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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Activists air dangers of cell towers

Mumbai: Residents of Dadar and Matunga met on Sunday to discuss the ill-effects of mobile tower radiation. Drawing attention to the antennae mushrooming in the area, activists made presentations for the residents at Mancherji Hall in Parsi Colony, Wadala. 

    "Why do cellular operators put danger signs near their installations? Why does the department of telecommunication and ministry of communications and information technology publish ads telling people that if they have a choice, they should use a landline and not a cellphone?" asked Prakash Munshi from Indians for Safe Environments. 
    Dr Ashish Mehta, neurologist with Breach Candy and Saifee hospitals, made PowerPoint presentations explaining how electromagnetic radiation can affect body cells. "Continuous exposure is dangerous. Effects could range from genetic damage to malignancy," he said. 
    Actor Juhi Chawla, who is also a part of Forum Against Cell Tower Radiations, said, "Tho ugh firms provide the specific absorption rate value of a cellphone, people continue to use them without understanding thehealth hazards they can pose. It is important that people are aware of the issue."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Environmental toxins may take a toll on newborns Study Says Pollutants May Affect Boys

 A medical study conducted among 1,000 children born in a Navi Mumbai hospital could be an indicator of the growing effect of environmental toxins on the human reproductive system. 

    The study, which was presented at the 24th congress of the European Society for Paediatric Urology in Genoa, Italy, on Friday, showed there is a growing incidence of genital abnormality among boys possibly because of the increasing exposure to endocrine disruptor chemicals. Known as phthalates and bisphenol-A, these chemicals are used in plastic bottles, food wraps, cosmetics, toys, etc. Experts say chemicals in pesticides, painkillers and cigarettes too can disrupt the hormone system. 
    The study was conducted by Dr Arbinder Singal, a paediatric urologist with MGM Hospital in Vashi. His team checked 1,154 children on first or second day of birth for genital abnormalities, but 1,148 were included in the study. 
    An increase in incidence of male reproductive disorders has been noted all over the world, said Singal. "Such disorders are thought to be the result of chemical exposure that interfere with the sex hormones during development and sex differentiation which happens during 8 to 12 weeks of foetal development,'' he said. 
    The Navi Mumbai study noticed an alarming increase, almost 200%, in the incidence of undescended testicles. "We found almost 5% of the fullterm newborn male babies had undescended testes,'' he told TOI. The male hormone, testosterone, is produced in the testicles, which are two ovalshaped male sex organs located inside a small sac called the scrotum that is located under the penis. The last study in India done in 1972 showed an inci
dence of 1.6%. "If we include milder forms of undescended testes, the incidence may be as high as 8.7%,'' he added. 
    In 70% of the cases, testes descend within the first few months of life. But what is worrying is that 30% will need surgical correction. "An extrapolation of our results suggest that about 7 lakh babies would be born in India with undescended testes. Even if there is natural correction in 70% of the children by 6 months of age, there would still be 2.1 lakh babies every year who will need surgery for the condition in India,'' he added. If this condition is not treated, it could lead to fertility problems, torsion and 
cancer formation. 
    The team also found a high incidence of hypospadias, a condition in which the "peehole" isn't aligned with the opening of the penis. "We calculated the incidence at almost 1 in every 126 male babies. Extrapolating this data, over 1 lakh babies will be born with hypospadias in India,'' he said. 
    Senior paediatric surgeon Dr Santosh Karmakar said the incidence of undescended testes does seem high. "However, further studies are required to authoritatively say that environmental toxins are the main reason,'' he said. Another doctor said the high incidence could be the result of better de
tection rates. 
    Dr Vijay Yewale, a Navi Mumbai-based paediatrician who will the next president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, said, "If one looks at previous studies, this incidence is very high. It clearly shows that there is a hormonal influence, but we need to follow up and study these patients.'' 
    Dr Singal said his results should serve as a wake-up call on environmental pollution. "All vegetables and fruits which come to our markets in metros have some exposure to chemicals and it's worrisome to think what we will see coming up in next few years,'' he added.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

YOUNG LIVES SNUFFED OUT IN BHIWANDI Three kids suffocate in unlocked car

Bodies Found In A Car Godown; Manager Held For 'Negligence'

In a nightmarish tragedy, three Class I children, including a brother-sister duo, aged between five and seven, suffocated to death inside an unlocked car in the Kalher area of the powerloom town of Bhiwandi. 
    The three were last seen playing on Wednesday around 11.30am in a building adjacent to a large godown for cars. The godown has a capacity to accommodate more than 100 vehicles. The three decided to enter the godown through an approximately 25-foot-wide opening in its compound wall. They then stepped inside an unlocked car. Once inside, though, the children did not know how to open its doors. Their bodies were found 13 hours later, in the wee hours of Thursday. There were nail marks on the dusty windowpanes, indicating that they had unsuccessfully struggled to break them open, investigating police officers told TOI. 
    The victim's family demanded action against the godown's owner saying if the compound wall had been properly constructed and if the car had been locked, the tragedy would have been averted. 
    The local Narpoli police have seized the car and regis
tered a case against Sumit Malhotra, director of the car dealership, Global Gallery Agency Pvt Ltd, and Amit Sakpal, delivery checking executive in charge of managing the godown. Sakpal was arrested on Thursday. 
    The three kids—Rubi Maji (5), her brother Dilip Maji (7) and their friend Raj Soni (6)—were playing in Raj's Ramchandra building. Raj's mother Poonamdevi told TOI that around 11.30am on Wednesday, her son went out to play with his friends. Around 12.15pm, she last heard his sounds from her first-floor flat. After a while, 
she asked her elder daughter Sanjana (8) to call out to him. 
    Sanjana, though, returned around 1pm and told her mother that she could not find him. 

Poonamdevi then visited the Majis' residence in a neighbourhood chawl, and found that their children, too, had not returned. Both mothers began to look for their kids. 

    "After three hours of relentless search, we called up their fathers at work," said Uma, mother of the Maji kids. Fathers of both sets of children are em
ployed as handymen in private companies in Bhiwandi. 
    They rushed home and joined the search, and so did their neighbours. When all failed, they finally lodged a miss
ing persons complaint with the police on Wednesday evening. 
    "Around 12.30am on Thursday, the police managed to trace our kids inside a car parked in the godown; at first sight, they seemed unconscious," said an inconsolable Vinod Soni, Raj's father. The police opened the car, which was unlocked, and rushed them to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, where they were declared "brought dead". 
    M K Bhosale, deputy commissioner of police, Thane Zone 4, said, "We registered a case against the godown's owner as primary investigations 
clearly show that the incident occurred due to the negligence of the godown owner. He had left an opening in its compound wall." He further said the owner employed just two security guards for the rather large godown and that the guards kept a watch only at the front gate. 
    Coincidentally, the children's fathers lived and worked alone in Bhiwandi for years. Both brought down their families to live with them three years ago, and both had enrolled their children in Marathi medium schools, though they are from Uttar Pradesh. 

Wednesday, 11.30am | Siblings Rubi (5) and Dilip Maji (7) and Raj Soni (6) were last seen playing in the compound of Ramchandra building in the Kalher locality of Bhiwandi. Raj lived in this building 
12.30pm | Raj's mother, Poonamdevi, asked her elder daughter Sanjana (8) to call out to him 
1pm | Sanjana returned saying she could not find Raj. Poonamdevi visited the Maji children's residence in a neighbouring chawl, where she learnt from their mother, Uma, that they too were missing. Both the mothers launched a search in the locality, but to no avail 
4pm | After three hours, they called their husbands, who rushed home. Their neighbours joined the search 8pm | The families finally approached the local Narpoli police station Thursday, 12.30am | The kids' bodies were found in a car in a godown next to the building. There were nail marks on windows, indicating they had tried to break them


Raj Soni | The six-year-old was a student of Class I at Kendra Marathi School in Bhiwandi. The son of a handyman who works in a private company, was found dead on the driver's seat of a car in a godown

Rubi Maji | The five-year-old was a student of Class I in a local anganwadi school. She, too, was the daughter of a handyman in a private company. Her body was found on the back seat along with her brother Dilip's

Dilip Maji | The seven-year-old was also a student of Class I in the anganwadi school

HELPLESS END: The unlocked car (inset) was parked in this godown at Bhiwandi. The three children (right) got trapped inside the car as they did not know how to open its doors

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Quality of city’s water supply falls alarmingly

Mumbai:The water Mumbaikars receive from the BMC supply chain has grown markedly dirtier. By the civic body's own admission, of the tens of thousands of water samples it tested in 2012-2013, 19% were found unsafe for consumption. This was far worse than in 2011-2012, when the tally of samples found undrinkable was 16%. 

    All year round, the corporation's engineers and health officers randomly collect 
water samples to study the quality of supply. In 2012-2013, officials gathered 60,726 samples from the 24 municipal wards. Nearly 11,700 of these tested contaminated. And of these dirty samples, 1,474 were found to have the deadly E.Coli bacteria. 
    Equally worryingly, in 20 of the 24 wards, the percentage of contaminated sampl
es had increased over the previous year. C ward, which includes areas such as Pydhonie and Bhuleshwar, was revealed as the area receiving the dirtiest water from taps.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston shatters post-9/11 calm ‘Act Of Terror’ Kills 3, Including 8-Year-Old, Cripples Many At Historic Marathon

Washington: American confidence about having staved off a terror attack on mainland USA after 9/11 was dented after twin blasts killed three people and injured more than 170, 17 of them critically, near the finish line of the Boston marathon. Among the victims was an eight-year-old boy. Scores of runners and bystanders lost one or both legs. Eight children were among the injured. 
    Nearly 24 hours after Monday's bloodbath, it was still not clear if the attack came from domestic disgruntled or foreign elements. President Barack Obama did not use the word "terror" or "terrorism" in his initial remarks, but on Tuesday, he said, "Given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror." In a statement, he added, "What we don't know, however, is who carried out this 
attack, or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual." 
    There were 23,000 people running and more than 17,000 had crossed the tape when the blasts occurred 10 seconds and 90 metres apart. There 
were reports of a 20-year Saudi student being questioned, but the initial finger of suspicion pointed to a home-grown, lone-person attack. 
Two bombs go off near finish line of Boston marathon on Monday, about 10 seconds and 90m apart. By then, 17,000 of the 23,000 runners had finished the race 
Three people dead, 17 critical, many of whom had to have one or both legs amputated 
Bombs were in 6-litre pressure cookers packed with metal and ball bearings, placed in black bags. Officers suspect home-grown terrorists involved 
After initial caution, President Obama calls attack a 'cowardly' act of terror 
No one claims responsibility but US authorities search a suburban Boston home, detain a Saudi student for questioning 
Two passengers and their bags removed from a flight before it left Boston for Chicago

Workers help an elderly man injured in Boston on Monday

Monday, April 15, 2013

142 new ambulances for city from Aug

Mumbai: Lack of space is proving to be a major hurdle in stationing state-of-the-art ambulances in the city. The state public health department wants to deploy 142 out of the 937 ambulances it will procure under the Emergency Medical Services project in the city and suburbs. The traffic department has offered space at 25 of itsoffices acrossthecity. 

    "We want to ensure that 142 are deployed so that we can reach any accident spot in less than 20 minutes,'' publichealth minister Suresh Shetty said. 
    The ambulances, to be deployed from August, will look different and will have a unique siren. The health department has told the traffic department to prepare an awareness campaign on the ambulances and the need to givethem rightof way. 
    Each ambulance, costing Rs6 lakh, will have life-saving equipment certified by European or American government associations and an ayurvedic doctor on board. The annual maintenance cost is estimated atRs12lakh. 
    London's fleet service has 700 ambulances.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ants can sense quakes a day before they strike

New York: Ants can sense earthquakes before they occur and the tiny insects suspend their normal activity till a day after the temblor, new research has found. 

    German researchers have discovered that red wood ants prefer to build their colonies along active faults, fractures where the Earth ruptures during earthquakes. Gabriele Berberich of the University Duisburg-Essen has counted more than 15,000 red wood ant mounds lined up along Germany's faults. 
    Betyween 2009 to 2012, there were 10 earthquakes between magnitude 2 and 3.2 and many smaller temblors. Berberich found that the ants changed their behaviour only for quakes larger than magnitude 2. 

    During the day, ants went about their daily activity, and at night the colony rested inside the mound, Berberich said. However, before a quake, the ants were awake throughout the night, outside their mound. 
    Berberich said the insects pick up changing gas emissions or local shifts in the Earth's magnetic field. "The ants have chemo-receptors for carbon dioxide gradients and magneto-receptors for electromagnetic fields," she said. PTI

Aadhaar ‘voluntary’, but govt agencies say it’s mandatory

 Whether you are seeking government subsidy or not, both the central and state governments are arm-twisting citizens into obtaining an Aadhaar card. This, despite the fact that a Bill making Aadhar a statutory requirement is still pending before Parliament. 

    Further, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan himself has confessed the state's inability to provide every resident of Maharashtra a Unique Identification (UID) number or Aadhaar card by December-end. "We will be able to achieve only around 90% to 95%,'' he said. 
    V Raghavan (name changed on request), a high-level executive with a market research firm, said he along with his wife have "somehow'' manag
ed to register for an Aadhaar card as he needs to submit it before April-end. Legislators have been raising objections in the ongoing legislative session, pointing out that there are not enough centres to register for an Aadhar card and those who have registered have not been informed about their status for as long as three months. 
Submit a photocopy of the Aadhaar card by April-end, or else Provident Fund will not be deposited, corporates are telling their employees 
Submit a photocopy of Aadhaar card with the local LPG dealer or forego the subsidy 
Ensure every school child has an Aadhaar card by Mayend or no salary, state tells govt and private aided schools 
Parents whose wards study in private schools have been told to submit a photocopy of the Aadhaar card by July-end 
Photocopy of Aadhaar card must for opening a savings a/c 
Aadhaar: Many worried about privacy 
    Unmindful of the chief minister himself telling the legislature that it is the Centre's directive that unless a district has 80% registration, providing subsidies through Aadhaar cannot be undertaken, citizens are being coerced into getting a UID number. 
    "When we informed the school principal that Parliament is yet to pass the Bill, she categorically told us that there was no harm in 
obtaining the card. The deadline is July-end,'' said Maya Nair (name changed). Nair's child studies in an ICSE school in the suburbs. J S Saharia, additional chief secretary in charge of school education, said while no child will be denied admission for not having an Aadhaar card, the department has informed all government and aided schools that teacher's salaries will not be paid if every child does not have an Aadhaar card by Mayend. "Since we are providing funds we want to know exactly how many children are there in school,'' he said. 
    Sources in the oil marketing companies said they are being compelled by the ministry of petroleum and natural gas to fast-track the implementation of Aadhaar. "We have sought clarification from the ministry as we have received objections from consumers,'' said sources. 
    Several Mumbaikars are miffed with the government forcing them to get an Aadhaar card. "I have serious objections to the Aadhaar card as I believe it will infringe on my privacy, providing access to every piece of information about me. Since I do not want government subsidies why should I be coerced into getting an Aadhaar card? It is akin to creating a police 
state,'' said Snehal Shah, a stock investor. 
    Janhit Manch, which has complained to the Centre on the forceful implementation of Aadhaar, said the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), with its vast implications, is not controlled by any legislation. "There is no statute to control how this informa
tion can be used or by whom and under what conditions. There is no law, and no parliamentary or judicial supervision. What is the remedy to a citizen who finds his info has been misused? The scheme, though said to be 'voluntary', is becoming compulsory due to such directives,'' said Utsal Karani, secretary, Janhit Manch. 

People who have registered in India out of 
120 crore 
People in Mumbai, out of 1.2 crore, have enrolled 

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is providing Indian residents a unique 12-digit identification number that will have multiple purposes 
    The scheme was formally launched by the United Progressive Alliance government in Tembhli village, Nandurbar district, in Maharashtra 
    To receive the unique ID number, a person must be a resident of India 
    The state government has issued a list of documents that can be produced for proof of identity 
and residence 
The UID will collect only biometric and demographic information about an individual and will not ask for information on caste, religion or language 
Residents will be photographed, their fingerprints taken and irises scanned. 
Aadhaar numbers will be issued within a month 
Tollfree No | 18001801947 
Email | help@uidai.gov.in 
Snail mail | PO Box 1947, GPO Bangalore 560001 
Fax | 080-23531947

Couple rescued off Bandra promenade

Mumbai: The fire brigade and local fishermen rescued a youth and his fiancee after they were stranded in the sea off Carter Road promenade on Sunday noon. The Khar police let them off with a warning. According to the police, Deepak Kumar (25) and Sarita (18) ventured close to the sea. 
    "The two were sitting on a rock and got stranded due to the rising tide. They were surrounded by water and lost their balance," said a police officer. 
    "They were floundering and screamed for help. Another couple sitting nearby spotted them and called up the police control room," he added. The police alerted the fire brigade. Later, fishermen and fire department personnel managed to rescue 
the two. Kumar (25) resides in Vashi while Sarita (18) is a Santa Cruz resident. "The two confessed that since it was their first visit to the seafront, they were unaware of the danger of rising tides," the officer said. The Khar police made a diary entry of the incident and verified their details before allowing them to go. Last year, the police put up boards at severalplaces warning youngsters not too close to the sea. "We patrol the area and warn people about the danger," said an official. 
Deepak Kumar (25) and Sarita (18) sit on a rock close to the sea off Carter Road promenade on Sunday 
Due to the rising tide, they are surrounded by water and lose their balance 
They scream for help and another couple sitting nearby spot them and call up the police control 
The police immediately alerted the fire brigade. Later, fishermen and fire department personnel rescue the two 
The Khar police let them off with a warning 

Fishermen and fire brigade officials rescued five couples in February 2011 off Carter Road in Bandra. 
The couples sat on the rocks in the sea and they didn't realize that the high tide was setting in 
Cops spotted two couples between the rocks and alerted fishermen and the fire brigade 
Five couples were rescued with the help of life jackets and ropes

CRATER MUMBAI Soon, shoot & upload videos on pothole-tracking system

Mumbai: You will soon be able to upload videos of pockmarked stretches on the civic body's pothole-tracking website. At present, citizens can only upload pictures clicked through their android phones. The video feature, too, will be available only to users of android phones. 

    The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) 
is working on adding the video feature to its potholetracking website which was launched in November 2011. 
    "There are long uneven stretches on our roads and a photo or a group of photos alone cannot show the extent of the problem. The video feature will help us gauge the situation on the ground and 
tackle potholes more effectively," said additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta. 
    The high-tech potholetracking system (www.voiceofcitizen.com), which cost the BMC Rs 60 lakh, allows citizens to upload photos of potholes and geo tag them. Once a photo is upload, an en
gineer from the BMC's roads department is assigned the job of ensuring that the contractor concerned fixes it within 48 hours. Failure to do so results in the engineer being penalized. The same procedure will be followed in case of video recordings. 
    The BMC's pothole-tracking system has had its share 
of bumpy rides with a section of citizens, civic officials and politicians criticizing it. While citizens and politicians were upset that the software was for users of android phones only, engineers had alleged that they were fined because of glitches in the system. The BMC, however, stood its ground and continued to operate the system. 
    The BMC has also added three more technologies to fill potholes this year. This takes the total number of technologies available with the contractors for filling up potholes to six. Experts pointed out that the BMC should have waited for the pothole audit report before deciding to use cold mix technology to fix potholes this year too. 
    "These three technologies were finalized after approval from the standing technical advisory committee," added Gupta. 


    After downloading the pothole-tracking software from www.voiceofcitizen.com, android phone users can upload photos of craters and pinpoint their location on a map provided on the website 
    Concerned BMC engineers are alerted about new uploads 
    Status of pothole repair can be tracked on the website 
    Engineers have to ensure that the potholes are fixed in 48 hours, failing which they 
are penalized 
    Same procedure will have to followed for uploading video 
    Once the video facility is activated, those of have already downloaded the app will receive an update alert

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

6 illegal buildings, 17 shops razed in Thane

Thane: As the demolition squad got down to work at Shilphata, 25kms from Mumbai, on Wednesday they faced stiff resistance from dishoused families of illegal buildings. The squad pulled down six multi-storey buildings, 17 shops and 11 other cement structures on private land and protected forest plots. 

    While street action by the authorities was on in full swing on Wednesday, no person involved in the illegal seven-storey building at Lucky Compound that collapsed last week, was said to have been detained or arrested. 
    Thirteen persons are in police custody for their direct role in construction of the illegal building which crashed, killing 74 persons and injuring 65 others. All the accused have been charged under the Indian Penal Code with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. They will remain in police custody till April 20. 
    Police action against the four top officials of Thane Municipal Corporation and one police personnel here sent tremors of fear among the babudom in civic corridors. 
    Officials who served in the Mumbra-Diva area in the past are especially wary about the goings-on and are constantly checking up with close colleagues about the progress 
made in police investigations. Atop police officer did not rule out the possibility of arrests of some more civic officials. 
    Meanwhile, the forest department, which owns huge tracts of land that stand encroached upon by commercial godowns or chawls and buildings at Shilphata, mowed down the entire line of cement concrete godowns and residential homes built on their land. 
    "We have to clear the land of all illegal occupation. There were some protests as the locals tried to stop the demolition work. However, with police help, we arrested 11 persons and have booked them for trying to obstruct state offi
cials from performing their duty,'' deputy forest conservator G T Chavan told TOI. 
    The Thane corporation te-Jam, too, has been on an overdrive since the past 48 hours and has razed a gound-plusfour-storey building in Shiklphata area. A team of civic engineers also surveyed 35 residential buildings in Mumbra and realized that 17 of these buildings have got illegal power connections. "We have cut off the power connections,'' a TMC spokesperson told TOI. 
    The TMC also started a 24-hour call centre to receive complaints of illegal constructions. Phone number is 25371010; helpline number 108. 
BMC frames norms for action against unauthorized, dilapidated structures The civic body has formulated ten-pointer guidelines for taking action against unauthorized constructions, and dilapidated and dangerous buildings. These were presented in the standing committee meeting on Wednesday. Now, as per a modification in the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, it is obligatory on the BMC to appoint ward-wise designated officers to look into unauthorized constructions across the city. Some 64 assistant engineers at the ward level will function as 'demolition men'. 
    Amajor highlight of the guidelines is that action will be initiated and notice will be served to the builder, if he constructs beyond the scope of the commencement certificate (CC). The guidelines further state that all assistant commissioners and deputy municipal commissioners have been asked to identify illegal structures and issue notices under the MRTP and the BMC Act. The BMC-owned buildings, especially schools will be reconstructed or repaired. The civic officials will meet municipal commissioner for providing of police protection for demolitions. – Linah Baliga

Belief in miracle money multiplier leaves Dadar doctor poorer by 25L

Mumbai: A doctor was made to believe that magic chemicals could quadruple money in an instant. This would have been news in itself had it not been for the fact that the prospect of 300% returns made her submit Rs25 lakh for this novel instrument of investment and lose it. Though the police have caught the 'alchemists' who promised Dr Usha Mehta of Dadar the moon, the money is yet to be recovered. 

    A common friend introduced Mehta to Pawan Singh, Abhishek Singh and Sarji. "They took her to a hotel in Lonavala, where they demonstrated to her how a single currency note of Rs1,000 could bring three more, thus totaling Rs4,000. They showed her some sheets of paper, kept them atop one another and kept the Rs1,000 note on top. Then they applied a chemical to the note. After waiting for a few seconds, they removed the sheets of paper to reveal the additional notes. Of course, it was sleight of hand," said senior inspector of the crime branch's anti-extortion cell Nitin Alaknure. 
    When the doctor wanted to thus 'invest' a particular amount, the trio told her it needed to be at least Rs25 lakh, 
saying they accepted only big orders as the chemical required was expensive and had to be imported from Nepal. "They also took Rs2 lakh from her to 'import the chemical'," Alaknure said. 
    When Mehta brought Rs25 lakh to the trio in Lonavala, she was asked to wait while the notes were converted—"a time-consuming process given the amount". "All of a sudden, she heard screams from inside the room where her money was. She rushed in to find two of the men hitting the third one, accusing him of blundering and burning the notes," said inspector Sudhir Dalvi. 
"They told her they needed more time as the chemical had to be imported again. This happened in November last year. This January, when Mehta inquired about her money, the trio told her to forget about it since it was 'in any case black money' and threatened to inform the income tax department." 
    Mehta approached the police, who laid a trap and caught the three, who the police said had spent the money by splurging on holidays and luxury goods. "We are now looking for a middleman who got a cut of the amount," said crime branch chief Himanshu Roy.

Dr Usha Mehta is introduced 
to three men who say they can quadruple bank notes

She gives them Rs25 lakh to 
be subjected to the magic chemical treatment

During the 'process', they 
tell her that due to a mistake the notes got burnt

When she asks for her 
money, they threaten to set income tax sleuths on her

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Free Online Alternatives To Expensive Software

Almost every piece of expensive software that you buy for a computer has a free and capable online version. Not only will you save money, but you'll also free up some vauable hard drive space, 

Google Docs/Drive 
Google Drive provides a feature-rich interface for text, spreadsheets and presentations. You can open documents saved in your Gmail inbox or create a new one online. You can also collaborate real-time with colleagues on a document. All documents are automatically saved in your Google Drive cloud storage space. 

Microsoft Office Web Apps 
Microsoft also offers a free online office suite for SkyDrive users — the interface will be familiar to users of MS Office. You get 7GB of free cloud storage to store your documents. You can create or upload Word, Excel, PowerPoint as well as OneNote files to SkyDrive and edit them. Documents can be shared and you can select which users can edit the document and if it is mandatory for users to sign into their Microsoft account to access the document or not. 

Zoho Docs www.zoho.com 
Zoho's office suite includes support for MS Word, spreadsheets, presentations as well as databases and reports. Like the other two office suites mentioned above, this one also supports real-time collaboration but in addition offers various other integrated services. With a single account, you get access to mail, chat, calendar/planner, invoice generation, as well as a CRM (customer relationship management) system. 
Filelab products work better with Google Chrome and you need to download a free plugin first. Once you start, you get support for multiple video formats and HD resolution. It offers all the basic editing controls to trim, cut and merge. You can also add creativity to your video with multiple effects. There are over 50 transition effects available along with the option to overlay one video on top of the other. You can define transparency, add audio tracks and then watch a live preview right in your browser window. 

Video ToolBox 
This editor supports editing of the most common file formats and also lets you convert from one format to another. You can add watermarks, merge videos, extract audio, take screenshots or remove unwanted parts of a video. It also gives you 1GB of free cloud storage. 
YouTube Editor 
Youtube offers a powerful online editor that lets you trim videos, merge multiple videos into one, add transitions, stabilise video or add a soundtrack of your choice. It also automatically suggests corrections and effects if your videos are not up to the mark. 

Photoshop Express 
If you need to do just basic image adjustments and manipulation, Adobe's own online photo editor is great. You get basic editing (crop, resize, rotate) as well as a few adjustments (white balance, soft focus, highlight) options. Various effects to enhance the picture are also available. Once done, images can be saved to your computer or shared on Flickr, Facebook or Picasa. 

With this online editor, you can create a new image, upload one from your computer or open any image from a URL. The interface is similar to Adobe Photoshop and you get all the usual tools as well as support for layers. You also get various filter effects, levels, curves and exposure controls. Images can be saved to the computer or to online services like Flickr/Picasa. 

Splashup has a similar interface to Photoshop. Apart from your PC and from a URL, it also supports importing images from Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket and can capture an image from a webcam. Like Pixlr, it lets you work with layers to add various filters. However, it does not have advanced editing options such as levels and exposure control. 
Music Creation 
SOUNDATION STUDIO (www.soundation. com) offers advanced tools and effects that you would only get with professional music studio software. You launch the studio right inside your browser window and it also includes over 600 free audio loops and samples that you can start with. A free account lets you save and publish as many songs as you want, but if you want recording, you need one of the paid plans. 

3D House Planner 
HOMESTYLER (www.homestyler.com) is a free and easy-to-use house planner. You can use it if you are planning on building a new house or even just redecorating. Homestyler lets you easily create a layout, add furniture, landscaping and experiment with paints, textures and different lighting for your room. You can easily view in 3D and share with friends too. 

PDF Tools 
A SUITE of no-nonsense PDF tools can be found at www.pdfunlock.com (to remove restrictions from PDFs), www.pdfmerge. com (to merge multiple files into one), www. splitpdf.com (split one file into multiple) and www.pdfprotect.net (add password protection). At www.pdfaid. com, you can choose from a variety of web tools for watermarking, image extraction, rotation, compression and conversion. Note that some of the tools imprint a small PDFAid logo on the final file. 

Speech To Text 
RATHER THAN use expensive dictation software, just head towww.talktyper.com. You need to download Google Chrome first because it doesn't work too well on other browsers. Make sure your microphone is working and click the green microphone button to start the dictation. It works pretty well if you speak clearly and the conversion to text is almost instantaneous. 

Optical Character Recognition 
AT www.ocronline.com, you can convert a scanned document, PDF file or an image (JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PDF) to an editable text file. First, complete a quick sign-up. If you are scanning, make sure to do it in 300dpi. Upload your document, select your preferred output format and you're done.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Traffic warden who took on Rane Jr ousted After 20 Yrs Of Voluntary Service, 55-Yr-Old Loses Job Over ‘Netas’ Complaints’

Mumbai: The traffic police have terminated the services of Bandra-Khar traffic warden Anita Lobo, who had taken on Congress MP Nilesh Rane for blocking traffic in January. 

    Lobo, who has been regulating traffic in Bandra-Khar voluntarily for two decades, said the traffic police's notice states that her services are being discontinued due to complaints from politicians over her alleged misbehaviour. She received the notice 15 days ago. "The notice cites political pressure as the reason for termination of my services. After 20 years of voluntary service, I am now being told that I misbehaved with politicians. Are politicians ruling the police and our country? I don't deserve this. Where is justice in this country," asked Lobo (55). 
    On January 28, TOI carried a report on how Lobo allegedly suffered the wrath of state industries minister Narayan Rane's son for carrying out her duty in Khar (W). Lobo had stopped Nilesh and his convoy for blocking traffic on 20th Road. An argument had ensued between Lobo and Rane Jr and she was reportedly detained at the Khar police station for three hours. Following the incident, sup
port had poured in for Lobo from citizens, who criticized Nilesh's high-handedness. 
    Now, 15 advanced locality managements and residents' associations have decided to meet joint commissioner of police (traffic) Vivek Phansalkar to demand revocation of Lobo's termination. "Lobo was strict but she never distinguished between a celebrity and a common man while doing her duty. Nilesh doesn't represent Bandra-Khar residents," said Bandra activist Shyama Kulkarni. 
    Anil Joseph, chairperson of Perry 
Road Residents' Association, said, "Lobo's case bears similarity to the recent incident in which a traffic policeman was pulled up for stopping a speeding MLA. The red-beacon culture is rampant in Bandra. Politicians and other powerful personalities move around with their entourage of cars. Their bodyguards often misbehave with traffic policemen and other motorists." 
Anita Lobo, who has been regulating traffic in Bandra-Khar voluntarily for 20 years, had stopped Congress MP Nilesh Rane for blocking traffic on 20th Road in Khar in January 
Following the incident, she was reportedly detained at the Khar police station and told not to regulate traffic on 20th Road 
Now, 15 advanced locality managements and residents' associations have decided to meet joint commissioner of police (traffic) Vivek Phansalkar to demand revocation of Lobo's termination

TOI reports on January 28 & 29

‘Affordable housing for masses is the only solution to illegal construction’


Shortage Of Homes Has Led To Proliferation Of Fly-By-Night Contractors-Turned-Builders

    The arrest of those responsible for the coming up of the illegal building that collapsed in Mumbra's Shilphata area on Thursday night might instil fear in others involved in the region's illegal housing business, but development experts and politicians say the effect will be short-lived if the state government failed to take policy initiatives to increase affordable housing stock. 
    "No person likes to live in an illegal home, putting his and his family's lives at risk. If there is adequate and affordable housing stock in the area, it will be the first preference of families who live in illegal buildings under the shadow of fear," said MLA from Mumbra-Kalwa Jitendra Awhad. "The state government's policy inertia in the housing and urban development sector has resulted in the mushrooming of illegal constructions all across Thane." 

    The housing sector's demand-supply crisis has given rise to untrustworthy builders, who exploit the common man. With real estate prices in Mumbai touching the sky, the working class has had to shift to places like Thane, Kalyan-Dombivli and Bhiwandi. But even here there is a lack of adequate housing, forcing people with severely limited means to move into dingy rooms in illegal buildings. 
    A senior town planning official of the Thane municipality said that while the Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority has failed to cater to the rising demand for homes in the region, the performance of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority is equally dismal. "MMRDA is the planning agency for rental housing and also a designated special planning authority for 51 villages on the outskirts of Bhiwandi and another 27 in the Kalyan and Ambernath talukas of Thane. It's been close to five years since the MMRDA finalized a draft development 
control plan for the area to regulate development activities and create housing stock. But the plan has not been unveiled," the official said. 
    He said the monumental 
tragedy in Mumbra that resulted in the death of 74 people could have been averted had the state machinery moved swiftly and taken steps to create apartments at an affordable price in the outskirts of the city in areas like Shilphata and Bhiwandi. 
    He said former MMRDA commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad had initiated a rental 
housing policy in Thane and builders were given an FSI of four in return for free housing stock to the government. "The plan was to give away homes on rent to the huge number of migrants who come here in search of opportunities. The builders have exploited the FSI, but it is a mystery as to how many tenements have been given on rent." 

    BUILDERS | Abdul Salim Aziz Siddiqui aka Salim Shaikh, Jamil Ahmed Jalaluddin Shaikh aka Jamil Qureshi 
    DEPUTY MUNICIPAL COMMISSIONER, THANE | Deepak Sharad Chavan, suspended 


BUILDING MATERIAL SUPPLIER | Afroz Alam Ansari CONSTABLE, DAIGHAR POLICE STATION | Jehangir Umarali Sayyad BROKER | Sayyad Jabbar Razzak Patel 
Times View: Continue crackdown 
The government crackdown should not be a knee-jerk response to a man-made disaster. The building that collapsed was only one among an estimated 5 lakh illegal buildings in the district. Justice demands that the government sustain the drive to include other buildings constructed illegally and not lose its new-found zeal.
Section 304, IPC | 
Culpable homicide not amounting to murder PUNISHMENT | Life imprisonment or 10 years' imprisonment and fine 
Section 336 | Act endangering life or personal safety of others 
Three months' imprisonment or fine up to 250 or both 
Section 337 | Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others PUNISHMENT | Six months' imprisonment or fine up to 500 or both 
Section 338 | Causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others PUNISHMENT | Two years' imprisonment or fine of 1,000 or both 
Section 308 | Attempt to commit culpable 
homicide PUNISHMENT | Three years' imprisonment or fine or both. If hurt is caused, seven years' imprisonment or fine or both 
    Section 120 (b) | 
    imprisonment or 
    rigorous imprisonment of two years or upwards 
Section 34 | Criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention 
Section 13 (1) (d), Prevention of Corruption Act | Criminal misconduct by a public servant whereby he obtains valuable things, cash without public interest PUNISHMENT | Oneseven years' imprisonment

An illegal building near the one that collapsed being demolished in Mumbra on Sunday night

Builders bribed officials at all levels: Police chief 5 Lakh Found In Deputy Civic Chief’s Home

Thane: The investigations into the collapse of a sevenstorey building in Mumbra has exposed a nefarious nexus of builders, municipal officials and the police in the area, where crooked developers bribe officials and cops into silence as they erect substandard and unauthorized constructions. 

    Thane police chief K P Raghuvanshi said on Sunday that the builders of the structure that crumbled on Thursday, killing 74 people and injuring 62, had paid off officials, "who abused their power for personal gain". "The amount runs into several lakh of rupees," he said. 
    In raids on the home of the builders on Sunday, said Raghuvanshi, the police re
covered the time schedule of the cash payments made to the authorities at all levels besides land documents and sale agreements of the illegal Shilphata flats. 
Police make three more arrests on Sunday, taking the total to nine 
    In search of the home of builders Salim Shaikh and Jamil Qureshi, police recover the time schedule of the cash payments made to the colluding authorities besides land documents and sale agreements of the illegal Mumbra flats 
    Rs 5 lakh cash and "property documents" recovered from suspended TMC deputy commissioner Deepak Chavan's residence 
Bribes paid to officials on basis of illegal slabs 
    Separately, during a search of the residence of suspended deputy commissioner Deepak Chavan of Thane Municipal Corporation, the police found Rs 5 lakh cash and "property documents". 
    Chavan was arrested on Saturday for alleged "involvement" with the ill-fated building's developers. Apart from him were arrested two of the builders (Siddiqui and Shaikh), assistant municipal commissioner Babasaheb Andhale, NCP corporator from Shilphata Hira Patil and havaldar Jehangir Sayyad of Daighar police station. 
    Taking the tally to nine on Sunday, the police arrested senior TMC clerk Kisan Madke, building materials supplier Afroz Ansari and agent Sayyad Patel. All the accused were produced in a Thane court and remanded in police custody till April 20. They have been booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, among other things. If proved guilty, they can be punished with life imprisonment. 
    Meanwhile, the NCP suspended Patil from the party. 
    According to several sources, the developers paid bribes as per different measures. To the colluding civic officials and elected representatives, money was given for every concrete slab added to the illegal structure. To the former was allegedly given Rs 1.50-2 lakh and to the latter Rs 50,000. The conspiring policemen were, meanwhile, paid Rs 50,000 for each illegal tenement, said sources. 
    Besides the construction that crumpled last week, Siddiqui and Shaikh built two other seven-storey illegal buildings on a three-acre plot, L u ck y C o m p o u n d , at Shilphata. It is estimated that around 100 seven- to 10-storey illegal buildings are standing in Shilpata area, in spite of repeated complaints by citizen-activist Mangal Patil to the civic authorities. 
    "Preliminary inquiry reveals it is an organized network. The documents recovered from the builders' house gives details of the payments made to all the accused," said Raghuvanshi. Raids on the residences of other accused also threw up "incriminating documents," said sources. 
    "The arrest operation (on Saturday) was conducted 
swiftly. The NCP corporator (Patil) was participating in a news channel debate at Shilphata. As soon as the programme was over he was asked by crime branch officials to come to the headquarters for a meeting. Unaware of their intentions, Patil went to the office and was declared arrested," an official said. 
    Raghuvanshi said more arrests are likely to be made soon. The police are searching for five partners of the builders who were also involved in the racket. Also, they are looking into the role of MSEB officials who reportedly gave a 120-gauge electric cable to the illegal building. 

    "The MSEB's defence could be that as power comes under essential commodites it cannot refuse connections. However, that's half the truth. The law says that a builder has to submit documents such as the building plan, commencement certificate, PAN card of the builder and his partners and a written application on the firms' letterhead giving details about the project. It is unlikely the norms were followed and yet the building got a power connection," said a local. 
    The police commissioner, when asked if the accused men could also be booked under the stringent MCOCA, said that though the accused were working as an organized cartel, MCOCA law is applicable on habitual offenders who have served jail term before.

    Preliminary inquiry reveals that it is an organized network. The documents recovered from the builders' house give details of the payments made to all the accused, who abused their official power for personal gain. 

Deepak Chavan, TMC deputy civic chief (L) & NCP corporator from Shilphata Hira Patil (R)

TOUGH TALK: Thane police chief K P Raghuvanshi said officials abused their power for personal gain

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Murder and robbery in a day leave quiet suburbs shaken ‘Background Check Drives Fizzled Out’

 Two sensational crimes in a day, in the heart of well-to-do residential neighbourhoods at Borivli and Juhu have left Mumbaikars jittery. Residents groups say that the daylight crimes reveal that a much-publicized campaign by police to collect information on domestic helps and security guards in every housing society in the western suburbs has gradually fizzled out. 

    "The campaign was started by the cops with a lot of enthusiasm over a year ago. We tried to help them but residents were increasingly against sharing information with the police. They feared the information would be misused," said Hansel D'Souza, for mer chairperson of the Juhu citizens' welf a re g ro u p. D'Souza added the feeling was fuelled further after security guards and house helps complained of shoddy treatment by cops and of being made to run around for basic items like identity cards. 
    Another police scheme which residents aren't so keen about anymore is having constables visit senior citizens staying alone. "The trust factor is lacking. Some senior citizens complained that they did not want such visits as the fact that they were vulnerable was now officially on police record," said D'Souza. "It's 
necessary for the police to revamp their image. They Benkar also need higher budgetary allocation as they still use antique equipment and vehicles." 
Security experts say electronic surveillance goes a long way in securing societies and is especially handy for investigators. "More and more housing societies are considering having closed-circuit cameras due to a spurt in crime," 
said Kirti Adarkar of the Old Lokhandwala Residents' Association, Andheri West. The Lokhandwala market in Andheri is already dotted with surveillance cameras. Another resident suggested a system which would link CCTVs in housing societies to local police stations and an alarm to warn the cops in the event of any crime. "The one cop-one society scheme has worked for our neighbourhood. Here, a constable is assigned to each society and he visits it regularly to check the goings-on," said Adarkar. 

Citizens should verify the antecedents of their house helps before employing them 
At any instance, house helps should not be appointed based on mere references made by their acquaintances or relatives 
Collect photographs of house helps and details of previous employers, submit them at the police station along with their contact numbers 
Avoid displaying jewellery or discussing money in the presence of house helps. Keep your valuables in the bank while going out of town 
Treat domestic helps with dignity 
Never let your domestic helps know where cash, jewellery, valuables and keys of your house or your car are kept 
If you can afford it, set up a camera to take photos of the domestic helps while they are with your kids 
Avoid entertaining relatives and friends of the help 
Keep your domestic help under close observation for any suspicious activities

As security guards are responsible for protecting property and people, it is very important that their background is screened carefully 
    Although firms providing guards need to clear licensing requirements, they do not always take necessary precautions when hiring personnel. Take it upon yourself (as a housing society) to interview candidates thoroughly because ultimately you will be the one relying on protection 
    Install CCTVs so that every activity in the building, including guards' movements, are recorded 
    Maintain records on the guard's native and current address, photographs, phone numbers and local relatives' details 
Helplines | Police main control room: 100/22621855/22625020

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