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Central Railway services disrupted due to derailment

Written By kom nampultig on Selasa, 30 September 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Suburban train services on Central Railway were disrupted after derailment of a Titwala local at Dombivali station on Tuesday afternoon.

CR trains are running late by 15 to 20 minutes because of the incident that happened at 11.45am.

CR's chief public relations officer Narendra Patil said, "The compartment at the guard cabin's end derailed. However, nobody was injured."

The CST-bound track was opened for traffic at 11.55 am but Kalyan-bound services were diverted on fast track from Diva as rerailment operation was underway on down slow track.

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Unique outings will define travel by 2024

MUMBAI: In today's age, travel may be about self-discovery, appreciation of diverse cultures and relaxation but in the future, it seems, it will largely be about securing bragging rights.

"Bragging rights will be a key travel motivator in 2024," said a report released by an online travel portal. "The emergence of 'forbidden zones'—like Afghanistan and Iran currently deemed inaccessible by conflict—will become attractive new destinations for tourists to discover. Off the beaten track destinations such as Bhutan are already seeing an increase in interest, but by 2024, it would have become a far more fashionable choice," it added.

"By 2024, the race for space will initially take travellers to Earth's low orbit allowing them to experience the stunning curvature of the globe from ultra-high altitude. ," said the report released ahead of World Space Week (October 4-10) by Skyscanner. The report titled Future of Travel 2024 says that for those with an appetite for space travel, the services on offer would include sky resorts with zero-gravity spas, space gliders and space observatories, where guests can experience weightlessness. "." By the next ten years space tourism will become more affordable for the ultra-luxury market but journeys to the bottom of the sea will be a much more mainstream, fashionable option. The other significant change in the way one travels will come with hoteliers using travellers' social media profiles to create a bespoke and intuitive experiences. Travellers will be able to book rooms where everything from the air temperature to the strength of the power shower is set specifically for them.

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‘Okay with ex-judge probe in CM flat quota allotment’

MUMBAI: The state government on Tuesday consented to an inquiry by a retired high court judge into irregularities in the allotment of flats under the chief minister's discretionary quota.

A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Girish Kulkarni heard a PIL by activist Ketan Tirodkar seeking action against double allottees under 5% Urban Land Ceiling and 2% under Mhada. On September 23 , the judges said rather than "bits and pieces" of inquiry on information provided by Tirodkar, it is better that a committee or even "one person looks into all cases of allotments" and had sought the government's response.

Advocate general Khambata said, "The government is agreeable to the appointment of a retired judge instead of a committee." The judges said the probe will have to commence from the first government resolution of 1982. "See the enormity of the task. We have to direct inquiry from 1982 GR onwards," said Justice Oka, adding that it will cover nine urban agglomerations and seven regional boards. The judges also said the "in-depth inquiry" will have to be made on eligibility of the allottees in the light of each GR, will involve verification of applications and cross-checking of records and procedural compliances. "Considering the controversy, it is better to appoint a retired judge of this court, so that a proper inquiry is made," said Justice Oka. The judges also said those who volunteer to surrender their flats can feel free to do so but it will not exempt them from prosecution.

The judges said the retired judge would require assistance of officials to help him and zeroed in on additional collector, ULC , Mumbai, and joint secretary (housing). They asked Khambata to produce draft terms for the inquiry. The judges said they will get the name of the retired HC judge, to be appointed from the HC registry, and pass orders on October 6.

Considering the controversy, it is better to appoint a retired judge of this court, so that a proper inquiry is made

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Man held for US national’s murder in Bangkok in 2012

MUMBAI: A Grant Road resident, Ritesh Sanghvi (26), was nabbed by the city crime branch on Sunday from Parbhani for killing a 52-year-old US national in Bangkok in 2012.

A source said that Sanghvi will soon be extradited to Bangkok. His extradition will strengthen India-Thailand ties, paving way to bring back gangster Chhota Shakeel's aide Munna Zhingada, lodged in a Singapore jail. According to inspector Shalini Sharma of extradition cell, Sanghvi befriended the victim, Wendy Albano, on a networking site and she arrived in India in 2011 to meet him. The duo got into a relationship. In February 2012, Sanghvi flew to Bangkok with Wendy without informing his parents. In Bangkok, Wendy had booked a room at a hotel. "On February 11, the two had an argument and Sanghvi smothered Wendy before stabbing her with knife," said the police.

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26-year-old ex-model hangs self, blames boyfriend in suicide note

MUMBAI: A 26-year-old model-turned-financial consultant, Archana Pande, was found dead at her rented flat in Versova on Monday. The police said that she committed suicide couple of days ago but no one knew about it. On Monday morning, Pande's neighbours smelt foul stench emanating from her residence and they called the police.

Pande left behind a suicide note where she blamed her boyfriend Omar Pathan for her drastic step said the police. The Versova police have registered a case of abetment of suicide against Pathan and inquiring about him.

"We are verifying all the collected details and according will take require action in the incident" said Satya Narayan Chaudhary, deputy commissioner of police, zone-9.

Pande lived alone in 12th floor flat of Shubham Karoti building at New Mahada colony in Versova. She hanged herself couple of days ago but no one noticed the incident. On Monday, the neighbour rang her doorbell after they smelt foul stench emanating from her house. No one responded the bell after which the informed the police control room.

The Versova police opened the door and found Pande hanging with the ceiling fan in the bedroom. Her body was badly decomposed and the police sent it to Cooper Hospital for postmortem. The police search the house and recovered the one page suicide note in the bedroom.

Archana Pande; the Versova building where she stayed.

"In the note, she stated that Pathan used to harass her and he was ill-treating her who prompted her to commit suicide" said a senior officer. Pandey left the modelling profession in 2009 and she was working in Mirza production house said the police.

The police contacted her relative, who live in vicinity, with the help of her phone and informed them about the incident. The police are examining her mobile contents. They are also checking her call records and SMS messages. The police said that they will also inquire her friend and office staff about the incident.

The police said that Pande's brother was arrested in a cheating case by the Gujarat police and at present he is in a judicial custody.

Last week, another woman related to glamour industry committed suicide by jumping off from the 16th floor flat of her residential building at Lokhandwala, Andheri (West).

The deceased, Ekta Babbar, 35, would supply artist to producers and would live with her mother at Green Acres building. She was depressed since death of her father six months ago said the police.

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Harish Manwani to retire as COO of Unilever

MUMBAI: Harish Manwani, currently chief operating officer, Unilever, will retire from Unilever on December 31, 2014, after more than 38 years of service. He will continue in his capacity as the non-executive chairman of Hindustan Unilever (HUL).

As COO of Unilever, Manwani's key achievement has been his leadership of the global markets where he established and aligned the market clusters across the world behind a clear agenda, creating a better and more integrated go-to-market organisation. It has also allowed the business to be managed more dynamically, resource allocation to be done more efficiently across markets and best practices to be transferred more seamlessly. This has allowed Unilever to become increasingly more competitive in a tougher business environment.

Unilever CEO Paul Polman said, "Harish is an inspirational leader and leaves a remarkable legacy. He has been at my side in helping to drive the turnaround of Unilever, making this once again one of the most admired companies in the world. Over the last three years, especially as chief operating officer, Harish has been instrumental in the transformation of the company. Under his leadership we have seen a step-change in our go-to-market organisation and there has been a relentless focus on flawless execution globally. He has role-modelled the 4G sustainable growth model - Competitive, Consistent, Profitable and Responsible - which has become such a strong focal point for the markets."

Manwani, who joined HUL as a management trainee in 1976, joined the HUL board of directors in 1995 as a director, personal products business. Under his able leadership, the personal products business grew from a nascent business to one of the key growth engines of the company. Subsequently he enjoyed success in many roles, covering both categories and markets, and across many parts of the world. This included stints as senior VP global hair care & oral care; president, home & personal care first of Latin America and later of North America.
In 2005, he was appointed to the Unilever executive as president, Asia, Africa, Middle East and the role later expanded to include central and eastern Europe. He also became the first non-executive chairman of HUL and has overseen a period of sustained growth with the business more than doubling its size.

"I am deeply grateful to all those colleagues who have helped to make the last 38 years at HUL and Unilever so memorable and fulfilling. It has been a privilege to serve such a great company. Today, Unilever is in a strong position with a clear strategy and capabilities to drive long-term responsible growth. This makes it a good time for me to make this personal transition,'' said Manwani.

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Maharashtra mesmerizes New York once again

Written By kom nampultig on Senin, 29 September 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: For second consecutive year, Maharashtra Tourism has done again which no other international tourism body has done before. Registering the success bigger than the last year, MTDC's Diwali fest at Times Square in New York registered more than 5 lakh visitors last Saturday. MTDC also got the privilege to be the title sponsor for the event.

Satish Soni, Joint Managing Director, MTDC said, "Maharashtra Mandals from across USA, Canada and Mexico and eminent Indian professionals from medical and legal fraternities participated in a big number. The event had been scheduled in September to ensure that foreign tourists are made aware Maharashtra's splendour, and accordingly can plan their visit in October which would ensure that they soak in the festivities of Diwali."

It was symbolic as the Times Square turned orange with the saffron phetas all around. Another surprise was the ladies dahi-handi, mulkhamband live performance from Nandesh Vitthal Umap, a well known playback singer and folk artist kept people amazed and on their toes. Other traditional dances, dhol-tasha and Warli painting too added colour to the event. Another attraction was the hop on -hop off bus showcasing the rich heritage and culture of Maharashtra moving on the streets around Times Square.

Even the unique souvenirs of Maharashtra attracted tourists and received tremendous response. Right from handicrafts to Warli painting and miniatures of Gudi to various articles showcasing the essence of Maharashtra had become eye-candy for the visitors. The US media too took the opportunity to meet the Indian celebrities and artists which included, Parineeti Chopra, Aditya Roy Kapur, Shaan, Shalmali kholgade along with Dyaneshwar Mule, the Council General, Additional Chief Secretary Sumit Mullick, Saitsh Soni, Jt. MD, MTDC and Kishore Gadre, GM, MTDC.

"This makes India proud in cultural capital of the US as lakhs of international visitors immersed in Maharashtrian flavours of music, culture, costumes and cuisine in second such successful MTDC Diwali at Times Square event," said Gadre.

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Maharashtra government agrees for ex-judge probe into CM quota flats

MUMBAI: Maharashtra government on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court that it is agreeable to an inquiry by a retired high court judge into irregularities in the allotment of flats under the chief minister's discretionary quota.

A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Girish Kulkarni heard a public interest litigation by activist Ketan Tirodkar seeking action against double allottees.

On September 23 , the judges said rather than ``bits and pieces'' of enquiry on information provided by Tirodkar it is better that a committee or even "one person looks into all cases of allotments" made under 5 percent Urban Land Ceiling and 2 percent under Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority right from the date of the first application.

Advocate General Darius Khambata while conveying the government's consent said it would prefer a one man committee to conduct the probe. The judges said the retired judge would required assistance of officials to help him access records. The judges said the inquiry would be right from the 1982 government resolution under whcih allotment were made.

The judges asked the Khambata to produce a draft of terms and references of aspects into which the retired judge will conduct the inquiry. They said they will also get the name of the retired judge to be appointed from the HC registry and pass formal orders on October 6. Rosy Sequeira/tnn

MUMBAI: Maharashtra government on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court that it is agreeable to an inquiry by a retired high court judge into irregularities in the allotment of flats under the chief minister's discretionary quota.

A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Girish Kulkarni heard a public interest litigation by activist Ketan Tirodkar seeking action against double allottees.

On September 23 , the judges said rather than ``bits and pieces'' of enquiry on information provided by Tirodkar it is better that a committee or even "one person looks into all cases of allotments" made under 5 percent Urban Land Ceiling and 2 percent under Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority right from the date of the first application.

Advocate General Darius Khambata while conveying the government's consent said it would prefer a one man committee to conduct the probe. The judges said the retired judge would required assistance of officials to help him access records. The judges said the inquiry would be right from the 1982 government resolution under whcih allotment were made.

The judges asked the Khambata to produce a draft of terms and references of aspects into which the retired judge will conduct the inquiry. They said they will also get the name of the retired judge to be appointed from the HC registry and pass formal orders on October 6.

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Mumbai model commits suicide in her flat, cops rule out foul play

MUMBAI: Model Archana Pande reportedly committed suicide at her residential flat in Lokhadwala Andheri West.

The police on Monday found her body and ruled out foul play in the incident.

She committed suicide a couple of days ago but no one was aware about it, the police said.

On Monday, her neighbours noticed a foul smell emanating from the flat and rang the door bell. When no one responded, they contacted the cops. The police sent her body for postmortem at Cooper Hospital.

Pande used to live alone in her flat. A suicide note has also been found at her house.

The Versova police registered accidental death report and are trying to contact Pande's relatives.

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Take decision on plastic flags ban before November 30: Bombay high court to Centre

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Monday directed the central government to take a decision by November 30 on banning national flags made of plastic so that it can be implemented before January 26, 2015.

A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Girish Kulkarni heard a public interest litigation filed last year by Hindu Janjagriti Sangh saying Maharashtra government is doing nothing despite issuing a circular on August 22, 2007 banning the use, sale and purchase of flags. The petition said after Republic Day and Independence Day flags are found on roads and gutters and it is an insult of the national flag.

The judges perused the Centre's affidavit which stated that there is no legislation banning manufacture of plastic national flags but there is a proposal to do so. The judges said even the National Flag Code of India does not contemplate use of flags made of plastic. Also, that flags made of paper can be used but they shall not be discarded or thrown on the ground. The flag code provides that that paper flags shall be disposed off in private consistent with the dignity of the flag.

The judges noted that the state education department was earlier ordered to issue directions to various institutions to ensure that plastic flags are not used and that there is awareness created. "There is no compliance on this aspect," said the judges, in their order. They also said there is nothing on record to show that that state government has made any arrangements for disposal of flags as provided by the flag code.

Directing the Centre to take appropriate decision of plastic national flags as expeditiously as possible and by November 30, the judges also directed the state government to issue circular to all departments and educational institutions to ensure that "no one shall use flags made of plastic." The government is directed to give wide publicity and also to make arrangements at taluka and district level for proper disposal of flags.

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Maharashtra govt agrees for ex-judge probe into CM quota flats

MUMBAI: Maharashtra government on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court that it is agreeable to an inquiry by a retired high court judge into irregularities in the allotment of flats under the chief minister's discretionary quota.

A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Girish Kulkarni heard a public interest litigation by activist Ketan Tirodkar seeking action against double allottees.

On September 23 , the judges said rather than "bits and pieces" of enquiry on information provided by Tirodkar it is better that a committee or even "one person looks into all cases of allotments" made under 5 per cent Urban Land Ceiling and 2 per cent under Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority right from the date of the first application.

Advocate General Darius Khambata while conveying the government's consent said it would prefer a one man committee to conduct the probe. The judges said the retired judge would require assistance of officials to help him access records. The judges said the inquiry would be right from the 1982 government resolution under which allotments were made.

The judges asked Khambata to produce a draft of terms and references of aspects into which the retired judge will conduct the inquiry. They said they will also get the name of the retired judge to be appointed from the HC registry and pass formal orders on October 6.

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Model Archana Pandey commits suicide

MUMBAI: Model Archana Pandey was found dead on Monday at her residence in Lokhandwala Andheri West. She committed suicide a couple of days ago, said an official from Versova Police station where the case has been registered.

"We got a call from her neighbours, so went to the location where she was found dead. She had committed suicide a couple of days ago. Her body has been taken to Cooper hospital. A suicide note was also found at her residence," the official told IANS.

On Monday, her neighbours noticed foul smell emanating from the flat and rang the doorbell. When no one responded, they contacted the police, who entered the flat and found her body.

The police did not immediately say how Archana had committed suicide. Her body has been sent for postmortem examination to Cooper Hospital.

Archana was a known face in the modelling industry and had also starred in many south Indian films.

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Maharashtra assembly polls: Over 7,000 candidates file nomination

Written By kom nampultig on Minggu, 28 September 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI:As many as 7,401 candidates have filed nominations for the October 15 Maharashtra assembly polls, which is set to witness a five-cornered contest in all the 288 constituencies.

The nomination process ended yesterday with approximately 7,401 candidates filing their papers, state electoral office said.

The final list of candidates from few constituencies has not been received by the state electoral office.

The highest 91 nominations have been filed from Nanded-South constituency while the lowest nine each have been filed at Guhagar (in Ratnagiri), Mahim (Mumbai) and Kudal (Sindhudurg) seats.

Congress campaign committee chief Narayan Rane is contesting from Kudal.

On the last day of filing of nominations yesterday, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and home minister RR Patil filed their papers.

Chavan, who resigned as chief minister after NCP pulled out of the government, filed nomination from Karad South amidst rousing welcome from supporters.

This will be Chavan's first electoral battle after he lost the 1999 Lok Sabha elections from Karad, which he represented thrice.

MNS chief Raj Thackeray, who had declared at a rally a few months ago that he would enter the electoral battle by contesting the polls, will not contest.

The Congress has fielded candidates for all the 288 seats, while the NCP has fielded 286 candidates.

BJP has fielded candidates in 257 seats, state party spokesperson Keshav Upadhye had said yesterday.

"The remaining 31 seats have been given to our allies," he said.

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, whose name was being pitched by his party as the chief ministerial candidate, is also not contesting.

The Sena declared a list of 286 candidates. The two constituencies where the party has not fielded candidates are Parli, where Gopinath Munde's daughter Pankaja is BJP nominee, and Byculla, where Arun Gawli's daughter Geeta is nominee.

The scrutiny will take place on September 29 and last date of withdrawing the nominations is September 30.

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'Attack on female PETA activists was premeditated'

MUMBAI: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India is highlighting evidence that shows the attack on its three young female staff in Bhopal on September 22 at Royal Market was premeditated.

The group points out that the attackers carried signs that had been printed out on a computer specifically threatening PETA India and some reportedly brought weapons such as knives and kerosene, showing premeditation, informed a Mumbai based member of PETA.

It also reveals that its staff were receiving calls by persons pretending to be interested members of the media until 1 am the night before the attack constantly asking the women about what their whereabouts would be the next day, up until the moment of the attack, luring them to it.

The women were repeatedly asked by some callers if their planned activity is a protest, to which the women explained it is not, but is instead a peaceful outreach activity. The women had been planning to engage passers-by in a discussion on the benefits of plant-based foods and on considering the offering of fruits, vegetables, breads and pulses to the poor and to animals as one way of celebrating Eid, but they were attacked before their peaceful program even began.

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Teen opens ATM after online lessons

MUMBAI: The Deonar police on Saturday arrested a 19-year-old B Com student for trying to open the Canara Bank's ATM kiosk situated on the isolated stretch at Shankara Colony in Govandi in the wee hours on Saturday. When the cops inquired the accused Sameer Ansari whether he is trying to steal money he replied back that he is a bank technician and a thief will not steal in front of a closed-circuit television (CCTV) that is kept in the ATM centre. However the police patrolling team got suspicion and when the checked with the bank customer service centre at Bangalore found out that Ansari was calmly executing the heist in front of the cops.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone VI) Sangramsinh Nishandar said Ansari confessed that he learned online how to open ATMs and then used that knowledge to open the Bank's ATM kiosk. "Timely arrival of police patrolling team foiled Ansari's robbery bid—stealing Rs7 lakhs—who remained unmoved despite seeing the cops and continued his act of opening the machine on pretext of servicing. Ansari, a Govandi resident, studied the entire mechanism how the Canara bank server links functions and are connected. After studying technical details through online over a period of just one month he finally executed his knowledge in a systematic way instead of breaking the ATM machine," said Nishandar.

The incident occurred in between 2.20am and 3am when Ansari almost opened 75% of the ATM machine and was on the verge of unlocking the safe locker situated on the lower part of the machine with some set of keys. Cops—assistant inspector Anil Gaikwad, sub-inspector Chetan Lokhande, constables Bhaulal Kute and Prasad Raul—suspected something amiss on seeing Ansari inside the unmanned Canara bank ATM and opening the kiosk without any damage at wrong hours. "He also tore the bank's helpline numbers which was put on wall at the centre so that no one could check out whether he is a real technician. If the patrolling team had reached 15 minutes late then Ansari could have easily fled away with Rs7 lakhs," said he said.

Ansari was found totally focused opening the machine despite the cops entered the ATM centre. "Ansari didn't react on seeing cops. I asked him are he stealing money. He replied whether thief steals in front of the closed-circuit television and continued his act of opening the safe locker after opening the entire ATM machine front portion. He even asked us to check with the bank officials that they have assigned him to carry out service of the machine. He thought we will believe him. I thought to call the bank and finally managed to get in touch with the bank's official situated in Bangalore and found they never assigned work of servicing after 7pm and before 7am," Gaikwad told TOI.

For two days Ansari did recce of the ATM in between 2am and 7am to check whether it is guarded by any security personnel before he executed the offence. "After opening the front part of the ATM kiosk with scissors and screwdrivers he disconnected the machines link from the bank's server so that no one could an alert. When the cops entered the centre Ansari was trying to unlock the locker using set of keys. Normally the safe locker of the kiosks can be unlocked by the bank's two custodians who holds the secret passwords used to unlock the locker after using keys," said the DCP.

Ansari, a final year commerce graduation and an IT vocational student, confessed that he wanted to earn fast money. He has been booked under the Indian Penal Code sections for 380 (theft) and 457 (house-breaking at night). Police are finding whether there is a role of some banker or any accomplices in aiding him in the crime.

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NCP-SP in talks to form pre-poll alliance in Maharashtra

MUMBAI: After the Congress broke its ties with the Samajwadi Party, the NCP and SP are in parleys to form an alliance ahead of the assembly polls in Maharashtra.

An NCP-SP alliance will be a "masterstroke" as SP state unit chief Abu Asim Azmi has been a vocal critic of NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

"Yes, talks are going on. We might reach a decision by the evening," said a senior NCP leader.

However, like the Congress-NCP alliance didn't go down well with some Muslim leaders in the grand old party, forcing the state Congress leaders to snap ties with the SP, some Muslim leaders in NCP too may raise a banner of protest if a "deal" is made with the SP.

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Mumbaikar looks for Mahatma wherever he goes

Always wait for Kishore Jhunjhunwala to finish reading the milestone.

Information is currency for this 70-year-old man who has written several books on Indian bank notes. In a certain light, from the neck up, Jhunjhunwala even looks a bit like the man on these notes. But that is hardly surprising given how much of this businessman's office, mind, diaries and seaview home have been annexed by the Mahatma.

On Jhunjhunwala's lavish center table right now, Gandhi sits not as a salt satyagrahi but a pepper shaker. In one wooden box, Gandhi is a translucent perfume bottle with a detachable neck. In another, he is number 10 on the dial of a strapless watch, unrecognisable in a moustache and a turban. He also stands with a stick on the golden nib of a Mont Blanc ink pen whose smooth white body is dressed in Khadi texture. One by one, as the leader emerges from Jhunjhunwala's study, in various avatars, the living room turns into a giant 3D biography. A tactile seventh standard history lesson.

"I am just a sweeper," says the second-generation heir of a rubber firm who has at least two male cooks, two women domestics and a secretary. "I am scouring the earth for valuables so everything is in one place," says the incorrigible collector, philatelist and numismatist whose collection includes three LP records of Gandhi's speeches and plastic binders full of stamps, handwritten letters and envelopes from abroad addressed to 'Gandhi, India' that had reached.

Jhunjhunwala's wife, Radha, laughs in quiet resignation in the backdrop as her husband begins a story she has heard many times, his 45-year-old tryst with Gandhi. As a school kid, history aficionado Jhunjhunwala, who would religiously preserve coins, notes and stamps, stumbled upon a few rare Gandhi stamps printed in Western Africa near VT station in 1969.

"I was hooked," says the businessman. "I have always found Gandhi's ideals inspiring. 'Hate the sin, not the sinner' was his philosophy," he says, pointing to his genial secretary to add that: "If he drinks, it does not make him a bad person." Such lessons are what this affluent sweeper looks for in his stash of rare Gandhi documents, that range from simple correspondence with clients as an attorney to a palm print undersigned, "This is not important what you do with this, but how you do it." Many of the foreign Gandhi collectibles come to him from his trusted circle of fellow collectors, dealers and friends, one of whom even sponsored Jhunjhunwala's stay in Johannesburg and Durban recently. But mostly, Jhunjhunwala has to haggle, convince, travel and even sweat it out to build his collection, sometimes literally. Not only has he covered all seven Gandhi museums in the country but also walked for weeks in the re-enactment of the Dandi march held at Sabarmati in 2005. Here, a fellow collector teased him saying he had a rare Gandhi stamp that, for some reason, he refused to show. "You are worse than Godse," snapped Jhunjhunwala, forever eager to see collections.

He hates repeating an item and even following unoriginal thoughts ("Non-violence was Gandhi's virgin thought"). It is uncanny how anything and everything with Gandhi's name, face or even symbol such as the charkha on it, catches his eye.

Right now, for instance, he is filling a telephone diary with tiny Gandhi-related news clippings, snipped from the morning paper even before his wife has read it. Classified by city, it contains interesting landmarks, including the various post offices and railway stations named after the freedom fighter. "Did you know that Mumbai has 20 Gandhinagars?" He draws out a black compass to explain how he knows such trivia. "I am like this magnetic needle which only stops in one direction," he says.

"I tend to find Gandhi wherever I go," says Jhunjhunwala, who recently developed an exhibit which tells the story of Gandhi's life through stamps.

In the span of four files, Gandhi evolves from a wide-eyed kid into a loin-cloth-clad-legend, whose simplicity this businessman cannot get enough of. Though Jhunjhunwala refuses to divulge the exact value of his collection that runs into six figures, his most expensive possession, he says, is a Rs 10-stamp that says 'Service'. "It has risen in value because it says that," he says, adding that mistakes on stamps make them expensive.

Just like his idol, he likes to use metaphors. "I want to be the river that flows, not a pond that's stagnant," says Jhunjhunwala who says he recently sent back Yamraj (the god of death) who visited him in a dream.

His struggle for freedom now is the fight for space for his collection at home, but Jhunjhunwala, who plans to pass on his material to someone who would take care of it, is working on more trips. "Mangalyaan needed ISRO's directions to reach Mars," he says. "I get directions and money for my hobby from God." At this point, his secretary excitedly points out of the window. A majestic peacock that has just wandered in to the compound of Jhunjhunwala's Walkeshwar home but the 70-year-old does not look. His eyes are reserved for another national figure.

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Pandals put final touches ahead of Durga Puja

MUMBAI: Days before Durga Puja sets in Tuesday, the Bengali community is putting final touches to its pandal arrangements.

One of the oldest pujas was founded by film-maker Sashadhar Mukerji of Filmalaya Studio and his friend J M Bhadra in 1948. His son actor Debu Mukerji of 'Sambandh', 'Ek Baar Muskura Do' and 'Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki' fame has now taken over the reins of the North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja.

"We will host our 67th puja at Hotel Tulip Star in Juhu. We try to give the best service to our 25,000 guests. Our pandal is fully airconditioned and young members of the family like Kajol, Ayan and Rani personally serve bhog to 4,000-5,000 people," he says.

Debu Mukerji says the essence of this puja is the bonding between members. "Our wives and children perform on stage so we meet for rehearsals every few days. And even if my son sings 'Ba ba black sheep' off key I would still think he is better than Shaan or Honey Singh," he laughs. Incidentally both these singers as well as Usha Uthup will perform this year. North Bombay seldom accepts new members as it seeks to.preserve the family feeling.

Further ahead Kandivli has a sizeable population of Bengalis and a cluster of pujas. The Thakur Village Bengali Association spokesman Chinmoy Roy says, "Our focus is the idol made from clay. Even the clothing, ornaments and the weapons of the goddess are made of clay and coloured bright. The 3D flex backdrop gives an animated look."

TVBA's lighting is from Chandannagore. The roads leading to the pandal will be illuminated by LED boards depicting monuments and cartoon characters. Scores of people come to savour the bhog prasad comprising "khichuri, polao, labra, chanar dalna, chatni and payesh".

In Nerul, the Amra Prabasi Cultural Association has crafted a set of the Karnataka Assembly at Ramleela Maidan. General secretary Rathin Paul says, "This grand structure will stand 60 ft tall. The idol of Durga is carved with the alluvial soil from the bed of the holy Ganga. We will also invite singers from the Hindi and Bengali film industry to perform. Miss Jojo from West Bengal is a key performer this year." Various food chains will set up stalls at Amra Prabasi. Calcutta 'puchka', the native version of pani puri, is its USP.

"For the first time in our 21-year history, Chhau dancers from Kolkata will perform during the immersion ceremony on Dassera day," says Paul.

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Uddhav is a gentleman, but he lacks maturity: Eknath Khadse

Written By kom nampultig on Sabtu, 27 September 2014 | 22.23

BJP leader and leader of opposition in the assembly, Eknath Khadse, is emerging as a new force to reckon with in his party. He played a crucial role in seat-sharing negotiations with the Shiv Sena. In an interview to ToI, Khadse spoke on why the alliance was snapped and the Modi wave. Excerpts:

You are among the top contenders for the CM's post...

It's not true. I am not in the race for the CM's post. Our top priority is to dislodge the corrupt government led by Prithviraj Chavan. Maharashtra is lagging behind while Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have made progress.

The Sena says those responsible for termination of the alliance are enemies of Maharashtra.

I don't agree with the Shiv Sena's contention. I made all efforts to ensure the alliance remained intact, as the basis of it was ideology. The Sena alone is responsible for termination of the alliance, since Aditya Thackeray insisted on 151 seats. Had Uddhav and Aditya shown even minor flexibility, there would have been no threat to the alliance. All our deliberations were only around 151 seats and the CM's post. The Sena never considered the importance of the smaller parties which joined us during the Lok Sabha polls.

What do you have to say about the post-split situation?

The split was a painful decision. Ever since we joined hands with the Sena 25 years ago, we had seen several ups and downs, but we never experienced such a situation. In the past, whenever there was a crisis, Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and BJP leaders Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde would step in to resolve the dispute. Now in this hour of crisis, we are missing them.

Why was there a row over the CM's post?

When we joined hands with the Sena in 1989, it was decided the CM will be from the party which secures more seats. In 1995, when the Sena got more seats, its nominee Manohar Joshi was elected CM. Between 1999 and 2009 too, a Sena nominee was leader of opposition as that party won more seats. In 2009, when BJP secured more seats, I was appointed leader of opposition.

What will be the outcome of the elections?

Not only the Sena and BJP, even the Congress and NCP are contesting separately. It should not be difficult for BJP and the smaller parties to secure a majority in the house of 288.

Is the coalition era over?

After the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it appears that it is.

Was there a Modi wave during the LS polls?

Indeed. That was why the Congress and NCP were wiped out in the state.

How do you see Uddhav Thackeray as a leader?

He is a gentleman, but lacks maturity. We had interacted with Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and BJP leaders Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde, they were really tall. Uddhav will have to learn to be more flexible.

What's your opinion about Prithviraj Chavan?

I endorse the views expressed by Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar on the performance of Chavan. The NCP leaders said that when it comes to signing even routine files, Chavan's hands are paralysed. I feel he lacks vision.

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Minor’s rapist gets life 2 years after crime

MUMBAI: Two years after a 21-year-old man was accused of raping a minor at Shivaji Nagar, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Friday.

Additional Sessions Judge A S Shende convicted Aftab Khan after nine witnesses, including the five-year-old survivor and her mother, deposed in court.

The crime took place in May 2012. The child was playing near her house when Khan, a shopkeeper, offered her one rupee and coaxed her to enter the shop. In her statement, the minor said, before the court, that Khan then downed the shutter and assaulted her. The child narrated in detail the brutality she was subjected to by Khan.

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Uddhav calls Raj, duo sets up hotline for Sena-MNS talks 

MUMBAI: A day after Maharashtra's two major political alliances came apart, the political firmament was rocked by talk of the estranged Thackeray cousins cosying up to each other. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray reportedly called up MNS boss Raj Thackeray on Wednesday to inquire after his health. The two have since appointed representatives for their parties to "talk to each other".

Sources said the Sena may want MNS as an ally in key civic bodies like Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan-Dombivli if BJP pulls out from these bodies.

The development came as just-separated alliance partners attacked each other, indicating a bitter five-cornered fight for the October 15 polls.

Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna hit out at BJP, saying those who terminated the alliance were "enemies of Maharashtra". It described them as "crows of pitru paksha".

BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the comments were "uncalled for" and said Matoshree could not have expected BJP to "betray" smaller partners in the 'maha yuti'.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray
BJP, which won over 3 of the 4 junior partners and said PM Narendra Modi will address 14 rallies in the state, ruled out a post-poll tie-up with NCP. While Congress accused NCP of hobnobbing with BJP and said it would have no truck with any party that had "anything to do with BJP," NCP decided to target CM Prithviraj Chavan in Karad, offering a party ticket to sitting Congress MLA Vilas Patil Undalkar.

Congress on Friday formalized an alliance with Samajwadi Party, giving it eight seats.

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Man held for funding 13/7 blasts discharged

MUMBAI: Over two months after a 50-year-old man was arrested at Goa airport for allegedly channelling funds for the July 2011 triple blasts, he was on Friday discharged for lack of evidence. The special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court discharged Abdul Mateen Damda, who was accused of channelling Rs 10 lakh through hawala to be used in the blasts which killed 27.

Immigration authorities at Goa airport had detained Damda who had arrived from the UAE. Officials of the state ATS had claimed that Damda had sent money to a hawala operator in Delhiwho relayed the funds to Indian Mujahideen.

A senior ATS officer said that the discharge application was moved as sufficient evidence could not be collected to chargesheet him.

After advocate Sharif Shaikh filed a plea in court, seeking Damda's passport and phone, the judge ordered the police to return the belongings. Advocate Shahid Nadeem, who appeared for Damda on behalf of Jamiat-ul-Ulema, said, "Damda has been discharged but is yet to be released."

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When it comes to growth of assets, ministers outstrip other legislators

The assets of all outgoing MLAs rose from 2009 to 2014, but the assets of the ministers in the outgoing government grew more steeply, their affidavits show.

On Friday, the penultimate day of filing nominations, 130 candidates completed the procedure in Mumbai. In the state, more than 2,600 contenders filed their nomination papers along with affidavits. Prominent among these were Ajit Pawar, Varsha Gaikwad, Suresh Shetty, Sachin Ahir, Eknath Khadse, Pankaja Munde, R R Patil, Vinod Ghosalkar and Ravindra Waikar.

Consistent with the trend seen in the nominations filed on Thursday, most legislators' assets grew twofold or threefold. But the increase was steeper in ministers' cases.

Former excise minister Ganesh Naik's affidavit put the worth of his and his wife's total assets at about Rs 16 crore, nearly five times more than the Rs 3.4 crore assets his 2009 affidavit listed. In former deputy CM Ajit Pawar's case, the value of assets nearly quadrupled. In his latest affidavit, the assets add up to a total of about Rs 40 crore; in 2009, the sum was about Rs 11 crore. Ex-minister Jitendra Awhad has this time shown assets worth Rs 10.3 crore—a tenfold rise from 2009, when he valued his assets at Rs 1.2 crore.

Vivek Gilani of MumbaiVotes, a not-for-profit group that analyses data filed by public representatives, said state legislators and parliamentarians are encouraged to start own businesses so that they can be partners in the nation's growth. "But if their incomes and assets are rising disproportionately to their known sources of income and at a rate higher than the growth rate of the national per capita income, then there should be an analysis to find out the sources. I think the election commission or the income-tax department should analyse such data," he said.

Meanwhile, all major parties are giving assembly election tickets to some of their BMC councillors. Shiv Sena is fielding Sunil Prabhu, who was Mumbai's mayor till recently. BJP is putting up as its candidates Dilip Patel and Ram Barot (both former deputy mayors), Ujwala Modak (chairperson of the improvements committee), Manisha Chaudhari and Krishna Parkar.

Congress is giving tickets to Sheetal Mhatre, Pravin Chheda and Manoj Jamsutkar. In the assembly race will also be NCP corporator Chandan Sharma and MNS councillors Eshwar Tyade and Bhalchandra Ambure.

(With inputs from Sujit Mahamulkar)

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Many North Indian BJP supporters to quit party in Kalyan

KALYAN : Many North Indian BJP supporters in Kalyan (East) constituency are planning to quit the party after BJP decided to give ticket to controversial MNS leader Moreshwar Bhoir who was arrested over the alleged killing of two North Indians in the wake of Raj Thackaray's arrest in 2008.

If local BJP workers are to be believed then on Saturday morning after Bhoir announced his name as candidate for BJP the North Indian workers living in area got angry and decided to quit the party.

Confirming the news Sandeep Tiwari vice president of BJP from Kalyan east said, "Our workers are unhappy with ticket being allotted to Bhoir and if he files his nomination from the seat then many BJP workers including me will leave the party".

Bhoir is said to one amongst nine accused who had served nine month jail in 2008 for their role in the killing of two north Indians Omprakash Dubey and Mayur Dubey from Dubey families after their dispute took place with Bhoir family over forcefully closing of shops by Bhoir family during Raj Thackaray's arrest in Pisavali area. In the fight Bhoir also lost his elder brother Gurunath.

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Thane's Durga idols get decked up for the upcoming Puja

Written By kom nampultig on Jumat, 26 September 2014 | 22.23

Panchami on September 29th will mark the beginning of Durga Puja. For this Hindu festival the idols of the Goddess are brought to pandals at least a week in advance, and are then given finishing touches.

"The auspicious Mahalaya day, is when the lead artist performs the Chakshu Daan (painting the eyes of Goddess Durga). Then onwards, the face, hands and all other details are painted in," says Subhashish Das, one of the organizers of a city Durga Puja. He explains that once the painting is done, the costumes are put up and then finally the Goddess is adorned with all the weapons and jewellery.

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Dengue cases rise in Mumbai

MUMBAI: The dreaded dengue fever has been attacking the city in the last two months, with the cases having risen two-fold in just the past two weeks. The reasons being the erratic rainfall coupled with pollution levels and poor civic facilities.

Affirms consultant, internal medicine, Dr Falguni Parikh, "We have seen a rise in the past two to three weeks. It's affecting people of all ages but the cases I have got are mainly in people between 20-40 years." Adds physician Dr Rahul Pandit, "The rapid increase in cases is being seen in the city and suburbs. I would also add that the intensity of patients who need hospitalisation has gone up."

Symptoms and treatment

The patient gets high fever coupled with severe body aches and eye pain, with chances of breaking into a rash and redness on the skin. "We are also seeing some patients complaining of diarrhea this time, something that is quite unusual," she adds.

What happens is, people often don't get tested in time and just take paracetamols. Do not resort to self-treatment, warns, Dr Parikh. "As we are seeing a higher incidence, people must visit the doctor and go for the tests, under instructions, so the treatment can start. Dengue can be detected in one to three days and there are two tests for this. Plus, for those patients who already have an underlying medical condition like diabetes or renal failure, they should seek medial attention immediately as it can get complicated," she adds. Dr Pandit also lists out a few dos and don'ts. "It is vital to keep the environment clean. You must fumigate areas around your building and always ensure you drink clean water," he adds.

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BJP now ‘free’ to expand its footprint in state

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: After its split with the Shiv Sena, the BJP senses an opportunity to spread its wings in areas in the state where it thinks its growth was curtailed by years because of the Sena's hold and its own unwillingness to step in because of the saffron alliance.

The BJP has also decided to expand its base by publicizing the work done by the Narendra Modi government and by projecting Modi's image ahead of the elections, sources said. The party feels Modi's popularity is high in Maharashtra and will help the party to get the support of middle-class voters especially in urban pockets that have traditionally sided with the Sena.

BJP state chief Devendra Fadnavis had told TOI in an interview that Modi will address 10-12 rallies in the state.

The BJP counts among its strongholds the regions of northern Maharashtra, Vidarbha and western Maharashtra, which together account for about 170 assembly seats. The party feels it will work hard in Mumbai, Thane, the Konkan belt and Marathwada to increase its numbers in the assembly from the 46 seats it won in 2009. Sources said the party's cadre had to hold itself back in areas such as the Konkan, where the Sena had a strong presence. Now they are free to expand the party there.

The BJP also wants to send out a strong message that it was not willing to dump the smaller allies. It wants to retain a rainbow coalition of caste-based groups and show that it is taking the 'maha yuti' ahead on its own, sources said.

At the same time, Fadnavis's statement that the party will not criticize the Sena during the campaign indicates the BJP does not want to rule out post-poll possibilities, sources said.

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No break-up blues for Cong, feels prospects to improve

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: The Congress expects the crumbling of alliances in Maharashtra — its own with the NCP and that between the Shiv Sena-BJP—has given it a lifeline just when it was staring at a crushing defeat in the assembly elections.

Ahead of the October 15 polls, battlelines have been redrawn, bringing the state to a long-forgotten territory - a five-cornered contest, split in two major vote banks and the Congress contesting all the 288 seats.

"The NCP's departure was no doubt painful, but we will benefit from an organisational point of view,'' Congress spokesperson Anant Gagdil told TOI. "In a five-cornered contest, Congress would emerge the single-largest party," claimed Sanjay Nirupam, a former Mumbai MP.

The most significant impact will be a split in the Sena-BJP's Hindutva base, with Mumbai a case in point. The Sena turf looked like landing in the saffron pocket but not many are now sure.

On test after the split will be the Congress' claim that its pan-Maharashtra presence was cramped by its alliance with the NCP. "We found our presence in nearly 100 constituencies was negligible. Most of our activists had joined others,'' a senior Congress minister said.

The Congress minister said the image of the Democratic Front government was tarnished by corruption allegations against NCP ministers like Ajit Pawar (irrigation scam), Vijay Kumar Gavit and Babanrao Pachpute, who later joined the BJP. Gadgil said the Prithviraj Chavan government improved the party's image. "Chavan provided a clean administration and there are no corruption charges against Congress ministers,'' he said.

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Tussle over CM’s post tears apart saffron combine

MUMBAI: The 25-year-old Shiv Sena-BJP alliance breathed its last on Thursday, bringing to an end a robust and stormy era in coalition politics in Maharashtra and India.

After more than a fortnight of often-bitter negotiations over seat-sharing for the October 15 assembly polls, BJP announced the decision at a press conference at the party's Backbay Reclamation state headquarters. A phone call from BJP national president Amit Shah to Maharashtra BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis sealed the saffron alliance's fate, it is learned. Senior state BJP leader Eknath Khadse conveyed his party's farewell to Sena president Uddhav Thackeray over the phone.

The tussle over the chief minister's post turned out to be the biggest stumbling block during talks, with Sena repeatedly saying that Uddhav would be CM after the elections and BJP saying its ally was not willing to cut its seats from 151 because it wanted to claim the top post. BJP president Amit Shah had said during a visit to Mumbai in August that the next government in Maharashtra would be led by the BJP.

Addressing the press conference after a final round of seat-sharing talks with Sena which were fruitless, Fadnavis said, "We are heading for the October polls with smaller parties."

Stating that the BJP has no bitter sentiments about the Sena, Fadnavis said, "We will not be hostile to the Sena... The alliance may have come to an end, but friendly feelings will always remain... BJP will not criticize Sena and will not reply to Sena's criticism. Our principal aim is to defeat the Congress-NCP alliance, and we will strain every nerve to fulfil our mission."

Stating that Sena kept re-hashing the same formula for over 20 days, Fadnavis said, "We realised continuing talks with Sena was futile. Also, time was running out. There are hardly two days left for filing of nomination papers... There was an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust everywhere. So, we decided to end the alliance."

Khadse said, "We realized that the negotiations were taking us as nowhere. It became a numbers game as Sena kept insisting on having 151 seats (of the total 288 in the assembly). This clearly meant that Sena had an eye on the chief ministership. In view of this we decided to end the alliance."

BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy was quoted by agencies as saying that the Sena's "inflexibility" had forced the split.

BJP has won over the junior partners in what it claimed was Phase Two of the 'maha yuti'. After fixing a quota of 20-25 seats for smaller parties, BJP will contest the remainder.

The state BJP has sent instructions to its candidates across the state to fill in their nomination papers for elections, pending finalization of seats with smaller parties, it is learnt.

"We have inked a seat-sharing pact with Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) and Rashtriya Samaj Party (RSP) of Mahadeo Jankar. Vinayak Mete's Shiv Sangram will be with us. Mete has gone to his constituency to file his nomination papers. We will resume talks with him after he returns to Mumbai. Also, talks with Ramdas Athavale's RPI are on," Fadnavis said.

Jankar, who was present at the press conference, reiterated that junior allies would be with the BJP. The BJP has asked Jankar to coordinate with smaller parties. However, there are reports that RPI may choose to stay with the Sena.

BJP's core committee for the Maharashtra polls met earlier in the day and formally decided to bring to an end the poll partnership which the late Sena chief Bal Thackeray and BJP leader Pramod Mahajan flagged off way back in 1989, saying the two parties were united by Hindutva.

After the core committee ended its deliberations, Khadse put a call to Uddhav and told him about BJP's decision.

The final denoument came during prolonged talks late Wednesday evening at the Walkeshwar residence of Om Prakash Mathur, the BJP's poll observer for Maharashtra. The Sena offered yet another formula to the BJP, which the latter turned down. The parleys went on till 3 am, it is said.

At the national level, the Sena will have to quit the Modi government. Sena leader and Union minister for heavy industries Anant Gite will be the first casualty of the saffron divorce, sources said.

Asked to comment on the issue, Fadnavis cryptically remarked, "Nothing has been decided on these issues yet."

There were reports that Gite had left for Mumbai on Thursday evening.

The dissolution of the alliance will also have a direct bearing on key municipal corporations in the state, including Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan-Dombivli and Aurangabad, where the two parties share power.

Describing the decision on the parting of ways as "unfortunate", senior state BJP leader Vinod Tawde said, "Our core committee agreed to disagree with the Sena... We have come to this point not out of our wish."

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Maharashtra polls: Security arrangements tightened ahead of filing nominations in Mumbai

MUMBAI: In the backdrop of unprecedented realignments in political equations ahead of Maharashtra assembly elections, Mumbai police have made elaborate security arrangements to scotch possible conflicts among the rival members during the process of filing nominations.

In anticipated race to file nominations papers, city police have sought timings of filing nominations from candidates at the 36 election returning offices in the metropolis to avoid their face off with rivals in a bid to prevent any possible clashes.

"We are ensuring that no opponent party candidates file nominations at the same time," said Dhananjay Kulkarni, Deputy Police Commissioner (Spokesperson). In addition to this, if the candidates march with their supporters in a bid to display their show of strength, then the rally would be stopped at about 100 meters away from the centre of filing papers and only five persons, including the candidate, would be permitted to enter the centre, police said.

As all the parties' state headquarters are situated in Mumbai, the 47,000-strong city police are leaving no stone unturned to quell the possible untoward incidents. With tomorrow being the last date to file nominations and the uncertainty prevailing about continuation of combination of Shiv Sena-BJP and Congress-NCP till yesterday, many leaders of these four major parties refrained from filing nominations across the state.

On Friday and Saturday, a rush is expected in the city to file the nomination papers. "We have also identified sensitive areas where extensive police deployment has been done to maintain law and order," the DCP said, adding, presence of policemen could be visible on city streets.

on The BJP and Shiv Sena ended its 25-year-old ties while NCP, Congress's oldest ally in UPA, broke their 15-year association on Thursday, the political modifications that put the city police on their toes.

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Thaneites perfect their dance moves for Navratras

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 25 September 2014 | 22.23

Navratri has begun and Thaneites are all prepared to make the most of these festive nights that are also about unadulterated fun, fashion and non-stop grooving to the resounding beats of the dhol. Our country's longest dance festival — Navratri — is celebrated with enthusiasm in Thane.

Every year, one can see small changes in the garba steps, though the traditional basics remain the same for decades. Many Thaneites take up classes right before the festival to perfect the traditional and the latest moves with ease.

Dance instructors say that people enroll for classes a few months before Navratri because they not only want to learn new steps but also add that special extra to their moves. Though traditional Garba does have some intricate, advanced moves that need to be mastered with practice, there are always some new moves that are incorporated by enthusiastic choreographers and instructors.

Sheila Mukund, a college student and a resident of Wagle Estate says, "I want to make sure that I dance well and show off all the new moves when I go out for the dandiya night. I joined special classes two months back."

Garba has gone global and international dance forms are being incorporated with the basic steps. Dance classes are opting to teach fusion garba - and are fusing hip-hop, jazz, belly dancing and even lock-n-pop with the well-known traditional garba moves like the dodhiyu, teen tali, popatiyu, raas, heench.

Ruth Gabriel, who runs a Zumba class near Teen Hath Naka in Thane, says, "Zumba is a very international form of dance, but due to my students' demand I also did a few garba classes. I improvised and did some moves to traditional garba songs." Ruth has students aged as young as 17 to those around 55 years. "Most of my students are in their 30s and 40s. There are also college students and they are the ones who want to go for the dandiya / garba nights. They have been practising to gain confidence and perform well," she says. One of Ruth's students got a ghaghra to the class and Ruth sportingly wore that over her Zumba outfit and twirled to the garba music. "It is a very high cardio dance and the entire class had a lot of fun," she says.

There are many Thaneites who are into these classes and apart from losing weight while dancing, they also want to be good performers. Anshul Gada, 27, an entrepreneur from Ghodbunder Road says, "I lost weight thanks to my dance class but I am really excited about the new steps that I have learnt here. Can't wait to hit the dandiya floor."

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Modi's close Chintan Joshi from Kalyan may rebel against BJP

KALYAN: Kalyan based BJP leader Chintan Joshi who had been closely associated with PM Narendra Modi and also founded a front called Namo Janhit Sangh 12 years back has rebelled against the party.

Joshi who was only invited person for the PMs Oath taking ceremony from Thane district has been upset with the party as he was not awarded the ticket for the assembly seat. Joshi who belongs to Gujarati community got pamphlets distributed in city where he has mentioned that Gujarati and Marwari community in Kalyan had been used and remembered only when the party needed funds for elections and later have been side-lined.

Joshi who has stronghold in 2 lakh Gujarati voters in Kalyan (West) assembly constituency claimed that if this time seat was given to Sena on which BJP has stronghold as in past had won all four assembly election except last election when Sena was given the ticket and lost against MNS candidate, then he will contest election as an independent candidate.

Joshi who distributed pamphlets in city said that since last many years Gujrati community from Kalyan city helping BJP- Sena by giving their votes but party never given them any post or opportunity to contest election in city.

In pamphlets Joshi clearly mentioned that Sena and BJP used community for the party funding but this time if they do not given ticket then he will contest as an independent candidate. If sources to believe then from the seat, Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray had ordered Sena leader Vijay Salvi to get ready to contest from the seat and this reason Joshi who is interested to contest election from BJP seat have started attracting Gujrati and Marwari community from city who is major winning deciding factor in city.

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Jobless youth held for Rs 2 lakh online fraud

MUMBAI: Two months after Rs 1.88 lakh was siphoned off a soap manufacturer's current account, the Parksite police in Vikhroli (W) nabbed a third-year commerce student, who, along with his aides, committed the fraud. Cops are trying to trace the kingpin, Habib.

The complaint was registered by soap manufacturer Hasmukh Gala when he found that the balance in his company's current account was only Rs 465. The fraud was committed on July 14. "Shahid Khan (22), the commerce student who was jobless for the last four months, was arrested last week after we traced one of the three bank account holders to which the money was transferred. The money was transferred to different accounts at Worli, Jogeshwari and Delhi. Khan, a Malwani resident, was traced after we arrested one Samir Shaikh who had provided his and his sister's account to the accused to transfer Rs 44,000 and Rs 43,000 respectively," said senior inspector Suresh Sakpal.

Gala learnt of the fraud when he logged into his netbanking account to check if he had received Rs 81,000 from a client. Though alerts were sent to Gala's mobile, he could not see them due to some problem in his network. Khan said the fraud was planned by Navi Mumbai resident, Habib, who is absconding. —V Narayan

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R-Power stock cheers SC ruling

MUMBAI: Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Power has emerged as a clear winner with two coal blocks of the company figuring among the four that were not cancelled by the Supreme Court. The other two belonged to state-owned SAIL and NTPC.

Cheering the court order, the company's stock shot up 6.5% in intra-day trade before closing up 5% at Rs 76 as shares of other power and metal firms fell significantly.

"Reliance Power is happy to note that the company's programme of developing and executing the Sasan UMPP (3,960 MW) in the state of Madhya Pradesh and the Tilaiya UMPP (3,960 MW) in the state of Jharkhand, totalling nearly 8000 MW, is unaffected and remains on course," said a company statement. It added that it has won the pit head-based projects under an international competitive bidding process. This makes Reliance Power the largest developer of UMPPs and the largest private sector coal resources company in India.

Another major gainer is Coal India, which saw its shares going up by 5% to Rs 351 as the company will get possession of all the de-allocated coal blocks till they come up for bidding next year. NTPC shares gained almost 1% to Rs 138 while SAIL shares lost almost 3% to close at Rs 69.

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Treasure hunts add a dash of fun to Mumbai

Two Sundays ago, a bunch of people came together at one of the most prominent landmarks — Oval Maidan — armed with a love for food. No, there was no cookout, but the event still had everything to do with cuisine. It was South Mumbai's first food treasure hunt, part of the new trend of such fun-filled activity that has been happening in the city. Earlier, Mumbai's natural history society organised a hunt for kids at another place, event planners have also conjured up mini hunts for the bride and groom-to-be as part of the wedding run-up fun and there's another 'Mumbai curiosity' hunt coming up on September 28. Ready to take on this new weekend challenge?

Hunting for food

The recent food hunt came about as a spin-off to the one that took place at Bandra last month, which saw quite a turnout. For this one too, by 11 am, around 41 participants arrived at Oval, the flag off point. They were to form groups of three and go to eight checkpoints in total, solving clues given at each point, and moving to the next level. Says curator Sameer Malkani, "It was a whole lot of fun and there was a two-pronged aim to this. One, to get people out on a Sunday to take part in a meaningful activity and second, to increase awareness about food." While earlier participants at the Bandra food hunt enlisted here too, there were a bunch of newcomers as well, which he found heartening. "To those new to the city, such an event is a great way to engage with others," he adds. The clues were interesting; one read, 'Twice A Country', while the other said, 'Namak Paani'.

After cracking a clue and reaching the checkpoint (restaurant), each team had to cook a small dish, like a pasta or kaukswe there, and post a picture of it online, tagging that restaurant. Only then did the 'culinary police' hand out the next clue. The three-hour hunt ended with a prize-distribution.

Malkani hopes to involve more city folk as food can be a huge binding factor and build bonhomie. There are plans to make it a monthly event in Mumbai, with the next one planned either at Versova or Ghatkopar. "We also want to take it to Pune as a monthly feature and then to Bangalore in December," he informs.

Another hunt based on your curiosity

There is a hunt coming up this Sunday at Cross Maidan, which aims to make the traveller in you decode clues and race to finish tasks. "The city-based hunt plans to get people to learn lesser known aspects of famous places, get new experiences and convert the plain old Sunday into a fun-filled one, Very often, if you just look at your own city with curious eyes, you will find a different world than you ever thought existed. Hunts like these can help you do that," says organiser Ritika Saraf.

What to take with you

You must dress comfortably, preferably in running gear.

Wear a sunscreen.

Carry cash along as you can take cabs and autos as you go along solving clues.

Take a smartphone as you may have to click a picture.

Go with an open mind. You will be making friends and meeting new people, so it's a great way to socialise, too.

Popular treasure hunts in cities across the globe

1) Architecture theme: Basel

Here, participants form groups and visit the most outstanding buildings about which they must decipher clues. Teams get a map and camera.

2) Da Vinci hunt: New York

New York has quite a few scavenger hunts. One of them, the Da Vinci adventure, offers authentic paraphernalia, from handmade maps to encrypted clues. It's a search staged in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and teams race to crack clues that will solve the Cryptex Code.

3) City hunt: San Francisco
The city offers an adventure to the sleuth-minded where folks have to crack a set of puzzles, even 20 clues sometimes, in teams. The hunts last for a few hours and lead to off-the-beaten-track areas.

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Appoint doctors immediately in tribal areas: HC to Maharashtra govt

MUMBAI: As the state prepares of assembly polls, the plight of tribal children in Melghat area remains dire with an acute lack of doctors in place. With more than 200 deaths in the last five months, a bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode in the Bombay high court directed the Maharashtra goverment on Thursday to immediately appoint paediatricians there.

The HC, underscored the seriousness of the issue, as deaths of children due to malnutrition continues in the tribal region and directed the state to hold core committee meetings to assess the problems.

The HC was hearing a bunch of PILs alleging lack of facilities in tribal areas resulting in death of children due to malnutrition.

Activist Purnima Upadhaya, a petitioner who highlighted the troubles of tribal kids in Melghat, told the court that there were no gnaecologists and paediatricians in Melghat. Children remained malnourished and get no medical attention, she said. She said that in the last five months, 123 children died of malnutrition in two blocks of Melghat and 113 children died in 12 blocks of Amravati.

The committee appointed pursuant to earlier court orders has not met since March the court was told. It was meant to meet once every month. The HC directed the committee to meet within four weeks now. The Chief Secretary is on the committee. But his preoccupation cannot prevent the meeting, the court said and directed the health secretary to convene in the Chief secretary's absence.

The HC also asked the government to file an Action Taken Report (ATR) by November 18.

"We are surprised by the fact that there is no effort to address the preventive aspects of under nutrition by the department of health or that of women and child development. "It is a matter of great shame that 70 per cent of women and girls continue to be anaemic, as a result, more vulnerable and at high risk during pregnancy and delivery," the petitioner said. The state has made no effort to educate girls and women, the court was told. All that was done was distribution of iron tablets and some posters.

"While there are lots of resources flowing into the health systems through National Rural Health Mission the permanent structures and human resources seems to be a constant challenge in most of the areas. A course correction is highly essential or else crores of rupees will go waste," Upadhaya said.

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Civic peon held for siphoning off cash collected as taxes

Written By kom nampultig on Rabu, 24 September 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: A Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) peon has been arrested for allegedly siphoning off the money collected by way of various municipal taxes from the public, for his personal use.

The matter came to light when the MBMC issued notices to the public for non-payment of the taxes since 2009.

Ivon Malekar (45) a resident of Utan in Bhayander (west) was employed in the nearby MBMC office. As Malekar was known to them, the villagers used to give him cash to be deposited as taxes in the municipal office. Malekar would take the cash and later give them the MBMC receipt for the payment made.

The complainant Nicholas Almeida (53) who received the MBMC notice for non-payment of taxes, approached the municipality with the receipts. The civic officials on examining the receipts found them to be fake. Almeida approached the Utan coastal police who arrested Malekar. He has been remanded to police custody.

It turned out that Malekar had printed fake receipts in his house. He never deposited the cash into the MBMC account but ensured that he issued receipts so that he never got caught. Police said that Malekar may have siphoned off around Rs 1.15 lakhs from the residents of Utan. The police found rubber stamps of various departments from his house.

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Court to get three floors in GT hospital building

MUMBAI: The state advocate general Darius Khambata on Tuesday agreed that the Bombay HC does need more space from which to function and even suggested that the non-heritage annexe building may be demolished to make space for a new building.

Khambata informed the HC that two floors of the GT hospital building would be handed over to the high court by December 31, 2014, and one more floor—the sixth floor—would be handed over by the state to the HC by next February. Anil Singh, additional solicitor general said two floors of VSNL building can be handed over to the HC and a decision may be taken at a meeting on September 28.

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Help gets life for killing Juhu senior citizen

MUMBAI: A sessions court on Tuesday convicted and sentenced a 25-year-old man, Radhe Mandal, to life imprisonment for murdering a senior citizen, Bharti Shah, at her Juhu flat where he worked as a domestic help in 2011. While judge D W Deshpande sentenced Mandal, two other accused, who also worked as domestic help at the house, are absconding. Public prosecutor Jagannath Kenjalkar said key among the 21 witnesses was Shah's sister and a neighbour, who had found Shah's body.

The incident took place on September 11, 2011. While the police had procured Mandal's description from neighbours and other employees, they managed to nab him after he switched on a cellphone number on September 18, 2011. The police had found two numbers scribbled on a piece of newspaper in Shah's flat. While one belonged to Shah, the other belonged to Mandal and Call Data Records showed that the latter had not been used since February. But the number was made operational again and traced to Bihar. Based on that location, a city police team with help from local cops nabbed Mandal from a bus station on September 21,2011.

The police recovered two diamond rings worn by Shah at the time of the incident, cash and a LTT-Patna train ticket dated September 12, 2011 from Mandal.

In her statement to the court, Shah's sister said the victim was unmarried and lived alone after their father died in 1997. The witness who resides in Andheri (E) said she would visit her sister every week and call her daily. A night before the incident she rang at the residence twice, but got no reply. The next morning, she called up Shah's neighbour and requested to check on her sister. The neighbour told Shah's sister that there was no one at home as no one had answered the doorbell. The sister and her husband immediately rushed to Shah's house am and opened the door with a spare key. Shah's body was found in the house. She had been strangulated with a nylon table cloth. Her gold chain, rings and bangles were missing. The sister told the police that the three help had been hired recently.

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Farhan Akhtar wants more women to learn how to use the Internet

MUMBAI: A new social campaign called #ReachForTheSky hopes to help more urban and rural women get online with help from existing Internet users.'

The campaign has been devised by Google in association with the MARD initiative that is the brainchild of actor-director Farhan Akhtar. It hopes to encourage more women to learn to use the Internet - and search engines - and hopefully find gender equality and empowerment along the way.

Farhan said, "MARD is a progressive movement for a more gender-equal world. Our objective is to ask men to re-think their own value system and to be the catalyst for change. Women lack encouragement from family and friends to use the Internet and we need to address this issue. Technology is not the domain of men. Democratising access to information can empower women and raise their status in society."

Rajan Anandan, vice president and managing director, Google India, said, "India is on its way to become the second largest Internet population in the world but usage of Internet amongst women remains lower than most countries. There are 616 million women in India, around half are below the age of 25. Empowering the young female population with information and Internet related tools could transform their future."

Anandan's population statistics cannot be independently confirmed, and he did not cite sources, but he did give a silver lining amid the bleak scenario. "For the first time in India, the growth rate of women Internet users in urban India has exceeded men in the last one year. We need to build on this," he said.

Google's marketing head Sandeep Menon said the mission was to bring 50 million women online. "In the past nine months we have undertaken a number of initiatives reaching over 1 million women across five states, covering 30 cities and 55 small towns. We have approached 950 educational institutes and imparted basic training to over 45,000 girls and 5,000 teachers."

Volunteers who wish to help can visit www.hwgo.in/reach and join as mentors. Internet users can browse www.therealmard.org and pledge support. Hashtag #ReachForTheSky is available across social media platforms.

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Woman cop suspended for demanding cash from jeweller

MUMBAI: A woman police sub inspector (PSI) with the Bhayander police station has been suspended following a complaint that she demanded money from a jeweller in a theft case.

The Thane rural superintendent of police (SP) Rajesh Pradhan suspected Deepti Mithari after the Mira Bhayander Jewellers' Association complained to senior officials about the PSI demanding cash from a jeweller while investigating a case of stolen valuables in August.

The PSI had visited the jeweller with regard to the stolen ornaments. She allegedly threatened to make a case against the jeweller if he refused to pay her a fixed amount. The jeweller approached the association which took up the matter with SP. Jewellers alleged of police harassment on the pretext of investigating cases involving stolen jewellery. While the police has been accusing jewellers from the Mira-Bhayander region of buying stolen jewellery without insisting on purchase receipts, jewellers say that they are being harassed by the cops.

An inquiry is being conducted into the allegations against Mithari, who will remain under suspension till the probe is completed by the SP.

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Mumbai cops ready for Eid, Navratri and state election bandobast

MUMBAI: The city police have formed 14 check nakas in view of Eid-ul-Azha - an occassion where Muslims sacrifice animals - for a smooth transportation of animals and prevention of unauthorized vehicles and animals into the city.

Rakesh Maria, police commissioner, said that whoever has any problem with vehicles carrying animals should approach the police.

"Similarly, if anyone feels being harassed by some people for bringing animals, he should contact our 24 hour helpline (022-22641752/22623054)". When asked about some anti social elements who stop vehicles carrying animals every year, Maria said," We will not allow anyone to do policing. If anyone has any problem, they should approach the police." Till date more than 6,000 animals have been brought in the city. Maria added that the police conducted a joint meeting with the BMC and deployed over 600 cops for bandobast at Deonar abattoir.

"There are police escort vehicles. Our teams have gone to various places in the city and even in other states to check the vehicle number that are carrying animals for Mumbai. Nobody will be allowed to take law in hand," said Maria.

On election bandobast Maria added that 60 places having Returning Officers' offices have been provided bandobast during filing of election nominations. He added that on October 2nd and 3rd the deadline for use of loudspeakers has been extended till 12 midnight. Cops have asked licensed weapons holders to deposit their weapons and are preparing list of all the wanted criminals.

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Congress, NCP to discuss seat-sharing formula today

Written By kom nampultig on Selasa, 23 September 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Congress and NCP teams led by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and Praful Patel, respectively, will meet on Tuesday to discuss a 'respectful' seat-sharing formula for the assembly polls.

Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in an interview to Times Now has said that the Congress is ready to go it alone in the upcoming assembly elections in the state. "There will be no solution if NCP comes with pre-conditions," Chavan said in a clear sign that Congress will not yield any ground to its partner in the state.

On Sunday, the Congress had offered 124 seats, while the NCP had held firm to its demand for 144. Congress is learnt to be ready to increase its offer to 130 in a bid to save the 15-year alliance.

After a marathon meeting of the NCP core group presided over by Sharad Pawar, Patel said, "We are keen to contest the polls with Congress, but we feel that the seat-sharing formula should be respectful. Congress proposal of 124 seats is not acceptable to us and we are firm on 144 seats."

READ ALSO: NCP gives ultimatum to Congress on seat sharing

State Congress president Manikrao Thakre told TOI, "We feel NCP should not make it a prestige issue. Congress and NCP must contest the assembly polls together if communal forces are to be kept out of power.''

A senior Congress minister hinted that Tuesday's meeting might not be able to break the deadlock. "We believe the row over the seat-sharing formula will be resolved only after a meeting between Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar. We expect Congress may increase the offer from 124 to 130 seats. If no settlement is reached on Tuesday, Sonia and Pawar may meet in New Delhi on Wednesday to work out a new formula," he said.


NCP leader Praful Patel said that the Congress's proposal of 124 seats was not acceptable to the party.

On the meeting presided over by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi, Thakre said the central election committee reviewed all 288 constituencies in the state. "We have finalized a panel for 174 seats and identified nominees for 114 seats. We will take a final decision on whether to contest all the 288 seats after a meeting with NCP leaders on Tuesday," Thakre said.

READ ALSO: NCP success rate higher than Congress's

Alliance to end? NCP to bleed whether allies split or not

Patel said in the event there was no "respectful" seats agreement, the NCP will have no option but to contest all the 288 seats. "We had contested 124 seats in 2004. In 2009, it reduced to 114 and the Congress had contested 174 seats. Our contention is that in view of the changed political situation and improved performance of NCP, Congress must accept our demand for 144 seats,'' Patel said.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the NCP won four seats and the Congress two amid a saffron surge. The NCP has been demanding more seats since. "I think the Congress did not take the seat-sharing exercise seriously. As a result, there is the prolonged delay in taking the decision,'' a senior NCP minister said.

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221 women apply to drive taxis in Mumbai

MUMBAI: For the first time, the state transport department has opened the doors to women to drive black-and-yellow taxis in Mumbai. The invite has received an overwhelming response, with 221 women sending their applications.

In another first, the department has also received applications for taxi permits from three transgenders, two from south Mumbai and one from the suburbs.

"We have never had a transgender plying a taxi and this will perhaps be the first time that such an opportunity will be given to them. But it also depends on the applicants winning the lottery, which will be held in October," an RTO official said.

READ ALSO: Mumbai still awaits fleet cabs for women only

According to transport officials, it might not be an easy job for the woman who will enter the unorganized sector. "These are black-and-yellow taxis and an unorganized sector, where women drivers will have to face all kinds of passengers. But the possibility of a difficult time has not deterred 163 women from Mumbai, including 122 from the island city, from applying for a permit," said a senior transport official. "We also have candidates from Vasai, Thane, Kalyan and Navi Mumbai."

The permits will be allotted through a lottery system on October 10. As many as 27,220 candidates have applied from the Mumbai metropolitan region for 7,800 permits on offer. The processing fee were accepted till Monday afternoon after which the online process was closed. "Around one-fourth of the total number of candidates will be given permits," said an official. Taxi union leader A L Quadros has threatened to move the high court if a majority of the permits do not go to those from greater Mumbai.

Statistics shows among the applicants, 1,062 are graduates and 20 are believed to have post-graduate qualifications. Some of the applicants are auto drivers who are eligible to apply for taxi permits this year.

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Shortage of 15,000 drivers keeps taxis off roads in Mumbai

MUMBAI: If commuters have been finding it difficult to get a taxi in the city, especially at airports and railway stations, it could be because of the shortage of drivers. According to an estimate, nearly 15% of the total black-and-yellow taxis and 10% fleet cabs have been lying idle due to absence of drivers.

A regular flyer, V K Krishnan, said it was particularly difficult to get a taxi at the airport, especially in the evening. "Also, fleet cab companies do not confirm bookings due to unavailability of vehicles," he said.

Taxi union leader A L Quadros admitted to the shortage of drivers and so, the dearth of cabs. "We have several hundred taxis lined up in areas like Sion-Chunabhatti. They are not used as there is no driver for them." There were over 45,000 about a decade ago, but the figure has dropped to 35,000. "Even owners who have taxi permits have been finding it difficult to get drivers," Quadros added.

One of the reasons for the dearth, Swabhiman Sanghathana union leader K K Tiwari said, was that several senior citizen drivers had retired but very few youngsters replaced them. "People are not willing to join the trade anymore. Earlier, taxi drivers' sons would usually follow in their fathers' footsteps but nowadays, they don't want to become cabbies. They pursue higher studies and look for other jobs," Tiwari said.

According to some drivers, the stringent government norms for issuing taxi badges is another reason for people not applying for it. "We need to have a domicile certificate, which is a proof that a person has been a Mumbai resident for 15 years, to get a badge. While locals are not keen on the profession, migrants cannot get a badge unless he has lived here for 15 years. So, it is difficult to get an authorized taxi driver," said a driver from Colaba.

Even fleet cab operators have been facing the same trouble, with 500 of their vehicles lying idle. "In fleet cab business, our drivers need to be well-mannered besides having sound knowledge of the local routes and language. Nowadays, we do not get enough applicants who want to be self-employed as fleet cab drivers," the source added. Transport expert Sunil Mone said the city needed 10,000 to 15,000 fleet cabs, when the present strength was just about 6,000.

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221 women want to drive black-and-yellow cabs

MUMBAI: For the first time, the state transport department has opened the doors to women to drive black-and-yellow taxis in Mumbai. The invite has received an overwhelming response, with 221 women sending their applications.

In another first, the department has also received applications for taxi permits from three transgenders, two from south Mumbai and one from the suburbs.

"We have never had a transgender plying a taxi and this will perhaps be the first time that such an opportunity will be given to them. But it also depends on the applicants winning the lottery, which will be held in October," an RTO official said.

READ ALSO: Mumbai still awaits fleet cabs for women only

According to transport officials, it might not be an easy job for the woman who will enter the unorganized sector. "These are black-and-yellow taxis and an unorganized sector, where women drivers will have to face all kinds of passengers. But the possibility of a difficult time has not deterred 163 women from Mumbai, including 122 from the island city, from applying for a permit," said a senior transport official. "We also have candidates from Vasai, Thane, Kalyan and Navi Mumbai."

The permits will be allotted through a lottery system on October 10. As many as 27,220 candidates have applied from the Mumbai metropolitan region for 7,800 permits on offer. The processing fee were accepted till Monday afternoon after which the online process was closed. "Around one-fourth of the total number of candidates will be given permits," said an official. Taxi union leader A L Quadros has threatened to move the high court if a majority of the permits do not go to those from greater Mumbai.

Statistics shows among the applicants, 1,062 are graduates and 20 are believed to have post-graduate qualifications. Some of the applicants are auto drivers who are eligible to apply for taxi permits this year.

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Congress, NCP to discuss seat-sharing formula on Tuesday

MUMBAI: Congress and NCP teams led by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and Praful Patel, respectively, will meet on Tuesday to discuss a 'respectful' seat-sharing formula for the assembly polls.

On Sunday, the Congress had offered 124 seats, while the NCP had held firm to its demand for 144. Congress is learnt to be ready to increase its offer to 130 in a bid to save the 15-year alliance.

After a marathon meeting of the NCP core group presided over by Sharad Pawar, Patel said, "We are keen to contest the polls with Congress, but we feel that the seat-sharing formula should be respectful. Congress proposal of 124 seats is not acceptable to us and we are firm on 144 seats."

State Congress president Manikrao Thakre told TOI, "We feel NCP should not make it a prestige issue. Congress and NCP must contest the assembly polls together if communal forces are to be kept out of power.''

A senior Congress minister hinted that Tuesday's meeting might not be able to break the deadlock. "We believe the row over the seat-sharing formula will be resolved only after a meeting between Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar. We expect Congress may increase the offer from 124 to 130 seats. If no settlement is reached on Tuesday, Sonia and Pawar may meet in New Delhi on Wednesday to work out a new formula," he said.

On the meeting presided over by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi, Thakre said the central election committee reviewed all 288 constituencies in the state. "We have finalized a panel for 174 seats and identified nominees for 114 seats. We will take a final decision on whether to contest all the 288 seats after a meeting with NCP leaders on Tuesday," Thakre said.

Patel said in the event there was no "respectful" seats agreement, the NCP will have no option but to contest all the 288 seats. "We had contested 124 seats in 2004. In 2009, it reduced to 114 and the Congress had contested 174 seats. Our contention is that in view of the changed political situation and improved performance of NCP, Congress must accept our demand for 144 seats,'' Patel said.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the NCP won four seats and the Congress two amid a saffron surge. The NCP has been demanding more seats since. "I think the Congress did not take the seat-sharing exercise seriously. As a result, there is the prolonged delay in taking the decision,'' a senior NCP minister said.

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