7,000 driving licences destroyed in RTO fire
Mumbai: More than 7,000 new smart card driving licences were burnt and 20 computers used for making them damaged in the over two-hour fire at Tardeo RTO on Sunday. It will affect distribution and printing of permanent driving licences in the island city for some time, officials said. There was chaos on Monday as computers used for tests faced “technical glitches”. Sources said the computers were brought in from Wadala and Andheri RTOs, so applications were registered under MH-02 (Andheri) or MH-03 (Wadala), when they should have been MH-01 (Tardeo RTO). But officials rectified the problem quickly. Sanemi Parikh, a college student, said, “I arrived at 10am and came out of the test room after around two hours. We were made to wait as there was computer problem and only three out of 12 were working.” Another applicant complained of a long queue in the Tardeo RTO compound in the rain. The premises had a huge waiting hall, AC room for tests of 25 candidates at a time and spacious cabins for checking documents and biometrics. The alternate arrangement was a small room, cramped with few chairs and 12 computers for tests. There was a crowd outside H-block room, where tests were conducted. Regional transport officer Subhash Pedamkar said, “In record time and with assistance of all officials, including women, who stayed back till 9pm on Sunday, we got 12 computers, furniture and arranged for alternate space to ensure licences are issued from Monday morning. We restored the system amid challenging conditions. There may have been teething problems but we streamlined the issuance of licences by afternoon.” Sources said the licences burnt will be reprinted in four days.
Jet mishap in Saudi: Pilots mistook taxiway for runway
Mumbai: The mystery behind the Mumbai-bound Jet Airways Boeing 737-800 veering off into soft ground at Riyadh airport last Friday has been solved. The pilots mistook a taxiway — pathways leading off the runway to parking bays — for a runway and attempted a takeoff. Licences of both pilots have been suspended, said Lalit Gupta, joint director-general, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, on Monday. Pilots are generally de-rostered after any “incident”, pending investigation. The tougher decision points to the gravity of the incident. In 2000, a Singapore Airlines plane crashed after a similar mistake killing 81(see box). “The aircraft attempted takeoff from taxiway (K), parallel to takeoff-designated Runway (R33),’’ said a statement issued by Saudi Arabia’s Aviation Investigation Bureau on Sunday. It added that the visibility was high and there were no obstacles on the taxiway. “The aircraft accelerated with full takeoff power and exceeded the taxiway onto unpaved area”. A Jet Airways spokesperson said: “The matter is currently under investigation and we cannot comment.” Last week, the airline said in a statement flight 9W 523 “departed the runway, following an aborted takeoff… All 142 guests and seven crew members safely evacuated”. Experts are taken aback by the error. “What’s strange is that it occurred at night, when the white runway-edge lights and the blue taxiway lights are clearly visible. It’s not easy to mistake a runway for a taxiway at night,’’ said a senior instructor with a foreign airline. Firstly, there are the runway markers: the piano key markings that indicate the threshold, the runway number and the white runway-edge lights. Most importantly, the runway centreline is indicated by 30m dashes with 20m gaps (illuminated when needed), while taxiway centrelines are a single, solid line, with blue taxiway-edge lights.
Then there is the navigation display map in the cockpit and navigation aids like the localiser signals that indicate whether the aircraft has lined up along the correct runway. The incident has raised questions, the ambit of which extends beyond the cockpit to include the role played by Riyadh airport officials and also Jet’s training standards and operational practices. On May 28, Riyadh air traffic control had issued a permanent notice to pilots, controllers that a new taxiway K (Kilo) is functional. But the current aerodrome chart released by Saudi Arabia does not show taxiway K. Consequently, the Jeppesen airport chart, consulted by pilots, also does not show it. “Airlines pay huge fees for Jeppesen charts, which are regularly updated. Had Saudi Arabia followed good aviation practices and published information about taxiway K, the charts would have had it and the Jet pilots would have been aware,” said a commander. The chart for Riyadh airport instead has a telling warning: “Use caution as unknown changes might exist”. Unlike most major airports, the Riyadh airport does not have a surface movement radar, which would have indicated to the air traffic control that the Jet aircraft had entered a taxiway for takeoff. Errors in runway identification are a serious issue. So much so, the US aviation regulator publishes a 45-page best practices guide to prevent errors. It advises pilots to stop the aircraft clear of any runway and seek ATC guidance when uncertain about their location in an airport. A number of pilots TOI spoke to said Riyadh ATC is known to give “incomplete instructions”, that is they won’t spell out the taxiways to be taken to reach a particular bay or a runway.
Man caught with bombs on bus to Delhi, city on alert
New Delhi: A bike squad would keep an eye on suspicious people and vehicles after a high alert has been sounded in the Capital following the arrest of a man found to be carrying explosives in a bus bound for Delhi from Jammu. Security has been tightened at all bus and train stations. A bike team would have two riders armed with assault rifles and pistols. They would patrol a 2-km radius and are part of a bigger motorcycle squad called Jaguar that was raised earlier to curb street crimes. Apart from scanning roads, the teams have also been asked to keep an eye on street-corner gatherings and small crowds during kanwariya processions. This is because there have been intelligence inputs about terrorists trying to use these as cover by posing as devotees or vendors. “We have briefed these men to be more alert and keep an eye on suspicious movements. They are trained for the job, and we have asked them to patrol crowded areas for better control,” said DCP (New Delhi) Madhur Verma. The squad would identify the areas having high footfall and deploy the teams accordingly. They would coordinate with squads from the neighbouring police districts to maintain a seamless patrolling mechanism.
8.1 km stretch that connects 4 south Delhi markets opens
New Delhi: The metro opened its ‘shoppers’ corridor’ — the 8.1km Durgabai Deshmukh South Campus-Lajpat Nagar section of Pink Line — on Monday. Though the corridor has six stations, two stations that saw the maximum crowd even on Day 1 were Sarojini Nagar and Lajpat Nagar. Commuters could be seen coming out of these stations in droves though both markets were closed on Monday. Only a few shops were open in both, but street vendors had a good day. The stretch, opened to the public after 1pm, connects four major markets — Sarojini Nagar, INA, South Extension and Lajpat Nagar. The other stations are Sir Vishweshwaraiah Moti Bagh and Bhikaji Cama Place. Shagun Dhingra, a student, had come all the way from Gurgaon to visit Sarojini Nagar market. “Though there are many malls in Gurgaon, Sarojiini Nagar offers more variety at much affordable prices and that is why I don’t mind the long journey,” she said. “Earlier, I had to get down at INA station and then take an auto to reach the market. Now, the station is bang opposite it,” she added. “Coming to Sarojini Nagar market from Dwarka was a pain as one had to either change at Rajiv Chowk metro station or brave the huge traffic if coming by an auto. Now I just need to change train at Rajouri Garden, which saves a lot of time and money,” said Reena Negi, who works with a private firm. At the next station – INA – too, many passengers were seen changing train between Yellow Line (Samaypur Badli-HUDA City Centre) and Pink Line to reach Sarojini Nagar. However, the unusual topography of the interchange area stumped many.
As the Pink Line station is built above the existing tunnel of Yellow Line, passengers have to go below the platform to reach the Yellow Line station, confusing many on the first day despite ample signage. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has deployed a guard at the interchange point to guide passengers, who had his hands full on Monday. Although the South Extension station didn’t see many shoppers, a large number of students were seen as the area has a large number of coaching institutes and other private institutes. “I’m doing a language course from an institute here and earlier had to take a bus or an auto from Moolchand to come here. Now my journey has become much more comfortable,” said Neha Taneja, a resident of Faridabad. The first metro station in the area has also made its residents happy as they can now avoid the traffic congestion on the nearby Ring Road. “Earlier the closest metro station was INA. Thanks to the metro, I can now travel in air-conditioned comfort and not bother about traffic,” said Rekha Chaudhry, a resident. Many commuters also went market hopping. “We just finished shopping at Lajpat Nagar and are now going to Sarojini Nagar. It won’t take more than a few minutes now,” said Divya Tripathi, a student. The entire 59km Pink Line, the longest in the Delhi Metro network, will become operational by September — between Shiv Vihar and Trilokpuri in August and between Lajpat Nagar and Mayur Vihar Pocket 1 in September.
Frayed nerves, bottled up brain: 1 in 10 kids hit by neuro disease
Hyderabad: Sounds unbelievable, but one in every 10 children below the age of nine in Hyderabad suffer from one or other problems related to brain and neurological development. A research study covering five regions of India — northcentral, north, south, east and west — has revealed a high burden of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) among children between two and nine years. Hyderabad was one of the urban centres studied as part of the research. The research on autism and other mental health issues revealed that neurological disorders in children are a significant public health burden. The incidence is higher than global prevalence. The study was supervised by a team of experts from India and USA. Seven disorders related to brain and neurological development were included in the research. The team of 25 researchers from Hyderabad was drawn from the Indian Institute of Public Health, Rainbow Hospital and RVM Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre. A group of 3,964 students were studied for seven common neurodevelopmental disorders like vision impairment, 27 epilepsies, neuromotor impairments including cerebral palsy, hearing impairment, speech and language disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and intellectual disability.
Health issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and learning disorders were also included in the research. The research was published in the latest issue of Plosone Medicine. Hearing impairment was higher than autism spectrum disorders. “Most risk factors of NDDs were modifiable and amenable to public health interventions,” the researchers said. The prevalence of NDDs in children (two to six years) ranged from 2.9% to 18.7%. In case of children between six and nine, it ranged from 6.5% to 18.5%. About 20% of children showed two or more problems related to neurodevelopment. The research was supervised by experts from the fields of pediatrics (Paediatric neurology, developmental pediatrics, general pediatrics), epidemiology, public health, social science, biostatistics, child psychology, ENT, ophthalmology, and child psychiatry from 18 institutions.
Users of rigged ATMs to get new debit cards
Kolkata: Several banks have decided to replace the debit cards of customers who have used two of the city’s compromised ATMs for transactions between February and July this year. This is the biggest such exercise in Kolkata, say senior bank officials; the two ATMs that banks have under their scanner are the Canara Bank ATM at Golpark and the PNB ATM at the Mullick Bazar-Park Street crossing. Banks have started analysing the data dump provided by Visa, Mastercard and Rupay though the entire exercise — ending with every target customer having a new debit-cum-ATM card — may take some more time. Reserve Bank of India had issued a similar directive to banks in October 2016 following the detection of a skimming racket. The directive was not only limited to cards that had been misused; it asked banks to safeguard customers whose cards could have been exposed to potential misuse. Banks started hot-listing debit cards when this round of complaints first surfaced on July 26. It has now decided to replace all debit cards used at the two compromised ATMs in the weeks before and after the skimming fraud took place. The decision comes after the preliminary police probe has indicated that the two arrested Romanian suspects came to Kolkata in March and installed the skimming devices in April. Banks analyze card usage to avoid a repeat, a senior private-sector bank official said they were analysing debit card usage to identify all customers who had been to the two compromised ATMs in the February-July period. “We have decided to replace all debit cards of customers who used either of these ATMs. This is a practice normally followed in ATM skimming cases.
The timeframe in this case appears stretched because the probe is in a preliminary stage. We know we need to win back customers’ trust,” he added. Another private bank official told TOI from Mumbai: “Hot-listed debit cards are being replaced immediately but we are also going to replace debit cards of customers who had been to either of the two compromised ATMs when the fraud took place. We follow a zero-risk policy when it comes to these things”. He added that banks were also urging customers to change their debit card PIN periodically, “ideally every three months”. “We are pushing for a PIN change ourselves whenever we notice any unusual debit pattern,” he said. A senior official of a public-sector bank in Kolkata corroborated what private-sector banking officials said. “We have already taken up the process. This is something we have done earlier, too, when similar complaints surfaced elsewhere in the country. This will be no different either,” the PSU banking official said. The RBI 2016 directive also advised banks to “take measures, including advising customers to change PIN, blocking payments at international locations, reducing withdrawal limits, monitoring unusual patterns, replacing cards and re-crediting accounts of card holders for amounts wrongly debited”, which should come as relief to defrauded customers. Times View: Sunday’s discovery of yet another “compromised” ATM in Kasba has dented customer confidence further; it had, anyway, taken a big hit after the first round of revelations about such ATMs at Gol Park, Mullickbazar and on Elgin Road. A swift probe and arrests followed by conviction can restore some amount of confidence. But customers will feel much more reassured when they know that the ATMs they use are fool-proof. That element of trust is essential.
Police start security audit of city ATM’s
Kolkata: Police have started to carry out a physical security audit of the approximately 11,000 ATMs in the city after it was found that many of them lacked basic security. While banks outsource the ATM management and cash replenishment to private agencies, they are supposed to carry out periodical physical audit of their ATMs. However, a random police check carried out recently found several security loopholes, including non-functional CCTV cameras and broken access doors. A week after the ATM skimming fraud led Lalbazar to review the security requirements at ATMs, the top brass has now formed separate teams from all police stations to carry out physical examination of the ATMs located within their respective jurisdiction. Sources said the finding of lacunae in the audits carried out by banks has forced cops to step in, claimed sources. These teams — working in morning and night shifts with a total of six men — are expected to do a vulnerability mapping of the ATMs. This includes a check on whether any skimmer devices have been fitted to the machine, whether there has been any attempt to hack the keyboard and whether any attempt has been made to set up pin-hole cameras. “We are concerned with the entry/exit, physical safety of the ATM machine and the availability of CCTV footage,” explained a senior police officer from the detective department.
“Even in case of CCTV footage, unless a real-time analysis is done, the cameras serve no purpose. In some ATMs, the banks analyse the CCTV footage in ATMs after every five days or a week. In between, if anything were to happen, none would have an inkling,” an officer said. In addition, each team will be in touch with the local bank branch and ensure that banks are implementing RBI norms. They will also be actively pushing for the installation of anti-skimming devices. The exercises, claimed sources, have as much to do with increasing safety for customers as also to win back their confidence. “We have been asked to use simple devices to ensure that the ATMs are not compromised. The idea is to carry out random checks. We have not yet been asked to look into CCTV feeds. However, if we suddenly come across something illegal, we will ask the concerned bank to provide us the footage,” said a source at Lalbazar. The feedback will be shared regularly with Lalbazar, for the time being. “We will review the situation on ground and make changes in our plans as and when required,” claimed a senior IPS officer.
Over 2,500 hit in Bankura as 224mm rain triggers floods
A number of houses collapsed at Junbedia, a flooded area under Bankura municipality, after 224mm rainfall in the last 24 hours. The disaster management department said 52 houses in the district were fully damaged and more than 663 partially damaged.
Bankura / Jhargram / Kolkata: The flood situation in Bankura has triggered alarm, with 224mm rainfall in the last 24 hours killing one person and affecting more than 2,500 people. The state disaster management department said Gunomoy Bhandari (70), a resident of Nagardanga, drowned while crossing a swollen rivulet in Mejhia block. It also said 52 houses in the district were fully damaged and more than 663 partially damaged in the rain. Of the more than 2,500 people affected, 610 have been rescued and sent to relief camps. The state administration sent two quick response teams and opened relief camps in Bankura town. The situation may worsen as the Met department forecast heavy to very heavy rain in Gangetic West Bengal till Tuesday owing to a low-pressure area over northwest Bay of Bengal. “Three blocks — Bankura-II, Mejhia and Satighat — and eight wards of Bankura municipality are affected. We had to rush in two speedboats with 12 volunteers for rescue work,” a senior department official said. “If there is more rain, then the situation might become really alarming”.
While Bankura reeled from a flood-like situation, Jhargram’s people agitated over waterlogging in their area and smashed windowpanes of the tourism complex in Jhargram Rajbari, including those of the ground-floor room where chief minister Mamata Banerjee will put up during her two-day visit to Jhargram on August 8-9. The incident followed heavy rain since Sunday evening, when many roads and lanes in the town went under water, causing problems for people living around the Rajbari in Jhargram Municipality’s ward 11. Rajbari and tourism complex sources said the room where Banerjee stays is mostly damaged. The CM will reach Jhargram town on the evening of August 8 and leave after addressing programmes the next day. These include an administrative meeting with district administration officials and a public meeting. Jhargram DM Ayesha Rani said: “It is a minor incident. We have surveyed the area. The irrigation department has been asked to clear rainwater from the area and elsewhere in Jhargram town”.
Poor fire safety steps, shoddy upkeep threaten Government Museum
Chennai: Poor fire preparedness and lack of maintenance of the Government Museum, Egmore that houses artefacts worth crores of rupees, continue to threaten the grand old structure. A recent reality checks by TOI found that at least two fire extinguishers have not been refilled for nearly 10 months. Though the authorities insisted that the artefacts were safe due to elaborate safety measures in place, the country’s second oldest museum does not have any internal guidelines to be followed in case a fire breaks out. Sources confirmed to TOI that the museum did not have any standard operating procedure (SOP) to be pursued during emergencies. The dry chemical powder (DCP) fire extinguisher installed on the ground floor of the anthropology department was past the expiry date as the label on it read. It was due to be refilled in September 2017. The DCP fire extinguisher on the first floor that houses bronze idols was to be refilled almost 10 months ago but nothing has been done. S Vijaykumar, co-founder of Singapore-based India Pride Project which is working for the retrieval of stolen idols from India, said security at the museum was confined to preventing people from taking photographs on mobile phones. “Other important aspects such as fire safety and emergency evacuation seem non-existent. Further, the system of CCTV camera surveillance needs to be upgraded. Considering the poor light, the existing cameras are unlikely to produce any clear video feed,” he said.
When contacted, Pinky Jowel, the director (in-charge) of the museum, said an annual mock drill for fire safety was conducted at the museum. “Officials have been asked to frame guidelines for internal safety and security,” she said. It does not stop at safety issues. The grand old buildings cry for renovation and proper maintenance. Cracks have started appearing on different parts of the structures that have been functioning since 1851. The unchecked growth of vegetation in several parts of the campus indicates a sorry state of upkeep by the authorities concerned. Making do with meagre grant from the government for annual maintenance, the British-era museum is in dire need of funds. Of the Rs.10 crore earmarked for the department of museums, the grandiose facility gets Rs.40 lakhs for maintenance by the public works department (PWD). “We do not have trained engineers. Hence, the maintenance is carried out by the PWD,” an official said.
Security forces storm Maoist stronghold in Bastar, kill 15
Raipur: In one of the biggest offensives in Chhattisgarh, security forces stormed a Maoist hideout deep in the forests of Bastar on Monday morning, killing 15 rebels. Two suspected Maoists were arrested and a large cache of IEDs, guns and ammunition seized. About a fortnight ago, eight Maoists, including four women, were killed in an encounter on the border of Dantewada and Bijapur in Bastar. In the last two months, 39 Maoists have been eliminated. This is part of the forces’ new tactic of scaling up the offensive during monsoon — a strategy devised in the last two years when specially selected jawans were trained in guerilla warfare school. Special DGP (anti-Naxal ops) Durgesh Madhav Awasthi said that joint forces went into the jungle near Nalkatong village, between Gollappalli and Konta regions of Sukma, an area supposed to be dominated by Maoists. There were intelligence inputs about the presence of a large number of armed rebels in the area. Spearheaded by Cobra commandos, the teams comprised jawans from CRPF, Chhattisgarh STF and District Reserve Guards (DRG). A DRG patrol party spotted a Maoist camp and sent out an alert. An intense gun battle went on for about 30 minutes after the forces encircled the rebel camp, Awasthi said. Maoists fled into the forests after suffering heavy causalities, the DGP said.
Government eyes ways to block FB, WhatsApp during crisis
New Delhi: The government wants to arm itself with powers to block global social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Instagram in cases where national security or public order are under threat. The exercise comes at a time when the government has expressed reservations over the responses given by WhatsApp after it was asked how its platform was used to mobilise lynch mobs across various states. The department of telecom (DoT) has sought the industry’s views on technical measures that can be deployed for blocking popular mobile apps under Section 69A of the IT Act, which spells out powers to issue directions for blocking public access to any information through a computer resource. Through a letter issued on July 18, DoT sought the views of telecom operators, Internet Service Providers Association of India, Cellular Operators Association of India and other associations.
Concerns around potential misuse of social media has been raised by the ministry of electronics and IT, as well as some of law enforcement agencies. Section 69A authorises the central government or any officer authorised by it to issue directions to block information on the internet in the name of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of the country, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence relating to them. The viral messaging of rumours on social media platforms has often been blamed for mob lynching’s across many states. WhatsApp has been particularly questioned by the government on the issue. An IT ministry official said that the Facebook-owned instant messenger has not committed itself on “traceability” and attribution of messages, which had been one of the key demands of the government. Hence, the ministry’s concerns have not been addressed and the potential for misuse still remains, the official said.
A passphrase can keep your online data safe
Washington: Scientists have developed a new system that uses passphrases for online authentication, and found it to be more user-friendly and secure than traditional word based passcodes. Although passphrases, or phrase-based passwords, have been found to be more secure than traditional passwords, factors like typographical errors and memorability have slowed down their wider adoption. “Passphrases are more secure than passwords and avoid the various issues with biometric systems like fingerprint or facial recognition,” said Kevin Juang, a user experience research manager at SunTrust Bank in the US. “It’s inevitable that we will eventually need to move past traditional passwords, but it’s nothing to fear,” said Juang. The study, published in the journal Human Factors, developed and tested two new passphrase systems that seek to address these shortcomings and improve the usability and security of existing passphrase authentication systems. The first passphrase system incorporated, in part, a specialised wordlist using simple, common words; a six-word sentence structure that made meaningful sense; and a user created mnemonic picture to assist with recall.
The final result would be a passphrase such as “silly pet wolf ate our pizzas,” with an accompanying user-generated illustration. The second passphrase system replaced the six-word sentence structure with four words randomly drawn from a customised 1,450-word list. Researchers assessed the usability of their systems against two existing passphrase systems: a user-generated passphrase containing at least 24 characters, and a system-generated passphrase using words randomly drawn from a list of 10,000. To gauge the success of their new systems, the authors asked 50 adult participants to create, in five minutes, a passphrase and any applicable mnemonic — without writing down what they created. Given that study participants were instructed not to write down or practice their passphrases, researchers found that in real-world settings, the success rates for their new systems would likely increase. “Instead of asking users to juggle both usability and security, which is complicated, let’s provide secure passphrases and allow users to do what they do best: make things easier for themselves,” Juang said.
A tanker truck carrying flammable material exploded on a highway
Italy: A tanker truck carrying flammable material exploded on a highway near the northern Italian city of Bologna on Monday, killing at least two people and injuring up to 70 as it partially collapsed the raised roadway, police said. Some people were reportedly hit by flying glass as windows shattered in nearby buildings. Officials did not immediately know what kind of explosives were in the tanker, but the news agency ANSA said it was liquefied petroleum gas. The explosion reportedly came after a traffic accident.
Indonesia quake toll rises to 98, over 20,000 homeless
Indonesia: The death toll in the powerful earthquake that flattened houses and toppled bridges on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok rose to 98 on Monday. Authorities said rescuers still hadn’t reached some devastated areas and the death toll would “definitely increase”. Thousands of homes and buildings were damaged and 20,000 people were in temporary shelters.