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Maharashtra

Probe NCB’s extortion racket, fake raids, Maha Minister to Supreme Court

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In another dimension to the sensational so-called rave party bust aboard a cruise ship last October, a Maharashtra Minister has appealed to the Supreme Court to take suo moto cognisance and initiate a probe into what he contended as “extortion and fake raids” perpetrated by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in the past few years.

Prominent farmers leader and Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission President Kishore Tiwari, who holds minister of state status, has filed a PIL after Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan and others were let off the hook by the NCB in the infamous raid – on board the Cordelia Cruise ship – commanded by the then Mumbai Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede.

“The Hon’ble Supreme Court should institute a high-level judicial enquiry into the malafide style, approach and affairs of the NCB at Mumbai, and its officials targeting film celebrity and few models since last two years, now established upon absolute clean chit given to Aryan Khan by the NCB,” said Tiwari in his plea.

This is the second such appeal by Tiwari to the apex court after the first one on October 18, 2021, seeking to highlight how the fundamental rights of Aryan Khan and other “soft targets” – trapped by the NCB after the raids sparked off an embarrassing controversy – were infringed.

“Now, as the NCB itself has given complete clean chit to the innocent people who were first implicated in a false case by abusing the position… as such unfortunate incidents of abuse of powers and authority by NCB is a matter of grave concern for law-abiding citizens of the country..”, said the PIL

Tiwari further argued that the SC’s intervention was necessary to safeguard “the public faith and confidence” in the law enforcement agencies of India like the NCB.

He claimed that in recent times, the NCB is abusing its position and trying to deprive the basic human rights of persons like Aryan Khan or others, accused under the NDPS Act, put them behind bars illegally, and subjected them to immense public humiliation.

Referring to Wankhede, who was removed from his position – with grave allegations levelled against him on various counts from different quarters including by state Minister Nawab Malik – for selectively and vindictively targeting rich persons or celebrities like Aryan Khan ostensibly to “uproot the citadel of drugs in Bollywood”.

Tiwari added that now with the absolute clean chit given to Aryan Khan and others, “its crystal clear that it was a big game of abuse of power and authority” by Wankhede against whom allegations of “extortion” also came up, and all this needs to be probed independently by the apex court under Article 139/142 of the Constitution.

The NCB had taken note of these and shunted Wankhede to his parent department for allegedly “running an extortion racket with the help of politically influenced people linked to the ruling party” (Bharatiya Janata Party), and reportedly acquiring huge assets or properties disproportionate to his known sources of income, etc.

Tiwari’s PIL comes even as Wankhede was given a fresh transfer to a posting in Chennai, and more revelations of the case details emerged from the NCB’S voluminous charge sheet filed before a special court last week.

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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