Pune district is all set to get three new Automated Driving Test Track systems as part of the Motor Vehicle Department’s plan to introduce ADTTs in 17 locations across the state to ensure more transparency and accountability in issuing driving licences.The new systems will be installed at the main testing facility in Alandi with two tracks for two-wheelers and one for Light Motor Vehicles (LMVs) on a 5,500-sq-m plot; Hadapsar with one track for two-wheelers and one for LMVs on a 4,000-sq-m plot; and, in Saswad with one track for two-wheelers and one for LMVs and Heavy Motor Vehicles (HMVs) on a 14,031-sq-m area.Currently, there are two ADTT systems in the district, in Pune city and Pimpri Chinchwad, which were implemented on a pilot basis in March 2015 but solely for LMVs using eight-shaped tracks in a fully computerised system that has tested more than 3 lakh applicants so far.“The ADTT system will generate driving test results in real-time after completion of tests for each type of track. The system comprises video analytics cameras, workstations, servers and desktops to monitor the tests and record the results based on pre-defined test parameters,” an officer with the Regional Transport Office (RTO) said.The system will include smartphones placed inside vehicles for LMVs and HMVs, and cameras installed outside for two-wheelers, to track among other things facial recognition, use of seatbelts and mirrors, and navigation of traffic signals and zebra crossings. Besides, a Variable Messaging System (VMS) at the track’s exit will display whether the applicant has passed, failed or needs to take a re-test.Some of the key test formats are: eight-figure track, H-track, 3-point turn, zig-zag turns, gradient tests and two-wheeler serpentine tracks.Other than equipment to track driving skills, there will be eye-testing equipment, Aadhaar fingerprint verification devices, and a control room at each ADTT centre to operate and monitor the system.At present, driving tests are mainly conducted at about 50 Regional Transport Offices across the state with manual assessment of applicants.State Transport Commissioner Vivek Bhimanwar said, “The ADTT will remove the human element from driving tests. It will be faster and more accurate with no chance of manipulation. It will be completely based on cameras and a computer system.”Explaining the application system for ADTT, another official said, “The applicants have to book an appointment for driving tests through a system developed by the National Informatics Center (NIC) called Sarathi. The ADTT system will be integrated with Sarathi. The increase in the number of applicants over the years has placed considerable burden on motor vehicle inspectors. The manual evaluation also leads to allegations. Thus, the new technology based system will ease the service of issuing driving licences.”Besides, the official said that while there are multiple reasons behind road accidents, driving skills have been identified as a major contributing factor. “Therefore, drivers’ perceptual and motor skills remain a key factor in road safety. It is hence important to ensure that we only permit good drivers on the road by assessing them objectively and using the latest technologies,” the official said.Officials said the new system will also reduce the waiting time in the process of issuing driving licences while making the test stringent to improve awareness about traffic and driving rules as per the Central and State Motor Vehicle Rules.
Terror operative David Coleman Headley alias Dawood Gilani is back in the news. A US court has approved India’s request for extradition of his close aide Tahawwur Rana, the Pakistan-born Canadian who was convicted for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks of 2008.Rana and Headley were arrested in the US in October 2009. Rana was convicted in Chicago in 2011 of providing material support to terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for the 26/11 attacks. And Headley, a US citizen born to an American mother and a Pakistani father, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his involvement in the 26/11 attacks.Headley’s role, however, was not just limited to the Mumbai attacks. There is a Pune trail, too, that goes via the Indian Army’s Southern Command, Jewish Chabad House and the popular German Bakery.According to Pune police records, Headley visited Pune twice — in July 2008 and March 2009. Deposing before a special court in Mumbai through video conferencing in February 2016, he claimed that he had surveyed the headquarters of the Southern Command of the Indian Army in March 2009. This operation, he said, was conducted on instructions from a man he identified as Major Iqbal of Pakistan’s ISI. The mission, he said, was to try and recruit sources for classified information. In addition, Headley said he had also conducted recces of Chabad Houses in Pune, Goa and Pushkar in Rajasthan in the ten days he was in India.But that’s not all.Pune Police suspect that during his visit, Headley visited the Railway Locomotive Diesel Shed at the Ghorpadi crossing, which is near the upscale Koregaon Park locality. He also visited the Osho Ashram in Koregaon Park, records show.Intelligence agencies suspect that Headley’s aim was to conduct a survey around Chabad House in Koregaon Park. It is believed he even visited Chabad House posing as a Jewish American. Incidentally, a book titled “How to Pray Like Jew” was recovered from Headley after he was arrested in the US in 2009.There are more details available in records that map Headley’s Pune sojourn.For instance, The Indian Express was the first to report that Headley stayed in Room No. 202 of Hotel Surya Villa in Koregaon Park, a few metres away from Chabad House, in March 2009.According to the “C-form”, which is mandatory for foreigners staying at a hotel in India, Headley checked in at 6.15 am on March 16, 2009, and checked out at 8 am a day later. He had a multiple entry Indian visa issued from Chicago on July 18, 2007, which was valid up to July 17, 2012. On the form, he wrote “180 days” to a query on his duration of stay, and listed the purpose of visit as “tourist”. Strangely, the main register at the hotel carried his purpose of visit as “business”.The hotel’s records also show that Headley stayed in a single occupancy non-AC room with a tariff of Rs 1,200. His total bill at the time of check-out was Rs 1,240. Sources said Headley also filmed a video of German Bakery as it was a popular spot in Pune for Indian and foreign visitors, and had no police security outside.Headley (aged around 63 now), however, was arrested in the US months before the German Bakery blast was executed in February 2010, which killed 17 people. He was not named as an accused in the case.How the German Bakery case was crackedIn September 2010, the Maharashtra ATS arrested Himayat Baig, alleged LeT commander, in this German Bakery case. According to ATS, the blast was the handiwork of LeT and Indian Mujahideen (IM) members. The ATS alleged that Baig was trained in Colombo in March 2008 by LeT operative Fayaz Kagzi and Abu Jundal, both from Beed in Maharashtra and wanted in the Aurangabad RDX seizure case. Baig was accused of executing the German Bakery blast with IM operatives Yasin Bhatkal and Mohsin Choudhary.Abu Jundal was deported from Saudi Arabia to India on June 25, 2012. And, Baig was awarded the death penalty by a Pune court on April 18, 2013 — it was later commuted to life sentence by the Bombay High Court. On August 29, 2013, Yasin Bhatkal was arrested on the India-Nepal border. The trial against him in the bakery case is still on before a special court in Pune.
ALMOST 50 years ago, when Anu Aga moved to Pune from Mumbai with her husband and settled down on the Boat Club road, the city welcomed her with open arms — and lots of fish.“The Mula Mutha was a flowing water body with aquatic life. Back then, it was a pleasure to be located next to the river and see the boating, and fishermen catching fish. In fact, we used to buy small fish from those fishermen. Those were delicious,” says Aga.Today, 80-year-old Aga is better known as the former chairperson of Thermax, the sustainable energy solutions provider, and spends her time reading, travelling, sharing precious moments with family and friends, and contributing to various social causes — including saving Pune’s rivers.“Over the past many years, I have seen the city grow. I recall my husband and I occasionally rode bicycles to dinners from our house on Boat Club road to Aundh or Koregaon Park. After dinner, they would take a lift home from friends and have the cycles picked up the next morning. For cycling, I could wear only one dress and I used to call it my cycling uniform. Today, with the indisciplined traffic and lack of cycle tracks, it would be suicidal,” she says.“As far as safety is concerned, Pune was and is a relatively safe city and I felt comfortable driving back alone till midnight. But me being a bad driver, my family has forbidden me from driving at night — for the safety of others on the road,” Aga says with a smile.Company in crisis, sleepless nightsAga’s memories of Pune are also tinged with sorrow and stress. In 1966, when her husband passed away, the Thermax board insisted that she take over the role of Executive Chairperson. “Having been in HR prior to being the Chairperson, our employees knew me well and wanted me to succeed. Even the outside world was very supportive. In those days, there were employees who proudly stated that this was their first and the last job. But today, youngsters think that staying with any company for even five years brings down their market value,” she exclaimed.Soon after she took over — the company had gone public a year before her husband’s death — the economy went through a downturn. “Thermax’s performance started slipping and the share which was quoted at 400 tumbled to 36. I got an anonymous letter from a shareholder saying we had let him down. For the Aga family, ‘letting down’ anyone was a dirty word and I went through sleepless nights,” she says.She then convinced the board to engage Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to find the way forward. At the time, Thermax had diversified into many non-core businesses like IT, electronics, bottled water, which added to the top line but eroded profits. “We were, perhaps, the first company to enter IT but had no clue how to run those businesses. In order to come out of those non-core businesses, many divisions had to close down and several employees were asked to leave. Thanks to the graciousness of those employees, they left without bitterness. If I meet them even today, they do not hold a grudge against the company,” she says.Those were very difficult days, Aga says, but Thermax managed a turnaround. “Some of the most difficult decisions I had to make was to decide whether the family wanted to be board members or executives. Until this point, my daughter Meher and her husband Pheroz were in charge of businesses and were board members but it was decided that they had to choose one. They were very upset to be pushed to make this choice and decided to be board members. Today, they feel it is the best decision they have made for themselves and for the company,” she says.An unusual encounter on Main StreetAs for life in Pune, Aga has an unusual anecdote to share. During one of her visits to Main Street in the Camp area, she saw a group of young boys begging. “I had seen them doing this very often but on that day I asked them why they were not going to school. They gave a big yarn that their parents had forced them to bring a certain amount of money home every day and if given an opportunity, they would love to study. Two brothers even took me to their parents,” she said, pointing out that her own children were young at the time.“I explained the situation and the parents were delighted that they could stay with me and attend school. I gave the parents my address, took them home and enrolled them in a municipal school nearby since no private school would admit these kids who did not know how to read or write,” she says.Then came an unexpected twist. “They went to school for about a week. But one evening, they did not come home. The same day, their parents came to meet the children. Some of my friends, who were visiting, cautioned that it could be blackmail. But I intuitively knew it was a coincidence. I went to Main Street, found the two children there and returned them to their parents. A few days later, when I met the brothers again, I asked why they did not come back home that day. They replied that they valued their freedom more than anything — an answer that thrilled my husband,” recalls Aga.An end and a new beginningAccording to Aga, the family’s philanthropic journey started with an incident that involved her son, Kurush. “He returned to India after studying and working abroad for eight years. He was extremely keen that a substantial part of our earnings should go towards social causes. To make his point, he threatened that if I did not do as he wanted, he would go back abroad. I hated doing anything out of compulsion and calmly told him that he was free to leave. But later Kurush apologised, and the family agreed that now that they had dividend income, they should seriously look at giving. Soon after this conversation, Kurush died in a car accident at the age of 25,” she recalls.To honour Kurush’s wish, Aga started looking for NGOs she could associate with. Soon, she met Shaheen Mistri, the social activist and educationist, and was drawn by her passion for educating the underprivileged. “Meher and I were invited on the boards of Akanksha Foundation and Teach for India,” says Aga. “Thus started my philanthropic journey.”
With the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Shirur MP Amol Kolhe staying away from politics and busying himself with his acting assignments, his party colleague and former MLA Vilas Lande has staked claim to the seat in Maharashtra’s Pune district, creating a buzz in party circles amid the ongoing review of Lok Sabha constituencies. The NCP reacted to the development saying it was a “family matter” and there was “nothing wrong in having too many claimants to one seat”.“I was a claimant for the Shirur Lok Sabha seat in the 2019 elections…I was told to prepare for contesting the seat. But at the last moment, I was dropped and Kolhe was picked. Now it is my turn to contest from Shirur,” Lande told The Indian Express on Friday, a day after declaring his intention to contest from Shirur seat. He added that he had spoken to Kolhe a few days ago and informed him about his intentions. “Kolhe me gave his best wishes,” Lande said.Lande’s announcement comes close on the heels of speculation that Kolhe might opt out of the race. NCP leaders said he had conveyed to the party leadership that he was not interested in contesting from Shirur and wanted to devote time to acting.Addressing reporters in Pune on Friday, NCP leader Ajit Pawar said, “I know the statements made by Kolhe and Lande. Kolhe has said that he will abide by whatever decision party chief Sharad Pawar takes…Similarly, Lande wants to contest from Shirur seat…There is nothing wrong with having too many claimants for the seat. It is our family matter and we will resolve it.”NCP spokesperson Vidya Chavan said that Kolhe was not present during the review meeting conducted by party chief Sharad Pawar. “His name did not crop up during the meeting. We did discuss the Shirur seat but not anything related to Kolhe,” Chavan said, adding that she was unaware if Kolhe wanted to contest or not.Despite repeated calls, Kolhe was not available for comment.Meanwhile, Lande, who has put up boards in the Bhosari area from where he hails making his intentions clear, said that in 2019, he had prepared for nearly six months. “The party had told me that I would be fielded. I left no stone unturned to campaign throughout the constituency. But at the last minute, I was told that Kolhe would be fielded. I was told to campaign for Kolhe, which I did honestly. Now, it is my turn to contest the seat,” he said.The Shirur Lok Sabha seat includes the Assembly constituencies of Hadapsar, Bhosari, Shirur, Ambegaon, Khed and Junnar. Except for Bhosari, which was won by BJP, all others were won by NCP.In the 2019 elections, Kolhe had defeated Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance candidate. Kolhe had secured 6,35,830 votes while Adhalrao-Patil managed 5,77,347 votes. Adhalrao-Patil, who has won the seat on three occasions, was with the undivided Shiv Sena. He has now defected to the Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. Adhalrao-Patil said he would also recontest from the same seat.
As part of its strategy to get smaller parties to the fold of its NDA alliance in Maharashtra ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the ruling BJP has again set its eyes on the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).Officially, the BJP-MNS alliance talks have been kept under wraps, with both sides exercising caution not to make it public unless they finalise their pact. What is however evident is that the state BJP leadership is going all out to mend fences with Raj’s outfit.Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited Raj’s residence in Shivaji Park in Mumbai on Monday night and had a one-on-one talk with him for over an hour. Confirming their meeting, Fadnavis said, “It was decided some time back we will meet. So, I finally visited Raj. It was an apolitical meeting.”Some BJP insiders however indicated that they discussed the current political situation.Significantly, Fadnavis met Raj shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with the BJP CMs in Delhi.Following the BJP’s Karnataka election debacle, the party high command has urged its state units to start preparing for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections on a war footing. To expand the party’s support base and augment its vote bank, it has also directed the state units to identify and forge alliances with smaller parties so that they could achieve their ambitious targets.In Maharashtra, the BJP’s key ally is CM Eknath Shinde-headed Shiv Sena faction, with the two parties set to fight the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls together.The BJP-Shinde Sena coalition will face a formidable challenge in the 2024 polls from the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance, which comprises of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT), Congress and NCP.Among the smaller parties, the Republican Party of India (RPI) headed by Union minister Ramdas Athavale is already a BJP ally, while Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, a former NDA ally, has decided to go solo in the coming polls.The BJP is keen to get the MNS on its side especially for the coming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Assembly polls, given that the outfit still has some support base in certain pockets of Mumbai, Nashik and Pune. The MNS might have shrunk considerably and has been struggling to regain its salience in the state, but the BJP still sees in it a counter to the Uddhav Sena in various ways.A senior BJP functionary said, “MNS is not a political force in Maharashtra and may not help in winning seats. But if BJP empowers it then MNS can become an alternative platform for those Uddhav Sena leaders and workers, who are disgruntled there or are denied tickets during the 2024 polls.”The BJP camp also feels that Raj is still a “charismatic leader” and that due to his remarkable oratorical skills, his rallies draw huge crowds. The party’s poll strategists recall how Raj had played a notable role in building up an anti-NDA atmosphere through his public rallies ahead of the 2019 polls, which had then “benefited” the Congress and NCP.Raj had floated the MNS after parting ways with the Shiv Sena on March 9, 2006. In the 2009 Assembly elections, the MNS won 13 of the state’s 288 seats. However, the party has been on a slide since then, winning only one seat in the 2019 polls. In the 2017 BMC elections, six MNS candidates were elected as the corporators, who later defected to the Sena.The MNS’s politics was initially centred on the “sons of the soil” theme, which later shifted to the Hindutva ideology. Over the last few years there has periodically been a buzz about a possible BJP-MNS tie-up with both parties signalling their growing closeness, but it could not be finalised.At his public rally in March this year, held on the occasion of Gudi Padwa ( Maharashtrian new year), at Shivaji Park, Raj attacked his estranged cousin Uddhav Thackeray. He charged, “I had never spoken about it. But there was a well orchestrated plot to ensure my exit from Shiv Sena,” claiming that it was done even after his bid to extend his support for Uddhav’s elevation as the Sena executive president in the presence of his uncle and Uddhav’s father Bal Thackeray, the Sena founder. After Bal Thackeray’s demise in 2012, Uddhav took over as the Sena president.Raj has charged that Uddhav was responsible for his exit from the Sena and that of several other senior Sena leaders’, including Union minister Narayan Rane.By throwing its weight behind the breakaway Shinde-led Sena faction, the BJP succeeded in toppling the Uddhav-led MVA government in June last year. The BJP’s immediate target now is to bring the Uddhav Sena’s dominance in the BMC to an end. The saffron party believes the MNS could be used to dent the Uddhav Sena’s Marathi vote base in several BMC wards, which could also be replicated in the Assembly polls in various belts of Mumbai, Nashik and Pune.A BJP strategist said, “If MNS can give tough fight to Uddhav Sena in 25-30 seats in BMC, it would boostthe Shinde-Fadnavis alliance’s prospects, which could be replicated in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls too. After all, every ward or seat counts for BJP.”An MNS leader said, “What really transpired in the meeting between Fadnavis and Raj cannot be revealed. But every party ensures its own growth. And for an alliance both parties have to arrive at mutually acceptable consensus.”Tracking the BJP-MNS equations closely, an NCP leader said, “It is between BJP and MNS, so why should we comment. But everybody knows how Raj Thackeray had been critical of the Centre after the BJP’s Karnataka defeat, and over the RBI’s decision to withdraw Rs 2,000 note.”
59 children were rescued from human traffickers in an operation on a Bihar-Pune train.Mumbai: The Railway Protection Force (RPF) of the Central Railway and the Maharashtra police on Wednesday rescued 59 children from human traffickers by conducting an operation on a Bihar-Pune train, and arrested five accused, officials said.These children were rescued from Danapur-Pune Special express train at Bhusawal and Manmad, located in Jalgaon and Nashik districts, respectively, in Maharashtra, they said."On the basis of reliable information, the RPF along with the local police and members of an NGO rushed to the spot and conducted a check at the Bhusawal station. A total of 29 children aged between eight and 15 years were rescued. Later, another 30 children in the same age group were rescued from the train at Manmad. Five persons were arrested on the charge of human trafficking," an RPF official said.The exercise was carried out under 'Operation AAHT', he said.As per the preliminary information, these children were being brought from Bihar and sent to Sangli, the official said, adding that the five accused were booked under the anti-human trafficking laws.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comThe accused were produced in a court, he said.In a tweet, the RPF said, "PRAYAS with state police came together to bust a child trafficking ring, leading to the rescue of 59 children with arrest of 5 traffickers at Bhusawal and Manmad stations. A powerful collaboration making a tangible difference in the fight against exploitation."#RPF@BBAIndia, PRAYAS with state police came together to bust a #ChildTrafficking ring, leading to the rescue of 59 children with arrest of 5 traffickers at Bhusawal and Manmad stations.A powerful collaboration making a tangible difference in the fight against exploitation. pic.twitter.com/CJRv2fmlt6— RPF INDIA (@RPF_INDIA) May 31, 2023(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
Further investigation is underway. (Representational)Pune: The Narcotics Cell of Pune Customs on Wednesday arrested four people and seized over 1 kg of the drug worth Rs 5 crore in two separate cases, officials said."The interception of one vehicle at a toll plaza near Pune led to the seizure of 850g, and a later follow-up seizure near Lonavala resulted in the confiscation of a further 200g," officials said."Four individuals have been arrested and 1kg of Methamphetamine with an estimated market value of Rs 5 crore has been seized by the Narcotics Cell of Pune Customs in connection with a drug trafficking racket," they added.A case was registered against the accused under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 Act.Further investigation is underway.Earlier on May 27, the Anti-Narcotics Cell of Worli Unit arrested a Nigerian drug peddler from near Mumbai's Mahim Railway Station and seized methamphetamine drugs worth Rs 22 lakh from his possession.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
In one of the biggest seizures of crystal methamphetamine in Pune, the narcotics cell of Pune customs arrested four people and seized over 1 kg of the drug worth Rs 5 crore from them, officials said.Following intelligence inputs, the officials intercepted a vehicle near Khed Shivapur toll plaza near Pune on May 29, resulting in the seizure of 850 grams of crystal meth. Hours later, in a follow-up action near Lonavala, 200 grams of the drug were seized, a Pune Customs officer said.“Narcotics Cell, Pune Customs busted a drug trafficking racket resulting in the arrest of four people and seizure of over 1 kilogram of methamphetamine having a market value of approximately Rs 5 crore. This is one of the largest seizures of crystal meth in Pune. Our investigation into the supply and distribution network of the racket is on. More arrests are expected,” the officer added.Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant and is banned under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
Ajit Pawar said Maha Vikas Aghadi will contest the Maharashtra assembly and Lok Sabha polls together.Pune: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar on Monday said that Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) will contest the Maharashtra assembly and Lok Sabha polls together to defeat the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance.The MVA allies include the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), Congress and the NCP.Talking to the reporters in Maharashtra's Pune, Mr Pawar said, "Our top leaders of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) have made up their mind to contest the upcoming Loksabha and Assembly election together and following our seniors we (the other leaders party workers etc) are backing it."He said that the leaders of MVA will decide together regarding the candidate to contest the election on merit without thinking of their own party."In any condition, MVA leaders shall sit together and decide the candidate on elective merit without thinking of their own party. We shall discuss and decide on how to increase the MLA and MP of MVA then it will be the right thing, every party is working for it," he said.Explaining the significance of the MVA alliance, Mr Pawar said that it is a fact that the parties in MVA can not contest and win the elections alone. Thus, to defeat the current alliance of Shivsena of Eknath Shinde and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), we have to come together and contest the election without any difference."It's a matter of fact that parties in MVA can not contest elections of Lok sabha and Assembly on thier own. We all should accept the fact that victory is not possible by contesting alone, therefore if we want to defeat the current Shivsena of Eknath Shinde and BJP alliance then we have to be together and contest together without any difference then we would definitely win the elections," said Mr Pawar.The Maharashtra Assembly election and the country's General election are scheduled to be held in 2024.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
She was a German archaeologist who had travelled the world, from Ethiopia to South Africa and France, before arriving in an Indian city that was known as a pensioner’s paradise — Pune.Records show that after reaching the country in 1961, this archaeologist, Gudrun Corvinus, got associated with the Deccan College in Pune, and married a Pune-based scientist although the couple separated after a few years.But all that’s not what made Gudrun the subject of a landmark police investigation. In January 2006, she was the victim of a brutal murder by a real estate agent at her residence in the upscale Koregaon Park area.According to police records, Gudrun owned two apartments at Liberty Society, was staying alone in one of them, and wanted to sell the other flat. By the end of 2005, she had contacted a few real estate agents to finalise the sale.In police files, Gudrun’s story begins here.The Pune City police were first alerted to the case by Gudrun’s friend Dr Farooq Wadia who told them that she had not been responding to his phone calls since December 30, 2005. On January 7, 2006, when the police visited Gudrun’s apartment, they came across a shocking sight: her decapitated body.The police also found that the telephone wire of the apartment had been cut — and came across a blood-stained cheque for Rs 20 lakh. Days later, the police investigators in the case, led by then Inspector Mahendra Pardeshi of the Bundgarden police station, found Gudrun’s head in the river bed under the Mundhwa-Kharadi bridge.The probe then focused on the real-estate agents who were contacted by Gudrun. The investigators soon zeroed in on one of the agents, Iqlaque Fakir Mohammed Shaikh (then 26), a resident of New Mangalwar Peth, who had visited Gudrun in December 2005. They also came across a key pointer: A bite mark on Iqlaque’s hands. They found that he was unable to explain the injury, and felt his behaviour was suspicious.The police also recovered from the accused a bunch of keys to Gudrun’s apartment, her computer and other items belonging to her. The probe found that the bloodstained cheque recovered from Gudrnu’s house was from a book issued in Iqlaque’s name.The rest of the case is recorded in detail in police and court records.According to the police, Iqlaque visited Gudrun’s house on January 1, 2006, to discuss the apartment deal. But then, he slit her throat using a sharp object, decapitated her, put her head in a handbag and threw it under the Mundhwa-Kharadi bridge. His plan was to cut her body into small pieces and get rid of the evidence, they said.The probe concluded that Iqlaque had killed Gudrun in an attempt to grab her property. He was arrested on January 8, 2008. The FIR lodged against him listed IPC sections 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) and 380 (theft in dwelling).In the court, records show, the bite mark was considered crucial evidence with the police submitting that Gudrun bit the accused while resisting his attack. Forensic examination at the Sassoon general hospital had confirmed that the mark tallied with Gudrun’s dental impressions.In January 2009, sessions court judge B D Kapadnis found Iqlaque guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Co-accused Mohammed Shaikh, from whom a stolen TV was recovered, was acquitted due to lack of evidence.But the twists and turns in the case did not end here.On May 28, 2009, Iqlaque was let out of Yerawada Central Jail on parole for 14 days, which was later extended by another fortnight. He was to report back on June 26 but failed to do so.This led to a manhunt with the police finding out that Iqlaque had escaped along with his family members, including his wife, three-year-old daughter and mother Sairabi, who was a witness for his parole.The police finally managed to nab Iqlaque again before the Bombay High Court, in 2015, upheld the life imprisonment awarded to him.Senior police inspector Rajnish Nirmal, who is now attached to the crime branch, was a part of the investigation team that initially arrested Iqlaque within a day after the murder came to light. “It was a brutal crime and a sad incident. The police team worked hard to arrest the accused in quick time, and a thorough investigation led to his conviction,” said Nirmal. Iqlaque is currently lodged in Yerawada jail.
Hours after an earthmover operator was found brutally murdered along a canal near Pune district’s Narayangaon town Thursday, police arrested two of his friends for allegedly bludgeoning the 45-year-old to death over personal and financial dispute.The deceased was identified as Sahebrao Namdeo Bhutambare, a native of Ahmednagar district, while his friends who were arrested are Priyal Gangaram Khermale, 31, and Devram Vitthal Kokate, 27, both residents of Khodad in Junnar.According to officers, residents of Khodad Road area in Narayangaon heard a violent fight between some people in the dark, next to Tel Odha Canal on Thursday night. When the local police reached the spot, they found an unidentified man lying unresponsive in a pool of blood.He was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Initial examination suggested the man had died of multiple blows from a blunt object, the police added. Officials from Narayangaon police station, which has jurisdiction over the area, and teams from the Local Crime Branch (LCB) of Pune rural police launched a joint probe.After the deceased’s photo was circulated on social media, his relatives came forward and identified the victim. The police teams then zeroed in on Khermale and Kokate who were spotted with Bhutambare when he was last seen going towards the site where he was found dead.“Sustained interrogation revealed that Khermale had an extramarital affair with a family member of the deceased. There was also a financial dispute as Khermale had lent some money to Bhutambare. As a result, Bhutambare was brutally bludgeoned to death by the accused. The two have been arrested and remanded in police custody,” said an officer.
This weekend in Pune, a set of three powerful plays aims to make people understand life a little better. On the other hand, clowns will show that fun is always a good idea. And you can also savour the taste of Japan right here, at a food festival dedicated to the cuisine of Fukuyama.Play for thoughtWhere: The BoxWhen: May 28, 11 am – 8.30 pmHow much: Rs 600 for a season passContact: 9850076072Three powerful plays, Love You, Ucchhad and Prasthan urf Exit, promise thought-provoking entertainment about stories and the art of storytelling. Love You has an unusual form in which two actors play 16 characters and is told from the perspective of children. Ucchhad is a Marathi translation of Yasmina Reza’s 2009 Tony Award-winning celebrated French play God of Carnage in which a meeting between two couples to sort out a squabble between their children in the playground results in violence among the adults. The final play is also about endings. A couple in their eighties are afraid of death but also ready for it. Add to this Yamadoota’s malfunctioning app and you get a story about the absurdity of life and death.The Pet PartyWhere: Austin 40 Cafehouse, Bhandarkar RoadWhen: May 27, 5 pm – 8 pmHow much: Rs 499 per person. Free for all dogsContact: 9359034590Why should humans have all the fun? Wag Joy: Woof Party 2.0 is dedicated to pets. The main attractions are a special meal for them, refreshments for pet parents, games for both, a lucky draw, goodies and an interactive session with canine behaviourist Diksha Thakkar.A clown showWhere: Phoenix MarketCityWhen: May 28, 5 pm – 6 pmHow Much: Rs 199Contact: 9359034590When clowns are hard at work, it means they are playing with their hearts. Ask Flubber and Friends, who will present a clown show comprising juggling, tumbling, hilarious physical actions, acrobatics and unicycling, among others. While children will have no problem immersing themselves in the whacky world, it is time adults had a laugh as well.Shankar-Ehsan-LoyWhere: Pandit FarmsWhen: May 27, 7 pmHow Much: Rs 750 onwardContact: BookMyShowThey have given us songs like Maahi Ve, Mitwa and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Now, after five years, the Shankar-Ehsan-Loy trio is back for a live performance in Pune. You can bring your weekday blues to the party and, then, go back singing.From TokyoWhere: Cherry Blossom, The Orchid HotelWhen: Till May 31How Much: Rs 1,200 for vegetarian; Rs 1,500 for non-vegetarianContact: 8484970579There’s more to Japanese cuisine than the sushi available at malls in India. A food festival brings flavours, traditional and innovative, from Fukuyama in Hiroshima. Among the headliners of the festival is a salad that combines fresh seasonal vegetables, tangy dressings, and crunchy toppings; a colourful sushi roll, featuring a variety of vegetables encased in a bed of seasoned sushi rice; and chicken dumplings that have been pan-fried to achieve a crispy exterior and juicy filling.
We have decided to charge a flat fee of Rs 2.5 lakh per house," Devendra Fadnavis said. (File)Mumbai: Slum dwellers can get homes in Mumbai Metropolitan Region and Pune by paying Rs 2.5 lakh, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Thursday, the move coming with civic polls due in several urban areas of the state.A government resolution on the new move was issued during the day."When I was chief minister, a law was enacted to protect slum dwellers who had settled in Mumbai before the year 2000. For those who had settled between 2000 and 2011, the state government used to charge a fee to allot them homes, but it was not fixed. Now, we have decided to charge a flat fee of Rs 2.5 lakh per house," Devendra Fadnavis told reporters.Earlier, the cost of such homes was in the Rs 10-12 lakh range, which was not affordable to most in the low income group, said Satish Lokhande, chief executive officer of the Slum Rehabilitation Department of the Maharashtra government."There are 2,205 houses ready at present that can be given to slumdwellers under this scheme. A few schemes of 700 to 800 houses are also in the pipeline and it will be completed in due course," Mr Lokhande said."Mumbai, MMR and Pune are the three regions where SRA is implemented. Wherever SRA is implemented, this scheme will come into effect and slumdwellers will get homes after paying Rs 2.5 lakh," he added.Meanwhile, Mr Fadnavis said the Centre's Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) can also be clubbed with this 'home for Rs 2.5 lakh' scheme to give people more relief.Welcoming the decision, Nationalist Congress Party MLA Jitendra Awhad said the file for this scheme was moved when he was state housing minister (in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government)."As the (MVA) government fell, I could not take the plan to its logical end. At present there is a provision that people cannot sell such homes for seven years, which is harsh. I request Fadnavis to bring down this period to 2.5 years," Awhad said.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comCivic polls are due in several urban areas, including Mumbai, Thane (which is part of MMR) and Pune, since earlier 2022 but were not held because of the COVID-19 pandemic.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
Apart from his political acumen, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Chief Sharad Pawar’s sense of humour is famous in political circles. The well-read man often sprinkles his speeches with jokes and amusing anecdotes. On Monday, while interacting with the reporters at Pune’s Balgandharva Auditorium, Pawar, 82, displayed this ability to crack up the gathering when a reporter referred to his age.Posing a question on his motive of meeting Opposition leaders and trying to bring together an anti-BJP front, a reporter asked, “Some people are saying that you still see some hope to get the PM’s chair, and hence you are working so hard even at this age to bring together an alliance of opposition parties…”The leader interjected before the reporter could finish the question, “Firstly, I strictly tell you to take back your words ‘even at this age’,” and broke into a smile as the gathering laughed. The reporter complied with Pawar’s request and said he was withdrawing his “objectionable comment”.Pawar clarified that he was not in the race to become the prime minister. “I am absolutely not in the PM race. All we want is a stable leadership that focuses on development. We all (Opposition leaders) will sit together and take a decision. It’s my responsibility to support the leaders who can get public support and deliver on these aspects,” said Pawar.Pawar’s health suddenly took an adverse turn in 1999 when he was diagnosed with oral cancer and underwent several surgeries.
On March 22, 2020, when a Janata Curfew was announced in India, a group of yoga practitioners decided to offer lessons over Zoom and YouTube because it was the best that they could do for a country under lockdown.Every morning for 45 minutes, Saurabh Bothra, an engineer from IIT-BHU, and Pramod Yadav, a fitness buff from Nagpur, took viewers through simple breathing exercises, surya namaskar, and asanas for the upper body, lower body, core, and flexibility. They did not think that their journey would end in a startup and held the sessions for free.By late May, there were 1,500 clients. Four months later, when the instructors started charging a fee because they wanted people to show up regularly, the numbers grew and kept growing even after the pandemic ended and yoga and fitness centres opened. Today, the initiative has turned into one of the country’s fastest-growing wellness platforms, called Habuild, which has trained more than 10 lakh people across the world and has 42,000 active members at present. Its total earnings are around $2 million.Habuild stands for ‘habit building’. The company was founded by Bothra, Sheetal Pungliya, Trishala Bothra and Anshul Agarwal and is operated out of Pune and Nagpur. Trishala’s background is IIT-Bombay and London Business School while Agarwal is from IIT-BHU and IIM Calcutta. “What we talk about and promote is that people should commit to some form of exercise, even if it is as simple as walking for 10 minutes on a mat. Movement not only has benefits at the physical level but also the emotional and interpersonal levels,” says Pungliya, a Pune-based techie. “Once people have made a habit of moving, they are ready for breathing, meditation, and a gradual progress to other exercises,” she adds.India’s wellness industry is buzzing with products and services. According to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the sector was worth Rs 1,10,000 crore in 2017, with a pre-covid estimated growth rate of 13 per cent to 15 per cent. More recently, the International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group has calculated that India’s health and wellness market is likely to grow at 5.55 per cent during 2023-2028.Research had shown the Habuild team that the majority of people were health conscious but only a minority had the discipline to go to a gym or for sports regularly. Using Artificial Intelligence — the company is increasing expenditure on technology—the company created a system that makes it easy for people to cut laziness and inculcate the habit of exercising every day. What came as a surprise to everybody was that women signed up in large numbers and form the company’s main client base even now. Habuild sessions are also held at specific timings and no recordings are given out, a rule that, despite being inconvenient, has shown positive results.Habuild’s business model is a market disruptor. The company is not open to funding. “The primary reason for this is that, when you bring an investor, they would want returns and that is not the primary goal of what we are trying to do. What we want to do is to reach more people. We are community-driven and everything we do is about people,” says Bothra.Habuild is also majorly reliant on referrals, which is a traditional way to generate clients and revenue, but slow and uncertain. “In the long run, referrals are the best way to build a brand. Our target audience doesn’t even go on a website to look for us. They find us on YouTube, Instagram or WhatsApp. These are the primary mediums of communication for us,” says Bothra.The company’s strengths are its community-building initiatives. Apart from yoga sessions every day, they have events on journaling, face yoga and fasting. Bothra, who is the face of the company, leads from the front by exercising every day and following a yoga lifestyle, which includes eating before sunset and observing maun or silence on certain days.On June 21, International Yoga Day, Habuild will attempt a world record with World Records Union for maximum concurrent viewership in live yoga sessions by launching a 21-day free online yoga challenge. The accidental startup is also looking at a “practical target” of reaching 1 lakh members by January 2024.
From the time Shayada Makandar can remember, her father wanted to see her in “that khaki uniform”.“During his rounds on the roads collecting scrap, he used to see police women on duty. He wanted me to be like them because he felt that was the best way for a girl to be independent and safe in this world,” she says.That dream is now turning real for Shayada and her father Roshan — and everyone else near their small pucca home in the densely populated low-income Jai Hind Nagar area of Pune. Shayada is all set to join the Pune Police constabulary.On March 20, the 22-year-old participated in the physical efficiency test and, a month later, appeared for the written examination. “Over 8,000 candidates participated in the tests and only 700 were selected. It was just last week that I cleared the physical examination and the document verification — the last two hurdles. Now I am eager to undergo the nine-month training,” says Shayada with a wide smile.“It really was my dream that my daughter would put on that khaki uniform one day,” says Roshan, 48. “Despite repeated taunts and criticism, especially from some family members, I stood by her. Today, it feels as if all my years of struggle are finally worth it,” he says.Hailing from Darshanal village in Akkalkot taluka of Solapur district, the Makandars were landless labourers who worked on others’ fields. In 1993, Roshan and his wife Sairabanu migrated to Pune to find a new life. “But the only work open for us here was in waste-picking and recycling waste,” says Roshan, who has studied upto Class 5.Shayada, who is a second-year student of Swaraj College of Commerce, is the eldest of their children followed by Altaf in Class 11 and Imran in Class 10. And, apart from her father’s support, she attributes her achievement to two organisations that helped her through the journey. The first is Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP), a cooperative of waste-pickers. And the other is a private academy that prepares candidates for police recruitment and other competitive exams.Aditya Vyas, the treasurer of KKPKP, says, “As a cooperative, we have taken a conscious decision to help children of waste-pickers in their education. We helped Shayada access free learning aids, including notebooks and other educational material.”Shayada went on to score 82 per cent in her Class 12 state board exam, which earned her a cash prize of Rs 25,000 from KKPKP. “That money helped me finance my studies and my preparation for the police services,” she says.Roshan, meanwhile, was on the lookout for better opportunities for his daughter, and chanced upon a flyer of The New Maharashtra Academy in Pune. He soon got her enrolled. “When she first entered my cabin, she was doubtful whether she would even qualify to appear for the exams. I had to spend time assuaging her fears… Shayada was weak physically but had nerves of steel and refused to give up. She never missed practice for a day,” says Suresh Khandagale, the academy’s director.Shayada says, “It was not easy, the physical training was exhausting. In fact, more than academics, it was the physical training that was more challenging. My preparations started last January but just after enrollment, I suffered a muscle injury while running. I knew that if I missed the training, I would lose out. So I took medicines and resumed. Studying was not easy, either. Getting a few minutes of silence at the locality where I stay was almost impossible. At times, I stayed up the whole night to compensate for the day lost.”Shayada now plans to complete her graduation and also hopes to appear for departmental examinations for promotions. “My dream is to shift my family to an apartment as soon as possible,” she says.Roshan can’t help but have the final word. “People never left a chance to taunt me for allowing Shayada to pursue her dream. But this weekend, when they all came home to congratulate her, I just could not hold back my tears.”
From the recovery of multiple cell phones, including two from the top-security Anda Cell, to violent fights among inmates with improvised weapons like sharpened pieces of tin sheets, several recent incidents inside the Yerawada Central Prison in Pune have raised serious concerns over the 150-year-old maximum-security facility.But none of them can match what happened on the morning of June 8, 2012—for its gravity, the shock waves it sent within the security apparatus, and yes, the murder weapon.That day, Mohammed Qateel Mohammed Jafir Siddiqui (28), an alleged member of the Indian Mujahideen terror outfit, was strangled inside the Anda Cell with a string removed from a pair of Bermuda shorts.Dreaded gangster Sharad Hiraman Mohol (then 27) and his aide Alok Bhalerao (then 22), who were in the Anda Cell at the time, were charged with Qateel’s murder. But seven years later, in June 2019, the two were acquitted by a court in Pune due to lack of evidence.Here is what really happened—and how.Qateel was arrested by Delhi Police on November 22, 2011, after an investigation revealed his alleged roles in the Jama Masjid blast in the capital, the Chinnaswamy Stadium blast in Bengaluru, the German Bakery blast in Pune and an attempt to bomb the famous Dagdusheth Halwai Ganesh Temple in Pune.The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad obtained Qateel’s transit remand on May 2, 2012, and brought him to Pune. He was not named as an accused in the German Bakery case but listed as one in the Dagdusheth temple case. According to the ATS, he placed a bag containing an IED at a flower vendor’s stall outside the temple on February 13, 2010. But the vendor reportedly spotted the bag and asked Qateel to take it back, allegedly leading to an argument between the two. It was claimed that Qateel left the premises with the IED, as police were deployed around the temple, and later destroyed it in Mumbai.After a stint in ATS custody, Qateel was remanded in judicial custody and lodged in Yerawada jail. He was to be produced before the court on June 8, 2012, for extension in custody—but was murdered that day.The fallout was swift. The then in-charge of the Anda Cell, Chandrakiran Vishwanath Tayade (42), lodged an FIR against gangsters Mohol and Bhalerao on various charges, including murder. And a day after the incident, the then Yerawada jail superintendent, S V Khatavkar, was suspended along with four other jail officials.According to the prosecution, at the time of the murder, Qateel was lodged in barrack number four of the 12-barrack Anda Cell with several hardened criminals, including Mohol and Bhalerao, lodged in adjacent barracks.It was alleged that Qateel was moving around in the open space of the Anda Cell on June 8 around 9.45 am, when Bhalerao asked him how he got sleep “after killing so many people”. Later, according to the prosecution, Qateel told Mohol that he was responsible for the blasts at Jama Masjid in Delhi and the stadium in Bengaluru—and had attempted a blast at Pune’s Dagdusheth temple.Mohol and Bhalerao allegedly entered Qateel’s cell and strangled him with a string from a pair of Bermuda shorts while Bhalerao held his legs. It was further alleged that the gangster duo burnt the string and dumped the ash in the toilet.The prosecution submitted that Mohol and Bhalerao decided to kill Qateel to prevent him from getting another bomb planted at the Dagdusheth temple. According to the prosecution, two other prisoners, Akbar Shaikh and Balu Waghire, had also recounted the incident.During the trial, however, the court observed that the most important evidence submitted by the prosecution was “oral extra-judicial confession made by the accused persons to prison officer” Tayade. As per Tayade’s witness statement, Mohol and Bhalerao told him that they murdered Qateel. A few senior officers were also present when the accused allegedly confessed to Tayade, it stated.But defence lawyer Prakash Suryawanshi pointed out that these officers were not examined by the prosecution. He also argued that jail officer Tayade was a stranger to the accused, so “there is no possibility that the accused will confess guilt in front of him”. The defence argued that the prosecution had failed to establish the motive.Finally, the court of Additional Sessions Judge S H Gwalani stated that extrajudicial confessions made by the accused are unreliable and not worthy of credence. The court also raised doubts about the “story of the prosecution” that the accused had made an extrajudicial confession in front of senior prison officers.Besides, of the 17 witnesses examined, six key witnesses—including some jail inmates at the time — turned hostile during the trial.The court observed, “Though the material on record holds some suspicion towards the accused, the prosecution had failed to elevate its case from the realm of ‘may be true’ to the plane of ‘must be true’, as is indispensably required in law for conviction on a criminal charge.”A resident of Sutardara in Kothrud, Mohol continues to face multiple criminal cases, including of murder. He was convicted and awarded life imprisonment by a court in a murder case lodged at the Dattawadi police station in 2010. But he moved the Bombay High Court against the conviction and obtained bail in 2021.According to police, after being released from jail, Mohol was booked in two cases lodged at the Khadak and Hinjewadi police stations, respectively. Last July, the Pune police externed him from the limits of the city, Pimpri Chinchwad and the district for six months.Incidentally, last month, Mohol’s wife Swati joined the BJP in the presence of minister Chandrakant Patil.What is Anda Cell?Termed as Anda Cell because of its oval shape, like that of an egg, this high-security area is a feature of almost all maximum-security central prisons. Officials say this cell is designed to keep its inmates separate and give patrolling officers the maximum possible view of each inmate. The cell is detached from the rest of the prison, with a separate yard and other facilities, thus completely separating its inmates from the rest of the prison population.
Police said that six vehicles were damaged in the accident.Pune (Maharashtra): Two people were killed and five others were left injured in a road accident involving several cars here in the Pune city of Maharashtra, police said late Sunday.According to the police, the driver of the vanity car lost control of the wheel after the brakes failed and rammed into several vehicles.The incident happened at Palace Orchard Society, NIBM-Undri Road, Kondhwa."Two people died and five were injured after the brakes of a vanity van failed and it rammed into several vehicles," pune police said.Police said that six vehicles were damaged in the accident.Further investigation is underway into the matter.More details are awaitedPromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
A 24-year-old graduate eager to take up a job outside his hereditary family business of catering, L S Moorthy came to Pune in 1971. Moorthy was from Palakkad, which was made up of 18 villages at the time, each with two temples and a typical cuisine. Where could the bachelor Moorthy find nutritious Tamil Brahmin food in this very Maharashtrian city?The answer turned out to be the South Indian Mess, run by the South Indian Urban Co-Op Hostel Society, in Rasta Peth.Moorthy could fill himself up on idli, vada or a cup of coffee, which tasted just like home food, for 50 paise each, or a dosa for Re 1. Also available were pongal, uthappa and thalis of rice, vegetable, dal and dessert. Until he got married eight years later, Moorthy was a regular.The non-greasy, non-spicy fare that once drew Moorthy now attracts a new generation, and customers are from all over the country and of different ages and professions. Three or four times a week, a group of three resident doctors from Tarachand Hospital comes for a breakfast of masala dosa before they head to their OPDs. They are from Solapur and other parts of Maharashtra and live in a PG in Rasta Peth. “The taste and hygiene here are good,” says one. “We are regular customers so the staff knows what we want,” says another. “The restaurant has maintained its quality all these years,” says the third.The first thing that V C Ganesh, secretary of the Society, would like a newcomer to the restaurant to know is that “this is one of the oldest restaurants serving typically home-style South Indian food in the city”. The restaurant was started in 1933 to help people from South India with accommodation — there are dormitories above the restaurant —and food.A board at the restaurant dates to the early days when it was a ‘Grade B’ restaurant that had “free permission to all communities” to enter. This was the time when a large number of young men used to come to Pune from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to work in government offices.Rasta Peth became a hub for professionals from the south, giving the area its moniker ‘Little Madras’. “One could walk around in mundus and the air hummed with South Indian accents. The South Indian Mess was a prominent landmark, watching over the communities and providing food and shelter. Now, as private sector jobs have increased and families want privacy and bigger flats, South Indians have shifted out of Rasta Peth to other areas of Pune,” says Moorthy, who is in his seventies and is the vice-chairman of the Society.The mess has survived despite breaking the rules of the modern hospitality industry. It defiantly lacks ostentation. The steps leading to the second floor are narrow and the walls are covered in white tile. There are strict timings: Breakfast is from 7 am to 11 am, followed by lunch from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm and snacks from 6.15 pm to 9 pm.Every day, around 200 people visit the mess. On Sundays, however, it is 200 only in the mornings and there is, sometimes, a 30-minute wait for a table— but people come from all over Pune with their families and queue up outside for their turn. Old regulars talk about S S Vasan and V S Lakhsminarayana, who were the pillars of the Society for years and mentors to the current office bearers. “When my son hears that I am visiting the restaurant, he tells me to pack some vada. He says they are tastier than what other outlets have,” says Moorthy.The dining space is a humble room adorned with plastic chairs, sun mica-topped tables, and counters displaying steel plates, gleaming kettles, and containers of chutney, pickles, and sambar. The restaurant’s focus is solely on the quality of food, disregarding the frills of the commercial hotel industry.Ramesh Iyer, the head cook and manager, embodies an old-school humility that he imbibed while growing up in Karaikudi, Chettinad, in Tamil Nadu. After coming to Pune 25 years ago, he established a successful catering business called Shri Annapurna for South Indian weddings and events in Pune. He decided to give back to society by working at the mess. “I like feeding people. I feel that my forefathers, who were also into catering, are sending their blessings to me as I am cooking for so many people at the mess,” he says.While Ramesh has learned some Marathi, his partner Sanjay, who arrived in Pune two decades ago, is fluent in the language. They have been running the restaurant for about four years, keeping the menu unchanged as it continues to attract a large number of customers. The mess does not offer delivery services through platforms like Zomato and Swiggy as the demand for food at the canteen keeps them occupied.Ramesh explains that the taste of South Indian food differs across its five states, even for common dishes like sambar, dosa, or vegetable preparations. Each state has its own unique flavours, such as the greater use of coconut in Kerala, spiciness in Andhra cuisine, and the incorporation of jaggery in Karnataka dishes. “In Tamil Nadu, we use everything in proportion,” he says.On the third Sunday of each month, the mess offers a feast reminiscent of a wedding, comprising 13 to 14 food items. The feast includes kootu, avial made with seven vegetables, masala vada, pachidi and payasam, among others. Some customers specifically come for the feast thali.“Our ethos is still to look after people who come here to eat,” says Ganesh.
Thirty years ago, Dina Goradiya lost her seven-year-old son to Wilson’s disease. “The doctors were unable to diagnose his condition then. We were at Bhavnagar in Gujarat and within two months of his symptoms, my son Chaitanya passed away in June 1993. We were told it was something like jaundice,” says Goradiya, who has since then relocated to Vithalwadi in Pune with her husband Vaman. However, doctors at KEM Hospital in Pune were able to identify her then 12-year-old daughter Madhuri’s condition as Wilson’s Disease.“We could save our daughter with the correct medication and treatment. Today not only has Madhuri who is now 42 years old survived and dealt with this ‘copper ki bimari’ but is keen on getting all the tests done to rule out this disease for her two-and-a-half year-old daughter,” says Goradiya.Mahalakshmi M was 10 years old when her parents noticed behavioural changes. “We stayed in Chennai and I could not understand what was causing tremors. My academic performance suffered and the neurologist in Chennai told us it was Wilson’s disease. My parents then found that KEM Hospital in Pune had a research centre that was studying this disease. They brought me here and what I understood was my intake of copper was good but the exit pathway was blocked and hence it got deposited in the brain. This led to involuntary movements and medication along with proper diet and exercise helped me a lot,” says Mahalakshmi, who adds that lifelong medication is required for Wilson’s disease, just like diabetes and hypertension. “Today, I am a PG student of Biochemistry, and can swim and cook exceedingly well,” says Mahalakshmi who ensures that she visits Pune every year for the support group meetings at KEM Hospital.The hospital conducted its latest meeting of the support group of patients with Wilson’s disease on May 10 where the doctors counselled the members and updated them about the latest treatment modes.Wilson’s disease is a rare genetic disease. It is a condition where there is excess accumulation of copper in the body especially in the liver, brain, kidneys, and cornea. “It affects 1 in 30,000 individuals and if not diagnosed early, in due course it may progress to neurological dysfunction, liver cirrhosis and abnormalities in the cornea of the eyes,” Dr Ashish Bavdekar, consultant gastroenterologist of KEM Hospital Pune told The Indian Express.The hospital set up a support group of patients with Wilson’s disease in 1993. From a humble start with very few patients, the number of members in the group has grown beyond 300.Regular monitoring of patients with Wilson disease along with early diagnosis and consistency in treatment and medication is important for the future of the affected children, say experts. The annual meeting of Wilson Disease patients and their parents is a regular feature and the main aim is to create awareness about the management of this rare genetic disease and imbibe the importance of regular monitoring.Wilson’s disease is caused by mutations in the ATP7B gene, which is responsible for transporting copper out of the liver and into the bile ducts for excretion. “Normally our body can get rid of excess copper through urine. In patients with Wilson Disease, due to their genetic defect, the body is not able to get rid of this excess copper and so it builds up in the body,” says Dr Bavdekar.Initially, parents of children diagnosed with Wilson Disease have a lot of questions and concerns in their mind about the life expectancy, quality of life of the child, and medications, says the doctor who adds that many parents and many find it hard to come to terms to fact that their child has a rare disease. Therefore it is necessary to counsel them and make them aware of the management of Wilson’s Disease so that their child can lead a normal life, says Dr Bavdekar.It is important to monitor copper levels every six months along with yearly sonography to determine clinical and biochemical improvement. Vaccinations for Hepatitis A, B and typhoid are important, doctors say.The requirement of copper is .5 to 1 mg in children and 1.5 in adolescents. In patients with Wilson disease, the doctors try to restrict the copper to 1-1.5 mg through diet. Clinical nutritionist Smita Kokitkar says a vegetarian and egg-based diet, food with high-fibre content is advised for the patients. “Copper utensils, and copper-containing foods should be avoided. Pre-boiled and filtered water is preferred and at our meetings, we give them a list of food items to be avoided. They include food or milk products that contain cocoa powder, organ meat, shellfish, mushrooms, nuts and dry fruits and others,” she adds.According to Dr Snehawardhan Pandey, a transplant surgeon, a liver transplant is suggested when the patient does not respond to medicine and the liver disease progresses to an advanced stage. “Here genetic tests in siblings of a child with Wilson’s Disease can be of great help, as early diagnosis can lead to better management,” Dr Pandey said.Dr Jyoti Singhal, paediatric nephrologist, points out that the disease can sometimes be characterised by kidney stones which can be mostly managed by medicines. “Excess copper can cause renal tubular dysfunction. About 1 % to 6 % of children with Wilson’s Disease may experience kidney problems but this can be managed with proper diagnosis and treatment,” Singhal explains.The neurological presentation in Wilson Disease is seen in the age group of 8 to 21 years in terms of chorea, tremors, drooling fits, Parkinson’s and other movement disorders apart from neuropsychiatric disorders such as mood changes, personality changes, depression, insomnia and so on.According to Dr Abhijit Botre, paediatric neurologist, the treatment includes medications along with physiotherapy and speech therapy.
KCR said BRS is spending crores for buying offices in Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad and Nagpur.Nanded: Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Friday launched a month-long programme to expand his Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) party's network in over 45,000 villages in urban civic bodies in Maharashtra.Rao made the announcement while addressing the party cadre training programme in Nanded."We will go to the over 45,000 villages in Maharashtra and in 5,000 municipal wards in civic bodies," Rao said. He asked party workers to form nine committees at each place, comprising farmers, youth, women, backward classes, tribals and minorities."From May 22 to June 22, go to five villages in a day. Spend two hours in each village," Rao told BRS workers. He asked party workers to eat with Dalits. "Other parties are rich, we are a poor party," he said."India awaits new leadership. India is fed up with present leaders. Today we are focusing on Maharashtra. Tomorrow you will have to work in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh," he said. "Will the pain of farmers end? I am confident pain of farmers will end under BRS leadership," he said.Rao spoke of the 'Telangana model' for welfare of farmers. "Before I became CM, farmers in Telangana were dying. Today the Telangana model is famous all over the country. Every home in Telangana has tap water," he said.Rao said BRS is spending crores for buying offices in Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad and Nagpur.Rao held the Congress and BJP governments in last 75 years responsible for "failure" to use rain and river water in the country."There is 1.40 lakh TMC rain in India each year. Half of it evaporates, so 70,000 TMC usable eater remain in our rivers. These are central government figures," Rao said."Of this, just 20,000 TMC is being used. The remaining 50,000 TMC goes to sea," he said.Rao spoke of the inability by governments in last 75 years of setting up mega dams. "The Jayakwadi dam near Aurangabad has a capacity of 100 TMC. On the other hand, there is a 6,500 TMC dam in a small country like Zimbabwe," he added.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comRao said Telangana has surpassed Punjab in foodgrain production due to its pro-farmer policies.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
The scientist who played the saxophone, flute, tabla and mridangam and – “liked to talk and tell stories”.As Pradeep Kurulkar, a top scientist with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) on May 3 on charges of alleged espionage and wrongful communication with Pakistan-based intelligence operatives in a suspected case of honey trap, his colleagues and friends talk of him as a “taskmaster who is good at resolving conflicts”, a “multifaceted scientist” and a “talkative boss who loves telling stories”.Kurulkar, 59, was Director of the DRDO’s Research & Development Establishment (Engineers) or R&DE wing, which handled several strategically sensitive projects, including the development of strategic assets, ranging from military bridges to ground systems and launchers of almost all the missiles in India’s arsenal. A few days before his arrest, as the DRDO’s vigilance wing carried out an internal probe, Kurulkar was, in an internal transfer, reassigned to the Armament Combat Engineering Cluster office in Pune. Kurulkar has been placed under suspension since his arrest.Kurulkar was due to retire in November with the rank of Scientist H or ‘Outstanding Scientist’ — the second highest rank within DRDO hierarchy. His colleague say they suspected something was amiss when he was moved out in an internal transfer.“A few days before his arrest, we had an inkling that something was going on. Then there was the unexpected internal transfer. But an arrest, and that too in such a case, was a major shock to all of us. He has been an important figure in the DRDO not just because of the positions he held but also the projects he worked on. So his arrest also comes with concerns,” said a DRDO scientist and Kurulkar’s colleague.The colleague spoke of Kurulkar as an effective taskmaster, “someone who knows how to get work done”.“DRDO projects often have multiple teams and there are always differences in approach. Kurulkar was good at resolving these conflicts and taking the projects to its logical end.”The colleague added, “In the mid-2000s, DRDO had formed an elite thinktank codenamed G-FAST, Group of Forecasting Systems and Technologies, to contemplate the future of defence research in India. Kurulkar was one of the 10-12 individuals selected from a pool of around 6,000 DRDO scientists to be part of this group. He was also part of the top management group of the DRDO.”His colleagues say that while Kurulkar was a key member of teams that worked on several strategically significant projects such as Anti Satellite Missile Test — Mission Shakti and nuclear-capable series Agni, his biggest contribution, arguably, was to the successful development of the Akash surface-to-air missile (SAM), a key asset of the Indian Army’s and Air Force’s air defence capabilities – Kurulkar was Project Leader and Team Manager for Akash ground systems.Kurulkar’s profile on the DRDO website, which was deleted days after his arrest, lists some of the other missile systems that he worked on – the medium-range SAM, Nirbhay subsonic cruise missile system, Prahar, quick reaction SAM and extra long range SAM, among others.“As a trained electrical engineer, he has been a versatile innovator in the field of electromechanical control systems which have huge applications ranging from household to military applications. He has also been a believer in the utility of defence innovations in our day-to-day lives, as in spin off technologies,” said the colleague.Kurulkar’s colleagues speak of him as someone who loved to “tell stories” and was a good orator.“He loved to talk about all the work he did in the past, how he worked closely with (former President and then DRDO chief) Dr APJ Abdul Kalam,” said the colleague.Another senior DRDO scientist said, “Kurulkar was known to be talkative… also impulsive at times. He was a passionate orator and took pride in talking about DRDO’s achievements at various platforms. He was also very passionate on the subject of indigenous development (of defence systems) and reducing import dependence.”Two of the DRDO officers The Indian Express spoke to cast doubts over the prosecution’s theory that Kurulkar may have shared strategically significant and classified information with Pakistan-based intelligence operatives.“Considering the profile he held, if he communicated with someone through a social media profile and shared information, it is one thing and should be probed thoroughly. But I have serious doubts about the allegation that he shared classified information. For one, the director of a lab has little access to classified details of individual projects. We must differentiate between what is available in the public domain on DRDO systems and what is actually classified information,” said one of them.Kurulkar’s profile on the DRDO website – which stands deleted since the arrest – listed his contribution to areas such as high-performance, high-power servo drive technology; electric propulsion technology; missile canister technology; autonomous navigation technology for small unmanned ground vehicles; and intelligent robotic manipulators for hazardous military applications, among others.Those close to him say he was born in 1963 in a Pune family that had a “strong educational and cultural background”.One of Kurulkar’s friends said, “He graduated in Electrical Engineering from the elite COEP (College of Engineering Pune, in 1985). He worked with a private firm in Pune before he joined DRDO following his uncle’s footsteps. His first appointment was in Chennai (at DRDO’s Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment in Chennai in 1988) and he moved to Pune in the early 1990s to the Research and Development Establishment.”Calling Kurulkar “a caring friend who likes to keep in touch”, the friend says he inherited his grandfather and father’s musical talent. “He plays the saxophone, tabla, mridangam, flute and harmonium with equal ease and finesse. He shares his love for music with his wife, who is a dentist, and son, a robotics engineer,” the friend said.On Monday, Kurulkar was produced before the court and remanded in ATS custody till May 16. Kurulkar has been booked under provisions of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) pertaining to spying and wrongful communication. ATS officials told The Indian Express that Kurulkar allegedly came into contact with Pakistan-based intelligence operatives and they suspect he was honey-trapped using the profile of a woman on social media and phone messenger platforms. They said he was allegedly in contact with the Pakistan-based operatives through voice messages and video calls from September-October last year and allegedly shared sensitive information with them.
According to officials, nine girls left for a picnic at the dam today morning. (Representational)Pune: In a tragic incident, as many as two missing girls who drowned in Pune's Khadakwasla Dam Water were declared dead, informed officials today.According to Pune Zila parishad CEO Ayush Prasad, "As many as nine girls drowned in Khadakwasla dam in the Donaje area of Pune. While seven girls were rescued. The two girls were found dead."According to officials, nine girls left for a picnic at the dam today morning. They were overpowered by the strong currents of the river, which caused them to be carried away.Soon, after the incident came to light a rescue team reached the spot and started the rescue operation. Police officials, fire brigade teams, and ambulances were on the spot.Pune Zila parishad CEO Ayush Prasad said that the recused girls have been sent for medical assistance.Further details are awaited. PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
Mumbai: Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said there are some organisations and people who want the state to be unstable, but the government will teach them a lesson.Speaking to reporters in Pune, Mr Fadnavis also said those instigating riots will be exposed and the government will not let them succeed.Notably, clashes broke out between members of two communities in Maharashtra's Akola city on Saturday night over a social media post. One person was killed in the violence and eight others, including two policemen, were injured.In March, at least 12 persons including 10 policemen were injured after a mob of around 500 people hurled stones and petrol-filled bottles when the cops tried to control the situation following a clash between two groups near the Ram temple in Kiradpura locality of Aurangabad district.Mr Fadnavis said, “It is 100 per cent true there are some people and organisations that want the state to remain unstable. But the government will expose them and also teach them a lesson.”Asked about the recent incidents of violence at two places in the state, he said, “Peace has been restored at the two places where riots took place because police intervened at the right time. The police were on an alert mode and additional security forces from other places were deployed there.”On reasons behind the rise in such incidents, including the one which took place in Aurangabad, Mr Fadnavis, who is also Maharashtra's home minister, said, “It is true that some people are deliberately trying to add fuel to the fire and acting from behind. They will not succeed in it.”PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com"We will expose them and not let them succeed," he added.(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
In the past one month, Pune saw two incidents of suspects in criminal cases escaping from police custody while being taken to the Government run Sassoon hospital for treatment, adding to such instances that had already raised questions about precautions taken by police while accompanying criminals.One of the sensational escapes from the Sassoon hospital was that of a cab driver, Yogesh Ashok Raut, the prime accused who was eventually convicted in the 2009 gangrape and murder of software engineer Nayana Pujari in Pune.On October 7, 2009, Nayana had missed her regular cab when she left her office in the Kharadi area around 7.30 pm. She hired a cab driven by Yogesh Raut (then 27) but was taken to Wagholi, instead of her home. She was raped by Raut as well as Mahesh Balasaheb Thakur (26) and Vishwas Hindurao Kadam (27), two drivers who were also seated in the car when she boarded it.According to court records, Raut called to the spot Rajesh Pandurang Chaudhari, who worked as a private security guard at the company where Nayana worked. He was too alleged to have raped her. Then they forcibly took Nayana’s ATM card and used it for withdrawing Rs 61,000 in the Viman Nagar area, the court records show.The accused allegedly raped her again in the car while taking her to the Phulgaon Phata–Tulapur road. Around 11 pm, three people found Nayana naked in the cab and questioned the men about her. But they were told that she was a sex worker.The accused then had food at a hotel in Phulgaon Phata and later took Nayana to a deserted spot at Jarewadi Phata, where they allegedly strangulated and hit her face with a stone. They allegedly dumped her body there before stealing her jewellery and again used her ATM card to withdraw money at different places.Nayana’s body was found on October 8, 2009, and the Yerwada police arrested the four men on October 16. Her jewellery, a knife and other items were recovered from them.On September 17, 2011, Raut was brought from the Yerwada jail to the Sassoon hospital after he complained of itching and stomachache. But he escaped from the hospital. A case was then lodged against him at the Bundgarden police station under Indian Penal Code section 224 for fleeing from police custody. After a rigorous search, a Pune city police team headed by senior inspector Satish Govekar nabbed Raut on May 13, 2013.As per Raut’s statement to police, he decided to escape after an interaction with a Yerwada inmate jailed in a murder case. He allegedly arranged money from his brother Manoj during a court appearance. At the hospital, Raut is also alleged to have bribed a policeman, Naik Sumersingh Patil, who removed his handcuffs. Pretending to go to the washroom, Raut fled from the hospital.Police found out that Raut had first gone to Hadapsar and then to Surat in Gujarat, where he stayed with an acquaintance, before reaching Delhi, where he lived at the railway station for a while.Raut looked for a job in Delhi but could not find one as he had no identity proof. He moved to Amritsar, managed to get a driving licence under the name Ravi Ashok Bhalla and worked at a dhaba under the new identity. He later returned to Delhi to work at a laundry shop and even managed to get a PAN card. Police said he had also visited Pune while on the run.Meanwhile, the investigation was handed over to Govekar, now an assistant commissioner of police in the crime branch. “There were no technical leads such as cell phone records or bank account details. Our efforts to find him were based on pure human intelligence. We questioned the inmates at Yerwada jail, Raut’s family and friends. We kept a close watch on annual rituals in his family. We were getting inputs about his location in Gujarat, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. He had also visited Pune a few times,” he said.Govekar said the police got to know he was working at a metro construction site in Delhi. “Our teams gathered information using a local network in Delhi. Several slums in Delhi were searched. A grocery shop owner identified Raut’s photograph but he kept changing his location. Our team was in Delhi for over 15 days. Finally, we arrested him from Shirdi in Maharashtra on May 13, 2013,” he said. “Crucial tip-offs about his location were also received from informants of constables Santosh Jagtap and Pradeep Surve.”Police also arrested Raut’s brother Manoj, policeman Patil, and the Yerwada jail inmate for allegedly helping him in his escape from custody. Patil was later dismissed. Raut said that doctors at the Sassoon hospital also had a role in his escape, but Govekar found nothing against the doctors.In May 2015, a magistrate court sentenced Raut to six years’ rigorous imprisonment, holding him guilty of escape from police custody and remaining at large for over 18 months. The other accused in the escape case were acquitted, while Patil was tried separately.Chaudhari turned approver in the gangrape and murder case and a Pune special court held Raut, Kadam and Thakur guilty and awarded them the death penalty on May 8, 2017.
Over 30 years ago, when the iconic Deccan Queen between Pune and Mumbai jumped tracks at the Khandala ghat under pouring rain, the passengers were in a state of panic. But one of them recovered quickly and, showing great presence of mind, stepped out of a derailed bogie and started walking on the flooded tracks to the nearest rail cabin, a few kilometres away. From there, she alerted senior officials in Mumbai and averted a major tragedy by bringing all rail traffic on the route to a halt.Those memories are still fresh in the mind of that passenger, Harsha Shah, who is now the president of the Railway Pravasi Group, a collective of “rail activists”. Based in Pune, she once used to run a steel business. But now, at the age of 73, Shah is “fully dedicated” to raising her voice against “inadequacies in the railway system”. “Our group has people not only from Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad but also from different parts of Maharashtra,” she said.Shah’s attachment with the railways is such that she has been celebrating the birthday of the Deccan Queen, popularly known as ‘Dakkhan Ki Rani’, every year for the past 67 years. “Even during the two years of Covid-19, we did not stop celebrating the Queen’s birthday,” she said.But her abiding memory of the popular train is from July 13, 1991 – the day of the derailment. “Everyone was in a state of shock. I was not sure how many bogies had jumped tracks and I had no idea about the number of injured. Fortunately, there was none… I also had no clue how far the nearest railway station was. There was not a soul around. I kept walking on the flooded tracks. Finally, I could see the Thakurwadi rail cabin from a distance,” she recalled.At Thakurwadi, Shah said, the Central Railways had set up a system to check the brakes of trains. “There was only one cabin-wallah there. His job was to jot down information about passing trains and monitor the signal operating system. There was one cabin, one employee and one phone, nothing else. He was not supposed to make any calls so he did not allow me to make one either. But I told him that he should call up the control room even if he loses his job. It was an emergency situation. He relented finally. From there, I called a top official in Mumbai and told him that the train had met with an accident,” she said.After a few more calls, Shah said, the rail traffic between Pune and Mumbai came to a complete halt. “We helped some people reach the old Pune-Mumbai highway so that they could use the bus service to return home. However, many stayed put on the train. Around 2 pm, another express train managed to reach Khandala Ghat to pick up the stranded passengers. It was a scary episode,” she said.According to Shah, her tryst with the railways began when she was “just five or six years old”. “That was the first time my uncle took me to the Pune railway station to celebrate the birthday of the Deccan Queen, which had started service on June 1, 1930. I remember, when I was 10-12 years old, the ticket rate was Rs 20 from Pune to Mumbai… now it is Rs 105 (second class),” said Shah, who is fondly called “Mummy” or “Harsha Maushi” by fellow commuters.Shah said she went on to develop a “sense of attachment” with the Deccan Queen. “My uncle used to deal in the jaggery business and frequently travelled to Mumbai. I insisted that I will accompany him every time. Thus began my friendship with the Deccan Queen,” she said.This friendship, Shah said, began around 1955. “As I grew up, I formed the Railway PravasiGroup which was joined by several frequent travellers… The train compartments were a sort of ‘home sweet home’ for us. We celebrated events like Garba, Diwali, Christmas and New Year inside compartments. There were smiles, cheers and songs… The bogies used to come alive. Except for marriages, probably every event was celebrated inside the bogies. Some passengers fell in love inside this train and got married later,” she said.Shah’s treasure chest of memories on the Deccan Queen, which currently takes three hours and 15 minutes to reach Mumbai from Pune, includes “another scary event”. “This was about 20 years ago. As we reached the Ambernath station on the way to Mumbai, everything came to a standstill. We got off the train to find ourselves among a sea of passengers. No one knew why rail traffic had come to a halt. The then State Minister Dilip Kamble was also travelling by the same train. He soon left by car. We then approached railway officials who told us that some local trains had been set on fire by protesting commuters in Thane. We had no clue what to do. Then, we went back to the officials and suggested that all the express trains stuck there return to Pune. They consulted with higher authorities and accepted our suggestion. And we returned home,” she said.Then, there were the floods of 2005 when the Mithi river in Mumbai overflowed, bringing all train traffic from that city to a halt. “We were marking the 80th anniversary of the new Pune railway station building. But the floods ruined our celebrations. Still, we quickly gathered and contacted some NGOs and activists. They made food and water available to the stranded commuters. The nightmare lasted three days,” she said.Besides pursuing issues regarding commuter convenience, facilities and starting of new trains, Shah has also played a key role in the birth of the Pune division of Central Railways.“Pune was like any other station until 1996. There used to be a regional manager and all nearby areas, including Pune, Solapur and Satara, were under him. Officials from Pune used to frequently visit Mumbai to get sanction for even minor work. We held agitations and protests, met Union ministers, state ministers and top officials, and wrote letters, presented memorandums for years. Finally, the Railway Ministry gave the green signal for the Pune division. Before the division came into existence, there used to be less than 200 trains starting or passing through Pune station. Now, more than 250 trains pass through. The station itself has seen dramatic changes in infrastructure,” she said.And yet, Shah cannot help but return to her “friend”, the Deccan Queen. “Do you know that it was initially known as Blue Bird Baby? It was only later that it was renamed as ‘Dakkhan Ki Rani’ as it passes through the Deccan plateau,” she said. Now, as June 1 approaches, and the Deccan Queen gets ready to celebrate its 93rd birthday, Shah has already started her preparations. “Pratibha Patil, our ex-President, was the chief guest once. Who will turn up this time? Keep guessing.”