For the second consecutive year, millions of people in Mumbai, the coastal Konkan region and other parts of the state on Friday cheerfully welcomed Lord Ganesha amid stringent restrictions to ward off the lurking threats of the Covid-19 ‘third wave’.
The state’s biggest public festival’s lowkey celebrations were further hit by an abrupt change in the rules — banning all physical ‘darshan’ at the 2,400-odd public associations which have erected marquees (pandals) for devotees — disappointing the organisers.
“We were all geared to conduct the festival with full Covid-19 protocols but at the last-minute, the new rule with Sec. 144 has been clamped. This has come as a shock to all, but we shall strictly adhere to the government norms for public safety,” the BrihanMumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshutsav Samanway Samiti (BSGSS) President Naresh Dahibhavkar told IANS.
The missing crowds could entail huge losses of over Rs
100-crore for the public associations which had hoped to collect devotees offerings in their coffers besides sponsors and advertisers, for carrying out various charitable services round-the-year, rued Dahibhavkar.
Undaunted, the ordinary folks lustily chanting ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’, started bringing the idols of their beloved lord since last night to their homes, housing societies, public or private complexes and associations, and virtually every household in villages, for the low-key but highly devotional celebrations over the next 10 days.
This morning, lakhs of families performed the ‘sthapna poojas’ followed by traditional ‘aartis’ to mark the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
On Saturday, a majority of the households would give the first send-off and perform the immersions of the Ganpati idols marking the one-and-half-day celebrations of the fest ending on September 19.
Considered the God of wisdom, the pot-bellied-elephant-headed Lord Ganesha brings in prosperity and good fortune and drives away obstacles (‘vigna’) and ill-luck.
This year also, the idol height is restricted to 4 feet for marquees and 2 feet for home worship — a significant drop from the pre-pandemic era when some of the majestic Lord Ganesha idols benignly stared down at devotees from 20-feet plus pinnacles.
Hoping to make the best of the austere celebrations, the BSGSS have decided to enhance their Covid-19 volunteer forces by at least 20 per cent to grapple the potential ‘third wave’, said Dahibhavkar.
“From tomorrow, we shall launch health campaigns, organise blood donations and other social activities in a planned manner to avoid crowds,” he added.
Celebrated across the country, the Mumbai-Pune-Nashik-Konkan quadrangle is the main epicentre of the festival with some of the biggest celebrations witnessed here annually.
Not willing to take any chances with the ‘third wave’ apparently round-the-corner, the government has permitted only ‘online’ darshans since even temples and other places of worship are shut as per the Centre’s directives.
“We have made all necessary arrangements for online darshans,” said actor Aadesh Bandekar, the Chairman of Shri SiddhiVinayak Mandir Trust, Mumbai, who is accorded the Minister of State (MoS) status.
The curbs notwithstanding, lakhs of idols of Lord Ganesha came to the homes of people, ranging from Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, ministers, Leaders of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar, NCP President Sharad Pawar, state Congress President Nana Patole, city unit chief Bhai Jagtap, leaders of various parties, lawmakers and activists.
Lord Ganesha is also visiting top industrialists, film stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Urmila Matondkar, Nana Patekar, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, the Kapoor clan, the Dutt family, and many more.
Now Nawab Malik celebrates ‘nikaah’ of ‘sweet couple Sameer Dawood Wankhede-Shabana Quraishi’
In another shocker, the Nationalist Congress Party Minister Nawab Malik on Wednesday presented the purported ‘nikaah’ (Muslim marriage certificate) of Narcotics Control Bureau Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede, a day after the latter’s wife and sister rubbished all allegations.
In a series of tweets, Malik posted the wedding photo of the ‘Sweet Couple’ and the ‘nikaah-nama’ of Sameer Dawood Wankhede’s first marriage with Dr. Shabana Quraishi, performed on December 7, 2006 at 8 p.m. in Lokhandwala Complex in Andheri west.
“The ‘mehr’ amount was Rs 33,000… The witness No. 2 was Aziz Khan, husband of Yasmeen Dawood Wankhede, the sister of Sameer Dawood Wankhede,” Malik said.
He reiterated that the exposures about Sameer Dawood Wankhede were not about his religion, as is being portrayed in some quarters, including the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
“I want to bring to light the fraudulent means by which he has obtained a caste certificate to get an IRS job and has deprived a deserving Scheduled Caste (SC) person of his future,” Malik declared.
Wankhede has earlier stated that he and Dr. Qureishi divorced with mutual consent and he later married Marathi actress Kranti Redkar-Wankhede.
The latest revelations came a day after Redkar-Wankhede and Yasmeen Wankhede-Wankhede’s wife and sister, respectively — slammed the minister for the personal attacks and resorting to ‘kitchen politics’, and challenging him to prove his allegations before the courts.
Their ire stemmed from the serial exposes by Malik over the past three weeks on Wankhede, topped off Tuesday with a stunning claim that the over Rs 1,000-crore has been extorted from Bollywood people in Mumbai and Maldives.
The NCP Minister’s contention is that Wankhede had allegedly submitted forged caste certificates to get a central government job under SC quotas even though he is a Muslim — a charge vehemently denied by the Wankhede’s father, sister and others.
The NCP leader now plans to forward all the documents to the Caste Verification Committee for probe and necessary action.
Malik’s independent investigations into Wankhede’s background and the allegations of corruption plaguing the NCB has both rattled and regaled many in the central probe agency, besides triggering a massive political row with a series of accusations and counter-accusations hurled.
The NCB is sending a team to investigate and verify the charges against Wankhede after a ‘Panch-Witness’ Prabhakar Sail’s purported affidavit making startling allegations of an extortion bid from Shah Rukh Khan to release his son Aryan Khan, accused in the cruiser party raid.
Rs 1000-crore ‘extorted’ from Bollywood in Mumbai, Maldives, claims Nawab Malik
In another sensational disclosure, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) national spokesperson and Minister Nawab Malik on Tuesday said at least an amount of Rs 1,000-crore has been ‘extorted’ in Mumbai and Maldives from Bollywood personalities.
Pointing the needle against the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede, Malik released a 4-pager purported letter he received from a whistleblower within the agency.
The Minister said he received the letter which has been copied to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, state Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil, Director-General of Police Sanjay Pandey, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and MP Rahul Gandhi.
“My fight is not against the NCB… They have done a good job in the past 35 years… I am fighting against a person who has extorted money from people…My estimate is over Rs 1,000-crore. The NCB has already started a probe and they must look into the points raised in the 4-page letter,” Malik demanded.
Reacting promptly to the purported letter, the NCB Deputy Director-General, South West Region Mutha Ashok Jain said: “I have seen the letter. We will take necessary action.”
Dismissing the charges by Wankhede and his family on the birth certificate which he revealed on Monday, Malik issued an “open challenge” to them to file any case or criminal defamation, he would face arrest and put the matter before the Courts.
Hitting back, a Bharatiya Janata Party activist Mohit (Kamboj) Bharatiya slammed Malik and said the 4-pager letter was a fake, even the affidavit submitted by a NCB ‘Panch-witness’ Prabhakar Sail was bogus and demanded the Minister’s immediate resignation for misusing his ministerial status.
“The Minister has been lying since day one… Sail’s affidavit was made at Malik’s behest… All this is done to malign the NCB and the BJP. I fear for my life and I demand security. I am filing a defamation case against him today,” Bharatiya told mediapersons.
Making another grave accusation, the Minister said that Wankhede has been illegally tapping the phones of two persons, one in Mumbai and another in Thane.
“I have their full details… and will disclose more at the appropriate time. How did the officer ask for the CDR details of my daughter Nilofer Malik from the Mumbai Police? Is she a criminal? The police have rejected Wankhede’s demands,” Malik said.
The Minister reiterated his charge that Wankhede has allegedly submitted a bogus caste certificate to get a central government job in a reserved category and vowed to bring out more dope on this.
“The BJP has been trying to portray it as a Hindu-Muslim fight… In my 45 years in public life, I have never played politics in the name of religion and the people know this well. But Wankhede has deprived a poor Dalit boy by grabbing his job in the reserved quota on the basis of fake documents,” said Malik.
The Minister further said that since his first expose in early-October, many people have been coming to him with information on the NCB, including a witness who said that the agency made him sign 50 blank papers.
On the contents of the 4-pager, Malik said that it has alleged details of about 26 different cases in which people have been deliberately framed by the agency, and how money was extorted.
“I am forwarding it to the NCB Vigilance Committee for proper investigations and hope the truth will come out,” he said.
Shiv Sena’s ill MP skips ED hearing, seeks fortnight’s time
Yavatmal-Washim Shiv Sena MP Bhavana Gawali skipped a hearing by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on grounds of ill health, here on Wednesday.
Instead, a team of her lawyers went to the ED and submitted a letter seeking another 15 days’ time to enable the MP to appear before the central probe agency.
Political sources said that Gawali – who was first summoned on October 4 but did not attend the ED office owing to prior commitments – is suffering from chickenpox and has sought more time to go and answer the ED’s queries.
The ED is probing allegations of money laundering indulged by Gawali and her associates for criminal conspiracy to fraudulently convert a trust into a private company.
Later, the ED arrested one of the aides Saeed Khan, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, and wants to quiz Gawali about her links with him and certain misappropriation of funds amounting to around Rs 25 crore.
While denying the allegations against her, Gawali has accused the ED of targeting her solely because she belongs to a state party, Shiv Sena.
The ED entered the picture after the Risod Police in Washim registered a complaint of cheating and criminal breach of trust against various persons including the trustees, and later the ED carried out multiple raids at her premises in Yavatmal, Washim, and Mumbai.
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