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Saturday,12-June-2021

Maharashtra

Maharashtra wants to throw open Mumbai suburban trains for all

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Local-trains

As the Covid-19 situation in Maharashtra appears to be coming under control, the state government on Wednesday mooted throwing open the suburban local trains in Mumbai for everybody, in a phased manner.

Ahead of the fresh set of Unlock guidelines, the state has written to the General Managers of Western Railway (WR) and Central Railway (CR) and the Commissioner of Police, Railways on the proposal.

“The state is looking to open up the local train services to the general public while enduring adherence to Covid-19 protocols,” Disaster Management Secretary Kishore Raje Nimbalkar said in letters to the top railway officers.

The government has also suggested a schedule with timings for the general commuters – who are not part of the essential services – permitting them to travel during the non-peak hours.

Accordingly, persons with valid tickets/passes shall be allowed to travel by the first of the day till 7.30 am, again from 11 am-4.30 pm, and then from 8 pm till the last service of the day.

Those in essential services with valid QR code shall be allowed to commute between 8-10.30 am and 5-7.30 pm daily, besides making provision for one Ladies Special train every hour.

Nimbalkar said that the proposal would need adequate planning by deploying additional train services to handle the expected extra crowds of commuters, and asked the two railways to provide their inputs on the same.

Though CR and WR officials declined to comment, sources said the proposal would be put up before the Railway Board for its final okay before implementing.

The WR and CR suburban train services are considered the lifeline of the country’s commercial capital Mumbai and the adjoining Thane, Palghar and Raigad.

On an average, daily around 3,200 services are operated for around 21 hours, transporting around 85-lakh commuters daily to and from their homes and workplaces.

At present, however, the suburban sections are running barely 1,500 services most for people in essential services and other specified categories based on QR codes, and all women are permitted at only specific hours.

Maharashtra

Ripples in Maharashtra as poll strategist Prashant Kishor meets Sharad Pawar

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JD(U)-leader-Prashant-Kishore

Maharashtra politics saw a flutter on Friday as much sought-after polls mastermind Prashant Kishor called on Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar and the duo broke bread over lunch here.

After the luncheon, both Pawar and Prashant Kishor, oft referred to as ‘PK’ in political circles, kept mum on their meeting, further fuelling speculation.

However, senior NCP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar brushed aside all gossip, noting that Kishor has already made it clear he will not be designing poll strategies for political parties in future.

Similarly, Shiv Sena Chief Spokesperson and MP Sanjay Raut said many political leaders are in contact with Kishor while other NCP and Congress leaders feigned ignorance over the discussion menu or the outcome.

This morning, Kishor called on Pawar at the latter’s Mumbai residence around 11 a.m. and the duo was closeted for nearly 3 hours before the NCP chief saw off his high-profile visitor.

The meeting triggered guesswork whether this could signal a preparation for the 2024 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections amid calls for putting up a united front of all Opposition parties to tackle the Bharatiya Janata Party challenge.

This was Kishor’s first meeting with a prominent Maharashtra leader after his poll strategies succeeded in handsome victories in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu for the Trinamool Congress and the DMK respectively, particularly since the NCP and Sena had thrown their weight behind Mamata Banerjee.

Kishor had met the Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray here shortly before he became the Chief Minister and enjoys close rapport with several leaders across parties in the state.

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Maharashtra

Now, Maharashtra to give 50-year-old urban trees ‘heritage’ tag

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urban-trees

In a novel green initiative to conserve nature, the Maharashtra government has decided to accord ‘heritage’ tags to all trees which are 50-years old and more in urban centres, officials said here on Friday.

The state cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday approved a proposal to amend the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, and incorporate the concept of ‘heritage trees’.

The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has also decided to form a ‘Maharashtra Tree Authority’ which will be empowered to take all decisions regarding protection of trees.

“In order to maintain and foster the green cover in the state’s urban centres, we have passed the amendment that will safeguard the environment in all cities and provide a robust mechanism to protect heritage trees,” said Tourism and Environment Minister Aditya Thackeray.

He expressed gratitude to the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat for consistently giving weightage to sustainable development by amending existing laws to address the worldwide climate emergency or global warming.

“Any tree with an estimated age of 50 years or above, shall be classified as a ‘heritage tree’. They may belong to specific species, which would be notified periodically,” an official said.

The move comes barely 18 months after Mumbai witnessed a staggering 2,141 big and small trees being chopped off in less than 40 hours – or roughly one tree/per minute – by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (MMRCL) inside the Aarey Colony, in October 2019.

The Thackeray father-son duo, both nature lovers, was instrumental in drafting the proposed changes in the law to ensure safety of all old trees in urban landscapes.

The Environment and Climate Change Department along with the Forest Department will shortly prepare formal guidelines to determine the age of a tree.

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Crime

House crash: CM Uddhav Thackeray visits injured, announces Rs 5L to kin of dead

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UDDHAV-THACKERAY

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday afternoon visited the injured victims of last night’s house crash in Malad – which claimed 11 lives. The injured are undergoing treatment at Dr BR Ambedkar Shatabdi Hospital in Kandivali, here.

Accompanied by Ministers Aslam Sheikh and Aditya Thackeray, Mayor Kishori Pednekar and Municipal Commissioner I.S. Chahal and other officials, the CM enquired after the health of the victims, the course of their treatment and other details with the attending medicos.

Thackeray also announced a compensation of Rs 500,000 to kin of each of the deceased 11 persons, mostly minors, who perished in the house collapse – the first major monsoon-related tragedy in Mumbai this year.

He added that the government would bear the entire treatment cost of the injured persons.

Bharatiya Janata Party’s Leader of Opposition (Council) Pravin Darekar visited the crash site and slammed the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for laxity in the matter.

“The local MP Gopal Shetty had warned in writing to the BMC highlighting the dangers of many of these illegal multi-storied tenements, which posed a huge risk in monsoon. But nothing was done about it,” Darekar said.

Around 11.30 p.m. on Wednesday, a ground-plus-two storied house crashed and fell on an adjoining tenement in the New Collector’s Colony at Malvani, Malad west as the city was clobbered with heavy rains.

The tragedy has claimed 11 victims so far, including 9 members of a family with 3 adults. The victims include 8 minors of which one was an 18-month-old female toddler and the oldest 15-year-old boy.

Officials claimed that in many slum pockets across the city, local residents construct multi-storied tenements without authorization, some as tall as four or five floors, in places like Bandra, Dharavi, Jogeshwari, Malad, Dahisar and other slums, and ignore demolition notices of the BMC.

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