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Taliye hillslide washout: Uddhav Thackeray wipes tears of dazed survivors




A day after a hillslip flattened the ill-fated Taliye village near Mahad in Raigad, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray visited the site, met the few survivors and with folded hands, attempted to wipe their tears.

Hopping onto a chopper from Mumbai for the short flight to Raigad, Thackeray later drove down to the village, where he was accompanied by Ministers Eknath Shinde (Shiv Sena), Vijay Wadettiwar (Congress), Aditi Tatkare (Nationlist Congress Party) and her father Sunil Tatkare, the local NCP MP, and other top officials.

En route, he grimly took in the scenes of the massive havoc wreaked by nature’s fury in the past three days in the coastal Konkan and western Maharashtra.

The entire region reeks of disaster, destruction, deaths of humans and animals, stench of the fast-rotting remains, razed fields and farmlands, spelling doom for the dazed people wondering how to pick up the threads afresh for their future.

“We have lost everything except the clothes I am wearing I have lost my entire 6-member family in the hillslide,” wept one of the lucky survivors, a woman, Archana, aged around 35.

She was consoled by a similarly orphaned teenaged girl, Sandhya, from the now-erased Taliye village, who miraculously escaped the thousands of tonnes of sticky wet earth, boulders, stones, tree clumps, bushes and water as a 60-70 meter tall portion of the hillock crashed early on Friday.

Of the total 35 single or double-storied homes standing in the once bustling village, 32 have practically disappeared and so far there have been around 50 deaths and an equal number feared missing.

Another middle-aged man, dug out from the slush and was rushed to a Mahad hospital, had horror writ on his face – “We had not time to escape. There was a rumbling sound and in seconds, our landscape and the world changed,” he said.

One survivor, Mahendra Pol said with moist eyes that his entire family escaped the disaster and managed to flee to safety while most of his neighbours and friends were killed.

Thackeray gave patient hearing to the villagers and the survivors, and assured that the entire village would be redeveloped and resurrected, with full help to the locals who lost everything.

He also said that there are many villages in such potentially dangerous locations which would also be shifted to safer areas to prevent such tragedies in future.

“You please take care of yourself, leave everything else to us. We are with you and the government will ensure full help for your complete rehabilitation,” Thackeray assured the weeping villagers, many of whom are yet unable to accept the changed scenario.

Shortly afterwards, Housing Minister Dr Jitendra Awhad made the welcome announcement that the Taliye village would be fully rebuilt from scratch by the Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority.

NDRF and SDRF teams are continuing the digging operations to rescue possible survivors or bodies, with intermittent rains still lashing the region, and extricated a nine-year old girl from the slush on Saturday afternoon.

During Thackeray’s visit, a sudden heavy shower swept the area, and he grabbed an umbrella to speak to the survivors and the local media.

He also told the villagers not to bother about their identification papers and other important documents which have been lost, assuring that everything would be replaced.

The Taliye mishap reminded many of a similar hill-slip that wiped off the Malin village of Pune district in the morning of July 30, 2014, shocking the nation. While 151 were killed, just 38 survived, including 8 who were outsiders visiting the village and were stuck owing to torrential rains.

Though deforestation has been attributed as the prime cause in both Malin and Taliye catastrophes, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said on Saturday that the latter (Taliye) was not in a landslip prone area and the culprit was the torrential downpour that inundated Mahad and surrounding hilly areas.

As rains took brief respite, small groups of villagers visited Taliye, huddled in disbelief at the sight, controlling emotions of grief, anger and sheer helplessness at the monumental tragedy.

Against their usual smiling pals or friendly neighbourhood folks, all they witnessed are remnants of broken pots and pans, destroyed household furniture or fittings, chunks of ruined walls of erstwhile cheerful homes, the metal or concrete sheets of roofs, with no signs of life.


Omicron concerns: Mumbai, Pune, Nashik postpone schools’ reopening




Amid concerns of the Covid-19 variant Omicron, the reopening of schools from Class 1 to 7 has been postponed by 10-15 days in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, officials said here on Tuesday.

The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation Commissioner I.S. Chahal and Pune Municipal Corporation Mayor Murlidhar have said that schools in the two cities — both among the worst-hit in the Covid-19 two waves in 2020 and 2021 — will now reopen from December 15.

Similarly, the Nashik Municipal Corporation, which was also among the badly-hit cities in the past two years of the pandemic, has also postponed the schools reopening plan to December 10.

However, all schools in the rest of Maharashtra are likely to reopen from December 1, for Class 1 to 5 in the rural areas and 1-7 in the urban areas with full Covid protocols, as announced earlier by School Education Minister Prof. Varsha E. Gaikwad.

Taking precautions, the BMC is currently tracking all passengers who have arrived in the city from the 12 Omicron-hit nations since November 10 to detect if any of them are infected by the new strain.

The state government has also sought information on all passengers landing at the three international airports in the state in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur, besides those arriving from other states, by flights originating from the 12 nations.

The BMC has already announced that a 14-day institutional quarantine regime will be compulsory for all such passengers and home isolation will not be permitted under any circumstances.

The state, major cities and district health authorities are gearing up to face the challenge of Omicron by readying hospitals, beds, ICUs, liquid medical oxygen stocks, medicines, doctors, para-medical and non-medical staff, and other health infrastructure to cater to a possible patient rush in the coming weeks, even as Covid-19 vaccination drive has gained momentum.

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Mamata Banerjee to meet Sharad Pawar, India Inc in Mumbai




 West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will call on the Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar during her Mumbai visit starting here Tuesday, official sources said here.

“CM of West Bengal Ms. Mamata Banerjee-ji will pay a courtesy visit to our party President Sharad Pawar Saheb tomorrow, 3 pm at his residence ‘Silver Oak,’ on Dec. 1, in Mumbai,” said NCP National Spokesperson and Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik said.

According to indications, Banerjee will arrive here later Tuesday and plans to meet several top industrialists to attract investments to her state, and invite them for the upcoming Bengal Global Business Summit in April 2022.

It was not immediately clear whether she would meet Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who is presently convalescing after a spinal surgery.

On a new high after sweeping the West Bengal Assembly elections last May, Banerjee is currently flapping her wings for a national political flight.

Last April, Pawar was planning to campaign for Banerjee during the Bengal Assembly elections, but was unable to do so owing to certain constraints.

Both Pawar and Banerjee are keenly making efforts to engage the national opposition parties and provide a united fight to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Besides Pawar, the All India Trinamool Congress chief enjoys a great rapport with Thackeray, whom she has met in the past, though her relations with the Congress — the third partner in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government here — are strained.

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Nawab Malik granted bail in defamation case filed by BJP activist




 A Mumbai court on Monday granted bail to Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik in a Rs 100 crore defamation suit filed by Bharatiya Janata Party activist Mohit (Kamboj) Bhartiya.

Malik, who responded to a notice by the Mazagaon Magistrate Court three weeks ago, was granted a bail of Rs 15,000 and the matter has been posted for further hearing on December 30.

Last month, the BJP functionary had filed the defamation case against the NCP leader for allegedly defaming him by revelations that his brother-in-law Rishabh Sachdev was among the persons detained by the Narcotics Control Bureau after it raided the Cordelia Cruise on October 2 and was released later.

Bhartiya contended that the minister allegedly used his power and position to raise doubts and spread canards about the release of his brother-in-law, and has spoiled his image and reputation.

After examining the evidence provided by Bhartiya, the Magistrate ruled that prima facie, Malik’s statements at his media briefings on October 9 and 11 pointed at defamation and issued the process against him.

Interacting with media, Malik said that he had honoured the court notice and appeared before the Magistrate in the defamation suit filed by Bhartiya, but denied the all contentions of the complainant.

“We have also brought on record how Bhartiya himself is a fraudulent person involved in a scam of Rs 1,100 crore and the raids by the Central Bureau of Investigations on him. When the scam started coming out, he changed his name from Kamboj to Bhartiya, we have submitted all evidence to the court and will provide more later,” he said.

Soon after the ministera¿s expose, Bhartiya had sent him a couple of legal notices and when the allegations continued, he filed the defamation case against Malik before the Mazagaon Magistrate Court.

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