News Flash – 8 August 2018

National News



Metro aims to be longest rail network in 5 years, bigger than CR’s Main and WR put together


Mumbai: The new metropolitan commissioner is running against time: he aims to make the metro Mumbai’s longest public transport network in five years. That would mean surpassing Central Railway’s CST-Karjat line (122km) and the Western Railway stretch linking Churchgate to Dahanu (123km). The two add up to nearly 250km of track length, but short of the 276-km mark that R A Rajeev hopes to conquer. In scale and conception, the metro is touted as the future of travel. Its potential can be gauged from the fact that the 12 lines, on completion, would provide 250 stations for entry, exit and interchange—as opposed to the 100-odd stops on the suburban railway. Rajeev says, “By 2022, it will change the face of Mumbai.” Indeed, the consensus among planners is the metro will have a transformative effect, shaping development, intra-city commute and life on the street in ways that render the network a key determinant of traffic and the economy. Given that the existing 11.5km Andheri-Ghatkopar line has a daily ridership of more than 4 lakhs, prospects are bright. The MMRDA has asked the state to appoint it as a Special Planning Authority with jurisdiction for a 500m radius around each of the stations that will dot the grid. “We have learnt from mistakes while constructing Metro One (the Andheri-Ghatkopar line).


This area is being sought to ensure seamless travel and ease of movement…there will be pedestrian pathways, cycle tracks, easy movement for buses, autos,” said Rajeev. The financial burden of developing the zone around the metro will be borne by MMRDA and the urban local body. Many stations will be linked via skywalks to office hubs like Bharat Diamond Bourse in BKC, malls, or large facilities like the airport so that commuters do not spill out on the roads. “We are benchmarking ourselves against Hong Kong and Singapore. We will appoint consultants for creating a separate operation and maintenance division for the metros,” he said. That brings us to the staggering cost attached to it. Capital expenditure last year was Rs 2,700 crore; in 2018, it’s been budgeted at around Rs 5,000 crore. But that’s small change compared to what’s coming next. Initial civil work accounts for barely one-third of expenses on a metro. The bulk is yet to be spent on rolling stock, telecom, signaling, and electrical systems. “Expenditure will scale up from next year,” said the metropolitan commissioner. That’s putting it mildly—in all, MMRDA will need Rs 88,000 crore for 12 lines, nearly as much as what the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train will cost.


Where’s the money? – “We have a balance of Rs 20,000 crore and land assets at BKC and Wadala worth Rs 95,000 crore,” said Rajeev. He hastens to add that MMRDA will not liquidate assets immediately; rather it has approached government to provide a steady source of revenue. The authority has also sounded out multilateral agencies to raise funds. “We are in advanced discussions with Asian Development Bank for loans for lines VII (Dahisar-Andheri East) and IIA (Dahisar West-D N Road),” said Rajeev. MMRDA is also in talks with the New Development Bank for BRICS countries for Metro Lines II and VII. The loans will have to be repaid over 25 years, which includes a five-year moratorium after the last instalment is received. MMRDA claims it is financially stable, but will need a constant source to supplement revenue from traffic. As of now, it has been promised 1% of stamp duty earnings from property transactions in the region outside Mumbai. It may get a share of the Mumbai kitty as well but that requires an amendment in the BMC Act. Besides, it has sought a share of development charges levied in the city, including premium for extra floor space in the 500-metre area around metro stops. Earnings will swell as lines are added—MMRDA expects daily ridership to eventually hit 50 lakhs—but will ticketing cover costs? “If Delhi Metro with ridership of 25 lakhs daily and minimum fare of less than Rs 10 can be profitable, so can Mumbai’s metro which will have more ridership,” says Rajeev. Right now, he’s focused on clearing bottlenecks. Tenders for telecom, signaling, electrical works, and rolling stock are out for Metro lines 2A, 2B and VII. Nearly 60% of the civil work is complete on 2A and VII. Metro station work has also started, said Rajeev. “It is very difficult but we are trying to start Metro Line VII and 2A by December 2019,” he said.



Plane with nine on board overshoots runway, breaks wall at airport in Raj

All the people on board had a narrow escape on Tuesday when the turboprop overshot the runway on landing in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan.



New Delhi: Nine people on board a Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft had a narrow escape when the turboprop overshot the runway on landing at Lalgarh airport in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, on Tuesday. The aircraft (VT-UDN) belonging to Supreme Airlines hit and broke the boundary wall. “Flight 503 Jaipur to Sri Ganganagar with seven passengers and two pilots on board overshot the runway at Lalgarh. Since the runway length is only 3,000 feet, after overshooting (runway) the aircraft hit the boundary wall,” Supreme Airlines president and CEO Ameet K Agarwal said in a statement. He added that no person on the aircraft was hurt and that there was “no severe damage to any property including aircraft”. He said pilots of the Cessna reported they overshot the runway due to presence of birds on the airstrip. “DGCA air safety has been informed and they shall further investigate for facts,” Agarwal said. The Cessna had taken off from Jaipur at 3.51pm. The Lalgarh Airport is owned by Rajasthan government and operated by Airports Authority of India. The DGCA will probe this accident.



No sequel here: 20 days after robbery in E Delhi locality, six men arrested while attempting rerun



New Delhi: On July 5, armed men had struck at the house of an elderly businessmen in Preet Vihar, held the family captive, and looted cash and jewellery worth several lakhs. Twenty days later, the same men landed up at another businessman’s house in east Delhi. They were less lucky this time as a police patrol intercepted them. They shot a policeman in the chest, but when he fired back, they had to abort their plan and flee. The trail they left behind led to their eventual capture. Six of those men were arrested, said joint CP (east) Ravindra Yadav. Turns out all are Bangladeshis and involved in several crimes. DCP (east) Pankaj Singh said three teams comprising inspectors Maninder Singh, Videsh Singhal and D P Singh and led by ACP Rakesh Dixit were formed. One team found a bag belonging to the assailants from a forest along railway tracks. The bag had been dropped in the crossfire with the injured officer, sub-inspector Lokesh Sharma. The first to be trapped by the police was one Ikram from near the Kanpur railway station. He led the police to his aides Islam and Sohail. Police then conducted raids in Ghaziabad and Delhi and arrested three others—Salim, Suttan and Haroon. Two country-made pistols, cartridges, gold jewellery, cellphones, knives and other tools used to break into houses were seized from them. A passport belonging to one of the men was seized along with the Aadhaar card of Ikram.


“During interrogation, Ikram said he had lived in Mandawali during childhood where his father worked as a scrap vendor. He had developed a good knowledge of Delhi. He got in touch with other Bangladeshi men in both Delhi and in Bangladesh and teamed up with some of them to form a gang,” DCP Singh said. Police said all of them belong to Khulna and nearby districts of Barisal in Bangladesh. They are between 30 and 40 and have been committing crimes in Delhi for a decade. They targeted houses near railway tracks so that they could flee with ease. The gang would commit several crimes within a span of a couple of months and then lie low for a few months to dodge the police. This was their cooling off period that they would spend either in Bangladesh or in another Indian state where they committed robberies again. Police found them to be involved in some multi-crore robberies in Kerala and Karnataka (Bangalore). Sub-inspector Sharma would be awarded Asadharan Karya Puraskar for displaying exemplary gallantry in taking on armed criminals and foiling their plans, joint CP Yadav said.



Trees uprooted, streets waterlogged as rain lashes city


New Delhi: The capital witnessed a strong spell of rain on Tuesday while the air quality continued to remain ‘moderate’ at 113 according to CPCB’s data. Overcast skies remained throughout the day with light to moderate rain activity recorded in the most parts of the city, which even led to uprooting of trees. The Met office said rain will continue over the next few days. The Safdarjung observatory recorded 2.1mm rainfall in a 24hours till 8.30am on Tuesday and received another 3.6mm of rainfall in the next nine hours. According to Met officials, parts of west and south Delhi received the most rainfall with Ayanagar recording 64mm of rainfall between 8.30am and 5.30pm. Meanwhile, Palam and Lodhi Road recorded 12.6 and 1.7mm rainfall, respectively during the same period. “Light to moderate rain was recorded in parts of Delhi. It was intermittent, but a couple of strong spells were recorded in south, central and west Delhi. We will continue to see similar activity over the next few days as well,” said a Met official. Delhi’s humidity remained on the higher side on Tuesday, hovering between 69% and 92%. The maximum temperature touched 33.3 degrees Celsius — one degree below normal. According to the Met office, Delhi will see light rainfall on Wednesday as well. “There will be cloudy sky with a chance of light rain. The maximum and minimum will be around 33 and 26 degrees, respectively,” said an official.



17L respiratory infections, 981 deaths in 5 years in capital


New Delhi: The capital witnessed 981 deaths due to Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) from 2013 to 2017. Over 17 lakh others were diagnosed with ARI, stated a standing committee report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. The report said the polluted air in Delhi-NCR is a significant risk factor for a number of pollution-related diseases and health conditions, including respiratory infections, and recommended immediate corrective and preventive strategic steps in consultation to mitigate the air pollution. The committee, which held three meetings with authorities concerned and analysed the whole gamut of air pollution in Delhi-NCR in the past nine months, said it was surprised to note that the health ministry was not taken on board in the high-level task force on air pollution which is, in a way, indicative of ignorance as well as denial about negative impact of air pollution on human health. “The committee recommends that considering the severe health hazards of air pollution, ministry of environment, forest and climate change should take immediate corrective and preventive strategic steps in consultation with the health ministry,” the committee advised. It has asked the health ministry to aggressively start an awareness campaign to educate people about the adverse health effects of air pollution, and the ways and means to minimise its adverse impacts. In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) put Delhi amongst the 20 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels.


An epidemiological study conducted in 2008 on effects of air pollution on human health (adults) in Delhi, referred to by the parliamentary committee in its report, shows citizens of the city were more susceptible to respiratory symptoms compared with those living in rural areas. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had said last year there is growing body of scientific research that shows that air pollution can permanently damage a child’s brain. UNICEF also said that south Asia has the largest proportion of babies living in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than international limits (10 micrograms per cubic metre). “Pollution is one of the biggest health hazards of our times. Apart from the government agencies, people need to realise this urgently too and take preventive measures,” Dr Arvind Kumar, centre for chest surgery at SGRH, said. In a recent analysis conducted by him that involved 150 in-house patients suffering from lung cancer from March 2012 to June 2018, Dr Kumar found nearly half of the patients were non-smokers. While conventional wisdom states that smoking is its main cause, but now, there is strong evidence that points to the increasing role of air pollution in the rise of the cases, he said. Calling polluted air in Delhi a significant risk factor for a number of pollution-related diseases and health conditions, the parliamentary committee on Tuesday said infants, children and asthmatic patients were most vulnerable to it.



Road-safety drive turns eye-opener



Bengaluru: The Indiranagar Cambridge School, along with HAL III Stage Residents & Taxpayers Association, organised a road-safety awareness programme for high school students on July 30. While interacting with students about road safety and traffic rules, ACP (traffic and planning) Kasim Raja spoke about safety measures to be adopted and the police department’s role in improving the conditions. Students asked questions on non-availability of footpaths due to vendors and car parking, and also about bad roads leading to accidents. The programme concluded with students taking a pledge to follow safety rules and spread awareness among friends and family. Students of St Claret School, Jalahalli, emerged winners of the Under 17 Super Sportive Girls Volleyball Counsellors Cup, a state-level inter-school volleyball championship held on July 19-20 at the Kittur Rani Chennamma Stadium, Jayanagar. About 38 schools participated. Shreya S Naidu bagged the Best Player trophy for her skills on the field. The team members and coach Subbareddy were honoured by Jayanagar MLA Sowmya Reddy. Principal Fr Joshi and vice-principal Sally Jose felicitated the winners. Some students of Class 10, Kendriya Vidyalaya, KR Puram, interviewed Sagarikka Sivakumar, author of My Unschooled Year, on July 17. The book speaks about her experiences during the gap year she took after school. She said her motto is not run to a race but to create her own space. Students AB Ananya, Sethulakshmi Das and Dinesh Gokul Das, along with English teacher Lakshmi Jayaraman, were part of the crew. Students said her inspiring and encouraging words made it a rewarding experience.



Mid-sea collision kills 3, nine missing



Kochi: Three men died and nine, including North Paravur native Shaiju Maliankara, went missing when fishing trawler ‘Oceanic’ capsized early on Tuesday morning after being hit by a ship, around 27 miles off the Kerala coast. Crew members Naran Sarkar, who hails from Kolkata, and Edwin, who is from Colachel, were rescued by fishing vessel ‘Manjumatha’. Sarkar said most of the crew of the mechanised boat, except the driver, were asleep when the mishap occurred. Sarkar and Edwin managed to stay afloat on wooden planks for about three hours. The bodies of three fishermen were recovered but nine are still missing. Mercantile Marine Department officials in Kochi said that four vessels, one Indian and three foreign, were in the surrounding area when the collision took place. “As per our preliminary assessment, a vessel with Indian flag, crude oil tanker ‘Desh Shakthi’, is thought to be involved. But there is no confirmation from DG Shipping,” a Mercantile Marine Department official said.



Auto & buses stay off roads, Metro, MMTS remain on track


Hyderabad: Regular commuters were inconvenienced as buses and autos stayed off the city roads on Tuesday in response to a one-day nationwide strike to protest the continuous rise in fuel prices and certain provisions of Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill. However, Metro rail proved to be a lifesaver for commuters. Angry commuters said that vehicles were not easily available on cab aggregator services and bookings were marked by long wait times and high surge prices. “High surge prices were being quoted by cab aggregator apps and several drivers cancelled booking requests without any intimation,” said Shravya B, an irate commuter. The regular and additional services of Metro, however, proved to be a boon for many commuters. Metro services, in fact, hit a peak. Close to 1.5 lakh passengers used the Metro to commute on Tuesday as against usual ridership of 80,000 to 90,000 passengers, HMRL managing director N V S Reddy said.


HMR authorities ran 60 additional trips on Tuesday. As many as 580 train services were run in both directions as against the usual 540 daily trips. “Metro stations and trains are running full capacity. Extra trains and manpower have been deployed. Trains were run with a frequency of one train every 6.5 minutes throughout the day. Last train timings were also extended by an hour. The last train left at 11pm on both sides (Miyapur and Nagole) and reached their end points at 12.15am,” Reddy said. Bus services resumed before evening peak hours. “Ameerpet to LB Nagar section is planned to be opened around first week of September. All works, testing & commissioning activities are done. Trial runs are in full swing. Independent Safety Assessor, Halcrow (UK), is currently doing safety assessment of signaling system. On receipt of ISA Certificate, Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety would inspect the section,” said K V B Reddy, MD and CEO, L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad) Ltd.



Security Guard at every ATM is unviable: Banks


Kolkata: Banks in the city were left baffled on Tuesday after a Kolkata Police advisory and a state minister’s prod, urging them to engage security guards at ATMs. The police advisory urges people to use ATMs that are guarded. The minister went a step further threatening penalty against outsourced unguarded ATM kiosks. Bank officials, however, indicated they were exploring all measures, including legal, if the they were forced to deploy guards in approximately all the 11,000 ATMs in city. In Kolkata, private banks have slashed the security guard strength at their ATMs by 40%-50%. “The RBI is pushing for its March 2019 deadline for all ATMs to be security compliant. This involves systems upgrade, installation of anti-skimming devices and whitelisted solutions (installation of only permitted software). The banks are also implementing e-surveillance measures,” a senior bank official said. This, he argued, involves huge costs. The minister’s suggestion, he said, if implemented would lead to an additional expenditure of Rs 24,000 per ATM. “Together, it makes an ATM financial unviable,” he claims. Police said a guard at ATMs is a deterrence for fraudsters. “Several ATMs have non-functional CCTV cameras. There is no real-time surveillance. Most ATMs don’t have alarms. We have been stressing on these issues but to no avail,” an officer said. Police also said banks claim to have 24×7 centralized teams that keeps tabs on ATMs.


But these teams keep tabs only on the cash inflow and outflow in the ATMs. “They have no role in the security-related monitoring and have outsourced ATM management and security to private agencies,” a senior officer said. “This, and the fact that the amount handed out to multiple service providers is insured, shouldn’t be a reason for banks to shirk their responsibilities,” the officer said. Banks said RBI mandates allow them to engage service providers for cash handling, including ATM operations. “It is not an RBI mandate to engage security guards,” a bank officer said. “In 2016, the Gauhati High Court had issued several directives to banks, that included placing security guards round-the-clock at all ATMs. This direction was later stayed by the Supreme Court. Another official said, “Globally the trend is to adopt e-surveillance measures and reduce physical security at ATMs. These are more reliable and cost-effective. Guards can be an option for off-site ATMs, but for the ones that are attached to a bank branch with 24X7 security guards, this will be unviable”.



Customers get smiles back as bank returns lost money


Kolkata: Forty-four odd customers of Canara Bank, who were among the firsts to have reported about the ATM skimming fraud last month, could heave a sigh of relief as they got back their lost money under the head ‘ATM fraudulent amount refund’ on Tuesday morning. Between July 29 and 30, the customers of the bank’s Gariahat branch, who were used to withdraw money from the ATM machine at Golpark — that was later found to be rigged — had complained of losing between Rs 2,000 to Rs 80,000 in multiple transactions by fraudsters. As the customers came in large numbers to the bank complaining about the fraud, the lid was blown off a citywide skimming racket, following which cops arrested two Romanians and an investigation into the process is under way. “When I had lost the money, I felt hopeless. That was the amount I had borrowed from a moneylender to invest in my fish business and suddenly it was all gone. I felt like committing suicide. Now that I got my money back, I have withdrawn the entire amount and would never keep a large amount in the bank anymore,” said Jugal Bar, a fish trader at Ballygunge market who had lost Rs 80,000. Like Bar, other customers too were relieved after getting their hard-earned money back. “I had almost started crying on losing Rs 40,000 at a go. My father and I had rushed to the bank and even had a heated exchange of words with the bank officials who had failed to give us any solid assurance. But after they called me in the morning and informed me that they have already started the process of refunding the money, I am relieved,” said Anindita Mukherjee, a resident of Ballygunge Gardens.


Mukherjee’s next-door neighbours Kankan Roy Chowdhury, too, got a refund of Rs 4,000 but they are worrying about the Rs 30,000 they have lost from the SBI account that has still not been refunded. “I am more concerned about the money lost from the SBI account. The bank officials have not given us any time frame,” said Roy Chowdhury, a retired government official. The bank officials had started calling up the customers from Tuesday morning, informing them that the lost money would be refunded to their account and asked them to come over to the branch to update their passbooks. As the customers came in, the officials welcomed them with tea, snack and sweets. “Even we are feeling relieved to be able to refund the money. It was the first time ever we faced such a situation. The day they had lost the money, some customers were angry with us and some began crying holding my hand. Our entire team has worked hard to find a way out to refund the money. We didn’t even wait for the insurance company to refund the money to us,” said Sukumar Dafadar, the branch manager. Dafadar said they returned a total of Rs 12 lakhs was refunded on Tuesday on the basis of 44 complaints. Punjab National Bank was the first bank in the city to have started the refund process to its 34 customers on August 3. There are still certain customers with banks like Kotak Mahindra and State Bank of India who had complained of being duped of skimming during this period.



Fearing violence, firms and shops down shutters


Chennai: The city came to a virtual standstill as soon as DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s death was announced. Many private firms and shops downed shutters early and employees rushing home led to traffic snarls across the city, mainly along arterial Anna Salai, Nungambakkam High Road and Ponamallee High Road. “We were asked to go home safe, as our bosses thought the announcement will instigate violence in the city,” said Shyam Sundar, a techie. Many IT companies advanced bus and cab timings to help employees. In a bid to cash in, the few autorickshaw drivers present on the roads, many had stayed off the roads due to the transport strike, began fleecing passengers and fares of app-based taxis soared. “Cab services offered by our firm usually were cancelled. Had to wait for an hour to get a cab,” said R Sneha, a techie from OMR. There were also long queues in petrol bunks. “I’ve asked my family to stock up on essentials,” said K Raghu, waiting at an outlet on Venkatanarayana Road, T Nagar.


MTC buses and suburban trains, all of them packed, became the most reliable and economical option. Services of all 600 private buses, scheduled to depart from Koyambedu Bus Terminal, were cancelled late in the evening. About 600 private buses bound for Chennai from other districts, particularly Madurai, Trichy and Coimbatore, were also cancelled and tickets were either refunded or postponed. A Afzal, managing director of Parveen Travels and president of Tamil Nadu Omni Bus Owners Association said, “Those buses, which already left from the origin point before the announcement came out, were alone operated. People willing to travel to Chennai for the last rites of Karunanidhi can travel for free.” On whether private buses would be operated on Wednesday, he said it would depend on the day’s developments. Most long-distance State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) buses were operated at night with support from local police, but, many government moffusil buses were not operated. All cinema halls will be shut on Wednesday and Thursday as a mark of respect to Karunanidhi and all film shootings and film-related works will not be carried out, said Tamil Film Producers Council. The Koyambedu wholesale market will be shut too.



International News





California: Two fires mercilessly roaring through northern California have grown so rapidly that they are now the largest ever to ravage the state, authorities said. Collectively dubbed the Mendocino Complex, the wildfires have burned through 283,800 acres — an area nearly the size of the city of Los Angeles — and are just 30% contained, according to state fire authority CalFire. Two people have died in the inferno, taking to 11 the number of people killed by major fires that broke out last month and are still ongoing.



A generation grows up in China without Google, Facebook



Hong Kong: Wei Dilong, 18, who lives in Liuzhou, China has never heard of Google or Twitter. He once heard of Facebook. It is “maybe like Baidu?” he asked, referring to the Chinese search engine. A generation of Chinese is coming of age with an internet that is different from the rest of the web. Over the past decade, China has blocked Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as thousands of other foreign websites, including The New York Times and Chinese Wikipedia. Many Chinese websites emerged to serve the same functions — though they came with censorship. Accustomed to the homegrown apps and online services, many young people appear uninterested in knowing what has been censored online, allowing Beijing to build an alternative value system that competes with western liberal democracy. China is now exporting its model of a censored internet to other countries, including Vietnam, Tanzania and Ethiopia.


Two economists from Peking University and Stanford University concluded this year, after an 18-month survey, that Chinese college students were indifferent about having access to uncensored, politically sensitive information had given nearly 1,000 students at two universities free tools to bypass censorship, but found that nearly half the students did not use them. “Our findings suggest that censorship in China is effective… also because it fosters an environment in which citizens do not demand such information in the first place,” the scholars wrote. In March, Tencent surveyed more than 10,000 users who were born in 2000 or after, nearly eight in 10 said they thought China was either in its best time in history or was becoming a better country each day. Nearly the same percentage said they were very optimistic or quite optimistic about their future. Wen Shengjian, 14, said he had noticed that American rappers like Kanye West were vocal about social issues and that some even criticised the president in their music. That would not work in China, he said, because it is a developing country and needs social stability. That is a line the Communist Party makes sure that the state media and school textbooks repeat all the time.

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