Mumbai: Snippets- MHADA, Potholed Highways, Dr Hemant Jhoshi, Primary teachers

Mhada & Moolah

Mhada, the housing authority of the Maharashtra government, is involved in so many scams that it should probably be called the Maharashtra Hoax And Deceit Authority or some such. Housing activist Chandrashekhar Prabhu, who once headed the body, shared an anecdote about its brazen corruption at a recent public meeting held to protest against forced redevelopment in the city.

Many years ago, while returning home late at night, Prabhu happened to cross a vacant Mhada plot and was amazed to find hutments being built there. Without revealing his identity, the Mhada president went up to the men and asked them why they were encroaching on government land. Replied one man, “Oh, we have all the permissions.

We have paid off everyone in Mhada, right up to the top. We always build these huts in the middle of the night.’’

A shocked Prabhu called the police, who, after a bit of sleuthing, identified the Mhada employee responsible for the encroachments. When Prabhu called him to give him his suspension letter, the man, far from being ashamed, had an answer ready.

“Sir, I’m going to retire in another three months,’’ he said, “and I haven’t even completed the required target of 75 huts. I have got only 25 built so far.’’

When a puzzled Prabhu asked him what that meant, he replied, “Once we retire, our earnings stop. So, many of us make money in this way just before retirement.’’

We’re speechless. Actually, no. This is Mhada, after all.

Rain Check

For marketers looking for opportunities to build their brands, every occasion, happy or tragic, is a fitting one. A few days ago, a corporate that manufactures door locks and cupboards, among other things, teamed up with a film production house to distribute raincoats to street children on July 26, the third anniversary of the killer downpour that submerged Mumbai in 2005.

The corporate’s rider: it planned to make the kids run from Juhu to Bandra sporting the rain gear imprinted with its logo. Partnering NGOs too seemed to have no qualms about the children sprinting this long distance in the torrential rain that was then sweeping the city.

When we sent a message to the organisers, decrying their absurd plan, we got a reply—interspersed with embarrassed smileys—saying that they were only going to hand out raincoats to random passersby. We don’t what they eventually did; what we do know is that the idea of milking a tragedy in which hundreds died (and not for want of a raincoat) left us with a bad taste in the mouth.

Whistle Blower
When our correspondent visited the clinic of Virar-based child specialist Hemant Joshi recently, the doctor told her after the interview that he had a gift for her. The journo replied, a little warily, that she did not accept gifts.

The doc laughed and said that the gift wasn’t anything elaborate, only a whistle.
Just as the puzzled scribe was trying to decode that one, he explained: a whistle and a knife are the two selfdefence implements he strongly believes every woman in Mumbai who works and travels late hours should carry—one to summon help when in distress and the other to stick into an attacker. It doesn’t stop at philosophy:

Dr Joshi presents a whistle and a knife to every woman who visits his clinic or joins his staff. Unfortunately he’d run out of knives, but our journo enjoyed blowing the whistle in office.

Smile, Don’t Honk

The traffic police’s sense of humour gets curiouser, but is most welcome. After the gem about ‘Stop at Red and Go at Green—except when eating watermelon’ comes this juicy bite. Drink + driving = Inviting trouble.

So for 7 days no daroo-varoo, no bike-vike.’ Keep it up, Baijal’s Boyz… It cheers us up as we wait interminably for signals to change after having snailed our way through rainy slowdowns and security barriers.

Full honks also for having learned the correct adjective: ‘Drunk driving’, not the commonly used, ‘drunken driving’.

Down Memory Lane
When our education reporter, who’d just finished writing about the SSC toppers of this year, moved on to an assignment on yesteryear’s scholars, she discovered something amusing. The news reports this paper carried over a quarter of a century ago were more or less identical to the ones today—profiles of the toppers, questions about their favourite books, their hobbies, extra-curricular activities and, of course, the number of hours of study they put in everyday.

If there was any difference, it was in the date (ancient history) and the colour of the paper (yellowing). The Times, they evidently aren’t a-changing.

(Contributed by Sukhada Tatke, Bella Jaisinghani, Sandhya Nair, Bachi Karkaria and Anahita Mukherji. Illustrations by Deepa. Compiled by Radha Rajadhyaksha)

Welcome to the ‘potholed highway’

It Is Neglected Despite Being A Part Of The Centre’s Golden Quadrilateral Project

Sandhya Nair I TNN

Mumbai: The Mumbai-Ahmedabad National Highway 8, which connects the city with New Delhi, is in a pathetic state. Motorists dread driving on this road that has been nicknamed the ‘potholed highway’.
“The road has vanished and what you come across is only potholes on the entire stretch between Mira Road and Virar,’’ said a Vasai-based businessman Ajay Modi, who takes this route every day from his Vile Parle residence to Vasai, where he has a factory.

The pothole-studded stretches have led to several big and small accidents and have also become the major cause for traffic jams. Though monsoon has added to the condition, motorists said no attention had been paid to the highway for years together. “I have been travelling on this route for the past five years.

ll I can say is that it is getting worse by the day. On every stretch, it is a bumpy ride,’’ said Mira Road resident Mihir Desai, who also takes this road to Virar to his factory.

Vasai resident Rudolf Fernando has almost stopped taking out his car. “To be stuck in a traffic jam for two to three hours has become normal. The potholes are growing bigger, so are accidents. But the authorities are yet to wake up to the problem,’’ said Fernando, who now prefers to travel by train.

Though the highway is part of the Centre’s Golden Quadrilateral project that was launched by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the road gets little or no attention. Several associations and regular commuters have been writing to the local municipal agencies, but reportedly to no avail.

“We have written several times to the local civic bodies to repair the roads but no one is listening,’’ said Modi. As several civic agencies are in charge of different stretches of the highway, each one passes on the buck to the other.

Authorities at Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) and Vasai-Virar Municipal Councils said maintenance of the highway was the responsibility of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). The NHAI officials, in their turn, insisted that the highway must be maintained by the states through which the road passes.

The National Highway 8 passes through Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The commuters also complained that traffic police are never around. “On Sunday, after a heavy vehicle met with an accident, there was a major traffic jam near Mira Road around 12 at night. But there was not a single policeman. I could reach my destination in Virar only at 6 in the morning,’’ said Sayed Qureshi from Virar.


MSRTC to make long distance travel easier

Plans 200 Semi-Luxury Buses From Kalyan, Thane, Panvel

Chittaranjan Tembhekar I TNN

Mumbai: The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) plans to start 200 long-distance, semi-luxury buses from Dadar, Borivli, Thane, Vashi, Kalyan and Panvel by October. This will make commuting across the Mumbai metropolitan region a lot easier.

The Vaari bus plan will prove to be a boon, especially when the suburban train traffic experiences megablocks. “Railway blocks due to maintenance work or floods will not inconvenience commuters, as our buses will assist them during difficult times,’’ said MSRTC vice-chairman and managing director Om Prakash Gupta.

“We are already plying 28 such buses within Thane, Dadar, Borivli, Bhayander and Panvel and are going to add 50 new ones with a capacity of 68 passengers by the end of the month. With no change in fare, suburban commuters are responding enthusiastically,’’ said Gupta.

When asked if it would pose stiff competition to the King Long buses, Gupta said the buses will not have airconditioning but will have more comfortable seating arrangements. While a King Long bus charges up to Rs 35 for a commute between Thane and Dadar, the MSRTC’s Vaari bus will charge only Rs 20.

“Our fares will not be high though the buses will be semiluxurious,’’ Gupta said, adding that the long-distance buses would not even halt at every bus stop.

The MSRTC has plans to introduce more AC buses with CNG fuelling system. At present, AC buses pl between Pune, Mumbai, Nashik and Thane.

An agreement with Mahanagar Gas to set up CNG stations is being expedited so that more CNG buses can be added to the network. “We are giving final touches to the plan,’’ said Gupta, adding that the corporation had started showing profits since the last financial year.

State govt bans non-academic work for primary school teachers

Mumbai: The state has directed officials to ensure that primary school teachers under local selfgovernment bodies should not be deployed for non-academic work.

“Except for works of national importance, like elections and census, teachers should not be deployed for non-academic purposes,’’ a government resolution (GR), issued on August 1, said.

The government has made it clear that even in the case of election and census-related duties, the work should be assigned only on holidays and during the ‘nonteaching period’.

In the recent monsoon session, the government had come in for flak from Opposition members over ‘burdening teachers with non-academic work’. The GR makes a mention of the same, saying “following a discussion in the legislature, the government was considering freeing teachers from non-academic work’’.

On December 6 last year, the Supreme Court ruled that teachers should not be deployed on non-academic duty during school timings, including election duties, census work and Pulse Polio campaigns.

However, eight months later, while authorities claim they cannot take action before receiving specific instructions from the state government, teachers continue to be deployed on electoral duties including revision of voter lists and issuing of photo passes to voters.

The government had in 1996 issued a circular making it clear that deploying teachers for nonacademic duties resulted in disruption of children’s studies, the GR said. AGENCIES

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