News Flash – 9 May 2017

National News



Maharashtra bans junk food in school canteens, cites obesity fears



MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government has banned the sale of junk food in school canteens. Based on recommendations the Centre issued over two years ago, the state has told schools not to sell food `High in Fat, Salt and Sugar’ (HFSS) and has suggested healthy alternatives. The decision has been taken looking at childhood obesity and related diseases. “HFSS food has very little vitamins and minerals… (Their consumption raises the chance of obesity) and other related diseases among children. The effects can be seen on a child’s academic performance,” said the government resolution issued by the school education department. School principals have been asked to ensure that the instructions are followed. The suggested alternatives include chapatis, rice, vegetables and pulses, rajma, wheat upma, khichdi, payasam, idli and vada sambar, coconut water, lemonade and jaljeera. Though not many state-affiliated schools have canteens, the education department’s government resolution (GR) banning junk food in schools can be interpreted to include vendors who sell prepackaged or pre-cooked food on campus during breaks.

Concerned by food children eat, the Union ministry of women and child development (MWCD) formed a committee under the director of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. The panel noted that HFSS (High in Fat, Salt and Sugar) food increased chances of obesity, diabetes, and dental and heart problems. Schools have also been asked to create awareness among children about healthy eating. “(They) must take help of professionals in the locality and (seek) information on the internet,” said the GR. Experts have welcomed the state’s move. “The human body is not designed to metabolise large amounts of artificial sugar and this is easily converted to fat. It is also linked to insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes,” said Carlyne Remedios, a nutritionist with Saifee Hospital. She said that while it isn’t easy to strike the right balance with healthy food, it is not impossible and. “The best way is to make gradual changes so that they are accepted well”.

Experts also wished the move had come much earlier. “There was always the science to show that HFSS food had negative health effects on children, and so we should have realized the need for a policy decision two or three years ago,” said Dr. Jagmeet Madan, VP , Indian Dietetic Association. “Nevertheless, it is a welcome step and the least we can do is to minimize the availability of such food to children”. The Centre’s recommendations were issued in December 2014. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) was the first to implement the MWCD’s report. It issued directives to affiliated schools in January 2016. CBSE also suggested that a school canteen management committee (SCMC) should take charge of menu preparation. CBSE wanted 7-10 panel members, including teachers, parents, students and school canteen operators, to implement the guidelines.



Storm ahead: Rain likely to bring partial relief from high heat



NEW DELHI: Delhiites could get some respite from the burning heat that has gripped the capital for the past three days. The met office has predicted one or two spells of storm and rain in Delhi-NCR from Tuesday morning till Thursday, which is likely to bring temperatures down by a couple of notches. Delhi continued to sizzle on Monday as the mercury touched a high of 42.8 degrees Celsius at Safdarjung, four degrees above normal. Like on Sunday – the season’s hottest day – Palam was warmer at 44 degrees. The regional met office said a fresh thunderstorm and dust storm is likely on Tuesday morning, with scattered rainfall across Delhi-NCR. The storm activity is likely to be accompanied with squally winds exceeding 55km per hour, particularly on May 10. There’s a chance of rain on May 11 as well. While the storm activity is unlikely to sustain long enough to have a major impact on heat, peak temperatures may fall to 40-41 degrees in the next three days. The maximum temperature on Tuesday is forecast to be 41 degrees C with the minimum hovering around 27 degrees C.

Extreme temperatures arrived early this summer, but so far spells of high heat have been broken by thunderstorms or dust storms. This is the typical weather pattern in May. Absence of rain during this month can lead to long spells of extreme heat, increasing the incidence of heatstroke deaths. In recent years, May 2013 was a particularly hot month when no rain was recorded and there were six heat wave days, with the mercury hitting 45.7°C (47.2 at Palam). This year, the temperature rose to 44.1°C on Sunday, five notches above normal. Palam recorded 45.1° that day. “The heat wave was caused by anti-cyclonic conditions across Rajasthan which led to high temperatures in Delhi-NCR,” said an official from IMD‘s Regional Weather Forecasting Centre. “The heat will ease slightly with this spell of thunderstorm activity. Rainfall might take place in scattered places and a cooling effect of 1-2° is expected in the maximum temperature. There will be some respite till May 12,” the official said.



This space tech makes buildings water proof and flame resistant

A picture taken during an experiment by ISRO shows how the hut sprayed with CASPOL remains unburnt compared to the other hut.


BENAGLURU: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully tested a water-basedready-to-use formulation for civilian use and declared that it can make our homes flame-proof, besides preventing water leakage and cooling the interiors by 5°C to 6°C. It was first developed to protect launch vehicles and has proven effective. Ceramic Polymer Hybrid or CASPOL as ISRO calls it has been developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC). Scientists involved in the project say it is a low-cost solution that can be used in residential and commercial buildings. While its low solar absorptivity (0.20%) and high emissivity (ability to emit infrared energy) make it a good temperature controller in sunny weather, it can be applied over the concrete surface of a building to prevent water seeping as it plugs micro cracks and holes. “The brushable and sprayable formulation contains no toxic materials, liquid or vaporizable material (except water). It is human and eco-friendly,” they said. The space agency, which is now looking for private firms to take this to the masses, says CASPOL has self-extinguishing properties, good adhesion and water repellency characteristics that can also be used for flame-proofing foam materials used in auditoriums and cinema halls where chances of fire-related accidents are high.

“It confers excellent flame retardant, waterproofing and thermal control properties to substrates ranging from masonry surfaces, textiles, paper, thatched leaves, wood et al, to advanced materials like insulation foam pads,” a senior official from VSSC technology transfer & industrial coordination division said. Besides, it has its use in public transportation systems, including railways. If the foam materials used in passenger seats are rendered flameproof, fire accidents can be reduced to a large extent. “Since flame-proofing of foam materials using CASPOL can be achieved through less expensive processes, there is considerable market potential for CASPOL in Indian foam market,” said another official. Stating that it is willing to offer the CASPOL technology to “capable and interested parties who are in the field of manufacturing similar items”, ISRO said: “Industries or entrepreneurs must share all details of their activity, infrastructure available, market assessment of the product, financial arrangements, among other things”.

Applications of CASPOL:

* Launch vehicle: CASPOL is a flame-proof coating, giving the required flame retardant properties to thermal protection foam pads used in Launch Vehicles.

* Household/cinema halls/auditoriums: CASPOL can be applied over the cottage roof to flameproof it, in addition to increasing the life of such roofing of households, reducing maintenance and replacement.

* Temperature: CASPOL reduces temperature inside the room. Low solar absorptivity (0.20%) and high emissivity make it a good temperature controller in sunny weather (by 5°C to 6°C).

* Waterproofing: CASPOL can be applied over the concrete surface of a building to prevent water seeping as CASPOL plugs micro cracks and holes.

* Railways and automobiles: CASPOL can be used as a flame retardant material in railways and automobiles where the seat cushions can be made flameproof using this material.



In a big infra boost, Centre to fund Rs 29,000 crore Andhra expressway



HYDERABAD: Residuary Andhra Pradesh is all set to get the biggest infrastructure support from the Centre in the form of the Amaravati-Anantapur Express Highway. The Centre has agreed to finance the entire construction cost of the 600 km-long road, which will not have any curves or turns, pegged at `29,000 crore. “The Centre is finalizing the modalities of funding the proposal and the same will be discussed in the next Union cabinet meeting. In fact, Union minister for road transport, highways and shipping Nitin Gadkari has made this announcement at the just-concluded India Transport Logistics Summit 2017,” roads and buildings principal secretary Sumita Dawra told TOI over phone from Delhi. “We are expecting a formal announcement any time soon. This will be a huge impetus to the expansion of the state road network and connectivity with the upcoming capital,” she added. According to officials, the Centre has agreed to fund this project as it will be a win-win situation for both the state and central governments. The toll and other taxes will go to the Centre’s kitty, while state will be equipped with a good road network.

On its part, the state government has to facilitate acquisition of 8,562 .84 hectares of land in Anantapur, Kurnool, Kadapa, Prakasam and Guntur districts. The express highway will cover 45 mandals and 186 villages in these areas. The highway will be four laned to the extent of 394 km and six laned in 208 km. There will be two feeder highways connecting Kurnool and Kadapa. The project will take about 30 months to be completed after the state government wraps up the formalities. Presently, there is no proper connectivity between the Rayalaseema districts and Amaravati. Once this expressway takes shape, the distance can be covered with in 5 to 6 hours from those districts as against the current 12 to 14 hours by train. The expressway is proposed to be designed for a speed of 120 kmph with straight alignments. Tunnels and viaducts have also been proposed to be constructed to negotiate hilly terrains and valley sections. The Centre is contemplating covering the project under the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP) Bharatmala or Backward area and Religious Circuit (BRT).”The project mostly fits into NHDP and the Centre is also finalizing the mode of financing the project by means of Build Operate Transfer (BOT), hybrid annuity or engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) method, a highly-placed official with National Highways Authority of India told TOI.



Chennai cops get secure walkie-talkies



Chennai: Transmitting scratchy, weak signals that sometimes go blank or catch more of the ambient noise than the speaker’s voice, wireless handsets haven’t really been user-friendly for police officers. Now chic, end-to-end encrypted digital wireless sets, procured at a cost of Rs 88 crore, could make crime-fighting easier. Tamil Nadu will be among the first states to arm its police personnel with this communication device. The digital makeover is part of a Centre-state initiative to ensure police personnel are able to communicate accurate information fast and coordinate with larger teams. The technology puts police in the country on a par with their counterparts in developed countries. “It is true that a clear message makes the work of policemen easier and operations more efficient,” said a police officer. The digital technology comes as a boon at time when easily interceptible old wireless sets compromised operations.

Motorola Solutions India Pvt. Ltd is helping law enforcement agencies to make the shift from analog to the more secure digital systems. The company has set up a temporary control room in Maduravoyal and its personnel demonstrated how it works to Chennai police commissioner Karan Singha recently. As part of the demonstration, Motorola officials positioned an employee at Madura voyal and three others in different corners of the city to show the extended range of the new handsets. Senior leader of project engineering V S Natarajan, explaining the features of the wireless sets said, “We are setting up temporary control rooms in all the cities and checking for quality. We have set up similar one at Rockfort in Trichy for a mock test”.

The company will distribute the digital wireless sets to all the 1,049 police stations in the state by the end of this year. For better coverage, temporary hubs will be set up at Pallavaram, Manali, Sembium, Avadi, Adyar and Vandalur. “The wireless user message will be received by the central control room at Maduravoyal, which will amplify and resend the messages to hubs concerned, so the responder can hear the voice clearly,” said Natarajan. The new system also allows sending of 126-character messages and photographs. “This is like an advanced mobile phone. The feature to attach photographs will be very helpful. For instance, any road safety violators’ number plate and car can be photographed and sent across to other specified wireless sets immediately ,” said a senior police officer. This system has been approved by the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO) and is being used by countries like the US and the UK.



International News



Police pour in to Paris’ train station, evacuate passengers


PARIS: Police poured into Paris‘ Gare du Nord station late Monday, evacuating passengers from platforms and sealing off the area for several hours in a new security scare to hit the French capital. Paris police spokeswoman Johanna Primevert told The Associated Press that the operation was aimed at “removing doubt” and ended with no arrests, but she would not say what prompted it. A station employee said the operation focused on a train from Valenciennes in northern France. The busy station is the terminus of a large suburban and national rail network as well as Eurostar trains from London. The operation came the day after a tense and closely watched presidential election that was won by independent Emmanuel Macron, who has said one of his top priorities will be ensuring France’s security. France is under a state of emergency imposed after a series of Islamic extremist attacks, and while police would not indicate the reason for the Gare du Nord operation, its scale and nature recalled the kind of anti-terrorism actions that have grown increasingly frequent around Paris and beyond.

Police from the special BRI intervention force started pouring into the station just after 11 p.m. and asked where the train from Valenciennes was, according to a station employee, who was not authorized to be publicly named. Station staff directed officers to platform 10, where they were quickly joined by more and more police. Within minutes, authorities began evacuating the entire station, the employee said. Dave James Phillips, a 39-year-old technology consultant from Britain, said he was getting off the last train in from London when he saw officers flooding the station. “There were police immediately, and a chap with his hand on his gun,” Phillips told AP. “As we were walking down the platform, one came down and said, `Rapide, rapide. Out, out”. Phillips said police kept pouring into the station as passengers were hustled out and police buses and unmarked cars were “driving quite dramatically up the road”.

Another witness said she was separated from her children by the operation and described a quick and somewhat chaotic scene. “My children were inside the railway station. They couldn’t come with me. They (police) told me there were suspect persons and that I had to leave. I told them that I would not leave without my children,” said the witness, who would give only her first name, Vanessa. “There was a lot of noise. People left running”. By 2 a.m., police were packing up and removing the cordon that had been set up around the station. Within an hour, the passengers on the Valenciennes train were also being let go. A Eurostar spokeswoman said the incident did not appear to have any relation to its trains and did not appear to affect its passengers. The operation began after the last Eurostar arrivals and departures late Monday.



Over 80 missing after migrant boat sinks off Libya



ROME: At least 80 migrants including women and children were missing after a boat sank off the Libyan coast, survivors told the UN‘s refugee agency Monday, in the latest such tragedy. A total of 132 people had boarded an inflatable craft Friday but it had started going down after a few hours. Only about 50 survivors were picked up by a commercial ship, which dropped them in Sicily.



Pakistan, Afghanistan to use Google Maps to settle border row



KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: Pakistan and Afghanistan plan to use Google Maps to help settle a border dispute that led to deadly clashes last week, officials from both sides said Monday. At least eight civilians were killed on both sides in fighting that began when a Pakistani census team accompanied by soldiers visited disputed villages along the southern border on Friday. Pakistan inherited its 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) border with its western neighbour when it gained independence from Britain in 1947, but Afghanistan has never formally recognized it. And while official Afghan maps reflect the so-called “Durand Line”, many nationalists believe the true border of their country ends at the River Indus that runs through Pakistan and gave India its name. “Officials from the geological survey departments of the two countries will conduct a survey, and they will also make use of Google Maps,” said a senior Pakistani security source in Islamabad who requested anonymity. Abdul Razeq, the police chief of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, added: “After negotiations, both sides have agreed that a geological survey should be conducted. “Technical teams of both countries will use GPS and Google Maps as well as other means to get the answer”. Internet firm Google complies with local laws in certain countries that compel it to show borders in line with national demands.


For instance, its Indian site shows the entirety of disputed Kashmir as controlled by India. In Pakistan, however, the site shows the internationally recognized de facto border, the Line of Control, marked with a dotted line to denote it is disputed. In 2010 Google was embroiled in a Central American border dispute that saw two neighbouring countries dispatch troops and heavily armed police to their joint border. The incident happened after a Nicaraguan commander cited Google’s version of the border map in an interview with Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion to justify a raid on a disputed area of Costa Rica. Google later said it had made a mistake and corrected its map to reflect one sanctioned by the US State Department. Pakistan last year began trying to harden the traditionally soft border with Afghanistan through trenching and fencing, but its efforts were met with hostility from Kabul. Ethnic Pashtuns living in the region have traditionally paid it little heed. Villages straddling the frontier have mosques and houses with one door in Pakistan and another in Afghanistan. Pakistani forces on Sunday elevated their rhetoric when they said they had also killed “more than 50 soldiers” in last week’s border clashes – a claim quickly rejected by Kabul, which said it lost two soldiers.

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