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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Soon, see state’s green gains online

Mumbai: Even as it fights a looming drought crisis and a depleting green cover, the state government is keen to showcase its afforestation efforts and has decided to upload on the internet pictorial proof of its successful tree plantation drives. 

    The decision was taken in a review meeting on next year's green target by chief secretary J K Banthia on Tuesday. The GPS mapping of 800 sites is completed and the data will be uploaded to allow its public viewing from February 28. 
    Officials hope that once the data is in the public domain, it will address concerns currently being raised over government efforts to increase the forest cover. There 
are allegations that not enough trees are planted . 
    "Even as the survival rate for the newly planted forests and trees was as high as 91 per cent in 2012, there were still accusations that not enough was being done to save the green cover," a senior government official said. "Now with the GPS images, what we are planting and where will be there for everyone to see." 

    The GPS website will give the time, date and location of places where efforts have been taken to improve the green cover. The government will also undertake a thirdparty audit of the new green cover created in 2012. 
    The forest department planted 7.4 crore new trees last year; the target this year is 20 crore trees by the onset of the monsoon.

RTO clears air on bus policy norms, schools still sceptical

Parents Want Schools & Bus Contractors To Share Onus

Aseries of RTO workshops held for school principals across the city has finally acquainted many of them with the nuances of the school bus safety policy. But though transport officials have told schools they won't be held responsible for any incidents concerning school buses if they follow all guidelines outlined in the policy, principals are wary. 

    "Even in the recent incident of a four-year-old being molested on a school bus, the school was dragged into the case even though it had ensured that all safety measures were in place. The tall claims of the transport officials will make no sense when something goes wrong on the bus, even though it might be a third party's fault," said the principal of a Navi Mumbai school. Most principals have agreed to follow the rules but are not sure of the co-operation from the school bus contractors. 
    However, Arundhati Chavan, president of the PTA United Forum, said schools and contractors should be made equally liable for children's safety. "Schools should not be given reasons to shirk responsibility, as bus contractors can't be trusted. Parents need one point of contact in case of untoward incidents, and schools are who they can trust. We need to find a way in which no party 
involved takes children's lives for granted," said Chavan. 
    Activist Indrani Malkani, who intervened in a case at the Bombay high court on the school bus policy's implementation, said, "Recent circulars made major changes to original rules, changing the bus policy's meaning altogether. I raised objections to these changes," she said. Malkani 
mentioned a government resolution which says in vans and private vehicles with a seating capacity of 12 and below, the driver will act as attendant. "So if the vehicle is ferrying girls, they have to be at the mercy of a male driver?" said Malkani. Another notification dated June 25, 2012, said an auto can be considered a school bus (in areas outside Mumbai), which Malkani said, "defeats the purpose of having a school bus policy". The matter is still in court. 
    Meanwhile, the School Bus Owners' Association (SBOA) claimed on Tuesday evening that a central government directive states school buses don't have to install speed governors. "This directive has also been sent to state officials, who in turn will inform local RTOs. 
We have finally won our argument," said Anil Garg, SBOA president. However, statetransport commissioner V N More denied any such directive. "We have not received any such directive. These are rumours. Our rule is clear, school buses either need the speed governors (40-50 kmph) or Electronic Control Units which have been fitted in new buses," said More. A SAFER RIDE TO SCHOOL AND BACK 
Panel | Each 
    school should 
    have a School 
    Bus Committee 
    to ensure safe transport of students. The panel, headed by the principal, will include a representative from parents, traffic police inspector of the area or police inspector, motor vehicle inspector or assistant motor vehicle inspector, education inspector and a representative of the bus contractor 
Contract | Schools should sign contracts with bus operators 
Contacts | Every bus (driver) should carry a list of student's names travelling daily by the vehicle mentioning class, address, telephone numbers, blood group and bus stop number/name 
Permit | A bus shouldn't be more than eight years old; should have a valid RTO permit to ply as a school bus; the permit must have the school's name 
Speed Governor | Speed governors are mandatory in every school bus 
Driver & Attendant | Drivers should have five years' experience. Each bus must have a woman attendant if there are girl students on board 
Colour | Buses exclusively used to 
ferry kids should be yellow, with the school's name in a brown band 
Facilities | Maximum 300mm ground clearance for first step; iron rod to hold while alighting or boarding; four iron grilles on windows installed with a 5-cm gap; a first-aid kit and fi re extinguishers (2kg in 12-seaters, 5kg in 12-20 seaters, two 5kg extinguishers in other buses) 
Warning Signs | Every bus should show a "warning sign" when it halts for kids to board or alight 

RTO Permit | If you directly approach a bus operator, ask for a copy of the special RTO permit to run school buses. Many operators simply carry a contract carriage permit 
Bonafi des | If the bus has an agreement with the school, ask the school if the antecedents of drivers and conductors have been checked 
Complain | If you learn the bus is illegal or the driver/conductor's conduct is improper, complain to the school or to the local RTO 

RTO Action | If 
    the principal/ 
    bus operator flouts the policy norms, they can be prosecuted under the Motor Vehicles Act. The RTO can impose fi nes, suspend permits or confi scate vehicles 
Police Action | If incidents like accidents/sexual assault occur despite schools and operators observing all guidelines, the blame will be on the culprit and it will 
    be purely a 
    police case

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sex safety drills go to schools

Mumbai: Unpalatable though the subject might be, the recent molestation of a fouryear-old on a school bus has been a stark reminder to parents, care-givers and school staff of the pressing need to discuss sexual safety with children. As experts point out, it's never too late or too early. 
    In her cautionary book, The Sex-Wise Parent,Dr Janet Rosenzweig says the most important gift parents can give their children if they want to keep them sexually safe and healthy is information—about how their body works and about how the other gender's body works. 
    "Parents need to normalize every part of the child's 

body in explaining it to them, and not feel embarrassed about private parts. A child who doesn't have appropriate language for their body parts is at risk because a predator can make them feel shame," she told TOI. 
    Hard as it is, individuals, schools and non-profits are not only taking pains to learn and convey to children the language of sexual safety, but are also conducting workshops, disseminating literature and on the whole, broaching the subject more determinedly. Swati Popat Vats, president of the Podar Education Network and author of the advisory pamphlet When Touch Becomes Trouble, says their schools have made it mandatory for parents of children from nursery to class 3 to attend workshops on 'Good Touch/ Bad Touch'. 
    "Older students are shown an educational video," she says. "Volunteers from 
our schools in Andheri and Santa Cruz have also visited housing societies in their neighbourhoods to conduct workshops, and we have distributed our brochure free to several schools in Mumbai." 
    The non-profit Childline has been taking the safety drill to schools through rolepay and props. Nishit Kumar, head, communications and strategic initiatives, Childline India Foundation, says at the end of the session, volunteers give children sealed envelopes which contain literature for parents on child 
sexual abuse, how to recognize symptoms, how to help the child recognize them, and how to seek recourse. "Only a day ago, I received a request from a parent for 500 copies of that letter, which he wants to distribute in Dharavi," Kumar says. Most parents, he says, lack the language, if not theconfidence,todiscusssexualsafety withtheir children. 
    Acknowledging that preventive measures are the best course, counsellors also recommend that parents watch out for signs of abuse for not every child readily describes 
it. Zill Botadkar, a play- and arts-based therapist, remembers how a 5-year-old was brought in by her mother as she suddenly turned reclusive. "When we worked with dollsduring therapy,thechild kept removing the doll's clothes and touching her private parts," Botadkar recalls. But before she could make conclusive assumptions and offer the child rehabilitation, the parents withdrew her from therapy as the joint family, of which they were part, were not supportive. Incidentally, that too is a crime. 

It is never too early to talk to children about good/bad touch 
Kids' chatter, their behaviour and art often hold clues to their state of mind. Pay attention 
Paedophiles can be male or female 
Bad touch works both ways: A child may be 
inappropriately touched and also be made to touch the offender 
    Most sexual offenders use tickling and games to create a false sense of comfort with the child 
    Always ensure your child is supervised by a trusted individual; don't trust domestic help 

Housewife molested 
Ahousewife was molested and assaulted in public by a man when she protested against his indecent behaviour in Kalyan last Wednesday. The victim, a resident of Pisavali, was at a mobile phone shop when the man, identified as Vicky, came close by, passed lewd comments and made vulgar gestures. When she protested and warned him, police sources said, the man started molesting her. The accused assaulted her when she slapped him. 
    It was only after she informed her family about the incident on Saturday, that they lodged a complaint with the Manpada police. The police booked Vicky under Sections 354 (molestation), 509 (eve-teasing), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of Rs50) of the Indian Penal Code. "We have started a probe and will nab the accused very soon," said assistant inspector Pandarinath Bhalerao. —Pradeep Gupta 
Flasher arrested 
A20-year-old youth was arrested by the Gamdevi police for allegedly outraging the modesty of woman on Saturday. Dhaniram Bahadur, a native of Uttar Pradesh, stays near Gol Deval in South Mumbai and does odd jobs. The police said the complainant, a nurse with a private hospital, was at a bus-stop when Bahadur stood in the opposite direction on Pedder road, unzipped his pants and passed lewd comments. Onlookers caught him and handed him over to the police when the nurse raised an alarm. TNN

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Air pollution in city rises 2-fold

Mumbai: The heavy fog enveloping the city during early mornings is an ominous indicator of Mumbai's deteriorating air quality. Official readings since mid-January evidence that owing to cooler weather and bustle of vehicles and construction, the pollution levels have surpassed the standard limits by two-fold. 

    According to Mumbai Pollution Control Board logs, pollution levels—particularly nitrogen oxide (NOx) and suspended particulate matter (SPM) —have been exceptionally pernicious the past few 
days. On January 16, for instance, SPM shot up to as high as 286 micrograms per cubic metre. On January 6, NOx was recorded at 229 micrograms per cubic metre. 
    "Anything above 100 micrograms of SPM and 80 micrograms of NOx in a cubic metre of air is bad for human health," said an MPCB official. Sounding a disquieting note, he added that in certain parts of the city pollution levels are 
perennially higher than the standard limits. 
    "When the weather gets cooler, SPM levels do tend to rise because of inversion," said Dr Rakesh Kumar of the National Environment Engineering Research Institute. 
    Normally, the air near the earth's surface is warmer than that in the upper atmosphere. During inversion, however, there is cold air near the surface, which gets trapped under warmer air. 
    "At such a time, hot and cold air do not mix easily in the upper atmosphere. Because of this, pollutants get trapped in the lower atmosphere," explained Dr Kumar. "Strong winds break inversion and blow away pollutants." 
'Traffic also to blame for deteriorating air quality' 
Mumbai: There has been a worrying rise in air pollution in the city since mid-January. Experts say a dip in the mercury is not the only cause of Mumbai's poor air quality—increasing vehicular density and construction pollution are equally to blame. 
    "Pollution norms for vehicles may be in place, but their sheer numbers in Mumbai override those and lend to the addition in SPM levels," said Dr Neelam Rane, professor of physiology at D Y Patil Medical College. "Vehicles emit more pollution when moving slow. In Mumbai, the problem gets amplified due to bumperto-bumper traffic. Also, there is always some construction, renovation or restoration work happening, which is an even greater source of pollution," Dr Rane continued. 

    Dr Rakesh Kumar of the National Environment Engineering Research Institute noted that the SPM and NOx readings were made at Bandra and Sion stations. "Both these areas suffer major traffic issues. This is why pollution levels are high in these areas." 
    The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had written to other government agencies earlier this month, asking them to adopt measures to prevent SPM from getting dispersed in the air. But its initiative is still nascent. Before an action plan is set rolling, the civic body wants to conduct studies to gauge the precise correlation between construction activities and pollution.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

‘Lack of loos to blame for 40% of Bihar rapes’

Patna: At least 400 women in Bihar would have escaped rape in 2012 had the state government provided toilets to all the households under the Centre-sponsored Total Sanitation Scheme (TSC), police data shows. 
    According to the records, there were 980-odd rape cases every year in Bihar from 2006-2011. In 2012, 872 cases of rape were reported till November. "About 40- 45% of incidents took place when the women went out of their homes to answer nature's call," Bihar police IG (weaker sections) Arwind Pandey told TOI. 
    "In Kishanganj, Araria and Purnia districts, 61 rape incidents were reported between January and July last year. Of these, 26 incidents took place when the victims were relieving themselves in the open," Pandey said, adding that
the police HQ was waiting for the figures to come from the state's remaining 35 districts. This revelation may be just the tip of the iceberg as a huge number of rape cases go unreported. "The figures will go up if a survey is commissioned and the surveyors are women," said Shantwana Bharti of Mahila Samakhya, a Bihar government organization. 
    "In our meetings, 10 among 20 women participants confide in us about being raped when they go to the field after sundown to relieve themselves," Bharti added. 

    The targets are mostly newlyweds and unmarried girls. "The newlyweds fear being threatened with divorce while parents of unmarried girls are worried about their daughter's marriage prospects," said Sangita Dutta, another Mahila Samakhya functionary. 
    Under TSC, the state government has to provide toilets in 1.11 crore households. . However, the public health engineering department (PHED) could provide toilets to only 43.75 lakh households till January 15 this year, according to the department's website. 
    PHED's chief engineer Arun Kumar says: "The state can provide toilets in 100% households by 2022," Till then, it's a daily struggle for the vulnerable women, not just against the humiliation of having to answer nature's call in the open, but also of keeping themselves and their daughters safe.

Toilets at homes could have prevented 400 rapes in the state last year, say police records

10,000 vehicles stuck in HP snow

Shimla: Heavy snowfall in Himachal Pradesh has left 10,000 vehicles stranded across the state as most roads, including some national highways and around 185 other stretches, were closed. 

    Tourists heading for Manali to enjoy the snow were forced to walk from Patlikuhl, some 20km before Manali, as the Kullu-Manali highway is still closed, a government official said. Manali, meanwhile, shivered at minus 6.2 degrees, the lowest of the season, the Met office said. 
    Till Sunday evening, workers were still trying to clear the snow from roads in Shimla, Manali and Dalhousie. With blocked roads bringing traffic to a standstill, people were facing a shortage of essen
tial commodities in many places. 
    Meanwhile, three persons lost their lives in snow-related accidents. A woman and her son were killed in 
Pangi village of Kinnaur district after a snow-covered tree collapsed on their house while another person was swept away by an avalanche at a village in Killar tehsil of Chamba district on Saturday. 
    Vehicular traffic also could not be restored on the Hindustan-Tibet highway that links Shimla with the Spiti region. The state capital saw the minimum temperature fall to zero degree, while the maximum was 8.8 degrees Celsius. 
    The state could get more snow in the next couple of days, the Met office said. Snapped power lines are still to be restored fully after the current round of snowfall. In the snowbound districts of Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur, Chamba, Kullu and Shimla, hundreds of villages are in darkness.

Cars stranded on the snow-covered road in Sanjauli in Shimla on Sunday

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Biggest raid clears prime Bandra road of hawkers

Mumbai: In a sudden and unprecedented eviction drive, a special squad of the Mumbai police (west region) removed 200 unauthorized hawkers encroaching on Bandra's landmark Hill Road on Tuesday afternoon. 

    Local residents, who have been complaining about the nuisance for years, described it as perhaps the biggest raid on illegal vendors on this prime road. The street sellers had laid siege to its pavements and spilled onto the road, obstructing vehicular traffic and pedestrian movement. 
    The police action came days after elected representatives from the western suburbs, including Congress MP Priya Dutt and local MLA Baba Siddique, complained to the chief minister about the "high--handedness'' of the police 

action against hawkers in Vakola. Assistant commissioner of police Vasant Dhoble was transferred after a hawker died while fleeing during a raid in Vakola last week. 
    On Tuesday, local shopkeepers praised the poli
ce action and said Hill Road suddenly seemed to be much wider and free for shoppers and pedestrians. "Hill Road is popularly known as Hell Road because of the hawkers who have political backing,'' said Anil Joseph, chairperson, Perry Road Residents' Association. 
    Anandini Thakoor, chairperson, H (west) Federation said their efforts with Vishwas Nangre Patil, additional commissioner of police, has paid off. "Only 30 of the 200 hawkers are licensed. Most of them come back after the BMC vans depart. So we have to depend on police." 
No sympathy for hawkers, says Raj 
Mumbai: Local residents and activists welcomed the clearance of hawkers by police on Tuesday. 
    "Apart from leaving no room for local residents to walk around, the hawkers have harassed shopkeepers. A lady shopkeeper was beaten up in September and her shoulder was broken. We have been pursuing this matter for long," said Anandini Thakoor, chairperson, H (west) Federation. 
    Hawkers were also cleared in many parts of Bandra, at Pali Junction near Pali Presidency Hotel, Linking Road in Khar (W) and Alpha lane (Vile Parle).
    MNS president Raj Thackeray said the Democratic Front should not favour illegal hawkers from north India who have occupied pavements here. "Illegal hawkers have made life miserable for Mumbaikars. There is no need to show sympathy to those who break laws," he said.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Self-defence camp packs a punch

women participate in the self-defence camp organised by DNA in association with the Super Fight League
BL Soni | DNA

Energy, enthusiasm and a sense of empowerment was clearly visible among the women who participates in DNA's self-defence camp, organised in association with Super Fight League (SFL) at SFL Challenger's Arena in Andheri, on Friday.

Launched by the owner of SFL, Raj Kundra and his wife Shilpa Shetty, the initiative aims atmaking women feel more confident about themselves by demonstrating ways in which they can defend themselves and also helping them understand their physical and mental strength.

As Shetty said, "This is a wake-up call for us women. Let's stop getting scared and use our brains and strength to tackle down molesters or rapists. It is really not as hard as you might think."
Demonstrating a few moves, she explained that a kick to the groin or clawing at their faces with your nails or even using your heels to kick them hard can bring men down.

CEO of the organisation Daniel Isaac and hisgroup of trainers that included women took to the stage along with around 30 women participants in a highly charged atmosphere. "We are not here to show them any fancy moves, but some smart techniques using knees, elbows, hands, foot and even with objects they may have with them like a purse or shoes," said Isaac, who is also a kickboxing trainer.

Basic techniques such as poking their eyes, kicking their groin, clawing at their skin and even biting the man were demonstrated. Several elbow techniques were demonstrated keeping in mind various situations where the man could attack from behind, from the side or from front.

Participants were taught how to hit attackers with their left elbow between their chest, on their chin and then to their groins.

All techniques were practised to counts of music and participants were also taught how the power of voice, while trying to attack the man, can scare him.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Man checks out ‘dirty’ clip, finds daughter in it 70-Yr-Old Priest Arrested For Sexually Abusing Teen & Filming It

Mumbai: A middle-aged man who agreed to watch a 'dirty' MMS clip on his friend's phone got the shock of his life when he saw it was a recording of the molestation and sexual abuse of his 13-year-old daughter. 

    After confirming the incident with her, he and his neighbours caught the perpetrator, a 70-year-old dargah priest, thrashed him and handed him over to the local police. 
    Niyad Ahmed Hasan Ansari, sadar of a dargah in Govandi, was arrested on Thursday and his phone, which he used to make the MMS, was seized. As the news spread, two more minor girls and their parents came forward against Ansari and were made witnesses in the case. 
    "The two minor girls, too, are his victims. The accused had dismissed the teachers who used to come to the dargah to teach students Arabic. After sacking them, he started taking the classes and on this pretext, he sexually abused the minor girls," said the police source. 
    The trauma of the 13-year-old, the youngest of five daughters of a 50-year-old scrap dealer in the Baiganwadi locality of Govandi, began after she enrolled for the Arabic classes. "The masjid sadar used to make me wait after classes got over. He misbehaved with me and warned me that if I narrated the incident to my parents, he would make the MMS public. Fearing stigma, I decided not to complain to my parents and attended the class," she told the police. She has been sent of medical examination. 
    "Ansari had recorded on his mobile the oral and unnatural sex and the sexual abu
se he had committed on the minor girl a month ago. Later, he circulated the clip to some of his acquaintances," said Shivaji Nagar senior inspector R S Agarwal. 
    On Wednesday evening, the victim's father's friend got the MMS clip from some youths of the locality after hearing that such a video was circulating. Later, he showed it to the man. 
    "My friend did not know that the girl in the clip is my daughter. He said when he heard about the clip circulating in the neighbourhood, he approached an acquaintance and got the clip transferred to his cellphone. Then he showed it to me," said the victim's father. "My daughter broke down when I asked about the incident and told me that she had kept quiet fearing the consequences she would have to face." 

    After going through the clip, the victim's father and locals from Baiganwadi confronted the elderly priest, thrashed him and handed him over to the police. "Enraged with the act, we managed to track down the accused. He had sexually abused the victim some 3-4 times in a month. There was political pressure on the police to slap simple charges on the accused," said the man's friend who showed him the clip. 
    Ansari has been booked under sections 376 (rape) 294 (obscene acts), 354 (outraging modesty), 377 (unnatural offences) and 506 (II) (criminal intimidation) and remanded in police custody till January 17. 
    His cellphone, used to make the clip, will be sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory in Kalina and its report will be used as evidence. 

Man held for rape after MMS threat 
Bhiwandi: Shreenivas Uradi, a 35-year-old resident of Gauripada here, was arrested on Wednesday after a woman complained that he had blackmailed her with an MMS of a sexual encounter they had had and raped her several times. 
    The victim, a resident of Dombivli, used to work with the accused in a Bhiwandi firm. They had got to know each other well and once he took her to a lodge where they had a sexual encounter which he filmed. Later, he kept demanding sexual favours, but one day the victim put her foot down. Angered, Uradi sent the MMS to her husband on Tuesday. At this, the victim approached the police. — Pradeep Gupta 
103, 1090, 7738133133, 7738144144 | helpline numbers for women to complain against domestic violence. A log is maintained by Mumbai police for the complaint received and action taken. It is monitored by a NGO 
100 | Complaints can also be lodged by women on the 
general emergency number 
1298 | Women in distress to relevant NGOs 
22828862 | Family Service Center 
26140403 | Women's Center 
1800227550 | Sexual harassment in bus (Initiative by BEST bus services in Mumbai for women safety)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Schools yet to meet fire safety norms 2 yrs after check

Not One Of 812 Has Given Fire Brigade Report Of Compliance

    Over two years after the fire brigade inspected 812 municipal, aided and private schools in the city on safety measures, found several glaring loopholes and asked for corrective measures, none of the schools has filed a compliance report. 

    Fire brigade officers said the lacunae pointed out during the inspection following guidelines issued by the Supreme Court and the state government were crucial for fire safety and not very difficult for school managements to follow. "In the absence of compliance reports, we do not have records of whether our suggestions have been followed. Fire safety within school premises is the responsibility of the school administration," said a senior fire brigade official. 
    Among the loopholes in the schools were ominous ones like loose wiring, fire extinguishers that were not working and refuge areas being used for other purposes. Yet the delay in filing the compliance reports seems to reflect the lax attitude of schools towards fire safety. 
    The fire brigade suggested several corrective steps, including keeping separate entry and exit gates, keeping the staircase and landings on each floor free of any encroachment, having electrical circuits and wiring checked periodically, stocking enough working fire-fighting equipment like extinguishers and fire alarms, and training schools staff to operate them in case of an emergency. 
    The fire brigade started inspection of the 812 schools from March 2010, about a year after the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment on April 13, 2009, gave key directives for fire safety in schools (see box). The guidelines came in response to a petition filed after the Kumbakonam school fire that killed over 90 children and shocked the country in 2006. 
    On July 16, 2004, a blaze, believed to have started from the kitchen where the noon meal was being prepared, spread to a row of thatched roof classrooms of the Sri Krishna Aided Higher Secondary School in Kumbakonam town of Tamil Nadu's Thanjavur district where students from Class I to V were present. Ninetyfour children between eight and 10 years were charred to death. 
    On probing the incident, it was found that the school had violated several norms. The licence of the school was cancelled and the management arrested. 
    As part of a nationwide inspection drive after the SC's guidelines were issued, the fire brigade had also warned schools not to store any hazardous material. They had pointed out that canteens shouldn't have more gas cylinders than permitted. 
    The Maharashtra government had directed the fire brigade and other related agencies to not give permission for schools taller than eight floors following the Tamil Nadu incident. 


Fire tenders arrive at a Kumbakonam school to fight 
the killer blaze that kickstarted a fire safety drive; (right, above) a gutted classroom 
July 16, 2004 | Over 90 children between eight and 10 years die in a major fire at Sri Krishna Aided Higher Secondary School in Kumbakonam town of Tamil Nadu's Thanjavur district. 27 others receive serious burns 
    Fire said to have started from the kitchen, where the noon meal was being prepared, and spread to a row of thatched roof classrooms 
    Probe finds school violated several norms. The licence is cancelled and management of the school arrested 
April 13, 2009 | The Supreme Court lays down guidelines for fire safety in schools in a landmark judgment 
    All govt, private schools must install fire extinguishing equipment within 6 months 
    School buildings must not have inflammable and toxic material. If storage is inevitable, they should be stored safely 
    School structures must be evaluated periodically according to the National Building Code. Dereliction of duty will attract action 
    Necessary training must for school staff to use fire extinguishing equipment
March, 2010 | Mumbai fire brigade inspects 812 schools. Finds several loopholes, asks for corrective measures July, 2012 | After Mantralaya fire, school education minister Rajendra Darda says fire safety audit and drills must in all the state's schools Oct 29, 2012 | Many schools violating fire safety rules, finds a survey of 300 schools in the city by non-profit group Parent-Teacher Association United Forum Oct 31, 2012 | BMC officials say will hold fire safety audit in all schools 
Jan, 2013 | The 812 schools yet to file compliance report with fire brigade 

Times View: Take fire safety more seriously 
Schools that were part of the fire audit should have taken the exercise a little more seriously. Safety issues at school top parents' list of concerns and not responding to the BMC for more than two years indicates a lack of respect for this concern. Schools should take this issue as seriously as safety on school buses

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunday chilliest of the season so far, 3rd coldest Jan day in 10 years

Mumbai: Friday and Saturday may have left citizens shivering, but they were nothing compared to Sunday when the mercury dipped to a low 10.4 degrees Celsius. Sunday was not only the chilliest day of this season, but also the third coldest January day in a decade. 

    The chill is likely to stay for another day or two, said the Met department. 
    On Sunday, the minimum temperature recorded in Colaba was 16.1 degrees Celsius —3.4 degrees below normal, while that in Santa Cruz was 10.4 degrees Celsius— about 7 degrees below normal. 
    The lowest-ever January temperature in the city was in 1962 when the mercury had plunged to 7.4 degrees Celsius. 
    According to the Met department, the cold weather has 
prevailed in the city because of the persistent Western Disturbance in the north. "The Western Disturbance still prevails in the northern parts of the country and the winds affecting Mumbai continue to be northerly," said V K Rajeev, director of weather forecast, India Meteorological Department (IMD), Mumbai. 
    In Mumbai, the daytime 
temperature also plummeted on Sunday when Colaba recorded a maximum temperature of 27 degrees Celsius —3.1 degrees below normal and Santa Cruz 27.4 degrees Celsius—3.4 degrees below normal. 
    The Met department said the weather is likely to remain similar to that of Sunday for another day or two. "Since the winds continue to be northerly, we expect the temperature to remain low for the next one or two days. Once the Western Disturbance moves away, there will be a rise in the temperature, which will then be normal," said Rajeev. 
    Many other areas in the state, too, saw a dip in minimum temperatures. "Many parts of interior Maharashtra are witnessing a cold wave," said Rajeev. Nashik recorded the lowest temperature in Maharashtra at 4 degrees Celsius.

Saturday 4th coldest Jan day in a decade, chill to last for 24-48 hrs

 If it was chilly on Friday, Sat urday was positively a treat for winter lovers. With mer cury dipping to a low 12. degrees Celsius, Saturday was not only the coldest day of the season, but also among the lowest four January temperatures of the city in a decade. What's more, the chill is likely to stay for another day or two, said the Met department. 

    On Saturday, the minimum tem perature recorded in Colaba was 17.1 degrees Celsius—2.8 degrees below normal, while that in Santa Cruz was 12.4 degrees Celsius—4.7 degrees below normal. Besides the low temperature, the excess winds coming in from the north are re sponsible for leaving Mumbaikars shivering, said the Met department 
    The lowest-ever January tempera ture was in 1962 when the mercury had dipped to 7.4 degrees Celsius. 
    According to the Met depart ment, the cold weather has prevailed in the city because of the persistent Western Disturbance in the north A Western Disturbance is an extra tropical storm or a low pressure system which originates in the Med iterranean Sea and moves east wards. This causes rainfall in Iran Pakistan and India and snowfall in some parts of India. The chill from the northern region is carried to the country's central and western re gions by northerly winds. 
    Many areas in Maharashtra, too saw a dip in minimum temperature on Saturday. While Malegaon Nashik and Ahmednagar recorded 7 degrees Celsius, Pune and Jalgaon recorded 8 degrees Celsius. 
    In Mumbai, the daytime tempera 
ture also plunged. On Saturday, Co laba recorded a maximum tempera ture of 26.6 degrees Celsius—about 4 degrees below normal, while Santa Cruz recorded 28.3 degrees Celsius—2.8 degrees below nor mal. The evening humidity levels were also low with Colaba and Santa Cruz recording 33% and 35% respectively. 
    "We expect the temperature to remain between 12-13 degrees Celsius for the next one- two days. The Western Disturbance, which is already moving away, will bring about a rise in temperature thereafter. The temperature should then be normal," said V K Rajeev, director of weather forecast, India Meteorological Department, Mumbai.

ALL WRAPPED UP: Citizens greet the cold with shawls, cardigans and colourful scarves

‘Worst drought in 50 yrs’ looms, CM talks tough

Pune: As the state gears up to face one of its worst droughts in recent history, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Saturday announced "unprecedented and stringent" steps to curb wastage of drinking water and its usage for purposes other than drinking. 

    "Major parts of the state, including the Pune region, Marathwada and parts of Vidarbha, have been facing a major water crisis, and the situation is likely to worsen. This is the first time there is not enough water even for even drinking. We have to take unprecedented and stringent decisions which no government has taken earlier. And even then, I am not sure it will be enough. The situation is serious and we have to look for answers," the chief minister said, speaking near Pune. 
    Echoing Chavan, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said, "I have not seen such a serious water crisis in the last 50 years. We have seen droughts in the past too, but this is the first time that even drinking water is not available." The NCP boss stated that although by next week, the Centre would approve Rs 770 crore for the state, the situation was bad and people should curb excess use of water. 
State seeks 2,200cr to refill reservoirs 
Pune: Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, speaking at a combined annual general body meeting of the Maharashtra State Co-operative Sugar Factories Federation Limited and the Vasantdada Sugar Institute at Manjari near Pune, warned of a major water crisis ahead for the state. Chavan said the state was ready with a mechanism to supply water to drought-affected areas, but the system itself would not be of help as there was no water to provide. 
    "The water level in the Ujani dam is zero. Imagine what the situation will be if we are not able to provide drinking water to drought-affected areas. The state has sought Rs 2,200 crore from the central government to refill water reservoirs," he said, adding that if the additional funds fail to come from the Centre, the state would have to divert funds meant for other works. 
    Meanwhile, CM Prithviraj Chavan said the state was planning to ban flood irrigation system and encourage drip irrigation. "Excess water is used for crops, especially sugarcane, through the flood irrigation system. We can save water by using drip irrigation. We need to ban flood irrigation and encourage drip irrigation," he said, adding that the state plans to focus on grants only for drip irrigation. "

Thursday, January 3, 2013

CHILLING FUTURE Forget warming, Alaska facing ice age

Scientists Report Steady Fall In Temp In US State Since Beginning Of 21st Century

London: Bucking the overall global warming trend, Alaska may actually be heading for an ice age with scientists reporting a steady temperature decline in the snow covered US state. 
    A new study by Alaska Climate Research Center shows that temperatures in Alaska are actually getting colder since the beginning of the 21st century — contrary to global warming concerns. In the Last Frontier, where temperatures can get as cold as 50 degrees below zero, residents of the state have experienced the increasing chill and 
scientists now confirm that the Northwest state is indeed seeing a temperature drop. 
    A study by the University of Alaska Fairbanks shows the state has cooled by 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 2000, the Daily Mail reported. 
    Scientists based their research on temperature readings from weather stations operated by the National Weather Service. Based on those, 19 of the 20 stations have measured a consistently cooler climate over time. 
    The region most impacted is Western Alaska, notably King 
Salmon on the Alaska Peninsula, which saw temperatures drop by 4.5 degrees for the decade.
    Researchers credit an ocean phenomenon, the Decadal Oscillation, with bringing colder surface water temperatures and thus beginning the overall cooling effect. This has brought a weakening of the Aleutian Low, the breeding ground for storms that end up regulating weather systems in the other 48 states. With a less active Aleutian Low, cold winter storms have been sticking around Alaska longer and keeping the temperatures chilly. AFP

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New year, old shame: 17-yr-old raped by two in Delhi on Dec 31

Accused Work In Top IT Firms, Sent To Tihar

New Delhi: Just hours before Nirbhaya's ashes were immersed in the Ganga, a 17-year-old girl studying in class XI of a prominent south Delhi school was allegedly sedated and raped by two men at a New Year's party in the upscale Safdarjung Enclave area of south Delhi, police sources told TOI on Tuesday. 
    The two accused, who work in le
ading IT companies, were arrested late at night after the girl approached the police. They live in Sarojini Nagar with their families. Both are in their late 20s. While one is a computer engineer with an IT company, the other works in the HR department of a blue-chip tech and consulting multinational, an officer said. 
    The accused were produced in Saket court on Tuesday afternoon and later sent to Tihar jail. The whole operation was kept under wraps by the police. TOI attempted to call senior police officers to confirm the report and also sent text messages but got no response. 
    Sources in Delhi police revealed 
that the girl had said in her statement that one of the accused had befriended her on a social networking site a few months ago. He had expressed his wish to meet the victim many times. On the 31st, he convinced the girl to meet at a south Delhi market. He then coaxed her to accompany him in his car to an undisclosed location. Rape confirmed, accused confess to sexual assault s per the girl's statement, the accused gave her a drink which was laced with a heavy dose of sedatives after which she began to feel dizzy. 
    The girl alleged that the accused then took turns to rape her inside the flat and then left her alone. They even threatened her with dire consequences if she disclosed the incident to anyone. 
    However, the girl managed to flee from their clutches after the accused left her alone and went out. She rushed to Safdarjung Enclave police station after taking an auto and reported the incident to the cops. 
    The stunned cops immediately formed six teams and dispatched them to various locations on the basis of the information provided by the victim. 

    The operation was supervised by the joint commissioner of police southern range, Vivek Gogia and DCP south Chhaya Sharma, the source said. The raiding teams were being led by additional DCP south P S Kushwah. 
    Meanwhile, the girl's medical examination was conducted at Safdarjung Hospital which confirmed rape, a source said. The girl was provided with medical help and counseling and a case of outraging a woman's modesty and criminal intimidation was registered on the basis of her statement. The call records of the victim helped cops get the location of the accused and one of the teams nabbed the two and placed them under arrest. 
    During interrogation, the accused accepted their involvement before the police and confessed to having lured the girl on pretext of meeting on New Years Eve, police said.

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