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Sunday, January 29, 2012

At 10°C, it’s coldest Jan day in 10 yrs

Mumbai: The city witnessed the coldest January day in the last decade—and probably in the last fifty years too—when the mercury levels dipped to 10 degree Celsius on Sunday morning. 

    Santa Cruz recorded 10 degree Celsius on Sunday. The earlier lowest January temperature was 10.2 degree Celsius, which was recorded in the year 2008. The lowest minimum of January ever recorded in the city's history was 7.4 degree Celsius on January 22, 1962. 
    Sunday's temperature may well be the lowest after 
the January 1962 record, but it cannot be established due to lack of data between 1962 and 2002. 
    The Santa Cruz temperature was six degree below normal on Sunday, the Indian Meteorological Department 
said. "The minimum temperatures fell by six degree in 24 hours," said V K Rajeev, director of weather forecast at IMD, Mumbai. On Saturday, the minimum temperature at Santa Cruz was 16 degree Celsius. 
    Although Colaba recorded a minimum temperature of 16.6 degree Celsius on Sunday, even the maximum temperatures dipped to 26.4 degree Celsius and 26.8 degree Celsius in Colaba and Santa Cruz respectively—more than two degree lower than on Saturday. 
'This may be one of the coldest winters in the city' 
Mumbai: The city witnessed the coldest January day in the last decade on Sunday morning at 10 degrees Celsius. 
    Earlier this month, the temperatures in Santa Cruz had dipped to 11 degree Celsius. With Santa Cruz recording low temperatures all through the season, this winter may well be on its way to become one of the coldest winters in the city. 
    According to the weather bureau, the sudden fall in temperature may be due to a combination of weather disturbances in the northern plains of the country. "A western disturbance is fast approaching the northern parts of the country," said Rajeev. A western disturbance is an extra-tropical storm or a low pressure system, which originates in the Mediterranean sea and moves eastwards. 
This causes rainfall in Iran, Pakistan and India and snowfall in some parts of India. 
    "Apart from that, there is an upper air cyclonic system, which is active over the central area of the country. A combination of these has brought about another cold wave in the country," he said. The cold in the north is carried southwards because of the strong winds. "Strong northerly winds are bringing the cold towards the city," Rajeev said. 
    The city can expect the weather to remain chilly at least for the next two-three days, the weather bureau has said. "For the next two days, the minimum temperatures can be expected to hover between 10 and 12 degrees Celsius. Once the western disturbance passes over the north of India, the temperatures in the city too will return to normal," he said.

The lowest minimum temperature ever recorded in the city in January was 7.4 degree Celsius on Jan 22, 1962

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Technology makes life difficult for pickpockets

Fewer Cases Reported In Mumbai & Navi Mumbai But There Is An Increase In Chain-Snatchings

 Amiddle-aged sales executive looks sharp as he steps out of the bank and walks briskly towards the taxistand. From his body language, a gang of three pickpockets easily guesses that the 'maal' (cash) is kept in his front, left trouser pocket, as his left hand constantly pats that 

area. In less than 20 seconds, his pocket is picked, as two of the men distract him while the third 'kalakar' (artiste) commits the crime. 
    The scene could very well have been in the Bombay of the 1980s and '90s, when credit cards and debit cards were rare. Today, the sly and wily crime of 'pocketmaari', 
which has existed since the Dickensian days of Oliver Twist, is on the decline in the metropolis. 
    In 2011, only 10 cases were registered by the Navi Mumbai police, while 172 chain-snatchings were recorded. 
    The same year, in the larger Mumbai police jurisdiction, 162 cases of pickpocketing were registered, while 1,666 chain-snatchings were reported. 
    "The biggest reason for pickpocketing cases to drop is people switching to plastic money,'' said Mumbai's joint commissioner (crime) Himanshu Roy. "We have learned this during the interrogation of pickpockets. Earlier, people would carry large amounts of cash in wallets. Now, cash is carried in smaller quantities, only for conveyance or to buy a snack. Finding ATM cards in a stolen wallet is not such an attractive option for pickpockets,'' added Roy. 
    Roy said it doesn't mean pickpockets have reformed, as they have taken to other forms of crime–like stealing spareparts of automobiles and chain-snatching. 
    A crime detection official from Navi Mumbai reasoned: "Today, the market rate of gold is over Rs 27,400 per 10 gm, so it is much more lucrative for criminals to snatch a gold chain and flee, instead of learning the difficult skill of pickpocketing.'' 
    He added that of the 10 cases of pickpocketing in Navi Mumbai last year, seven took place in public transport buses, while three were in crowded places. 
    A veteran 'chindi chor' (minor thief) from Kurla who earlier dabbled in pickpocketing, commented: "Besides ATM cards, we nowadays avoid stealing expensive smartphones as their original owners can easily trace the items. Technology has made life difficult for us thieves!'' 

Surge In Motor Vehicle Thefts 
In 2010, Mumbai police recorded 179 cases of pickpocketing. Figure decreased by 9% in 2011; only 162 cases were registered 
    Compared to decline in pickpocketing in Mumbai, there was a surge in motor vehicle thefts; 1,540 four-wheelers and 2,606 twowheelers were stolen in 2011 in Mumbai. In 2010, 1,160 four-wheelers and 2,506 two-wheelers were stolen. In fact, surging figures of vehicle theft have prompted police to plan a cell to solve only such cases 
    In Navi Mumbai, crime graph for pickpocketing remained almost same in 2010 and 2011, with 10 cases. Most were in crowded buses 
    Compared to these low figures of pickpocketing, motor vehicle thefts in Navi Mumbai were high; 913 cases were registered in 2011 
    In 2010, there were 1,004 cases registered in Navi Mumbai 

Lingo and Code Words 
Machine/kalakar: Main person who picks pocket Thekebaaz: Assistants of 'machine', they distract victim Thole log: Policemen Sauda: Wallet Peela: GoldKauwa: Mobile phone Ek Gaj: A Rs 100 currency note Takla/Patta: Rs 500 note Thanna: Rs 1,000 note Master/ustaad: Person who teaches tricks of the trade (known as Fagin in English, due to the Charles Dickens novel, 'Oliver Twist')

New study blames the current cold conditions in the capital on pollution that forms 'cool islands' in the city

The uncharacteristic chill and ever-sliding minimum temperatures across north India, and even parts of south India, are making everyone 'chatter'.
Here's why! The continued spell of cold may be indicative of unusual weather conditions, besides being a byproduct of the growing pollution in urban areas. 

For the third successive day on Friday, Delhi experienced one of the coldest days this winter with the day temperature falling six degrees below normal to settle at 14.6 degrees Celsius.
Army soldiers huddle together in the morning chill in the Delhi yesterday
Thick snow covers streets and street properties in Dalhousie
The minimum temperature was recorded at 4.5, three degrees below normal and down from Thursday's 4.8 degrees Celsius. The coldest day this season was recorded earlier this week, when the maximum temperature had dropped to 14.5 degrees.
While the weatherman said frequent and strong western disturbances were causing the persistent cold spell, a new study by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) revealed that the Capital was experiencing a peculiar phenomenon of 'cold islands' formation.
This development, caused during winters due to air pollution, may be aggravating the cold wave conditions. Using the satellite and solar radiation data collected between November and December for four years beginning 2007, the study discovered that the city's day temperatures were lower due to the formation of 'cool islands'.
Trains and cars had to battle the conditions high up in the hills of Simla
The weather did not stop these men crossing the waters of the Jhelum River

Tourists in the capital were forced to wrap up while sightseeing

Thursday, January 19, 2012

40 hosps found violating fire safety norms

Mumbai: In an audit conducted after the Kolkata hospital blaze, the fire department has found that 40 hospitals in the city lack basic fire safety equipment. 

    Of the errant hospitals, 75% are private. The department also found four government and six BMC hospitals violating fire safety norms. Notices have already been issued and the hospitals are expected to comply within the next two months. 
    The fire department has found six major deficiencies in the hospitals which have been served the notice. Most hospitals have been found using LPG cylinders upstairs for canteen and laboratory purposes. While the fire safety norms mandate that there should be adequate free space, in its inspection, the department found corridors 
blocked with stretchers. An essential fire safety item – fire extinguishers and other fire fighting installations – were not found in most hospitals. Signswere not displayed properly. According to the fire department, most highrise hospitals have not appointed fire safety officers, who play an essential role in monitoring and maintaining fire safety equipment. 
    Beyond the six general observations, the fire department has also sent individual notices to all errant hospitals, highlighting the deficiencies in each one of them. Chief fire officer H N Muza
war told TOI, "We have inspected 67 hospitals. Almost all the hospitals had common problems like lack of proper passageway, no fire safety equipment. The hospitals have been asked to comply with all the deficiencies highlighted. There is no particular time period, but they would be expected to comply within the next two months." 
    Pramod Lele, CEO, Hinduja Hospital said, "We 
haven't received any such notice as yet. We do have all the fire safety equipment in place." 
    In an internal survey of city civic hospitals conducted just after the AMRI inferno, the fire department had found that all 16 hospitals had violated fire safety norms — ranging from missing or defunct safety equipment to storage of inflammable material in the basement, which fuelled the AMRI hospital inferno. The three major hospitals — KEM, Sion and Nair — did not have effective fire-safety apparatus. Staircases were found locked, electric wiring unsealed, and lifts out of order at Nair Hospital. The basement at Sion hospital was found to be used for offices and storage of scrap, while KEM Hospital's internal firefighting system was not functioning. 

'No candidates for fire safety officers' 

    The Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Safety Act mandates that the owners of hospitals with building height more than 30 m should appoint a dedicated fire officer. 
    According to the fire department, several hospitals have complained that it was not possible to appoint fire safety officers as there aren't enough qualified candidates. Hospitals have demanded that the fire department provides them with the fire safety officers, which the latter has rejected. 
    Chief fire officer H N Muzawar said, "Hospitals have been saying that they cannot appoint fire safety officers as there aren't enough qualified officers for this post, but it is not possible for us". ew hospitals, however, denied making such requests. For instance, Col B Khemani of Jaslok Hospital said they already have a fire safety official. Sources from Kokilaben Ambani Hospital at Andheri, too, said that they have fire safety guards to take care of contingencies. None of the public hospitals have fire officers. 
    Most city hospitals claimed they have not received any notice from the BMC but have initiated measures on their own. The spokesperson from a leading south Mumbai hospital said the hospital, through an internal audit, found they did not have any signs on the premises. "That was immediately fixed," the senior official said.— Shawan Sen & Sumitra Deb Roy

Monday, January 16, 2012

Health scare as TDR-TB cases rise in city

Mumbai: There could be more than 12 cases of the new and deadlier form of tuberculosis, Totally Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis or TDR-TB, in the city. JJ Hospital officials and a private doctor said they are treating patients suffering from TDR-TB. 

    JJ Hospital dean Dr T P Lahane confirmed that they have identified two patients suffering from the new strain of TB and who have been under treatment since 2003. No city lab can certify TDR-TB 
Mumbai: City doctors may have identified fresh cases of new strain of tuberculosis with JJ Hospital and private doctor confirming that they are treating patients suffering from Totally Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis or TDR-TB. 
    "We have two cases of TDR-TB. They had stopped taking the primary course after a few months of being detected. They then developed resistant strain. This happened twice to each of these patients,'' JJ Hospital dean Dr T P Lahane said. 
    Meanwhile, Dr Yatin Dholakia of the Maharashtra State Anti-Tuberculosis Association said that he had found TDR-TB in a patient two years ago. "The girl improved for a few months but left the city 
when her aunt could no longer afford the treatment,"' he said. 
    A few months ago, he identified the new strain in another woman. "She has localized lesions in her lungs and could 
improve after surgery, but no doctor is as yet willing to operate on her," he said. 
    However, it is not clear if these cases are the same that were included in the study done by the Hinduja Hospital at Mahim, and published in an international medical journal last week. 
    Doctors in Bangalore, too, said that they have identified cases of TDR-TB. 
    Hinduja Hospital doctors, led by Dr Zarir Udwadia, identified the new strain in 12 persons—10 from Mumbai, one from Ratnagiri and one from UP— since October 2011, of which one patient has died. 
    "No Mumbai laboratory can certify TDR-TB," said Dr S C Gupta, director general, state health services, But he said Union government officials would come to Mumbai next week to study the cases. 
BMC to trace patients' kin fter a joint meeting between the state and civic officials, BMC additional municipal commissioner (health) Manisha Mhaiskar said the BMC would set up teams to trace families of the 12 patients identified with TDR-TB. "Also, since the JJ Hospital's newly set up TB lab is the only lab in the public sector, we decided to start taking up to 20 samples per day instead of 10,'' said Mhaiskar. TNN

Sunday, January 15, 2012


DISASTER AT SEA: The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia leans after it ran aground off the coast of Isola del Giglio island, Italy, on Saturday. At least three people were killed and over 70 were missing after the ship with more than 4,000 people on board keeled over. The ship was on a trip around the Mediterranean when it apparently hit a reef near the island of Giglio on Friday

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

65% of the milk you drink may be adulterated: Study

Samples Across India Fail Govt Test

New Delhi: Beware, your daily glass of good health could actually be doing you harm. As much as 100% of milk samples picked up in parts of the country by a government agency failed to conform to standards. 

    In a 33-state-and-UT study conducted by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), not a single sample tested met the prescribed norms in West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Mizoram. Other prominent states fared just a shade better. Around 89% of the samples tested from Gujarat, 83% from Jammu & Kashmir, 81% from Punjab, 76% from Rajasthan, 70% from Delhi and Haryana and 65% from Maharashtra failed the test. Around half of the samples from Madhya Pradesh (48%) also met a similar fate. 
    Only in Goa and Puducherry did 100% of the samples tested conform to required standards. 
    Of the 71 samples randomly taken from Delhi for testing, 50 were found to be contaminated with glucose and skimmed milk powder 

(SMP), which is usually added to milk in the lean season to enhance volumes. Elsewhere, milk was found adulterated with detergent, fat and even urea, besides the age-old practice of diluting it with water. Across the country, 68.4% of the samples of milk were found contaminated. 
68% milk samples fail quality test 
    States with comparatively better results included Kerala, where 28% of samples did not conform to the FSSAI standards, Karnataka (22%), Tamil Nadu (12%) and Andhra Pradesh (6.7%). 
    The samples for testing were collected randomly and analyzed from 33 states and Union Territories totalling a sample size of 1,791. These were sent to government laboratories for testing against the presence of common adulterants such as fat, neutralizers, hydrogen peroxide, sugar, starch, glucose, urea, detergent, formalin and vegetable 
fat. Just around 31.5% (565) of the total samples tested conformed to the FSSAI standards while the rest 68.4% (1,226) failed the test. Detergent was found in 103 samples (8.4%). "This was because the milk tanks were not properly washed. Detergents in milk can cause serious health problems," an FSSAI official said. 
    The non-conforming samples in rural areas numbered 381 (31%) out of which 64 (16.7%) were packet milk and 317 (83.2%) were loose samples. In urban areas, the number of non-confirming sam
ples were 845 (68.9%) out of which 282 (33.3%) were packed and 563 (66.6%) were loose. The most common adulteration was that of fat and solid not food (SNF), found in 574 (46.8%) of the non-conforming samples. This is because of dilution of milk with water. The second highest parameter of non-conformity was skim milk powder (SMP) in 548 samples (44.69%), which includes presence of glucose in 477 samples. Glucose would have been added to milk probably to enhance SNF."The study indicates that addition of water to milk is most common adulterant," the report said. 
Times View: This only confirms that food adulteration is common in India. Even milk, consumed primarily by children, isn't spared. What's particularly worrying is the kind of substances used to adulterate, including toxic chemicals. This shows that the trade off between the risk of getting caught and the 'reward' of huge profits is skewed heavily in favour of the latter. The government must focus on raising the risks to the adulterator. One way of doing this is by hiking the penalty, including making it analogous to attempt to murder in extreme cases. It's equally important to regularly check foodstuff for adulteration and ensure speedy trials.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pollution rise 'worsens' South Asia's winter smog

New Delhi smog Experts say the smog problem is becoming increasingly serious

ls and biomass burning has worsened winter smog and extended its duration in many parts of South Asia, scientists and officials have said.

In Bangladesh, India and Nepal the temperature has plummeted and clouds of fog and smoke hang in the sky blocking sunlight for several days.

Normal lives have been affected with many flights diverted and suspended and trains delayed because of low visibility.

Experts say they have noticed that the intensity of smog has grown in the Indo-Gangetic plains in the last few years, leading to increased impacts.

"Since 1990 onwards, there has been increase in the number of [smog-affected] days in northern India," says BP Yadav, director of the Indian Meteorological Department.

"It is not a linear trend showing an increase every year. There are, of course, year-to-year fluctuations.

"But there are more years that have seen dense fogs."

Nepal's Department of Hydrology and Meteorology director-general Keshav Prasad Sharma agrees the issue of smog is becoming increasingly serious in the plains in southern Nepal bordering India.

"Until 10 years ago, we did not have such dense fog for long durations like we have these days," he says.

"Although the 10-year period is too short for statistical trends, it is indeed being seen as a major issue now."

"Start Quote

At times, all means of transport come to a complete halt because of zero visibility "

End Quote Iqbal Habib, Bangladesh Environment Movement

Some are also investigating whether the conditions can be linked to health problems in parts of the region. Although widely reported as the direct effect of a cold wave, medical professionals say deaths and illnesses are often related to respiratory diseases.

"None of our patients died of hypothermia," says senior consultant physician Gaurang Mishra of a regional referral hospital in south-eastern Nepal where dozens of people have been reported to have died during the last three weeks that saw many smoggy days.

"They mostly suffer from chronic pulmonary obstructive disease that is caused by burning of wood and cow-dung cake and pollution from industries and vehicles, mainly during winter season."

The number of such patients, particularly children and elderly people, is also in the rise in Bangladesh.

"But it is not just about people's health in our country," says Iqbal Habib of the Bangladesh Environment Movement (BAPA). "At times, all means of transport come to a complete halt because of zero visibility and all walks of lives are affected.

"The working hours come down to as little as four hours a day."

New Delhi smog Vehicles are regular sources of pollution, but there are many others

Experts say besides regular sources like vehicles, industrial factories, power plants and dust from gravelled roads, air pollution in some areas in Bangladesh is getting worse because of fast increasing numbers of brick kilns.

Some studies have shown that they account for around 40% of air pollution in and around the capital Dhaka.

"Since we have a sustainable economic growth rate, we need more bricks and the number of brick kilns is going up day by day," admits Monowar Islam, director general of Bangladesh's Department of Environment.

"We know the situation is becoming serious but it is not alarming.

"We have been demolishing unauthorised brick kilns and have been implementing the World Bank-supported clean air and sustainable environment project through which we patronise new technologies that reduce air pollution."

Just like in Bangladesh, India also sees lots of constructions during winter as this is the dry season before the region gets monsoon rainfall preventing such works.

"Construction works too are major contributors for the smog in this season as they lead to more pollution in the air," says the Indian Meteorological Department's BP Yadav.

That is in addition to pollutants from energy sources.

Energy demand

In its World Energy Outlook 2010, the International Energy Agency said: "India is the second-largest contributor to the increase in global energy demand to 2035, accounting for 18% of the rise."

Scientists say pollutants and aerosols in the air enhance condensation of water in the atmosphere causing dense smog.

"The more pollutants in the air, the denser the smog," says Keshav Prasad Sharma at Nepal's Department of Hydrology and Meteorology. "In some Nepal-India bordering areas, smog blankets can be seen from early evening."

When such blankets of smog block sunlight, sending temperatures down, people make fire from wood, cow-dung cake and hay to warm themselves and that creates more air pollution which leads to denser smog.

Scientists say the real trouble is that smog during winter cannot escape to the upper atmosphere as it can during other seasons, because of meteorological conditions.

"During winter, the cold air that blows towards the southwest from the northeast tends to push the boundary layer (the layer of atmosphere closest to the Earth surface) low," William Lau, deputy director for atmospheres at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center told BBC News.

"As a result, all the pollutants get trapped in the boundary layer that is pushed down to as low as one kilometre from the Earth's surface while it is more than five kilometres away during other seasons.

"The cold wave becomes severe because of this local trapping of the aerosols and other pollution that block off the solar radiation and create very unhealthy air in this part of the world."

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