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Maharashtra: Villager killed by Naxalites in Gadchiroli district

A 38-year-old man was allegedly strangled to death by Naxalites in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli district, police said on Sunday. Chamra Madavi, a resident of Morkuti village in Korchi taluka, was picked up by Naxalites from his house late on Saturday night and was killed on the outskirts of the village, news wire PTI reported quoting an official. Madavi was a sympathiser of the banned outfit and had been arrested last year in the Balaghat district of neighbouring Madhya Pradesh for trying to supply ammunition to Naxalites, Superintendent of Police Nilotpal said. The deceased man's sister is also a Naxalite and is married to Mansingh Holi, a divisional committee member (DVC) of Maoists, he said. It is suspected that Madavi had taken money from Naxalites for the supply of ammunition and the killing may be a fallout of that, the official said. Meanwhile, a man was arrested and a minor apprehended after a brief exchange of fire on Sunday for allegedly opening fire outside the house of a scrap dealer in northeast Delhi's Welcome area as part of an extortion bid, police said. The accused were nabbed from Yamuna Khadar near the metro yard, they said. A complaint was received on November 28 that two scooter-borne assailants opened fire outside the house of Abrar Ahmed (45). No one was injured in the incident and three bullet shells were recovered from the spot, Deputy Commissioner of Police (northeast) Joy Tirkey said. Also read: Maharashtra: 62-year-old man found dead under Mumbai-Nashik flyover Later, Ahmed told police that he received a call and the caller, who claimed to be calling on behalf of the Hashim Baba gang, demanded Rs 50 lakh from him, the DCP said. Around 3:20 am on Sunday, a police team intercepted the two accused based on a tip-off, Tirkey said. "When the two were signalled to stop, they abandoned their scooter and tried to flee in the dark. One of them, who was later identified as Akki, opened fire at the police team. The police team retaliated and Akki sustained a bullet injury in his right leg. "The police team arrested Akki and apprehended a minor after a brief chase. We have also recovered two pistols from them," the DCP said. Akki was taken to the hospital for treatment, he added. During interrogation, Akki told police that he is a close associate of the Hashim Baba gang. He was involved in a number of criminal cases, including those of murder and extortion, Tirkey said. (With inputs from PTI)

03 December,2023 12:08 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Mumbai: Gokhale Railway flyover at Andheri reaches milestone with first girder installation

Mumbai: First girder of Gokhale railway flyover at Andheri installed

In a significant leap forward for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) infrastructure endeavors, the first girder of the Gokhale Railway Flyover in Andheri has been successfully installed. The project, hailed as the fastest in BMC's history, faced several technical challenges that have now been overcome, marking a crucial step towards opening the first phase of traffic between Andheri East and West. MLA Amit Satam said that the installation of the first girder, which took place between midnight on December 2, 2023, and the early morning of December 3, 2023, was a pivotal moment. The ambitious project aims to open one lane of the Gokhale Bridge by February 15, 2024, reflecting the efficiency and dedication of the BMC's well-planned bridge department, BMC said in a statement. The installation of girders for the Gokhale Bridge is a challenging engineering task, conducted under the technical supervision of Western Railway Administration and May. Rights Ltd. Despite the complexities, the first phase girder installation was successfully completed within the railway area, achieving 75 percent of the planned distance, it added. Satam emphasized the “relentless efforts made by the BMC's Bridge Department to expedite the project, overcoming challenges to ensure swift progress within a record time frame”. Deputy Commissioner (Infrastructure) Ulhas Mahale highlighted that the girder would be moved north in the coming days and then gradually lowered, presenting a technically challenging yet meticulously planned process. Chief Engineer (Pools) Vivek Kalyankar underscored the unique nature of the project, being the first in India to lower a girder from a height of 7.5 meters in a bridge work within the railway area, emphasizing the paramount importance of security measures. The girder, with a weight of approximately 1200 MT, a length of 90 meters, and a width of 13.5 meters, is a critical component in the first phase of the railway terrain. Following the connection of spare parts, the girder installation aligns with the rules set by the Railway Authority to ensure the quality and standard of the work. Also read: Mumbai: Work starts on bigger, faster Western line The Gokhale Bridge project involves the installation of two girders, each weighing around 1275 tonnes, connecting Andheri East and West. Fabrication of girder parts is undertaken in Ambala, and the members are assembled on a temporary structure on the east side of the railway track at a height of about 13-14 meters. The Western Railway Administration, having demolished the old bridge, handed over the project site to the BMC on March 28, 2023. Reconstruction work commenced on April 1, 2023, and the current achievement reflects a major milestone in the overall progress of the project, the BMC statement said. The meticulous process of erecting the girder on the railway track, sliding it to the north, and lowering it by 7.5 meters involves highly skilled work under the guidance of consulting firm Wrights. Due to the complexity and risk involved, the responsibility for this work has been entrusted to Rights, a public sector undertaking under the Ministry of Railways. The project's uniqueness lies in lowering a girder weighing around 1300 tonnes from a height of 7.5 meters, a first-of-its-kind endeavor in India. While the process adheres to railway safety norms, the engineering challenge requires careful implementation of technology, with each one-hour block allowing for an average lowering of only 15 cm. As the project progresses, approximately 80 percent of the approach road work within the BMC's limits has been completed through another contractor. The completion of the first phase of the Gokhale bridge is anticipated by February 15, 2024, allowing for the partial opening of traffic. Both the BMC and the Railway Administration have affirmed their commitment to the safety of the Gokhale Bridge, with a joint declaration emphasizing that there will be no compromise on safety measures throughout the various phases of the project. The anticipated opening of one-way traffic by February 15, 2024, is contingent upon the completion of all required works for the bridge.

03 December,2023 11:32 AM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Representational Picture/iStock

Maharashtra: 62-year-old man found dead under Mumbai-Nashik flyover

An unidentified 62-year-old man was found dead at Retibandar Creek under the Mumbai-Nashik flyover near the Kalwa area of Thane on Saturday, officials said. "The body of the deceased was recovered in Retibandar Creek under the Mumbai-Nashik flyover, near Kharegaon toll naka in the Kalwa area of Thane," an official of Thane Municipal Corporation said. The Narpoli police officers reached the spot, took custody of the body and sent it for post-mortem, the officials informed. The police said an investigation was underway. Meanwhile, A 23-year-old man has been arrested by Navi Mumbai police for reportedly sexually assaulting and impregnating a teenage girl and abetting her suicide, an official told news agency PTI on Saturday. According to the report, a Koparkhairane police station official, the accused was arrested on Friday. Reportedly, the accused was arrested after a complaint was filed by the mother of the deceased girl. The accused was from the Mumbai suburb of Govandi, the report added. The accused has been charged under Sections 305 (abetting the suicide of a minor) and 376(2)(n) (repeated rape) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. According to the official's statement to PTI, the accused befriended the accused and later repeatedly sexually assaulted her knowing she is a minor which led to her pregnancy. On November 28, the minor, distraught over the happening, died by suicide by hanging herself. The official said that the police are currently conducting an inquiry into the case. Also read: Mumbai crime news: Suspect wanted in UP armed robbery arrested in Andheri In another incident from Navi Mumbai, an employee of state-run transport corporation has been booked for sexually harassing a minor. According to the report, Navi Mumbai police registered a case against a conductor employed by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) for allegedly sexually abusing a passenger. Santosh Wadekar (48) was charged with a crime on Friday by the police in response to a complaint made by a 17-year-old pupil. The official said that the charges were filed under the applicable sections of the POCSO Act and the Indian Penal Code, the report added. The official told PTI that the complainant claimed that the accused touched her when she was sleeping on a bus that was moving from Dapoli to Mumbai during the night of November 26–27. The official further stated that investigations are still underway and that no arrests have been made in relation to the case as of yet. Mumbai Police, on Saturday morning, arrested a man for allegedly raping a Mexican disc jockey; they got acquainted in 2017 and allegedly sexually assaulted her at his home in Bandra in July 2019, after which he raped her on multiple occasions. (With inputs from agencies)

03 December,2023 09:50 AM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
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Mumbai: Two dead after major fire in four-storey building near Girgaon Chowpatty

Two charred bodies have been recovered after a fire broke out in a four-floor building near Girgaon Chowpatty in Mumbai, a fire official said on Sunday, December 3, 2023. The blaze, which erupted on the third floor of Gomati Bhavan situated on Rangnekar Road at around 9.30 pm on Saturday, was doused after six hours, he said, adding it was a "level-2" (major) fire. Two charred bodies were found in a bedroom and bathroom of a house on the third floor, the official said. The blaze erupted on the second and third floors of Gomati Bhavan situated on Rangnekar Road at around 9.30 pm, the official said, adding it was classified as a level II fire. At least eight fire engines, six jumbo tankers, and other vehicles of the Fire Brigade rushed to the spot, another official said. Three people were rescued from the building, he said. Eight fire engines and six jumbo tankers were rushed to the spot. A total of five lines was pressed into service for fire-fighting, including two from the staircases, one each from the north and south side of an adjacent building and one high pressure line from angus ladder, the official said. The fire was doused at around 3.30 am on Sunday, he said. The cause of the fire is not yet known. Also read: Mumbai: Massive fire breaks out at building in Girgaon, two charred bodies recovered On November 30, a gas cylinder explosion in a house in Mumbai's Chembur area triggered the collapse of five houses on Wednesday morning, officials said. According to a report in PTI, 11 persons were reduced by the officials at the site.  "A gas cylinder exploded in a house, leading to the collapse of five two-storey structures," a civic official told PTI.  Six persons, including a 47-year-old woman, were injured in the incident. All of them were admitted to the nearby Shatabdi Hospital. They are being treated at the Out-patient Department (OPD) of the hospital and their condition is stable, the PTI report quoted the civic official as saying. A civic official told PTI that the explosion had caused significant damage with resulted in the collapse of nearly four to five two-storey structures. The official said 11 people, including five persons stranded on the first floors of the homes, were rescued. The fire brigade, police, civic personnel, ambulance services, and other agencies were mobilised to manage the aftermath of the gas cylinder explosion and subsequent house collapses. "Five fire brigade vehicles are currently at the spot and the personnel are carrying out a search operation to ensure that nobody is trapped under the debris of the collapsed houses," he said.   

03 December,2023 09:14 AM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
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Mumbai: Next week predicted to be warmer, more polluted

Mumbaikars can expect warmer weather with daytime temperatures hovering around 31C in the coming days. Due to an atmospheric temperature inversion trap, partial cloudy skies and smoggy conditions are predicted in the city and surrounding areas, resulting in poor air quality. Air quality, which improved marginally in the last few days, is expected to fall under the ‘moderate’ category this week. Speaking to mid-day, Director of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) Mumbai, Sunil Kamble, said, “The weather in Mumbai and adjoining areas in the next few days will remain dry. North Maharashtra will be cloudier.” Kamble added, “The temperature will remain slightly warm during the daytime. Temperature in Mumbai witnesses a significant drop by December end and the beginning of January. “ Also read: Above-normal temperatures in most parts in December, says IMD Last Wednesday, the minimum temperature in Mumbai dipped below 20C for the first time this season, with the IMD’s Santacruz observatory recording a minimum temperature of 19.7C. Per the IMD bulletin, there will be a two-three degree rise in temperature over Maharashtra’s interiors for the next two days, with no significant change thereafter.

03 December,2023 04:14 AM IST | Mumbai | Dipti Singh
Before each drive begins, the area’s roads and lanes will be cleaned

Mumbai: A new cleanliness drive to target roads, parks in the city

Starting Sunday morning, a cleanliness drive will be undertaken by the BMC across Tardeo, Malabar Hill and Dharavi, with a focus on making roads and footpaths dust-free. Alongside the disposal of abandoned vehicles, action will be taken against unlicensed billboards. The cleaning of public toilets, maintenance of parks and playgrounds, hawker-free zones, and debris-free areas are also on the list. This drive is part of a proposed cleanliness campaign  in all 24 wards of the city, under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. It will be launched on December 3 by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde at Dharavi and Malabar Hill. A standard operating procedure (SOP) has been laid down for the initiative. On every Saturday in December 2023 and January 2024, one ward among the seven zones will be selected and thoroughly cleaned.  Also read: Mumbai: BMC wants solutions from you on how to fix Malabar Hill reservoir The wards’ assistant commissioners will pick the names of the areas under their jurisdiction for this weekly programme. Before the campaign begins each Saturday morning, the roads and lanes of the respective area will be cleaned. The work will be carried out from 9 am to 2 pm, and additional machinery and vehicles will be provided by the departments of Transport, Sewerage, and Stormwater Drainage. The Encroachment Removal Department will take action against unauthorised hoardings and posters; the traffic police will provide support in the removal of abandoned vehicles from the area. 

03 December,2023 04:11 AM IST | Mumbai | A Correspondent
Some of the counterfeit watches seized by the Crime Branch

Mumbai crime news: 4 held with counterfeit watches worth Rs 6.16 crore in Fort

The Mumbai Police Crime Branch has arrested four accused for allegedly selling counterfeit wristwatches in the name of leading brands from the Fort area in south Mumbai. The police has seized 1,537 counterfeit watches from the accused, worth approximately Rs 6.16 crore. According to Crime Branch officials, the arrests were made by the Unit II on the basis of a tip off they received on Friday. Acting on the information, the police raided the Anees Chambers and Fatima Building in Fort and found that the accused were selling counterfeit watches in the name of brands like Rado, Tissot, Omega, Audemars Piguet and Hugo Boss. Also read: Mumbai crime news: Suspect wanted in UP armed robbery arrested in Andheri The accused, identified as Ghevaram Chowdhary, 32, Bhaveshkumar Prajapati, 33, Ganesh Bharti, 47, and Mohammad Shoaib Quershi, 33, were subsequently placed under arrest. They have been charged under sections 420 (Cheating) and 482 (Using of the false property mark) of the Indian Penal Code, along with relevant sections of the Copyright Act, and further investigations into the racket are underway, officials said.

03 December,2023 04:08 AM IST | Mumbai | Apoorva Agashe
The BMC visited 13,697 establishments over the course of a four-day drive

Mumbai: Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation issues notices to shops over boards

On a four-day drive beginning November 28, the BMC issued notices to 720 shops for not displaying signboards in Marathi. Of the 13,697 city establishments visited by the municipal corporation, five per cent reportedly didn’t adhere to the new signboard norms. On the first day of the drive, it was found that 176 of the 3269 shops visited didn’t put up Marathi signboards. By November 1, the BMC found that 12,977 of the 13,697 establishments prominently displayed their names in the official state language. The action against errant establishments was undertaken as the time period granted for compliance with signboard norms in the city had ended, a BMC official said. In each ward, two teams began making visits; on average, 150-200 shops were served notices per day. The BMC informed that fines amounting to Rs 2,000 will be charged per staffer in each shop following court orders, with Rs 1,00,000 as the maximum fine that can be charged to an establishment. Additionally, a fine of Rs 2,000 will be slapped each day on those who continue to default. Per the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Service) (Amendment) Act, 2022, all shops in the state must display Marathi signboards in the Devanagari script. In case there are boards in multiple languages, the Marathi one shouldn’t be smaller than the others. According to BMC estimates, as of October and November 2023, 20 per cent of city establishments  weren’t complying with the law. At the time, officials visited over 28,653 shops, serving notices to 5,217 of them. Also read: Mumbai crime news: Suspect wanted in UP armed robbery arrested in Andheri Previously, the Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA) challenged the constitutionality of the amendment and requested a stay on BMC action. Following a Supreme Court stay order in November 2022, action against errant shops was stopped. On September 25 this year, the SC gave establishments two months to comply with norms; the next hearing date given by the Court is in the first week of December. 150No of city establishments given notices per day

03 December,2023 04:05 AM IST | Mumbai | A Correspondent
The victim could not be saved despite a speedy search operation

Mumbai: Auto driver plunges into creek in Borivli

The Gorai Jetty in Borivli was witness to tragic drama on Friday night, after an autorickshaw driver drove his vehicle off the jetty and into the water. Despite speedy reactions from the locals as well as a search and rescue operation by the police, the driver had already died by the time he was pulled out of the water. According to the Borivli police, the incident occurred at around 10.15 pm on Friday. Eye witnesses told mid-day that the auto came speeding through the gate to the jetty, despite police personnel posted at the local police chowkie trying to stop it. Before anyone could react, it had driven off the edge into the water.   Sushma Davade, who witnessed the incident, told mid-day, “I had just boarded a boat to go to Gorai when the auto plunged into the creek. I started shouting for help and looking for anyone who could swim so that the victim could be saved, but no one was willing to enter the swampy water in the dark.” Police personnel who had gone running after the auto then alerted the police control room, while shopkeepers near the jetty also called up ex corporator Shivanand Shetty. Before long, a full-scale search and rescue operation was mounted. However, by the time the auto was pulled out of the water, the victim was already dead. Documents found on the deceased’s person identified him as Pravin Patkar, 69, a resident of Charkop in Kandivli. Prima facie, the police believe this is a death by suicide.  Also read: Shaking off the shackles “We have found that Patkar was not staying with his family and that he was suffering from diabetes but the reason behind his extreme step is still not clear,” said Senior Police Inspector Ninad Sawant, Borivli police station, adding that an Accidental Death Report has been registered. Patkar is survived by his wife, daughter, son and daughter-in-law, officials said. 

03 December,2023 03:56 AM IST | Mumbai | Prasun Choudhari
Pooja Gaud, who was kidnapped and held captive for nine-and-a-half years before her miraculous rescue, says she is now focusing on letting go of the past and supporting her family. Pic/Atul Kamble

Shaking off the shackles

The house is barely ten feet by ten feet in area, located at the mouth of a narrow lane in Andheri. The only place to sit is a small bed in the modest ground-plus-one shanty. But amid all the squalor, Pooja Gaud is happy and content. “I am home now,” she tells mid-day, as she sits on the bed wearing a red and black shalwar kameez. “Nothing else matters.” The 17-year-old was kidnapped from near her school in Andheri in January 2013, when she was seven years old. What followed was a harrowing ordeal that included daily beatings, part time jobs to support her abductors’ household and confinement inside the house for hours on end. And yet, thanks to a good samaritan and the internet, Pooja came back to her mother last year. Pooja managed to find an old Missing poster of herself on the internet, and contacted her family, leading to her being reunited with her mother and siblings in August last year. File Pic/Satej Shinde Pooja now lives with her mother Poonam, her two brothers, her aunt Manju and her aunt’s five-year-old daughter, Pari. Life isn’t exactly being kind to the Gauds. Finances are strained and Pooja still carries the scars of her past—she is undergoing treatment for abdominal injuries and blood clots thanks to the incessant physical abuse at the hands of the D’souzas, who had kidnapped her and held her captive. But the very fact that she is back with her family is enough to keep her spirits up.  “This house may be small but the one where I lived with the D’Souzas felt no different from a prison. I was always watched, not allowed to speak to outsiders. But since my return a year ago, I have focused on letting go of the past and starting life anew. I made a trip to my hometown in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, and met my relatives and my grandparents, who couldn’t believe I had actually returned after so many years. I have learned to cook from my mother and spend as much time as I can with my brothers,” says Pooja.  When she walks down the lanes of her old neighbourhood, people smile at her but she feels confused. “I try to remember if I know them, just like I try to recall these lanes and houses. Sometimes the neighbours talk about how I used to be as a child, and what happened when I was gone. I have lost out on a lot, and I am determined to make up for it now,” she says.  Pooja was on her way home from school when she was kidnapped by Harry D’souza, 50, and his wife Soni, 38, who lured her to their house by tempting her with chocolates and ice cream. When she started insisting that they drop her home because it was getting late, they threatened to throw her off a hill. Pooja was too young to remember which area they were staying in at the time.  Also read: Mumbai Police conducts 'All Out Operation' in city, arrests eight wanted accused “From there, they took me to the Haji Malang area in Kalyan, where they made me stay with someone for a short while. But that person called them up and asked them to take me away. So, they took me to Goa and from there to Raichur in Karnataka, where they enrolled me into a boarding school,” Pooja recalls.  Back home, her mother Poonam found herself drowning in grief. Even as she was trying everything she could to find her child, her husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2019. His tongue had to be amputated and he spent two years suffering and unable to speak, before finally succumbing to the deadly disease in April 2022.  His only wish, a tearful Poonam tells us, to see his daughter before he died, a wish that remained unfulfilled. After his demise, keeping the house going became Poonam’s responsibility. She now sells sprouts and snacks at the Andheri railway station while her elder son dropped out of school and now works as a mechanic.  Meanwhile, Pooja, who was rechristened as Annie by the D’souzas, was brought back to Mumbai in 2014 and put to work. She worked as a housemaid and babysitter in multiple households and they took away all her earnings. “On top of that,” Pooja says, “I was made to do all the housework in their house as well, and would often be on my feet for 12 to 14 hours. I was never allowed to use a phone and would be punished if found talking to anyone other than the D’souzas.” “What I can’t fathom,” Poonam adds, “is how any human being can be so cruel. They claimed that they kidnapped Pooja because they didn’t have a child of their own, and yet, they treated my child like a slave and a prisoner. My heart aches when I think of the hardship she must have endured. I see her smiling now, but I know that deep down, she is still haunted by her ordeal. It’s been a year since Pooja came back, but she still complains of pain in her chest and stomach.” From 2014 to 2017, the D’souzas lived in a rented house in Vile Parle, before shifting to Dhangar Wadi in Andheri, a mere three-minute walk from where the Gauds live. Pooja was rapidly losing hope, till she confided in Pramila Devendra, a part-time housemaid employed by a family she was babysitting for.  Devendra helped her find an old Missing poster of her on the internet, which had a contact number for Mohammad Rafiq Shaikh, a neighbour of the Gauds. Pooja managed to call Shaikh using Devendra’s phone without alerting the D’souzas, and Shaikh went rushing to the Gaud household. The rest, as they say, is history.  Pooja remembers what it felt like to finally cut her birthday cake surrounded by her own people on December 25 last year. She had never had a birthday celebration during her nine-and-a-half years of captivity. Poonam, however, says that Pooja’s birthday was celebrated in the house every year, even when she was gone. For Pooja, it is now all about moving on.  “I already have experience working as a babysitter, so I am looking for similar jobs now. I would also like to complete my education, if I get the chance. I have lost my childhood but now, my goal is to support my family,” she says.

03 December,2023 03:50 AM IST | Mumbai | Dipti Singh
Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Mumbai Diary: Sunday Dossier

Safety first  This responsible doggie seems to be looking both ways before crossing the street, as we all should! Signed, sealed and sold for 750 pounds! Cricket historian, author and a keen collector of memorabilia, Gulu Ezekiel stumbled on a precious item concerning India’s 1983 World Cup triumph—an autographed team sheet of Kapil’s Devils. Ezekiel tells us that the item was sold recently at an auction in Norwich, England, for a whopping 750 pounds (R79,000). The precious piece of paper is signed by all 14 players as well as manager PR Man Singh under ‘Indian Team Winners Prudential World Cup 1983.’ It was bought online by an anonymous user. Gulu Ezekiel While collectors in India and overseas continue to seek full team autographs, sadly middle-order batsman Yashpal Sharma passed away in 2021. Hence, this autograph sheet is extremely rare. Other Indian autograph sets that sold were the 1936 team to England, (85 pounds), India in Australia 1947-48 (110 pounds) and India in England 1952 (60 pounds). However, none of these were official team sheets. Priceless all the same, is all we can say. Shifting the narrative Documentary filmmaker Somnath Waghmare is elated as he speaks to this diarist from the US of A. His latest documentary, Chaityabhumi, will be screened at the Columbia University in New York today. Lakhs of people gather at the ground every year to pay their respects to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, on December 6, his death anniversary. “The narrative has always been about how this occasion causes traffic jams—the typical casteist attitude of criminalizing Dalit events or gatherings. But hardly anyone talks about the massive book fair at the Shivaji Park on this same day, where more people gather than any lit fest in India,” Waghmare tells us. “Hundreds of books about Dr Ambedkar, caste politics and related subjects are sold at minimal rates. You can also buy paintings, photographs, statues and Buddhist calendars.” Also read: #OrryNotSorry Not so Common(s) Pamila Rodrigues is a happy cookie this December. Rodrigues, a London resident, grew up in Marine Lines and has not forgotten her Goan roots either. This year, she had her heart set on celebrating the Feast of St Francis Xavier, which falls on December 3, in London. “It doesn’t matter if you are from North or South Goa, from Vasco or Ponda, the St Francis feast is celebrated with a lot of reverence and pomp across Goa,” says the senior systems and training support officer. Pamila Rodrigues Rodrigues, who asks us to converse a bit in Marathi “just to hear home”, tells us how her love for her roots spilled over and she asked British MP of Indian origin Seema Malhotra if the Feast could be celebrated in London. To her delight, the MP agreed! “Legend has it that despite five centuries having passed, the saint’s body is still well preserved. The day is celebrated as a feast due to his outreach and missionary work for Goan communities. MP Malhotra has also facilitated a small event in the House of Commons to mark the day,” she adds, her voice giving away her excitement. Ask, as they say, and ye shall receive. Getting accessibility right Today is International Day of Persons With Disabilities and a good time to turn our attention towards a four-year project initiated by Svayam, the social impact wing of Jindal SAW, to raise awareness about all forms of accessibility and the issues around them. “As a wheelchair user myself, I know how important accessibility is,” says Sminu Jindal, founder of Svayam. “Especially in rural India, people like sportspersons who have suffered injuries, soldiers with war-related wounds and people with arthritis struggle a lot. The term ‘reduced mobility’ is a much more inclusive one in such instances.” As part of the initiative, Svayam conducted surveys across 14 states, and then educated residents of rural areas on accessibility based on the results. “For example, a toilet is a necessity, but accessibility to toilets is a huge problem in rural areas. People didn’t understand what accessible toilets meant. We taught them that it was as simple as using anti-slip tiles instead of marble, grab bars to help you get up, and a bell in case you need assistance,” she explains. Have the stars aligned? What's taking YouTuber Bhuvan Bam, chef Nidhi Sharma and sculptor Seema Kohli to an untouched, rocky Himalayan mountain? Vaatalya, a community retreat spanning nine acres, invites curious travellers—on an invite-only basis—to witness the magical and much awaited Geminids meteor shower. It is managed by partners Aarti Babhoota and Aditya Sharma, who set it up a mere 100 km away from Chandigarh after they decided to invest in astro-tourism, intentional living and holistic health. Aditya Sharma “For individuals deeply intrigued by the cosmos, our initiative provides a surreal and once-in-a-lifetime journey that reconnects them with the wonderment of childhood days spent reading about these celestial phenomena,” says Sharma. To him, stargazing in the serenity of the forest Vaatalya is located in, isn’t just about relaxation and mindfulness; it’s a reminder to the participants about their place in the vastness of the cosmos. The exclusive retreat welcomes travellers who are curious about the universe, rather than those who want to document every moment of their holidays. TLDR: This is the sort of celestial escape that you won’t see on an Insta Live.

03 December,2023 03:43 AM IST | Mumbai | Team SMD
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