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Mumbai gets 2 more Metro Lines, Uddhav Thackeray flags off train trials




In a significant development, seven years since its first Metro line was started in June 2014, Mumbai is all set to get two more north-south Metros, both elevated, in its north-western suburbs.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday kicked off the trial runs for the city’s 2A Yellow Line and 7 Red Line and other projects, officials said.

Soon after the symbolic green flags were waved by Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Mayor Kishori Pednekar, and other ministers of Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress alliance, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) commenced the trial runs.

Over the next few days, the MMRDA will test the two lines with a 6-car rake at various speeds and both the lines are planned to be commissioned in two phases starting September, and finally by January 2022.

This marks an important phase for the city currently served by a single east-west 11.4 km Mumbai Metro One line from Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar, inaugurated in June 2014.

Excited people clapped and cheered on the roads below in the north-western suburbs as they suddenly viewed the sleek new rakes running at controlled speeds and many started clicking photos or videos from their balconies or rooftops and made them viral on social media.

The first phase would cover 9 stations each for both the lines covering a distance of 10.5 km (Line 2A) and 9.2 kms (Line 7), and the remaining sections shall be made operational in the second phase, said an official.

Line 2A, running from Dahisar to DN Nagar, is fully elevated for 18.6 km with 17 stations being built at a cost of around Rs 6,400 crore, while Line 7, from Dahisar East to Andheri, is fully elevated for 16.5 kms with 13 stations, being constructed at a cost of around Rs 6,200 crore.

Both lines will slash the current travel time from the existing 75-90 minutes to barely 25 minutes and are expected to notch a daily ridership of over 600,000 in a decade, besides helping decongest the road traffic.

More than 93 per cent of all the civil works on both the Metro lines are completed and now other system and station works are currently on in full swing to make them ready for the first commuters by September in the first phase opening, said the official.

Lauding the MMRDA for the achievements, Thackeray said that despite the two Covid-19 waves and the strict pandemic restrictions, the pace of the city and its development work has not halted.

He also performed the foundation-laying ceremony of Controlled Access Subway-Elevated Road Project on Western Express Highway to give a direct access to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport terminals 1 and 2, and flyovers and bridges.

Pawar said that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government is working at a fast pace and cited how a 30-km long asphalt road in Khatau in Satara was built in just 24 hours, a feat taken note by Limca Book of Records, and an entire cement road in Mumbai finished in just 12 hours during the night.

Union Minister Ramdas Athawale promised all help to take up the state’s development and other issues with the centre.

Other prominent dignitaries present were state ministers Balasaheb Thorat, Eknath Shinde, Nawab Malik, Aditya Thackeray, Aslam Sheikh, Subhash Desai, Prajakt Tanpure, besides MPs and MLAs, MMRDA Commissioner R.A. Rajeev and other top officials.


Maha ATS lawyers to track Malegaon-2008 blast case hearing





Alarmed by witnesses turning hostile in the Malegaon-2008 blasts case, the Maharashtra government lawyers shall now remain in the Special NIA Court where the trial is being conducted on a daily basis, Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil said here on Saturday.

He told the media persons that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had taken over the case (from the state ATS), but the state government is perturbed at the manner in which several critical witnesses have become hostile in the Special Court.

The significant development came two days after the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) ally Congress had raised the issue and drawn the attention of the Home Ministry and the ATS.

Congress state Working President M. Arif Naseem Khan had submitted a memorandum to the Additional Director-General of Police and ATS chief Vineet Agrawal urging necessary measures to monitor the case closely.

“We are thankful to Home Minister Walse-Patil for accepting our demand for a team to keep a track on the court proceedings. The presence of the ATS lawyers will help in a free and fair trial,” Khan said in a statement.

An ex-minister, Khan reiterated that the NIA is allegedly ‘weakening’ the Malegaon-2008 case and not pursuing it with ‘honesty and sincerity’.

In his memorandum to the ATS Chief Agrawal, Khan contended that the witnesses turning hostile are invoking the names of Bharatiya Janata Party-RSS leaders to “malign the Maharashtra government and ATS” for gaining political mileage in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.

The September 29, 2008 (Malegaon 2008) bomb blast was allegedly engineered in this minority-dominated Nashik town by Hindu fundamentalists, killing 6 and injuring over 100 others, during the Ramadan month when Muslims were breaking their fast.

The Maharashtra Police and then the ATS probed the case till 2011 when it was taken over by the NIA, and the trial is going on daily before the Special NIA Court in Mumbai.

Of the 223 witnesses examined, 16 have turned hostile, claiming that the ATS tortured them to give evidence against the accused, said Khan, urging the need for the presence of the ATS in the court to protect the image of the Maharashtra government.

Among the accused in the sensational Malegaon 2008 case are BJP MP Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Amritananda Dev Teerth, Dayanand Pandey, Lt. Col. Prasad S. Purohit, and others.

Khan said that the ATS was being sought to be tarnished as an ‘anti-Hindu’ agency with the witnesses, allegedly influenced by the accused, deliberately naming BJP-RSS people ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls for political gains.

“The NIA is not prosecuting all the accused with honesty and sincerity. Out of 223 witnesses who deposed so far, 16 important ones have turned hostile and over a 100 more are still left to be examined. These witnesses are crucial and need to be protected. The NIA has not challenged any orders passed in favour of the accused which shows their intentions clearly,” Khan said.

Some of the witnesses in Malegaon 2008 case even went beyond their recorded statement mentioning names like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, but the NIA’s Special Public Prosecutor took no objection, and another witness claimed he was tortured and threatened by the ATS to take names of Yogi and 4 RSS leaders.

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Maha Congress to appoint women as ‘working chiefs’ in 60 districts




Taking a cue from party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, the Congress’s Maharashtra unit on Friday announced that it will appoint a woman as Working President in all the party’s districts in the state.

“The Congress has a progressive tradition of giving important responsibilities to women in politics at all levels. Women leaders of Congress have held top posts like Prime Minister, President, Speaker, Governors, Chief Ministers, ministers, and other important positions. Taking ahead this glorious tradition, we shall now appoint a woman Working President in each of the 60 District Congress Committees (DCCs) in the state,” said state Congress President Nana Patole.

The move on Makar Sakaranti day follows the decision by Priyanka Gandhi to give 40 per cent representation to women candidates in the upcoming Assembly elections with her slogan “Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon”.

Patole added that the party has always respected women, given them equal opportunities and this measure would give a more active political participation to women in the state/

“It was during the Congress government that the revolutionary decision to reserve 50 per cent seats for women in local bodies elections and other landmark developments came,” he said.

Even now, Priyanka Gandhi has set a new standard with 40 per cent representation to women candidates for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls which is a major step towards the empowerment of the women, he said.

Though there are only 36 administrative districts in the state, the party has a total of 60 DCCs including four in Mumbai, three in Pune, two in Nanded, Parbhani, etc, said a spokesperson.

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Vaccine shortage in Maharashtra not factually correct: Health Ministry




 The Union Health Ministry on Friday clarified that there is no vaccine shortage in Maharashtra.

The ministry quoted some media reports which alleged vaccine shortage in Maharashtra, stating that such reports are incorrect.

“There have been some media reports alleging vaccine shortage in Maharashtra, further stating that due to lack of vaccine the state government is unable to increase the pace of vaccination. Such reports are ill-informed and incorrect,” the ministry said.

It further said that as per the reports available till date, Maharashtra has over 24 lakh unutilised doses of Covaxin, adding that an additional 6.35 lakh doses have been received on Friday.

The ministry said that as per the weekly consumption data available on Co-WIN, the average consumption by Maharashtra for Covaxin to cover the eligible beneficiaries in the 15-18 age bracket and for the precautionary dose is almost 2.94 lakh doses per day. Therefore, the state has adequate vaccine doses for about 10 days to cover the eligible beneficiaries with Covaxin, the ministry said.

The state has 1.24 crore unutilised and balance Covaxin doses available as on date. With an average consumption of 3.57 lakh per day, this will sustain for more than 30 days for the beneficiaries to be vaccinated using the vaccine, as per the ministry.

Earlier on Friday, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that the state is facing a shortage of doses to ramp up the vaccination drive.

“We are facing a shortage of Covaxin and Covishield. We have demanded additional 50 lakh Covishield doses and 40 lakh Covaxin doses from the Central government,” said Tope.

However, the ministry said that vaccine shortage in Maharashtra does not reflect the correct picture of the available stock of balance and unutilised vaccine doses with the state.

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