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Saturday, November 30, 2013

HORN NOT OK PLEASE Whether it’s to curb honking and spitting or increase adherence to TB drugs, experts are using behaviour science to break society’s bad habits

 Afew weeks ago, a small red button was installed in the Maharashtra State Transport joint commissioner's official car. The plan is to install this red button — that beeps and flashes every third time the car horn is used and has to be manually switched off by the driver — in all official cars of the department. If Project Bleep works, this will solve one of the most maddening problems in urban India — honking. 

    Anand Damani and Mayur Tekchandaney, partners at Briefcase, a Mumbaibased branding and behavioural design agency, observed that honking, quite 
often, was a habit and not a necessity. So, they built Bleep, the button. Tests found that it reduced honking by an average of 61%. Bleep may go from Mumbai to Manhattan, with the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission expressing interest. The Commission finds it hard to control honking in the city because 
most of the drivers are from the Indian subcontinent. Damani says that most people don't even realize that they honk unnecessarily, and the button reminds them that it is a needless activity, leading to more deliberate use. 
    What Damani is talking about is a behaviour intervention. Simply put, it is the use of science to change behavior. How do you stop people from spitting, littering or driving on the wrong side of the road? How do you make people use public toilets or transport? Enter behaviour analysis which is changing the way policymakers are designing public 
schemes, the way politicians are electioneering, the way companies are selling products and services, and the way the social sector is tackling problems. Though India is far behind the governments of US and UK, which have official behavioural analysis units, there is increasing understanding of the need to include it in the way decisions are made for the masses. Advances in brain imaging and allied medical technologies, new courses at leading universities and the on-field success of behavioural economics in the past few years have also inspired much of this movement. 
    Understanding human behaviour is about breaking down the complex web of motivations, fears, doubts, misconceptions and beliefs behind an action — cracking the mystery of the 'why' we do what we do. And FinalMile, a Mumbai-based behaviour architecture consulting firm, is puzzling over many of these "whys" – why don't people finish their TB medication, why do they spit, why don't they stop at railway crossings or use contraception? 

Irrational beings 
The premise that behaviour economics does away with is that human beings are rational. They are not. The last financial crisis of 2008, in fact, pushed home the belief that people take irrational decisions, which often endanger their physical, mental and financial health. Ram Prasad, co-founder of FinalMile, says, "We think that people are rational and have time to make their own decisions — big mistake. Many of our actions are short cuts or unconscious decisions." Damani and Tekchandaney, in fact, started their behaviour design department late last year because they understood the inefficacies of traditional advertising. 
    One of the first social problems FinalMile tackled was death on train tracks. Through six months of observa
tional research (videography, observing crowds, talking to motormen, accident witnesses etc) the team saw behaviour patterns. "One was that people were quite overconfident even though they said they feared trains, they would still see one and cross. Warning systems were not making any impact. So we knew that we had to improve the trespassers' judgment because we can't stop them from crossing tracks," says Prasad. 
    They also realized that text is meaningless. So they used emotion in the signage (photos of a man being hit by a train) because writing "danger" and feeling danger are different. The feeling of danger made people take more conservative decisions. They also used yellowcoloured sleepers on the tracks at certain distances so that people can judge the speed of the train better, put up whistle signs at spots where people pay attention 
and also changed the tone of the whistle to one that grabs more attention. 
    This experiment at Wadala led to a reduction in track deaths from 40 fatalities in 2009-10 to 10 in 2010-11. The experiment led to a 40-70% reduction in fatalities in other locations. Now, the railways have asked them to look at accidents at unmanned railway crossings. 
    Other sticky urban problems from spitting to traffic chaos to gender imbalance in public spaces have also attracted the attention of behaviour specialists. Vandana Vasudevan, author of "Urban Villager: Life in an Indian Satellite Town" says, "In urban life, there are several aspects in which India needs behavioural change. I have a personal theory on what makes India a large trash can and this is consistently borne out by my observations of daily life whenever I am in the West — all the countries where public space is clean, people's patriotism is not notional but real and practical. They think of their country as though it was one large home." In fact, one of FinalMile's solutions was to ensure that public spaces such as staircases (permanent spitting areas) have the same look as the indoor space to give it a seamless appearance. 
Can't judge long-term risks 
Understandably, behaviour analysts are in great demand in the social sector, mainly because of the magnitude of most social problems as well as the spectacular failure of direct messaging. "There has been a realization that in spite of a lot of awareness and education, behaviour was not changing in key areas like public health, environment, public safety," says Paolo Mefalopulos, chief of communication for development, UNICEF India. 
    Prasad says that though most of the initial interest in behavioural change came from the commercial sector, the social sec
tor is now sizeable T he team has worked on one of the most pressing health issues India faces today — multi drug resistant tu berculosis (MDR TB) which happens when people stop taking their TB medication. "We found that patients start feeling better and stop taking the medication. But they tell the doctor that they are still taking it, because they don't feel the danger any more. And though six months seems definitive (length of the course), it doesn't seem so to patients They lose track and have no sense of progress. Behaviour economics suggests that we are poor at judging long-terms risks i.e. MDR TB," says Prasad. The team has developed solutions — each patient gets medicine box or a calendar to tick off months and have a sense of progress, stick a photo of how sick he was when he started on the box, and make the pills look visually different for each month. FinalMile, which devotes 20% of its time on pro bono work is now waiting for these to be implemented 
    Some political parties have also approached the agency for advice on pre dictability of behavior but this hasn't trans lated to a project yet. Politics and behaviour scientists are, of course, an intuitive match After all, which politician would not want judge behaviour patterns better? Obama' last election campaign had a consortium of behavioural scientists advising it. 
Like the path of least resistance 
The government is also taking baby steps in trying to include this field in policy making. The Planning Commission has made FinalMile a partner in the India Backbone Implementation Network to understand why different government agencies don't collaborate and cooperate 
    India's new National Pension System (NPS) has also taken a cue from behavior economics by introducing the auto de fault. Human behavior veers towards the path of least resistance or the "default choice". As Richard Thaler and Cass Sun stein say in "Nudge" — If for a given choice, there is a default or auto-choice option then we can expect a large number of people to end up with that option. The NPS, therefore, says that "in case you do not want to exercise a choice, your mon ey will be invested as per the "Auto Choice" option…" This is significant be cause studies also say that a default plan increases number of investors because with more options the process becomes more confusing and difficult and some people refuse to choose at all. 
    The work of behaviour specialists can give them a halo. After all, the abil ity to make people do one's bidding is no mean one. But as Prasad knows very well, the field is fraught with frustra tions and failures. He says, "Initially, the frustrations are pretty obvious. We kept thinking that 'all this guy had to was wear a seatbelt' etc but trying to decode people for the past several years has opened us up to empathy. And when you know more about why someone does something, there is less space for annoyance."

To deter people from crossing the tracks, researchers created signages that used emotion rather than text. Writing "danger" and feeling danger were different, they felt

HEAR, HEAR: Most people don't realize that they honk unnecessarily, and the button reminds them to use it more deliberately

E-safety mapping initiative to fight crimes ready to roll

Proactive Mechanism To Go Live Tomorrow, Is Aimed At Improved Vigilance, Prevention

Mumbai: The sense that citizens are increasingly finding Mumbai unsafe to live in can perhaps be gauged by the number of them coming forward to combat crimes. An enterprising 23-year-old Mumbaikar is the latest to set up an online safety mapping mechanism for the city. Called Jagaran, the initiative, which will go live on Monday, is the third such citizeninitiated, crowdsourced mapping 
initiative in recent months. 
    Designed with a proactive view to prevent crime rather than react to it, Jagaran seeks to mobilize Mumbaikars to identify areas and localities where they feel unsafe and highlight the reasons that make them feel so. 
    "This information will not only help create a vigilant society but also help inform the public and authorities about both short-term and longterm measures needed to make the city safe," says Paroma Bhatta
charya, the brain behind the project. 
Bhattacharya adds she was shaken by the Delhi gang rape that took 
place last year but decided to stand up 
and do something that could contribute to change after a photojournalist 
was gang-raped in Shakti Mills, earlier this year. Crimes, after all, are only on the rise. Over 1,700 women reported some 
form of violence to the police la st year, and the numbers going unre
ported are believed to be way higher. 
    "Safety could be linked to aspects of urban planning such as broken street lights. Or a spot could be unsafe because a group of men routinely lounge around. Community watch could help highlight such discrepancies and initiate action to prevent crime before it takes place," says Bhattacharya. 
    Citizens who want to report unsafe areas can log on to http://www.socialcops.org/jagaran, select the troubled pocket and key in their reasons, be it lack of police patrol, poor street lighting or absence of security guards. The voices will be reflected on a visual map of the city. Bhattacharya also plans to petition chief minister Prithviraj Chavan with the garnered voices to ensure administrative action. A soft run has yielded 887 respondents and 876 petition signatures till date. The mapping will kickstart with Mumbai but there are plans to cover other cities in near future. 

    A similar initiative has already been put into place by women's resource centre Akshara. Called Harassmap-Mumbai, the initiative encourages Mumbaikars to offer details about the harassment they witness, the public space where an incident occurred and a profile of the offender. They also flag off unsafe zones. The swell response to Harassmap—over three Mumbaikars logging in daily—reflects the willingness of the average Mumbaikar to engage in making the city 


Initiated by a 23-year-old, it seeks to track unsafe pockets in the city and make them secure. It goes live on Monday 
Log on to http://www. socialcops.org/jagaran 
    Report an area/ spot which you think is unsafe and highlight the reason why you consider it so 
    Sign a petition to the chief minister seeking that action be taken to make the spot safe 

(OPEN YOUR EYES) | It is an initiative by an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the police to facilitate easier lodging of complaints. It covers Chembur-Deonar and 18 police stations 

Any sexual harassment can be reported with a few clicks. SMS, tweet, post on Facebook, log on www.indiaoye. org or download its mobile app. Crime shows up as a red dot on an online map. Too many dots in an area alert cops and police control room 

It is an initiative by Akshara, a women's resource centre WHAT YOU CAN DO?Women or men can log on to https://akshara
crowdmap.com/main or SMS 9920103103 and offer details about the type of harassment witnessed, the public space where the incident occurred and a profile of the offender. They can also flag off unsafe zones or upload a photo 
WHAT HAPPENS THEN? Crimes and unsafe spots are depicted real-time on the a map of Mumbai. Akshara works with Mumbai police to increase patrolling in unsafe areas. It also provides information about support services available to women survivors of violence such as neighbourhood police stations, helplines, legal aid services and shelters 
BANDRA | A young woman complained of a man flashing at a bus stop in Bandra-Kurla Complex 
A woman said she was followed on Ambedkar Road by an unknown man 
A group of friends reported they had stopped using Bandra skywalk (from Kalanagar to the railway station) after some boys stalked them routinely 
DADAR |A woman reported witnessing a visually impaired boy assaulting a visually impaired girl on platform number 2 of Dadar station 
    Another woman complained of a group of men lurking on platform 1 of Dadar station and groping women 
    A youngster complained that men took advantage of crowded Dadar railway bridge, and there wasn't a single cop around in the mornings 

ANDHERI | A young woman complained of routine harassment by men on BEST buses that cross Teli Galli A group of working professionals complained of minor girls and adult boys on the walkway towards Talao Pali who pass lewd comments & touch passersby A woman complained of a man inappropriately touching her on platform 1 at Andheri railway station 

GHATKOPAR | A teenager complained she was followed by a group of boys from SNDT College to her residence 
A collegian from Somaiya college spoke out on behalf of her friends alleging routine harassment by boys who had political affiliations 
An anonymous complainant pointed out that the subways were very dark and full of drunk people 
SANTACRUZ –KHAR | A young woman complained of a man routinely exposing himself and masturbating behind rows of school buses parked on an arterial road between Linking Road and S V Road 
    A young woman complained of men routinely inappropriately touching her around the Kalina university area (Source: Harassmap-Mumbai by women's resource centre Akshara)

Morphine available to just 1% cancer sufferers

Patients Hope Parliament Will Pass Change In Narcotic Law For Pain-Free Access To Drug

When the winter session of Parliament begins on December 5, millions of cancer patients hope lawmakers will clear a long-awaited amendment that will allow them easier access to morphine. 

    Morphine, one of the best known pain-control medicines, is available to barely 1% of all patients suffering from pain arising out of their cancer or HIV/ AIDS infection, say experts. "India has 2.4 million cancer patientswho need pain relief and another 2.5 million living with HIV. These patients sometimes suffer unbearable pain that is best relieved by morphine," said Thiruvananthapurambased Dr M R Rajagopal, often referred to as the father of palliative care in India. 
    Last two sessions of the houses failed to take up the amendment to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Dubbing its poor access as a human rights violation, Dr Rajagopal said, "We hope the amendment will be passed this time.'' 
    Morphine is classified as a narcotic under the NDPS Act, resulting in tight restrictions to prevent its misuse. The law states that anybody found with 250 grams of morphine without adequate licences could face up to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. 
    This lack of access to morphine for patients, though, is not limited to India alone. Untreated cancer pain is a scandal of global proportions, said a new research published in the Annals of Oncol
ogy a few days ago. The report worked out by the Global Opioid Policy Initiative showed that half of the world's population lives in countries where regulations that aim to stem drug misuse leave cancer patients without access to opioid medicines for managing cancer pain. 
    Kerala and Maharashtra are two states in India that use morphine more than the rest of India for their cancer patients. "Yet, we can safely say that the patients need 10 times more morphine than is being used at present,'' said Dr Mary Ann Muckadam, professor at Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel, which offers palliative care to 3,500 patients a year. "But 66% of our patients come from outside the state and less than 10% of these stay on to access pain medication." 
    The story in the rest of India is sadder. "Half of the regional cancer centres don't have morphine or doctors trained in using it. This, despite the fact that 70% of their patients come with advanced cancer,'' said Dr Rajagopal. 

    Experts are convinced that better access to morphine will change the plight of Indian cancer patients. "In 1985, India had used over 700kg of morphine for patients. This number fell drastically to 18kg in 1997—just a few years after NDPS came into existence,'' said the doctor. 
    At present, India uses a little over 200kg for its patients. 

IACA to fund training of doctor-nurse teams in palliative care 
For the past few years, Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel has been running pain management programmes in Jawahar and Igatpuri districts to show how a small team—a social worker and a nurse—can help. "We help 500 patients in these two districts,'' said Dr Mary Ann Muckaden of TMH. While the state government had promised to help set up more such teams across the state, funding has been an issue. Now, the Indian American Cancer Association (IACA) has come forward to fund the training of doctor-nurse teams in palliative care at five institutes (including TMH and Pallium India in Thirvananthapuram). "Patients needing palliative care cannot travel to cities for medication. We hence thought of training doctor-nurse teams from smaller cities and towns. We will help these teams set up palliative care programmes in their respective centres,'' said IACA's Kirti Jain.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Man reportedly electrocuted while using iPhone 4S with third-party charger


In a rare but not entirely unprecedented incident, a man in Thailand was reportedly declared dead after being electrocuted while using his Apple iPhone 4S when it was charging. It's worth pointing out that the charger was found to be third-party one, and not the original Apple-supplied charger.

As per a Tech In Asia report, the 28-year old man from Chanthaburi province was found dead in his room with burn marks across the body and hand. The report claims that the man was holding his iPhone 4S at the time of death and that the smartphone was hooked to a power outlet.

While the exact cause of death has not been ascertained, the report speculates that the man might have been talking on the smartphone while charging it, and that the charger could have overheated resulting in the electrocution.

In a similar incident, a Chinese woman was killed by an electric shock when answering a call on her iPhone 5 while it was charging in July this year. Soon after, Apple announced a probe looking into the death of the woman. Previously, an Apple iPhone 5 even exploded during phone call in Thailand.

To counter such incidents involving unauthorised after-market accessories, Apple had in August announced a trade-in program for third-party chargers, where people with counterfeit or third-party power adaptors could swap them for certified Apple models for the local equivalent of $10.

Samsung has not been far from such incidents as well, as the company's 2013 flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4 reportedly exploded and burned down a house in Hong Kong.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Playing I-spy: DIY e-surveillance biz booms

The elevator of the starred Goa hotel where Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal allegedly sexually assaulted a junior colleague may not have had a CCTV installed but that's almost a rarity today. 

    India's electronic surveillance market—currently pegged at Rs 10 billion — is growing at a rate of 25% per year as an increasing number of people across the country opt for DIY surveillance. 
    Cameras are being installed everywhere — outside buildings to prevent burglaries, in cars to keep track of whether the chauffeur is giving unauthorized lifts, inside 
homes so that people can keep an eye on everyone from nannies to grannies. Even the pet dog has a watchful eye on him, as does the teen in the house. When it comes to security, privacy concerns go out the window—the one with the CCTV attached. 
    In Delhi, 46-year-old Varsha Singh (name changed) 
has installed seven cameras in her south Delhi bungalow to monitor four domestic staff. "They keep chatting all day or dry wet clothes on the gas stove instead of using a clothes iron," says Singh, who runs a business along with her husband. Move over watchmen, e-surveillance is here 
    Singh now obsessively checks real time footage on her mobile phone. (Security cameras can be connected to various electronic devices, like mobile phones, tablets and laptops). "If the network is down and I can't see the feed I get very anxious," Singh adds. 
    Two recent high-profile Delhi crime cases indicate the extent to which surveillance cameras have taken over our lives. One was the extensive monitoring of the movements of her domestic staff by Dr Jagriti Singh, the dentist wife of a BSP MLA, accused of beating a maid to death. The cameras of course also ended up capturing her reported brutality. Then 
there was the mysterious case of the suicide-murder in the home of bureaucrat K Vijay Kumar and wife Sitha in their Kaka Nagar home. Their home too had been reportedly fitted with several CCTV cameras. 
    Whatever the reason, urban paranoia is pushing up the sales of surveillance kits. "Security has emerged as a major concern across the country. People no longer rely on just the watchman. In fact, he is the first person to be blamed whenever there's a break-in or a burglary," says Marzin Shroff, CEO direct sales, and senior VP marketing, Eureka Forbes. The company's security solutions' vertical is growing at 40% year on year, he says. 
    The increase in nuclear 
families and disconnect from neighbours has also meant greater anxiety about safety issues. The neighbourhood is no longer a place where every face is familiar, and the dependence on domestic help has also gone up. 
    Two years ago, Griboshin VC, a general manager with a media firm in Mumbai, installed a security camera in his apartment to keep an eye on the nanny taking care of his young son, who is now four. Going through camera recordings one day, Griboshin discovered that the woman had invited an unknown person into their apartment. 
    "I was out of town at the time but I came back at once and asked her to leave the next day," he says. Since he and his researcher wife fre
quently travel for work, the camera helps them keep tabs on the help. 
    "Home security cameras can be very useful," says Sanket Shah, managing director of Mumbai-based Y-Cam India Private Limited that sells close to 5,000 pieces a year. Installing four cameras – usually enough for a house — costs around Rs 20,000-Rs 30,000. "In the last four years, we have noticed a spike in sales to homeowners who are looking for modern and intelligent security solutions," says Mehernosh Pithawalla, marketing head of Godrej Security Solutions. 
    Apart from cameras, video door phones and access control systems let users keep a better eye on their homes. "Motion detectors in 
cameras alert you about any major movement. The camera takes a snapshot of the movement and immediately emails it to you. This way you are alerted if someone has had a fall at home or if an elderly person with Alzhemier's walks out of the door," says Shah. 
    Aditya Kaul, director of Tranceorigin Electronics Pvt Ltd and India distributer of Schwarzadler surveillance equipment, installs around 750 surveillance cameras in residences in Delhi and NCR in a month. He says besides homes, those with expensive cars ask for cameras to be fitted in their vehicles. "They want to ensure that their drivers don't pick up passengers for money on longer routes or pilfer fuel," he says.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cyber attacks on Indian sites soar this year Govt Sits On Plan To Save Its Domain

New Delhi: Cyber attacks against Indian websites have increased exponentially in 2013, despite the government supposedly building a credible cyber defence system. 
    According to confidential reports by CERTIn (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team), 4,191 Indian websites were defaced or hacked into in August, 2,380 in July, 2,858 in June and 1,808 in May. An overwhelming percentage of these attacks occurred in 
the .in domain, whose servers are in India—80% in June and over 60% thereafter. The .in domain appears particularly vulnerable to attacks. Of the 2,380 websites that were defaced in July, 1,511 were on .in domain and in June the number stood at 2,296 sites. 
Exponential rise in cyber attack on Indian sites in 2013 Over 10,000 Indian websites defaced or hacked into since May 
An overwhelming percentage of these attacks occurred in the .in domain, whose servers are in India

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tap water causing pink eye Navi Mumbai In Grip Of Rare Conjunctivitis

Mumbai: A peculiar type of conjunctivitis, caused by a parasite found in contaminated water, has affected many in Navi Mumbai. A private hospital, which carried out a preliminary analysis, recorded over 20 cases in little over a month. 
    The Advanced Eye Hospital and Institute in Navi Mumbai saw patients who complained of the classic symptoms of conjunctivitis such as redness, irritation and light sensitivity. Most of them also got unsuccessfully treated for viral conj
unctivitis only to be diagnosed with microsporidial infection later. Experts confirmed such cases are few and far between. 
    More worryingly, tap water emerged as the common source of infection. The mother of a nine-year-old boy said, "We live in a posh society and my son goes to a good school. There is 
no way he gets exposed to dirty water." She added that one of his son's friends was also diagnosed with it two days before him. 
    Cornea surgeon Dr Vandana Jain said the infection in normal individual was baffling. "Microsporidia are opportunistic pathogens that mostly 
affect those with weak immune system and not individuals with normal immunity." 
    Adoctor from MGM Hospital in Vashi said they have also treated a couple of cases post monsoon. The doctor added that patients should use boiled water to wash their eyes if they feel any kind of irritation. 

The disease is caused by an infection with organisms called microsporidia 
These parasites live within other host cells where they produce infective spores or cells that can reproduce 
The cells cause a disease called microsporidiosis 
It is commonly seen in 
immuno-compromised people such as HIV, TB and transplant patients 
    The infection can also affect brain, intestine, muscles and kidneys 
    It is not contagious like classic conjunctivitis 
    It can affect vision permanently if not treated appropriately and in time

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

City tops list with 236 deaths in 245 fire incidents in 2008-12, says report

 Mumbai has topped the list among 88 cities in India with 245 fires and 236 deaths in 2008-12, followed by Delhi with 185 cases and 186 deaths, a report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) stated. Among states, Maharashtra (1,095 cases, 820 deaths) stands third after Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. During that period, 6,700 people died and 947 were injured in the country. 

    Maharashtra recorded an average of over 160 deaths annually, while Mumbai averages 40. 
    Andhra Pradesh recorded 1,394 deaths, Gujarat 1,204 and Maharashtra 820 in that period. Other states recorded half or less deaths than the top three. Mumbai and Delhi topped among cities, followed by Hyderabad (132 cases/136 deaths), Ahmedabad (130/130), Vijayawada (199/122) and Rajkot (77/77). 
    Maharashtra climbed to the second spot with 331 fires in 2011. It witnessed a rise in deaths due to fire caused due to short-circuits in residential and commercial establishments. In 2008, the state recorded 120 deaths; it rose to 131 in 2009 and 152 in 2010. A sharp rise was noticed in 2011, when the toll increased by 263, but it fell to 154 in 2012, the report said. 
    As per the National Building Code of India, buildings of more than 15 metres height require fire prevention measures, but in Mumbai, as per develop
ment control regulations, only buildings of more than 2.4m height require strict fire prevention measures. 
    Assistant divisional fire officer Harish Shetty told TOI, "Whether it is a plush residential complex or nor
mal residential building, very few follow fire safety norms. Even if safety equipment it installed, it is often non-functional as it is kept untouched and there's no maintenance." 
    Shetty said household 
material and waste are often dumped in electricity ducts. "In the Vikhroli SRA building fire case, if the duct was kept clear of garbage, the fire would not have risen to higher floors," he said. 
    A fire official said most entrances are blocked with discarded stuff and refuse. "We were happy to see that fire appliances were in place but were disappointed when these instruments were found to be non-functional. People should not risk staying and working in unsafe houses and industrial units. Sprinklers, smoke detectors, hydrants and fire lifts often do not work," the official said. 
    Former Indian Police Service officer-turned-lawyer Y P Singh said non-compliance of National Building Code of India norms is a major reason for short-circuits. "The least residents could do is to change fuses with circuit-breakers and earth leakage circuit-breakers. This happens even though development control regulation 43 makes it mandatory to comply with the code," said Singh. 
    He said most buildings here are constructed without requisite open spaces, so it becomes impossible for fire engines to enter in case of an emergency. "Most inspectors are regularly bribed, and with cosmetic action, no substantive action is taken. Many residential complexes take things casually as there is very little statutory action to cause deterrence," he said. 
    The fire brigade has been regularly carrying out extensive surveys of housing societies, hospitals, commercials establishments and industrial units across the city. Under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, it has, for the first time, been empowered to take stringent action against errant establishments.

SC: FIR must in complaints about serious offences Refusal To Do So Will Invite Penal Action

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it mandatory for police to register a first information report on receiving a complaint about a serious offence, freeing criminal investigation from abuse of discretionary powers by the local thana in-charge. 

    "If discretion, option or latitude is allowed to the police in the matter of filing of FIRs, it can have serious consequences on the public order situation and adversely affect the rights of the victims, including violation of their fundamental right to equality," said a five-judge constitution bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices B S Chauhan, Ranjana P Desai, Ranjan Gogoi and S A Bobde. 
    Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Sathasiv
am said, "It would be incongruous to suggest that though it is the duty of every citizen to inform about commission of an offence, but it is not obligatory on the officer-in-charge of a police station to register the report." 
In 2008, two-judge SC bench said FIR mandatory on complaint of serious offences 
Five-judge constitution bench agrees but says filing must on allegation of cognizable offence 
If complainant doesn't disclose, preliminary inquiry to verify if offence is cognizable
Cops can't avoid their duty, says SC 
New Delhi: The Supreme Court's order making it mandatory for police to register an FIR in complaints about serious offence, will help stamp out the chronic practice among police across the country to either refuse or delay registering FIRs with the object of keeping crime figures artificially low or, worse, favouring influential accused. 
    "Registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such situations," the court said. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) categorizes those offences as cognizable which attract a minimum of three years imprisonment 
as punishment. 
    Apart from refusing to register FIRs on complaints by the poor and the marginal, the police develop cold feet in recording an FIR if the accused is an influential person. 
Refusal to register FIR in such cases would be punishable, the court warned. From now, police must register FIR and can close it if they find no evidence to substantiate the charges made in the complaint. 
    "The police cannot avoid their duty of registering offence if cognizable offence is disclosed. Action must be taken against erring officers who do not register an FIR if information received by them discloses a cognizable offence," the bench said. 
    A two-judge bench of the apex court had in 2008 ruled that registration of FIR was mandatory on complaints alleging commission of serious offences. But given the wide ramification of the issue, it 
was later referred to a fivejudge constitution bench. The constitution bench, which agreed with the two-judge bench, said if the complaint or the information received "did not disclose a cognizable offence but indicated the necessity for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether cognizable offence is disclosed or not". 
    "The scope of the preliminary inquiry is not to verify the veracity or otherwise of the information received but only to ascertain whether the information reveals any cognizable offence," the court said and fixed a seven-day limit for the police to complete the preliminary inquiry. If the preliminary inquiry leads to closure of the complaint, the 
police officer must inform the complainant about the decision and the reasons behind it, the court said while limiting the preliminary inquiry process to a select few categories of cases. 
    For the full report, log on to www.timesofindia.com 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

6 lakh evacuated in Vietnam as Haiyan nears

Hanoi: More than 6,00,000 people were evacuated as super typhoon Haiyan bore down on Vietnam, authorities said on Sunday, after the storm smashed through the Philippines leaving thousands feared dead and widespread devastation. 

    Residents of the Vietnamese capital Hanoi were braced for heavy rains and flooding, while tens of thousands of people in coastal areas were ordered to take shelter ahead of Haiyan's expected landfall. 
    "We have evacuated more than 1,74,000 households, 
which is equivalent to more than 6,00,000 people," an official report by flood and storm control department said. 
    The storm is now expected to strike late on Sunday after changing course, the official Vietnam Television reported, prompting further evacuations of some 52,000 people in provinces by the coast. 
    "People must bring enough food and necessities for three days... those who do not move voluntarily will be forced," VNExpress report said, adding all boats have been ordered back to shore. AFP

FLATTENED: Destroyed houses in Tacloban city bear testimony to the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines


Typhoon Haiyan, potentially the world's worst typhoon in recorded history, flattened Tacloban city (above) in Leyte province, central Philippines, and killed at least 10,000 people here alone. Authorities said the toll would rise further as they were yet to make contact with Guiuan, a town of 40,000 first hit by the typhoon, while another, Baco, was 80% under water. Most of the deaths appear to have been caused by surging sea water strewn with debris that many said resembled a tsunami, levelling houses and drowning hundreds of people. In Tacloban, where little infrastructure remains, residents queued up for food, water and medicines or looted warehouses while mobsters raided trucks carrying aid. "People are walking like zombies looking for food," said a medical student in Leyte. Headed for Vietnam, the typhoon weakened as it crossed the South China Sea and is expected to hit land late Sunday night or early Monday morning |

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Super typhoon to hit Vietnam today Over 2,00,000 Evacuated

Hanoi: More than 2,00,000 people crammed into Vietnam storm shelters and soldiers helped reinforce vulnerable homes as a super typhoon bore down on the country on Saturday after leaving a deadly trail of devastation in the Philippines. Haiyan, one of the most intense typhoons on record, slammed into the Philippines on Friday with sustained winds of about 315 kmph. It is expected to make landfall in central Vietnam early on Sunday, with millions of people thought to be in its path.

    Authorities have begun mass evacuations in at least four central coastal provinces, Vietnam's state-run VNExpress news site said, as the country was put on high alert. "More than 2,00,000 people have evacuated to shelters," VNExpress said. 
The army has been mobilized to provide emergency relief with some 1,70,000 soldiers assisting people after the typhoon hits. Many schools in the affected area — normally open at the weekends — have closed, as people from vulnerable low-lying coastal villages moved to higher ground. Images showed women, children and the elderly crowded into typhoon shelters. The Red Cross has said Haiyan is likely to be a category two or three typhoon and warned that some 6.5 million people in Vietnam could be affected. 
    Central Vietnam has recently been hit by two other typhoons which flooded roads, damaged sea dykes and tore the roofs off hundreds of thousands of houses. AFP 


The devastation is...I don't have the words for it. It's really horrific. It's a great human tragedy 
—Mar Roxas | Interior secy 

I told him (President Benigno Aquino III) all systems are down. There is no power, no water, nothing. People are desperate. They're looting 
—Voltaire Gazmin | Defence secy 

    The water 
    was as high as a coconut tree. I was swept away by the rampaging water with logs, trees and our house. Many people were floating and raising their hands and yelling for help. But what can we do? We also needed to be helped 
—Sandy Torotoro, 
    a bicycle taxi 

The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami 
Sebastian Rhodes Stampa | UN official

NATURE'S FURY: The airport at Tacloban city in Philippines is razed to the ground; (top right) people amid the rubbles of their houses

Friday, November 8, 2013


WINDY WRATH: Typhoon Haiyan, possibly the most powerful ever to hit land, slammed into the city of Legaspi in the south of Manila in the Philippines on Friday. The 275kmph wind gusts tore roofs off buildings and waves which were 5-6 feet high washed away homes. The strongest typhoon in the world this year forced nearly 750,000 people to flee, flooded villages and raised fears of widespread casualties. At least four people were killed and seven were injured in the storm, national disaster agency spokesman Rey Balido said. The death toll could rise as more reports arrive. The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night. The super storm knocked out power and communications in several provinces. But the nation appeared to avoid a major disaster as the rapidly moving typhoon blew away before wreaking more damage, officials said

Europe faces polio threat from Syria

London: Europe is facing its biggest threat in decades of importing the crippling polio virus. The World Health Organization fears that the new outbreak of polio in Syria with the WPV1 strain, the most dangerous type of polio virus that cripples most of the children it infects, might endanger neighbouring regions, including Europe. 

    Two world renowned infectious disease experts have confirmed the real threat. 
    On Wednesday, the WHO increased the number of people it said must be vaccinated to 20 million as part of a vaccination campaign that will target children in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Most of the 22 cases of polio-like paralysis in Syria (10 
of which have been confirmed as wild poliovirus type) are among children below the age of two who were either not immunised or had not received all three doses of the vaccine, according to WHO

90% of bldgs inspected in suburbs flouted fire norms Fire Brigade To Set Up Cell To Enforce Safety Rules

Suburban buildings are face a greater risk from fire, according to data from a fire brigade audit of residential and commercial buildings in the city this year. 

    Inspections conducted by the fire brigade in the island city and the suburbs, between April to September, found that most buildings surveyed in the western and eastern suburbs violated the safety norms. 
    Of the 1,397 buildings inspected in the western and eastern suburbs, notices were issued to 1,216 buildings for violation of fire safety norms. But even after being warned to take corrective measures, only 70 of these buildings filed compliance reports with the fire brigade. 
    Similarly, of the 2,346 buildings inspected in the island city, 605 were issued notices of which only four buildings complied with the directives. 
    The buildings inspected were high-rises, high-footfall areas like malls, multiplexes, industrial estates and government buildings. 
    The inspections were conducted randomly under the Maharashtra Fire and Life Safety Measures Act (2006), which makes it compulsory for buildings over seven-storeys tall, as well as public spaces like malls and multiplexes, to undertake fire safety compliance measures twice a year and submit reports to the fire brigade. The Act stipulates that every building more than seven storeys tall should have an internal fire-fighting system and sprinklers, and a clearly marked refuge area which should not be encroached. 
    Fire brigade officials said that residential societies take fire safety measures very lightly and wake up only when there is a fire raging in their buildings. 
    The fire brigade also plans to set up a special cell by mid-2014, to conduct inspections and implement the Fire Safety Act. 
    Currently, firemen are saddled with the task of undertaking inspections in their areas and issuing notices, in addition to attending rescue calls. The new cell, said officials, will help implement the norms more effectively and encourage frequent checks. 

Cluttered lobbies and passages Fire-fighting apparatus are nonfunctional as they are not serviced Fire-fighting apparatus not connected to a water tank 
The Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Rules, 2009, framed under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Act, 2006, puts the onus of maintaining and documenting fire safety installations in a building on the owner/occupier 

    Smoke alarms should be installed and maintained. Batteries in smoke alarms should be replaced at least once or twice a year, the entire unit after 10 years 
    Display a detailed map of the premises, entry and exist routes, refuge space and electricity box. The holding spaces, staircases and open spaces should be kept free

    Each flat in a highrise must have a functional fire extinguisher and each adult in a family mus know to operate it 
    Buildings should get a regular fire inspection done in every six months 
    Fire brigade can disconnect electricity and water connections of buildings which default in implementing fire safety norms 

Penalty for defaulters under this Act is between 
30,000 to 1 lakh 
Failure to adhere to fire safety norms will become a non-cognizable offence and offenders can be jailed for six months to three years 
However, defaulters are penalized only after three notices are issued and if they still fail to comply

Citizens share cases of sexual harassment, make city safer Crowd-Sourced Sites Identify Unsafe Spots, Alert Police

• Like many public parks in the city, Ashish Talao garden in Chembur had become a retreat for a group of miscreants, who would routinely loll there, playing cards, drinking alcohol in the evenings and passing lewd comments at women walking by. A resident of the neighbourhood, angered at seeing frequent sexual harassment of women, logged on to a crowdsourced police-public website, IndiaOye, and registered a complaint. His concern was also for the children who crossed the park to head towards Ryan International School. Soon after, the group of troublemakers was disbanded by the police. 

• A teenager logged on to Harassmap to protest against a group of hooligans between Mankhurd and Govandi. "They pass lewd comments at every girl on the station. They get down at Kurla…and always try to grope women in the crowd." 
    Slowly shrugging off their reputation for apathy, Mumbaikars are contributing towards making their city safer. Crowd-sourced public-private initiatives, which were launched just a few months ago, have been scoring small but important successes as citizens flag off unsafe zones, collegians report mischief-makers outside campuses, and working women detail the lewd remarks they encounter. 
    "There is a pervert exposing himself and masturbating at Santa Cruz," reported a young woman on one of the crowd-sourced websites. 

    While lifting the silence that has settled around sexual harassment, casual groping, stalking and verbal abuse, the initiatives are exposing the pervasiveness of the crimes. Take for in
stance, the Harassmap initiative launched about a month ago by women's resource centre Akshara. Over three Mumbaikars have been logging in every day to recount their unsettling brushes with the city. This is way more than the official statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau—which say there is on average one complaint of sexual harassment a month—and perhaps still greater than the actual magnitude of the crime. 
    "It is very important that people speak out against routine sexual harassment. We 
have had 99 persons report their experiences since September 26," said Nandita Shah of Akshara. The organization is now approaching colleges and schools to spread the word about Harassmap, which seeks to track unsafe spots in the city and incidents of violence against women. 
    Manwinder Singh of IndiaOYE, another crowdsourced initiative in the eastern suburbs that works closely with the police, has received 20 complaints since May. Fourteen of these cases have been addressed. 

    "We have been asking for a contact detail. It is possible that people feel inhibited about divulging their mobile number," said Singh, who believes that much could be achieved if ordinary citizens supplement police vigilance. 
    The additional commissioner of the eastern suburbs told his subordinate officers that, like in the Chembur garden case, the police should act suo motu on complaints of general societal interest that are submitted on IndiaOYE and not necessarily wait for a formal complaint.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

14 patients saved but doc killed in clinic fire

Mumbai: Fourteen patients had a narrow escape when a fire broke out in a Mulund (West) nursing home before dawn on Thursday, but a young doctor could not be saved. 

    The blaze at Gokul Nursing Home, spread across the first floors of two adjoining buildings connected by a walkway, completely gutted the outpatient area, where Dr Rahul Rudrawar (27) from Beed was sleeping after duty. The flames could not cross into the wards and ICU across the narrow walkway, allowing relatives and staff enough time to take the patients out. 
    The owner claimed fire safety norms had not been violated. Many patients said they would have died if the rear exit had not been there. 

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