Haryana, Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh had aggravated the situation post-Diwali. The minister said chief secretaries of all states and Delhi have been requested to ensure that firecrackers which are not compliant to the laid down norms are not sold. He said his ministry would keep a close watch on the progress during the next 4-5 months to ensure cleaner air during winter this year. Addressing the meeting of the chief secretaries and senior officers of Delhi and NCR states, the minister said that efficient management of air pollution was the duty of all concerned. Seeking participation of people in the matter, he said that without their participation, the desired results would be difficult to achieve. Vardhan said we should ensure implementation of all long-term actions as directed by the central government in right earnest besides strict implementation of ‘Graded Response Action Plan’ for various levels of pollution. Asking stakeholders for action, he said the success will lie in ensuring that the emergency levels are not reached, as per the Graded Response Action Plan. He also called upon all the states to ensure that control rooms are set up in all the states and regular meetings of the task force are held for timely intervention.



Alert constable shifted teen to hospital on bike

Though the Palike has erected a fence across the lake, miscreants often cut it to gain entry. (Inset) Head constable V Anand.



BENGALURU: Chintu Jacob, 13, was still breathing when local swimmers pulled him out of Mestripalya Lake. All constable V Anand wanted to do was to get the teenager to hospital at the earliest. Without waiting for an ambulance to arrive, the cop carried Chintu on his shoulder and flagged down a bike on the main road. But despite his sincere efforts, the boy couldn’t be saved. It was around 12.45pm on Sunday when the police control room alerted Koramangala cops about a teenager having drowned. A posse of officers, including inspector Manjunath and head constable Anand, rushed to the spot. Since the lake in Koramangala 4th Block spans over 50 acres, it took a few minutes for the cops to locate the spot and direct local swimmers to search for the boy. Anand was quick to act. After reaching the road, 50 metres from the accident spot, he requested a bike rider for help. He obliged. With Chintu seated in between him and the rider, Anand rode the bike till St John’s Hospital, around 4km away . However, the boy was declared dead on arrival.


Chintu was among the three sons of W Jacob and Yashoda, residents of Rajendranagar slum in Adugodi. According to his daily-wager parents, he was a school dropout. His siblings study in a government school. Anand’s efforts were lauded not only by senior police officials but also by Chintu’s bereaved family. “Police did everything to save him. But fate had other plans,” said Arokiyaswamy, the boy’s maternal uncle. According to Arokiyaswamy, Chintu knew how to swim and was fond of fishing in small ponds and granite quarries on Hosur Road. “I never thought he would go to Mestripalya Lake, which is full of rainwater,” he said. DCP (southeast) M Boralingaiah said cops shouldn’t wait for ambulances during emergencies. “Anand’s presence of mind should serve as an example for others,” he said. Earlier on Sunday, police had not been able to identify the body as the other three kids who were accompanying Chintu had run away.



Unsafe buildings continue to pose a threat during Kolkata monsoon



KOLKATA: Five deaths in the past one month. But the inmates or the owners of city’s insecure buildings are yet to learn a lesson. Death of three members of a family in Posta area on Tuesday points to a catastrophe in store for the residents of unsafe buildings. In the first week of August two persons died after getting trapped in a debris of a collapsed building on Indian Mirror Street. The KMC building department did what is best done by the civic body in such cases of disasters—demolish a part of the endangered building and put up a fresh notice asking the remaining tenants still willing to stay in the building to vacate it immediately. In case of the building in Posta too, the civic body has decided to pull down the dangerously hanging parts of the building. But this will hardly solve the problem, warned a KMC building department official. It is not that the civic body authorities are not aware of the potential threats that the insecure buildings pose to its inmates or the residents live in the vicinity. In fact, the KMC building department has identified 100 most hazardous buildings across the city which may cause loss of lives in no time. These 100 buildings are among the 2500 buildings which have been declared as insecure buildings by the structural engineers after an on-the-spot inspection since 2002. “We are really worried over the structural stability of the 100 buildings. These buildings are really in bad shape and may crumble anytime. We have warned owners and inmates of these buildings time and again. But all requests have fallen on deaf ears so far,” said a KMC building department official.


One of the reasons of failure of the civic body’s building department to ensure safety of the tenants of insecure buildings has been the refusal on part of the tenants to move out of these buildings. Take the case of Sunita Jha, a resident of an insecure building at Burtolla Street. Sunita had come to the building as a bride in late 70’s. Since then she has witnessed gradual deterioration of the 85-year-old building. “I have witnessed collapse of a couple of buildings in the neighbourhood. I am also scared of ill health of our building. But at this stage I can’t think of moving elsewhere as I don’t have the funds to rent a house in the area,” she said. The owners of these buildings have also been reluctant to undertake repair of the insecure parts citing funds crunch. Then the civic body came up with a redevelopment scheme of the rickety buildings. As an incentive, the KMC building department declared that the civic body would offer a 100 per cent additional FAR (Floor Area Ratio) to the developers who would take up the redevelopment of any dilapidated buildings after its demolition. But this scheme too has little takers among the owners of the insecure buildings. According to a KMC building department official though the new scheme was introduced in July 1, the building department had received only one application from the owner of an insecure building.



Two workers suffer injuries while changing gas cylinder at eatery



HYDERABAD: Two workers suffered injuries in a gas explosion at an eatery at Adarsh Nagar on Monday morning. The incident at Adarsh Vegetarian Hotel and Tiffin Centre caused panic as it is located near the high-security New MLA Quarters. Around 11.30 am, workers were trying to replace an empty cylinder with a new one. “When two workers were trying to place the regulator on a new cylinder, gas started jetting out at high pressure due to leak,” Saifabad inspector K Purna Chander said. The gas was ignited by flames of a nearby stove and two workers, Jai Ram and Shyam, who were trying to replace the cylinder, suffered burns on their hands. The other workers immediately put off the flames using a fire extinguisher. “We have registered a fire accident case,” the inspector said. The two injured workers were treated as out-patients at a private hospital.



South, central Kolkata in dengue grip



Kolkata: Dengue is no longer restricted to the fringes of the city. It has spread its tentacles to south and central Kolkata, show statistics compiled by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC). However, northern parts of the city have remained relatively unaffected so far. According to KMC figures, there has been a worrying spurt in the number of affected across at least four borough areas, which include Tollygunge, Jadavpur and Anwar Shah (Borough X) in the south and College Street, Surya Sen Street and Keshab Sen Street (Borough V) in the central part of the city. While the number of those testing positive in Borough X stood at 35 till July, it had climbed to 60 in August. In Borough V, the number has jumped from 10 till June to 30 in August. Between January and August, 210 have been affected by dengue in Kolkata. In Borough VI (Elliot Road, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, SN Banerjee Road, New Market area, Nonapukur), the number has jumped to 25 by August-end from 15 till a month ago. At Borough VII (Park Circus, Tiljala, Topsia, Karaya, Picnic Garden), the number of dengue patients has gone up from 20 (till June) to 35 in August. From 20 to 30, the rise has been sharper at Borough IX (Alipore, Chetla, part of Diamond Harbour Road) as well.


KMC admitted the dengue spread has left them worried. “So far, dengue had been restricted to the fringes. But over the last one month, it has spread to new areas like Jadavpur, parts of Tollygunge, Jodhpur Park, Anwar Shah Road, College Street and Surya Sen Street. We have seen a 20% spurt in these areas,” the official said. Since 2012, when more than 100 succumbed to dengue in Kolkata, the disease has taken the same route. It originates in Dum Dum and spreads along EM Bypass, eventually penetrating south and central Kolkata. The pattern has not changed this year as well, said a civic health official. “Dengue has spread much slower this year. But this is the period when the epidemic reaches its peak,” he said. These areas in south and central Kolkata keep getting affected due to poor hygienic sense of residents and rampant construction activities by flouting building norms, felt Irfaan Akhtar, head of microbiology, Fortis Hospital. “So far, this year has been much better in terms of the number of affected, so the KMC must be appreciated,” he said. The vigil against dengue will be intensified over the next two months, said Atin Ghosh, MMiC (health). “All our dengue clinics will remain open during the Puja. This year, we have been able to control dengue and the number of affected is lower than what it had been in recent years,” said Ghosh.



TN Government issues advisory to parents about Blue Whale



CHENNAI: A day after a Madras high court directive asking the state government to step up vigilance, the Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday issued an advisory to parents and teachers to observe the behaviour of children closely to identify any unusual changes in the wake of the fast spreading ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ that has resulted in the deaths of several teenagers worldwide including India. The advisory has come in the wake of a youngster committing suicide in Madurai district recently. State DGP T K Rajendran too issued a similar advisory. In a statement, the government said it is the children in the age group of 12 – 19 years, the most vulnerable group over the internet to be most prone to Blue Whale Challenge and similar games. Psychologists have observed that children playing such online games tend to stay by themselves, stop interacting with family and friends, often talk about running away from home and even about death. There will be changes in their eating and sleeping habits too, the statement said.


Hence, both the parents and teachers are advised to observe the children’s behaviour closely to identify any unusual changes like moodiness, less or no communication and lack of interest in studies among others, which may be an indication of the children falling prey to these “evil online games”. If they find out any incidences of children playing this game, they are advised to stop them from using internet from any devices and to inform the local police authorities, besides providing psychological counselling to the player through government hospitals and NGOs. The government asked members of the public and internet users to refrain from forwarding any online links related to this game and thereby make youth vulnerable. Any such act is illegal and is punishable as per law. It also advised people not to forward any such viral messages originating from not-so credible sources. The statement also pointed out that ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ is technically not an application based game easily downloadable from websites or official play stores, but involves performing activities assigned by the administrator/curator of a closed group social media forum that include online gaming groups, message boards and other online community messaging areas. This game is available under different names such as A Silent House, A Sea of Whales and Wake Me Up at 4.20 AM and is mostly played using smart phones or similar devices.



International News



Hurricane Irma: Trump declares emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico

Hurricane Irma, a record Category 5 storm, churns across the Atlantic Ocean on a collision course with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands



WASHINGTON/KEY LARGO: President Donald Trump has declared emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as Hurricane Irma prepares for landfall. The declarations authorize the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts in those places. The dangerous Category 5 storm is wielding the most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean. It is on a path that could take it toward Florida over the weekend. Irma’s size and strength put the entire state on notice Tuesday. Residents and visitors prepared to leave in anticipation of catastrophic winds and floods. Throughout South Florida, officials readied evacuation orders and people raided store shelves, buying up water and other hurricane supplies. Long lines formed at gas stations and people pulled shutters out of storage and put up plywood to protect their homes and businesses. Parker Eastin filled up his gas tank at a busy fuel station. He and his girlfriend said they decided to plan well in advance after seeing what Hurricane Harvey did to Texas. “We ordered water off Amazon because the stores were out and also ordered food,” said Eastin, a 43-year-old lawyer who has lived in Florida for 12 years. “Seeing the devastation in Texas is a sad reminder that you have to take the events very seriously”. Irma’s winds were 185 mph (297 kph) Tuesday, a strong Category 5 storm, and forecasters say it could strengthen more as it neared the eastern-most Caribbean islands, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm had the most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean and posed an immediate threat to the small islands of the northern Leewards, including Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The last major storm to hit Florida was 2005’s Wilma, its eye cutting through the state’s southern third as it packed winds of 120 mph (193 kph). Five people died. Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties to give local governments “ample time, resources and flexibility” to prepare for the storm. President Donald Trump also approved a federal emergency declaration for the state ahead of the storm, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Scott warned that although officials don’t know the storm’s exact path, winds are likely to be “extreme and life-threatening” and the impacts could be felt inland, away from the coast. He said Floridians need to follow any evacuation orders. “This storm has the potential to devastate this state, and you have to take this seriously,” Scott said from the state’s emergency operations center in Tallahassee, the state capital. “Remember: We can rebuild your home; we cannot rebuild your life”.


In the Florida Keys, a chain of 42 low-lying islands that includes Key West, government officials said visitors would be told to leave Wednesday and residents should be out by the next day. “This is not one to fool around with,” said Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark, whose county contains the Keys. Under a mandatory evacuation order, no one is forced by police or other government agencies to leave, but anyone who stays should not expect to be rescued if they are in danger, officials said. The island chain has only one highway connecting it to the mainland. Keys residents are famous for riding out hurricanes, but Randy Towe, who owns a recreational fishing company in the Keys, said Irma is different. “I’ve talked to a lot of Conchs (Keys natives) whose families have lived here a hundred years, and they say this certainly might be a big one,” said Towe, who has lived in the Keys 36 years. He said owners of large boats secured them in canals by tying them to mangrove roots. Smaller boats were put on trailers and into storage. He plans to evacuate with his family if Irma’s forecast doesn’t change. In Key Largo, Janet Roberts, 51, was getting ready to leave her mobile home community Thursday for her daughter’s house 30 miles away in Florida City, which is the first city north of the Keys on the mainland. “She lives in a complex and has hurricane shutters. At least we stand half the chance,” she said. She remembered how much damage Hurricane Andrew caused when its eye passed just north of Florida City in August 1992. “We didn’t hit the eye and I had nothing left,” Roberts said. “This has Andrew beat. This is really bad _ really, really, really bad”. The deadliest storm to hit the Keys struck on Labor Day 1935. More than 400 people died in winds estimated at 185 mph (297 kph) and a storm surge of 18 feet (5.5 meters). Bridges and railroad beds were washed away, cutting off the middle and lower Keys except by sea and air. In 1960, Hurricane Donna hit the Keys on Sept. 10 with sustained winds of 140 mph (225 kph) and storm surge reached 13.5 feet (4 meters). Four people died. On the Florida mainland, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez urged tourists to cut their vacations short and said residents may be asked to leave as early as Wednesday. “The potential is too great for us not to take action right now,” Gimenez said. Publix, the state’s largest grocery chain, said its South Florida stores were packed with customers and bottled water was in particular demand along with bread and canned goods. “Even as the aisles are emptying, we are trying to replenish as quickly as possible,” spokeswoman Maria Brous said.



Afghanistan to double special forces in fight against Taliban



CAMP MOREHEAD: Commandos armed with RPG-7 rocket launchers aim at a tank hundreds of metres away, fresh recruits to Afghanistan’s most skilled fighting force — an elite group whose growing strength, US generals say, worries the Taliban. These new members of Afghanistan’s Special Operations Command (SOC) will soon be on the frontline of the war that US President Donald Trump has vowed “to win” by putting more American boots on the ground indefinitely. Camp Morehead, a former Soviet base near Kabul, is one of two training bases where the commandos are drilled by Afghan instructors in a programme overseen by US-led international forces. “We are hunters, you know. What I’m saying to you is we are killers, we are looking for the bad people to kick them in their arse,” one of the commandos, who cannot be identified, told reporters recently at the secondary training base. While the SOC — which also includes top special forces — account for about seven percent of the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces, they have been deployed in nearly 80 percent of offensives and emerged victorious each time, they say — a claim supported by US and foreign forces. But as the Taliban gain ground across the country and Islamic State group expands its footprint, there are concerns the fighters are becoming physically exhausted. “It’s true they are tired. They are currently fighting on behalf of the world” against multiple militant groups, said General Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the defence ministry. Earlier this year Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered a near doubling of their ranks from 17,000 as part of a four-year roadmap that also aims to strengthen Afghanistan’s air force. At Camp Morehead, also previously used by the Taliban as a training ground, commandos are put through several months of training before being sent into battle.


From Kunduz province in the north to Helmand province in the southwest they defend villages threatened by the Taliban and — their specialty — launch night raids on insurgent hideouts. “You better be in good condition. During the week of selection they had to run around with a 25-kilogramme bag and return,” said an Afghan sergeant. Since US-led NATO troops ended their combat mission in December 2014, Afghan’s special forces and commandos have served as a bulwark against attacks launched by the Taliban and other Islamic militant groups. “The reason why they are so good is because they have been trained by some of the best special forces around the world,” said a US general. “When the special forces are employed they never lose. If we double them that means a significant capability and we know the Taliban are concerned”. The importance of their role in the 16-year war has grown as the embattled Afghan National Army (ANA) is plagued by killings and desertions. General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, told reporters recently that additional American troops would enhance training of Afghan forces and expand Afghan air and special operations fighters. “The Taliban cannot win on the battlefield,” Nicholson said, expressing confidence in Afghan security forces, even though they are still not ready to fight on their own. But for now the momentum is with the Taliban. As of February only about 60 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts were reported to be under government control, according to the US watchdog agency SIGAR. The rest is controlled or contested by the Taliban and other insurgents. “As their (special operations forces) numbers increase, we will cover more of the country and we can conduct more missions,” said Colonel Ahmad Zabihullah, their operational commander. Waziri remained confident Afghan forces would eventually prevail. “Can we win this war? Yes, we win this war. Long live Afghanistan,” he said.

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