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Maharashtra

‘Hounded’ by ED, Shiv Sena Dy. Leader flees to Eknath Shinde camp

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 Under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Maharashtra ex-minister and Shiv Sena Deputy Leader Arjun Khotkar announced that he is joining the rebel faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, here on Saturday.

Declaring his intentions at a crowded media conference, Khotkar said that he held detailed discussions with Shiv Sena President and ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Spokesperson Sanjay Raut on his decision.

“I have explained to them the compulsions – which all are aware – behind my decision, the harassment to my family… I am forced to make certain decisions… And they (Thackeray-Raut) have understood my predicament,” said an emotional Khotkar, without naming the ED.

To a query, he said that when a person is facing a crisis, he will seek protection from somewhere – an indirect indictment of the central agency which is probing him and his family since the past over two years.

On the central agency probe against him, Khotkar reeled off figures of financial deals pertaining to the alleged illegal auction sale of the Jalna Cooperative Sugar Factory Ltd. by the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) and claimed he was innocent.

A couple of days ago, Raut lauded Khotkar for displaying courage and admitting to the harassment by the ED which had compelled him to take the decision (to switch sides to Shinde camp).

Seven months after he was raided in November 2021, last month (June 2022), the ED attached Khotkar’s properties under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the FIR lodged by the Economic Offences Wing of Mumbai Police.

Among other things, the investigators claimed that the sugar mill was fraudulently sold by the MSCB to the relatives or associates of the bank’s officials and directors flouting norms.

Khotkar’s move came after he called on Shinde, another rebel ex-minister Abdul Sattar and a union minister in the past couple of days.

Maharashtra

Mumbai Assembly bypoll: Congress, NCP support Shiv Sena candidate

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 In a boost for Shiv Sena (Uddhav group), the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have declared support to its candidate in the upcoming Andheri East Assembly by-elections, party leaders said here on Wednesday.

The bypoll is necessitated owing to the demise of the sitting Sena legislator, Ramesh Latke, who died in Dubai last May.

The Sena has fielded his widow, Rutuja Ramesh Latke for the November 3 byelections, hoping to garner the sympathy votes.

She will take on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s former BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) corporator Murji Patel, who is considered a popular leader in the area.

This is the first crucial electoral test for the Sena President and former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray after the collapse of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in June.

The election has triggered a keen tussle between Thackeray and the rival faction led by the BJP-supported Chief Minister Eknath Shinde who toppled the MVA.

Maharashtra Congress President Nana Patole said today that the party will not field its own candidate but will support the MVA nominee who is contesting on a Sena ticket.

NCP National Spokesperson also said that the party will support the Sena nominee for the bypolls.

“The MVA was formed after the 2019 Assembly elections to keep the communal BJP out of power for the benefit of the state. During our tenure of two-and-half years, we took many welfare decisions and did good work during the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis,” said Patole.

However, the BJP at the Centre misused the central agencies like the ED and CBI to bring down the MVA regime by taking away the Sena MLAs, he said.

Patole pointed out how, when all BJP efforts to break the MVA alliance failed, they created a rift in the Sena to oust the state government in June.

The three parties will now go all-out to ensure the victory of Rutuja R. Latke over the BJP nominee Murji Patel, they added.

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Business

Government of India approve an 26000 crores for installation of 5G network tower in 500 days

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The government has approved Rs 26,000 crore to install 25,000 mobile towers over the next 500 days, Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said at the Digital India Conference of State IT Ministers at the India Mobile Congress. Through this, the government aims to provide last-mile internet connectivity to the far flung areas.

The project will be implemented by state-owned Bharat Broadband Network Ltd, which was recently merged into the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. The cost of the project will be born out of the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), which has a balance of Rs 59,736 crore as of August end. USOF is a fund set up by the government to provide internet connectivity to rural and far flung areas.

The state-run telecom operator is expected to launch its 4G services in November now and then target to cover pan-India with 4G in next 18 months. Simultaneously, the company is also targeting to launch 5G services by August 2023, as recently announced by telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

Recently, the government also approved a Rs 1.64 trillion revival package from BSNL. The revival package will help BSNL to fasten rollout of its 4G network, de-stress its balance sheet, and improve network services, among other things.

“The current approval to install 25,000 towers is in addition to the BSNL revival package and the expenses will be covered through USOF,” the official said.

The telecom operators, however, may not be in favour of the government giving BSNL additional incentives above the revival package.

“If this 25,000 is over and above the BSNL bailout package announced recently then it is more harming as it is against the level playing field,” an executive from a telecom company said, adding that BSNL has been given USOF related rollout without going for the tendering process.

“Denying the telecom service providers to bid is against the spirit of USOF as bidding would have resulted in best price to government and lower the government’s cost overall,” the telecom company executive said.

Currently, telecom operators pay 8% of their adjusted gross revenue as license fee. Of this 5% goes into the universal service obligation fund (USOF) and balance 3% to the exchequer.

As of August 31, about 47% of USOF is unutilised, and telecom operators want the government to either reduce or remove this levy till the funds are fully utilised.

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General

New Room will be given for Surgarical Department: Sir JJ Hospital Mumbai

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MUMBAI: The surgery department at the state-run JJ Hospital and Grant Medical College is undergoing a huge overhaul. Three of the operation theatres will be converted into modular ones, with 34 additional beds for recovering patients which will allow them to reduce the waiting list of patients awaiting surgeries by half. This plan also includes a state-of-the-art audio-visual (AV) room where surgeries in the OTs can be transmitted live for students to watch.
The state government has released funds of more than ₹30 crores for this overhaul. Work on all these units is underway, and they are expected to be operational in the next six to eight months. Three of the existing modular OTs were set up with funds received under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) in 2008.

“Three of the six OTs of our department are already modular. Now, we will be integrating the other three as modular OTs. Both the surgical ICU (SICU) and recovery rooms will have 17 beds each,” said the head of the surgery Dr Ajay Bhandarwar.

Once the patients have undergone surgeries, they can be shifted to the SICU or the recovery room based on how severe their condition is, he added.

Currently, the department only has access to two beds in the critical care unit where other critical patients from super speciality and other departments of the hospital are also admitted during recovery.

“Since there aren’t enough beds for recuperating patients for post-operative care, many surgeries need to be delayed. The wait for elective surgeries can be as long as one month because of this. The new infrastructure would help us cut down this wait to one or two weeks,” said the associate professor in the department Dr Amol Wagh.

The number of resident doctors posted in the surgery department has increased from 27 to 32 this year. These additional residents can easily be posted in the SICU where they can learn critical care management, which is an essential part of their post-graduate studies, said Dr Bhandarwar. These new OTs as well as the existing ones would also be equipped with fibre optic cabling, which would connect them directly to the AV room. “Due to fear of infection, we usually don’t allow too many people in the OTs during an operation. The surgeries being conducted here can be transmitted to the OTs as well as other teaching hospitals which have the necessary infrastructure,” said Dr Bhandarwar.

Dr Wagh said the department can conduct around ten elective surgeries, over and above the emergency surgeries every day. Some of these are day surgeries in which the patients can be discharged on the same day, but in most cases, they require post-operative care. With more room for recovering patients, there would be a chance to conduct more surgeries as well.

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