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Rahul Gandhi_India_002

Congress' Backseat Helps I.N.D.I.A Front Glue Together

The role of the Indian National Congress leadership in taking a backseat in the I.N.D.I.A coalition has emerged as one of the key factors that has kept the front together. Had the Congress taken up leadership positions, it would have put off some anti-Congress parties that are part of the coalition,” according to a political analyst. Also, being the dominant partner, the I.N.D.I.A coalition would have earned the tag of a Congress-led initiative, another deterrent factor. Analysts believe that this playing down strategy reflects political maturity on the part of the grand old party. “They are aware of the fact that there are a few parties within the I.N.D.I.A coalition that have won elections on an anti-Congress plank and these parties need to be reassured about their place,” felt Bhalchandra Kango, member of the national secretariat of the Communist Party of India.  If Nitish Kumar had got the parties together in the I.N.D.I.A coalition, we must work to keep all the parties together, Rahul Gandhi is believed to have stated in one of the internal meetings. With this, the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls now promises a straight fight between the 28-party India alliance and the 38-parties BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

Language Barrier: Stalin Surprises Everybody, Addresses I.N.D.I.A Leaders In Tamil

Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin chose to give his closing address of the 28-party I.N.D.I.A meet at Mumbai in Tamil. The only South Indian chief minister present on the dais, Stalin just started off in Tamil without any warning. His colleague, six-times Parliamentarian TR Baalu, who was with him on the dais, neither translated his address nor bothered to explain the context to either the delegates or the press. All the other speakers including Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar, chose to address in Hindi except for Sitaram Yechury who spoke in English. A delegate, who was part of the I.N.D.I.A front internal meet, revealed that Stalin failed to fully participate in the internal meetings, due to the language barrier. “Stalin always kept his counterpart TR Baalu around him. Baalu presented the party view at the internal meetings while Stalin merely followed the proceedings in English,” a delegate informed. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has been a strong opponent of imposition of Hindi. Stalin started his short address with a greeting of ‘Vanakkam’ and went on to explain how the I.N.D.I.A front has not come together with the quest for power but with the resolve to protect the nation, its constitution, the society and cultural values. Soon after he wrapped up his speech, he left the dais along with Baalu.

I.N.D.I.A Skips Contentious Issues, Sets Aside Decisions On PM Candidate

The 28-party I.N.D.I.A front has decided to side step the contentious issue of finalising the prime ministerial face to forge ahead in the alliance. The alliance has decided to stay face-less in its fight against prime minister Narendra Modi to diffuse tensions in I.N.D.I.A with multiple claimants throwing hats in the ring. With 11 chief ministers like Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal in the fray, the leadership of I.N.D.I.A is a delicate issue that could destabilize the alliance at any point of time. Though the Congress wanted to push Rahul Gandhi for leadership position, it wisely seems to have given up. Though a similar anti-BJP front had emerged in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it had failed to work due to lack of unity. Hence, it has been decided to instead let the PM candidate emerge post-election depending on how the parties fare in the Lok Sabha polls. Another contentious issue, that of seat sharing is also likely to be delegated to various state-level committees to diffuse tensions. With parties in West Bengal, Punjab, Delhi and Kerala being at loggerheads in Delhi, the emphasis will be on the ability to win seats to determine seat sharing allocations. Similarly, key responsibilities will be décentralised and delegated to coordination committee and sub-committees rather than a single convenor to avoid focus on a single party or leader.
sharad pawar_006

Under The Cloud, Sharad Pawar Dares PM Modi

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, who has been under the cloud, following his hobnobbing with his nephew Ajit Pawar even after splitting his party, dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to investigate and act against him. “You are in power, the facts are with you. Investigate and bring the truth before the entire country,” the senior Pawar dared at the precursor press briefing of the INDIA alliance. Prior to Ajit Pawar aligning with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), PM Modi had alleged that the NCP was involved in corruption of over Rs 70,000 crore. Sharad Pawar has stated that there is no confusion among people and they will show the defected NCP leaders, who shifted allegiance to the BJP-Shiv Sena ruling alliance, their place in the polls. The NCP party is expecting deterrent action from the Modi government in the form of losing their party name or symbol, a la the Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, a senior NCP leader said. Incidentally, while Uddhav Thackeray works closely with Sharad Pawar, his party mouthpiece Saamna continues to be strongly critical of Pawar’s mollycoddling with his nephew, which it termed sends confusing signals to workers of the alliance partners in the Maha Vikas Aghadi.
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NCP's Swift Entry-N-Rise In Maharashtra Govt Rankles Ruling Allies

Ajit Pawar’s ability to swing the best portfolios for himself and his team of eight ministers, within 12 days of joining the Maharashtra government, has led to much heartburn among his own ruling allies, namely the Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena and even within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He managed to whisk a few ministries from the BJP itself after meeting up with union home minister Amit Shah. These include key portfolios like finance (held earlier by Devendra Fadnavis), cooperation (held by Atul Save), medical education (held by Girish Mahajan) and even women and child development (held by Mangal Prabhat Lodha). Other crucial portfolios like agriculture, food and drug administration were taken away from Shinde’s sainiks. The swiftness with which Pawar has managed to get his way in the government has led to much consternation especially when allies like Bacchu Kadu have been left hankering. The NCP ministers too, got their bungalow and office allotments, even before they got their portfolios. Earlier, a ministerial bungalow was opened by breaking the lock to make way for Ajit Pawar faction’ office. The NCP sure knows its way around a desperate BJP which is keen to win maximum Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra next year to retain Delhi.
Civic officer slap

BMC Officials Get Caught In Internecine Sena Rift: IAS Officer Gets ED Raid, Another Gets Slapped

Government officials working in India’s wealthiest civic corporation, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are facing the brunt of being caught in the crossfire of Shiv Sena’s internecine conflict. Having ruled the BMC for over 25 years without a break has meant that, both the Shiv Sena factions — Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde — have immense understanding about the nuances of how BMC works. With the result that they are adopting every trick in the book, to use the BMC to get back at the other. Amidst allegations of close aides bagging multi-crore Covid deals and Covid procurements done at inflated costs,  an IAS officer and former additional commissioner of BMC, was raided by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and found having assets worth Rs 100 crore. Soon afterwards, demolition of a 40-year-old party office of the Uddhav Thackeray faction at Bandra East, led to party workers slapping a civic engineer. Officials now fear a spike in pressure tactics as the BMC elections inch closer. Uddhav is no stranger to this business of (mis) using the BMC official machinery for his political fights. He had similarly used the BMC’s offices to get back at opponents supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) like actress Kangana Ranaut or Navneet Rana or Mohit Kambhoj by initiating action for illegal alterations. Even Radio Jockey Mallishka wasn’t spared of BMC notices for poking fun at the potholed roads of Mumbai.
MOdi shinde article

Newspaper Ads Highlight Shadow Boxing Between Ruling Allies SS-BJP In Maharashtra

A front-page newspaper advertisement issued by the chief minister Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena tom-tomming a survey that rated Shinde ahead of his deputy Devendra Fadnavis for CM’s post, has highlighted the shadow boxing between the ruling allies in Maharashtra. Interestingly, the advertisement with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photo comes in the wake of the discontentment brewing in the Shinde camp following tactics adopted by the BJP. The friction between the Shinde’s Sena and the BJP was also evident in reports that the national party had asked Shinde to sack five of his party ministers on grounds of unsatisfactory performance. This had upset the Shinde camp since all five ministers on the chopping board were Shinde strongmen, who played key roles in his government formation that helped him get the CM’s chair. The BJP strategy to expand in Maharashtra — not by making inroads into Opposition spaces but by inching into strongholds held by its own ally, the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena — has clearly upset the CM and his party of supporters. His supporters fear being denied tickets in their own backyards. Not surprisingly, firebrand Shiv Sena Parliamentarian Sanjay Raut commented that the BJP would make Shinde’s men to scramble for every seat. Amit Shah has announced a target to win 45 of the total 48 seats in the state during his recent rally at Nanded.


Is Communal Cauldron In Maharashtra Deliberately Kept On Boil?

Communal cauldron in Maharashtra is deliberately kept on the boil in view of the forthcoming elections in the state, charges Opposition leaders. Communal disturbances broke out simultaneously in Kolhapur, Dhule and Ahmednagar on June 7 following protests called by pro-Hindu organisations protesting against glorification of Aurangzeb on social media and his pics being flanked openly in rallies. Nationalist Congress Party supremo (NCP) Sharad Pawar alleges that the ruling alliance had failed to act strongly against communal forces. NCP leader Jitendra Avhad says that if assembly elections were held in Maharashtra today the Opposition alliance party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) would win more than 200 seats and hence these disturbances were being engineered. The tensions have been simmering in the state for some time now ever since the BJP-Shiv Sena returned to power in the state with Eknath Shinde as chief minister. The tensions rise in the backdrop of anti- love jihad rallies organised at various districts.  Anil Parab, leader from the Uddhav Thackeray group said that such tensions would deter investors away from the state. Meanwhile, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis warned that the spurt in glorification of Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan would not be tolerated.
Ajit pawar_004

Pawar Steps Down Following Succession Battle In NCP

The succession battle within the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) seems to have led to Sharad Pawar’s decision to step down from the NCP. A battle for succession had been brewing in the NCP that had led to Ajit Pawar’s forthright claim for the chief minister’s and almost threatened a vertical split in the NCP. Ajit Pawar, who is Maharashtra’s longest deputy chief minister – he has held the post four times — clearly is tired of waiting for the CM’s chair. Ajit Pawar has already muscled his way within the NCP, way beyond his contemporaries like Jayant Patil, Dilip Walse Patil, Sunil Tatkare. Analysts believe that Ajit Pawar is ruffled by the fact that the NCP won’t hand him the CM’s post even if the MVA wins in 2024, preferring either Uddhav Thackeray or Supriya Sule, instead. The reluctance of senior Pawar, now 82, to spell out his party’s succession plans, has evidently made Ajit Pawar uncomfortable. When Supriya first entered politics, the broad understanding in NCP was that she would work at the national level, while Ajit would lead charge at the state level. But, now with Sule clawing back her way in state politics, to claim her father’s party, has clearly made him restless. NCP may have lost its tag as a national party but analysts believe that it retains enough clout to bounce back with a winning tally in 2024, higher than the 53 seats it currently holds. The brewing succession battle threatens to disrupt equations in the NCP, the coalition arithmetic and politics in Maharashtra.

As SC Verdict Date Nears, Race For Maharashtra CM’s Chair Hots Up

Suddenly there are many aspirants for the post of chief minister of Maharashtra. Or so it seems. All seem to have concluded that the Supreme Court verdict, to determine the fate of the Shiv Sena rebels, will go against Eknath Shinde and his 15 legislators, leading to a change in government. Aspirants range from Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The BJP’s ex-CM Devendra Fadnavis’ continues to stay in the race with state BJP leaders regularly pegging him as “our own CM.” Uddhav Thackeray continues to be a strong contender despite a drastic fall in his legislators’ strength from 56 to 16. Supriya Sule could be the dark horse in the fray.  Not to be left behind, Ramdas Athawale too wants to be counted in for the race. Incidentally, in February, posters had sprung hailing NCP leaders like Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil and even Supriya Sule as the future CM of Maharashtra. However, NCP leaders termed it as the work of mischievous elements. Now, when Ajit Pawar has already thrown his hat into the ring, posters are springing up yet again, hailing him as the future CM. At this juncture, a statement by NCP chief Sharad Pawar about the need for change in government, has only further fuelled the speculations. Incidentally, the man at the helm right now, Shinde, is tight-lipped and maintaining a low-profile.

Sanjay Raut Emerges As A Unique Polarising Factor In Maharashtra Politics

The political uncertainty playing out in Maharashtra has led to the emergence of Sanjay Raut as a unique polarising factor in Maharashtra politics. Be it during the split of the Shiv Sena, when Eknath Shinde legislators blamed him for the split or now during the almost-split of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Raut’s claim in his political column about Sharad Pawar admission of factions within his party set to join the BJP, had clearly rankled Ajit Pawar, who saw it as Raut’s meddling in his party’s affairs. Earlier, Raut had similarly rankled the Bharatiya Janata party Party (BJP), which blamed him particularly his editorials in Saamna for creating rifts in the SS- BJP’s alliance. Raut has clearly emerged as a unique player in Maharashtra politics way beyond his position as editor of the Shiv Sena (UBT) mouthpiece Saamna or even as his party’s spokesperson. He is now the most vociferous proponent of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) –Maharashtra’s experiment of an anti-BJP front. Though Sharad Pawar is the architect of the MVA, it was Raut, who has successfully advocated it before the media and the people. Enforcement agencies and even 100 days in jail have failed to tame his sharp-tongue. As political uncertainty lingers on over the forthcoming Supreme Court verdict on the fate of the Eknath Shinde’s legislators and his government, Raut’s role is only set to get more prominent.
Tanaji Sawant

Maharashtra Health Minister Tanaji Sawant Seeks New Political Post, Ignoring Covid Resurge

As the number of Covid cases resurge in Maharashtra with the state registering a 63% spike in daily cases and three deaths as on March 29, its health minister Tanaji Sawant seems preoccupied with completely different concerns. At a meeting in Pandharpur recently, Sawant admitted that the health ministry didn’t interest him and he had taken it up with much reluctance. He claimed that the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government had given him positions that didn’t interest him, be it the health portfolio or even the guardian ministry of Parbhani and Dharashiv districts. Not one to mince words, Sawant had openly admitted that he was planning rebellion against Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray for denying him a ministerial berth in 2019, by holding over 100-150 meetings with legislators, over a period of two years when the state was reeling under Covid. Now, when the State is witnessing resurgence of Covid, the man at the helm, Sawant seems to be on a personal overdrive boasting that he could pull crowds much more than the likes of late Atal Bihari Vajpayee or even Bal Thackeray. Sawant is now eyeing the guardian minister’s slot for Solapur and has openly appealed to the chief minister and his deputy, to do the needful.

Is Politics Straining Personal Relationships Of Leaders In Maharashtra?

The uncertainty in Maharashtra is straining personal relations among political relationships. Every cursory visit or comment is viewed with suspicion and tends to create much speculation about the future political direction of every political leader. Visits by chief minister Eknath Shinde to the deputy chairperson of legislative council Neelam Gorhe raised eyebrows forcing her to clarify her position stating that “Even earlier chief ministers would visit and confer with the presiding officers of the legislative council or assembly for official purposes. Be it our earlier chief ministers Uddhav Thackeray or Devendra Fadnavis who would confer with the then speaker Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar. Our earlier speaker Shivajirao Deshmukh also received chief ministers regularly over official matters. These are routine procedures and should not be viewed beyond that.” Gorhe has her loyalties with the Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena, whose 16 legislators are being wooed by the Eknath Shinde-led Sena that enjoys the support of over 40 legislators. Though Maharashtra has a history of political leaders maintaining civil relations beyond party lines, this political culture of civility is now clearly under strain in the new political atmosphere. Former chief ministers Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis’ warm greeting when they happened to enter the assembly together by chance, also created much flutter.

Weak Maharashtra Opposition Fails To Put BJP On The Mat For Bookie Daughter Scandal

The recent scandal linking a designer-bookie’s daughter Aniksha Jaisinghani with Amruta Fadnavis, wife of Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, was viewed as an opportunity lost by the Opposition party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA). Leaders of MVA regret that they have been unable to put the ruling dispensation on the mat or demand their resignations. “Had the BJP got such a chance, they would have raised a ruckus enough to get the entire government to resign on this. Our ministers have had to put in their papers for much smaller errors. Vilasrao Deshmukh lost his chief ministership over film director Ram Gopal Varma’s visit to Hotel Taj post the 26/11 attack, while Union minister Shivraj Patil was made to resign for changing his clothes multiple times during serial blasts in Delhi,” said a former MVA minister. Referring to a stricture passed by the High Court against chief minister Eknath Shinde for reversing his deputy cooperatives minister’s decision, Opposition leader Ajit Pawar had said such HC strictures would have been enough reason for a minister to resign earlier, but not anymore. Not surprisingly, the ruling Fadnavis-Shinde government ministers seem quite lackadaisical skipping legislative discussions over catching up at the lobby instead. The Opposition had to tell the CM to instruct his ministers to attend the house so that they could hear Opposition leaders’ various demands including that of holding civic polls in the state immediately.

Ajit Pawar Alleges Shinde-Fadnavis Govt Using Fund Allocations To Arm Twist MLAs Supporting Uddhav Thackeray

Opposition leader Ajit Pawar has hinted that Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde misused the state financial allocations to pressurise legislators from the Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena to quit their party. Pointing out that only 52% of last 2022-23 budgetary allocations had been utilised, Pawar stated that soon after assuming power, the Shinde government had stalled funding for developmental works in constituencies of the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi legislators. While a few legislators from the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress did manage to get their way subsequently after meeting up with Shinde, those supporting the Uddhav Thackeray faction, had it really bad. Pawar alleged that the Uddhav’s MLAs were told that disbursal of funds for their projects was simply subject to their decision (to shift their allegiance). Pawar also pointed out that the state had failed to utilise 67% of the Rs 13,290 crore allocated by his government district development works. Pawar, who had presented over 9 budgets in the state, termed the 2023-24 Devendra Fadnavis’ maiden budget as finance minister as an election-oriented one lacking vision and peppered with unrealistic promises.


New Anti-Copying Directives In Maharashtra Face Parents Ire

The new anti-copying campaign being pushed strongly by the Maharashtra government for the forthcoming 2023 Class X and Class XII board examinations, has met with much criticism especially from the parents, who took it up with Raj Thackeray, demanding his intervention. The state government has withdrawn the existing provision of distributing question papers 10 minutes before exams and has ordered closure of photocopy shops located within 100 metres of exam centers, believed to be hubs of distributing question papers. Schools have also been asked to emphasize to parents about criminal action that could be taken if students are found indulging in exam malpractices. The board also reminded that indulging in exam malpractices will mean barring them for five subsequent exams. While the Class XII board exams begin on February 21, the Class X exams begin on March 2 in Maharashtra. This sudden focus on anti-copying measures has met with much criticism from parents, who say that the board should be more considerate towards students who are just recovering from academic disturbances for the past two years caused by Covid. “At a time when students are struggling with lack of writing practice and trying to cope up with their concepts after loss of academic learnings due to Covid, it is unfair to launch such campaigns at this juncture,” says Anubha Sahay, of the Indiawide Parents Association.

Mumbai On Its Way To Become A Metro-Centric City

The extended western suburbs of Mumbai – the city’s most populous stretch — gets fully covered by the Metro network from January 20 onwards. Providing seamless connectivity on an entirely elevated network of 35 km of lines with 30 platforms at the cost of Rs 13,000 crore, has been presented as a solution against the congested Western Express Highway and its parallel running New Link Road. Completing the project was challenging, says SVR Srinivas, metropolitan commissioner of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the city’s planning body, as it meant carrying out major part of the works at night due to heavy traffic congestion. There were challenges in air as well — the Andheri (W) station had to be raised to 22 metres above ground to cross over the existing Metro line 1 lines beneath. This line is estimated to see a footfall of 3-4 lakhs passengers daily soon. This is the second network that is fully operational; the first Ghatkopar-Versova line is already providing much needed relief with its East-West connectivity. While the metro network huffed and chuffed in its initial stages thanks to opposition from residents and environmentalists, it has picked up much speed since then to move towards its target of achieving 337 km with 200 stations by 2030 to service 7 lakhs passengers per day.
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BMC’s Carrot And Stick Policy: Extends Friendly Loans To Hawkers, But Keeps Its Eviction Drive On

The hawkers in Mumbai are facing a strange dilemma. On the one hand, the government is wooing them by literally calling them to take bank loans of Rs 10,000 under the Pradhan Mantri Swa-Nidhi Yojana for self-employed professionals. Perceived as a strategy to woo the mainly North Indian hawkers’ community by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the wake of forthcoming Mumbai’s civic elections, the rules for domicile certification were recently withdrawn to widen the base of hawkers benefit from it. At the same time, hawkers continue to also face eviction from the streets of Mumbai. “It’s a strange situation. On the one hand, those 17,000 hawkers enlisted in the 2014 hawkers survey, receive calls from local ward offices to fill forms and take loans. But, while we get loans, we also continue to face evictions. Not yet being issued hawking licenses means that loans serve as no guarantee of livelihoods for us. How do we repay loans if we don’t hawk on the streets?” asks Jai Shankar Singh, general secretary of the Azad Hawkers Union. The BMC is forced to solicit hawkers for loans as civic officials were given an initial target to approve loans for one lakh hawkers. However, mid-way through their targets were doubled to two lakh hawkers till March 2023. So far the BMC has managed to approve loans for 92,000 hawkers.

Flip Flops In BMC Mars City Administration In Mumbai

With elections to the coveted Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) round the corner, the media management has assumed critical proportions. On December 19, administrator Iqbal Singh Chahal issued an official diktat barring officials below the rank of additional municipal commissioners, from speaking to the media. However the diktat was withdrawn within a day reportedly with damage control ordered from none other than the chief minister’s office. The third day saw another fresh order, this time department heads could speak to the media but only with the permission of their superiors. All this is meant to ensure positive media coverage, retain its good image and nip fake news, the order explains. The ruling dispensation clearly wants the works of the BMC, especially its pet projects, to be highlighted in the media in the run-up to the elections. A media clampdown means less scope for tom-tomming civic works as soft political campaigning – a major handicap. Flip flops in decision making have come to become a hallmark of the BMC’s functioning ever since the formation of the new government led by Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis. Similarly, transfers of officials have also been withdrawn or changed, within 24 hours at times. “Fault lines within the new government have led to abrupt U-turns, creating chaos and confusion. The administrator’s failure to stand firm for the interest of the city and succumbing to random pressures, has become a bane of our city,” observes Ravi Raja, Congress’ ex- opposition leader in BMC.
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With Festival Season On, FDA Officials Step Up Raids To Check Food Adulteration

Come festive season the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) is abuzz with raids and surveys to check rampant food adulteration. Since the consumption of sweets is high during festive seasons there is a tendency to adulterate sweets and make a quick buck. This year between May and August 2022, the FDA raided 18 places and seized about 11,697 kg of adulterated foodstuffs valued at over Rs 19 lakhs according to the joint commissioner FDA, Shashikant Kekre. Though Mumbai is no longer a food manufacturing hub, the adulteration with cheaper stocks essentially takes place in the city during the repackaging stage. The FDA officials either track adulteration rackets with the help of tip-offs or trace them with their documentary evidence. If for instance, the final stock of packaged oil doesn’t tally or exceeds the bulk stock procurement, then clearly there is scope for investigation. Once the foodstuffs are confirmed as adulterated by the laboratories, the stuff is destroyed. In the case of milk which is either diluted with water or laced with urea, thus making it unsafe, it is drained off while items like gutkha are burnt out. But in case of palm oil, which is used as an adulterant in other costlier cooking oils like sunflower or groundnut or mustard oil, it is resold in the market to commercial users.
Collage Maker-30-Aug-2022-12

Shame! India’s Financial Capital Continues To Retain The Tag Of Slumbai

The tag of Slumbai for India’s financial capital seems difficult to shrug off as slums continue to occupy over 8000 acres of the city. While responding to questions raised at the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly recently, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis informed that 8333 acres of Mumbai was occupied by slums. This included 3620 acres of private land, 2140 acres of state government’s land, 856 acres of land belonging to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), 272 acres of land belonging to the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) and about 673 acres of Union government land. With the BJP, back in the saddle in Maharashtra, Fadnavis has promised to help get Centre’s clearances to rehabilitate the slum dwellers. About 48.35% of Mumbaikars continue to live in slums occupying 24% of the total Mumbai’s habitable area of 34,000 acres, according to the Slum Redevelopment Authority, which was set up in 1995 and tasked with making Mumbai slum-free. Far from wiping slums off Mumbai, the SRA scheme led to the slummification of Mumbai thanks to its builder-centric approach of bundling and warehousing people into 25-30 storied, highly congested buildings (6500 people per hectare in 1300 tenements) without proper amenities like open space, light, air and privacy say claim urban planners like PK Das.
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BEST Losses Mount To Rs 2110 Crore Despite Wet Leasing 50% Of Its Fleet

Cutting down on its huge losses was cited as the reason for introducing private buses into the fleet of Mumbai’s public transportation provider — the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking in 2019. Three years down the line, despite almost half of the fleet of Mumbai’s popular road transport system being operated by private wet leased buses today, the BEST continues to bleed reporting annual losses to the tune of Rs 2,110 crore as per its 2022-23 budget. “Currently, of the total fleet size of 3613 buses, about 1794 or 48.4 % are private buses. The losses continue to be stable despite support of Rs 4300 crore provided by its parent body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) over the past three years,” says Hussain Indorewalla, an architectural professor, who as co-convener of the Aamchi Mumbai Aamchi BEST, an advocacy group is working to save BEST. Activists like him believe that there is a systematic campaign to run down the BEST to push commuters towards the Metro network. While the BEST has a daily footfall of 30 lakh passengers, the metro is struggling to attract commuters. The BEST has already stopped buying new buses and almost all of its ventures, including the project to get 900 AC double decker electric buses and have an entirely electric fleet by 2027 are based on the wet lease model.

Centre's Curb On Tanker Operators Drawing Well Water Hits Mumbai's Infra Projects

The recent strike by the 1800-odd water tankers operators in Mumbai (May 9-13) showed how Mumbai city gets its way despite contrary stipulations. The operators had stalled supply of non-potable water to the city following restrictions introduced by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), effective from April 1, 2022.  The new stipulations cap ground water extraction by commercial water tankers to 15 tankers full water per well. Tankers must also fill water within a 200 metres radius of a borewell, set up a digital water flow meter with telemetry and get no-objection certification for water extraction. The water tanker lobby also provides non-potable water for various critical projects in the city like the Coastal Road project (300 tankers of water daily@ 10,000 litres per tanker), Mumbai Trans Harbour project (80 tankers), railways (150 tankers). They also supply water to various building construction sites and hospitals and even residential societies. Not surprisingly, Mumbai was badly hit and the state government intervened assuring them of taking up the issue with the Centre. While CGWB introduced the regulations, it does not even have an office in Mumbai and the penal/ legal action is to be executed by local Collectors, under state government jurisdiction. So, while the regulations stay on paper as of now, the tankers are back on the streets where life goes on as usual.

Why Are Mumbai Commuters Shying Away From Taking Goregaon-Dahisar New Metro Lines

Mumbaikars facing an intense heat wave are scrambling for the comforts of air-conditioned local trains but, shying away from taking to the AC metro network, particularly new Metro lines between Goregaon and Dahisar. Buoyed by the generous 50% drop in AC train fares from Rs 65/ km down to Rs 35 per km, the fare cut has bolstered daily passenger footfalls from an average of 3385 daily passengers in April 2022 to 9116 AC passengers on May 5. This is in complete contrast to the almost-empty AC Metro trains running between Goregaon and Dahisar. A month since its inception, daily average footfalls recorded are around 27,000 passengers — 10 times lower than its carrying capacity of 3 lakh passengers daily. It registers maximum footfalls only on Sundays. Plagued by issues like last mile connectivity, technical glitches and less frequency has meant that the office-goers find it unreliable. Failure to link with the existing popular Metro line between Andheri and Ghatkopar is also a major drawback. Activists like Vidyadhar Date attribute its lacklustre response to poor planning by planners who never use public transport. It is evident. Metro rakes are running with a thin crowd right above the congested Western Express Highway with packed BEST buses, both AC and the non-AC ones. The issue seems to be regarding intermodal passenger connectivity.

Sena Cadre Grudges The English Emphasis As Aaditya Thackeray Takes A Shine To BMC Schools

Looks like the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) run schools are going for an image makeover.  A team of officials and private citizens are designing a new set of uniforms with a brief to spruce up its tardy image of being a poor man’s school.  This is not exactly an image makeover or brand building exercise; it is more of a perception change that would reflect the overall upgradation taking place at the educational, technological and infrastructural levels in our civic school education system, explains joint municipal commissioner Ajit Kumbhar.  About 103 BMC buildings are being renovated to refurbish its dull and drab settings. Enrollments in BMC schools have registered a sharp rise since introduction of CBSE syllabus. Schools of Cambridge and the International Baccalaureate curriculum are also in the offing. Every academic year 27 items are given free to all students right from uniforms, school books, shoes to even school bags and water bottles. With an annual education budget of Rs 3,370 crores, digital classrooms, tablets for learning and plans to set up 25 astronomy labs are also in action. Sena scion Aaditya Thackeray personally leads his party’s education initiatives. His push for more English medium schools met with criticism from his own party’s core vote bank of Marathi middle class. Is this exercise being done with an eye on the BMC elections?


Technology Cannot Disrupt Original Content Provider: Short Post Editor

They say time flies. How true!  Today is our #SecondAnniversary. Two years back at the height of Covid-19 Pandemic when lockdown was the way of life we took a leap of faith and launched Short Post (Jan 28, 2021), the first-of-its-kind website in the country that focuses on Authentic Gossip. The Oxymoron is deliberate. Well, the response has been quite encouraging. That’s what has kept us going. Till date we have posted close to 2000 stories in the areas of Politics, Business, Entertainment and Sports. Each insightful story of around 225 words has been contributed by Senior Editors. There is a sense of satisfaction of creating a new segment in the market – authentic gossip — and in the process creating a brand (in a limited sense), creating demand (readers) and creating supply (writers). Well known advertisers — IDFC FIRST Bank, ICICI Lombard – supported us.  And that really boosted our confidence. Thank you!

So here we are raring to go.  But, when I look at the media landscape the disruption is indeed fast and furious. Technology is playing a very big role in how content will be consumed. In the past, we have seen how social media has disrupted the media world. Now, everybody is saying the same thing about ChatGPT. It has reached 1 million users in five days. Its scorching pace of growth is indeed frightening and will disrupt the media industry big time. My limited argument is can it do investigative stories, write gossip items using the digital world ecosystem. Unlikely. Clearly, the original content has to be created first — only then can ChatGPT do the magic. That’s what we promise to do – focus on original content.

Before I sign off, I am reminded of an old advertisement of the early sixties: “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So we try harder”. Likewise I can say, we are two years old and we are trying even harder to be relevant to you readers.