Five killed, two injured as chartered plane crashes in Mumbai suburb

At least five persons including a pedestrian were killed and two injured when a small chartered plane crashed in the thickly populated suburb of Ghatkopar in north-east Mumbai on Thursday, officials said.

Chartered plane crashes in Mumbai, 5 dead
At least five persons including a pedestrian were killed and two injured when a small chartered plane crashed in the thickly populated suburb of Ghatkopar in north-east Mumbai on Thursday, officials said.
Eyewitnesses said that the plane was seen hurtling down in the narrow Jeevadaya Lane area and crashed with a deafening sound before breaking into pieces and bursting into flames around 1.15 p.m. There were two pilots and as many engineers on board.
The fuselage had broken into several pieces and one piece was recovered at least 50 metres away while some other portions of the plane burnt in the premises of an under-construction building. The fire was brought under control within half an hour by the fire brigade.
The aircraft's crucial Flight Data Recorder or Black Box was recovered.
A local passer-by in the vicinity of the crash was burnt fatally when some burning ATF fuel from the aircraft fell on him, said an eyewitness who was among the first to reach the spot.
The cause of the crash is not known and it occurred in the compound of the under construction Jagruti apartments, thereby averting a potentially major disaster.
There are usually at least four dozen labourers working on the premises but they had taken a lunch break when the aircraft hurtled there, creating a crater by its impact.
Aviation expert and Executive Airways Managing Director Pradeep Thampi said the aircraft was a 30-year-old King Air C-90, purchased from the Uttar Pradesh government by private company UY Aviation Pvt Ltd in Mumbai around a couple of years ago.
"Its call sign was VT-UPZ and it was a regular 12-seater on a test flight. The tragedy has claimed the pilot, co-pilot and two engineers. We cannot say immediately what may have led to the sudden crash," Thampi told IANS.
An Uttar Pradesh government spokesperson confirmed that the Mumbai-based UY Aviation Pvt Ltd had bought the aircraft a few years ago.
Union Minister for Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu, who hails from Mumbai, expressed "deep shock" over the tragedy and directed the ministry officials concerned to rush to the accident site and provide all assistance possible.
Prabhu said he has ordered the Director-General of Civil Aviation to conduct an investigation into the crash and a team has left for the spot for a preliminary probe.
Mumbai Police, fire brigade, disaster relief agencies, besides local BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, legislators and others are at the site and further details of the victim crew members and pedestrians are awaited.
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16 dead, 15 injured, several trapped as five-storeyed building collapses in Mumbai

At least 16 people died and 15 others suffered injuries when an old, dilapidated five-storeyed building collapsed in the Bhendi Bazaar area, near J J Junction, in south Mumbai here this morning, official sources said.

16 dead, 15 injured in Mumbai building collapse
At least 16 people died and 15 others suffered injuries when an old, dilapidated five-storeyed building collapsed in the Bhendi Bazaar area, near J J Junction, in south Mumbai here this morning, official sources said.
Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai Assistant Commissioner J S Ghegadmal told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene that 31 victims had been extricated from the debris, of whom 16 were found dead.
The injured were rushed to the nearby J. J. Hospital, where the condition of some of them was stated to be serious, sources said.
With several more people feared trapped under the tonnes of debris, scores of men from the Mumbai Fire Brigade, the Municipal Corporation, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and local residents were engaged in massive search and rescue efforts.
Cranes, gas cutters and other equipment were being used to clear the debris and cut through the mangled steel and concrete to reach the victims and look for possible survivors.
The structure was more than a hundred years old, sources said. It was locted in a heavily congested area in south Mumbai's C Ward, and rescue teams with their big vehicles and heavy equipment had a tough time reaching the spot.
The building had a playschool on the premises which would have opened at 10 am as usual. However, the building came down at about 8.30 am, much before the children were scheduled to arrive.
This is the third major incident of building collapse in the metropolis in recent weeks. On July 25, at least 17 people died and 11 others suffered injuries when a four-storeyed residential building collapsed in the suburban area of Ghatkopar.
On August 26, six people lost their lives when a part of a seven-storeyed under-construction building collapsed at Chandivali while some unauthorised portions of the structure were being demolished.
Municipal officials said they received a call about the collapse of the building around 8.40 am and the fire brigade was immediately rushed to the spot. There was no immediate word on the number of people living in the building and how many of them were trapped under the debris. Police have cordoned off the area to facilitate the smooth conduct of the search and rescue operations.
The incident has come two days after Mumbai experienced its heaviest rainfall since the July 2005 floods.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed grief over the loss of lives in the incient and is personally monitoring the situation.
He has ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident by a committee headed by the Additional Chief Secretary (Housing).
Mr. Fadnavis has asked the Municipal Commissioner to submit a detailed report on the tragedy. He also asked the Municipal Commissioner to focus on ensuring immediate medical assistance to the injured persons. State Minister Subhash Desai visited the spot and later briefed Mr. Fadnavis about the situation.
Civic officials said the building had been declared unsafe for living six years ago. The residents had been served with evacuation notices in 2011 and ordered to vacate the building to enable redevelopment of the area under the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) project.

16 dead, 14 injured in major fire at ammunition depot in Maharashtra

At least 22 defence personnel died and 14 others suffered injuries in a major fire that broke out in the early hours of Tuesday and triggered huge explosions at one of India's biggest ammunition depots at Pulgoan in Wardha district of Maharashtra.

16 dead, 14 injured in ammunition depot fire in Wardha
At least 16 people died and 14 others suffered injuries in a major fire that broke out in the early hours of today and triggered huge explosions at one of India's biggest ammunition depots at Pulgoan in Wardha district of Maharashtra.
Wardha district officials said the injured had been admitted to hospitals in Wardha town, about 30 km from Pulgaon, for treatment, official sources said.
The massive fire and the explosions that followed lit up the night sky in the town, located about 100 km from Nagpur.
The fire broke out in the Central Ammunition Depot around 1.30 am today and was brought under control by around 6 am today, they said.
The cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained and would be established only after an inquiry, they said.
The sources said families living in accommodation near the depot were evacuated to safer places as a precautionary measure.
Fire brigade personnel worked throughout the night to bring the blaze under control.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives in the fire.
“Pained by loss of lives caused by a fire at central ammunition depot in Pulgaon, Maharashtra. My thoughts are with the bereaved families," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter
"I pray that those who are injured recover quickly," he said, adding that he had asked Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to rush to the spot and take stock of the situation. 
Chief of Army Staff Gen Dalbir Singh is also rushing to Wardha for an assessment of the situation, the sources added.

GI tag for Alphonso mango from Konkan region

The famous Alphonso mango from Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Palghar, Thane and Raigad districts of  Maharashtra, has got a Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
Geographical Indication is an indication used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. Such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality, an official press release said.
Darjeeling Tea, Mahabaleshwar Strawberry, Blue Pottery of Jaipur, Banarasi Sarees and Tirupati Laddus are some of the GI products.
"GI products can benefit the rural economy in remote areas, by supplementing the incomes of artisans, farmers, weavers and craftsmen. Our rural artisans possess unique skills and knowledge of traditional practices and methods, passed down from generation to generation, which needs to be protected and promoted," the release said.
Recently, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu had launched the logo and tagline for the Geographical Indications (GI) of India and said GI will give the rightful share in the intellectual property to the artisan and the place of origin of the product.
He emphasised that it is an area of strength and optimism for India, as the GI tag has given protection to a large number of hand-made and manufactured products, especially in the informal sector.
The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion has taken several initiatives in this regard and is actively involved in the promotion and marketing of GIs with a vision to enhance the horizon both socially and economically for GI producers, the release said.
The king of mangoes, Alphonso, better known as ‘Hapus’ in Maharashtra, is in demand in domestic and international markets not only for its taste but also for pleasant fragrance and vibrant colour. It has long been one of the world's most popular fruits and is exported to various countries including Japan, Korea and Europe. New markets such as USA and Australia have recently opened up.
The first product to get a GI tag in India was the Darjeeling tea in 2004. There are a total of 325 products from India that carry this indication.

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SC declines SIT probe, says arrests not for dissent

In a 2:1 majority judgement, the Supreme Court on Friday refused to interfere in the arrest of five activists in the Bhima Koregaon case in Maharashtra. It also declined to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT), allowing Pune police to go ahead with its probe.
The house arrest of the five rights activists -- Sudha Bhardwaj, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira -- will continue for four more weeks, said a majority judgement, read out by Justice A. M. Khanwilkar also on behalf of Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
He said that in perusal of documents submitted before the bench it was not a case of arrest merely because of dissent or difference in political views.
In a dissenting judgement, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud said liberty cherished by the Constitution would have no meaning if persecution of the five rights activists were allowed without a proper investigation.
Justice Chandrachud lashed out at the Pune police for going public with evidence and termed it as disconcerting behaviour.
Rejecting the plea seeking the SIT probe into charges that the five have links with banned CPI (Maoist) outfil and were allegedly involved in a conspiracy to kill sovereign leaders, the bench said: "The accused person cannot have a choice in the investigating agency."
However, Justice Khanwilkar said that the accused were at liberty to pursue appropriate legal relief. 
As the bench extended its interim order putting them under house arrest, in his dissenting judgment Justice Chandrachud recalled the sequence of events when a senior police officer held a press conference and released letters. 
Justice Chandrachud said that the impartiality of the Maharashtra Police was in doubt as it had tried to prejudice public opinion. He questioned "whether the Maharashtra Police can be trusted to carry out impartial investigation".
He ordered a court-monitored SIT probe and said that the technicalities of law cannot be allowed to override the substantive justice. 

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Maharashtra town stages 'silent protest' against minor's rape

Hundreds of people staged a silent protest outside the Collectorate here on Monday, demanding justice for a 10-year-old victim of rape.
The locals, carrying banners and placards, started from various places in the town, converged at the centrally located Gandhi Maidan and later staged a sit-in there.
They were protesting against the brutal abduction, assault and rape of the girl by a neighbour, identified as 24-year-old Latif Syed.
The incident happened late in August when the girl was playing alone outside her home in Tofkhana locality.
Nearly a fortnight later, on Saturday, the terrified girl finally gathered courage to narrate her plight to her parents who sought help from other villagers.
They immediately trooped to the home of the accused, caught him and dragged him to the police station.
The locals decided to draw the attention of the government by organising a silent procession to the Collectorate on Monday.
They demanded that the case be investigated on priority, the accused be tried in a fast-track court, eminent criminal lawyer Ujjwal Nikam should be named the public prosecutor and the victim should be entitled to compensation by the government.

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Familiarisation flight lands at greenfield airport at Sindhudrg in Maharashtra

A familiarization flight from Mumbai to Sindhudurg landed today at Parule Chipi greenfield airport in Sindhudurg district of the Konkan region of Maharashtra. 
With this successful test flight, access to the Konkan coast of Maharashtra will become easier and some of Maharashtra’s top tourist attractions will become accessible to visitors from all over India, an official press release said.
Commercial flights to Sindhudurg will become operational from December this year, it said.
The airport is located between Malvan and Vengurla, and the Tarkarli beach and Sindhudurg fort are 20 kms away. The commissioning of this airport also improves accessibility to North Goa. The beaches of Tiracol, Arambol and Mandrem are equidistant from Goa’s Dabolim airport.
The 2,500-metre runway will be able to handle aircrafts like the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. The terminal building has the capacity to handle 400 passengers at its peak.
Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has asked the airport management company and Maharashtra State Government to resolve the pending issues related to ILS and VOR installation so that regular operations could begin on schedule.
The co-pilot of the flight was a local girl from Devgad in Sindhudurg district, the release added.

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Petrol touches Rs 90.11 in Maharashtra's Parbhani

Petrol prices on Tuesday breached the psychological barrier of Rs 90 and touched a scorching Rs 90.11 in Maharashtra's Parbhani - a new record in India, an official said.
Parbhani District Petrol Dealers Association (PDPDA) President Sanjay Deshmukh told IANS that diesel prices also increased from Rs 77.92 to Rs 78.06 on Tuesday.
On Monday, the petrol price was Rs 89.97 and diesel stood at Rs 77.92 in the town with a population of around 3,10,000, around 500 kms east of Mumbai in Marathwada region.
On the 15th day of consecutive hikes, petrol prices increased on Tuesday by Rs 0.14 and diesel by Rs 0.15, from 6 a.m, barely two days before the state's biggest 10-day Ganeshotsav festival begins.
The other highest centres include Nanded where petrol was retailing at Rs 89.93 per litre and diesel Rs 77.90, and Amravati Rs 89.93 and Rs 78.84.
Elsewhere in Maharashtra, in Thane petrol retailed at Rs 88.43 and diesel Rs 77.64. In Mumbai, petrol was selling at Rs 88.35 and diesel at Rs 77.56.
On Monday, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party termed the hike in petroleum products as a 'momentary difficulty' owing to an international crisis after the Opposition parties in the country observed a Bharat Bandh, to protest the skyrocketing fuel prices.

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Two dead amid 'dahi-handi' celebrations in Maharashtra

At least two persons were killed, one is reported missing and more than 85 were injured in various incidents as Maharashtra witnessed "dahi-handi" celebrations in Mumbai and others parts of the state on Monday.
One youth died in a "dahi-handi" related incident in Sion, central Mumbai, while another drowned in Bhayander in Thane. One youth is missing in the Arabian Sea at Versova Beach in Andheri, while four were rescued.
Besides, at least 87 youngsters fell and were injured at various venues while forming human pyramids, the BMC Disaster Control said.
Earlier, Lord Krishna's birthday was heralded amid prayers, chanting of hymns, ringing bells and "aartis" at the two main venues in Mumbai, the ISKCON temples in Chowpatty and Juhu, at midnight of Sunday-Monday, with a welcome drizzle in many parts of Mumbai.
"Thousands of devotees prayed here. The temple is decorated with a Rajasthani theme and has 1,008 items offered to Lord Krishna as 'bhog' today, prepared by over 500 volunteers," said ISKCON Radha Chowpatty head, Radhanath Swami.
"Dahi-handi" festivities started in a big way with big and small "Govinda" groups of men and women, attired in colourful clothes, fanned out all over the city to try their "pot luck", with film stars like Raveena Tandon, Suniel Shetty, Varun Kapoor, and many more joining the celebrations, and Maharashtrian "laavni" dance performers regaling the crowds.
Thousands of "Govindas" also trooped out in other cities like Pune, Nagpur, Kolhapur and others to form human pyramids and break the dahi-handi, an earthen pot having a deliious mixture of curd and butter, commemorating the birth and symbolizing the spirit of Lord Krishna.
At many major venues in Borivali, Andheri, Dadar, Ghatkopar, Mulund and others, the govindas attempted to build up around five tiers to grab the dahi-handi pot, and safety measures were evident. In some venues in Mumbai and Thane, the pyramids were as tall as nine tiers.
Among several large groups having political backing, the emphasis this year was less on doling out huge prize monies, but more on deriving hefty political mileage, with eyes on the 2019 general elections.
"This is the first year it is being celebrated as a 'sport' event with the participation of around 1,000 registered organisations in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad districts. They must strictly adhere to all safety precautions," Bala Padelkar, head of Dahi-Handi Coordination Committee, told IANS.
However, watchdog Lok Jagruti Samajik Sanstha President Swati Patil said in most venues, safety measures were blatantly flouted and children aged below 14 were being foisted on top of the human pyramids.
"During a practice session in Khar four days ago, 12-year old Chirag Patekar from Khar fell and is in a coma at a Bandra hospital. Who is responsible for his future now?" Patil asked. The Mumbai BJP has announced Rs 100,000 assistance to the boy's family.
She accused several groups and organisers in Dadar and Chembur of flouting the Bombay High Court directives by not providing safety belts and harnesses.
At a venue in Dadar, after forming the pyramids, the govindas saluted the martyred soldiers, while in one group in Walkeshwar, south Mumbai, the topmost govinda was clad in an Army-style suit in a tribute to Indian soldiers.
Some organisations and groups also announced donations of their full or part winnings to the victims of the recent Kerala floods.

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MoU signed for new Indore-Manmad railway line project

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) for implementation of the new 362 km Indore- Manmad railway line project was signed here on Tuesday between Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Ministry of Railways and the State Governments of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
Containers and other rail traffic from Indore and other Central Indian locations earlier had to follow a circuitous route through Vadodara and Surat to reach Mumbai, Pune and ports like JNPT, travelling a distance of 815 km. 
The new project will reduce the distance from Mumbai/Pune to key central India locations by 171 km, resulting in lower logistics costs, an official press release said.
This is especially significant as the new railway line will pass through the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor nodes of Igatpuri, Nashik and Sinnar; Pune and Khed; and Dhule and Nardana, it said.
The MoU was signed in the presence of  Minister of  Shipping, Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari,  Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, and Chief Ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh) and Devendra Phadnavis (Maharashtra). 
The implementation of the project will be through the Indian Port Rail Corporation Limited (IPRCL) on Joint Venture  SPV model. A joint venture company will be formed between the Ministry of Shipping or its nominated PSUs/entity including JNPT (which will be the main promoter) with an equity share of 55%. The government of Maharashtra or its nominated PSUs/entity, Government of Madhya Pradesh or its nominated PSUs/entity, and others will have an equity share of 15% each.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Gadkari hailed the signing of the MoU as a major step towards the development of backward areas of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra through which the new railway line will pass.
The project is estimated to result in cumulative net economic benefits of Rs 15,000 crore in the first ten years of operations. The logistics advantages of the project include providing a shorter route for the passenger as well as the freight traffic originating from / terminating at/or crossing through the region.
It will reduce the logistics cost for the cargo centres located in Northern India such as Lucknow, Agra, Gwalior and Kanpur belt as well as Indore – Dhule – Bhopal region to the gateway ports JNPT and Mumbai. It will provide an alternate route to the existing central and western railway lines and reduce congestion on the over utilized existing railway network.
The Minister pointed out that the project, to be completed within six years, will help in employment generation, reduction in pollution, fuel consumption and vehicle operating costs.

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Hackers siphon Rs 94 crore from Pune's Cosmos Bank via ATMs in 28 countries

The banking sector was rattled again when hackers siphoned off a whopping Rs 94.42 crore from the Cosmos Cooperative Bank Ltd - the second oldest and second biggest cooperative bank in India - to foreign and domestic bank accounts, officials said on Tuesday.
Shockingly, the Cosmos Bank admitted that it was "cyber-attacked twice, first on Saturday and again on Monday" -- with ATM withdrawals taking place in at least 28 countries, according to an FIR lodged by a senior official with Chaturshringi Police Station.
The police complaint said the first attack took place on August 11 between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. and the second on August 13 around 11.30 a.m., affecting its headquarters on Ganeshkhind Road.
"We have appointed a professional forensic agency to investigate this malware attack. It will submit its report in the next few days regarding the modus operandi of this and the exact amounts involved," Chairman Milind A. Kale told the media.
He said that normally, the Core Banking System (CBS) receives debit card payment requests via its "switching system". But during the malware attack, a proxy switch was created and all the fraudulent payment approvals were passed through the proxy switching system.
On Saturday, around Rs 78 crore was withdrawn through ATMs located in 28 countries through 12,000 Visa card transactions, Kale added. These were transferred out of the country, including bank accounts in Hong Kong.
Another amount of Rs 2.50 crore from 2,849 transactions was transferred within India, details of which were being investigated by the police.
The cyber attack came to light on Saturday when the bank noticed "unusual repeated transactions taking place through its Visa and Rupay Debit Card Payment System", Kale said.
As soon as these suspicious transactions were reported, the bank reacted by clamping a shutdown on its Visa and Rupay debit card payment systems pending investigation.
A police officer said that during those hours, some unknown persons hacked into the ATM Switch (servers) at the bank's headquarters and acquired the sensitive data of its Visa and RuPay debit card customers.
However, in a fresh attack on Monday (August 13), the hackers initiated SWIFT transactions and transferred Rs 13.92 crore to the accounts of a company, ALM Trading Ltd, with Hang Seng Bank, Hong Kong. The amounts were soon withdrawn from that bank.
Kale pointed out that since the malware attack was on the Switch System which is operative for the payment gateway of Visa/Rupay debit cards and not on the Cosmos Bank's CBS, "the customers' accounts and their balances are not at all affected.
"None of the fraudulent transactions is debited to any customer accounts and will not be debited in future too. The Savings, Term Deposits and Recurring accounts of the depositors are totally safe," Kale assured, urging customers not to panic.
He said the bank's servers and other systems were inspected annually by the RBI Audit and System Audit. The Cosmos Bank was ensuring all the measures for data security and this security system was fully operational.
Established in 1906, the Pune-headquartered Cosmos Bank is the second oldest and second biggest cooperative bank in the India, enjoying the status of a multi-state scheduled bank.

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Maratha quotas: Peaceful start to Maharashtra shutdown

The Maratha-sponsored shutdown demanding employment and education quotas started on a peaceful note in most parts of Maharashtra, barring Mumbai Metropolitan Region, officials said on Thursday.
The organisers - Sakal Maratha Samaj and Maratha Kranti Morcha besides other affiliated groups - have appealed to all supporters to ensure a violence-free shutdown and cooperate with the police among others things.
In Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai, only token protests were held, and the suburban trains on the Western Railway and Central Railway operated normally.
However, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corp (MSRTC) decided to suspend its services in most parts of the state to avoid being the target of the activists.
In Latur, Sholapur, Kolhapur, Palghar and several other places, activists blocked road traffic while Pune, Ahmednagar, Washim, Dhule, Buldhana, Nanded, Akola, Parbhani, Jalna, Hingoli, Aurangabad woke up to a total shutdown.
Although Nashik was normal, there were roadblocks, processions and sit-ins and similar agitations in Nagpur, where activists performed prayers to a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. In Yavatmal, a bike rally was taken out.
Internet services were snapped as a precaution in several districts like Aurangabad, Osmanabad and Ahmednagar while protestors staged a sit-in outside the Baramati (Pune district) home of Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar.
There were road blocks on the Mumbai-Goa Highway, Mumbai-Nashik Highway and the old Mumbai-Pune Highway, which remained practically traffic-free due to the shutdown.
In Sindhudurg district, Marathas staged a 'jail-bharo' agitation in all sub-districts. They were later let off.
Though exempt from the shutdown, many schools and colleges in the state remained shut as students and teachers could not reach on time owing to the agitation.

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Maharashtra government work hit as lakhs of staff begin 3-day strike

The functioning of government offices across Maharashtra was hit on Tuesday as around 17 lakh state employees launched a three-day strike over their pending demands, including implementation of the 7th Pay Commission report.
This, despite the fact that the state government on Monday night adopted a tough stand and invoked the MESMA (Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act). It warned of strict disciplinary action and salary cuts against those who failed to report for duty.
Simultaneously, it also announced the payment of pending Dearness Allowance (DA) for 14 months to 150,000 gazetted officers with the August salaries, who withdrew from the three-day agitation.
The strike's impact was felt in the offices of all government departments, which remained largely deserted, virtually paralysing all routine work, with barely five per cent attendance in the Mantralaya, the state government seat at Nariman Point.
Besides, work in government schools, colleges, technical institutes, hospitals, health centres in urban and rural centres was also affected, hitting the poor and senior citizen patients hard.
Most government-run hospitals, including the Sir J. J. Group of Hospitals in Mumbai and other cities, postponed all scheduled surgeries and only performed emergency procedures in the absence of doctors, nursing, other paramedic and support staff.
An official of the Maharashtra State Employees Organisation (MSEO) said that all employees from Mantralaya right up to the taluka levels across all government departments joined the strike.
"We had served the notice for strike on July 16. But since there was no response from the government, we went ahead with the agitation. It has been a 100 per cent success," MSEO President Milind Sardeshmukh claimed.
Maharashtra Government Employees Union General Secretary Avinash Daund questioned why the government was delaying the issue when an announcement to implement the 7th Pay Commission has already been made as well and the budgetary provision for it made.
At several places in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad and other important cities, the employees held protest marches or dharnas while raising slogans and asking the state government to immediately concede their demands.
The MSEO has accused the state government of sitting on its demands, including the implementation of the Pay Commission report, which was to be made effective from January 1, 2016.
However, later it dilly-dallied that it was awaiting the K. P. Bakshi Committee report on the matter as implementing the Pay Commission recommendations will entail an additional burden of Rs 21,000 crore on the debt-hit state.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier said the government would implement the 7th Pay Commission report from January 2019 and a budgetary provision of Rs 10,000 crore was made in the last state Budget.
However, the employees' organizations apprehend that in case the general elections are announced by then, the model code of conduct would be enforced and their wait could drag on much longer.
The other major demands of the striking staff include implementation of a five-day week in all government offices, increasing retirement age from 58 to 60 and filling up over 200,000 vacancies.
The unions made it clear that they will not settle for "mere assurances" but only direct action from the government, since the strike was deferred several times in the past few years on such promises.

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8-month pregnant woman gang-raped, Maharashtra women's panel seeks report

An eight-month pregnant woman from Satara was allegedly gang-raped by eight men in Sangli, following which Maharashtra's women's panel on Thursday took a serious note amid widespread condemnation and sought a report from police, an official said.
The crime occurred around 6 a.m. on Tuesday when the 20-year-old woman, along with her hotelier husband, had gone to Turchi Phata in Tasgaon.
An official of Tasgaon police station told IANS that both were looking to hire a couple for their hotel business.
One of the accused, Mukund Mane, had earlier called the hotelier to Turchi Phata, claiming a couple was ready to work for them and asked him to bring Rs 20,000 as advance payment.
When they reached the spot, Mane and his accomplices pounced on the hotelier couple, assaulted them with pipes and sticks, robbed them of cash and woman's gold ornaments.
Then they tied the husband, gagged and locked him inside his vehicle and allegedly gang-raped the woman even as she pleaded with them to let her go due to her condition.
The attackers even threatened the couple against informing police, claiming that "they were very influential and nobody will listen to the couple".
Later, the couple registered a complaint at Tasgaon police station, with the woman naming four accused as Mane, Sagar, Javed Khan and Vinod in the FIR.
Nearly 48 hours after the incident, police was yet to make arrests but said that teams are out to trace them.
Maharashtra State Commission for Women Chairperson Vijaya Rahatkar wrote to the Sangli Superintendent of Police to personally look into the case and submit a detailed report on the case status.
Opposition Nationalist Congress Party leader Chitra Wagh termed the crime as "a blot on humanity" and demanded to know from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as to when such heinous crimes against women in the state would be curbed.
Ruling ally Shiv Sena's senior leader Neelam Gorhe also strongly condemned the crime and urged Fadnavis to direct officials concerned to arrest the culprits and punish them.
She said that the woman and her family were under pressure to withdraw the police complaint, and appealed to police to transfer the case from Sangli to Satara district to ensure impartial investigation.
Gorhe urged the media also to exercise restraint and not disclose the woman's village and sub-district in view of sensitivities involved.

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Maratha quotas: Fresh violence in Maharashtra, one more suicide

Fresh violence with arson, roadblocks, attacks on police and shutdowns rocked several parts of Maharashtra over the demands for Maratha reservations while one person committed suicide by jumping under a running train on Monday.
Large areas of Chakan in Pune and surroundings, Osmanabad, Solapur, Kolhapur, Nandurbar and Aurangabad witnessed sporadic incidents of arson, violence, road blocks and noisy processions on foot and on motorcyles, with prohibitory orders clamped in many police station areas.
In Aurangabad, Pramod Hore Patil committed suicide by jumping in front of a running train after making a post on Facebook. He ended his life sometime on Sunday, but his body was recovered on Monday near Mukundwadi railway station, resulting in a shutdown in parts of the district.
Over two dozen vehicles, including five state transport buses were torched or damaged as the Maratha agitation took a violent turn in Pune district's Chakan, Hinjewadi, Khed and the Pune-Nashik Highway today.
Angry protestors targeted the Chakan Police Station and in the resultant violence at least five policemen were injured. Elsewhere in the town, three persons were hurt in stone-pelting incidents.
Police retaliated by firing teargas shells to quell the protestors and clamped prohibitory orders, while a total shutdown was observed in Chakan and other towns as all political parties appealed to the Maratha leaders for peace and restraint.
State Transport (ST)  buses were also targeted in Solapur's Pandharpur pilgrim centre and adjourning Kolhapur since midnight on Sunday-Monday, forcing a precautionary suspension of all ST services for the day as roads were blocked by squatting activists and burning tyres.
Activists attempted to set afire some vehicles and ST buses in Nandurbar but were thwarted by police though some parts observed a shutdown.
Meanwhile, ruling coalition partner Shiv Sena, and the Opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party held separate meetings with their legislators amidst at least eight MLAs quitting their seats to press for Maratha quotas.
The Shiv Sena is likely to back the Bharatiya Janata Party on this specific issue and has urged the government to announce the quotas without waiting for the report of the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC), or disturbing the existing reservations.
Leader of Opposition in Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, of the Congress, has written to the Governor C. V. Rao, seeking his intervention between the agitating Marathas and the state government to end the violence and expeditiously resolve the pending quotas issue.
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar has flayed the undue delays on the part of the government in announcing the quotas and demanded they do so without further delays.
Several Maratha groups have warned of intensifying the agitation from August 1, while the Dhangars community has also demanded their share of quotas by September 1 failing which they would launch an agitation.

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32 Maharashtra varsity staffers die as bus plunges into ravine

At least 32 university staffers died and one miraculously survived when a private bus on a picnic trip plunged into a deep ravine near Poladpur, around 175 km from Mumbai, on Saturday morning, officials said.

32 dead as bus plunges into ravine in Maharashtra
At least 32 university staffers died and one miraculously survived when a private bus on a picnic trip plunged into a deep ravine near Poladpur, around 175 km from Mumbai, on Saturday morning, officials said.
The sole survivor, Prakash Sawant-Desai, who escaped the tragedy with minor injuries, managed to climb to safety and alerted the university and police authorities of the accident around 10.30 am.
According to Raigad Police Control officer P.D. Patil, the bus was on way to Mahabaleshwar for a weekend picnic when the tragedy occurred.
By noon around 12 bodies were retrieved with the help of locals, he said.
Sawant-Desai told reporers that, near Poladpur, the bus reportedly lost control after skidding on wet mud that had collected on the treacherous stretch.
"I managed to climb up and called up Dr. Balasaaheb Sawant Konkan Agriculture University authorities and the police," said Sawant-Desai, who is an Assistant Director.
He said that he had to climb over 500 feet, as there was no mobile phone range in the valley below in the treacherous Ambenali Ghat section.
"On reaching the road at the top, I came into the mobile range and called up the police and university officials," he said. 
The university promptly informed the police about the accident.
The Raigad police along with National Disaster Response Force teams from Pune and local Mahabaleshwar hikers-trekkers groups are engaged in a massive operation to retrieve the bodies from the ravine fighting heavy rains, with clouds descending on the thickly forested valley and hills.
Around 34 varsity staffers, including some women of the Ratnagiri-based university, left around 6.30 am today for a weekend sojourn to the state's most popular twin hill resort of Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani.
Hundreds of shocked family members of the victims and varsity officials have rushed to the site. The police have blocked the Poladpur-Mahabaleshwar road as a precautionary measure.
Deep below in the ravine, the remains of the bus lie as a crumpled heap of metal, with bodies of the passengers strewn around or stuck in the trees and bushes.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed sorrow over the accident. "Pained by the loss of lives due to a bus accident in Maharashtra's Raigad district. My condolences to those who lost their loved ones."
Congress President Rahul Gandhi also condoled the deaths.
"I appeal to Congress workers in the area to provide all possible assistance to the injured and families of those who have died," Gandhi said.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai said he was pained to learn about the massive loss of lives in the accident.
"The administration is taking all efforts to provide required assistance. Senior officials and emergency management systems are in place. My thoughts are with the families who lost their loved one," Fadnavis said in a tweet.
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Pune pilgrim killed, three washed away in Himachal flashflood

A woman pilgrim from Pune in Maharashtra was washed away and three other persons were reported missing in a flash flood triggered by heavy rains in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh on Saturday while they were on way to Kinner Kailash, police said.
While the deceased was identified as Sangeeta Morey, the three missing persons remained unidentified, a police official told IANS on the phone.
As many as 163 persons were rescued while 35 others are still stranded at different location en route Kinner Kailash.
Most pilgrims were trapped in the Ganesh park area near Kinner Kailash, dedicated to Lord Shiva's 79-foot vertical rock Shiva Lingam at a height of around 6,050 metres above average sea level.
The district administration deployed police, Home Guards and Indo-Tibetan Border Police jawans for search and rescue operation, Acting Deputy Commissioner Avninder Kumar said.
Kinner Kailash trek is considered the toughest as it takes at least two days to complete.
The pilgrimage is yet to start officially.
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10 killed as bus falls into Maharashtra ravine

At least 10 passengers were killed when a private bus carrying nearly three dozen university staff plunged into a ravine in Raigad district of Maharashtra on Saturday morning, an official said.
Raigad Police Control official P.D. Patil said that around 35 staff of Konkan Agriculture University in Ratnagiri, including some women, were on their way for a weekend picnic to popular tourist destinations of Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani when the bus fell 500 feet down into the ravine around 9 a.m. near Poladpur.
Rescue efforts were severely hampered by heavy rains lashing the Western Ghats, besides poor connectivity in the remote hills in the area.
"As per preliminary information, at least 10 bodies have been recovered and efforts are underway to rescue others or retrieve more bodies," Patil told IANS.
The accident came to notice after one of the injured passengers managed to climb up and alerted the authorities.
National Disaster Relief Fund teams from Pune were en route to help villagers and others involved in search and rescue operation.
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Prabhu reviews progress on greenfield airports in Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri

Minister for Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu on Friday reviewed the ongoing work of the greenfield airports at Parule Chipi in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri in Maharashtra.
The Minister was informed that the construction of taxiway, apron and isolation bay has been completed and work on the airfield ground lighting was in progress. Eighty percent work on construction of passenger terminal building, air traffic control (ATC) tower and the technical building has been completed and the remaining work will be finished in a month’s time.
An official press release said the work on the construction of ancillary buildings was nearing completion and would take a month to finish. Sindhudurg airport will have a 2500-metre runway which has provision for future development.
During the meeting, the Minister said air connectivity to the Konkan region fulfils the objectives of UDAN-RCS (Ude Deshka Aam Naagrik- Regional Connectivity Scheme) of the Union Government which will let the common citizen of the country fly and make air travel affordable and widespread, giving a boost to inclusive economic development, job growth and air transport infrastructure development.
The Minister also said the construction of the Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri airports would not only provide better connectivity to the Konkan region of Maharashtra but also boost tourism in this scenic area of the State.
On being informed that progress of work in Ratnagiri airport was affected by land-related issues, Mr Prabhu told the concerned officials to take up the matter with Maharashtra government. He said he would personally speak to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
The Sindhudurg airport is being built at an approximate cost of 520 crore. At present, Maharashtra has three functional international and 13 domestic airports.
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Maratha quota stir evokes mixed response in Mumbai, coastal districts

Maharashtra Bandh: Protestors burn tyres, vandalise bus
The shutdown by Maratha groups seeking reservation evoked a mixed response on Wednesday in Mumbai and the coastal districts of Maharashtra, but ended on a violent note as police tear-gassed and caned protestors.
The state government hastily agreed to hold talks with the agitation leaders even as a protestor Jagannath Sonawane, 55, who had consumed poison in Devgaon-Rangari village in Aurangabad, succumbed in a government hospital, taking the death toll in the three-day agitation to two.
On Monday, 28-year-old Kakasaheb Dattatreya Shinde had committed suicide by jumping into the Godavari river in the same district, triggering massive protests.
Since Wednesday morning, a large groups of Maratha activists carrying saffron flags and banners took out noisy processions amid tight security in Mumbai and other districts like Palghar, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg.
Shouting 'Ek Maratha, Lakh Maratha', 'Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai', they condemned the government for not heeding their demands over two years of peaceful agitation.
Roads were blocked in several parts of Mumbai, with an attempt to block the suburban railway at Thane. City transport buses were pelted with stones in Navi Mumbai, and private vehicular traffic stopped by protestors.
At least one protestor was injured in police caning in Navi Mumbai as it attempted to remove a blockade by a large group of Marathas and later tear-gassed to disperse them.
As per official figures, in Mumbai and Thane, at least two buses were set ablaze, while nine others were damaged in heavy stone-pelting. Tyres of another 10 were deflated.
During the shutdown, several vehicles were damaged in other parts of the state, with repercussions of the agitation felt for the second day in districts like Aurangabad, Kolhapur and Satara.
As the violence seemed to escalate, Maratha Kranti Morcha Convenor Virendra Pawar called a press conference to announce withdrawal of the stir at 3 p.m., after nearly eight hours.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis responded by saying that the state government had taken cognizance and was willing to discuss and resolve the issue.
"We have taken several decisions for the Maratha community and are committed to giving them reservation. Presently, the matter is sub judice," Fadnavis added.
Massive traffic jams were witnessed on major roads and highways leading to Mumbai from Goa, Pune, Nashik and Ahmedabad routes.
Most shops and commercial establishments remained shut in important pockets like Dadar, Andheri, Mulund, Kanjurmarg, Borivali, Kandivali. In many other places the Maratha activists went around requesting shopkeepers to down shutters and express solidarity with their cause.
A large group of protestors blocked certain pockets on the Eastern Express Highway and Western Express Highway, disrupting normal traffic movement, as well as arterial roads in the suburbs, stopping all vehicles from plying to and from the highways.
Some protestors blocked the railway tracks at Jogeshwari but were evicted by security forces to help resume normal services after around 10 minutes, said a Western Railway spokesperson.
However, local train services on the Central Railway's trans-harbour line were affected for over an hour due to stone-pelting on trains at Ghansoli and Thane this afternoon.
Though schools and colleges functioned normally, there were reports of drop in attendance. Mumbai's lifeline -- the suburban trains -- and long-distance services largely remained unaffected while other essential services functioned smoothly.
Holding the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government responsible for the agitation, state Congress President Ashok Chavan said that it let down not only the Marathas, but also the Dhangars and the Muslims.
"For how long will you deceive the people? No more talks, now its time for action," Chavan said.
Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale said that law needs to be amended to raise the reservation cap from 50 to 70 per cent and promised to raise the issue with the National Democratic Alliance.
Wednesday's shutdown was the second phase of agitation by the Maratha Kranti Morcha. The first phase was held spontaneously on Tuesday in most districts of northern, western and Marathwada regions of Maharashtra.
The Marathas are seeking reservation in government jobs and education, with the agitation remaining peaceful in over two years, including holding of silent processions in over a dozen districts.
(Our News Desk can be contacted at
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Maratha quota stir turns violent in Maharashtra, policeman hurt

A policemen and two others were injured as the campaign for a Maratha quota turned violent here even as protests were held in different parts of Maharashtra by the Maratha Kranti on Tuesday.
A large number of protestors torched a fire brigade vehicle near Kaigaon in Aurangabad district where a 28-year-old, Kakasaheb Dattatreya Shinde, committed suicide by jumping into the Godavari river on Monday evening demanding reservations.
The repercussions of Shinde's death were felt in different parts of the state with spontanious shutdowns, road and rail blockades, processions and stray incidents of arson on Tuesday.
A fire brigade vehicle was torched in Aurangabad and a police jeep was set ablaze in Hingoli even as the issue was raised in the Lok Sabha by Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut.
Leaders of major political parties including Congress' Ashok Chavan and Sachin Sawant, Nationalist Congress Party's Jitendra Awhad and others have urged the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government to resolve the issue of Maratha reservations expeditiously.
Various Maratha groups have announced a Maharashtra shutdown on August 9 -- celebrated as August Kranti Day -- to intensify the agitation going on since nearly two years.
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CCEA okays Special Package for irrigation projects in drought prone areas of Maharashtra

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved the implementation of Centrally sponsored-scheme for completion of 83 minor irrigation projects and eight major/medium irrigation projects of Marathwada, Vidharbha and drought-prone areas of the rest of Maharashtra.
Completion of these projects will ensure an assured source of water to the farmers in the command area of these projects, an official press release said.
It will increase the yield of their crops and thereby increase the income of the farmers, the release said.
The special package shall help in the creation of additional potential of 3.77 lakh hectares in Marathwada, Vidharbha and drought-prone areas in the rest of the state, it said.
The projects included under special package are over and above the 26 major/ medium projects of Maharashtra having ultimate potential of 8.50 lakh hectares being funded under PMKSY-AIBP, which are planned to be completed by December 2019.
The progress of the projects would be monitored by State as well as by the Central Water Commission. The overall balance cost of the projects as on April 1, 2018, is estimated at Rs 13,651.61 crore.
This amount at 25% of the balance cost of these 91 projects as on that date as well as 25% reimbursement for the expenditure incurred during 2017-18, keeping in view that funding of these projects is under consideration since 2017-18, would be provided.
Total Central Assistance to be provided for implementation of these projects is Rs. 3,831.41 crore.  The rest is to be provided by the State Government. It is also envisaged that State share may be arranged through NABARD.
"On completion of the projects, the utilization of irrigation potential of about 3.77 lakh ha will transform the agriculture scenario of the region resulting in the generation of substantially more employment opportunities through an increase in cropping intensity, change in cropping pattern, agro-processing and other ancillary activities.
"Moreover, implementation of the scheme will generate employment of approximately 341 lakh man-days for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers.
"Maharashtra has experienced hydrological and agricultural drought during the years 2012 to 2016. The situation has been worst in Vidharbha and Marathwada region with the unfortunate incidence of suicides by farmers been reported there.
"Also, Drought Prone Areas (DPA) in rest of Maharashtra have experienced distress in the recent years. These projects are ongoing, yet, they are languishing due to fund constraints as informed by the State Government.
"The completion of balance works of these projects will help in the creation of additional 3.77 lakh hectare of irrigation potential and assured a source of water to the farmers in the command area of these projects. This will increase the yield of their crops and thereby increase the income of the farmers," the release added.
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Railways MoU with Maha Metro for MRTS in Nagpur

Indian Railways and Maha Metro (Metro Railway Project Company of Maharashtra) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) here on Monday for linking the railway line to the Metro service on broad gauge network and creating a Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) in Nagpur city.
The MoU signing ceremony at Suresh Bhat Auditorium was witnessed by Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Water Resources Nitin Gadkari and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.  
Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani and Secretary, Urban Development Durga Shanker Mishra were also present.
Mr Goyal said the Ministry was also trying to execute a plan for setting up a railway line across the national highways. One such proposal was to connect Nagpur-Mumbai Super Express Way (Samriddhi Mahamarg) to the Nagpur-Mumbai railway.
The construction of such a high-speed railway corridor will make it feasible to cover the distance between Nagpur and Mumbai in five hours, he said.
The Railways have also allocated a record sum of Rs 67,000 crore for the development of suburban railway network in Mumbai which is used by one-third of total railway passengers in India, he said.
The foundation stone laying ceremony of Nagpur Municipal Corporation’s ‘waste to energy project’ was also performed on this occasion. Another foundation stone laying ceremony that took place was of the project of Mahagenco to carry coal from a cluster of mines of Western Coalfield Limited through a pipe conveyor system.
Mr Gadkari, speaking about rising pollution in metro cities, advocated running public transport on electricity. He urged the people to use public transport instead of private transport. The speed of air-conditioned metro coaches running on broad gauge line of Railway will be 100 kmph, which is much more than ordinary passenger trains. The MoU will pave the way for towns like Bhandara, Wardha, distant from Nagpur, to come closer and develop into satellite cities.
Mr Fadnavis said these three projects will be hailed as innovative steps and will be followed by the nation. He said water acquired from mines and power plants is being used to irrigate over 10,000 hectares of land in Maharashtra. A MoU between VIDC (Vidarbha Irrigation Industrial Corporation) and WCL has been signed for mine water distribution.
On the occasion,  a booklet titled "New Railways New Maharashtra" on Railway's development in Maharashtra was also unveiled in this function.
The programme was attended by local public representatives, officials of Maha Metro, NMC, Mahagenco, Indian Railways, officials of district administration and the general public in large numbers.
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Seven killed in Pune road accident

At least seven persons were killed on the spot when two private cars collided on the outskirts of Lonavala in Pune district, an official said here on Sunday.
The collision took place near Karla village on the old Mumbai-Pune Highway between a Santro and a Swift, he said.
The Swift had victims hailing from Pimpri-Chinchwad town near here, but the details of the occupants of the Santro are not available, Lonavala Rural Control police official Dnyaneshwar Jadhav told IANS.
The bodies of the victims as well as some of injured persons were taken to a local hospital even as heavy rains lashed the hilly area and rest of the district.
The identity of the victims is being ascertained and the cause of the accident is being probed, Jadhav added.
The accident resulted in massive traffic snarls with hundreds of vehicles stuck on both sides of the old highway as rescue teams cleared the accident site.
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Sindhi spiritual leader Dada Vaswani passes away

Dada J.P. Vaswani
Dada J.P. Vaswani
Dada J.P. Vaswani, a spiritual leader of the Sindhi community, died here on Thursday, an official spokesperson said.
"Dadaji breathed his last at 9.01 a.m. today. He was 99. His body has been kept for final darshan at his ashram, Sadhu Vaswani Mission", the spokesperson told IANS.
Details of the last rites were awaited, she added.
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