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'Miracle doc' Munir Khan held by Versova police

Written By kom nampultig on Selasa, 31 Maret 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Self proclaimed scientist and miracle doctor Munir Khan was arrested by the Versova police on Tuesday after a complaint was lodged against him by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

Khan, who has been arrested in the past, is accused of cheating patients by selling a tonic called 'Body Revival,' claiming that it could cure serious diseases like cancer. "A case was registered against him on March 14 by FDA," confirmed deputy commissioner Satyanarayan Chaudhary, zone IX.

Medicines worth Rs 3 crore have been recovered by FDA. It was a well-planned operation, said FDA sources.

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'Miracle doctor' Munir Khan held

MUMBAI: Self proclaimed scientist and miracle doctor Munir Khan was arrested by the Versova police on Tuesday after a complaint was lodged against him by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

Khan, who has been arrested in the past, is accused of cheating patients by selling a tonic called 'Body Revival,' claiming that it could cure serious diseases like cancer. "A case was registered against him on March 14 by FDA," confirmed deputy commissioner Satyanarayan Chaudhary, zone IX.

Medicines worth Rs 3 crore have been recovered by FDA. It was a well-planned operation, said FDA sources.

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IIT Kharagpur Launches PGDBA program in association with IIM Calcutta and ISI-Kolkata

MUMBAI: IIT Kharagpur has partnered with IIM Calcutta and ISI Kolkata to jointly launch the programPost Graduate Diploma in Business Analytics (PGDBA) to help shape the emerging profession of business analytics by delivering a cutting edge inter disciplinary educational experience to graduate applicants with an aspiration of building a career in this field. The admission process is on and the last date for receiving applications is 17th April 2015. The details are available at the site http://www.iimcal.ac.in/pgdba.

The three premier institutions from Eastern India IIT Kharagpur, IIM Calcutta and ISI Kolkata have teamed up to offer this unique program in the emerging area of Business Analytics. The field of business analytics aims to analyse understand and interpret large data sets from a business point of view. Technology and practices in this area are evolving rapidly and this course is expected to groom professionals with a strong foundation in statistics and machine learning, technology and business processes and applications, who will be ready for a career in this exciting field. The program will create high quality manpower for the fast growing analytics industry.

The amount of data being produced and captured is increasing at an exponential rate across business domains. International Data Corp. (IDC) forecasts that data production will increase to 40 Zettabytes (or 40 billion terabytes) by 2020, 50 times more than in 2010. This enormous amount of data can be used by business enterprises to generate new insights, enable better decision making and improve processes of organizations. Business analytics involves the analysis of data using statistical, machine learning and quantitative techniques with the purpose of understanding past performance of the business and generating new insights for the future. Despite the growing significance of business analytics, the supply of trained analytics professionals is lagging far behind the demand for such professionals. In India, the analytics market is expected to double between 201 and 2018, reaching a figure of US$ 2.3 billion by 2018, according to a report published by Nasscom and Blueocean Market Intelligence. There will be a shortage of about 200,000 data scientists in India over the next few years, according to sources in the Analytics Special Interest Group set up by NASSCOM. Hence, creation of trained industry-ready business analytics professionals is the need of the day.

This is a two year full time residential diploma programme aimed at creating business analytics professionals employable by leading Indian and foreign firms. This programme is designed for those who have an analytical mindset, are interested in tackling challenging business problems, and possess an inclination towards mathematics. Some of the salient features of the programme include courses taught by reputed faculty members at the campuses of three globally renowned institutes, hands-on business analytics training at a related company, continuous interaction with industry leaders throughout the course of the diploma programme.

A workshop was conducted this January at IIM Kolkata inviting experts from various industries to discuss the analytics needs of the industry,the course content of this program and how the course needs to be strategized. This program was enthusiastically welcomed by the representatives of various industry as it is expected to cater to the growing need of professionals and address the talent gap in this important area.Based on feedback from the workshop different aspects of analytics were explored. A variety of skill set requirement was indentified. These skill sets are readily available with IIT, ISI and IIM. The 1st semester at ISI will focus on mathematical foundation, statistical and machine learning theories for analytics. The 2nd semester at IIT Kharagpur will focus on the engineering aspects of analyzing huge volume of data. Different departments and schools in IIT-KGP are involved in the program including the Department of Mathematics, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Vinod Gupta School of Management, School of Information Technology and Rajendra Mishra School of Engineering Entrepreneurship. The Head of Vinod Gupta School of Management is coordinating the program at IIT Kharagpur. The 3rd semester at IIM Calcutta will concentrate on application of analytics in functional areas.In the 4th semesterthe students will be required to do an internship of six months duration on an analytics project in a business organization.

Students of this course may avail placement opportunities at all the three institutes jointly offering this programme.Students successfully graduating from the programme will be expected to join organizations working in the area of analytics. Those interested in higher studies may pursue doctoral or other advanced studies in areas related to analytics.

This programme is designed for those who have an analytical mindset, are interested in tackling challenging business problems, and possess an inclination towards mathematics.To be eligible to apply for PGDBA a candidate must hold a graduate/post graduate degree with a minimum of 10+2+4 years of formal education. Candidates, who are in the final year, are also eligible to apply provided they complete their formal education as specified above by June 30, 2015. Besides, the candidate must have a valid score for CAT, GMAT, GRE, GATE. The course will commence on June 22, 2015. The tuition fee for the 2-year programme for the 2015-17 batch is Rs 16.20 lakhs. There is provision for merit-cum-means scholarships for deserving candidates. The last date for receiving the Application Form is April 17, 2015. There are a maximum of 60 seats in PGDBA in 2015-17.

In the first few days of the advertisement of the program, the institutions have received very enthusiastic response from potential candidates. The admission process is on and the details about the program and admission information are available in the site http://www.iimcal.ac.in/pgdba

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Lamborghini driver held for rash driving

MUMBAI: A Juhu businessman was arrested on Sunday for rash driving and risking other people's lives after Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami complained to the police.

Goswami told the police that the person drove a Lamborghini at a very high speed on the Bandra-Worli sea. The police then registered an FIR and arrested Samvit Ramesh Tara (39), a Juhu resident.

Police said Tara, who has a home decor showroom at Lower Parel, wanted to buy a Lamborghini and contacted a showroom at Prabhadevi and took the high-end car for a test drive.

Following an alert from Goswami, the police arrested the Juhu businessman.

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Thieves rob cellphones worth a crore from Vasai shop.

MUMBAI: Three thieves broke into a mobile shop in Vasai and robbed cash and cellphones valued at Rs one crore. While the thieves damaged the closed circuit television (CCTV) installed in the 'Top 10' showroom before exiting, the images of the thieves were recorded on the owners cellphone.

The owner Mayur Gala, a resident of Borivli, learnt about the theft on Tuesday morning when his workers reached the shop. The thieves broke open the five locks of the shutter and gained entry into the showroom. The theft is believed to have taken place in the wee hours.

The unidentified thieves hand-picked high end and expensive mobile phones. They even took away around Rs four lakh cash kept in the shop. The masked thieves damaged the CCTV installed in the showroom.

What the thieves were not aware off is that Gala had connected the CCTV images to his cellphone. So even as the thieves robbed the showroom, the images were transported to Gala's cellphone. Gala, however, had not seen the images till he learnt about the theft on Tuesday morning. The thieves destroyed the CCTV to wipe out evidence.

The Manickpur police has registered a case under sections 380 (theft) and 454 (trespass) of the IPC against the unidentified men. Gala has handed over the images to the police, who suspect it to be the job of an insider. The owner had kept all the mobile stock in the showroom to carry out an audit before the end of the financial year.

This is the second theft in the shop. In 2012, the showroom was robbed by unknown persons. No arrest has been made in the earlier case yet.

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Teens held for stealing logos of luxury cars

MUMBAI: Two teenagers from Palghar, who appeared for their class tenth exams this year, have been arrested for allegedly stealing logos of luxury cars. The boys told the police that they stole the logos for fun and had no idea that it fetched a good price in the market.

The matter came to light when Dr Premchand Gond (50), who had contested the Lok Sabha elections from Palghar on a BJP ticket, complained to the Palghar police about the theft of the logo of his Jaguar car from the garage of his Novel Blossom apartment. The theft was captured on the closed circuit television installed in the garage.

Based on the CCTV clips, the police arrested the two boys, both aged 17. After questioning the boys, who have just appeared for their Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination, the police recovered logos of several luxury cars. The boys told the police that they used to steal the logos as removing the logos of luxury cars was an interesting task and it gave them a thrill.

The police on investigation found that the boys had no intention of selling the logos in the market. The boys were unaware that the logos fetched a good price, if sold. The police suspect the involvement of a few more minor boys from the locality. Logos of luxury cars were reportedly found in the house of a few more teenagers though they had not figured in the CCTV clips.

The arrested teens have been sent to the Bhiwandi Children Remand home.

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Maharashtra minister addresses children with revolver tucked under belt

Written By kom nampultig on Senin, 30 Maret 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Maharashtra's water resource minister Girish Mahajan, who came in for criticism for attending a school function with revolver tucked in his waist, has said that it was business as usual for him and he was carrying the revolver for last 25 years.

"From last 25 years I keep a revolver," Girish Mahajan was quoted as saying by ANI. "I admit that revolver was visible. But never have I pointed a revolver, or gotten involved in violence of any kind in my life."

Earlier, the minister Girish Mahajan came in for criticism for attending a hearing and speech impaired children's event with his revolver tucked in his waist, which was very much visible to everyone.

The incident occurred in Jalgaon city on Saturday during an event held for distribution of educational material to the students.

The minister has a weapons licence. Leader of opposition in legislative council Dhananjay Munde said: "The minister should know what sort of example he is setting for the kids by brazenly displaying his weapon.''

(With inputs from agencies)

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Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan admits carrying gun to school

MUMBAI: Maharashtra's water resource minister Girish Mahajan, who came in for criticism for attending a school function with revolver tucked in his waist, has said that it was business as usual for him and he was carrying the revolver for last 25 years.

"From last 25 years I keep a revolver," Girish Mahajan was quoted as saying by ANI. "I admit that revolver was visible. But never have I pointed a revolver, or gotten involved in violence of any kind in my life."

The incident occurred in Jalgaon city on Saturday during an event held for distribution of educational material to the students.

Defending the minister, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said that the licensed arms were meant for carrying though not allowed to be shown or used while in public.

"There was no intention to create any scare or threaten anyone. And there is absolutely nothing illegal in carrying a licensed arm," Fadnavis said while making a statement in the house after opposition created a ruckus and staged walkout in protest over the incident.

However, Fadnavis agreed with the speaker Haribhau Bagade's directives that no minister should openly use or expose it in the public while carrying. "We will issue proper directives accordingly so that ministers or public representative do not exposing their arms while in public," he said.

The minister has a weapons licence. Leader of opposition in legislative council Dhananjay Munde said: "The minister should know what sort of example he is setting for the kids by brazenly displaying his weapon.''

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Fire breaks out at fibre sheet godown in Maharashtra's Bhiwandi

BHIWANDI (Maharashtra): Fire broke out at a fibre sheet godown in Bhiwandi city in Maharashtra on Monday.

Fire tenders have reached the spot to douse the flames.

No casualties have been reported so far.

Further details are awaited.

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Maharashtra minister draws criticism for carrying gun to school

MUMBAI: Maharashtra water resources minister Girish Mahajan of BJP has come in for criticism for attending a hearing and speech impaired children's event with his revolver tucked in his waist, which was very much visible for everyone.

The incident occurred in Jalgaon city on Saturday during an event held for distribution of educational material to the students.

The minister has a weapons licence. Leader of opposition in legislative council Dhananjay Munde said: "The minister should know what sort of example he is setting for the kids by brazenly displaying his weapon.''

(With inputs from agencies)

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Maharashtra minister admits carrying gun to school, CM defends

MUMBAI: Maharashtra's water resource minister Girish Mahajan, who came in for criticism for attending a school function with revolver tucked in his waist, has said that it was business as usual for him and he was carrying the revolver for last 25 years.

"From last 25 years I keep a revolver," Girish Mahajan was quoted as saying by ANI. "I admit that revolver was visible. But never have I pointed a revolver, or gotten involved in violence of any kind in my life."

The incident occurred in Jalgaon city on Saturday during an event held for distribution of educational material to the students.

Defending the minister, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said that the licensed arms were meant for carrying though not allowed to be shown or used while in public.

"There was no intention to create any scare or threaten anyone. And there is absolutely nothing illegal in carrying a licensed arm," Fadnavis said while making a statement in the house after opposition created a ruckus and staged walkout in protest over the incident.

However, Fadnavis agreed with the speaker Haribhau Bagade's directives that no minister should openly use or expose it in the public while carrying. "We will issue proper directives accordingly so that ministers or public representative do not expose their arms while in public," he said.

The minister has a weapons license. Leader of opposition in legislative council Dhananjay Munde said: "The minister should know what sort of example he is setting for the kids by brazenly displaying his weapon.''

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AAP crisis: Many Maharashtra leaders 'extremely upset', may quit

MUMBAI: A source close to Maharashtra AAP leader Mayank Gandhi said, "It has now become impossible for him (Mayank) to work for the party in current circumstances."

Indicating that AAP's internal crisis is far from over, many Maharashtra leaders are said to be "extremely upset" by the series of stings and controversies that have cast a shadow on the party's founding principles and reconsidering their continuation in the party.

Many leaders from Maharashtra feel that the "Dilli Gang" of AAP leaders "would cast more interference in our unit" after they removed dissident leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from key posts at the March 28 National Council meet.

Expressing "disgust" over the party's line of action, senior Maharashtra leader Maruti Bhapkar on Monday threatened to quit. "Whatever happened in NC meeting was nothing short of murder of democracy. I am deeply hurt and giving a serious thought to quit the party. We will decide our future course of action tomorrow when our state committee meeting takes place," Bhapkar said before leaving Delhi on Monday.

"Maharashtra unit has already been scared of "Dilli Gang" of so-called AAP netas. Now current mudslingings in the party would cast more interference in our unit. We are at the crossroads as of now," said another senior leader from the state, who left Delhi today after taking part in NC meeting.

He said, "Right from the beginning, Delhi leaders never gave free hands to state units and (Arvind) Kejriwal's henchmen such as Kumar Vishwas, Sanjay Singh, Manish Sisodia and Ashish Khetan commanded us at every juncture despite having least experience to deal with masses and volunteers." He, however, said he would like to wait and watch the developments but chances were very bleak to be with the party.

Mayank Gandhi, who spearheaded the Anna Andolan in the state, has already revolted against "dictatorial" attitude of Kejriwal, refused to comment on the issue. But a source close to him said, "It has now become impossible for him (Mayank) to work for the party in current circumstances."

A party insider said, "Apart from Preeti Sharma Menon, former spokesperson of AAP Maharashtra, who was seen taking signatures of the NC members in the meeting, no one else seems enthusiastic to be with the party functionary."

"Anjali Damania (who has already quit), Vijay Pandhare, Subhash Ware and a few other leaders holding posts in state and various district committees are extremely upset by the series of stings and controversies that have cast a shadow on the founding principles of the party," the party insider said.

A prominent AAP leader from Maharashtra, Medha Patkar, had quit the party hours after the NC meeting saying the fundamental principles on which the party was formed had been trampled upon amid the "tamasha" underway in Delhi.

Another senior leader, seeking anonymity, said, "Why did Kejriwal leave Anna Hazare? Just because he wanted to reform the nation by electoral politics. But we were left astonished when he straightforwardly denied fighting Maharashtra Assembly election in October 2014."

"If we are here not to fight the election, then what was wrong to be with Anna only," quipped the leader, adding that Kejriwal had miserably failed to read the aspirations of the volunteers outside Delhi.

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As others watch, boy flies in with help for thirsty bird

Written By kom nampultig on Minggu, 29 Maret 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI: In this fast-paced city where people are always on the run, a touching sight unfolded in Kanjurmarg on a sweltering Saturday afternoon. A dehydrated pariah kite swooped down on the new railway footover bridge with a wild flutter, sending pedestrians scurrying for cover. It turned out that all that the pariah kite was scouting for was, not prey, but a blotch of shade and a few drops to quench its thirst.

Some people stood and stared at the kite which darted glances back at them. As the onlookers stood watching helplessly, standing towards the edge of the bridge, away from the "menacing" bird, it was a young lad, all of 10 years, who sensed the need of the mute creature.

The boy, Akash Yadav, hotfooted to fetch some water in a plastic cup, and then gingerly walked towards the seemingly fatigued bird.

As the child carefully approached the bird with the water, the pleased-looking kite hopped slowly towards the little boy before gratefully dunking its beak into the cup. As if on cue, the bystanders broke into a round of soft applause, some of them capturing the act of kindness on their cellphones.

Animal activist Sunish Subramanian, who is from the Plants & Animals Welfare Society, said it is advisable to keep water bowls in housing societies and balconies for such thirsty birds, especially during the summer.

Little Akash, when asked if he did not fear the big bird, the boy, who lives in a slum rehabilitation building in Kanjurmarg east and studies at a primary school, simply shrugged. Then, his face melting into a boyish smile, he said: "I love birds and animals. Today, I just did what I felt I should."

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Illegal hoardings case: 11 years on, Cong leader acquitted

MUMBAI: A metropolitan magistrate's court recently acquitted a Congress leader charged with illegally putting up cutouts 11 years ago. Bandra resident Ashok Jagtap, also known as Bhai Jagatp, was granted the relief after magistrate M B Patwari observed that there was no evidence to show his involvement in putting up the hoardings.

"It can be said that certain cutouts were raised opposite Eros Cinema in violation of the model of conduct in force at the relevant time due to Parliament elections. However, that will not be sufficient to hold the accused guilty for such violation," the magistrate said.

Jagtap was charged under section three of the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, Maharashtra, 1995. An FIR was registered at Azad Maidan police station on April 29 2004, by a senior inspector, licence, of BMC.

The inspector deposed that on March 1, 2004, he was assigned with the duty to give permission for erecting hoardings. He also deposed that due to elections, the model code of conduct was in force and erection of hoardings or advertisement boards was not permitted.

The court, however, said that the inspector had candidly admitted that he had not seen who had raised the cutouts and when. "His testimony does not suggest that cutouts were erected on the instance of the accused or as per his directions," the court observed.

The court also referred to a statement of another witness, an assistant commissioner of police.

"In the cross-examination he has admitted that he did not find any document to show that the accused gave instructions for raising the cutouts. He also admitted that he did not get direct evidence as to who had raised the cutouts," the magistrate said.

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Hunt for dad with posters, hope

MUMBAI: A telecom engineer, along with her two sisters, are going from station to station in Mumbai suburbs with a picture of their cancer-survivor father who had gone missing from Goa three months ago.

During inquiry, the sisters learnt that their father was seen in the city so they decided to take the help of good samaritans to trace him. The women said their father, Joseph Lopes (65), can't speak after the cancer operation. He stepped out of the vicinity alone after 10 years and the sisters suspect that he may be finding it difficult remembering his address.

When the family approached the Mumbai police for help, they were told that the police cannot help as Joseph went missing from Goa. "We don't know what to do and are trying everything. We know he cannot reach us, so we are trying hard to reach him with the help of people," said one of the sisters, Cinthiya.

Joseph was staying with his wife, a retired teacher, in Vasai. The couple have three daughters, all of whom are married. Joseph had been operated on for throat cancer. He went to Goa along with a group in December and went missing from a market.

The sisters started the search for him in Goa, where a bus driver told them he had seen their father boarding a Mumbai-bound bus. The driver told them it was difficult to understand Joseph but he understood from his distorted voice he wanted to go 'Vasai'.

The sisters started to inquire about Joseph in the city and Navi Mumbai. They also visited old-age homes.

After inquiring with people between Borivli and Virar, the family learnt that he had been spotted in the extended western suburbs. Since last month, they have been standing outside railway stations with a poster of Joseph. Their expectations rose when a woman told them that she had seen their father at Mira Road. But it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

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Compound wall collapse at Dahisar

MUMBAI: Two persons aged 45 and 10 years passed away when the compound wall of an under construction building at Dahisar, fell on a chawl situated near by today early morning.

The two injured were rushed to Shatabdi hospital where they were declared dead. The incident took place at 7.55 am today and the BMC disaster management officials are still at the spot. The under construction building is located on Western Express highway.

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CR installs 658 ATVM at suburban stations

MUMBAI: The Central Railway has installed a total 658 automatic ticket vending machines (ATVMs) for the convenience of commuters.

In the past, it had installed 383 machines in a phased manner at 74 suburban stations and it recently added 275 more machines based on commuter response. The major stastions which has these ATVMs are -- 39 at Thane station, 33 at Kalyan, 24 at Dombivli, 24 at Kurla, 22 at Mulund, 22 at Ghatkopar, 19 at Dadar, 17 at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and more than 10 ATVMs at Byculla, Sion, Vidhyavihar, Kanjurmarg, Bhandup, Kalva, Mumbra, Diva, Ulhasnagar, Ambarnath, Badlapur, Vadala Road, Mankhurd, Vashi, Sanpada, Nerul and Panvel.

Said a CR official, "To purchase a ticket through ATVM the passenger has to purchase a smart card first which can be recharged as per requirement. The passenger is benefited with 5% more value. For example, with a charging of Rs 100. the passenger can purchase tickets valued at Rs 105."

To make these ATVMs more user friendly, CR has deputed retired government employees as facilitators for the ATVMs at some of the crowded stations. "The sale through ATVMs is about 21% of total sale of tickets thereby reducing the queues on counters considerably," the official added.

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Extra coaches in two WR trains to clear passenger rush

MUMBAI :To clear the extra rush of passengers, the Western Railways (WR) has decided to add additional coaches on temporary basis in two long distance trains, an official from WR headquarters here said.

"An AC 2-tier coach will be added to train number 12489/12490 Dadar - Bikaner Express from April 4 to 28 ex Bikaner and from April 5 to 29 ex Dadar on nominated days. With this, the train will run with load of 20 coaches," a WR official said.

Similarly, an AC 2-tier coach will be added to train number 22473/ 22474 Bandra Terminus - Bikaner Express from April 6 to 27 ex Bikaner and from April 7 to 28 ex Bandra Terminus on nominated days. With this, the train will run with load of 21 coaches. the official added.

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Public hospitals lag in organ donation, JJ, Nair never had any

Written By kom nampultig on Sabtu, 28 Maret 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI: BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunte on Friday pledged his organs and even made his deputies emulate the gesture. But cadaver-donation activists are skeptical if it will be enough of a push for the public sector to finally start making its critical contribution to the city's cadaver donation pool.

Of the record 41 cadaver donations in the city last year, barely two came from KEM Hospital, Parel. Of all civic-run hospitals, including three tertiary and 18 peripheral, KEM was the only one to identify 50 brain stem deaths in 2014, while Sion Hospital managed to do four despite handling the highest number of trauma cases in the city. Identifying and reporting such patients to the state was made mandatory in 2012.

None of the four families at Sion consented for organ donation. BYL Nair, Mumbai Central, did not identify a single brain dead patient. The state-run 170-year-old JJ Hospital, Byculla, has never carried out a cadaver donation.

Dr Suhasini Nagda, director of major BMC hospitals, assured TOI that the situation in BMC hospitals will change as the civic body plans to hire dedicated transplant coordinators. "The challenges of converting brain stem deaths to successful organ donations are varied," she said. KEM's dean Dr Avinash Supe said public hospitals primarily cater to a section of society that is unaware about organ donation. "It therefore gets tough to get consent," he said. Supe said the fact that public hospitals also deal with a lot of accident cases makes things tougher from the medico-legal perspective.

Dean of JJ Hospital Dr TP Lahane said people, even from rural areas, are willing to donate eyes, but not organs. "If we push too much, the relatives misread our intentions and even get violent. Private hospitals have an advantage over us as they cater to the educated," he said.

The Zonal Transplant Coordination Committee (ZTCC) that distributes cadaver organs feels the state's involvement should go beyond insisting on hospitals to report brain stem deaths. The ZTCC has sent several proposals asking the state to provide funds since 1995, to no avail. At the sidelines of an event at Asian Heart Hospital on Friday, where organ donor families were felicitated, Dr Sujata Patwardhan said they have demanded a monthly expenditure of Rs 65,000 from the state, but are waiting for a response. President of ZTCC Dr Gustad Davar said the state also needs to look into the cost aspect of maintaining a patient in an organ retrieval non-transplant centre and offer solutions.

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IITians' 2nd Mars rover a hit at fest

MUMBAI: Almost two years after completing the first Mars rover, Mars Society India, which is based at IIT-Bombay, has come up with a second hi-tech one. Both are on display at the Innovation Festival organized by the Nehru Science Centre at Worli. The programme is open till Sunday between 10am and 5pm.

Work on the second rover was initiated in December and completed 10 days ago.

Both rovers were attracting a lot of interest among visitors to the festival, particularly schoolkids who are vying with each other to get their pictures clicked with the devices.

Though the second rover is more sophisticated than the first one, it costs less. While the first rover cost Rs 8 lakh, the second one is Rs 6 lakh.

Pranav Bende of the rover project told TOI that even the mass of the second one has been reduced. "The mass of the first one was 75 kg while the new one is 50 kg," he said.

The IITians are planning to participate in the 2015 University Rover Challenge organized by the Mars Society at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, US.

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Cyber legal eagles to review IT sections

MUMBAI: Following the SC verdict scrapping section 66A of the Information Technology Act, cyber law advocates and activists will meet soon to review its other provisions.

On Monday , a meeting will be held at the Public Policy Research Work Centre, New Delhi, to look at other sections as well as procedural provisions which may prove to be either a stumbling block or still disproportionately harsh in dealing with offences they seek to prevent. Advocate N S Nappinai from Mumbai will highlight provisions which still need to be reviewed, like section 66F which deals with cyber terrorism and some civil provisions to give recognition to electron ic contracts. Also likely to be discussed is whether section 67 should be made bailable. At present, any pornographic image or messages that may be construed obscene can land one in jail for up to five years if held guilty . Activists are battling to make it bailable on the grounds that it can be misused as obscene is not defined.

Vijay Mukhi, a cyber expert, cautioned that the "internet is the most lawless place in the world'' and laws need to be in place to check criminal actions online. "People should not be sent to jail for making fun of the high and mighty . If the Act is being misused, people who misuse it must be punished."--Swati Deshpande

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Brothers held for stealing Rs 3 crore gold

MUMBAI: Nearly a week after two brothers allegedly stole gold ornaments worth Rs 3 crore from a jewellery store in Goregaon, they were arrested from Rajasthan. Brothers Kisan Kharol and Nilesh had broken into the shop where they worked, on March 21, said the police.

Of the 8 kg gold they took from the shop, 5.4 kg was recovered. It was stashed away in a pit dug in a field in Chhittodgad district, said police inspector Chimaji Adhav.

The theft came to light on March 21 when owner of Mayur Jewellers, Vishal Soni, found that the shutter broken and ornaments from the safe gone..

A police officer said they learnt that two staffers, the Kharol brothers, had not reported to work. A check of their call reports data revealed that the two were in the vicinity of the shop, raising suspicion.

Additional commissioner of police KNN Prasanna said that after stealing the ornaments, the two fled to Rajasthan. "The gold was buried in a field," he said.

The brothers planned to set up their store with the booty.

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Partial relief for accused in Wadia deposition

MUMBAI: The sessions court has in a conditional order rejected a plea made by Kirti Ambani for an in-camera deposition by industrialist Nusli Wadia as a witness in a 25-yearold case of a murder attempt on his life. The court has imposed certain conditions on media reporting of the deposition. It has directed that any reference to business rivalry of the companies with respect to the present case made during the deposition cannot be reported when it takes place in the open court.

The court will next month fix a date for Wadia's deposition as a witness.

The case, which dates back to an alleged attempt made in 1988-89 on Wadia's life, has Kirti Ambani, then a senior executive at Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) as a prime accused. According to the chargesheet, Wadia said Kirti used to then report to the company honcho, Mukesh Ambani, directly .

Late last year, the sessions court allowed Wadia's application to be allowed to testify as a witness. Wadia said he wanted to depose on the alleged motive and "larger conspiracy" behind the alleged murder attempt.

The CBI had dropped Wadia as its prosecution witness after first summoning him. But Wadia's counsel Mahesh Jethmalani argued that his testimony is crucial to understand the conspiracy . CBI questioned the delay, but had no objection.

In his earlier court arguments, Amit Desai, Ambani's counsel, had said Wadia's plea was "belated" and appeared to have an "ulterior motive" and allowing his deposition when all witnesses had already testified would violate the right to free and speedy trial of the accused.--Swati Deshpande

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Fire in Mumbai building

MUMBAI: Fire broke out in a building in Antop Hill area here on Saturday, fire brigade sources said.

The fire broke out on the fourth floor of the Dosti Acre building, they said.

Four fire engines have been rushed to the spot. So far, there are no reports of any injuries. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, they said.

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Bangladeshi held in city for WB nun’s rape

Written By kom nampultig on Jumat, 27 Maret 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI: In the first arrest in last week's gangrape of a 71-year-old nun in Nadia, West Bengal, the city crime branch on Wednesday night nabbed a 31-year-old Bangladeshi fisherman. Sikander Shaikh aka Salim was nabbed from his sister's house in Reay Road, a fishermen's colony which is home to many illegal migrants.

Crime branch sources said Bengal police had been studying the dam data of a particular cell tower at Ranaghat, where the crime took place, and had stumbled upon a cell number. "They gave us the number. Our teams wor- ked for three days and tracked him down to South Mumbai. We have handed him over to the Bengal police," top cop Rakesh Maria said.

The Bengal cops have taken Sikander to Kolkata and plan to parade him before the elderly nun so that she can identify him.

His arrest assumes significance as it could lead police to the other culprits in the nun's rape. Sources said the Bengal CID has detained an associate of Sikander from the Bangladesh border and they are verifying from Sikander if the arrested man was indeed part of his gang.

During the course of the probe, it transpired that Sikander was an illegal Bangladeshi migrant who had settled in India when he was about 18 years old. Initially, he went fishing with his community members, but soon started visiting beer bars where he fell in love with a bar girl, Leena, and married her. Late 2006, he shifted to Surat and did odd jobs. In 2008, he allegedly learned that Leena was having an extramarital affair, leading to fights between the couple. Sikander then started torturning Leena, resulting in her filing a dowry harassment case under IPC section 498, leading to his arrest by Byculla police.

After he came out on bail, Sikander kept shuttling between Mumbai, Surat and Bangladesh. "His sister has told police that he often demanded money for his nightlife. He also started luring Bangladeshi youths to the city to commit thefts. The probe has suggested that Sikander was the gang leader in the rape," an officer said.

Interestingly, this is the same place from where a thief, Badshah Ali, was arrested for sneaking into a Bandra flat and raping a Spanish national in 2013.

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City chorus sings Cradle Song composer’s grave masterpiece

BALM FOR THE SOUL: Brahms's Requiem is grim only in name. It serenely says live life to the fullest

MUMBAI: Every night young parents around the world sing Lullaby & Goodnight at the cradle. Few know that the composer of the melody also wrote for the grave. But Brahms was no priest of doom. And though his looks were brooding, he wasn't in particular inclined to gloom.
Thus it is that his biggest work, his requiem, a form that in the hands of most composers continues to be a prayer for the dead, bears the cheerful message that life is brief, make the most of it—or so to speak. On Friday, the city's very own Paranjoti Academy Chorus will present Brahms's 'A German Requiem' in English at the NCPA. It comes about a month and a half after the city staged another great requiem—Verdi's.
The word 'German' in Brahms's title refers to the composer's mother tongue and not to portentous signs or events. The piece comprises seven parts and takes on an average 75 minutes to perform. Some say Brahms wrote it in the memory of his mother, who died in 1865, while others that Schumann's descent into madness, suicide attempt and finally death in 1856 was also a reason. Some dismiss both theories and straightaway tune in to the music.
What is indisputable is that the piece was completed in 1868 and written for chorus, soprano and baritone solos, and orchestra. Brahms also fashioned a piano duet out of the orchestral parts, which scholars say is not merely a pianistic reduction, but a transformed work where the beauty of its intricate choral parts becomes augmented. It's this version that the 43-member Paranjoti choir will perform. The soloists will be Goan soprano Joanne D'Mello and Bangalore baritone Rahul Bhardwaj. The pianists are Canadian Paul Stewart and Mumbai's Parvesh Java.
Rehearsals started in October. "We would rehearse once a week because that's all the time they could spare. Their jobs are very demanding. We work with whatever we have. It's tough," says Coomi Wadia, the choir's conductor for 47 years. From Saturday onwards, marathon rehearsals have been held every evening.
Wadia took up the baton when the choir's founder, conductor-composer Victor Paranjoti, died in 1967. He was a man of many talents and is best remembered for his pioneering work towards integrating Western and Indian music.
This is only the second time in about 50 years that the choir, which sings in Sanskrit, Gujarati and Hindi as well, will perform the Brahms Requiem, which is among the most exalted but not the easiest of Western choral works. It is going to be a venture and also an act of virtue. "We are not paid. I am paid elsewhere, in other choirs, but here it's totally voluntary," says Wadia. "We do it for the love of it."

MELTING POT: The Paranjoti Academy Chorus, in which people of all colours and communities converge, performed Brahms's 'A German Requiem' at the NCPA, Mumbai, on March 27, 2015

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Mumbai doctor absent during delivery, will pay Rs 19 lakh as baby dies

MUMBAI: A consumer forum recently directed a doctor to pay a compensation of Rs 19 lakh (including interest) to a Malad woman who lost her child hours after birth due to his absence during birth and late arrival when the child was in distress.

"The death was due to the doctor's negligence. He is responsible for the trauma caused to the family," the Mumbai Suburban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum said.

It said the doctor was aware that the woman was in a pregnancy that had exceeded the normal term and under such circumstances his continuous presence and extra caution were absolutely necessary during the birth.

A complaint was filed by the child's mother, Sonu Kareer, and the case was argued by the father, Pankaj. Sonu was pregnant and had approached the doctor, who owned the nursing home, Matruchhaya, in 2003. When she went for her check-up on October 18, the doctor told her that the child could arrive anytime. The doctor also advised Sonu to admit herself at another hospital at Kandivli on the onset of labour pains.

READ ALSO: Botched govt sterilization kills 11 women in Chhattisgarh

Two-year-old kid's body exhumed after dad alleges medical negligence
Sonu went into labour and was taken to the hospital at 12.30pm on October 28. The doctor arrived at about 4pm, and after conducting an examination concluded that she would deliver in 15 minutes. The doctor then left for home. Sonu experienced severe discomfort at 5.30pm. When she asked for the doctor, the nurse informed her that he would arrive soon, and wheeled her into the operation theatre. The child was born with only the nurse overseeing the delivery. When the doctor arrived, he advised the family to take the child to a children's hospital. But the child was pronounced dead on arrival at the children's hospital.

The forum refuted the doctor's claim that the baby was stillborn and that he had done everything possible to revive him. It observed that the post-mortem report showed that the death was unnatural and caused due to asphyxia. The forum stated that after the child was born, the umbilical cord was found to be wrapped around its neck, and he was breathing laboriously due to this. "This is enough to prove that the child was alive when he was born," the forum said.

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Mumbai doctor pays for absence during delivery

MUMBAI: A consumer forum recently directed a doctor to pay a compensation of Rs 19 lakh (including interest) to a Malad woman who lost her child hours after birth due to his absence during birth and late arrival when the child was in distress.

"The death was due to the doctor's negligence. He is responsible for the trauma caused to the family," the Mumbai Suburban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum said.

It said the doctor was aware that the woman was in a pregnancy that had exceeded the normal term and under such circumstances his continuous presence and extra caution were absolutely necessary during the birth.

A complaint was filed by the child's mother, Sonu Kareer, and the case was argued by the father, Pankaj. Sonu was pregnant and had approached the doctor, who owned the nursing home, Matruchhaya, in 2003. When she went for her check-up on October 18, the doctor told her that the child could arrive anytime. The doctor also advised Sonu to admit herself at another hospital at Kandivli on the onset of labour pains.

READ ALSO: Botched govt sterilization kills 11 women in Chhattisgarh

Two-year-old kid's body exhumed after dad alleges medical negligence
Sonu went into labour and was taken to the hospital at 12.30pm on October 28. The doctor arrived at about 4pm, and after conducting an examination concluded that she would deliver in 15 minutes. The doctor then left for home. Sonu experienced severe discomfort at 5.30pm. When she asked for the doctor, the nurse informed her that he would arrive soon, and wheeled her into the operation theatre. The child was born with only the nurse overseeing the delivery. When the doctor arrived, he advised the family to take the child to a children's hospital. But the child was pronounced dead on arrival at the children's hospital.

The forum refuted the doctor's claim that the baby was stillborn and that he had done everything possible to revive him. It observed that the post-mortem report showed that the death was unnatural and caused due to asphyxia. The forum stated that after the child was born, the umbilical cord was found to be wrapped around its neck, and he was breathing laboriously due to this. "This is enough to prove that the child was alive when he was born," the forum said.

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Bangladeshi held in Mumbai for Bengal nun’s rape

MUMBAI: In the first arrest in last week's gang rape of a 71-year-old nun in Nadia, West Bengal, the city crime branch on Wednesday night nabbed a 31-year-old Bangladeshi fisherman. Sikander Shaikh aka Salim was nabbed from his sister's house in Reay Road, a fishermen's colony which is home to many illegal migrants.

READ ALSO: 71-year-old nun gang-raped in West Bengal, minister blames ghar wapsi

Crime branch sources said West Bengal police had been studying the dam data of a particular cell tower at Ranaghat, where the crime took place, and had stumbled upon a cell number. "They gave us the number. Our teams worked for three days and tracked him down to south Mumbai. We have handed him over to the Bengal police," top cop Rakesh Maria said.

READ ALSO: CID arrests suspect from Mumbai

The West Bengal cops have taken Sikander to Kolkata and plan to parade him before the elderly nun so that she can identify him.

His arrest assumes significance as it could lead police to the other culprits in the nun's rape. Sources said the Bengal CID has detained an associate of Sikander from the Bangladesh border and they are verifying from Sikander if the arrested man was indeed part of his gang.

READ ALSO: Bengal nun prays for forgiveness of her rapists

During the course of the probe, it transpired that Sikander was an illegal Bangladeshi migrant who had settled in India when he was about 18 years old. Initially, he went fishing with his community members, but soon started visiting beer bars where he fell in love with a bar girl, Leena, and married her. Late 2006, he shifted to Surat and did odd jobs. In 2008, he allegedly learned that Leena was having an extramarital affair, leading to fights between the couple.


Christians take part in a peace rally and protest in Allahabad on March 22, 2015 after the rape of a nun in West Bengal. (AFP Photo by Sanjay Kanojia)

Sikander then started torturing Leena, resulting in her filing a dowry harassment case under IPC section 498, leading to his arrest by Byculla police.

After he came out on bail, Sikander kept shuttling between Mumbai, Surat and Bangladesh. "His sister has told police that he often demanded money for his nightlife. He also started luring Bangladeshi youths to the city to commit thefts. The probe has suggested that Sikander was the gang leader in the rape," an officer said.

Interestingly, this is the same place from where a thief, Badshah Ali, was arrested for sneaking into a Bandra flat and raping a Spanish national in 2013.

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Drivers flees away with ATM cash van in Mumbai

MUMBAI: In a yet another ATM cash van robbery, a driver of a private security firm engaged by the Central Bank of India fled away with the van carrying cash of Rs 1.25 crore on Sion-Trombay road on Friday afternoon.

Two hours later the Bolero jeep was found abandoned near Don Bosco school in Matunga. The Trombay police have registered a case of robbery and the crime branch units too have swung into action to trace the driver identified as Amar Singh (28) employed just recently.

This is not a stray incident as just in the month of January the custodian of the bank, two guards, including Alam, and a driver loaded cash into the van from their office at Lower Parel and set off to stock up ATMs in the suburbs when driver Sadru Alam spiked the tea of his colleagues and fled away with the van carrying cash Rs 1.95 crores.

In the fresh incident on Friday the Logicash security firm engaged by the Central bank of India started its day in their Bolero jeep carrying cash from its office in Belapur in Navi Mumbai. At around 12 while the two security guards, a bank official and a loader got off the van to deposit cash of Rs 16 lakhs at ATM on Sion-Trombay road. "Only the four went inside with the cash, the driver Amar Singh secretly fled away with the Bolero jeep and when bank official tried calling him but his cell phone was found switched off," said an officer.

Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria said that even in this case too the bank staffers have not followed the laid down standard operating procedure. "When the bank staff got off to refill the cash in the ATM, all the four of them went inside leaving the driver with cash. The cash box's keys too was with the driver."

A few hours later the Bolero jeep was found abandoned near Don Bosco school in Matunga.

The police have registered a robbery case and teams have fanned out to locate Singh a driver employed by Logicash. Police have collected his picture from the cctv footage and his photo from his driving license. Police are trying to find out whether he had got police verification done before engaging him. But police said that often it is seen that the security agencies don't do background checks while engaging people in their firms. "We are trying to find out whether the other staffers of the security firm followed the SPO while unloading the cash at ATM," said Vinay Rathod, DCP zone 7 who is holding charge of zone 6.

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Celebrities attend the premiere show of Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha in Mumbai

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 26 Maret 2015 | 22.23

The premiere show of Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha, starring actors Neena Gupta and Anupam Kher, had the audience giving them a long standing ovation at the end.

The play, that was directed by Rakesh Bedi, bought tears in the eyes of many that included not just the women in the audience but also men. While Anupam is a veteran on stage, it was wonderful to see Neena Gupta return to acting and that too giving such a sensitive performance that had many difficult shades to it.

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Offices induce fans with ultra-HD sets & snacks, restaurants with discounts

As India face off with Australia in a few hours, Mumbaikars have come up with various strategies to not miss out on the most-anticipated match of the Cricket World Cup on a workday. At the collective level, while corporations have come up with incentives so that staff do not desert offices, bars and restaurants hope to make most of a rare opportunity.

Home and workplace

"Three of my colleagues are planning to take leave," says Aditya Sathe, laughing. "Such an amateur move. I'm going to play it smart—come to work and then spend the day watching the match." Instead of tackling client briefs, the 28-year-old media professional has decided that cheering on the Indian team would be "a much nobler use" of his time. He isn't quite sure his bosses will have the same opinion though, and hastily requests that his name be changed.

Sathe may well have underestimated his employers' love for the sport. As India and Australia square off in the World Cup's second semifinal today, corporate houses are joining in the celebration. From screening matches in the cafeteria to asking employees to tog out in Team India's colours, companies have decided to view the match as an opportunity for employee-bonding, rather than a day when half the office calls in sick.

"We have put (an ultra HD) TV in the middle of the office, which people may not have at home," said Harit Nagpal, MD and CEO, Tata Sky. At Godrej Industries, snacks have been organized to go with the screening.

Those who don't have such luxuries will bank on live internet streaming. "Staying at home isn't an option. We will stream the match on one of the computers," said Sana Aurora, who works with a financial firm in Santacruz.

Mondelez India (formerly Cadbury India) employees can head to a photo-booth to click keepsakes with fellow fans or, in the case of more ardent supporters, get the tricolour painted on their faces. "There will be chocolates and food flowing through the match." At the same time, companies maintain that employees are free to use leave days should they prefer to stay at home.

"The office has planned a screening," said Ritesh Gaind, assistant manager, Mahindra Rural Finance. "But for this, employees would definitely take the day off."

In the dealing rooms of broking houses too, at least one TV screen—usually tuned in to a business channel—will show the semifinal. Thankfully, a dealer said, there has not been much action in the market.

Hotels and eateries

Restaurants are cashing in on the season's special, with offers and live screenings. Andheri's Zouk Grill and Bar has rolled out deals on alcohol, breakfast and lunch. The restaurant has already received over 80 group bookings. At the Grand Hyatt, bartenders have designed a mocktail called 'Clean Bowled' in the spirit of the World Cup. The five-star hotel is offering a 50% discount on select alcoholic beverages during 'cricket hours'. Pop Tate's, which has five screens, too, is expecting a full house. "The crowd tends to be pretty high whenever there is a match. And this particular game is extra-special," said manager Arvind.

Unlucky citizens

For students though, it isn't all play due to the ongoing board exams. HSC students across the state are taking the online IT exam on Thursday. "My exam was scheduled for March 24, but did not occur due to a technical problem. It's now rescheduled for March 27. This means I can't forget about the exam and enjoy the match," said a student of an Andheri school. Similarly, over 50,000 students will appear for various SSC papers on Thursday.

Those like commerce student Akshay Bauva are trying to scope out the brighter side. "We have an exam from 8.30 am to 10.30 am and are going to miss the first innings, but will soon head for a restaurant nearby to catch the rest of the match," he said.

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Metro III car shed at Aarey stayed: Fadnavis

MUMBAI: Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis clarified in the legislative council on Wednesday that the plan for the Metro III car shed at Aarey Colony had been stayed. He said a committee had been formed to suggest another location for the car shed.

Fadnavis was replying to starred questions by Prakash Binsale (Nationalist Congress Party). Binsale said various organizations had opposed the cutting of trees for the car shed as it will affect the green lungs of the city.

"The city is already losing its green space. What is the government doing to conserve green zones?" asked Binsale.

Fadnavis said that a decision will be taken only after the committee's recommendations are received.

"People also do not want trees to be cut," he said.

Bhai Jagtap (Congress) pointed out that the government should consider the people's outrage taking into consideration the survival rate of transplanted trees. Kapil Patil (Lok Bharati) suggested that the government should consider other options for the car shed, like the Mahalaxmi race course, Mazagon Docks or Mumbai Port Trust land.

Of 2,298 trees the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has proposed to transplant 2,044 and hack 254 to make way for the car shed. The proposal has been pending with the civic Tree Authority Committee after being opposed by corpoartors and committee members. The committee is headed by the municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte.

Fadnavis said, "The Tree Authority has suggested transplanting 800 trees at the same place as the survival rate of transplanted trees is 90-95% in the same soil."

Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray had last month visited the picnic spot and said the Metro III project should be scrapped if it adversely affected the environment. Along with civic groups, the Congress, NCP and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have voiced opposition to any construction inside the green lung.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had organized a protest rally against the car shed.

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Desi feel in Aussie air as fans fly down to Sydney

MUMBAI: Probably for the first time in history, Australian skipper Micheal Clarke and his boys will find today that the Sydney stadium is no longer their home ground. The 42,000-seat venue would mysteriously seem to be India as it will be largely packed with Indians, quite a number of them from Mumbai. The home ground advantage would clearly be with the Men in Blue.

According to World Cup organizers, Indian fans have bought about 70% of the tickets for the semifinal match. The effect is already visible Down Under. "The international flight from Auckland to Sydney today seemed like an Indian domestic flight with conversations being held in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu and Tamil. Going by the indications given here, the ratio of blue to yellow at the stadium will be 90:10," said Ravi Raman, who heads a financial company in Mumbai and is in Sydney to catch the match.

A spokesperson of the Australian high commission said, "Over three months (December 2014 to February 2015) we received a total of 38,663 tourist visa applications. In the same period a year ago, we received 28,199 applications."

Deven Ghabawala, a chartered accountant from Mumbai, was chilling out in Darling Harbour late on Wednesday evening with five friends when he spoke to TOI. "This morning, I was on a Metro, which went past Sydney's domestic and international airports and I saw about 50-60 Indians, all cricket fans, get onto the train at the airport station," he said. "If the view from the harbour is blue, it is because 2,000-3,000 Indians are milling around in their team's colours."

Siddharth Raman, who works for an advertising firm, watched the India-South Africa match and said the Melbourne ground could have been in Mumbai. "In the 90,000-seat stadium, about 80,000 spectators were Indians," he said. The adrenaline spike began just after he and his wife alighted at the Melbourne central Metro station for the ten-minute walk to the stadium. They ran into Indians playing the dhol, with faces painted in tricolour, in blue T-shirts, with placards... An unforgettable moment came before the match began when the stadium got on its feet to sing the Indian national anthem. "It was booming. I've never heard Jana Gana Mana reverberate so deeply and loudly. It gave me goosebumps," he said.

What added to the experience was the way things were managed. Ravi Raman, who saw a match in Auckland, said there was no sledging, comments... "This standard was maintained off the field and in the crowd. The Auckland administration had announced free train and bus travel to the stadium and back for all those with match tickets."

Jay Bhatia, chairman, Travel Agents Association of India, said, "With India in the semis, bookings and inquiries for Australia has gone up greatly. Getting hotel rooms is becoming harder. Normally, the rate for a 3-star room there is Rs 6,000-9,000, but now it is over Rs 30,000."

Amit Taneja, chief revenue officer, Cleartrip, said, "After India's progress to the semis, we saw a 346% jump in bookings for destinations like Adelaide, as compared to the same period last year."

The airline industry had indeed expected this level of interest. Before the matches began, Air India, which operates to Australia out of Delhi, introduced a menu with dishes like Raina's Cheesy Pull Shot, Sachin's Sweet Drive, Dhoni's Swashbuckling Super Sixer, and Captain Smith's Catch of the Season. Singapore Airlines' general manager, India, David Lau said they have seen more than 10% growth in demand to Australia from India.

Nishant Kashikar, country manager (India & Gulf), Tourism Australia, said, "Indian cricket enthusiasts also have the opportunity to enjoy a holiday visiting popular attractions, including the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Great Ocean Road, the Great Barrier Reef, Kangaroo Island, and Uluru, among others."

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Tax relief for kidney ailment medicines

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government will waive taxes on medicines for dialysis and kidney-related treatment.

It will also come up with a special law to curb malpractices in paramedical services, like pathology laboratories, and regulate their fees and overall functioning.

Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, while replying to a debate on his budget in the state assembly, had earlier announced a waiver for medicines required for cancer and heart patients.

Mungantiwar, in his budget speech, had promised to list out cancer medicines which will be notified for tax waiver soon. Sources said even machinery and surgical equipment required for dialysis and kidney treatment may get some waivers, taking into consideration the high cost of such treatment in private hospitals.

Officials said advanced machinery for dialysis was available only at private hospitals.

The tax on 'guide wire', required for medical treatment of heart patients, has also been reduced from 12.5% to 5%, which will ultimately reduce the cost of heart treatment and operations from the beginning of the new fiscal.

Replying to a calling attention motion over the alleged bogus operation of pathology labs and exorbitant fees charged by them from poor patients in the state, education minister Vinod Tawde said the Maharashtra Paramedical Council Bill (2011) would have to be redrafted to make rules stringent.

"The earlier draft was not sufficient to tackle issues which path labs must follow in the interest of patients. We will present it in the next assembly session after incorporating changes," he said, ruling out rampant black-marketing of diagnostic services by path labs and proper government control on them.

Earlier, legislators had alleged that there were nearly 5,000 bogus labs operating in the state by employing SSC or HSC pass students. "Strong action will be taken if we find any lab that has employed unqualified people," Tawde promised.

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Annu Kapoor, Paresh Rawal and Naseeruddin Shah at the trailer launch of Dharam Sankat Mein

The trailer launch of Dharam Sankat Mein saw cast members Naseeruddin Shah, Paresh Rawal and Annu Kapoor, all sporting quirky sunglasses.

Talking about the film, they revealed that it revolves around a Hindu man Dharampal (Rawal) who goes through an identity crisis when he discovers he was adopted as a child and born to a Muslim family. Naseer will be playing the role of Neelanand Baba and Annu has an equally important part as Mehmood. The film's story showcases how Dharampal is forced to follow the hilarious Neelanand Baba and his quirky Neel eccentricities. Also seen in attendance was Ajit Andhare (COO, Viacom18 Motion Pictures). The film, produced by Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Trigno Media, releases April 10.

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Major fire breaks out at commercial complex in Andheri East, Mumbai

Written By kom nampultig on Rabu, 25 Maret 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI: A major fire broke out at a commercial building near ​the Andheri East railway station in Mumbai this morning.

Thick smoke was seen billowing from the multistory building located in Andheri.

Some people were trapped, and were later brought out safely.

The grade-2 fire broke out on the second floor of 8-storey 'Business Point' building on the Western Express Highway near suburban Andheri, fire brigade officials said.

"We got a call of fire this morning and subsequently sent four fire engines and four tankers to the spot. The fire had broken out on the second floor, room no. 349, of the building," the official said.

Later, the blaze was brought under control and cooling operations were under way, he said.

The official said that all those present in the building were safely brought out of the premises and there was no injury in the incident.

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State govt to redraft the old bill to create separate law for regulating paramedical services

MUMBAI: State government will redraft the old bill to create separate law for regulating paramedical services such as pathology laboratories to avoid malpractices.

Education minister Vinod Tawde said government would take strong action against illegal pathology labs in by framing stringent rules. He was speaking assembly during question hour.

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Marine drive cops names senior officers

MUMBAI: Marine Drive constable's drug peddling case gets murkier with constable Dharam Kalokhe making serious allegations of involvement of some senior custom and police official.

Kalokhe's advocate Navin Chomal in an open court on Wednesday made alleged that Kalokhe has been framed in the case and there are some senior customs as well police officials involved in the racket and to save their skin, they have made Kalokhe a scapegoat.

''I have challenge the registeration of the fresh FIR at Marine Drive when the Kandala police of Satara district has already registered the case and have probe Mumbai angle. Secondly Kalokhe is just a small constable and it is not possible for him to commit crime of such a great magnitude single handedly and senior customs and police officials are involved in the facilitation of the commission of the crime.'' Said Chomal.

Chomal further said that Satara police have interrogated him on length regarding the role of a custom official and an IPS officer in the case. Kalokhe himself told his friend while being taken to the 37th Metropolitan magistrate court that if he opens his mouth many heads may role in. Meanwhile the senior IPS official against whome Kalokhe has made allegations, rubbished this saying the accused will make all sorts of allegations to divert/mislead the investigation.

Kalokhe who was arrested by the Marine Drive police on Wednesday after 12 kgs of MD was found in his cupboard at Marine Drive police station. He was produced before the court and was remanded to police custody under the NDPS act.

Kalokhe has also alleged that he has learnt that the police were torturing Shasikala alias Baby Patankar's kin to trace and arrest her. In his application Kalokhe said that Patankar is being hounded by cops as she has been perusing a matter against certain police officer who had committed criminal dereliction of their duties in the matter of kidnapping and gang rape of her niece. ''Her kin are toture to the extend that one of them have been admitted in ICU. And that's why I sought permission from the court that Kalokhe be interrogated in presence of his advocate and the matter is kept for hearing on March 26'' Said Chomal.

Meanwhile Mumbai police have almost completed the pre inquiry for dismissing Kalokhe under article 311 of Indian constitution and have forwarded the same to the director general of police which is the competent authority. Sources said that if DG accepts his police report, his dismissal order will come by this weekend.

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Major fire breaks out at commercial complex in Mumbai

MUMBAI: A major fire broke out this morning at a commercial building near ​the Andheri East railway station in Mumbai.

Thick smoke is seen billowing from the multistory building located in Andheri.

Some people are suspected to be trapped in it.

Ambulances and eight fire engines are pressed in service for evacuation and rescue operations.

The building is being evacuated, say the police.

No injuries have been reported so far.

Details awaited...

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Trucker runs over stray in Malad, booked

MUMBAI: Animal rights activists have lodged a complaint against the driver of a concrete-mixer truck which rashly and fatally ran over a stray dog in Bangur Nagar, Malad (west) on Tuesday.

''We have lodged an FIR against the driver identified as Vinod Vishwakarma at the Bangur Nagar police station for rash driving and killing an animal under sections 429 and 279 of the Indian Penal Code and under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,'' said the animal activist Bhavin Gathani of Karuna Parivar Trust.

The accused driver, Vishwakarma, reportedly fled from the spot after the accident. Police said that they have seized the concrete-mixer truck from the accident spot.

''We are spreading mass awareness among citizens and motorists to drive carefully as killing any animal on the road is a punishable offence with a prison term of five years. Also, while restarting a parked vehicle, the drivers must give a few seconds to ensure that any sleeping dog and car underneath is able to get out of the way.

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Radio series celebrates World Theatre Day March 27

MUMBAI: Artistes from the world of drama, film and television are preparing to celebrate World Theatre Day March 27.

The radio channel Big FM has prepared a five-day series of programmes on the occasion from March 23-27. RJ Siddharth is interviewing celebrities like Sarita Joshi, Rakesh Bedi, Anupam Kher, Makarand Deshpande, Barry John, Manav Kaul and Swanand Kirkire whose passion for theatre has remained undiluted despite the name and fame they gained from other media.

"We have divided the series into different segments by speaking to artistes who are combining careers in film and TV with theatre, those who remain exclusive to stage, as well as mentors and veterans of regional drama in Marathi and Gujarati," says Siddharth.

The show is being aired from 9.00-10.00am each day. It is archived on soundcloud.com/rjsiddharth.

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Railway cops return bag with gold

Written By kom nampultig on Selasa, 24 Maret 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI: The Bandra GRP recently returned a bag containing gold jewellery to the woman who had left it behind in a local train. On Saturday, GRP personnel were checking the ladies coach of a Churchgate-Bandra local on Platform 1.

At 11.50 pm, they found the bag with the contact details of its owner, Ashwini Kadam of Byculla.

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Lift mishap kills 23-yr-old set-to-wed girl

MUMBAI: A 23-year-old woman, busy with last-minute preparations for her wedding, was killed while trying to get into the elevator of a Malad society on Sunday night.

Alia Waraliya, the deceased, was trapped when the automatic door shut and the elevator started moving up. Police are probing whether Alia was blocking the door as she had been gesturing to her mother to enter after her. Alia lived with her parents and three siblings at Pathanwadi in Malad (East).

Her father is a businessman. She was to tie the knot next month, relatives said. On Sunday night, Alia was headed to meet a friend who stays in Al-Muzalfa society in Pathanwadi, to place an order for mehndi for her wedding. Al-Muzalfa is a 10-storey SRA building that came up in 2010.

Alia and her mother reached the building's ground floor around 8pm and called for the elevator. "Two other people were already inside the elevator. Alia was halfway in while her mother stood behind her. She was asking her mother to step into the elevator when the doors shut. The elevator started moving upwards with Alia's body stuck in the door. She crashed her head against the roof of the entrance to the elevator," said Jaychandra Kathe, senior inspector, Kurar police.

Alia's mother began to scream for help. The horrified occupants of the elevator also started punching buttons and trying to prise open the doors. Eventually, the building's watchman managed to bring Alia out from the first floor. The floor as well as the elevator was covered with blood, said residents. Alia was then rushed to a private hospital in Malad (East) where she was pronounced dead. The doctors informed the Kurar police.

"Alia suffered multiple injuries, fractures to her head, fractures to her collar bone besides injuries to the groin," said a forensic expert who conducted the autopsy.

The police are investigating whether there had been negligence on anyone's part. As of now, only a case of accidental death has been registered. "We suspect the sensors in the elevator may have malfunctioned. But a conclusion can only be arrived at after a lift engineer examines it and submits his report. Based on the findings, we will decide the course of action to take," said Kathe. The society's management as well as the firm in charge of maintenance of the elevator will be questioned. "We are checking when was the last time that the elevator was serviced," said an official.

Bombay Lift Act, 1939, specifies that the public works department (PWD) must inspect elevators twice a year. The department, though, has a severe manpower crunch.

Residents of Al-Muzalfa society were in shock when TOI met some of them on Monday. "We were returning from the mosque after offering prayers when we learnt about Alia getting trapped in the lift. The building was teeming with crowds of locals till late in the night. Never before has such an incident been reported in our neighbourhood," said a resident. Additional police personnel were deployed in the area on Monday night.

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Women may drive school buses

MUMBAI: For students' safety, school buses could have women drivers from June this year. The state's School Bus Owners Association says it could help reduce cases of sexual abuse.

The association has sought applications from women wanting to be part of its team. Anil Garg, president of the association, said those selected will be trained.

Anjana Prakash, principal, Hansraj Morarji Public School, said kids will feel safe in the care of women.

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RCF Chembur to get new biofertiliser unit

MUMBAI: The chemicals and fertilizers ministry has decided to set up a biofertilizer unit on the land belonging to the Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF) in Chembur. It wants to use biowaste generated by Navi Mumbai as feedstock for making compost.

This biowaste is collected at the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation depot in Vashi.

Hansraj Ahir, minister of state for fertilizers, said a proposal would be sent to CM Devendra Fadnavis — who holds the urban development portfolio — to ask NMMC to accept his ministry's proposal.

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State govt mum on toll promises

MUMBAI: The BJP and Shiv Sena had spoken about removal of some toll posts before the polls, but after five months the coalition government is yet to come up with a revised policy.

The state draft policy from the DF days says toll plazas should be at least 40 km apart, hardly the case on the ground. A new policy is required to remove discrepancies.

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Test patients for MDR-TB right at the start, eminent citizens tell PM

MUMBAI: A group of eminent Indians have, in a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, suggested that all Indian tuberculosis (TB) patients should undergo drug-sensitivity tests at the earliest to check the deadly spread of resistant forms of TB.

The letter signed by, among others, industrialist Adi Godrej, scientists M S Swaminathan and Ramesh Mashelkar and actor Aamir Khan, was sent to the PMO on the occasion of World TB Day on March 24. The burden of TB is so high that two Indians die every three minutes.

Moreover, 1 lakh TB patients in India suffer from drug-resistant forms such as multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR TB )and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR TB). As each TB patient can, in untreated, spread the disease to 15 other within a year, the TB epidemic is a virtual timebomb, say experts.

It is this backdrop that the letter seems to have broached the radical idea of testing every Indian TB patient for drug resistance at the beginning itself. At present, suspected patients have to go through a step-by-step diagnostic chain that can delay access to the right treatment by months; a TB patient typically begins with treatment for normal drug-susceptible TB and, if this treatment doesn't work within a month, he\she undergoes another test for drug-resistant form, and so on.

But testing patients right away for drug-resistant strains isn't easy: the tests are expensive and there aren't enough centres to test for them right away. The GeneXpert, which can diagnose MDR TB within two hours, costs thousands of rupees and is at present restricted to few urban centres.

The letter has also asked the Prime Minister to focus on better diagnostic facilities and nutritional support for TB patients.

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Have you implemented scheme for vulnerable kids ? - HC asks Maharashtra govt

Written By kom nampultig on Senin, 23 Maret 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI : Bombay High Court on Monday directed the State government to inform it within two weeks of the steps it has taken to implement a Centre-sponsored scheme for the protection of children in vulnerable positions.

A bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice A R Joshi heard a public interest litigation by Jaya Guliani , an advocate, about the non-implementation of the August 13, 2010 memorandum of understanding the government had signed with the Centre for implementing the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS). Under the MoU, the government within three months was to set up State Child Protection Society, State Adoption Resource Agency , Juvenile Justice Board and child welfare committees in each district and special juvenile police units and designate a child welfare officer in each police station.

Guiliani's advocate Chetan Mali told a bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice A R Joshi that the MoU has to be implemented. "State of Maharashtra is primarily responsible for implementing the scheme,'' the bench said. It directed the State to file an affidavit within two weeks. It also sought to know in what manner the funds for the scheme has been utilized.

Guiliani's petition said very young children, including months old babies, are found begging on streets, trains, railway platform begging or selling some products due to economic reasons. Her petition said there are adequate schemes of the government such as ICPS and Mid-day Meal which if implemented properly would ensure that the children get pre-primary education as also substantial nutrition.

Guiliani also sought direction to the police to conduct regular anti-child begging raids in Mumbai.

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MNS men vandalize fashion show venue at the heritage Bhau Daji Lad museum in Byculla

MUMBAI: Around 40 vandals claiming allegiance to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena protested against a fashion show by tearing down curtains and banners on the premises of the heritage Bhau Daji Lad museum in Byculla yesterday . An event organiser said the Byculla police station, which is a stone's throw away , was informed, but it took nearly 30 minutes for the cops to arrive.

The finale of the Lakme Fashion Week Summer Resort 2015 was scheduled for the evening and was expected to be attended by the who's who of the glamour world. Because of the vandalism, which led to fears of a bigger law and order problem, the organizers shifted the venue to a hotel in Lower Parel.

A livid Tasneem Mehta, managing trustee and honorary director of the museum, told TOI, "They are trying to intimidate us and behave like moral police. Such shows are held at museums all around the world. This was supposed to be a traditional show, not provocative." Money received by Bhau Daji Lad museum from events like fashion shows goes towards educational programmes, buying arte facts and keeping the museum functioning, said its managing trustee and honorary director, Tasneem Mehta. She said that for Sunday's fashion show, which could not be held because of vandalism, the organizers had paid Rs 2 lakh.

"This is an autonomous institution which is managed by a trust. I am fully authorized to hold such fund-raising activities," Mehta said. An event organiser said the activists, in their tearing rush, were shouting that the show was an insult to the museum. "People were terrified. On the spot we decided not to hold the show there."

He said that by the time the police arrived, the vandals had fled.

The fashion event started last week with an offsite show at the Richardson & Cruddas compound near Byculla. At Sunday's show, designer Anamika Khanna was to present her line from 8pm onwards. "She was to show her collection in the backdrop of Indian craftsmanship and museum monuments. How does this disturb affect morals or culture?" asked an event organiser rhetorically. "We had procured all permissions from the civic body, the police, the traffic police and the PWD. Yet we had to shift the venue. It's a shame."

Senior inspector Suresh Maghdum of Byculla police station said, "We have provided police protection at the museum. As far as disturbance is concerned, no one has come to us to lodge a complaint against the protestors."

TIMES VIEW: Deja vu. That is one's first reaction to the MNS 'protest'. The world over, fashion shows and other entertainment events are a recognized means of fund-raising, be it for charity or for developmental activities. By disrupting a fashion show that sought to collect money for the museum's cultural activities on so-called moral grounds, the MNS has again shown that it has a blinkered vision and an undemocratic way of expressing it. The sooner such self-styled goalkeepers of culture are shown the door the better it will be for cosmopolitan Mumbai.

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Maha CM Fadnavis gives 48 hours to nab culprits who vandalized Navi Mumbai church

NEW DELHI: Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis on Monday gave police 48 hours to nab the men who vandalised a church in Navi Mumbai.

According to police, the attack was carried out by two masked persons who were riding pillion on a motorcycle in the wee hours of Saturday when they hurled stones at the Saint George Catholic church located near a bridge in New Panvel.

READ ALSO: Navi Mumbai church attack: Suspects grilled, no clues in CCTV

Mumbai Christians protest attacks on churches in Delhi

In the incident, the covering glass outside the statue of Saint George got damaged. There was no breakthrough in the probe though police were grilling some suspects.

Earlier, Maharashtra government in a state assembly said that it suspects a "political hand" in the recent attack on a church in Navi Mumbai, even as the opposition members walked out of in protest against the incident.

Minority affairs minister Eknath Khadse said in the Legislative Assembly today that the state government was conducting a probe into the incident and culprits would be dealt with sternly.

"A foreign hand, anti-social elements or a political person may be involved in the incident. A political hand cannot be ruled out. Detailed facts would be revealed before the end of the ongoing Legislature session," Khadse said. The minister said his government was committed to protect the lives and properties of citizens.

"We will take care to ensure that such inappropriate incidents do not take place in future," he said.

Chhagan Bhujbal of NCP took objection to the reply, saying that the government was insensitive to the issue and was politicizing it.

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Woman dies after getting trapped in lift

MUMBAI: A 23-year-old woman was killed after getting stuck in the lift of a housing society at Malad East on Sunday night. The woman, Alia Waralia, was stepping into the lift on the ground floor of the building when it suddenly started to move upwards. Her head was crushed as she got dragged. Her mother, who was waiting to enter the lift after her, witnessed the incident. She raised an alarm and summoned residents who helped to extricate Alia.

Residents said Alia was taken to a private hospital in Malad East where doctors pronounced her dead. The doctors then informed the Kurar police. Alia's body was sent for a post-mortem examination. A case of accidental death was registered.

Kurar police officials said the lift would be examined by lift inspectors. Based on a report submitted by them, the police would take action. Alia was to tie the knot next month and had gone to the society to make inquiries for mehndi.

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South Mumbai dargah celebrates centennial Urs with grandeur

MUMBAI: The magnificent gates had bulbous domes at the top and delicate ornamentation on the arches. It was not the set of a historical drama, but that of a gateway leading to the dargah of Sufi saint Haji Abdul Rehman Shah Baba in Dongri.

The dargah is celebrating the 100th Urs (death anniversary) of the saint this year. As part of the celebration, the dargah trust had roped in art director and set designer Nitin Desai to create cusp-arched gateways in all four lanes leading to the dargah.

As one walked under the gates, pleasant scents assaulted the senses. The air was perfumed with the overwhelming fragrance of roses and marigolds. Devotees tried to make their way to the grave of the saint holding baskets full of floral offerings and chadars on their heads. As sandalwood paste was offered at the grave, a devotee played the Nagara; a group of dervishes played the Daf and sung in chorus - Dulha bane hai mere Rehman Shah Baba main to waari waari jaoon...

The saint's dargah has fostered the Sufi tradition of qawwali for many decades. Veteran qawwal Aziz Naza began his career at this dargah and had once performed with his three-year-old son Mujtaba in his lap. Mujtaba got his first album offer after his performance at the dargah at the age of 11. Ghazal singer and qawwal Abu Saba earned national fame after he sang Hum to Rehman waale hain at the Urs in 2000, and has been performing the piece every year since. "The devotional piece sends the audience into a frenzy; they sing along and complete the verses even if I forget the lyrics," he said. In keeping with the practices of the Chishti Sufi order, the dargah hosts a Mehfil-e-Sama during the 10-day Urs. Qawwals from all over the country come to present devotional and metaphysical poetry set to music.

Abdul Rehman Shah Baba was born in Salem district of the then Madras state and migrated to Bombay after becoming a Hafiz, memorizing the Quran. He stayed at a mosque on Bapu Khote Street near Pydhonie and would teach the Quran to children at a nearby madrassa. After his return from the Haj pilgrimage, he renounced his modest worldly possessions, even his books, and began to roam around Dongri with a stick in his hand. He was leading the life of an ascetic. His miraculous powers came to light when people with ailments and diseases would come to him and get cured if he smacked them with his stick. Baba passed away on February 13, 1918 (1336 Hijri) and his dargah was built by Merchant Prince of Bombay Mian Muhammad Chotani at the spot where he spent his last few years.

The basalt mound (Chilla or Baithak of the saint) inside the Dongri police station compound where he used to pray and meditate. (Photograph by Rizwan Mithawala)

The saint holds a special place in the hearts of many police officers who have served at Dongri police station. Inside the police station compound is the Chilla or Baithak of the saint, where he would pray and meditate. The marks of the drilled holes on the basalt rock bear testimony to the history of the saint's seat. When the present building of the police station was being constructed in 1923, attempts were made to blow up the rock to make space for the building. The rocky mound was finally left aside and it became a place of reverence, explained Sayed Salim Peerzaada, who served at the police station in the 1980s.

Additional commissioner of police (south region) Krishna Prakash has been visiting the Chilla during the Urs for three years. "Such events help strengthen the interface between police and society; the Urs festivities create an environment of harmony and help the police shed the strong-armed image," he says.

This year, the Urs has also helped promote communal harmony: A free multi-specialty health camp by the local Shiv Sena unit. Raju Phodkar, who organised the camp, says, "It is necessary to bridge the gap between Hindu and Muslim communities; we won't get a better chance."

Devotees never leave the gates of the dargah, but we have to switch off the lights post-midnight, explained Anis Ahmed of the dargah committee. As the smoke of the lobaan rose to the sky and the flame of the chiraag (oil lamp) flickered, a dervish crooned a popular qawwali - Andhere mein dil ke, chiraag-e-mohabbat, ye kisne jalaaya savere savere...

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Catholic schools plan special assembly next week, protest cancelled

MUMBAI: Catholic schools in the city will not stay shut on Wednesday and instead have a special assembly next week. Catholic groups had called for the closure to protest against the attack on a church in New Panvel and the rape of a nun in West Bengal.

"We do not want to cause any inconvenience to the students and the administration with the exams coming up. So we have decided not to keep schools shut on Wednesday," said Fr George Athaide, secretary of Archdiocesan Board of Education (ABE), which governs over 150 schools in the city.

The ABE will send out material to the schools to hold an half an hour assembly on Monday. "We need to take up the cause and make students aware of the religious tolerance and harmony. So we are preparing material to give to schools for a special assembly that they will conduct next week," said Athaide.

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BJP aims for 1cr members in state, eyes Cong-NCP turf

Written By kom nampultig on Minggu, 22 Maret 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra BJP has geared up its organisational machinery to swell its ranks in the state's rural heartland, especially in Congress and NCP bastions. The party, which has a fragile alliance with the Shiv Sena, is in the last phase of its one-crore membership drive in the state where it plans to go solo in the next assembly election, sources said on Friday.

State BJP president Raosaheb Danve discussed details of the membership drive with party functionaries in Mumbai on Thursday. "The membership drive is in the final stages. We are making our way into new socio-economic groups," said party functionary Sanjay Upadhyay.

Party MLAs in 122 assembly constituencies have been assigned the task of fulfilling the membership target in the next 10 days and leaders have been asked concentrate on Congress-NCP bastions in the state while enrolling members. "We have so far enrolled nearly 70 lakh members across the state," said Upadhyay. The drive may be concluded in the first week of April.

"The BJP high command's twin strategy is to expand the party's electoral base and prepare for absolute majority in the next assembly elections so that we don't have to depend on allies," said a key Maharashtra BJP functionary on Friday.

BJP national president Amit Shah wants to re-package the party as one with a wide social base, sources said. "The BJP will have to shed its urban, upper-crust image. For instance, in Mumbai we are often seen as a party of traders and the mercantile class. Also, we need to maintain the caste balance. This is possible only if we make rapid inroads into villages and talukas and prepare a new generation of workers," said a party MLA.

The BJP's emphasis on social engineering prompted its leadership to nominate Amar Sable, a Dalit leader, to the Rajya Sabha recently, setting aside the claim of Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, a senior strategist and writer with close links to the Sangh Parivar. At the state level, it chose Chandrakant Patil and Raosaheb Danve to bring a rural touch.

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