Hong Kong captain Aizaz Khan, who played against India in Asia Cup, arrested for alleged insurance scam

Hong Kong men’s cricket team captain Aizaz Khan has been arrested by police in connection with a suspected HK$3 million (US$386,104) insurance scam after he was found to have continued playing matches despite claiming he was injured in a traffic accident and unable to work, according to a report by South China Morning Post.

Police said the 28-year-old was taken away from his public housing flat in Chai Wan shortly after daybreak on Tuesday. Officers from the commercial crime bureau began investigating the case after receiving a report from an insurance company in June, the report stated.

Aizaz Khan was appointed as the skipper of the Hong Kong side in the year 2019.

In 2018, he played against India in the Asia Cup, as India won the match by 26 runs. Aizaz Khan had accounted for Shardul Thakur’s wicket in the match. The Indian team, led by Rohit Sharma, had gone on to win the Asia Cup title.

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Mumbai: Vaccination drive set to resume tomorrow

FOR THE second consecutive day and fifth time this month, vaccination drive against Covid-19 will remain suspended at all state and civic centres in Mumbai on Thursday due to shortage of doses, said BMC. The drive is set to resume on Friday.

Officials said BMC will receive doses by Wednesday night, which will then be distributed to the vaccination centres on Thursday.

“We will receive 61,200 doses – 50,000 doses of Covishield and 11,200 of Covaxin. The vaccines will be distributed throughout the day. As a result, citizens will not be vaccinated on Thursday (July 22, 2021). However, on Friday, July 23, 2021, vaccination will start at government and municipal centres in Mumbai,” BMC said in a statement.

In Mumbai, 309 vaccination centres are run by BMC and the state government. As of Monday night, BMC had about 25,000 doses available. While only 58 vaccination centres were operational on Tuesday — vaccinating 42,483 people — the drive was completely suspended on Wednesday.

So far, 50.54 lakh people have been given the first dose of the vaccine, while 15.13 lakh have received both doses in the city. Many people have complained that they are struggling to get a second dose due to the shortage at government centres.

Earlier this month, on July 8 and 9, BMC had suspended the vaccination drive due to shortage of doses.

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Maharashtra state discom to initiate trial run of smart meters

In a significant step, the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL) decided to introduce smart meters on an experimental basis for domestic consumers. The smart meters, MSEDCL said will benefit the state undertaking as the consumers.

The move follows directions for Energy Minister Nitin Raut. “We will soon be installing smart meters at homes of domestic consumers in major cities like Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur and Aurangbad. This will be done on an experimental basis to find out the results. After the experiment is successful, the smart meter system will be implemented across the state,” Bharat Pawar, spokesperson of the energy department told The Indian Express on Wednesday.

Explaining how smart meters will help consumers, Pawar said, “Along with smart meters, prepaid or postpaid system just like for cellphones will take effect. Consumers can recharge their meters through the MSEDCL app. They will be able to control their consumption of electricity which will help them bring their bills down.”

Officials said for MSEDCL, it could be sort of a game changer as power thefts and thereby losses will come down. “The biggest gain will be in terms for arrears which are pending in crores with all categories of consumers. The consumers will not have to pay bills but can recharge their meters as per their requirement. They will get as much as they want and we won’t have huge arrears pending which is what is happening currently,” Pawar said.

MSEDCL earns Rs 4,500 crore every month from power bills and other revenue sources. “However, we hardly are left with any profit as we have to pay salaries of staff, purchase power from companies, look after the maintenance and carry out other necessary tasks. Our biggest defaulters are the farmers, many of whom have not paid for years despite hefty concessions given to them,” official said.

Pawar said no policy decision has been taken whether to make smart meters optional or compulsory. “First the tenders will be floated. Then new consumers will be urged to instal smart meters and then we will verify the results. Only if the trial run is successful, we will take a policy decision. As of now, we also face the problem of availability of stock of the smart meters as very few companies are involved in making them. We are encouraged by the fact that the smart meter system is being implemented in several countries of the world,” he said.

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Victim’s post-mortem report confirms rape before murder

THE POST-Mortem report of the minor girl whose body was first spotted early Sunday has confirmed rape before murder by strangulation.

“Post-mortem has confirmed that the girl died due to smothering and strangulation. I have not read the post-mortem report though and thus would not be able to say anything regarding the sexual assault,” said Inspector Arvind of Chandimandir PS, under whose jurisdiction the case falls.

However, sources in the health as well as police department confirmed that the minor girl had been raped. “The girl had 12 injuries on her body and had been smothered by hand. She had died between 1 am and 3 am on Saturday. As per the post-mortem, the minor was raped. Samples for fluid analysis have been taken and sent to FSL for further testing,” a source said.

The police suspect that the father himself is the accused in the case. “We have no other leads. It is quite clear that the accused in the case is the father and no one else. We have accessed several CCTV cameras and spotted footage which only confirms our suspicion. There is nothing conclusive though. We are trying to investigate all other angles to see if anyone else is involved in any way. Primarily, we think it was the father. He was unstable and had serious issues with his wife,” a senior police officer said on condition of anonymity.

However, with the girl’s father found dead, the Panchkula police investigation has hit a wall.

Panchkula DCP Mohit Handa was not available for comment on Monday as well as Tuesday.

The father had left his house in a white i-10 car bearing a number plate of Panchkula which is yet to be tracked by the Panchkula police. The police are currently tracking the father’s movement before and after the crime. They have already talked to at least two taxi drivers, who took him from Zirakpur to Kurukshetra who too have confirmed that the father was all alone. A team of Panchkula police was sent to Kurukshetra on Monday to investigate his connection to the district where he had been tracked by the Panchkula police as per his phone location on Sunday.

The case

On Monday, a day after the minor’s body was recovered from Bandar Ghati in Panchkula, her father — the prime suspect in the case — was also found dead at the railway tracks near Ghazipur area of Mohali. The police have prima facie found it to be a case of suicide. The husband and wife were estranged and had been living separately in the same colony of Panchkula. While the mother lived with her family, the husband lived alone and earned his living as a tuition teacher. The duo had an understanding between them wherein the daughter would meet his father on weekends and stay with her mother otherwise.

As per a rough timeline of events by the Panchkula Police, the minor girl had been with her family till about 3.30 pm on Saturday. She had left her house with her father. While the girl’s dead body was found in the morning, the father had remained missing.

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Heavy flooding hits central China; subways inundated

Heavy flooding has hit central China following unusually heavy rains, with the subway system in the city of Zhengzhou inundated with rushing water.

Just to the north, the famed Shaolin Temple known for its Buddhist monks’ mastery of martial arts was badly hit.

There was no immediate word on possible deaths or injuries Tuesday, but videos posted online showed entire neighborhoods covered in water at least a meter (yard) deep and vehicles floating in the muddy mire.

More than 10,000 residents of Henan province were moved to shelters, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The province, home to the Shaolin Temple and many other cultural sites, is one of China’s most populous and a major base for both industry and agriculture.

China experiences regular flooding during the summer months, but the growth of cities and conversion of farmland into subdivisions has raised the costs of such events.

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Oxfam report: States reducing health inequality had fewer confirmed cases of Covid-19

India’s low spending on public healthcare systems and focus on supporting private healthcare has led to serious inequalities in access to healthcare, especially during the Covid 19 pandemic, according to a new study.

The Oxfam report — ‘Inequality Report 2021: India’s Unequal Healthcare Story’ — released on Tuesday says that states attempting to reduce existing inequalities and with higher expenditure on health had lower confirmed cases of Covid-19.

“There are two facets to what we have found. First is states that have for the past few years been reducing inequalities, such as inequalities to access to health between the general category and SC and ST populations, have less confirmed cases of Covid – such as Telangana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. On the other hand, states that have had higher GDP expenditure on health, such as Assam, Bihar and Goa, have higher recovery rates of Covid cases,’’ said Apoorva Mahendra, researcher at Oxfam India and one of the authors of the report.

The report marks Kerala as a success story in handling the pandemic.

“Kerala invested in infrastructure to create a multi-layered health system, designed to provide first-contact access for basic services at the community level and expanded primary healthcare coverage to achieve access to a range of preventive and curative services…expanded the number of medical facilities, hospital beds and doctors…” it noted.

The report stated that those in higher income brackets, and with access to health infrastructure, had to face less visits to hospitals and Covid centres than those belonging to lower-income groups. People belonging to lower-income groups also faced five times more discrimination on being found Covid-positive than those in higher-income groups, it reported.

Over 50 per cent of people from SC and ST communities faced difficulties in accessing non-Covid medical facilities, compared to 18.2 per cent of people in the ‘general’ category.

The report points out that the vaccination drive against Covid-19 ignores the country’s digital divide — entering the pandemic, only 15 per cent rural households had an internet connection; smartphone users in rural India were almost half of those in urban areas. More than 60 per cent of women across 12 states had never used the internet, it reported.

“Our analysis finds that existing socioeconomic inequalities precipitate inequalities in the health system in India,” Amitabh Behar, CEO, Oxfam India, said. “Thus, (people in) the general category performs better than the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs); Hindus perform better than Muslims; the rich perform better than the poor; men are better off than women; and the urban population is better off than the rural population on various health indicators.”

Behar said that while India has made strides in healthcare provisioning, this has been more in support of private healthcare — and not public — leaving the underprivileged at a great disadvantage.

The average medical expenditure per hospitalisation case has tripled between 2004 and 2017, making it difficult for poorer and rural households, it said. The report noted that one rupee in every Rs 6 spent on hospitalisation came through borrowing; while urban households depended on savings, rural households depended on loans. This need to borrow further discourages the marginalised from accessing health care, it stated. Less than one-third of households in the country were covered by a government insurance scheme in 2015-16, it said.

The report said: “India’s low spending on public healthcare has left the poor and marginalised with two difficult options: suboptimal and weak public healthcare or expensive private healthcare. In fact, the out-of-pocket health expenditure of 64.2 percent in India is higher than the world average of 18.2 percent. Exorbitant prices of healthcare has forced many to sell household assets and incur debts. Though asset selling has reduced to a certain extent, over 63 million people are pushed to poverty every year due to health costs alone, according to government estimates.”

Other socioeconomic factors also lend to access to health, which has affected the outcome of the pandemic, it reported. For instance, the literacy rate for women in the general category is 18.6 per cent higher than SC women, and 27.9 percent higher than ST women, which means women in the general category not only have a better understanding of the health infrastructure available but also have better access.

Female literacy rate is highest amongst Sikhs and Christians at over 80 per cent, followed by Hindus at 68.3 per cent, and Muslims at 64.3 per cent, the report said.

Despite improvement in child immunisation, the rate of immunisation of girls continues to be below that of the male child; immunisation of children in urban areas is more than those in rural areas; and immunization of SCs and STs is behind that of other caste groups, the study found. The child immunisation of the high-wealth quintile group is much higher than that of low-wealth quintile. More than 50 percent of children still do not receive food supplements in the country, it reported.

Percentage of mothers who have received full antenatal care declined from 37 percent in 2005-06 to 21 percent in 2015-16, it found. Full antenatal care for urban areas is close to two times that of rural areas, and immunisation among Muslims the lowest — lower than the SC/ST populations.

“These existing inequities are exacerbated further during a health crisis like the pandemic,” Mahendra said. “The investment in public health infrastructure is so little that the number of beds in the country has actually come down — from 9 beds per 10,000 persons in the 2010 Human Development Report, to only 5 beds per 10,000 persons today.”

The National Health Profile in 2017 recorded one government allopathic doctor for every 10,189 people and one state-run hospital for every 90,343 people. India also ranks the lowest in the number of hospital beds per thousand population among the BRICS nations at 0.5 — it is lower than lesser developed countries such as Bangladesh (0.87), Chile (2.11) and Mexico (0.98).

Rural India houses 70 percent of the population, while it has 40 percent of hospital beds, the report said.

The poor provisioning of public healthcare can be attributed to consistently low budget allocations, Mahendra noted.

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31.13 lakh domestic air passengers in June, 47% higher than in May: DGCA

Around 31.13 lakh domestic passengers travelled by air in June, 47 per cent higher than the 21.15 lakh who travelled in May, the country’s aviation regulator said Monday.

According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), 57.25 lakh people had travelled within the country by air in April.

The drop in domestic air traffic in May was due to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that had badly hit the country and its aviation sector.

While IndiGo carried 17.02 lakh passengers in June, a 54.7 per cent share of the domestic market, SpiceJet flew 2.81 lakh passengers, accounting for a nine per cent share of the market, according to the data shared by the DGCA.

Air India, GO FIRST (previously known as GoAir), Vistara and AirAsia India carried 5.14 lakh, 2.58 lakh, 2.25 lakh and 1.07 lakh passengers, respectively in June, the data showed.

The occupancy rate or the load factor of the six major Indian airlines was between 54.4 per cent and 71 per cent in June, it stated.

The occupancy rate at SpiceJet was 71 per cent in June, the DGCA noted.

The occupancy rates for IndiGo, Vistara, GO FIRST, Air India and AirAsia India were 62.7 per cent, 60 per cent, 70.9 per cent, 58.4 per cent and 54.4 per cent, respectively, it added.

The aviation sector has been significantly impacted due to the travel restrictions imposed in India and other countries in view of the pandemic.

India resumed domestic passenger flights on May 25 last year after a gap of two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Indian airlines are allowed to operate a maximum of 65 per cent of their pre-pandemic domestic flights.

The DGCA data mentioned that in June, IndiGo had the best on-time performance of 98.5 per cent at four metro airports — Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai.

AirAsia India and SpiceJet were at the second and third positions at these four airports in June with 98.2 per cent and 96.7 per cent on-time performance respectively, the DGCA said.

All airlines in India have opted for cost-reducing measures such as pay cuts, leave without pay and layoffs in order to tide over the crisis.

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Pune records 11.4mm of rainfall, moderate showers to continue today

Pune experienced this seasons’ monsoon conditions with continuous, moderate rainfall all through Sunday and into the wee hours of Monday.

Shivajinagar recorded 11.7mm, Lohegaon – 4.6mm and Pashan – 8.4mm during the last 24 hours.

During this week, Pune is set to experience improved rain of moderate intensity.

The city’s temperatures on Monday will remain around 30 degrees and 22 degrees, with chances of light to moderate intensity spells continuing on the day. Ghat areas can expect heavy spells on Monday.





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ATS: Ansar ‘men’ held before they could receive directions

THE UTTAR Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) on Sunday claimed that the two arrested “operatives” of al Qaeda-linked Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind (AGH) were desperate to trigger a bomb blast in the state capital after putting together an explosive device in a bid to announce their presence.

They said the terror suspects were waiting for instructions from their handler and al-Qaeda leader in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) Umar Halmandi who operates from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But before any direction could come through, the ATS swooped in on them and picked them up from their homes in Lucknow last week..

“The explosive device was prepared about two days before their arrest. After being alerted about their plan to plant the explosive and trigger a blast, we moved in to apprehend them at the earliest,” Inspector General, ATS, GK Goswamy said.

The elite anti-terror squad had initially decided to arrest all persons of the group whose names came up during its probe, on the same day, but given the apparent desperation of the suspects to orchestrate a terror attack, they moved in early to arrest them.

On July 11, the ATS arrested Minhaz and Maseeruddin from their homes in Lucknow. Three days later, on July 14, the sleuths picked up three of their suspected associates — Shakeel, Mohammad Mustakeem and Mohammad Moid — all Lucknow residents. All the accused are presently on police remand. The ATS also claimed to have recovered explosives and a weapon from the house of Minhaz and Maseeruddin. Police also recovered a pressure cooker bomb in a “ready condition” from Minhaz’s place.

According to the police, Minhaz and Maseeruddin were recruited by Halmandi, who took the reins of AQIS after the death of his predecessor Asim Umar, in a joint operation by American and Afghan forces in Afghanistan in 2019.

“About a year-and-a-half back, Minhaz came into contact with Halmandi online. Later, he introduced Maseeruddin to Halmandi. Since then, they were in regular contact with their handler and on Halmandi’s direction, they began scouting for a place to trigger the blast. They conducted a recee at several places,” an ATS official said. The sleuths said the suspects put together the explosive device following a bomb-making clip sent by their handler on their mobile phones.

“The accused admitted to have planned a blast in another district of Uttar Pradesh, but have so far not identified it by name,” an officer said.

The ATS, thus far, has not been able to establish any criminal antecedents of the five arrested suspects. “We have also not found any evidence to link them to the person arrested previously on terror charges,” Goswamy said.

The sleuths, it is understood, are trying gather information on where the accused sourced the weapon and the explosives. They are also awaiting the report on the explosive device that was sent to a laboratory for examination. The suspects’ phones were also sent to the laboratory to retrieve data.

The ATS is also probing if there is any other group active in the state which is in contact with Halmandi, who is understood to be recruiting youths for terror operations in the country.

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Somy Ali on ex-boyfriend Salman Khan: ‘Don’t know how many girlfriends he’s had since I left’

Somy Ali, who quit Bollywood a while ago, doesn’t hold back when talking about to her relationship with Salman Khan and her acting career. In a recent chat, Somy said that her shelved debut with Salman Khan became a ‘metaphor’ for their relationship.

In an interview with ETimes, Somy opened up about the film Buland with Salman Khan that didn’t see the light of day. “Salman had just begun his home production and was looking for a leading lady to star opposite him in the film called ‘Buland’. We went to Kathmandu to shoot; unfortunately, I was too young and new in the industry and there was some problem with the producers and the film was shelved. So it was a metaphor for our relationship I would say.”

Asked if she is in touch with Salman, Somy Ali revealed that she hasn’t spoken to him in five years. She mentioned that the two of them have moved on. “I have not spoken to Salman in five years. I think it is healthy to move on. I have moved on and he has moved on too. I don’t know how many girlfriends he has had since I left in December 1999. I wish him all the best. I know his NGO is doing brilliant work and I am proud of his Being Human Foundation. Psychologically, it is healthier for me to not be in touch with him. It is good to know he is in a good place and he’s happy, and that is all I care about.”

Somy Ali and Salman Khan reportedly dated for eight years. In an earlier interview with Zoom, Somy had revealed that Salman was not faithful to her. “We have moved on. It’s been 20 years since I broke up with him. He cheated on me and I broke up with him and left. It’s as simple as that,” she said.

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