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- MIDC land scam: HC blasts Darda, CP and govt for not replying to its notices Vaibhav Ganjapure| TNN | Jun 23, 2018, 00:05 IST
Nagpur: Expressing deep anguish over failure of respondents, including State Department of Industries secretary, MIDC officials and city police commissioner to reply to its notices even after six months, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court granted them last chance to complete formalities in three weeks. The bench also pulled up Lokmat Newspapers Pvt Ltd (LNPL) and its chairman Vijay Jawaharlal Darda for not showing promptness in filing a reply to its notices.
“At least at this juncture, we find ourselves at a loss as to why in PIL of this nature the respondents — Nos. 1 (Secretary), 2 (MIDC CEO), 3 (MIDC area manager in city) and 10 (CP of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) -- have avoided to file their replies though a period of more than six months has expired,” a division bench comprising Justices Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Zaka Haq said.
“Similarly, respondent Nos. 4 (Lokmat) and 5 (Darda) against whom allegations are made have also not shown promptness to file reply. The respondent No. 9 (Butibori Gram Panchayat Sarpanch), though served with notice has chosen not to appear,” the bench stated.
HC’s observations came while hearing a PIL (No 123/2017) by two social workers — Pankaj Thakre and Shivaji Barewar — through counsel Shreerang Bhandarkar, alleging misuse of power by Darda for acquiring a big land at MIDC Butibori for setting up industry but diverting it for other purposes. They claimed respondents illegally diverted 40,000 square metres commercial land for other purposes and thus caused huge losses to the exchequer due to inaction by authorities.
The judges also agreed with Bhandarkar’s contention that the respondents, including Media World Enterprises partners — Rachna Darda and Sheetal Jain, Jain Saheli Mandal president Assu Rajendra Darda, and Niyojit Lokmat Karmachari Gruh Nirman Sahakari Sanstha Maryadit at Turakmani in Butibori— were avoiding service of HC notice.
The petitioner to complete service through e-mail/Hamdast to Media World, Jain Mandal and Lokmat Karmachari Sanstha and they should also file their reply without fail. If the reply is not received, the court may proceed further in default thereof,” the judges warned before adjourning the hearing till July 11.
The petitioners having homes in Butibori, cited information obtained under RTI Act to press their claims made against Darda and his family members. The former MP received Plot No. B-192 at Butibori MIDC industrial estate on February 26, 2001, in LNPL’s name for newspaper printing. However, he transferred it in name of Lokmat Media Limited on October 12, 2011.
According to them, since newspaper printing press is an “industrial” process”, no plot from commercial zone could be allotted for it. However, on Darda’s insistence, MIDC allotted plot from commercial zone and at commercial rates suffering a financial loss.
Thereafter, Darda allegedly used his influence to allocate another plot, No. B-208 of 1800 square metres, in name of Veena Infosys on March 28, 2001. One more plot (No. B-207) was purchased by him. The Lokmat group then applied for amalgamating three plots together for setting up newspaper press.
- Plastic ban: NMC to fine producers, shopkeepers and users from today Proshun Chakraborty| tnn | Jun 23, 2018, 03:51 IST
Nagpur: Be ready to cough up a fine of up to Rs5,000 if seen carrying plastic bags or accepting one from a vendor as Nagpur Municipal Corporation’s (NMC) ban comes into effect from today.
Apart from plastic carry bags, NMC will also act against shops with plastic cutlery like plates, spoons, secondary packaging, thermacol and flex boards, said additional municipal commissioner Ravindra Kumbhare.
Following the end of deadline on Friday, the NMC has chalked out an action for implementing the ban. Kumbhare convened a meeting with civic administration, comprising assistant municipal commissioners, health department officials and civic cops of nuisance detection squad for the same.
“A 120-member squad has been formed to enforce the ban effectively. The squad will monitor commercial areas, shops and even malls across the city,” said Kumbhare. Each zone will have a 12-member team headed by assistant municipal commissioner and comprising two health officers, four sanitary inspectors and two civic cops. These inspectors are authorized to fine citizens and vendors.
“The additional municipal commissioner has directed all assistant municipal commissioners of 10 zones and health department officials to crack down on manufacturers and wholesalers of banned plastic products. They will be targeted first followed by vendors and end users,” said health officer (sanitation) Dr Pradip Dasarwar.
The state government had on March 23 issued a notification banning the use of plastic bags and other one-time use plastic materials, but gave citizens three months to switch to environment-friendly alternatives.
“Citizens were given a chance to adjust to cloth and paper bags though we fined vendors and shopkeepers using plastic bags below 50 microns during this period. Now, we’ll strictly impose the ban,” Dr Dasarwar said.
The officials, however, will have to carry identity cards issued by NMC during inspections.
Green activist and founder of Green Vigil Foundation Kaustav Chatterjee said that two years ago, the administration failed to implement the ban on plastic carry bags less than 50 microns. “This is a blanket ban on a larger scale. Hence, now much more homework needs to be done,” he said.
He added that the ban would be very difficult to implement because the government notification was ambiguous about banned items and implementation process, and there were no cheap alternatives available in the market.
“The ban can be successfully implemented only when all stake holders, including citizens and public representatives, support it,” added Chatterjee.
- Soil bureau joins state govt to implement ‘Neeranchal’ Manka Behl| TNN | Jun 23, 2018, 03:43 IST
Nagpur: The state government has joined hands with Nagpur-based ICAR-National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning (NBSS&LUP) to implement ‘Neeranchal’, the World Bank-assisted national project on integrated watershed management. It will be implemented in two districts of the state — Amravati and Ahmednagar.
According to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the state government’s Vasundhara Watershed Development Agency (VWDA) and the bureau, five watersheds will be developed in each district. “The area of a watershed will be around 5,000 hectares,” said Surendra Kumar Singh, director of NBSS&LUP.
In 2015, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its approval to implement Neeranchal in nine states — Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telangana. In every state, two districts were identified for the project’s implementation.
The programme, which is a part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana, aims at reducing surface run-off of rainwater, increasing groundwater recharge and better availability of water in rain-fed areas to increase agriculture productivity.
As a knowledge partner, the bureau plans to demonstrate an effective watershed management based on scientific technology. Apart from undertaking land resource inventory and resource-based land use planning, the bureau will also provide solutions for salinization, ravines (a form of soil erosion) and mine-affected soil.
“The first step will be scientific collection of data using high resolution remote sensing, digital elevation model, geographic information system (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) to determine slope length and direction, water harvesting potential, run-off, sediment loss and other geographical factors. Based on this, we will select the sites for developing water harvesting structures,” said Singh.
Once the structure is ready, rainwater will be harvested to ensure that farmers do not face water shortage during dry spells, said bureau’s principal scientist NG Patil, who is the project’s nodal officer. The bureau will also prepare a soil conservation programme for the two districts. “We are aiming to avoid siltation and enhance crop productivity,” he said.
The bureau will also provide advisory on crop suitability depending on the type of soil. “The conservation plan will include identifying whether land is suitable for BT cotton or not, fertilizer management, irrigation techniques and other components,” said Singh.
The Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri, Dr Punjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, Akola and Maharashtra Remote Sensing Applicatons Centre, Nagpur, are the implementing partners of the project.
- New road behind Mor Bhavan opens only for bus operations Anjaya Anparthi| TNN | Jun 23, 2018, 04:54 IST
Nagpur: After a delay of 17months, Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) has brought the newly constructed road behind Mor Bhavan into use. The road will be exclusively utilized for operation of city buses. General traffic will not be allowed until new city bus terminal building is ready.
Chairman of city transport committee Bunty Kukade flagged off city buses from the new road on Friday. City transport manager Shivaji Jagtap and other officials were present.
The new 354-metre road connects North Ambazari road at Matru Sewa Sangh with Amravati road at Mure Memorial Hospital. Kukade told TOI eight bus stops will be built on the new road. “All buses starting from Amravati Road between Variety square and Maharajbagh Zoo will operate from new road. Buses starting from Dhiran Kanya Vidyalaya will also start from the new road. The buses starting from Mor Bhavan will continue as it is. This will prevent traffic congestion on Amravati road and Sitabuldi between Jhansi Rani square and Variety square,” he said.
Kukade added road will be opened for general traffic once new city bus terminal was built on the new road. “NMC got possession of the land from PDKV. The land will be levelled before terminal is built. Till then it will be utilized for parking of buses,” he said.
Executive engineer Satish Neral said Mor Bhavan terminal will be linked with the newly opened road. “This will help proper movement of buses going in and out of Mor Bhavan and new city bus terminal,” he said.
At present, there is no connectivity between Mor Bhavan and new road which was the main plan behind the project. Also, a few works on the new road are also pending. There are also no streetlights on the road at present. The work to erect streetlights is going on. Final touches to footpath and storm water drains are also being given.
The road’s approach towards North Ambazari road is blocked right now. MahaMetro is doing some works at the spot. Kukade asked the MahaMetro officials to clear the approach before monsoon session of the state legislature begins in city.
- Civic chief orders removal of footpath encroachments TNN | Jun 23, 2018, 20:32 IST
Nagpur: Municipal commissioner Virendra Singh, who recently inspected the road between Aath Rasta Chowk and Orange City Hospital Road under Laxmi Nagar zone, expressed concern over hurdles faced by pedestrians on footpaths. “All types of encroachments should be removed urgently,” he told the officials.
The encroachments included extension of entry gates of residential premises, constructions over footpaths, and stalls by vegetable and fruit vendors. Accompanied by additional municipal commissioner Ravindra Kumbhare, Singh directed the zone officials to remove all encroachments. This patch is also a part of Smart Street.
Later, Singh moved towards Police Training Centre Road and expressed anguish after he found illegal extensions made by shops over footpaths on the stretch. He directed the zone’s assistant municipal commissioner to not only raze the illegal constructions but also inspect the zone’s areas every morning to ensure no encroachments are done over footpaths.
He also stated that assistant commissioners of all 10 zones should ensure footpaths are free from encroachments.
- Social worker files PIL in HC against sand ghats auction TNN | Jun 24, 2018, 02:23 IST
Nagpur: A social worker has approached the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court challenging sand ghats auction in districts like Gondia, Bhandara, Wardha, Gadchiroli, besides Nagpur.
Terming the move as illegal and brazen violation of ‘Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines’, petitioner Krishna Kumar Agrawal, a resident of Tejab Mill, Kanhan, prayed for quashing and setting aside the tender notices issued for auctioning sand ghats at these places.
A division bench comprising Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Zaka Haq on Wednesday issued notices to ministry of environment, forest and climactic change (MOEFCC) and state revenue secretary, asking them to file reply within two weeks.
State forest secretary, Nagpur divisional commissioner, collectors of Gondia, Bhandara, Wardha, Gadchiroli and Nagpur, District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) and Western Coalfields Limited (WCL) have also been made respondents in the PIL.
The petitioner, through counsel Shreerang Bhandarkar, contended that auctioning of sand ghats without following rules is illegal and would cause massive damage to environment. He prayed for directives to the respondents for framing a policy to curb waste generated after using the final product — sand. He also demanded that the respondents should follow the ‘Sand Mining Framework 2018’ brought into effect by the Union ministry of mines in its entirety.
The petitioner has been raising voice against the loss of public revenue due to the illegal sand lifting from the ghats by the mafia. As sand being a most important construction material, it’s usually seen that it’s illegally lifted from the riverbed, he argued.
(With inputs from Tejas Mundhada)
- Nagpur slips to 55 among 100 cities in Swachh rankings
Anjaya Anparthi| tnn | Jun 24, 2018, 03:06 IST
Nagpur: Though touted as one of the countrys five greenest cities, Nagpur slipped to 55 among 100 cities with one lakh plus population in Central governments Swachh Survekshan this year.
In 2016, the city was ranked 20th among 73 cities with a population of over 10 lakh and in 2017, it stood 137th among 434 cities. The city has clearly slipped as compared to its performance in last two rankings.
Among 100 cities with less than 1 lakh population, Katol in Nagpur district is placed 5th nationally with a score of 3,041 out of 4,000, in the rankings released by the ministry of housing and urban affairs on Saturday.
On a positive note, Nagpur has been adjudged best in the country in Innovation and Best Practices category. The NMC also received the award for Smart Watches project titled Soft Asset Geo-Fencing and Tracking for NMC employees.
Union minister of state (independent charge) Hardeep Singh Puri presented the award to officiating mayor of Nagpur Municipal Corporation Deepraj Pardikar, municipal commissioner Virendra Singh, former municipal commissioner Ashwin Mudgal and deputy municipal commissioner Jayant Dandegaonkar at a programme held at Indore on Saturday. PM Narendra Modi was chief guest at the programme.
Fifty-eight cities from Maharashtra including five from Vidarbha were among the 100 participating cities with less than 1 lakh population. Katol is ranked 3rd in the state after Panchgani and Shirdi.
Among 100 cities with a population of over 1 lakh, 28 were from the state. Nagpur is at 10th position among cities in state (and second after Wardha among four participating cities in Vidarbha). Nagpur scored only 2,835 out of 4,000 marks; 639 out of 1,400 marks under service level progress category; 1,165 out of 1,200 marks under direct observation category and 1,031 out of 1,400 marks under citizen feedback and Swachhata App category.
Ruling party leader Sandip Joshi said every effort will be taken to improve the rankings next year. I would like to congratulate the city for getting the award. We will identify the issues that resulted into low ranking and resolve all of them, he said.
Leena Budhe of NGO Centre for Sustainable Development said NMCs improper management was proving costly for the city. City managed to achieve open defecation free city status last year. NMC miserably failed to implement garbage segregation project and execution of waste to energy plant. On the one hand we are planning disposal of garbage at source itself and on other hand we are setting up waste to energy plant at Bhandewadi dumping yard, she said.
The NMC had appointed NGO All India Institute of Local Self-government to improve the rankings.
- Day 1 of plastic ban: 34 sellers penalized Proshun Chakraborty and Sarfaraz Ahmed| TNN | Jun 24, 2018, 03:06 IST
Nagpur: On Day One of plastic ban, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation’s (NMC) nuisance detection squad started its crackdown with sellers. Most of them kept their shops closed fearing action, yet couldn’t evade it as 34 cases were registered till Saturday evening.
The squad recovered 538kg of single-use plastic items and levied a fine of Rs1.55lakh. The drive will resume on Monday.
No citizen was penalized as the officials decided to check the supply of plastic first. Most offenders were fined Rs5,000 each but the amount was slashed by half for poor vendors, while others were let off with warnings. Notices were pasted outside shops, whose owners fled after seeing the squad.
Shyam Karan Chandani, owner of Manoj Traders at Khamla, became the first offender from the city to be slapped with charges under the Maharashtra Plastic Carry Bags Rules 2016, besides Section 353 of the IPC for obstructing the squad from seizing plastic material from his shop. Chandani is now absconding.
The incident kept the squad and Laxmi Nagar zone officials occupied throughout the day. The officials couldn’t implement the ban in their jurisdiction and stayed put at Pratap Nagar police station.
The remaining nine zones went full steam after wholesalers and retailers of plastic items like plates, cups, glasses, spoons as well as thermacol plates.
Ashi Nagar zone penalized a caterer serving food in a marriage being solemnized at Gujjar Lawn and another at Jaiswal Restaurant near Kamal Chowk. The drive was led by zonal officer Ashique Bansod.
There were sporadic resistance to the squad but the shopkeepers couldn’t do much to prevent officials from seizing the stock.
Virsen Tambe, in-charge of the squad, said 40 of his men along with teams from each zone spread out in the city since morning.
Dharampeth zone recorded the highest seizure with 150kg of plastic, followed by Gandhibagh at 136kg. The lowest of 6.2kg was seized by Satranjipura zone in one case.
On the other hand, the offenders blamed the government and the civic body for leaving them in a spot as there was no clarity on disposal of surplus stock.
Mahatme Phule Market Association, having 270 shops under it, demanded that the government must come clean on loss of employment arising from the ban. The association welcomed the move but appealed to the government to allow one more month to dispose of the stock.
The association pegged a loss of Rs20lakh at Cotton Market for Saturday.
Wholesalers and shopkeepers said the NMC should first act against manufacturers. “NMC didn’t inform us where to dispose the stock. They should have organized pick up facility. We didn’t get a copy of the GR either. Traders were aware of the ban but couldn’t exhaust the stock,” said Manoj Paraswani, secretary of Mahatme Phule Market Association.
He said it’s a big industry and there looks no option. “It will create unemployment for many, so the government must have a plan to rehabilitate them as well,” he said.
Sagar Godani, a shopkeeper from Cotton Market, said he tried reaching Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) since morning without luck. “I wanted to know where to dispose of these items, but no one answered the calls and there was no helpline,” Godani said.
- Plastic ban threatens livelihood of many, leaves them in despair Sarfaraz Ahmed| tnn | Jun 24, 2018, 05:20 IST
Nagpur: Dhrupatabai Gedam (83) and Dhanraj Wahane, a 38-year-old afflicted with polio, are among scores of unskilled people facing a bleak future following the plastic ban. Both have been selling plastic plates, spoons, cups and glasses at Laxmi Bhuvan Square for a frugal livelihood, ever since these products came in use.
Before plastic made entry into their lives, Gedam and Wahane used to sell pattals (leaf plates) and banana leaves which are used during festival and other auspicious occasions by different communities. Over the years, the convenience, quick delivery, profits and customer choice made them add plastic products to their small business.
On Saturday afternoon when TOI did a random survey of markets, the two threw up the disheartening side of the ban which is now threatening their livelihood as well as that many others like them. While Wahane is physically unfit, Gedam can’t think of any alternate employment at this age.
Gedam was in a state of despair and shock to learn that she can’t sell plastic any more. Given her age, the NMC’s nuisance squad showed leniency and didn’t impose any fine on her. “I grabbed their feet, begging not to issue a challan. I had only Rs 10 which I would need to buy bus ticket to return home in the evening,” said Gedam, a resident of Kharabi.
However, the officials took away the cartons containing thermacol plates, cups and glasses, which Gedam said were worth Rs 1,200. “ I assured them that I would return these to the wholesaler, but they didn’t heed my request,” she said.
She had been earning Rs 200 per day with the help of plastic products. “I am the sole bread winner at home while my husband, son and his wife are unemployed,” she said.
Asked how would she make up for the loss of income, the octogenarian, having lost an eye to paralysis, said, “I don’t know. I can’t do anything else. Pattals are not much in demand and profit margins are low,” she said.
Wahane, Gedam’s neighbour, said they become ‘victims’ of the crackdown by chance as the officials had come for ‘Agrawal Disposals’, who had kept his shop closed in view of the ban.
“I suffered a loss of Rs600. I don’t know if switching to leaf plates would help us sustain our families. These items come from Andhra Pradesh and are costly too. With one plastic item, there was a guarantee of selling at least three to four more products which increased our income,” he said.
Wahane said he and other vendors at Gokulpeth market were confused about the nature of plastic ban. “We were told that only carry bags would be banned. But it isn’t so,” he said.
- No building plan sanction for Jamtha stadium Anjaya Anparthi| TNN | Jun 24, 2018, 03:07 IST
Nagpur: In an affidavit submitted by the collector’s office to the state information commission (SIC) on June 20, it has said that the Vidarbha Cricket Association’s (VCA) stadium at Jamtha did not have a building plan sanction. A farmers’ organization has now demanded that the stadium be declared “unauthorized” and “demolished’. Also, it has sought action against officials of different government departments which gave permission to the association to hold matches for the last 10 years.
President of Jai Jawan Jai Kisan along with RTI activist TH Naidu, Vijaykumar Shinde and others held a press conference on Saturday and distributed copies of the affidavit.
On behalf of collector Ashwin Mudgal, the public information officer from his office Kamlesh Shendre had submitted the affidavit. “I have thoroughly verified the records and found this office did not gave any sanction to the building plan of VCA Jamtha stadium,” he has stated.
TOI, on January 6, 2016, had reported that the stadium and the club house were unauthorized as they did not have building plan sanction, occupancy certificate, environment clearance and consent to establish and operate of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). Naidu had submitted an RTI application seeking sanctioned building plan of the stadium from the collector’s office on January 12, 2016.
Naidu said as the collector was not giving proper information, he filed an appeal with the SIC. “The hearings went on for two years. The SIC finally asked the collector on November 16, 2017 to file an affidavit on the sanction. The SIC also directed the collector to register an FIR if the file related to the stadium was missing from its records. The collector has now said there is no sanction,” he said.
Pawar said action should be taken against the officials of the collector’s office, police department, Nagpur Metropolitan Region Development Authority for giving permissions to hold matches at the stadium. “We lodged a complaint with NMRDA, police department and MPCB in February 2016 demanding action against the stadium. None of the departments took cognisance of the complaints. The collector even collected entertainment duty from the VCA,” he said.
Current ICC president Shashank Manohar, who is a former VCA president, had told TOI in 2016 that the stadium was constructed and brought into use after all permissions were in place. VCA had time and again stated the state’s town planning department had sanctioned the stadium’s building plan. Messages sent to current VCA president Anand Jaiswal went unanswered.
Pawar said the collector’s office was the sanctioning authority and not the town planning department. “As per an RTI from the collector’s office, the town planning department has powers only to scrutinize the plan and make recommendations. The collector is the sanctioning authority,” he said.
Pawar said NMRDA should declare the stadium as “unauthorized” and issue it a notice under the MRTP Act. “NMRDA should seal the stadium to prevent VCA from holding any more matches. If the VCA doesn’t get the building plan sanctioned, the stadium should be demolished,” he said.
He added that while the NMRDA is issuing notices to hundreds of poor farmers “declaring their houses as unauthorized and also demolishing the structures or recovering lakhs for regularization in metro region”, it is not taking any action “in the case of VCA”.
Earlier, after TOI reports, the VCA had installed a fire system at the stadium and obtained fire NOC and compliance certificates. Two months ago, the VCA applied for an occupancy certificate which was recently put on hold by the NMRDA for lack of documents.
- 17 years on, NMC yet to remove poles from 22 roads Anjaya Anparthi| TNN | Jun 25, 2018, 03:07 IST
Nagpur: Seventeen years after city roads were widened under IRDP (Integrated Roads Development Programme), Nagpur Municipal Corporation is yet to remove electric poles and transformers from 22 roads across the city. The civic body could complete work on 25 roads. It is also a contempt of highcourt as it had set the deadline as April 30, 2012, for finishing the work.
The delay has come to fore from NMC electrical department’s proposal before the general body seeking permission to avail financial assistance of Rs 7.50 crore and loan of Rs 17.50 crore from Maharashtra Urban Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (MUINFRA) for completing the remaining work. As per the proposal, the state government will deduct the loan repayment amount from GST grant given to NMC every month in case the latter failed to repay it.
NMC needs Rs 50 crore for laying underground electric network followed by removing the poles and transformers from 22 roads. NMC and MSEDCL will contribute Rs 25 crore each for this. As NMC is financially strapped, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis got approved financial assistance of Rs 7.50 crore from MUINFRA to NMC. MUINFRA will give remaining amount of Rs 17.50 crore as low-interest loan.
NMC had widened 47 roads under IRDP in 2001. The electric poles and transformers adjacent to these roads were not removed while widening the roads. Thus, the power infrastructure came on carriageway causing obstacle to traffic and accidents.
In 2004, NGO Janmanch filed a petition in the HC asking for directives to NMC for freeing the roads from electric poles and transformers. On November 21, 2005, HC set deadline of April 30, 2012 for NMC to complete the work.
As per NMC’s data, 15 private contractors were roped in to execute the work on 27 roads at a cost of Rs 50 crore. As of today, work on 25 roads has been completed while it is still pending on two roads. MSEDCL had given its share of Rs 25 crore for the work on 27 roads.
NMC official told TOI, the work got delayed due as government did not permit the NMC to raise loan. “NMC is facing a financial crisis. Therefore, works were executed as and when funds were available,” he said.
President of Janmanch Anil Killor said NMC has been in contempt of the court all these years. “Electric poles and transformers on newly concretized roads have also not been removed. It is a sheer negligence on part of NMC,” he said.
NMC’s budget is over Rs 2,200 crore per year. Its claim of not having Rs 50 crore for crucial work of shifting poles and transformers for 17 years is questionable.
- Paper bags, steel utensils replace plastic, restaurants worst hit by ban Sarfaraz Ahmed| TNN | Jun 25, 2018, 03:08 IST
Nagpur: The single-use plastic ban implemented by Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) from Saturday had a strong impact across the society on Sunday too, changing the way business is done at big restaurants, food chains, small vendors, shopkeepers, meat sellers and weekly markets.
Takeaways at city’s popular restaurants were badly affected due to inability of restaurants to immediately find alternatives to providing liquids. Well-known sweet and namkeen chains too stopped providing plastic bags. The ban resulted in 20 to 25% loss in business, said some. On the other hand, representatives of food aggregators were unaware of the ban, and had been catering to orders in plastic containers.
Unlike the first day, the civic body continued the drive on the holiday, though with milder intensity, seizing 25.7kg of plastic items, and imposing a fine of Rs8,800. The banned products were recovered from five zones while the fine came from Hanuman Nagar.
The senior manager at a popular South Indian eatery at Sadar said they have stopped 90% takeaways, “Business is down by about 25 % in two days. Biodegradable bags have been ordered, and they will come soon. There seems to be no solution for liquids, and we would be discontinuing their parcels. From Monday, we would also suspend orders from food aggregators. We can’t argue with their customers,” he said.
A popular non-veg restaurant on Katol Road switched to supplying biryani in silver foil boxes. “People are getting containers. Some are being turned away if we are short of boxes. We are facing problem in buying those boxes too as they are in high demand,” he said.
On the other hand, citizens, shopkeepers and vendors seemed to have accepted the ban, fearing harsh penalties, and made alternative arrangements for routine items. People carried vessels for buying mutton, loose milk and other liquid items, and big cloth bags for groceries, vegetables and fruits. Shopkeepers provided cloth bags and charged Rs5 from customers at many places.
“Who would take the risk of coughing up Rs5,000,” a fruit seller at Gokulpeth said.
At the weekly vegetable market in Borgaon, vendors adhered to the new rules to avoid action. “NMC officials may be around in plain clothes,” a vendor said.
A mutton seller at Sadar said people came with steel containers, and those who didn’t bring anything were given the meat in paper.
NMC health officer (sanitation) Pradip Dasarwar said though it was a holiday, yet teams with five to six health inspectors in uniform and nuisance detection squad members were deployed in each zone.
Asked what the NMC would be doing with the seized material, Dasarwar said it will be decided later. “Right now, plastic items are being kept at zone offices. Later, we will discuss about disposal with Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and act accordingly. The focus is on cutting the supply by checking plastic sellers. In a couple of days, we would take action against local shops providing plastic bags to customers for carrying goods, eatables etc,” he said.
Citizens would face action in the third phase of the anti-plastic bag drive, the health officer said.
- Citizens to get all govt services at 100 Smart Kiosks soon Anjaya Anparthi| TNN | Jun 25, 2018, 03:10 IST
Nagpur: After a delay of over a year, the Smart City project has finally received the 100 Smart Kiosks, also known as touch points, which will be installed across the city soon. Citizens will get access to all types of services linked to central and state governments, civic body and other government departments at the kiosks, in the first-of-its-kind project in the state.
The Smart Kiosks are part of the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ ambitious Rs520 crore Smart and Safe City Project being implemented by the special purpose vehicle — Nagpur Smart and Sustainable City Development Corporation Limited (NSSCDCL). The project’s private operator L&T Construction’s Smart World and Communications Business Unit was supposed to install the kiosks at 100 locations by April 2017. However, the project was delayed to a great extent.
An official from NSSCDCL told TOI Smart Kiosks have been installed at 20 locations, including two at NMC head office. “Majority of the kiosks will be installed at NMC offices, hospitals and government departments. Plan is to install some at malls. The kiosks cannot be installed at market places as they require safe locations,” he said.
L&T will also operate and maintain the kiosks with high speed internet connectivity for five years. Municipal commissioner Virendra Singh has directed NSSCDCL and L&T to modify outer look of the kiosks. “Wings will be attached to the kiosks on two sides. A display board will be installed atop the kiosks. Also, method to operate the kiosks will also be displayed,” NMC official added.
Earlier, the plan was to install 200 kiosks but the number was reduced to 100. Also, the kiosks were supposed to have cash withdrawal and deposit facility, but this plan was modified due to the government’s cashless initiatives, and also problems of maintenance and security.
The kiosks will accept all types of cards and generate receipts. All government websites like Aaple Sarkar, MSEDCL, NMC, central government etc will be available through the kiosks.
In a minor setback to the project, commissioner of police K Venkatesh has reportedly denied permission to install the kiosks at 30 police stations, eight DCP offices, police headquarters and CP office. He told TOI the kiosks should be installed at locations where people come to seek government services and also have large footfall, instead of at police establishments. “Only people related to cases come to the police establishments. So the kiosks here will not be beneficial,” he said.
Now, the SPV, in association with NMC, is searching for other locations instead of the 40 police establishments.
The entire project covers 3,841 CCTVs at 700 locations, 1,200km optical fibre cable, 10 mobile surveillance vehicles (MVS), 10 drones, smart solutions in 239 city buses, public announcement systems at 50 locations, Wi-Fi access points at 790 locations, Smart Strip on WHC Road between Khamla Square and Japanese Garden Square etc is also nearing completion after a delay of one year.
- NGOs from region join hands to save Melghat from rly line Vijay Pinjarkar| TNN | Jun 25, 2018, 03:11 IST
Nagpur: At least 31 NGOs working in the wildlife conservation field along with like-minded individuals joined hands on Sunday to wage a battle against expansion of railway line through Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR).
A meeting of the NGOs and their representatives from Akola, Telhara, Yavatmal, Amravati, Nagpur and Washim was held at Akot to save Melghat as many villagers are angry over the fact that they are being left out by upgrading the line through MTR.
As a strategy, the NGOs first plan to launch a signature drive to make people, who are being left out, aware about the project. “We will also meet public representatives of all parties to support the cause of Melghat. Rallies will also be organized,” said wildlife and environment lawyer Manish Jeswani.
Amravati honorary wildlife warden Vishal Bansod, who launched an online petition on the issue, said a signature drive in villages which will not benefit from line going through MTR will be launched.
Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board (MSBB) Jayant Wadatkar said, “It seems to be a myopic vision of BJP government to upgrade the line through reserve. It will not solve the purpose of development as many other villages that need to be connected will be left out. In future, there will be restrictions on boosting railway infrastructure.”
Wildlife lover Udayan Patil said, “For long term conservation of tigers, the railway line should be realigned outside the reserve. The existing meter gauge track has already fragmented the vital critical tiger habitat (CTH). The impact in the form of disturbance and biotic pressure has been somewhat less due to closure of trains. Besides, MTR has already relocated 5 out of 6 villages from the area adjoining the current MG track.”
Amol Sawant of Satpuda Foundation said, “The increased frequency of trains may lead to greater probability of getting hit by trains which in turn may force the animals to abandon the forest adjoining the train track. This may lead to inbreeding depression and creation of genetic islands in the long run.” Suresh Chopne, president of Green Planet Society & member of the MoEFCC’s regional environment committee (REC), has said that it is wrong to say that railways will not need forest clearance for upgradation of line.
“Railways will need to change alignment which will involve culverts, tunnels and bridges. All this will lead to felling of hundreds of trees. Besides, alternative route should be taken in view of climate change, environment and wildlife habitat loss,” said Chopane.
- Govt shelter home for girls undergoing transformation Manka Behl| TNN | Jun 25, 2018, 04:58 IST An initiative taken by city-based NGO Zero Gravity has not just brought colours to the unplastered walls of th... Read More
Nagpur: Kiran never had a home to call her own, but she would always find a dark corner for herself. Whether it was at the mental asylum or the orphanage, the bouts of schizophrenia, which not everyone could tolerate, would send her into social isolation.
The temporary recourse found in being separated from the others wouldn’t last long. The fears, delusions and hallucinations would often push 17-year-old Kiran to attempt self-harm.
That same Kiran, who all these years would blankly see through people, today greets us with a bright-eyed smile at the girls’ shelter home run by the district women and child development department at Katol Square.
A paintbrush, a colour palette and an empty wall was all that was needed to bring about the sea change. An initiative taken by city-based NGO Zero Gravity has not just brought colours to the unplastered walls of the shelter but also to the lives of its around 100 inmates who, like Kiran and the walls, have now changed beyond recognition.
“Water drips on their beds, there is no place to study, the toilets are broken, and it smells so bad that I couldn’t stand here for two minutes. I wonder how they live here.” This is how some guests described the shelter, which goes by the official name of Shaskiya Mulinche Balgruha, a few months back.
Started around 1963, the shelter houses girls aged 6-18 years, who are orphans, rendered homeless due to family discord, crime, violence or are street beggars. This is the same place from where three minor girls had fled last year and one of them gang raped by six men a day after the escape.
Coming from all kinds of backgrounds — abusive father, single parent, abandoned, orphans, ragpickers, beggars — most of the girls had a destructive mentality, says Maitreyi Jichkar, founder of Zero Gravity. “They are not living here because they want to but because they have to. We thought that if we turn the dilapidated shelter into a beautiful home, cases of girls running away would come down,” she adds.
Before starting the work, the group had researched on impact of living conditions on the psychology of kids. “We learnt that poor housing conditions have a damaging impact on child’s learning and can also contribute to the emergence of problem behaviour. It can have a long-term impact on health as children living in over-crowded conditions are 10 times more likely to contract meningitis,” says Jichkar.
For mending the impressionable minds of these girls, there was thus a lot of mending needed in the infrastructure. There were not enough lights or fans, the roofs were leaking, not enough beds to sleep, no place to store clothes and other essentials, and very unhygienic rooms and toilets.
The right portion of the shelter is pretty much the same. The dormitories are dark and dirty, walls look ready to collapse, the entire stretch of corridor has an unbearable stench. But the left portion looks as if it has been transplanted from Alice’s Wonderland. It’s an open sesame to an ideal living and learning space, has bright-coloured walls with hand-painted birds, trees, angel wings and flowers.
“These help in enhancing the visual learning of young girls. Healthy living environment also controls aggression and hyperactive behaviour,” says the project’s architect Samruddhi Chaphale.
10-year-old Kritika gently pulls your hand and takes you to the other side of the lobby. She shows you a colourful sketch of the Eiffel Tower which “she wants to climb one day”. Brought to the shelter a few months back, Kritika is a ragpicker’s daughter and would sleep on the streets near Santra Market. Her mother left her here so that Kritika could get a roof and food.
Though she would be withdrawn when the volunteers started working on the shelter from April 27, Kritika soon expressed her desire to help them paint the beds. “Kritika soon opened up to us and confided how she would sometimes steal stuff from a mall,” says Jichkar.
Kritika is not the only one who shared the skeleton in her closet. “Since the last one month, we are everywhere — in their rooms, toilets, dining area, courtyard trying to beautify every nook and corner. Though initially the girls would just observe us from a distance, they soon realized we were not there to lecture them on good manners and offered to help us,” says project manager Tanushree Tamaskar.
Much to the volunteers’ amazement, almost all the girls joined them in the make over of the shelter. Every inch of a pale white wall, which was reserved by the inmates as their “private canvas”, is today covered with their favourite Disney characters, birds, animals and abstracts.
The girls, who had nothing much to do in the four walls of the shelter apart from plotting ways to run away, finally found a purpose. “It seemed as if with every stroke of the brush they were releasing all their negative emotions,” says project’s creative director Shruti Rathod.
As the inmates are actively involved in the revamping, a sense of ownership is clearly prevailing. The same girls who would litter around the shelter, scribble on the walls and not flush the toilets, are now scolding labourers for dirtying a newly painted wall.
A lot of work is still to be done. The NGO is raising funds through crowdfunding platform Ketto. “We have managed to raise Rs1.58 lakh but our target is Rs7 lakh which includes all the repairs and maintenance work,” says Jichkar, who plans to develop a dining and study area, a recreational centre and also fix up the courtyard where inmates spend a lot of their time.
Generous donors from all over the country are helping the cause. “One day, a donor donated 20 fans which came as a blessing for the girls who would otherwise sleep in the heat,” says Jichkar.
The volunteers have managed to turn the shelter into a beautiful home. They have made a bigger difference in the mental health of the inmates. “The initiative had a very positive impact on their minds. They listen to the volunteers, work with dedication, dance and dream big,” says Anjali Nimbalkar, superintendent of the shelter.
Now, when they have a healthy environment to live in, running away is not even a fleeting thought. Some weeks back, three girls, who must be six-to-seven years old, were picked up by the police when they were begging at a traffic signal. The day they were brought to the shelter, they tried to escape. “We opened the gate for some labourers when we saw them all geared up ready to run outside. We got them inside and started involving them in different works,” says Jichkar.
When TOI met them, they were happily learning dance steps from the volunteers. “I want to become a singer and a dancer,” one of them says.
“Earlier, we would want to escape because we thought that sleeping on footpaths is better than sleeping here. But now, we are living in beautiful rooms which we would see only on television,” says 17-year-old Radha, who was left at the shelter as her mother, being a single parent, was unable to take care of her.
While spending time with the volunteers, Radha discovered a knack for photography and now uses an old professional camera. “We were surprised to see how naturally photography comes to her,” the volunteers say.
Their efforts have inspired another teenager to make a career in social work. When Swati’s mother died, her father chose to keep her brother and abandoned her. “I will be enrolling for a course in social work and will join Zero Gravity,” she says confidently.
Recently, the volunteers introduced the girls to waste segregation and, now, they have started disposing wet and dry waste in different dustbins. “We are teaching them to make a compost pit from the wet waste. Soon, we will be introducing them to gardening hoping it would bring more behavioural changes,” says Jichkar.
Agrees clinical psychologist Sonam Kapoor who has worked with Childline India. “Many inmates come from a place where they have seen destruction and they often tend to replicate it in their behaviour by harming others or refusing to cooperate. Activities like gardening or petting an animal can be a big stress-buster and help them in understanding love, care and kindness,” she says.
Probably, it was the void of such emotions that the volunteers managed to fill. “Didis here have told us stories of girls who are pursuing different careers. There was a time when we didn’t have enough clothes to cover our body but today we are imagining ourselves in uniforms,” says 17-year-old Bharti.
‘What good are winds without the courage to fly’ reads a graffiti near the bed on which Bharti is preparing for railway recruitment.
What is Zero Gravity?
Zero Gravity is a non-profit organization operating under the umbrella of Dr Shrikant Jichkar Foundation. Founded by Maitreyi Jichkar in 2008, the young group has been working in the field of education, health care and rural development since a decade. However, it was the ‘Happy School Project’ started six years back which turned out to be their “star” project. “Under this, we transform government schools through holistic infrastructural makeovers using UNICEF’s concept of Building As A Learning Aid (BALA),” she says.
Till now, the organization has transformed 50 schools in three states, impacting the lives of more than 5,000 children. In 2013, Zero Gravity had collaborated with The Times of India in the Save Nag River campaign.
The NGO is currently taking institutional care of 500 children living in shelter homes. The government girls shelter home at Katol Road is the group's first project under its mission of transforming shelters.
A coffee fund-raiser
In an innovate approach, coffee became a medium to raise funds for the shelter’s transformation. On Saturday and Sunday, Zero Gravity collaborated with Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters and organized a coffee fund-raiser called ‘Brewing for Renewing’. Held inside the shelter premises, the fund-raiser saw participation of around 650 people and managed to raise about Rs1.10 lakh.
“This was a first-of-its kind fund-raiser in the city in which we turned the shelter’s courtyard into a café. A major part of the coffee bills is going to be used for rebuilding the shelter,” said coffee ‘Q grader’ Mithilesh Wazalwar, who has founded Corridor Seven.
On the first day itself, the expenses for electrical work in the dormitories were taken care of. “Around 200 people attended the fund-raiser and around Rs10,000 was collected,” said Zero Gravity founder Maitreyi Jichkar.
The organization had also arranged a muted tour of the shelter. “Rather than volunteers, we made placards and arrows to guide the visitors around the shelter and showed them the conditions in which these girls were living. Many of them came forward to donate,” added Jichkar.
(Names of inmates at the shelter have been changed)