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Thursday, May 31, 2012

GREEN DRIVE ON RIGHT TRACK CR confident of 100% plastic ban in food sale

Mumbai: Central Railway (CR)'s decision to ban the sale of food items wrapped in plastic and other non-biodegradable material has been gaining momentum. Nearly all 200-odd stall operators in Mumbai division have complied with the rule after it came into effect from May 22. 
    The Medha Patkar-led stall operators association has opposed the move on the grounds that the 'ad-hoc' decision will affect the livelihood of stall operators, who have already seen 50% drop in sale in the past one week. 
    A senior CR official said, "Our inspectors are visiting all platforms to counsel the stall operators to comply with this decision as it is in the long term interest of the railways, commuters and the city. The efforts have yielded results as we will able to ensure compliance before midnight of May 31." 
    Railway officials said the wrappings made from banned material are thrown by commuters on the track. It then clogs drains, causing waterlogging on the tracks during heavy rains. 
    However, the ban is only applicable to stations and platforms from where suburban trains operate. Hence, food stalls, including the railway-operated Jan Ahaar, are still selling food items in plastic wrappings. 
    The official said, "The problem is more acute on suburban platforms because of the volume of consumption and trash that follows on the track. We have seen a noticeable change as the tracks re free of litter ever since the time the decision came into effect." 
    A total of 25 food items like cakes, biscuits, wafers and other salted snacks have been withdrawn from sale as they come in the non-biodegradable packing made of plastic, metalized film packets, sulphite paper packing, aluminum foil packing, etc. 
    The official said, "So far, only stall owners have protested against the move. However, there has bee no opposition either from the commuters or passenger association." 
    Officials said CR is planning to introduce more varieties of food that are fresh and can be served in non-biodegradable packets to ensure that commuters have adequate choice.

Thursday hottest of month, but May was no scorcher

Mumbai: Mumbaikars who chose to skip office and chill at home on Thursday, chose wisely as they were saved from the scorching heat. On Thursday, Colaba recorded a maximum temperature of 35.2 degrees Celsius—1.5 degrees above normal and the highest this May. The month has otherwise witnessed normal temperatures. 
    While Santa Cruz recorded a maximum temperature of 33.6 degrees Celsius, the minimum temperature remained high with Colaba recording 28 degree Celsius and Santa Cruz recording 27.8 degrees Celsius on Thursday. 
    "The maximum temperature of Thursday is only a marginal increase," said V K Rajeev, director of weather forecast at India Meteorological Department (IMD), Mumbai. "The climatic conditions were normal on Thursday. The westerly winds continued to prevail over the city," said a weather official. 
    However, as compared to the previous years, May this year has been much more bearable, if one looks at the temperatures recorded. According to the IMD data, in the last 10 years, the maximum temperature rose as high as 38.7 degrees Celsius on May 8, 2004. Moreover, the all-time high has been 41 degree Celsius on May 19, 2000. 
    This year, however, apart from Thursday when the temperature rose up to 35.2 degrees Celsius, the temperatures have been normal—hovering around 34 degrees Celsius in Colaba, and 33 degrees Celsius in Santa Cruz. 
    "Generally, when winds from the land area—the northerlies or north easterlies—hit the city, the temperature increases. However, all through the month, westerly winds have been prevalent. Moreover, the sea breeze have been setting in on time, thus, providing enough moisture and not allowing the temperatures to rise much," said Rajeev, adding that the weather has been normal for the month of May. 
    The discomfort index, however, shows that Mumbaikars have been sweating it out—literally. Discomfort index is a computed value that describes how hot or humid the weather 'feels' to an average person. It combines the temperature and humidity into one number to reflect the perceived temperature. 
    On Thursday, the discomfort index was 50 degrees Celsius in Colaba, as humidity levels were 64% in the evening. But an IMD official said the discomfort index would have been higher if the afternoon humidity levels (1pm) were taken into consideration, as the humidity levels were higher at the time. Santa Cruz, meanwhile, had a discomfort level of 46 degrees Celsius.

Brace for floods this year too

Mumbai: Around 40 'chronic flooding spots' and 213 'flooding spots' but the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) lacks long-term plans to solve the issue. Experts say British-era storm water drains must be upgraded and pumping stations must be operational quickly. 
    A monsoon-trend study by former deputy commissioner Prakash Sanglikar shows that there's heavy rainfall mainly in suburban areas, particularly Mulund, Dindoshi, Marol, Goregaon and Borivli. They are more vulnerable to water-logging as the Mithi, Poisar, Oshiwara and Dahisar rivers flow through the region. "There has been no improvement in the river system," said Sanglikar. 
    The drain system cannot transport rain water, say experts. BMC's longest pending project, BRIMSTOWAD, first tabled in 1986 at a cost of Rs 600 crore, seeks to overhaul the century-old storm water drainage system consisting of major drains (210 km), minor nullahs (144 km), underground nullahs (174 km) and Britishera arch drains (528 km) and build eight storm water pumping stations. The project hopes to increase the capacity of drains of 25 mm rainfall in an hour to 50 mm and the run-off coefficient from 0.5 to 1. The project was revived after the 26/7 deluge and today the complete project costs Rs 3,535 crore. Nine out of 20 works under phase I and 18 out of 38 under phase II are left. 
    Of the eight pumping stations proposed, only two have been completed at Irla nullah and Haji Ali in 2009. 
Everyday, I see someone or other dump garbage into the Irla Nullah, which is across my college. Yet, I have not seen a single person being fined 
Garbage can be seen floating in the nullah in our area, choking its flow. If there is heavy rainfall, our society will surely get flooded Dhaval Shah | VAKOLA RESIDENT

Civic body to crack down on bakeries

Mumbai: The BMC will undertake a review of all bakeries in the city from the first week of June onwards. The decision follows Wednesday's tragedy at Trombay's Cheeta Camp where a cylinder exploded in a bakery, operating an illegal factory, killing five people and injuring 43. In the first step of the initiative, the heath department will identify and survey bakeries across the city. "We have decided to identify all bakeries and see if they are complying with all the necessary conditions. We are in the process of finalizing the protocol," said additional municipal commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar. 
    The issue of safety measures in bakeries had been brought up earlier this month by the BMC's health committee. Members had demanded a review of all bakeries because they thought that several of them were functioning without authorization or licences. The health committee has also decided to go launch a drive against illegal bakeries operating near hospitals. "We have received many complaints of unhygienic bakeries that are causing a nuisance to residents because of the smoke they emit. We need to see how many of them are operating without the necessary licences and penalize them," said health committee chairman Geeta Gawli. 
    A civic official said that bakeries need to shop and establishments licences to operate. It is necessary to get a no-objection certificate from the buildings and factory department and the chief fire officer. An environmental clearance is also required. "We will serve notices to bakeries that are flouting norms and ask them to comply with the rules. If they don't, the owners will be prosecuted," said executive health officer Anil Bandivadekar. 
Explosion Fallout 
BMC officials have razed the illegal bakery structure at Cheeta Camp 
Of the 14 cylinders seized, five were meant only for domestic use. Fire officials clearing debris say there could be more cylinders 
Mahamad Ansari, who runs the bakery, has been remanded in police custody till June 8

HAZARD: The BMC's health department had served a notice to the bakery owner on March 12 for unauthorized construction

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Three Bhayandar youths drown at Arnala beach

Three youths from Bhayandar who went for a swim at Arnala beach in Virar met with a watery grave on Wednesday afternoon. Police said the three victims – Avon Rodrigues (18), Amit Singh (16) and Gallon Fernandes (21) had gone for a picnic to the beach with their family and friends. 
    After having lunch at a local resort, the trio ventured into the sea for a swim when they were suddenly swept away by strong currents. "Their families say none of them were drunk but we are waiting for the post-mortem reports," said Police inspector Yousuf Bagwan of Virar police station. The bodies were found off Arnala coast late on Wednesday evening. 
    Locals say that although there is a ban on swimming at Arnala, few tourist pay attention to the notice boards installed on the beach. 
    Bhalchandra Tandel, a local fisherman said that many revellers get drunk and then venture into the sea. "They don't listen to the lifeguards and locals. We need to have a fullfledged police chowky in the area," Tandel said. 
    Ramchandra, another resident said that illegal sand dredging had led to deep depressions on the beach. "Outsiders go swimming and then get trapped in the water," he said, adding, "Every year, around 15 people drown at Arnala beach."

Locals say that every year around 15 people get drowned at Arnala beach in Virar

Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis better, but little awareness: Docs

Mumbai: Sudha Kulkarni (64) walks with the aid of a crutch. She limps a little but can still perform yoga with the support of a wall. It is this passion for practising and teaching yoga that has kept the Goregaon resident going, although she has been suffering from multiple sclerosis. 

    Sudha's problem started 18 years ago after she had a fall and broke two bones of her left leg. After this, she fell down twice within six months. "Even after undergoing surgeries and physiotherapy, my leg suffered complete numbness. Doctors found different reasons for the state of my leg," said Sudha. "However, in 2008 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis," sheadded. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an auto-immune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Though the diagnosis of the disease has improved, there is hardly any improvement in the awareness. "Presently, there are about 5-15 cases in one lakh people in India. Diagnosis has become easy and there are new drugs to reduce relapse and improve the quality of a patient's life. However, there is lack of support from society for those who suffer from multiple sclerosis," said Dr B S Singhal, neurophysician at Bombay Hospital. Apart from physical barriers like lack of ramps for patients, there are social obstacles. Experts say that there is lack of compassion on part of the government. MS does not come under any disability quota, moreover, there is no insurance cover for patients, who have to buy medicines worth anywhere between Rs 3 and 6 lakh per year to avoid a relapse. 
    "It is vital that the government, health professionals and the public work towards improving policies and supporting people afflicted with MS," said Sheela Chitnis, vice-president of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India. 
The Disorder 

• Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. The disorder affects women more than men and is most commonly diagnosed between ages 20 and 40

Monday, May 28, 2012

27 wedding guests killed in freak e-way mishap Worst Accident In 11 Years On Road To Pune

Mumbai: Twenty-seven members of a wedding party were killed and at least 29 injured early Monday in the worst-ever accident on the 11-year-old Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Among the dead were 15 women, five men and seven children. 
    The wedding guests were travelling from Ghatkopar to Yerwada in Pune district when, around midnight, one of the minibuses in their cavalcade developed a flat tyre near Khalapur toll plaza, about 42km from Panvel. The 
vehicle stopped on the service lane and was joined by another minibus and an SUV. Many guests stepped out and waited between the buses and around them while the snag was fixed. 
    Around 1am, police said, a speeding truck came and rammed from behind the minibus parked in the rear. Such was the impact that the bus rolled and crashed into the minibus parked in front. All those standing between the two vehicles were crushed. The minibus in front rolled too and mowed down some people standing in front of it and to the left. In all, 17 people died on the spot. 
Father loses race to save son 
    It was a race against death for many. Dipak Sonawane (30) left his wife, elder son, niece and mother-in-law lying dead on the accident spot to rush his injured five-year-old son Omkar, who was severely battered but gasping for breath, to the nearest hospital. But his efforts proved futile as Omkar breathed his last before he could be admitted. P 2 Truck driver booked for culpable homicide 
    Many of the wedding guests injured in the Mumbai-Pune Expressway mishap were rushed to hospitals in Panvel and Pune, but some died on the way. 
    Inspector I S Patil of Khalapur police station said the driver of the truck, Somnath Fadtade (25), has been arrested. "Fadtade was recklessly driving at high speed and lost control of the vehicle. He was not drunk," Patil explained. The driver has been booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. 
    The Monday tragedy left the families of the newlyweds disconsolate. "It is like being hit by a thunderbolt. Just hours ago, there was music, dance and joyous atmosphere. Suddenly, life has taken a U-turn and we are in mour ning," said Sopan Kokate, the grandfather of the bride, Manisha Gaikwad. 
    Recurring accidents on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway have long been a cause for worry. According to the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation MSRDC), which maintains the 92-km route, the Expressway has witnessed more than 1,800 accidents since it was opened 11 years ago. In these mishaps, 518 people lost their lives and another 1,034 people were injured. Many of these fatalities were blamed on the non-availability of emergency medical facilities during the crucial first hour, known as the golden hour, from the time of the mishap. The same delay was cited as a contributory cause of some of the deaths on Monday. 
    Family members said the wedding party was travelling from Ghatkopar, where the nuptials took place, to Pune in six vehicles, three of which had stopped near Khalapur toll plaza. The first to halt was a minibus (MH12 FZ 8378), which developed a flat tyre, and was shifted to the service road with the help of personnel of Indian Road Builders and the police. It was followed to the side of the road by another minibus (MH12 HB 325) and then by an SUV carrying the newlyweds, Sanjay Bahule and Manisha. The two buses together were carrying 55 passengers, including 14 children. 
    "The occupants got off the bus and were enjoying snacks when a speeding truck on the third lane lost control, entered the service road and rammed into the minibus parked last," an eye witness told investigating RTO officials. "The occu pants were sitting between the buses and along the crash barriers of the Ex pressway and got sand wiched because of the colli sion." The newlyweds, how ever, survived. 
    According to the police, when ambulances and res cue teams reached the spot bodies were found strewn around in pools of blood; some victims had got crushed between the buses and the crash barriers. Many motorists stopped their vehicles and helped officials in the rescue operation. 
    The injured were taken to Panacea and Ashtavinayak hospitals in Panvel and to Sas soon hospital in Pune. Among them were the three mechan ics—Amol More (29), Fayyaz Shaikh (22) and Amir Shaikh (19)—who were repairing the broken-down minibus at the time of the mishap. 
    ( Wi t h i n p u t s f ro m Nitin Yeshwantrao)

MARRIAGE PARTY TAKES TRAGIC TURN: Suresh Gaikwad (with wife Mangal, 45, left) can hardly be described as a lucky survivor. Six members of the 50-year-old government driver's family were killed on the expressway when they were returning from his nephew's wedding in Mumbai. Apart from his wife, Gaikwad lost his daughter Sanjana (19, top left), son Shubham (21, centre) niece Sapna (24, right), sister Nandabai Owhal (50) and nephew Aniket (12). Gaikwad survived as he was sitting inside the SUV parked in the front; his family was crushed between the two vehicles

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mumbai buildings under salt attack?

A BMC report has revealed that indiscriminate extraction of ground water is increasing the concentration of salinity in the soil and corroding buildings
 Mumbai's buildings are corroding due to a rise in concentration of salt in the ground water, a prelimnary BMC-commissioned study has revealed. The study, which was carried out by the Ground water Survey and Development Authority (GSDA), has also claimed that the phenomenon, known as salt attack, may have been caused by an indiscriminate extraction of ground water through bore wells. 
    According to the study, being next to the Arabian Sea, salts are naturally present in both the soils and groundwater systems in the city. But the excessive extraction of ground water has led to rapid increase in concentration of salt in the underground water as well as the soil. 
    Buildings absorb the heavily saline moisture from the soil. Over a period of time, the salt attacks (corrodes) the bricks and building structure weakens and eventually causes the bricks and structure to deteriorate. 
    According to GSDA, the problem has compounded in recent years following the BMC's policy that all new projects in the city must have a bore well for non-potable consumption. The civic body's decision had come in 2009, when the city was reeling under water scarcity after a poor monsoon. As a result, 525 bore wells and 89 ring wells came up in the city in the last three years. 
    To save the buildings now the BMC has asked GSDA to prepare a detailed report on these salt attacks and suggest a practical solution to the problem. 
    "Goregaon and Chembur are among the worst hit by the salinity problem. So in the first phase, GSDA will study M-east (Chembur) and P-south (Goregaon) wards. The GSDA will also suggest remedies on the problem," BMC hydraulic engineer Ramesh Bambale said. 
    For the next two years, the GSDA will regularly test samples of ground water from the two wards and study the change in the concentration of salt in the water and soil, and its effect on buildings in these area. They would than compare this with the water samples from other parts of the city. 
    Speaking to Mirror, BMC standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale said, "Indiscriminate and unplanned extraction of ground water could lead to wells yielding saline water for some time. But it is not only about the saline water, the extraction of ground water at this rate will also increase the surface temperature. So we have to take precaution." 
SALINITY ISSUES ARISE when the hydrological balance in the water table is disrupted, through either an increase (through irrigation or use of bore wells) or a reduction in use of ground water. 
    In a nut-shell, land use change and urban development are two key factors contributing to the expanding salinity issues. 
    Saline soil moisture is absorbed into the building structure through direct contact with saline soils. 
    Over a period of time, a direct physical attack from the mobilised salts corrodes the bricks and eventually causes the structure to deteriorate.

There will be floods: BMC warning for Parel a month before monsoon Survey shows due to technical problems, apart from cleaning drains there's little BMC can do to prevent flooding

  Though the BMC has spent crores of rupees in preparation to tackle the monsoon this year, and say that no flooding will occur at most parts of the city, there's bad news in store for residents of Parel and, particularly, Hindmata areas. 
    A survey conducted by Assistant Municipal Commissioner (F South) Bhagshree Kapse - whose jurisdiction includes Lalbaug and Parel - reveals that this year too will be no different, and that flooding is bound to occur in these areas. 
    Kapse told Mumbai Mirror, "This will be the first monsoon since I took charge of this ward. To prepare ourselves, members of my disaster team conducted a study of the area's floodprone spots. What we found was that, as things stand, it is not possible to stop flooding at the six chronic flood-prone spots in the ward, including the two major ones at Hindmata and Jagannath Bhatankar Marg. 
    "I don't simply want to say that we are prepared and that this year there will be no flooding in my jurisdiction. The study shows that due to some technical problems, we just cannot prevent flooding as of now. All we can do is clean the storm water drains, but that alone will not stop flooding." 
    Given the situation, when asked what she intends doing to tackle floods in the areas, Kapse said, "A four-member team, including myself, has been formed to deal with the situation. We will be on call 24 hours to cope with emergencies. At some spots we will install pumping machines to divert flood water to another drainage line." 
    Kapse further said that the situation will remain the same until a new pumping station is built. "A pumping station is to come up near BPT Colony at Reay Road. We have received the NOC, but it will take at least another year for the pumping station to be built and begin functioning," she added. 
Saucer type topography: There is a one metre difference of ground level between Dr B A Road, G D Ambekar Marg and the stretch between Jerbai Wadia Road up to MMGS Marg. Due to this 'saucer type topography', surface water of the entire area gets 
accumulated at Hindmata junction. 
Inadequate size of drains: The existing drain network was designed hundreds of years ago. Because of the vast development since then, and concretization of roads in recent years, seepage of water has decreased drastically. This results in accumulation of water at the 'saucer' portion. 
Inadequate capacity: As per the BRIMSTOWAD report, the required drain volume capacity should be 8 sq mts. What exist now is only of 3.08 sq mts. 
Length of drain network: Discharge of Hindmata flood water takes place near the Britannia Outfall at Reay Road, a distance of 6.80 km from its feeding point. Due to the distance, the flow of water is slowed down and discharge of flood water is delayed. 
High tides: Mumbai being an island city, high tides play an important part and affects disposal of flood water into the sea. 
Tide effect on drain network: 
Due to non-availability of nearby exit points or pumping arrangements, the tide effect is seen upto a distance of 3 km.

Water-logging at Parel last year


We asked readers if the BMC should have focused on conservation and ecology, and not just beautification, in the Powai Lake revamp. Here are some of your responses: 
    When you are working in lake first ensure clean water then go for other things 
    — Gopal Krishna 
    Yes they should, conservation of ecology is more important only then, beautification cn be maintained... 
    — Ahitagni Saha 
    Really wonder whether our babus in BMC, concernd wid Powai Lake beautification, evn understnd the concept of ecology... 
    — Roopam Ghosh 
    The Hyacinth (weeds) should be removed on a war footing and no dumping should be allowed. The sewage water should be diverted 
    —Jaganathan Iyer 
    Sir, the corrupt and inefficient BMC failed to focus on conservation and ecology in Powai Lake revamp and was more interested in beautification to extract money from uncivilized visitors who throw garbage without bothering about the importance of the lake, the condition of which is getting worse. ...in the name of beautification, the Powai Lake, which supplies water, is headed for disastrous situation in which the BMC is responsible for the mess. It is high time residents took on BMC to save the lake 
    —Bhagwan Thadani 
    FIRST BAN PLASTIC... thin, meduim or thick or any microns or in any form like satchets, packets, bottles etc. BAN IT TOTALLY. 90% safety of the eco systems, environments is acheived by this banning of plastics. Burning of plastic waste by most garbage cleaners causes severe carcinogenic air pollution. BAN PLASTIC IN ALL FORMS 
    —Roshin Kumar

High tobacco use in city worries docs

Mumbai: One in three adults in Mumbai consumes tobacco on a regular basis. What's more, one in ten is likely to die a premature death if the current pattern continues. 
    Latest statistics presented by Tata Memorial Hospital say that of the 20.5 million-strong population of Mumbai and its neighbouring areas (including Thane and Navi Mumbai), an estimated six million people use tobacco—in form of cigarettes or gutka. If immediate action is not taken to control the use, then about two million people are likely to die prematurely—in productive 
age-group—in the near future. 
    The scary picture has prompted about 7,400 doctors in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai to support an anti-tobacco campaign under the umbrella of the Association of Medical Consultants. Activists say consultants can persuade a patient to give up the tobacco habit at an early stage and prevent its culmination in cancer. Tobacco causes 20% of all deaths 
Mumbai: The Association of Medical Consultants on Sunday pledged to fight tobacco consumption. "Doctors need to play an active role in tobacco control. As medical practitioners, we also need to prevent the reason for the disease. We have asked all the members to counsel patients against tobacco consumption," said Dr Kishore Adyanthaya, president of the AMC. "When a patient comes to a doctor for something as normal as fever or cold, he can be counselled against the use of tobacco. When unwell, the patient is vulnerable and thus would understand the importance of dropping the habit much better than if advised elsewhere," said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, surgical oncologist at Tata Memorial Hospital. So a patient will now read about the hazards of tobacco consumption on posters in the waiting area outside a consulting doctor's room, followed by "opportunistic counselling" inside. According to experts, tobacco is the leading cause of 90% of the ailments affecting the mouth, 60% of heart diseases, 50% of cancers and 20% of all deaths. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), which was done in India in 2009-2010, 31.4% of Maharashtra's population uses tobacco in one form or the other. What is scary is the fact that the addiction builds up in individuals who start consuming tobacco before the age of 15 years.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

COUNTDOWN TO MONSOON 2012 Monsoon on mind, civic body eyes social media to give weather updates

Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is planning to log on to social media networks to disseminate all weather-related information so that citizens are well-informed about the vagaries of nature while on the move. The BMC plan is part of its monsoon preparations and as a first step, the civic body's disaster management cell will be posting a weather update on its Facebook page from June 1. Also, it is considering sending out the updates via the micro-blogging site. 
    After civic chief Sitaram Kunte's directive, BMC has already started awareness campaign to improve the quality of disaster response and has started training NCC and NSS students on it. Civic 
body officials have also started interacting with citizens groups and other organizations. 
    "The problem lies in quality disaster response. In case of any disaster, many people do come forward to help others but the quality isn't good enough, leading to more problems. Our training camps are free of cost and we have put up hoardings outside the fire brigade offices," a senior official from the civic body's disaster management cell said. 
    With rise in drowning cases over the years, the civic body for the first time has decided to pre-deploy fire brigade and civil defence officials to prevent such cases. It has also decided to deploy 36 life guards at six beaches. "We have observed that in the past few years the number of drowning cases in the beaches has increased. There aren't any deaths due to flooding. Hence, we have decided to take precautionary measures to prevent such deaths," said the official. 
    The civic body is also planning to give localized rainfall and temperature updates during this monsoon and is set to install 28 new automatic weather stations (AWS), taking the number of weather stations installed by the civic body to 61. There will be a weather station every 4 km, as opposed to one every 10 km, as it currently is. 
    The BMC has identified 215 flooding spots in the city, of which 76 are in the island city, 79 are in the western suburbs and the remaining in eastern suburbs. The maximum number of flooding spots is in L ward (Kurla) with 16, followed by 12 in K- West (Andheri and Vile Parle) and F-South (Wadala) wards. The civic body has planned to install over 230 dewatering pumps across the 215 flooding spots. Some flooding spots will have more than two pumps. The BMC has also asked mobile operators to allow the civic body to send bulk messages in time of disasters. 
    The civic body is organizing awareness campaigns on quick quality response, to equip citizens with disaster management skills.The civic body has urged citizens to begin cleaning up their surroundings to prevent vector-borne diseases. To begin with, the civic body wants citizens to clear stagnant water spots. It also urged people not to spread rumours in case of a disaster. 
24x7 helplines 108 & 1916 
20 lifesaving platoons distributed in various wards 
9 teams of navy will be positioned; 3 at Ghatkopar, 3 at Malad, 1 at Mankhurd, 1 at Naval Dockyard and 1 at Worli. 
24x7 ward control rooms in 19 wards 
5 municipal schools in each ward to be temporary shelters 
36 lifeguards deployed at 6 beaches

The civic body has identified 215 flooding spots in the city

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Expect monsoon to hit Mumbai on time: IMD

Mumbai: Even as the sultry spell continued to make life miserable for Mumbaikars, the weather bureau gave the city a reason to cheer: Monsoon 2012 is expected to hit the city on time. 
    The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has reported that there has been onset of the monsoon in southeast Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. While the IMD is expecting the monsoon to hit Kerala on June 1, it is expected to arrive in Mumbai on June 10. 
    "The normal onset date for Mumbai is June 10. However, as the monsoon is a natural phenomenon, it cannot be predicted exactly," said V K Rajeev, director of weather forecast at IMD, Mumbai. "We always have to consider the probability of the monsoon arriving two days before or after the normal onset dates in each region," he added. 
    It takes 10 days for the monsoon to proceed from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to Kerala. While the monsoon is supposed to reach the Andaman Sea on May 20, last year, it hit the region on May 29 and Kerala the next day. It reached Mumbai by June 5. 
    The weather bureau says arrival of the monsoon in one place may not affect its onset in another area. In 2009, for example, the monsoon arrived in the Andamans on May 20 and reached Kerala four days later. However, the same year, the monsoon took a month—instead of the usual 10 days—to travel from Kerala to Mumbai. In 2008, the rains took 19 days to reach Kerala after hitting the Andaman Sea. 
    The IMD, however, said arrival of the monsoon was likely to stick to the normal dates this year. "The southwest monsoon for the country is likely to be about 90% to 110% normal this year," said a weather official from IMD, Delhi. 
    As of now, the monsoon is likely to advance with the help of the cross-equatorial flow, persistent cloudiness and fairly widespread rainfall with isolated heavy falls. "Conditions are favourable for further advance of the southwest monsoon into some more parts of south Bay of Bengal and remaining parts of the Andaman Sea during the next two days," read the IMD forecast on Thursday.

E-way to get air ambulance State Also Plans Trauma Centre For Mishap Victims

Mumbai: The government is working on a plan to air-lift people injured in accidents on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway to a trauma-care hospital in just 15-20 minutes. 
    Concerned over the number of fatalities—many of which occur due to non-availability of emergency medical facilities—the authorities have woken up to the need for such a service as well as the need to set up a trauma-care hospital on the E-way. The plan also envisages having better and swifter road ambulance service, too. It is, however, not yet clear if the air ambulance service will be free. 
    The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), which maintains the 92-km road, has invited expressions of interest from health establishments to set up a trauma-care centre with a heliport. Officials expect an investment of Rs 30-40 crore for the project. 
    "The operator should have minimum 5 acres of land along the expressway close to the Talegaon toll naka, which is around 25 km from Pune and 68 km from Panvel. The bidder is also supposed to suggest ways of recovering the investment without charging fees from the accident victims," said a senior MSRDC engineer. 
    The bidders should have one commercial pilot licence holder from a DGCA-affiliated institution and should also be able to provide the helicopter service. "We have proposed it to be a free-of-cost centre, but would like to know from companies if certain charges would have to be levied to recover the investment. A commercial component would be provided for activities around the hospital that would help recover the investment," an MSRDC official said. 
    "We expect the proposals to come up by June 10. Within the next three months, we may shortlist one of the firms whose offer will match our expectations. After a few years, the investor has to transfer the property to the MSRDC after recovering the investment. The construction should not take more than a year as we want the facilities to be provided at the earliest," he explained. 
    The official said they have suggested that people using the air ambulance should not be charged. "We hope to get a suitable model to implement the project," added the official.

Businessman mugged near police station in Bandra (E)

Mumbai: A businessman who resides at Kalanagar in Bandra (East) needed 18 stitches on his head and face after three men brutally assaulted him for his 20-gram gold chain on Wednesday. 
    Rajkumar Agarwal, 54, a pharma dealer, was on his morning walk when he was attacked by three men who came in an autorickshaw. 
    The incident occurred a stone's throw from the heavily guarded residence of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and barely 250 metres from the BKC police station. 
    "We have registered a case under various IPC sections and are searching our database of known criminals," said BKC police senior inspector Chandrakant Bhosle. Fourth chain-snatching in just 15 days in BKC 
Mumbai: Seven minutes into 
    his morning 
    walk on Wednesday, around 5.45am, 
    Agarwal had reached building number C-10 Aaykar Bhawan (income-tax office building) near BKC when two men crept up on him and struck him with iron rods repeatedly on his head before yanking his gold chain. 
    Agarwal told TOI, "I fell on the road after the first blow. I struggled to stand up when the two attackers hit me again. When I asked why they were hitting me, they remained tight-lipped and again rained blows on my face." 
    They even chased Agarwal, who was bleeding profusely, when they briefly seemed to have lost the chain. They fled in the same rickshaw, he said. 
    Agarwal's daughter Ritika, who practises as a doctor in Pune, rushed to Mumbai after the incident. "My father has been jogging in the same area for the last 20 years. Such a brutal incident has shocked us," she said, adding, "My father was lucky. A scan showed that he suffered external injuries on his scalp, but no serious internal injuries. Though he lost around 300-500ml of blood, he managed to reach home and then the hospital.'' The daughter is upset that a few people who were in the vicinity of the attack didn't help her father. 
    Agarwal's neighbour said that this was the fourth chainsnatching incident in the BKC locality in the last 15 days. All the incidents have occurred within a radius of 200-250 metres of the BKC police station. No case has been solved. 
    Senior inspector Bhosle said the incident occurred at one of three stretches identified as a chronic chain-snatching spot. "Anti-chain snatching teams have been deployed at all the three spots to foil such crimes," he said. 
Snatchers target women across city 
    Chain-snatchers robbed four women of gold jewellery worth around Rs 4.6 lakh across the city on Thursday. Laxmi Tangiwala (33) lost her mangalsutra worth Rs 85,000 after a robber targeted her during her morning walk on the Sion-Panvel highway. In other cases, bike-borne snatchers robbed two women of jewellery worth Rs 3.25 lakh in Borivli (E) and Mahim. In yet another case, Vimada Visaraya (60) was attacked and robbed of a chain worth Rs 50,000 around 8am in Mahim. SUBURBAN SHOCKER

. Businessman Rajkumar Agarwal goes for his morning walk 2. Two men creep up on him near the income-tax office and thrash him with rods 3. The chain-snatchers then flee in an autorickshaw (Left) The spot where the incident occurred

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

City fumes after petrol price hike Latest Increase Sees Rate Near 80-Mark

The single largest increase in petrol prices in India's history has understandably caused ripples of shock among consumers who found the Rs 7.92 hike per litre too hard to stomach. In one fell swoop, each user now has to shell out over 12% more on his daily commute, not to mention the snowball effect the increase will have on general inflation. 
    Until Wednesday, petrol cost Rs 70.66 per litre in Mumbai and the latest hike will see the rate near the Rs 80-mark. 
    No longer does the upper middle class remain insulated from the ambit of inflation. "Jo humpey guzarni hai ek baar guzar jaaye/ Woh kitne situmgar hain, khull jaaye toh achha ho!" said actor Farooque Shaikh, voicing the common man's helplessness. The Urdu verse urges the powers-thatbe to do the worst they can in one stroke so that their torturous ways are exposed. 
    Actor Hema Malini admitted to scolding her staff at the enormous petrol bills they run up each month. "I scrutinize my monthly expenses when I sign the transport vouchers and I cannot help being shocked at the cost escalation," she said. "If well-to-do households feel this way, one can only imagine the plight of the average consumer. At this rate, we will all have to travel by autorickshaws now." 
    Former bureaucrat Dinesh Afzulpurkar is not immune to the substantial spike either. "I travel from my Nariman Point residence to Shushrusha Hospital in Dadar, where I am a director, each day. I cannot help notice how my fuel costs have risen in the past year or two, but this increase is too uncomfortable to bear. Salaried employees will suffer," he said. 
    The new peak has caused vehicle owners to reconsider their mode of travel. Nilesh Vaidya, a security manager at a five-star hotel, commutes from Goregaon to Vile Parle each day but often travels to other cities, including Pune by car. His reaction was one of stunned silence. Like him, Abdul Shahid Siddiqui, a dealer in antiques at a South Mumbai hotel, failed to see why the economists in government could not avoid such an enormous "rationalization". "Where is this country headed? This is 'zulm' (atrocity). The poor will soon have no means of living an honourable, dignified existence. Even the average salesperson uses a two-wheeler, it is not as if petrol is a luxury of the upper class," he said. 
    Anxiety was visible at ground zero too. As he handled long queues of last-minute fillers, pump manager Jagdish Ingle was anxiously debating how to fend them off once stocks ran dry. "People accuse us of halting supplies deliberately. How do I explain that I suffer the same predicament? I travel to work from Jogeshwari to Grant Road and I am wondering if I should take the train instead," he says. Ingle had bought a motorcycle to escape the sardine-can situation in trains. In Ghatkopar, pump owner Pulin Shah agonized over having to pay Rs 1.6 lakh every day to procure the same amount of fuel for his gas station. 'IT'S A GRIM INDICATION OF UNION GOVT'S WRONG FISCAL POLICY'

Opera House, 9pm

    The latest 
    hike is a grim indication of the Union government's wrong fiscal policy. It will throw the common man's budget out of gear 

I will end up spending Rs 25,000 more and no client will reimburse these hidden costs 
Chetan Raikar | 

One cannot cut down on travel but several other budgetary cuts will be made in every home 
Dinesh Afzulpurkar 

Petrol price up 7.92 to 78.58, sharpest hike ever

UPA Allies Call It Unilateral, Ask For A Rollback

NewDelhi:By the time you read this, the price of petrol would have gone up by more than Rs 7.50 a litre across the country. The increase, the steepest-ever, came a day after Parliament's Budget session ended and PM Manmohan Singh talked about the need for "difficult decisions". 
    After adding state taxes, petrol will cost Rs 73.18 a litre in Delhi, Rs 78.58 in Mumbai, Rs 77.88 in Kolkata and Rs 77.53 a litre in Chennai. This marks an increase of around 10% and puts a squeeze of roughly Rs 6,000 a year on a family that spends an average of Rs 5,000 per month on petrol. 
    This is the first upward revision in petrol price since November 4, 2011. The highest increase till now had been Rs 5 per litre. State-run oil marketers twice raised prices by this amount—on May 15, 2011 and May 24, 2008 when the petrol price crossed the Rs 50 a litre mark for the first time. 
    The decision immediately drew 
howls of protest and demands for rollback from parties across the political spectrum, including UPA allies such as Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. But the West Bengal chief minister also made it clear that she would not rock the UPA boat. 
    Consumers too voiced their anguish even as they thronged petrol pumps for a "cheaper" tank-up one last time. Police had to be called in to control the spiraling queues in many pumps in Delhi and elsewhere. 
    The announcement of price revision came while oil minister S Jaipal Reddy is away in Turkmenistan to attend a ceremony for signing a fournation gas pipeline deal. 
    Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee laid the onus of the hike on oil marketers. "The decision has been taken. Petrol is a deregulated commodity," he said. 
Congress gambles with middle-class patience... 
    The government seems to be testing the patience of the middle class. But the timing of the shocker of a raise, after seven-and-a-half months, seems political. The next political challenge, elections in BJP-ruled Gujarat and Himachal, are in November and the Congress is hoping the angst will die down by then or better still, the middle class will come to terms with the 'new normal' in petrol prices. P 12 
...But will take credit for 
    1.50 cut expected soon 
    Consumers can look forward to a cut of more than Re 1 in petrol prices by the end of this month, given the trend in the Singapore bulk market. Indeed, government sources said the reduction was already factored in by the state oil firms. "Unless there's a dramatic fall in the rupee's value against the dollar, a reduction of 1 or 1.50 per litre is quite certain. After taxes, it would be around 2 a litre," a source said. P 12 
Re slides to 56.01/$, hits markets, foreign travel 
The rupee continued its free fall against the US dollar, plunging to a new record low of 56.23 on Wednesday. It closed at 56.01. The rupee's weakness now threatens to push India out of the trillion-dollar market capitalization club. The sensex fell 78 points, to end below 16,000. Meanwhile, Indians travelling abroad are spending less since costs, in rupees, have jumped 15-20% in a month. P 19 Do or die measure, contend oil firms 
New Delhi: The government had freed petrol prices in June 2010 when crude came down to around $40 a barrel from a historic high of $147 per barrel in July 2008. But in practice, oil companies do not move without a signal from the parent oil ministry which officially continues to deny any control. 
    Sources said the increase was stage-managed. Oil companies usually review prices on the fifteenth and last day of each month. But Wednesday's increase was announced midweek to take advantage of Reddy's absence after the Parliament session. 
    Reddy reportedly gave his go-ahead for raising petrol prices before leaving for Turkmenistan. His absence gave an opportunity for the government to distance itself from the rise and reinforce the impression that it did not control its price as it was a deregulated fuel. But oil companies described the hike as a "do-or-die" measure. R S Butola, chairman of market leader Indian Oil Corporation, argued that the price had to be increased steeply since they had not revised it for the last seven months even though global prices of crude went up 3.5% and petrol in bulk markets rose 14.5%, even as the rupee continued its slide against the dollar. 
    "All three retailers together piled up a loss of Rs 2,321 crore between the last price hike in November and March 31. Since March alone, we have taken a hit of Rs 2,330 crore. The rupee too has fallen some 3-4%. The government would not have compensated these losses as petrol is a deregulated product," he said. 
    The IOC chairman refused to comment when asked whether he had secured the ministry's nod earlier to raise petrol prices. "We had told the government either it takes back control over petrol or we would have no option but to raise the price steeply. We did what we had to do. There was no choice left for us," he said.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Flood-prone Hindmata, Mithi on civic radar

Mumbai: It's an annual monsoon story, flood-prone areas near the airport and Hindmata get inundated with mild rain. 
    To avoid this, the width of Mithi river, running belowthe runway,hasbeen increased by 24 metres and deepened by 8 metres. Civic officialssayitisboundto reduce flooding in the nearby areas this monsoon. 
    Similarly, civic officials claimed to have also tackled another chronic spot—Hindmata junction at Dadar. TheBMCclaimsthatthedesilting and repairing of the century-old storm water drains in the area is almost over. "We have visited the airport area, where the width of Mithi river has been increased," said L S Vhatkar, chief engineer (storm water drains). 
    As far as the 'saucershaper' Hindmata junction is concerned, civic officials said the underground drains, built in brick masonry nearly a century ago, had never been completely desilted till date. 
    "They have now been cleared of all the sediments and the flow of rainwater will now be quicker," said a senior civic official. 
    According to the BMC, nearly 66% of the desilting work has been completed so far. Of the total 3,40,259 metres, around 2,25,528 metres (in length) has been desilted. BMC officials claim that the remaining work will be completed by May 31. While79% of thedesilting work has been completed in the western suburbs, 62% has been completed in the eastern suburbs. The island city is lagging behind with only 56% of the desilting work completedsofar.BMCchief Sitaram Kunte took stock of the progress madein nullah cleaning in thewesternsuburbs on Tuesday. 
Locals pour cold water on BMC claims 
Mumbai: Despite the BMC's effort to get the city ready for the monsoon, residents are sceptical that the role played by other agencies like the railways and the MMRDA. 
    "Every year, the BMC gives the same excuse and blames the MMRDA or the railways," Khar-based activist Aftab Siddiqui said. "Can't they plan the work in advance and ensure that it is completed on time. They are already a month behind schedule, and I have not seen any report on how much work has been done," she added. AGNI coordinator Nikhil Desai said, "Certain culverts that are built on the land belonging to the railways need to be cleaned in time. The mayor and BMC chief must bring pressure on the railway authorities." Political parties have also started taking stock of the situation. —Shawan Sen & Johan Fleury

Monday, May 21, 2012

Parel rly stn is a disaster waiting to happen

 Commuters boarding and alighting at Parel railway station have warned of an agitation if Central Railway (CR) does not speed up the work on the pending new foot-overbridge (FOB) and initiate crowd control measures at the station. 
    Thousands of commuters use this narrow and the only foot-overbridge (FOB) at Parel station every day. The problem gets particularly grave during peak hours when there isn't any space for commuters even on the platform. And with Parel growing as a hub of several corporate offices, it is only going to get more crowded. 
    Commuters believe that it is only a matter of time that there is a stampede occurs at the platform. 
    In the last four days, angry commuters have barged inside the station masters office and lodged complaints and accused the CR of playing with the life of commuters. 
    AK Singh, Public Relation Officer for CR said, "The work of another FOB at Dadar end is going on at a war footing. We will also place RPF staff to ensure smooth movement and ensure no untoward incident happens."

During peak hours, many people are pushed to the edge of the platform, and one day someone is going to get hit by the train.It's a stampede waiting to happen 

It's a nightmare to cross the FOB after one gets down from the train. It takes at least 15 minutes to cross it. A second overbridge is urgently needed 
The platform is so crowded during the peak hours that even if someone trips, it could lead to a stampede. CR officials know this quite well, but they don't seem to care 


MILD SNORERS have a negligible risk of dying from cancer, but it doubles in moderate cases and shoots up to nearly five times in case of severe snoring. 
    The findings were based on data from sleep studies carried out on 1,522 people over 22 years. Previous lab tests on mice have shown that oxygen starvation, caused by snoring promotes tumour growth. Javier Nieto, who led the study at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said, "The consistency of the evidence from the animal experiments and this new evidence in humans is highly compelling." 
    "Ours is the first study to show an association between sleep disordered breathing (SDB) and an elevated risk of cancer mortality in a population-based sample," said Nieto, reports the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 
    "If the relationship between SDB and cancer mortality is validated in further studies, the diagnosis and treatment of SDB in patients with cancer might be indicated to prolong survival," added Nieto, according to the Daily Mail. The findings were presented at the 
American Thoracic Society international 
conference in San Francisco. 

5 bridges already useless in less than 15 yrs

    Five of the city's flyovers have become redundant in less than 15 years even though at the time of construction, planners had promised motorists that the bridges would ease congestion for at least 50 years. With the exception of Byculla flyover, built 35 years ago, the ones at Worli, Sion and Aarey—all constructed around a decade ago—can no longer take the traffic load. In fact, they add to bottlenecks and snarls during peak hours, said experts. Besides unchecked growth of vehicles, experts and engineers say that lack of foresight and planning at the time of construction as well as poor maintenance has resulted in these flyovers restricting traffic flow. 
    The flyover between Worli Naka and Poonam Chambers, which has only two lanes, is closed to south-bound traffic in the morning and north-bound traffic in evening, and is practically useless to motorists. The flyover near Aarey Colony on WEH has six small lanes. But the highway has 10-12-lane and this results in bottlenecks at the exit and entry ramps. The flyover cannot be widened easily because of the narrow width of the road it has been constructed on and the existence of slums alongside. 
    Traffic analyst Sudhir Patil said: "These flyovers have failed not only because they have a smaller number of lanes as compared to other viaducts, but also due to poor planning and maintenance of roads over which they are constructed. There is a need to widen roads and junctions below, and define boundaries of flyover ramps to achieve proper segregation and merger of traffic at both ends." According to Patil, widening roads and flyovers is the only solution. 
    Ajit Shenoy, a social activist and transport expert, said the government should first study traffic patterns. "Improvements should be made in such a 
    that these flyovers can also meet 
future requirements and not just address existing problems. I find it shocking to see how our traffic woes have increased manifold in a decade, to the extent that these flyovers have become irrelevant. There should be more thrust on sustainability." 
    The old Sion flyover on Dr Ambedkar Road has only three lanes, of which two are open to north-bound traffic, and one to south-bound motorists. This, say experts, exacerbates traffic snarls along the northern end of the flyover and is a nightmare for motorists coming from the EEH. Transport expert Trupti Amritwar said Mumbai does not need flyovers as much as east-west connectivity. 
    A senior MSRDC official said that the old Sion flyover will be widened once work on the nearby Santa Cruz-Chembur link road is completed. "As far as Worli flyover is concerned, expansion is not possible, but the road below could be widened to some extent." 

AAREY Operational since | 1998-99 
Route | A small flyover on the Western Express flyover near Aarey Colony at Goregaon 
Cost | 
    15 crore 
Problem | With only 6 small lanes on a 10 to 12-lane highway, there are bottlenecks at both ends. It is possible to widen the flyover if the stretch on which it is constructed is also widened. But for this, nearby slums will have to relocated LANES | 6 LENGTH | 400m

DEONAR Operational since | 2000 
Route | On the t-junction across Sion-Panvel Road and the BAARC Road 
Cost | 
    20 crore 
Problem | It is open to southbound motorists and is beneficial to those travelling from Vashi, Mankhurd and Ghatkopar. Experts say the 500-meter viaduct doesn't serve much of a purpose and is underutilized as neither the flyover nor the junction below sees enough traffic LANES | 3 LENGTH | 500m

Operational since | 1997-98 
Route | Between Worli Naka and Poonam Chambers on Dr Annie Besant road, crosses the Guffar Khan Road junction Cost | Approximately 12 crore Problem | It is closed to southbound traffic in the morning and north-bound cars in the evening because it has only two lanes. The stretch of Dr Annie Besant Road on which the flyover is built is narrow; there is no room for expansion LANES | 2 LENGTH | 700m

OLD BYCULLA Operational since | 1977 
Route | Near Gloria Church on Dr Ambedkar Road Cost | 5 crore 
Problem | It's open only to south-bound motorists. The flyover has become redundant after the construction of a comparatively longer and wider Lalbaug flyover. It can't accommodate the volume of traffic but can be widened LANES | 2 LENGTH | 400m

OLD SION Operational since | 1998-99 Route | Over Sion T-junction on Dr Ambedkar Road 
Cost | Around 
    ; constructed by MSRDC 
Problem | Two lanes are kept open for the north-bound traffic while only one lane can be used by motorists heading south. This causes regular bottlenecks and increases traffic snarls along the northern end of the flyover for motorists coming from the Eastern Express Highway (EEH). Experts say that the flyover can be widened as the road below, too, has been recently widened LANES | 3 LENGTH | 800m

BMC to urge people to take up rainwater harvesting

Mumbai: To get residents to take up rainwater harvesting, BMC officials will begin visiting housing societies andurge them to implement the project in their colonies. 
    Thecivicbody also plansto put up hoardings, advertisements and start awareness campaigns regarding the system. Besides, it has also introduced property tax rebates andwater tax rebatesfor those building thathaveimplemented rainwater harvesting. 
    Mayor Sunil Prabhu said, "Rainwater harvesting can be an important source for augmenting the city's water supply.If implementedtimely and before monsoon, then the excesswater can beusedfor nonpotableuse." 
    According to a senior official,wardlevelofficialswillbe visiting residentialsocieties. 
    A total of 209 BMC-owned propertieshave already implemented the system, of which 48 are in the eastern suburbs, 84 in the western suburbs and 65in theislandcity.Acivicofficialsaid, "Only 3,008buildings have adopted the system. Around 3,847 buildings have registered for system but it is yettobeimplementedthere."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cough syrup takes more teens on a trip Codeine Addiction Catches Fancy Of Adolescents In City


Mumbai: Priyam Panchal's parents found nothing amiss with the 16-year-old sleeping all day and staying awake at night, until the Malad girl slapped her father for stopping her from going out with friends. It was then that her shocked parents found over 40 empty bottles of cough syrup under her bed. 
    Priyam (name changed) was not suffering from any ailment that would require her to consume cough suppressants. Her parents remained in denial for over a month and delayed consulting an expert even as she 
became more abusive and violent. When they finally took her to a psychiatrist, she was diagnosed with codeine addiction, which was making her heavily dependent on cough syrup. The Panchals sent her to the Drug Abuse Information Rehabilitation and Research Centre in Kalyan, where Priyam is undergoing a nine-month therapy. 
    De-addiction experts say Priyam's case is neither isolated nor surprising. Codeine addiction, or rather a trend northeastern states are infamous for, has suddenly caught the fancy of adolescents in the city. An essential ingredient in cough syrup, codeine's prolonged use can lead to addiction. Experts say 6-15% of those enrolling in de-addiction programmes in the city have a history of codeine or cough syrup addiction. 
    "The addiction hits those aged 13-14; the ratio of female addicts is more," said Dr Yusuf Merchant, president, DAIRRC. The observation was shared by other rehabilitation centres in the city, where authorities said four out of the 10 addicts are teenage girls. 
    Fr Joseph Pereira, founder, Kripa Foundation, a rehabilitation centre for those affected by chemical dependency, said codeine addiction was affecting a "silent and hidden majority". He said, "Young boys are into designer drugs, but for girls, cough syrups are the easiest to access and cheapest to use." 
    Some centres also receive housewives as codeine addicts. In February, a south Mumbai hospital treated a 32-year-old mother of two from Gamdevi. She was taken to the hospital with complaints of drowsiness, lethargy and extreme mood swings. "After tests costing about Rs 40,000, a doctor suspected that her problem was elsewhere. The woman confessed to the addiction only after four-five counselling sessions, citing lack of attention from her husband as the reason," said a doctor. "The woman admitted to buying cough syrups in bulk." 
    Counsellor Jatish Shah, who was attached to Masina Hospital's alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre, said the facility may have treated 400 patients over eight years. "Codeine addiction leaves no traces like smell. The number of housewives addicted to it could be shockingly large." 
    The FDA has started raiding chemist shops to find unexplained sales of cough syrup. It cancelled licences of 40 who sold over 1,500 bottles without bills or prescriptions. JJ Hospital professor of psychiatry Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla said some earn Rs 40,000-50,000 from selling the syrups and called the problem "alarming". 
Cough syrups can be classified as codeine-based and non-codeine based The codeine-based are usually prescribed for bedtime use as they cause drowsiness The effects of codeinebased syrups could stretch up to 12 hours, as against 7 hours in case of normal ones 
The young mainly abuse cough syrups 
Some Side Effects 
    Prolonged use of cough syrups can cause breathing problems, swelling of throat, lips and even face 
    Serious side-effects include anxiety attacks, hallucinations, dizziness, high blood pressure, impaired judgement, trembling of hands Rehab Procedure 
Those suffering from addiction need elaborate therapy by experts that could last up to nine months or more Besides de-addiction pills, addicts are also treated for associated problems like depression and loneliness HOW TO DETECT ADDICTION AT HOME? 
Parents should take hints from deteriorating performance in school like getting poor grades, absenteeism or even dropping out of class Ignoring the need to finish homework, overlooking major exams Secretiveness is one a vital sign of abuse as those dependent on drugs hide bottles Sudden change in friends' circle and hanging out more with new people with different tastes, behavior 
Significant changes in mood like the child becomes irritable, gets fatigued, feels lonely Why Is It Abused? 
Cough syrups have high abuse potential because of cost and easy access 
The hassle-free usage also makes it more preferable for more as it curbs risks of contracting infection, side-effects 
Experts say cough syrups give desired sensations in shortest possible time

BMC & police chiefs step out to ‘clean city’

Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik and BMC chief Sitaram Kunte have embarked on separate missions with one common goal—to clean up Mumbai. Kunte, who took the reins at the civic body at the end of last month, wants to convert Mumbai into a world-class city, while Patnaik aims to restore the citizenry's confidence in law-enforcement agencies. To get a firsthand feel of the problems plaguing Mumbai and their possible solutions, the top cop spends a minimum of two hours in a police housing colony and a police station every alternate day, and Kunte goes for a long morning walk in different parts of the city. The two exercises have been productive, to say the least. On his very first day out, Kunte got feedback about cleanliness and the performance of deputy municipal commissioners as well as ward officers. He was informed about the disconnect between the BMC and the aam admi, and urged to take action against erring officials. Patnaik's treks out too have yielded results. Not a few police stations he visited have witnessed the law and order situation improving in their area. The two top officials' missions, though commendable, are not altogether novel. Many successive police and municipal commissioners drafted ambitious plans but could not sustain them for long. It therefore remains to be seen if Patnaik and Kunte would continue their mission with the same zeal. 
Harsh lessons 
Medical education minister Vijaykumar Gavit as well as higher and technical education minister Rajesh Tope are under fire for their ham-fisted handling of teachers' agitations. Teachers of arts, commerce and science colleges had as far back as four months ago served a notice, threatening to boycott the examination process unless their demand of higher salaries as per the Sixth Pay Commission's recommendations is settled at the earliest. Indeed, the teachers' leaders had conducted several rounds of talks with senior bureaucrats and later with Tope. But, it seems, their threat to strike work was not taken seriously. Tope swung into action only after the teachers began their agitation and it was realized that, owing to the strike, the results of major examinations may get protractedly delayed. Facing strident criticism, Tope had no option but to accept the teachers' demands. The blunder may be replaying now. Medical teachers have threatened to strike work unless their demand for removing the anomaly in the payment of non-private practising allowance is met. Some of these teachers even met Gavit and deputy CM Ajit Pawar. Gavit reportedly thrice gave them a written assurance, but, so far, no official order has been issued to remove the anomaly. A former dean says the government is deliberately ignoring doctors' demands. 
Study group 
Maharashtra's second capital, Nagpur, has a new distinction. It is the place where current vice-chancellors of many universities in the state come from. A glance at the 18-odd universities in Maharashtra shows that 10 incumbent VCs were born and brought up in Nagpur. Pune University's newly appointed vice-chancellor Wasudeo Gade is originally from there. And so are Mumbai University's Rajan Welukar, YB Chavan Open University's K Krishnakumar, North Maharashtra University's Sudhir Meshram as well as six others. According to a former VC, Nagpur has always been a centre of academic excellence. But equally important is the fact that scholars from Mumbai and Pune are reluctant to take up top jobs in universities owing to rampant politics and corruption. These scholars, instead, prefer assignments in IT cities in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka or abroad.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

RAIL TRAGEDY Stunt duo ducks suddenly, victim caught unawares

RPF Plans Crackdown On Risky Behaviour
Two young men, who had boarded a Borivli-bound local from Santa Cruz, were trying to touch poles along railway tracks and high-five commuters on trains coming from the opposite direction. 
    Around 2.40 pm, between Goregaon and Jogeshwari stations, they tried their stunt again. 
    Watching them, a man on the other local extended his hand. But Mohit and Bhavani realized that the train was hurtling at a great speed and they could get hurt. They ducked as the train approached. The hand of the traveller on the other train hit 26-year-old Maqbool Ansari, who lost his balance and fell on the tracks. 
    "The other commuters pinned down Mohit and Bhavani, and handed them to o u r p e r s o n n e l when the train stopped at Malad station. A few of our officers then went to the spot where Ansari had fallen and rushed him to Bhagwati Hospital. But he was severely injured and pronounced dead at the hospital," Karyakarte said. 
    Mohit and Bhavani have been arrested by the GRP on charges of negligence and Section 304 (A) of the Indian Penal Code, a bailable offence, has been slapped on them. 
    They were produced before a metropolitan court on Thursday and remanded to judicial custody. The GRP is checking whether they have any criminal antecedents. 
    While Mohit works at an imitation jewellery shop, Bhavani is employed with a private firm. Both hail from Rajasthan's Pali district and both are unmarried. 
    GRP officials said this is the first such case of its kind on the Western line where a commuter, who wasn't involved in a stunt, inadvertently died because of it. 
    The GRP will now be on the alert for commuters performing stunts, risking their lives as well as those of others. 
    The incident has prompted the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to plan a fresh crackdown on youths performing stunts on trains. 
Dangerous video that went viral 
In August 2011, a video of a young man and his friend performing extremely dangerous stunts in a moving suburban train, posted online, went viral. The video features youngsters 'skating' along railway platforms, slapping poles by dangerously leaning out of the train, leaping on to girders of a bridge and jumping back into the compartment — and all the while the train is in motion between Cotton Green and Reay Road TRAVELLING DANGEROUSLY, A CRIME 
WR now plans to intensify the awareness drive against dangerous travel 
Besides, it will deploy more people at key stations to keep a watch on stuntmen and those travelling dangerously on a train's roof or footboard Any person found travelling dangerously will be booked under Section 156 of the Indian Railway Act He can be fined Rs 500 or imprisoned for six months or both after being produced before the magistrate

1. Mohit and Bhavani Singh high-five passengers of trains running in opposite direction of their Borivli-bound local

2. Between Goregaon and Jogeshwari, a passenger in the opposite train extends his hand, but the duo ducks

3. The passenger who had extended his hand ends up hitting a random commuter, Maqbool Ansari, who loses his balance; he falls on tracks

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Citizens at risk as hawkers prevent access to rly stns

Patients Find It Difficult To Reach Hosps From Platforms

    Does a local problem like the hawker menace need to h ave t h e s t at e home minister's personal intervention to be solved? The easy resolution to the problem near the Dadar station and the lack of any solution at every other station area in the city seems to point to that. 
    What happened at Goregaon on Saturday, say residents across the city, is replicated at the busiest station areas across the city. From Borivli in the north to Parel in the heart of the island city, hawkers choke the narrow roads that lead away from the stations. 
    The Parel example is possibly the worst in the city. The station is less than half a kilometre from Mumbai's hospital hub. The zone has institutions like the Tata Memorial, TB, Wadia and KEM hospitals, where patients from all over the country pour in. But residents say not even a wheelchair, leave alone ambulances, can move from the station to the hospitals in the zone. 
    "It is cumbersome to walk near the station area in Parel. A patient on a wheelchair finds it difficult to enter this side due to the dense presence of illegal hawkers. There is no concept of footpaths and neither a fire engine nor an ambulance can enter. Considering that there are four hospitals in the vicinity, it is a serious issue," said Avinash Dhole, a Parel resident. 
    From Lucky Junction to Bandra station, the footpaths have been completely taken over by furniture sellers, said Anil Joseph, chairperson, Perry Road Residents' Association. "People cannot walk on these footpaths. The furniture sellers have actually turned their stalls into illegal showrooms." 
    Near Bandra station, it seems as if cobblers, juice makers and kebab sellers own the vicinity. "The approach roads to the station and the area in front of it are inundated with hawkers. This has been the situation for the past decade, except for a brief period when DCP KMM Prasanna was in charge and genuinely took action," Joseph said. 
    Not that there is no hope. At Dadar, the authorities were able to effectively deal with the problem. The case is an example of how things work if there is political will. An assault on a senior journalist in April and home minister R R Patil's subsequent intervention made the police and the BMC take up eviction of illegal hawkers around Dadar station on a war footing. 
    "We chalked out a programme on how to deploy vehicles. We prepared a duty chart for civic officials. Then we identified the main problem area," said assistant municipal commissioner (G-North) D Jain. "We learnt about godowns where goods were stored illegally and confiscated the ware. We removed 10 trucks of material. The unauthorized godowns were demolished. We got rid of the source."

MENACING THE STREETS: Hawkers near the Parel railway station (above). An illegal stall outside a police station in Bandra (below). Congestion on a typical road in Chembur (bottom)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cops want all rental deals reported Defaulting Tenants, Estate Agents & Landlords Face Action

Mumbai: Every rental deal, including sub-lets, will have to be reported to the nearest police station following several high-profile crimes in the western suburbs. The police have also warned people entering into leave and licence agreements that they should update the police or face action. 
    The deputy commissioner of police (operations) issued a temporary order effective from May 4, in which he told tenants, estate agents and landlords to report to the local police while entering into agreements for rental accommodation. The order will be valid for two months. On administrative grounds, the police issue such orders after regular intervals considering the threat perception. The order empowers the police to initiate action against defaulters. 
    It states that terrorists/ anti-social elements may seek hideouts in residential areas and there is every likelihood of a breach of peace and disturbance of public tranquility, and also there is grave danger to human life, health and safety and injury to public property. 
    The order says it is necessary that checks should be there on landlords/tenants so that terrorists/ anti-social elements in the guise of tenants "may not cause explosions, riots and shoot-outs", and that immediate action is necessary for their prevention. 
    The police officer said such orders have been in practice since long but for administrative reasons the DCP (operations) has to issue such orders after regular intervals. 
    The police have also told foreigners to furnish their name, nationality, passport and visa details to them. 
    Last month, the police arrested gangster Vijay Palande along with three accomplices from Andheri in a double murder case. The accused lived in a posh building in Andheri (W) after providing police fake identity details. The gang's activities were exposed when two members killed a senior citizen in Oshiwara and a society resident noticed them committing the crime. 
    A senior officer said that it was a preventive measure to curb criminal activities. "In case a tenant is involved in criminal activities, their details help us to trace them. Very often after the offence we spend few days to collect basic details of the suspect as they didn't provide details to the housing society and police" he said.

822 trees to be hacked in city for utility projects

Mumbai: In a move that could attract public criticism, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's Tree Authority committee passed 24 proposals to fell 822 trees across the city for utility projects on Monday. 
    Of the 822 trees, the civic body will cut down 223 in Mulund (E)—railway culvert to Jai Hind Colony— for widening a nullah. 
    The decision was taken after tree committee members recently visited the site. 
    The civic body said a survey of all the areas was done before the proposal was floated. In most cases, the trees are being felled for road work, widening of nullahs or laying water lines. Tree Authority members demanded that there must be proper scrutiny to ensure the trees have been transplanted. 
    Following demands from a few corporators, civic chief Sitaram Kunte told the civic administration to make a detailed report of all trees felled last year and the number transplanted so far. "We had demanded a detailed report of trees that have been cut and transplanted over the past one year. A proper database should be in place so that further studies on the city's tree population can be undertaken," said BJP leader and tree authority member Ameet Satam. 
    Several other demands were made by committee members. The civic body is also likely to make a detailed study of the number of trees felled over the past one year due to development projects like the Metro. "There is no information on the number of trees cut for development projects," added Satam. 
    On Tuesday, the BMC will embark on its pre-monsoon survey of vulnerable and dangerous trees. The annual trimming of trees will also begin from Tuesday. The tree authority members demanded that the exercise should be completed before the monsoon. Manisha Choudhry, tree authority member, said, "A ward-wise survey of dangerous trees that may cause damage this monsoon will begin soon." Members also passed a resolution that it would be mandatory for the committee to visit the site if more than 10 trees had to be cut. A former member of the tree authority said, "Often, under the guise of storm water drain widening, trees are sanctioned for cutting but the land is used for commercial purposes." 
Green Danger 

• Aug 25, '11: Milestone Capital CEO and MD Ved Prakash Arya died after a coconut tree fell on him at a municipal garden in Versova 

• July 18, '11: A woman and her six-month-old daughter died after a banyan tree fell on them in Nariman Point

Sunday, May 13, 2012

26/11: This time, a mock drill

Those awaiting long-distance trains at CST early on Sunday froze as a group of young men dressed like terrorist Ajmal Qasab stormed in around 2 am; until the Railways announced that it not a terror attack

    It was a déjà vu for many people at Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). Passengers waiting at the terminus to catch outstation trains early on Sunday thought, for a few moments, that it was another 26/11 kind of attack as they watched around 10 to 12 young men – dressed in clothes similar to the ones that terrorist Ajmal Qasab had worn that day in 2008 – and carrying assault rifles, 'stormed' into the station around 2 am. 
    Minutes later, another group – this one wearing battle fatigues of the state's newly formed elite counter-terror outfit, Force One, took up strategic positions. 
    It took an announcement on the railway public address system, that every bit of action at the station was part of a mock drill, to calm the passengers who, by then, had begun to panic, mistaking the action to be a real terror attack. 
    According to officials, it was not a very coordinated effort. The plan to carry out a mock drill in the suburban section of the stations – the first seven platforms – fell flat when the Force One teams were confronted with the sight of scores of photojournalists running around to take vantage positions to click from. 
    The mock drill had to be confined to the Main Line section – on platform No 10 – though officials later said that it would have been far better if mock drills could have been carried out on both suburban and Main Line sections of the sprawling terminus. 
    Senior railway officials, who were unaware of the mock drill, rushed within almost half an hour into the drill to ensure that panic on part of the passengers did not escalate into something drastic. 
    Several constables of Railway Protection Force (RPF) and officials took up the job of controlling the crowd of commuters. This, even as a few officials of the RPF and the Force One monitored the mock drill on the closed-circuit television system that covers the 18 platforms at CST. 
    The drill lasted for almost a couple of hours, from around 2 am to 4 am. 
    Force One officials refused to comment on the drill, saying it was a routine one to ensure that newer methods of counter-terror could de devised in real time.

Above: Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Qasab at CST on November 26, 2008 Left: One of the mock attackers at CST on Sunday

One of the mock terrorists scouts for possible 'targets'

A man hurriedly drags his son away from the 'terror' scene. It was at this spot that scores fell to terrorists' bullets over three years ago

A commuter at CST informs securitymen at the station about the presence of 'terrorists'

A Railway official, who by now has learnt that it is a mock drill, downs his office shutter

A staffer announces that it's a mock drill. On Nov 26, 2008, the presence of mind of a railway announcer helped save many lives

Horrified commuters look on as a gunman points to people around

Senior railway officials rushed to CST to ensure the mock drill does not result in any tragedy

Thursday, May 10, 2012

CAN YOU FEEL THE HEAT? Another Antarctic ice shelf under threat

450,000SqKm Shelf May Disappear By The End Of This Century Due To Warming

London: Scientists are predicting the disappearance of another vast ice shelf in Antarctica by the end of the century that will accelerate rising sea levels. 
    The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf fringing the Weddell Sea on the eastern side of Antarctica has so far not seen ice loss from global warming and much of the observation of melting has focused on the western side of the continent around the Amundsen Sea. But new research from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany says the 450,000-sq-km ice shelf is under threat. 
    "According to our calculations, this protective barrier will disintegrate by the end of this century," said Dr Harmut Hellmer, lead author of the study. 
    The huge ice shelves that float on the seas fringing Antarctica provide a buffer against warming waters eating away at the base of the much larger glaciers behind them that sit on the land. 
    "Ice shelves are like corks in the bottles for the ice streams behind them," said Hellmer. "They reduce the ice flow." 
    Hellmer and his team predict the melting of the Filchner-Ronne shelf could add up to 4.4mm per year to rising global sea levels. According to the latest estimates based on remote sensing data, global sea levels rose 1.5mm a year between 2003 and 2010 due to melting glaciers and ice shelves, the scientists say. 
    The research was funded by the EU's 'Ice2sea' programme, set up in the wake of the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that highlighted ice-sheets as the most significant remaining uncertainty in projections of rising sea levels. David Vaughan, who heads Ice2sea, said the findings prove that warming oceans are having the greatest impact on the ice sheets, as opposed to atmospheric changes. REUTERS

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