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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dark Age: 60 crore hit as power snaps in 19 states Life comes to standstill in half of India following northern and north-eastern grid failure

NEW DELHI The power crisis that hit northern India on Monday turned into a larger blackout a daylatertoaffectasmanyas19 states not just in the north but also in the east and northeast, paralysing essential services such as rail and metro operations,besidescausingmassive trafficsnarls. 

    "Gridincidentoccurredat1 pm, affecting the northern, eastern and northeastern grids. The system is under restoration," said the official website of the eastern grid, among such systems managed by the state-run Power System OperationCorpLtd. 
    The states affected on Tuesday were Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. 
    These states account for half of India's 1.2 billion population. 
    Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who had constituted a committee to probe the failure on Monday, attributed the collapse on the second straight day to overdrawing of power by some states and said efforts were on to fetch electricityfromotherregions. 
    "Alternative arrangements have been made. I have put all my men at work. We are getting power from western grid. Wewilltrytorestoreservicesof 
the Metro and the railways first,"Shindetoldreporters. 
    There was, however, little respite for some 300,000 rail passengers, who were stuck in over 300 trains across eight states, after the power failure crippled such operations across six railway zones in the country. 
    The Delhi Metro suspended services on all the six lines as power tripped for the second straight day. It normally operates over 2,700 trips a day, coveringatotalsome70,000km,to carry around 1.8 million passengersonaweekday. 
    In the national capital, and inmostothercities,trafficwas also severely affected as traffic signals tripped and caused major snarls at intersections. Some 4,000 traffic police personnel in Delhi were immediately deployed to bring some semblanceoforder. 
    Flights operations remainednormal. 
    Speaking to reporters in the evening, chairman and managing director of Power Grid Corp of India R N. Nayak, said close to 50 per cent of power had been restored in the northeastern region and 20 per cent inthenorth. 
    Nayak also said excess powerdrawnbyonestatehadacascading effect on the three grids. He, however, did not name which state had overdrawn power. The officials said every effort was being madetorestoresuppliesfully. 

At least 300 trains came to a grinding halt at various places in north and north-eastern regions due to the power failure, movement on the busy Delhi-Howrah route almost paralysed. 
    The affected trains included scores of long distance trains, Rajdhani and Shatabdi expresses, as well as suburban trains in Delhi and Kolkata, causing inconvenience to lakhs of passengers.

Traffic was thrown out of gear in the capital this afternoon when signals went blank following power failure across north India. 
    Huge traffic jams were reported from various parts of the capital, including Connaught Place, Ashoka Road and India Gate. "The city is without electricity in most of the areas. Traffic signals are not functioning due to power failure, said a top traffic officer.

Following the crisis, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee ordered all government offices to declare a holiday for the day and urged the private sector to the same to enable the people to go home and appealed to people to maintain calm.

300 coal miners trapped for hours 
KOLKATA Hundreds of coal miners were stranded on Tuesday in various coal mines across Assam and West Bengal after the blackout paralyzed elevators in the underground pits. 
    While 100 workers got stuck several feet below ground level in Assam, nearly 200 workers from government-owned Eastern Coalfields Limited were waiting to be rescued from mines in Bengal's Burdwan district . 
    Nildari Roy, a senior official at Eastern Coalfields Limited said 
they were waiting for the restoration of power. "There is no threat to the lives of the miners. There is no reason to panic," Roy said. 

Commuters at a Metro station in Delhi on Tuesday after services were disrupted

160 sorties failed but BMC to go for cloud seeding again ‘Past Mistakes To Be Corrected With Israeli Aid’

Mumbai: Having failed to make artificial rains despite 160 attempts in 2009, the civic body will resort to the same technique this year to make for the shortfall. On Thursday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will hold a video conference with officials from India Meteorological Department (IMD), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and Israeli firm Mekorot to decide on cloud seeding methods in catchment areas of lakes supplying water to the city. Mekorot will assist BMC with technological infrastructure like radar and aircraft. 
    Though civic officials admitted that last time they were unsuccessful, they said this year they are trying to correct the past mistakes. "This time we are doing it under expert guidance, as we had not sought help from agencies like IMD and IITM earlier. After discussing it with IITM they have come to a conclusion that cloud seeding is now a well established science. It's a proven thing that cloud seeding makes inefficient clouds efficient," additional municipal commissioner Rajiv Jalota said. 
    IITM has told BMC that Israel has extensively developed its technology on cloud seeding and has been using it for over 50 years. "Fortunately, we had a MoU with Israel's water and energy department in June, last year. Since the past 15 days, we have been in touch 
with Israel's national water company Mekorot to undertake this experiment," he said. 
    In 2009, attempts were made over Tansa and Modak Sagar lakes with the help of Hyderabad-based Agni Aviation and the civic body spent Rs 8 crore on the project. Civic officials from the hydraulic department claimed that the experiment failed as BMC was unable to calculate the difference in amount of rainfall in catchment areas after cloud seeding was carried out. 
    Jalota said that the last experiment in 2009 at Tansa and Modak Sagar was done with the help of an aircraft and 
also by burning silver iodide crystals. 
    This time around, the experiment will involve sprinkling of silver iodide on clouds over Tansa, Bhatsa, Upper Vaitarna and Modak Sagar lakes to induce precipitation and subsequently artificial rains. "The technicians will be sitting inside the aircraft to monitor every step. The cloud seeding will be done at the base of the cloud when the cloud is having an updraft and has a reflectivity between 30dbz and 35dbz. This is the time the cloud is best suited for cloud seeding. It takes half-an-hour for the clouds to be efficient and it rains. The average speed of the cloud 
will be 15 metres per second," Jalota said. 
    He said the civic body is in touch with Mekorot's Mumbai base in Bandra Kurla Complex. "The modalities will be worked out on Thursday, whether or not to use IMD's radar. We will also decide on whether Mekorot will provide us with just the aircraft or even manpower to operate the aircraft," said Jalota. 
    If all goes well, Mumbaikars will also get an additional 455 million litres per day, as gates of Middle Vaitarna dam will be opened and water from the dam will be released by September. 

Times View: 
Don't make water supply out to be rocket science he BMC should stop looking at outlandish ideas for maintaining supply to taps. Statistics indicate that Mumbai would not have to go through water cuts had the BMC simply turned its attention to plugging the leaks in the distribution chain and the widespread pilferage. The BMC has managed to keep the level of water cut down to 10 per cent this year but some long-term planning and attention to basic details could have done away with even this bit of pain.

Colaba rain 5th lowest in 50 yrs

Mumbai: Tuesday's evening showers may have come as a welcome respite to the rain-starved island city but overall in July, Colaba continued to remain dry, recording the fifth lowest rainfall in 50 years. Met department data shows that Colaba recorded 325mm rainfall in July—the least in the past five decades was in 2002 when 

it recorded only 103.5mm. 
    Overall this season, Colaba has got 579.6mm rainfall, a deficit of 55% from the average 1,290mm that it usually receives. "Anything above 26% in deficit is a meteorological drought," said N Y Apte, deputy director general 
of India Meteorological Department (IMD), Mumbai. But a meteorological drought in Mumbai does not hold, as there is no agriculture here, he said. 
    "Mumbai gets its water supply from the catchment areas, which are all outside the city. The rainfall in these areas is what really affects the city. All the rainfall in Mumbai goes into the sea," Apte said. 
    On Tuesday, between 8.30am and 8.30pm, Colaba received 9.6mm of rainfall. As for the suburbs, it has seen more rains in July, with Santa Cruz recording nearly 620mm rainfall. Overall this season, there was a deficit of 32% with 927.8mm recorded against an average of 1,359mm rainfall. Between 8.30am and 8.30pm on Tuesday, Santa Cruz recorded 4.8mm of rainfall. 
Met dept says rains likely for next two days 
Mumbai: Though the city has seen scanty rainfall this season, weather bureau officials said there might still be time enough for the monsoon to just about reach its normal mark. On an average, Colaba sees 2,319mm rainfall in the monsoon season that runs from June to September, while Santa Cruz gets 2,670mm. "There have been no significant systems over the Konkan coast. Even the offshore trough, which runs from Konkan to Kerala coasts, has not been strong enough for a long stretch. All these reasons together are responsible for lack of rainfall over the city," NY Apte of IMD said. 
    Tuesday's rains that were accompanied by gusty winds were not because of any particular system. "There has been some strengthening of winds, because of which the city is witnessing these showers. However, it is not likely to last more than a day or two," said V K Rajeev, director of weather forecast at IMD. The met department predicted occasional spells of rain or thundershowers in city and suburbs with heavy rainfall in some areas for the next two days.

Hundreds of millions without power in India

Passengers wait at a railway station in Delhi, India (31 July 2012) Trains ground to a halt across the country, leaving passengers stranded at railway stations

Hundreds of millions of people have been left without electricity in northern and eastern India after a massive power breakdown.

More than half the country has been left without power after three grids collapsed - one for a second day.

Hundreds of trains have come to a standstill and hospitals are running on backup generators.

The country's power minister has blamed the crisis on states drawing too much power from the national grid.

The breakdowns in the northern, eastern, and north-eastern grids mean around 600m people have been affected in 20 of India's states.

Traffic jams

In a statement on national TV on Tuesday evening, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said he had appealed to states to stop trying to take more than their quota of power.

Continue reading the main story

"Start Quote

India has one of the lowest per capita rates of consumption of power in the world ... this is nothing compared to say, Canada"

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image of Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas India correspondent

"I have also instructed my officials to penalise the states which overdraw from the grid," he said.

Media reports in India have suggested that Uttar Pradesh is among the states that government officials have been blaming for the grid collapse.

But officials in the state denied this, saying there was "no reason to believe that any power operations in Uttar Pradesh triggered it".

Anil K Gupta, the chairman of the state's power company, called for "further investigation to ascertain the real cause".

Also on Tuesday it was announced that Mr Shinde had been promoted to the post of home minister, in a widely anticipated cabinet reshuffle.

'Complete mess'

By late on Tuesday, officials said the north-eastern grid was fully up and running. The northern grid was running at 75% capacity and the eastern at 40%.

A man has a haircut by candle light in Calcutta, India (31 July 2012) Businesses had to use generators or candles to keep working once it got dark

In Delhi, Metro services were halted and staff evacuated trains. Many traffic lights in the city failed, leading to massive traffic jams.

Much of the country's railway network has started moving again, although a full service is not expected for many hours and there is a huge backlog to clear.

The failure on the northern grid on Monday also caused severe disruption and travel chaos across northern India.

One shopworker in Delhi, Anu Chopra, 21, said: "I can understand this happening once in a while but how can one allow such a thing to happen two days in a row?

"It just shows our infrastructure is in a complete mess. There is no transparency and no accountability whatsoever."

In eastern India, around 200 miners were trapped underground as lifts failed, but officials later said they had all been rescued.

Ageing grid

Addressing a news conference earlier on Tuesday, the chairman of the Power Grid Corporation of India said the exact cause of the power cut was unclear, he said, but that it appeared to be due to the "interconnection of grids".

Continue reading the main story

"Start Quote

This is also the season of no rain when humidity is high, the heat is sweltering and people get taken ill"

End Quote
Narayan Bareth BBC News, Jodphur

"We have to see why there was a sudden increase in load... we will make sure that such a situation is not repeated," he said.

"Our message to people is that they are in safe hands, we have been in the job for years."

After Monday's cut, engineers managed to restore electricity to the northern grid by the evening, but at 13:05 (07:35 GMT) on Tuesday, it collapsed again.

The eastern grid failed around the same time, officials said, followed by the north-eastern grid.

Areas affected include Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan in the north, and West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand in the east.

Smriti Mehra, who works at the Bank Of India in Delhi, said it had to turn customers away.

"There is no internet, nothing is working. It is a total breakdown of everything in our office," she told AFP.

Traffic jam in Delhi, India (31 July 2012) The failure of traffic lights has led to huge traffic jams in Delhi

Across West Bengal, power went at 13:00 and all suburban railway trains on the eastern railways ground to a halt from Howrah and Seladah stations, the BBC's Rahul Tandon reports from Calcutta.

However, the city is not badly affected as it is served by a private electricity board, our correspondent adds.

Power cuts are common in Indian cities because of a fundamental shortage of power and an ageing grid - the chaos caused by such cuts has led to protests and unrest on the streets in the past.

But the collapse of an entire grid is rare - the last time the northern grid failed was in 2001.

India's demand for electricity has soared in recent years as its economy has grown but its power infrastructure has been unable to meet the growing needs.

Correspondents say unless there is a huge investment in the power sector, the country will see many more power failures.

Are you in the affected regions? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below.

Monday, July 30, 2012

H1N1 death in Navi Mum, toll in Maha rises to 30

Mumbai: A 20-year-old pregnant woman from Raigad succumbed to H1N1 in Navi Mumbai last week, taking the state toll for the infection this year to 30—the highest in the country. This was also the third death in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) this month. 

    The latest victim, Soniya Pohal, was brought to D Y Patil Hospital on Saturday after her symptoms—fever and cold—intensified. Officials from Raigad said she had also developed breathlessness. Doctors said Pohal, who died on Sunday, did not have any underlying illness. 
    Epidemiologist Dr Pradeep Awate said the woman was pregnant, which made her prone to the infection. She is the fifth pregnant woman to succumb to H1N1 in the state this year. "Most of the H1N1 patients who died were (either pregnant or) suffering from conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiac ailments," Dr Awate said. In all, 14 people had pre-existing ailments, besides the five women who were pregnant. The remaining 11 individuals were healthy and fell to the infection alone. 
    While experts are still 
looking for answers to why the virus is back in circulation this year, the count of positive H1N1 cases across the state as well as MMR has been steadily rising. Between April and July, 477 positive cases were detected, of which 41% were in Mumbai. But the city has been lucky to not report a single death since 2010. The BMC's epidemiologist Dr Mangala Gomare maintains that heightened awareness among people and alertness among health authorities have kept the infection under control in Mumbai. 
    Still, city doctors say pregnant women need to be vigilant and seek medical help as soon as symptoms of the viral infection start manifesting.

Motorists find newer ways to evade cops

Mumbai: Till July 30, the traffic police have penalized 7,389 drunk motorists, but given the rise in accidents, those driving under the influence of alcohol seem to find newer ways to dodge policemen manning streets. 

    According to a senior officer, people have started going to the lengths of using social networking sites to alert their friends about policemen's nakabandis set up at different points of the city to nab drunk motorists. He admitted that though the traffic police had been conducting checks at newer spots, but it was not possible for them to catch every person driving drunk; the number of such offenders far outnumbered those penalized, he said. 
    "Motorists should realize that whatever we are doing is to protect the lives of people. They should act more responsibly," additional commissioner of police (traffic) Brijesh Singh said. 
    Of the 7,389 motorists penalized, 2,985 were sentenced to simple imprisonment and the licences of 2,468 were suspended. The rest were let off after slapped with fines. 
    The officer said in an effort to ensure safety for everyone on roads, families, friends and commercial establishments like hotels and bars should come forward to stop people from taking to wheels after a few rounds of drinks. "It's for their own safety. During New Year's celebrations, we had instructed all such establishments to request 
their patrons not to drive their vehicles drunk. Our effort paid off to some extent as not a single serious accident was reported that day," Singh said. He suggested that NGOs should also help the police spread awareness among people. 
    The police have also put up hoardings at different places, alerting residents about the dangers of drunk driving. "We are not doing all this for our betterment, but for society. Those driving 
drunk are not only compromising their own safety but they are also putting others' lives at risk. They should realize the seriousness of the offence," an officer said. "We don't feel happy about penalizing motorists, our only concern is to control drunk driving accidents that claim lives." He added that people should remember that if they were convicted of causing death for being drunk at the wheel, they could end up spending 10 years in jail. 

Jan 30, 2010 | US national Nooriya Haveliwala crashed her Honda CRV into a police team on an anti-drunk driving nakabandi, killing a subinspector and a biker. Four constables were also injured in the accident. The accident took place at Marine Lines. She was allegedly inebriated at the time of the accident. Haveliwala was booked under IPC section 304 for culpable homicide not amounting to murder as well as other charges 
Case Status | The trial is underway in a special NDPS court. She is out on bail since the chargesheet in the case was not filed within the stipulated period
Nov 12, 2006 | Speeding down Carter Road in Bandra, Alistair Pereira lost control of a Toyota Corolla, ran it onto the footpath and smashed through tin shacks. Five labourers and two children sleeping on the footpath were killed and eight injured. Tests showed he was drunk 
Case Status | In January this year, the Supreme Court upheld a three-year jail sentence awarded by the Bombay HC. The HC had extended a six-month term awarded by the trial court. Pereira was convicted for the deaths of seven people and is currently serving his sentence 

Sept 28, 2002 | Salman Khan's Land Cruiser allegedly rammed into a bakery on Hill Road in Bandra, killing one worker and injuring four others who were sleeping outside. The actor was booked under section 304 of the Indian Penal Code for culpable homicide not amounting to murder Case Status | Khan challenged a sessions court's decision before the Bombay HC, which lowered the charge to Section 304-A, for causing death by rash and negligent act. After the high court order, the case went to the magistrate's court, where it is pending

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Booze, speed killed 70k last year Maha Tops List In Deaths Due To Speeding, Guj Saw More Fatal Mishaps Than In ’10

New Delhi: Drunk driving and speeding continue to be the major causes for road accidents and fatalities, claiming around 70,000 lives last year. 

    Speeding claimed 59,923 lives last year in comparison to 56,203 in 2010, whereas driving under the influence of alcohol claimed 10,553 lives in 2011. 
    Maharashtra is on top of the heap for maximum number of fatalities due to speeding, according to road accident data released by the transport research wing of the highways ministry. Tamil Nadu and Gujarat reported more fatal accidents last year in comparison to 
2010. In Gujarat, there were 500 more deaths due to speeding in 2011. The figure stood at 4,898 in 2010. 
    "Cases of speeding leading to fatal accidents are on the rise in Gujarat. This could be due to significant improvement in almost all 
the roads across the state. Senior engineers from the state had also raised this issue seeking immediate measures to slowdown traffic," said a ministry official. 
    In case of accidents caused due to intake of alcohol/drugs, UP topped 
the list, registering a fourfold spurt in fatalities in comparison to 2010. At least 4,635 died in the country's largest state, and 4,706 accidents were caused, due to drunk driving. 
    UP also overtook many southern states in the number of total road fatalities — 21,512 lives were lost in 2011 against 15,175 in 2010. Barring Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Bihar, almost all other states registered more fatalities. 
    The highways ministry report, which for the first time came out with an analysis of accidents classified according to educational qualification, shows that 35% of all accidents across the country were caused by driv
ers who have completed matriculation and above, while 19% accidents were caused by those who have studied upto class VIII. Now, passing class VIII is the minimum qualification required to obtain a driving licence. 
    "The government had revised the minimum educational qualification for drivers of all categories of vehicles so that they should be able to read the material on traffic norms and basics of driving while undergoing training. However, nothing has been done to ensure that driving licence applicants undergo proper training," said S P Singh of the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training, an advocacy group.

Citizens suffer as garbage agencies fail to clean up act

Mumbai: The 'mobilization period' for garbage collection between old and new contractors is taking a toll on the garbage situation in the city. For months now, garbage collection in many wards has taken a hit, with residents alleging that newly-assigned contractors do not have adequate equipment for carrying out the daily chore. Heaps of garbagelieunattended at various collection points in four wards: F-North (Sion-King's Circle), N (Vikhroli), S (Bhandup) and T (Mulund). 
    "The new agencies need a mobilization period before they can take up the work. We areensuring thatour vehicles are deployed in adequate numbers, but it'll take some time for the issue to be resolved. All the agencies have been asked to take help from other agencies till new equipment is bought," said a senior civic official from the solid waste management department. 
    The mismatch between the current requirement of compactors and the actual numbers deployed in N, S and T wards has worsened the situation. For instance, of the 
eightcompactors requiredfor T ward, the new agency has only one; while four earth movers are required, only one is currently being used. 
    Congress MLC Charan Singh Sapra said, "There is a huge mismatch between the required machinery and the actual numbers deployed on the ground. BMC vehicles are also notbeing used,whichhas aggravated the situation. The civic administration should haveforeseen this problem instead of making residents go through this." 

    Partly responsible for this issue are members of the standing committee of the BMC, who delayed giving their approval for new garbagecollection contracts.The contracts had expired on May 31. The members had refused to renewcontracts asthecivic administration hadn't made substantial changes to the new contracts. The BMC had then floated a proposal to extend contracts of existing contractors to cover the 2-6 month mobilization period required by new contractors.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

‘Ecstasy pills cause memory damage’

London: Taking ecstasy, a popular party drug, even in recreational amounts can cause specific memory damage, scientists have warned. 
    The memory lapses are similar to those that occur in the early onset of dementia. Ecstasy, also known by its chemical name MDMA, is a Class A drug. 
    Studies showed that even ten pills of the party drug a year can cause specific memory impairment. 

    As the nature of the impairments may not be immediately obvious to the user, it is possible people wouldn't get the signs that they are being damaged by drug use until it is too late. 
    According to the study, new ecstasy users who took ten or more ecstasy pills over their first year of use showed decreased function of their immediate and short-term memory compared with their pre-ecstasy performance. PTI

City got fraction of 26/7 rain this time Colaba Faces A Deficit of 632mm, Santa Cruz 346mm

July 26 this year was a complete contrast to that fateful day seven years ago when incessant rains and the consequent floods left a nightmarish memory in every Mumbaikar's mind. 

    On July 26, 2005, the city received 944mm rainfall in 24 hours. This Thursday, Colaba got just 1.8mm and Santa Cruz, 0.9mm between 8.30am and 5.30pm. 
    The current rainfall situation appears grim for Mumbai. As of Thursday, the total rainfall for Colaba and Santa Cruz was 541mm and 887.6 mm, respectively. According to the meteorological department, Colaba faces a deficit of 632mm and Santa Cruz, 
    "The offshore trough over the Konkan-to-Kerala coast has become very feeble, because of which rainfall activity over the Konkan coast has weakened," said V K Rajeev, director of weather forecast at the Indian Me
teorological Department (IMD), Mumbai. "Rainfall activity has, however, picked up in Madhya Maharashtra and Marathwada since the past three to four days because a cyclonic system is active over these areas. But Mumbai, which falls in the north Konkan region, has not been receiving much rainfall." 
    In the 2005 deluge, more than 500 people were killed in the worst-ever floods to hit Mumbai, Konkan, Thane and Navi Mumbai. Most deaths —273—were reported from Mumbai alone. Infrastructure losses were estimated at Rs 1,000 crore, livestock at Rs 100 crore, housing at Rs 300 crore and crops at Rs 600 crore after the deluge. 

    Varsha Tawde, a social worker who had conducted several mental health camps post floods, said the fear of disaster persisted for long. "For the next twothree years after the 26/7 deluge, every time it rained heavily, it reminded people of the floods. In slum areas, 
which had lost the most number of lives, people were scared and depressed for months thereafter. The biggest problem later was the loss of important documents," she said. 
    Psychiatrist Dr Harish 
Shetty recalls having to counsel parents whose children had died in cars. "I had met three set of parents who had lost their children after being locked in cars. It took several sessions for the parents to come to terms with such a death," he said. 
    The situation, as of now, does not seem to be encouraging for the city, which may face major water cuts if monsoon does not buck up soon. "If a low pressure area forms over the Konkan 
area soon, the wind speed will start increasing, and that would bring good rainfall over the city. But, as of now, Mumbai is only likely to receive passing showers for the next two days," said Rajeev.

FOR A FARE RIDE Errant auto drivers stay a step ahead of RTO

Meters Tampered Despite Stricter Punishments, Steeper Fines

    The rampant tampering of autorickshaw meters in Mumbai shows how errant drivers always manage to stay a step ahead of law enforcing authorities. Eleven months of checking by the RTO and stiffer punishments made no difference at all, drivers still tamper meters for a quick buck. 
    "Whenever we had drives against meter tampering, especially between September and December last year and in June-July, the cartel of notorious drivers changed their area of operation to hoodwink authorities," said an RTO official. For example, those who oper
ated in Andheri would shift to Borivli or Bandra if there were checks in Andheri. Sources said the drivers had their own network of informants who would "tip them off " about RTO checks. "It is sometimes difficult to nab the bigger offenders," an official said. 
    Drivers often bribe a few traffic cops collectively so they can haggle with commuters outside auto stands, sources said. These drivers take more than three passengers and charge "fixed" inflated fares. 
    Earlier this year, when fines were doubled, most drivers rigged mechanical meters and made at least Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 a day. A driver, who did not wish to be named, said, "I 
have a tampered meter, but we need money to pay the fines. We keep Rs 4,000 aside and continue earning more. If caught, we simply pay the fine and are back on the road next day." 
    To curb this menace, e-meters were made mandatory for existing autos. The drivers then identified the loophole in the new rule: "Only those autos who come for fitness tests will switch to e-meters." Before the rule could be implemented from April 1, thousands of autos got fitness tests done in March so the next test would be mandatory only in March 2013. Till that time, these drivers can continue with old meters and fleece passengers. 
    Some drivers who installed e-meters bribed meter mechan
ics to tamper the gadgets even after the RTO sealed them as "tamper proof". The transport commissioner then issued orders that FIRs be registered against drivers and they be arrested. But arrests too made no difference as one could easily be out on bail. Cancelling permits seems to be the only big deterrent, officials said. 
    Shridhar Nayak, a commuter, said, "The RTO should catch offenders and cancel permits. If they are thrown out of business, they will be pinched where it hurts the most." Activist Shirish Deshpande from Mumbai Grahak Panchayat said, "The cheats don't deserve to be self employed if they fleece passengers." 

Decision on Hakim panel report soon 
The state government may decide on the Hakim committee report on fares for autos and taxis this weekend. A final draft of the report will be submitted to government on Friday. The report will have a new formula for future fare hikes for autos and taxis. Sources say there could be at least a Rs 2-hike in fares soon. TNN

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


The sustainable management of natural resources is not just important, it is also the need of the hour. We need to value the forests, that yield maximum natural resources for the humankind, more than the land below it

    The choice between development and sustainability is one issue that gets staged at every policy debate. Development has emerged as the epicenter of all discussions and debates these days but the buck stops at 'development for whom and development for what.' Caught in this quagmire of debate is the real harbinger of wealth—our forests. And, the irony is that we still value the land below the forests more than the forest itself and our entire cost-benefit analysis gets based on the value of products from the forest and not on the life it nurtures. It is a sorry fact that our forests are now left orphan because of our benign neglect. A more dreamy fact is that forests have always been on the foregrounds of our cultural landscapes. In fact, the idea of management of forests dates back to the scripts of Upanishads and Vedas.The vedic literature spells out the connection between the wholeness of community and conservation of forests. The postulates of today's forest management paradigm like Joint Forest Management and Sustainable Forest Management finds lucid description in the vedic literature. Even the villages had demarcated forest lands as 'forests for protection' and 'forests for production.' 
    The first thought that occurs is whether policies base their focus on the overarching issues of economics and ecology. And, for how long will we keep serving the big lie of development at the expense of ecology and keep dishing out the hereditary disease of poverty to millions of Indians dependent entirely on forests. The broth for this debate had been boiling for years but still the ingredients have not been mixed well to get the serve ready. But, with millions of tribals yearning for a decent living, accentuated rate of forest land degradation, alarming rate of wildlife crime and the daddy of all problems—
climate change wearing a questioned look; it is pertinent that we all put our brains in the right place to have this broth cooked well before it loses its taste.
    The more apparent and the larger question is about the stakes involved in this. 'Whose forests' and 'forests for whom' are not easy questions and can make any government look lame and sound dumb. In fact, these are not just questions; they define the entire paradigm.They catapult a bigger question as to how to engage the communities living in and around the forests in the conser vation and management of forests, while at the same time, investing them out of poverty.This would ensure an answer to the evilest of all the problems—
poverty and climate change. 
The Latin American countries stage an example before us—Payment for Eco-System Services (PES). In Mexico, a part of the revenue earned out of eco-tourism in the Maya forests goes back to the community for keeping the forests intact. Similarly, in Costa Rica the community living on the lowlands pays the community living on the highlands for conserving the stream. With this scheme in place it is ensured that the community conserving the natural systems gets incentivised for that. The message is clearsomething that has ecological value attached with it should earn high market value. This is one step forward in monetising ecological value. 

    A number of 'payment for ecosystem services' initiatives have shown the possibilities of valuing and paying for forest ecosystem services i.e., carbon sequestration, water-quality, biodiversity conservation and soil conservation. On the similar lines, USA Government brought a policy standard of 'Wetland Banking' in place to ensure that every wetland lost due to infrastructure activity is compensated by the same size or greater the size of the area lost. Different variables like bio-diversity lost, land productivity and edaphic conditions are considered in this.This is in line with the CAMPA protocol or the compensatory afforestation done to restore the amount of tree cover lost due to any infrastructural activity. 
    The mood has definitely changed from 'who cares about forests' to 'who doesn't care about forests.' But still, what we miss is a definite stand. After myriads of debates and countless actions been taken, we seem to be eyeing at a convincing end, but attaining a firm stand is more than romancing this ecological capital. These policy issues have to take the roots. 
    Further, the concern is now also being shifting towards conservation of the last left forests of the world,the REDD+ (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is now attracting more attention and evoking some reasonable debate. With the alarming rate of deforestation and it conversely translating into GHG (Green House Gases) emissions (forest deforestation and degradation accounts to about 20 per cent of GHG emissions), the policy focus needs to shift to deforestation, degradation of forests and Land Use Patterns (LULUCF-land use-land use change and forestry). The bigger fear is the implication of forest loss/conversion on water resources, soil pattern and micro-climate of the place which directly affects the communities dependent directly/indirectly on forests. 
    —Bhomik Shah is Manager-Pro - 
    gramme at Partners in Change and Akash 
    Mehrotra is Manager at Sambodhi 
    Research and Communications Pvt Ltd

1K litres of adulterated milk seized in Malad

14 Arrested, Accused Operated From Slum

 Look closely at your milk packet seal the next time it's delivered at your doorstep, chances are it has been tampered with. The police, along with the Food & Drugs Administration (FDA), arrested 14 people from Malad (W) early on Wednesday, with more than 1,000 litres of adulterated milk. 

    The kingpin, Raju (35), is on the run. He had earlier been arrested in February 2011 in another milk adulteration case. 
    The accused, which included a few women, were arrested in a joint operation by the FDA and the crime branch control around 

4.30am. Around 70 cops were involved in the operation. 
    "Male members of the gang would buy branded milk packets from company outlets and take them to a slum at Bangur Nagar. There, women would slit open a side of the packet and remove up to one third of the milk, replacing it with water. The adulterated milk would then be distributed by male members in housing societies and restaurants in the area adjacent to Inorbit Mall and Evershine Nagar in Malad," said senior 
inspector Rakesh Sharma of the crime branch control. Empty milk packets of various leading brands have been recovered. According to the police, the accused are from Andhra Pradesh but have been staying at Bangur Nagar for four to five months. Six motorbikes have been recovered from the gang, including one used by Raju. 
    The other accused are Banja Konda (25), Malaiya Bolam (35), Yadamma Bolam (30), Kolamma Konda (32), Venkatesh Gundagoni (36), 
Renuka Babu (40), Yadava Babu (48), Malaiya Kolam (28), Renu Mupida (26), Bharat Patel (44), Venkatesh Gundagoni (36), Ashok Konda (26), Menaka Konda (24) and Machhendra Suryavanshi (45). All have been handed over to the Bangur Nagar police and will be produced before a metropolitan court on Thursday. 
    "Residents had been complaining about adulterated milk. We have been planning the raid for sometime and conducted it after receiving 
specific information," said an official. 
    "Buyers must closely observe if the horizontal and vertical sealing of milk packets have been tampered with," said K V Sankhe, joint commissioner, Food & Drugs Administration. 
    Ashwin Bhadri of Equinox Labs added, "Buyers can come to know if their milk has been adulterated if it clots during boiling or if there's a drastic change in the milk's colour while making curds or other products." 


WHERE | Police raid slum at Bangur Nagar, Malad (W) ACTION TAKEN |13, including 5 women, arrested SEIZED | 1,063 litres of adulterated milk, empty branded milk packets, six motorcycles 
CHARGES | Accused booked under Indian Penal Code for "adulteration of food or drink intended for sale", "cheating" and "using a false property mark". Also booked under Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 
See if the horizontal or vertical sealing of your milk packets are tampered with In most cases, tampering is done at the corner of the packet Adulterators make a tiny slit from where they remove milk They seal the packet with the help of a candle, after adding some water to it Portion where the sealing has been burned with candle is smooth, compared to other portions of the sealing which are rough and irregular 
Adulterated milk clots during boiling There's a drastic change in colour of milk while making curds or other products 
ADULTERANTS | Urea, bicarbonate, starch, salt, detergents, water, formalin, caustic soda, sodium chloride, skimmed milk powder, sugar

Malad residents have been complaining about adulterated milk being supplied to them

The accused operate from a slum behind a shoe showroom in Bangur Nagar, Malad (W)

Male members of the gang buy branded milk packets from company outlets

At the slum, women will slit open a packet, remove some milk and replace it with water

The men then distribute adulterated milk in housing societies and restaurants

39 of 223 wells in city dried up

Mumbai: The BMC conducted asurvey of wells in 16 city wards and found that 39 of 223 wells have gone dry. Of the 207 wells equipped with hand-pumps, 19 are not functioning. There are 282 wells in private societies, of which 56 have dried up. 
    The civic body has been meeting Meteorological department officials to discuss the possibility of cloud seeding to boost rainfall. TNN

Town roads deadlier than city streets Traffic Rules, Control Check Fatal Mishaps In Metros

New Delhi: The chances of dying in a road accident in car-crazy Ludhiana in Punjab is 30 times higher than densely populated Mumbai, and two times more than in the national capital that has the highest vehicular count in the country. 
    A total 294 lives were snuffed out in Ludhiana in 444 road accidents last year in comparison to 563 fatalities in 25,471 accidents in Mumbai during the same period. 
    The severity of accidents — calculated on the basis of fatalities per 100 accidents — shows that accidents in small cities with sizeable population of high-speed and top-end vehicles were more fatal in comparison to bigger metros. 
    "There is some link between speeding and drunk driving in Ludhiana. But we expect fatalities will reduce in the next few years because of the ongoing road safety campaign conducted by the World Health Organization," said a road transport and highways ministry official. At least 66 people died in every 100 accidents. 
    The number of people dying in every 100 accidents was equally alarming in Durgapur-Asansol belt (62.5%) in West Bengal, Dhanbad (59.4%) in Jharkhand, Varana
si (51.4%), Agra (48.7%) and even in Ghaziabad (48.2%) and Meerut (43.3%) in the National Capital Region (NCR). 
    These figures were released by the transport research wing (TRW) of road transport and highways ministry. On the contrary, the number of fatal accidents in terms of severity was much less in other big metros like Bengaluru, Delhi and Kolkata. 
    "The trend of fatalities shows that there is some check on deaths in big cities. This is thanks to better enforcement of traffic rules whereas this is very less or almost missing in smaller cities and in rural areas," said an official. 
    Taking note of the disturbing trend, highways minister C P Joshi has asked officials to come out with a scientific study to suggest the speed limit for different types of roads, and the kind of vehicles that should ply on a particular category of road. The TRW report of 2011 has put the total fatalities at 1.42 lakh, which TOI had first reported on June 10. 
    But road safety experts say that the annual accident reports serve little purpose. "These don't help in formulation of any policy. There is no clarity on the causative factors of accidents. You have more fatalities per 100 accidents in Ludhiana and in other smaller cities people usually don't report minor accidents. We get the right figure only from major cities and Kerala," said Rohit Baluja, a member of UN Road Safety Collaboration.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Byculla most unhealthy, Bandra is next: Praja

 Wh e n i t comes to healthy living, Byculla was the most unhealthy of the lot with the area coming up top on sensitive diseases with Bandra following it, according to a white paper released by Praja Foundation. 

    The NGO that conducted a survey of households across Mumbai with a sample size of 15,191 said the findings showed that healthwise, Byculla with a 4.13 lakh population was the worst assembly constituency with an estimated one-in-three or 34.1% households suffering from malaria last year. Bandra—both west and east—and Magathane fared worse when it came to malaria cases, with one in four households having contracted the disease but overall, Byculla ranked high on other sensitive diseases like tuberculosis, hypertension and diabetes. 
    An estimated 26.1% of households had malaria cases in Bandra in the past one year, with Magathane having 25.7% and 21% in Andheri. 

    Madhukar Chavan, member of legislative assembly from Byculla constituency, said the area has many problems—sprawling slums and unhygienic conditions—be
cause of which the number of diseases have been high. "Because the slum population is high, the hygiene conditions are not very good. The slum areas also lack amenities like sanitation and toilets. The BMC needs to pay a little more attention to the area. If it is kept clean, the number of diseases will automatically go down," MLA Chavan said. 
    "The sheer number of people in the city, especially in the slums, makes it impossible to control the communicable diseases," said a senior doctor from the medicine department of KEM Hospital. 
    The report revealed that the areas also ranked high in not only communicable diseases like tuberculosis, but also lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension. With the sedentary lifestyle that Mumbaikars are leading, the numbers of diabetes and hypertension cases are bound to increase, said doctors. 
    "Fast food and lack of exercise have ignited the genetic tendency of citizens to suffer from diabetes. We already have a generation suffering from pre-diabetes. If this is not brought under control, then the next generation is going to suffer worse," said Dr Hemant Thacker, who consults at Jaslok and Breach Candy Hospitals.

Dengue cases double in 3 years, malaria rises 71%

City Laid Low As Cholera Too Rears Its Head

Mumbai: The city is fast becoming a hotbed for ailments and diseases. From dengue to malaria and even cholera, sensitive diseases are on the rise, putting at risk the lives of nearly 1.24 crore Mumbaikars. 

    Official data from civicrun hospitals alone show a 176% rise in dengue cases in 2011-12, while the number of those affected by malaria saw a 71% increase from 2008-09. Cholera cases—178, a rise of 85%—add to the medical nightmare that's been officially recorded. While experts are surprised by the cholera cases, BMC officials admit that it has been kept under wrapsas its mere occurrence could attract international travel sanctions. Cholera is highly infectious and can spread within the community in a few hours. 
    What is even more worrying is that these figures 
could just be the tip of the iceberg as it does not take into account people getting treated at private hospitals and clinics, according to Praja Foundation that surveyed around 15,000 households in the city. 'Survey raises many red flags' 
Mumbai: Praja Foundation, an NGO, conducted a survey of 15,000 households in the city to determine the state of the citizens' health. In its white paper, Praja said that if private healthcare services were taken into account, an estimated 3.9 lakh people were affected by malaria in 2011-12, or in other words there were 148 cases per 1,000 households. The official figure is only 29,828 cases of malaria but there were 64 deaths reported in 2011 alone. 
    Dr Hemant Thacker, who consults at Jaslok and Breach Candy Hospitals, said the reason why dengue cases have been going up was due to the virus that spreads the disease. "Dengue is caused by 
a virus, while malaria is caused by a parasite called plasmodium. Though the lifespan of a virus is only 5-15 days, due to sudden weather changes, the virus remains active causing dengue," he said, adding that the BMC has been able to control malaria cases in the city. 
    "Our report on the state of health of Mumbai raises several red flags. The survey revealed that more than 30% 
of households spend 11% or more of their annual income on hospitals and medical costs. The survey also shows that almost 80% Mumbaikars did not have a medical insurance. Also, 75% of Mumbaikars use private sources, hence, there is a need for a strong mechanism to collect data from them." said Nitai Mehta, founder trustee of Praja Foundation. 
    BMC health officer Dr Arun Bamne said malaria and diarrhoea come under non-notifiable diseases, meaning the private hospitals do not notify the BMC when they get patients suffering from these ailments. "We have not received the Praja Foundation report yet, so it will not be right to comment on the report," he said.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rain storms kill at least 37 in Beijing

Rain storms kill at least 37 in Beijing
Beijing:    Officials have raised the death toll to at least 37 in the heaviest rainstorm to hit Beijing in six decades, and dozens of other storm deaths have been reported elsewhere in China.

The rain on Saturday night knocked down trees in Beijing and trapped cars and buses in waist-deep water in some areas. A statement from the city government late on Sunday said 25 people drowned, six were killed when houses collapsed, one was hit by lightning and five were electrocuted by fallen power lines.

The official China Daily newspaper reported on Monday that rain and flooding caused damages of at least 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion), with 60,000 people evacuated from their homes.

The official Globe Times said on Monday that it was the heaviest rainstorm in the capital in 61 years.

It was the heaviest on record in Fangshan district in the southwest of the city, which received 460 millimeters (18.4 inches) of rain on Saturday, according to the weather bureau. The agency also said suburban Pinggu district got 100.3 millimeters (4 inches) of rain in one hour.

A flash flood in Fangshan stranded 104 primary school students and nine teachers at a military training site, Xinhua said. They were taken to safety.

Elsewhere, six people were killed by rain-triggered landslides in Sichuan province in the west, Xinhua News Agency said, citing disaster officials.

Four people died in Shanxi province in the north when their truck was swept away by a rain-swollen river. In neighboring Shaanxi province, state media said at least eight people died and 17 were missing after heavy rains hit.

China suffers flooding and dozens of storm-related deaths every summer during its rainy season, but such a heavy downpour in relatively dry Beijing is unusual.

The capital's skies were clear on Monday, with traffic back to normal. The city's main airport was operating normally after hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed over the weekend.

Use of unlicensed firearms to kill rises in Maharashtra

Murders By Illegal Guns Increasing Every Year By About 30%. Experts Demand Stronger Policing To Plug Inflow Of Weapons From Outside State

    The police in Maharashtra seem to have another growing problem on their hands. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the number of murders with unlicensed firearms increased in the state every year by more than 30% since 2009. 

    An NCRB report showed that 37 people were killed in Maharashtra in 2009 with unlicensed firearms. The next year, the figure rose by 32% to 49. And the year after that, it reached 67, a rise of 37%. Altogether, from 2007 and 2011, more than 380 people were murdered in the 
state using illegal guns. 
    Cops, not surprisingly, called the trend disturbing, particularly because Maharashtra was among the 10 worst states in this respect. In 2011, the most killings with unlicensed firearms were in Uttar Pradesh, which had a tally of 1,049. Next came Bihar (500), followed by Jharkhand(418), WestBengal (317), Madhya Pradesh (164) and Haryana (118). 
    The NCRB report showed that high tally of murders with illegal guns did not always mean high tally of killings with licensed firearms and vice-versa. In Punjab, for 
instance, 15 people were shot dead with illegal firearms in 2011 but 60 with licensed guns. The same year, in Bihar, 500 people were murdered with unlicensed guns and seven with licensed ones. 
    Closer home, in Mumbai, of the few cases where guns were used to kill people, the firearms were almost always unlicensed, according to police statistics. In 2009, the financial capital witnessed nine cases of murders with unlicensed guns. The tally remained the same the next year but grew to 12 in 2011. Till June 30 this year, one person was killed with an unlicensed firearm. 
    Former police officers claimed unlicensed firearms are flowing into Mumbai mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. "Many youngsters from these states join the world of crime in Mumbai. They then use their contacts back home to procure country-made guns called kattas," said former IPS officerturned-lawyer Y P Singh. Alternatively, foreign-made guns are procured through underworld dons operating from outside the country. 
    In other parts of Maharashtra, argued experts, illegal guns are pouring in from Bangladesh and Pakistan. Retired Thane police commissioner and state CID officer S P S Yadav said some illegal migrants from these neighbouring countries have been caught for "gun-running, fake currency rackets and drug-running". 
    Both Singh and Yadav recommended stronger policing to stem the spread of unlicensed firearms. Singh felt the police should plant infiltrators in underworld gangs and create a vast network of informers. Yadav suggested the police should trace the gunstotheir sourceeven they are outside the state. Once thesesources are plugged,the distribution network will get disrupted, he said.

10 more test positive for H1N1

en more people, including three children, tested positive for H1N1 on Sunday, taking the total number of positive cases in the city to 151 since January. Of those who tested positive on Sunday are two Vikhroli residents and a 20-year-old woman from Mahim. "All the patients are stable and have been put on Tamiflu," said Mangala Gomare, an epidemiologist with theBMC. TNN

Saturday, July 21, 2012

SELF-MEDICATED FOR A WHILE 56-yr-old becomes 29th H1N1 fatality in state in 3 months

A 56-year-old Ambivli resident became the second H1N1 fatality in a fortnight in the Mumbai metropolitan region (MMR). With the latest death, the H1N1 toll in the state has gone up to 29 in three months, the highest in the country this year. 
    Satish Sutar died on Tuesday after undergoing treatment at two nursing homes for the last few days. Local health authorities said Sutar had recently travelled to Pune and could have contracted the virus there. He was not diagnosed or treated for H1N1 till a day before his death, said local health officers. 
    Sutar, who stayed in Kalyan taluka, selfmedicated for 10 days before seeking medical help. Sutar's family said he had severe cold and cough since July 1 but insisted on self-medicating. As his condition worsened, he was admitted to Sai Shraddha Hospital in Rambaug, Kalyan. A few days later on July 13, his family shifted him to Nityanand nursing home. 
    Dr S J Upasani, head of Nityanand nursing home, told TOI that Sutar was already battling tuberculosis (TB) when he was brought to their facility and the doctors focused on treat
ing him for TB. The nursing home initially suspected he had pneumonia. "When his condition did not improve, we suspected it to be a case of H1N1. We collected his swab samples and sent them to a private lab on July 15 for tests. Sutar was started on the antiviral course the same day," said Upasani, adding, "He was also a diabetic." 
    The Rambaug hospital where Sutar underwent treatment before Nityanand never suspected he was suffering from H1N1. Sutar's H1N1 report arrived two hours after he died. 
    State epidemiologist Dr Pradeep Awate said doctors across the state have been sensitized to suspect H1N1, along with other seasonal ailments, and start the treatment without waiting for test reports. "People with comorbid conditions have mainly succumbed to the virus," he said. 
    Sutar is survived by three sons. His son Mahesh said, "After his death, doctors from the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) visited our house and administered the antiviral to nine of our family members." 
    Seven more people from Kalyan have tested positive for the virus this month. Interestingly, Nityanand nursing home had treated two positive cases early this month. 

Category C patients 

SYMPTOMS | Mild fever (below 100°F), cough, throat irritation, body ache, headache, vomiting 
TREATMENT | Regular drugs. No Oseltamivir (anti-viral drug marketed under the trade name Tamiflu). Reassessment of patient after 24 hrs 

Category B patients 

SYMPTOMS | High fever (above 100°F), severe sore throat, running nose, etc 
SWAB COLLECTION | Only patients with associated 
illnesses (co-morbid conditions) like diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, etc 
TREATMENT | Oseltamivir 

Category A patients 

SYMPTOMS | High fever, runny nose, breathlessness, chest pain, haemoptysis (coughing blood), hypotension 
(low BP), bluish discolouration of nails, irritation and drowsiness in children SWAB COLLECTION | All patients TREATMENT | Oseltamivir PRECAUTIONS 
Cover mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing 
Wash hands often with soap or use an alcohol-based sanitizer 
Consult a doctor if you have any of the symptoms and avoid public places
Drink plenty of water, eat nutritious food and get eight hours of sleep 
Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth after sneezing or coughing 
Do not self-medicate and see a physician as soon as symptoms show

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