News Flash – 7 August 2017

National News



Own fridge, AC or car? No welfare schemes for you



NEW DELHI: About six in every 10 households in urban areas will be eligible for assessment for identifying whether they are entitled for government’s social welfare schemes, according to the recommendation of a government panel. Those having a four-room set or four-wheeler or an air conditioner will be automatically excluded from being eligible for social benefits in urban areas. Households owning all of three items — refrigerator, washing machine and a two-wheeler — will also be automatically excluded, the Bibek Debroy Committee for implementation of the Socio Economic Survey has recommended. The report also specifies who will be automatically included in the list of beneficiaries based on the parameters set for residential, occupational and social deprivation. Those who are houseless or have a house with polythene wall or roof, no income or households without adult male or headed by a child will be included. According to the report, the rest of the households will be assessed to find whether they can also be included in the list of beneficiaries.


“They will be ranked on the basis of an index score on a scale of zero to 12. The parameters will be residential, social and occupational deprivation,” said an official. Earlier, the S R Hashim Committee had submitted its report on urban poor in December 2012, but the government never accepted it. “Going by the recommendation of Hashim panel, 41% households in urban areas could have been included for assessment to find whether they are eligible for getting benefits from government schemes. But the Debroy panel recommendations will make 59% households eligible for this assessment,” said a source. The panel has said categorizing of households/population as BPL or above poverty line would be a misnomer.



‘Zero tolerance for any slackness in performance of motormen’



MUMBAI: At a recently held conference on safety and operations of train working in ChurchgateWestern Railway general manager AK Gupta stressed upon safe and accident free train operations. He said there will be zero tolerance towards any “slackness in performance of motormen, loco pilots and assistant loco pilots. Issues related to technical upgradation, cadre, attentiveness towards signals, periodical rest and regular counseling of loco pilots were discussed at the conference and solutions were identified. Senior railway officials were present at the conference. In Central Railway, general manager D. K. Sharma has released the new system map of Central Railway jurisdiction. “The new system map provides precise but detailed information regarding all the stations and routes pertaining to operational activities, commercial and engineering ledger of Central Railway. It also provides the bifurcation of assets pertaining to not only of various divisions but also state wise bifurcation of CR jurisdiction,” a railway spokesperson added.



Security at IGI: Should you be worried?



NEW DELHI: Days after the Central Industrial Security Force sought recovery of Rs 655.4 crore from Delhi International Airport Private Limited for deployment of its personnel at IGI, the latter’s reply — expressing inability to pay up — could leave flyers to and from Delhi feeling very vulnerable. The cost of ensuring safety of aircraft and passengers at IGI comes to around Rs 1 crore daily. In a letter to CISF chief O P Singh, DIAL CEO I P Rao recently wrote: “The deficit situation (of funds meant for security) has worsened to such an extent that it has become extremely difficult now for us to carry on day-to-day security-related operation(s) at DIAL…. In case the deficit continues to build up like this on a month-on-month basis, we shall not be able to meet even the mandatory expenditure to maintain security at the airport”. On June 30, the shortage of funds amounted to Rs 532.5 crore (excluding interest on delayed payment of Rs 191.45 crore charged by CISF) to pay the outstanding security-related liabilities, which is further increasing by Rs 5-7 crore per month, the airport operators says. In 2006, the aviation ministry had allowed DIAL to charge Rs 130 from each departing flyer as passenger security fee (PSF) to meet expenses of this head.


“While the receipt continue to be Rs 130 per departing passenger since the last 16 years, PSF expenses has increased substantially on account of periodic wage revision of CISF salary, allowances, perks etc…. receipts in last 10 years increased by 171.32% while expenditure has exponentially gone up by 706.68%, leaving a huge gap, resulting in deficit of Rs 545.33 crore at the end of 10 years, post privatization of IGI Airport (sic),” Rao’s letter reads. “Total CISF deployment expenses, which contribute 88.82% of total expenses, have increased drastically by more than 618% in last 10 years from Rs 46.80 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 335.80 crores in 2016-17,” it adds. DIAL has put the onus on the government to provide security at IGI and asked CISF to raise the issue of its dues with the home, finance and aviation ministries. “Security being a sovereign function taken care by the government of India, it would be most fair and reasonable that the deficit for the past, as well as future, is taken care of by the government of India… we once again reiterate that DIAL is neither responsible nor accountable for delay/non-payment of CISF dues…”Rao adds.



Alarmed over dry spell, government hits panic button, calls meet



HYDERABAD: With the current dry spell threatening to cast a shadow on the farm output in the state, the Telangana government has pressed the panic button. District agriculture officers have been called for an emergency meeting on Tuesday at Hyderabad’s Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA). Senior officials of agriculture, marketing, cooperation and warehousing departments are to attend the meeting and prepare an action plan to deal with the drought-like situation in the state. “The next three to six days are crucial for the state. If it rains, the kharif sowings will get saved. Otherwise there will be crop loss. The meeting at CRIDA will deliberate on the contingency plan in the event of further delay in rains and possible assistance to be extended to the farmers,,” C Parthasarathi, principal secretary of agriculture department, told TOI.



Late-night fire at PSK building



KOLKATA: A day after a major fire broke out on the third floor of Akash Tower, which houses the Passport Seva Kendra(PSK), cops and fire brigade are trying to ascertain if there was any negligence that led to the fire raging on for far too long. Sources said though fire-fighting equipment were available at the building on Friday, there were many who did not have the training to use them. Though prima facie it seems like a short-circuit is to blame, cops said the real reason will be clear after the forensic team submitted its report. The Anandapur police confirmed that no one — not even the fire brigade — had registered an FIR with them till Saturday evening. According to cops, the fire was reported at 10.52pm on Friday and six fire tenders brought it under control by 12.20am. Sources said three persons working with a medicine manufacturing firm — Aniruddha Ghosh, Vikram Mukhopadhay and Santanu Santra — were initially trapped on the fifth floor but came out unharmed. No one was injured, said a fire department official. Subhankar Bera, a security guard working at the Tata Sky office, said it was by the “grace of God that the PSK was not affected”. “It was difficult to breathe in the beginning. I managed to come down and saw that the firemen had reached the place,” he added.



Group takes road safety awareness to 71 parks

Thozhan, in association with The Times of India, conducted a road safety awareness programme that covered 71 parks across the city.



CHENNAI: Ahead of the 71st Independence Day, social reform group Thozhan, in association with The Times of India, conducted a road safety wareness programme that covered 71 parks across the city. The Anna Nagar Tower Park, which was buzzing with visitors on Sunday, was one of the city corporation parks that played host to the hour-long awareness programme including street play and mime, followed by distribution of road safety pamphlets. In an effort to reduce accidents, Thozhan exhorted citizens to follow basic traffic rules through demonstrations. Placards carried by volunteers had messages like ‘follow lane discipline’, ‘don’t drink and drive’ and ‘do not jump red lights’. A volunteer demonstrated how fellow citizens can administer emergency care right after an accident, which in many cases can save a life. According to the Law Commission of India, 50% fatalities can be averted if victims get even basic care on time. To encourage citizens to take the lead in attending to an accident victim during the ‘golden hour’ Thozhan reminded them of the good Samaritan Law. On March 30, 2016, in a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court gave ‘force of law’ a set of guidelines issued by the Union ministry of road transport and highways. The guidelines state that a good samaritan who comes forward to help a victim will not be liable for any civil or criminal action for injury or death of the victim.



International News



Venezuela crushes anti-Maduro uprising at military base


VALENCIA: Soldiers battled for three hours on Sunday morning against a small band of anti-government fighters who snuck onto a Venezuelan army base, apparently intent on fomenting an uprising, President Nicolas Maduro said. Troops killed two of the intruders, wounded another and captured seven, but 10 others got away, the embattled leader announced in his weekly broadcast on state television. “We know where they are headed and all of our military and police force is deployed,” Maduro said. He said he would ask for “the maximum penalty for those who participated in this terrorist attack”. The incident happened during the early morning hours at the Paramacay base in the central city of Valencia. Residents who live nearby said they heard repeated bursts of gunfire starting around 4:30 a.m. A video showing more than a dozen men dressed in military fatigues, some carrying rifles, began circulating widely on social media around that time. In the recording, a man who identified himself as Capt. Juan Caguaripano said the men were members of the military who oppose Maduro’s socialist government and called on military units to declare themselves in open rebellion. “This is not a coup d’etat,” the man said. “This is a civic and military action to re-establish the constitutional order”. Twenty men entered the base, catching soldiers on night watch by surprise, Maduro said. The intruders managed to reach the base’s weapons depot before an alarm sounded, alerting troops to the incursion. He said 10 of the invaders then escaped, some carrying off arms, while those left behind exchanged gunfire with soldiers until about 8am before all were either killed or captured.


“Today we had to defeat terrorism with bullets,” Maduro said. Residents who live nearby and saw the dissident group’s video online gathered around the military base chanting “Freedom!” Other protests also emerged spontaneously around Valencia into the afternoon. Troops dispersed the protesters with tear gas and a man was fatally shot at a demonstration less than a mile from the base, said Haydee Franco, coordinating secretary of the opposition Progressive Advance party. More than 120 people have been reported killed in unrest that began in early April. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez characterized the attackers as a “paramilitary” expedition, saying the intruders were civilians dressed in uniforms. He did not identify any of the participants, but said they included a lieutenant who had abandoned his post. He said the man who recorded the video was a former officer dismissed three years ago after being charged with rebellion and betraying the homeland. In 2014, Caguaripano released a 12-minute video denouncing Maduro during a previous wave of anti-government unrest. He later reportedly sought exile after a military tribunal ordered his arrest, appearing in an interview on CNN en Espanol to draw attention to what he said was discontent within military ranks. He returned to Venezuela to lead Sunday’s uprising, said Giomar Flores, a mutinous naval officer now in Bogota, Colombia, who said he is a spokesman for the group. Padrino Lopez alleged the attackers were recruited by “right-wing extremists” working with unspecified foreign governments. Maduro said the attack was “paid for by Miami and Colombia” – cities with large numbers of Venezuelans who oppose his government. Neither provided specific details on how they had come to that conclusion.


“Today’s terrorist attack is no more than a propaganda show,” Padrino Lopez said. Venezuela’s latest bout of political unrest erupted in protest to a Supreme Court decision in late March ordering the opposition-controlled National Assemblydissolved. Although the order was quickly annulled, near-daily demonstrations snowballed into a general protest calling for a new presidential election. Opposition leaders have urged the military, which historically has served as an arbiter of Venezuela’s political disputes, to break with Maduro over what his foes consider violations of the constitution. But the president is believed to still have the military’s support. He and his predecessor, the late President Hugo Chavez, worked diligently to assure their allegiance. Like Sunday’s uprising, most manifestations of dissent among troops have been small and isolated thus far. “It’s still very hard to know to what extent there are significant divisions within the military,” Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, said recently. The attack capped an already tense weekend during which a new constitutional assembly that will rule with nearly unlimited powers voted to remove chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz. Ortega Diaz, a longtime government loyalist who has become one of Maduro’s most outspoken critics, reiterated her refusal to recognize that decision at a public appearance alongside opposition leaders Sunday. “I am still Venezuela’s chief prosecutor,” she said to applause.


The assembly ordered her replaced by Ombudsman Tarek William Saab, who was recently sanctioned by Washington for failing to protect protesters from abuses in his role as the nation’s top human rights official. In his Sunday address, Maduro defended the constitutional assembly’s right to remove Ortega Diaz, comparing it to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to fire acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she publicly questioned his immigration order shortly after taking office in January. He also announced that a new “truth commission” was being installed Sunday, setting up its offices in a historic building in Caracas that also houses the Ministry of Foreign Relations. The commission will have the right to require those it summons to testify and those who lie can be charged with perjury, the president said. Maduro said the assembly is considering creating a law against “hate, intolerance and fascism” that would immediately punish those responsible for the current upheaval. Maduro frequently refers to opposition leaders and protesters as “fascists”. The president singled out Julio Borges, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, warning him, “Justice is coming for you and the terrorists you’ve helped advance”.



‘Lucifer’ heatwave keeps parts of Europe in red alert

Southern Europe and Balkans are experiencing a heatwave with temparatures reaching more than 40 C.



BELGRADE, Serbia: No wonder it’s been dubbed “Lucifer”. A relentless heat wave that gripped parts of Europe this week has sent temperatures soaring to record highs for several days, causing at least two deaths and prompting authorities to issue weather alerts. Extreme heat in Italy, and parts of France and Spain and the Balkans, has led to dozens of wildfires, damaged crops and fueled power and water consumption. Authorities in some areas issued traffic restrictions and banned work in the open in the hottest part of the day as temperatures reached more than 40 C (104 F). Spain’s national weather service on Saturday issued an emergency warning for high temperatures for 31 of the country’s 50 provinces as forecasts predicted temperatures of up to 44 C (111.2 F). Although this part of Europe is used to scorching summers, meteorologists have warned that such high temperatures lasting over several days aren’t that common. Serbian authorities have said the hot spell came from Africa. “It is just too much,” said 52-year-old real estate agent Sasa Jovanovic, from Belgrade, the Serbian capital. “Sometimes it feels as if I cannot breathe”. In the Alpine nation of Slovenia, authorities reported earlier this week the first-ever “tropical night” at 1,500 meters (4,920 feet) in the mountains, meaning temperatures were higher than 20 C (68 F) during the night. Authorities in other countries urged people to stay indoors and drink a lot of water. The public health institute in Belgrade issued heat instructions, telling people to keep wet towels on windows if there is no air conditioning, and avoid physical strain and alcohol.


In Croatia, authorities have appealed to the thousands of tourists vacationing along the country’s Adriatic coast to be careful on the beaches and while traveling. The streets of Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica, and other towns, were empty on the weekend, sending people flocking to the country’s Adriatic coast. Authorities there issued a fire alert because of dry weather. Some 15 wildfires have been reported in Albania, and dozens of others throughout the region. Hot and dry weather has scorched crops amid fears of water shortages in Italy and Serbia as authorities appealed for care in consumption. In Romania, police banned heavy traffic on major roads in daylight hours during the weekend because of the heat wave, while trains slowed down. A train service in southern Serbia also was delayed earlier this week after tracks buckled in the heat. Romania reported two heat-related deaths _ a 45-year-old man collapsed and died Friday while working in a field in the northeast, while a 60-year-old man died of a heart attack in the street in an eastern port Thursday. In neighboring Hungary, the state railway company said it would distribute water at busy terminals. At the Budapest Zoo, Beliy and Seriy, a pair of 2-year-old polar bear cubs, were given huge chunks of ice and freezing-cold watermelons to help them withstand the weather conditions.



Fire strikes another tower in the Dubai Marina



DUBAI: A fire broke out on Sunday at another high-rise tower in the Dubai Marina, just days after a blaze struck one of the world’s tallest residential towers in the same neighborhood. Authorities quickly extinguished Sunday’s fire at the Tiger Tower and said it injured no one. But the blaze rattled nerves after Friday’s inferno at the Torch Tower, which is only a block away from the ,site of Sunday’s fire. The fire began on clothes left on a balcony on the tower’s 53rd floor, said Capt. Amer Abdulwahab al-Qahtani of the Dubai Civil Defense. He said investigators believe either an improperly disposed cigarette or the sheikhdom’s high temperatures of 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) Sunday ignited the blaze. Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, al-Qahtani said. The Dubai Media Office, a government agency, said the flames caused no injuries. Early on Friday, a blaze hit the 86-story Torch Tower nearby. It was the second time in 2 { years that the more than 1,100-foot-tall (335 meters) tower has been ravaged by fire. The Torch, located in Dubai’s popular waterfront Marina district, also caught fire in February 2015. There were no major casualties reported in either blaze.



4 killed as Iranian soldier opens fire at air base



TEHRAN: At least four soldiers were killed and eight injured when one of their colleagues opened fire on a military air base on Sunday, the Iranian military said in a statement. The incident was “probably related to psychological problems of the soldier who suddenly started firing on his comrades,” the statement said. Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency reported that the shooting took place in Kahrizak, on the southern outskirts of Tehran. The report said one of the victims was an officer and the two others were regular soldiers. All injured soldiers were taken to an Air Force hospital in southeast of the city. It added that the assailant was killed in a shootout with other soldiers. The reported shooting is the latest to strike Iran. In July, a soldier opened fire on his comrades, killing three and wounding six at a military base in the town of Abyek, some 62 miles (100 kilometers) west of Tehran. The assailant reportedly shot himself in the incident, but survived and was taken to a nearby hospital. In September, a soldier killed himself after shooting to death three of his comrades in the south of the country.



Twelve killed in Nigeria church shooting: Hospital sources



WARRI, Nigeria: Gunmen stormed a Catholic church in a town in southeast Nigeria early Sunday, killing 12 worshippers, hospital sources and witnesses said. The attack took place at around 6am at St. Philip’s church in Ozubulu, near the city of Onitsha, witnesses said. “So far, 12 persons have been confirmed dead and deposited in the mortuary here while several persons are receiving medical attention,” a staff worker at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital in Nnewi, where the victims were admitted, told AFP. Several worshippers with gunshot wounds were receiving treatment at the hospital, the source said. Witnesses said five gunmen in masks stormed the church and opened fire on worshippers. They feared that up to 20 people may have died. In contrast, Anambra State Police Commissioner Garba Umar said the attacker was a lone gunman, who “went on a shooting spree, killing and wounding” worshippers. Witness Chukwuma Emeka said he had just stepped out of the church to stretch his legs “when I heard gunshots and screaming and people running inside”. “When the chaos subsided I went inside, I saw my fellow church members dead in a pool of their own blood and many others were screaming in pain”. Security agents were said to have cordoned off the church.

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