The Indian Express | 2 months ago | 01-10-2022 | 12:45 am
Platform number 9 of Ahmedabad’s Kalupur railway station had never been so decked up.The red carpet remained laid out from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have alighted from the train, the rest of the platform wearing a grey carpet to match with the colour of the cement on the other platforms.Fifty-year old Purnima Parekh and her son, Karan (22) had booked themselves on a 6 am Shatabdi from Mumbai to land at Ahmedabad to board the upgraded Vande Bharat Express that was flagged off by Modi from Gandhinagar on Friday.“We reached Ahmedabad at around 12:25 pm, changed platforms and sat here ( inside the Vande Bharat Express). We only came to experience the train because we had heard that the Vande Bharat is excellent in the New Delhi route and this time we wanted to experience it first hand,” says Purnima, who is a homemaker and a Borivali resident.Having sat in the coach for an hour at the time when The Indian Express spoke to her, Purnima however makes her displeasure clear at the first day novelty treatment the train is receiving.“Children and people have been coming in and out of the coach, only because they want to take a look. They’re making things dirty,” she says.The train took off on its maiden journey around 2 pm but not before a 14-year old boy and his cousins — all boys — had playfully zigzagged through coaches in short sprints, pushing buttons, taking a swiveling round in the chairs, making use of its feature of 180 degree turn flexibility, touring the bathrooms, checking the taps.The indigenously made semi-high speed train with 16 coaches — with one of the key features being speed, capable of running at 160 kilometres per hour — is however at least several months away from realising its full potential, even as the ticketing fare accounts for a “super fast charge” component, ranging between Rs 45 and 75.The total ticket cost ranges between Rs 1,275 and Rs 2,650, the journey from Gandhinagar to Mumbai Central costing more than that from Mumbai Central to Gandhinagar.Sumit Thakur, chief public relations officer (CPRO) at Western Railways says, “The sanctioned speed for Vande Bharat Express is 160 kmph but it will run at a maximum of 130 kmph at present because of our track structure. Work is already underway for upgradation of the track, with a target to complete by March 2024. This (upgradation of track) would also include fencing around it to prevent stray cattle etc from venturing onto the tracks, as well as realignment of curves along tracks. The upgradation will cover 519 kilometres between Ahmedabad and Mumbai Central, and overall, a total of 1478.82 kilometres of track between Mumbai Central and New Delhi would be upgraded at a total cost of Rs 6,661 crores so as to better speed for all trains in general.”Not only speed, but the anti-collision technology of Kavach too remains to be fully realised.Though the train is equipped with the anti-collision feature, the track remains to be equipped with the same, which is expected to be completed as part of the track upgradation. The mechanism to avoid collision involves radio frequency communications between the train track and the train.Meanwhile the maiden journey saw few ticketed passengers and most coaches comprising government officials, railway officials, police personnel and mediapersons.The train, with its bottle-nosed front, grabbed eyeballs of bystanders at stations, railway crossings, train depots and control rooms etc, as it zoomed past most stations but nearly all phones were out at the smaller train stations of Sachin (in Surat) and Bordi (in Maharashtra), to take photos.With three-minute halts each at Vadodara and Surat, and automatic gates, it is a significant shift from the train travel as one has traditionally known, allowing one to get off a running train or alight one, stopping for a quick purchase of snacks at interim halts.At Surat, a disheveled man with a backpack hurriedly entered a coach in his quest to reach Vapi, only to be told that the train will only stop next at Mumbai Central.He got down at the nick of the time, and the train zipped past Vapi station at 129 kmph.The train with Braille lettering on most textual content (such as seat numbers, soap dispenser etc) also claims to be friendly for the specially-abled.With a vegetarian fare for lunch and snacks, the train’s visible attempt towards a more hospitality-oriented approach is apparent.Vidhi Patel, a “hostess’” as her name tag reads, says that each coach will be catered by two hostesses, the concept modeled on flight stewardesses.With a BBA degree in aviation, hospitality, travel and tourism management from Parul University, and employed by RK Associates, which provides catering to the IRCTC, Patel says that the hostesses have been deployed to “serve people better, especially children and the elderly.”IRCTC too has its own set of servicing personnel.As the swanky machine of the railway ministry glided into Mumbai Central at 7:28 pm, seven minutes before schedule, Mumbai received it sans excitement. There was only the public announcement service of the Indian Railways extending a “warm welcome” to the passengers on the Vande Bharat Express’s maiden journey.(Sohini Ghosh went on the Vande Bharat Express on an invitation from the Indian Railways)
Mangal Prabhat Lodha is a quiet man. At the BJP headquarters here, his colleagues say that the Cabinet minister operates silently — not flaunting his power and always speaking to a select group of people. The image of quiet efficiency is quite different to the public persona of a firebrand Hindutva votary and this combination helped the former Mumbai BJP chief become a member of the Eknath Shinde-led government. At present, he holds the portfolios of tourism, and women and child development.On Wednesday, Lodha lit a political firestorm by comparing 17th-century warrior Shivaji’s historic escape from the Mughal court in Agra with Shinde’s defection from the Shiv Sena that led to the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in June. The comments came at a time the BJP was looking to move past the row Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had triggered two weeks ago by calling Shivaji an icon of olden times. Koshyari’s remarks put the BJP on the defensive and it spent the subsequent days parrying the Opposition’s attacks, but the optics surrounding the Lodha episode is worse as the comments came at an event that the CM attended.Shinde, along with his Cabinet ministers, were in Satara on Wednesday to celebrate 363rd Pratapgad Din, the state government’s annual celebration of Shivaji’s assassination of Afzal Khan, a commander of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur, at the foothills of Pratapgad Fort. “Shivaji Maharaj who was held hostage escaped from Agra by dodging Mughal emperor Aurangzeb … Shivaji escaped from Agra for swarajya (independence) Similarly, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde was also confined by somebody. But Shinde also came out from confinement in the larger interest of Maharashtra …”Amid backlash from the Opposition, the BJP left Lodha to deal with the fallout and none of its top leaders defended him publicly. Party insiders said the leadership had categorically told everyone to exercise caution while speaking on historical events or people. The BJP has now chosen once again to distance itself from the row and allow it to fizzle out. A senior BJP general secretary said on the condition of anonymity, “Sometimes, it is better to remain silent when some reaction boomerangs against our party and leaders.”Shinde, however, appeared to back his minister even as he underlined that nobody could be compared to Shivaji. Trying to defuse the tension, the CM said, “Lodha has allocated Rs 25 crore for Pratapgad Fort. Shivaji Maharaj is deeply revered and worshipped by one and all. Shivaji cannot be compared to anybody.”Aware that he had slipped up, Lodha attempted damage control by explaining he had never meant to insult Shivaji. Late Wednesday evening, the minister said, “I have not done anything wrong and did not insult Shivaji. I deeply respect Shivaji Maharaj. I was just citing some examples which have been wrongly interpreted. We often give Shivaji’s examples to children. It does not mean we are comparing them or insulting Shivaji.”Son of former Guwahati HC CJILodha, who is one of the richest state ministers with declared assets worth Rs 441.65 crore, is from Rajasthan. He arrived in Mumbai in the 1980s after completing his BCom and LLB degrees from the University of Jodhpur. His father Guman Lal Lodha was the chief justice of the Guwahati High Court. After initially practising law, Lodha ventured into real estate and founded Macrotech Developers (Lodha Group).Since his student days, Lodha was associated with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students’ organisation affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He made his debut in electoral politics in 1995, when he contested the Assembly elections for the first time. At present, he is a six-term MLA from the high-profile Malabar Hills constituency in Mumbai.The minister has often used the public forum at his disposal to speak about issues such as cattle slaughter and undocumented immigrants. He has spoken about the alleged threat Hindus face in the Muslim-dominated Malvani area of Mumbai.During a state Assembly debate last year, Lodha said, “There is a pattern to this Hindu exodus. They are being threatened and intimidated to leave their houses. A concerted attempt is being made to evict them. Just like Kashmir, Kairana witnessed the exodus of Hindus. Malvani in Mumbai is also witnessing the same.”On cow slaughter, he has said in the past, “There should be capital punishment for killers of cows and cattle. Cow slaughter should be punishable by death and beef export should be banned.”During campaigning for the 2019 Assembly polls, the Election Commission served Lodha with a show-cause notice for making a communal statement. While campaigning in Mumbadevi, the BJP leader said, “The explosives used in the 1992 Mumbai riots were made in bylanes five km from here.” The Mumbadevi neighbourhood has a sizable Muslim population.
MUMBAI: The State Election Commission has allowed candidates for 7,751 gram panchayat seats, including 63 in Palghar and 42 in Thane, to file their nominations offline, and extended the time for filing of nomination from 3 pm on December 2 to 5.30pm.
MUMBAI: Clarifying that no student will be denied admission based on voter registration card, state higher and technical education minister Chandrakant Patil said they will make the registration process mandatory for stud-ents above 18 years of age during admissions. “Election commission officials can facilitate the registration proc-ess during admissions. That can be made mandatory for varsities by bringing in a statute. We want more students to participate in the election process.” Patil said.
MUMBAI: The National Green Tribunal (Pune) has admitted a plea to declare the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2019, illegal, ultra-vires and violative of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The CRZ Notification, 2019, came into force in 2021. The plea was filed by NGO Vanashakti stating that rather than protecting the environment, the CRZ Notification, 2019, removes various environmental protections under CRZ 2011. While admitting the plea on Thursday, the NGT also directed the issuance of notices to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, and the National and Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authorities, respectively. It has pointed out that the special protections granted to Greater Mumbai in CRZ 2011, have been severely diluted. The plea states CRZ 2011, laid special emphasis on Greater Mumbai on subject matters ranging from “construction of roads, solid waste disposal sites, slum rehabilitation scheme, redevelopment of dilapidated buildings,” among others, “but the entire section except protection of open spaces and construction of sewage treatment plan was deleted in the draft notification 2018 and in 2019 notification.” tnn
NASHIK: Twenty-two passengers were injured after a Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) bus, travelling from Chalisgaon in Jalgaon to Nandurbar, overturned on the Chalisgaon-Dhule road at 7.15 am on Thursday. According to a police officer, 15 of the 22 injured passengers were taken to a government medical hospital in Dhule, while three were admitted to a private hospital. "Four passengers, who had sustained minor bruises, decided to travel ahead to Nandurbar. There were as many as 22 passengers along with five staff and crew members in the bus," the officer said, adding that no casualty was reported in the accident that occurred near the Shirud crossroads. The Chalisgaon (Jalgaon)-Akkalkuwa (Nandurbar) bus started the journey at 6 am. "The accident took place when the bus driver tried to avoid collision with a truck coming from the opposite direction. Road repair works were being carried out at the said stretch. As a result, the carriageway had become narrow. Despite the driver's efforts to avoid the collision, the rear section of the bus hit the truck and toppled," the officer said. "As the bus toppled to its side, the passengers were thrown off their seats and they fell on each other. The injured were quickly moved to the hospital. Movement of vehicular traffic was also affected for some time due to the accident," the officer added. Three passengers have received injuries to their legs and chest, for which they are undergoing treatment at private and government hospitals. "The MSRTC has provided forms to the injured passengers that will help them get free of cost treatment," an MSRTC official from Dhule division said.