Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lady gets fingers back.

Renata Fontana, a 28-year-old Brazilian who was seriously injured when the porch of Astoria Hotel, Churchgate, collapsed on her on Friday afternoon, might just get her two severed fingers back because of the sheer presence of mind of two police inspectors and a marathon hour-long operation launched by police and fire brigade personnel to search out the fingers crushed under the debris.

Assistant police inspector Anil Katkade and sub-inspector V A Utekar of Marine Drive police station rummaged through the ruins of the porch for almost an hour along with 25 fire brigade personnel and some constables to find the fingers and, after placing them securely in an ice-box, sent them to Bombay Hospital immediately so that doctors could try and re-attach them.

Inspectors Anil Katkade and V A Utekar

A team of firemen begin looking for Renata Fontana's fingers. Under a pile of debris, they knew it would be like looking for a pin in a haystack
The operation is streamlined as officers realise people walking all over the debris could damage the severed fingers
Dr Parag Munshi, orthopaedic surgeon at the hospital, was carrying out an operation to fix the fingers at the time of going to press.

Fontana, an international tax law expert staying at the hotel with a friend of hers, was talking to her Italian friend Sylvia under the porch when it caved in, trapping the two women and two hotel staffers. Two fingers of Fontana's left hand -- the middle and the ring finger -- were chopped off by a slab, while she suffered multiple fractures to her legs and her pelvic bone.

The two inspectors, who arrived at the spot while the four injured persons were being put into an ambulance, saw that Fontana's fingers had been cut off. Katkade immediately told his colleague Utekar that if they could find the fingers quickly, they could still be saved.

That, however, was going to be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack because the debris lying on the floor was huge.

A few clues -- mainly blood stains -- emerge. The search is now narrowed down and a smaller team begins sifting through the debris
As soon as the first finger is located, a team member quickly organises an ice box to preserve it
As soon as the first finger is located, a team member quickly organises an ice box to preserve it
Katkade and Utekar alerted their constables at the spot and at the same time asked the firemen who had pulled out the victims for help.

The police and fire squads then began carefully searching through the pieces of concrete strewn all over, taking care at every step, lest they place their foot at the wrong spot. They decided to look for blood-stains since the fingers could be somewhere close to these and finally found them under a small piece of concrete. They were assisted in their task by a friend of Fontana's.

"We moved every little piece carefully as we knew the fingers would have been soiled and it could be hard to spot them in the pile of debris," Katkade said.

Katkade then quickly arranged for an ice-box. The fingers were wrapped in a sheet of plastic and placed in the box to prevent further damage and infection and were sent to Bombay Hospital.

Sylvia and the two hotel staffers, watchman Jagdish Patel, 45, and office boy Snehal Kap, 26, have suffered minor injuries. While Sylvia is undergoing treatment at Bombay Hospital, Patel and Kap have been admitted to GT Hospital.

Police said the building is over 100 years old and the porch was not part of the original structure but was added later.

The hotel authorities, however, maintain it was regularly repaired and there were no cracks showing any sign of it collapsing.

Sanjay Dutt relesed on bail.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to actor Sanjay Dutt, convicted and sentenced to six-year imprisonment in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case. It also gave bail to 16 others, sentenced to imprisonment for different periods by the Mumbai TADA court.

In granting bail, a Bench, comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices R.V. Raveendran and J.M. Panchal, took into consideration the nature of offence and charges and the sentence served by the convicts/appellants.

The court, however, declined grant of bail to six of the 25 appellants, who were awarded life imprisonment for conspiracy and other serious charges, and to one convict, who was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment. The Bench posted the seven appeals to January 2008.

In respect of Kersi Bapuji Adajania, who was awarded two-year imprisonment under the Arms Act, the court directed him to surrender and then seek bail.

Though Customs officer Somnath Thapa was awarded life imprisonment, the Bench granted him bail for one year on medical grounds. It was submitted that as he was suffering from an advanced stage of lung cancer, he required continuous treatment in a Mumbai hospital.

Furnish bond

The Bench said all those granted bail should furnish a bond subject to the satisfaction of the Special TADA Court. They should surrender their passports and for travel abroad, they must seek permission from the TADA court.

They should also report to the Special Task Force of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Mumbai, once in three months.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Property rates on fire??

Mumbai, Nov 26 Property prices in Mumbai touched a record high with the Wadhawan Group bidding Rs. 5.04 lakh per sq metre for a 7,107 sq metre commercial plot at the Bandra-Kurla Complex. The bidder will be allowed to construct 16,500 sqm office space on the land.

For another commercial plot measuring 10,183 sqm, Reliance Industries quoted Rs 918 crore, wherein it would be allowed to build a 20,366 sqm multi-storeyed car park and 30,550 sqm commercial complex.

The Kolkata-based TCG Infrastructure Ltd and Hiranandani combine emerged the top bidder for a third plot of 8,076.38 sqm. for Rs.1,031 crore. A maximum permissible built-up area would be 28,300 sqm.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority on Monday opened the bids for these three plots.

The sale of these three plots is expected to fetch MMRDA Rs. 2,780 crore.

“Bids have just opened and eligibility has to be determined as per tender norms,” said Mr. Ratnakar Gaikwad, Commissioner of MMRDA.

Mr. Anant J. Gupta, Chairman of the Builders Association of India, Mumbai Chapter, said the rates at BKC varied between Rs. 40,000 and Rs. 45,000 per sqft and the quotes of Reliance and TCG-Hiranandani combine were in the range. The Wadhawan Group, he felt, were a little aggressive.

Asked whether he expected such high rates, Mr Gaikwad said that the response was on the expected lines and it would be the base price for future auctions. The FSI (floor space index) awarded was two and the process of increasing it to four was on, he said.

Development works

“We require about Rs. 2.60 lakh crore by 2020 for development works and this could only constitute a small portion of it,” said Mr. Gaikwad.

In January, the MMRDA fixed a reserve price of Rs 480 crore for an 18.5-acre plot in BKC for an international convention-cum-exhibition centre and a commercial complex. And, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries bid Rs 1,104.11 crore for it - more than double the reserve price.

Earlier to this, the highest paid land deal was Rs 720 crore DLF put up for a similar-sized plot on NTC property in Mumbai.

Maid runs away with Booty.

The Gamdevi police on Sunday arrested a 25-year-old maid who, along with her husband, made duplicate keys to the safes in her employer’s house last week and robbed gold ornaments and cash worth Rs 37 lakh.

The entire booty comprising ornaments such as pearl necklaces and diamond studded bangles, expensive watches, and dresses which architect Yatish Kini, a resident of Gamdevi, had stored for his youngest son Sanjay’s wedding, were recovered from the maid identified as Maria Tigga.

The maid was arrested on Sunday along with her husband Joseph Tigga, the mastermind behind the crime, following a manhunt that led all the way to Virar. “She had been working for our family for the last eight years, she was like a family member, we trusted her blindly. We didn’t know she would betray eight years of trust in just one day,’’ said Yatish Kini.

Interestingly, the police announced the recovery of the booty to the Kini family even as Sanjay was tying the knot on Sunday. “We thank the police for getting us everything back intact,’’ said Kini.

The robbery took place on November 21 when Kini along with his family had left for Pune to attend a wedding. The following day when they returned the family was shocked to see that their flat had been ransacked, the safe broken, and that ornaments and cash totalling Rs 37 lakh were missing. Kini called the police and told them that they suspected Maria as she was missing.

Police then launched a manhunt with the help of a photograph provided by the employer. “We carried out a search of hotels and lodges in Thane and Navi Mumbai and finally got a tip-off that Maria was staying in a rented flat in Virar. We laid a trap and arrested the couple with the entire booty,’’ said inspector Shyam Parulekar.

Investigations revealed that the Kinis had locked up the three rooms where the safes were located, leaving merely the hall open for Maria to stay. But Maria had made duplicate keys of the safes as well as the rooms.

Maria, along with Joseph, had bundled the entire loot, including the ornaments and garments, into nine different handbags, hired a taxi and proceeded to Dadar. From Dadar they took a taxi directly to Virar, said police commissioner D N Jadhav while addressing a press conference on Monday.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Om Shanti Om.

A film begins with a happy family, which sings a family ditty together. Cut to the father, an honest police officer, who is chasing a don and gets killed brutally as his children watch helplessly from behind the doors of their house...and as the don leaves with his gang of men, firing gunshots all over, the scared kids run away in three different directions – away from their home, leaving their sobbing mother behind...Life takes different directions for all three of them. One becomes a police officer, the other a smuggler, and the third, a roadside romeo. They have three girl friends; and one day, destiny brings them all together as one brother sings the family song and the other two fondly remember the same! United they all hunt out their old mother who is still in search of her three children...and finally, after finding their mother, they go and hunt out their father’s killer together and hand him over to the police – of course, not before they sing a few more songs in the villain’s den! That, my friends, is the meaning of Bollywood masala!!

Or, for that matter, the story of Om Shanti Om – the story of a young man Om who works as a junior artist in films. He dreams of becoming a big star one day and supporting his dreams are his mother and dear friend. He is also totally in love with the dream girl of the film industry and the heroine of a film he is working in. One day, a fire breaks out on the sets, and it’s left to him to save the heroine – Shanti. They become good friends; and while he is falling in love with her, she is in an unhappy relationship with the film’s producer, who – realising that she is pregnant – decides to burn her down with the sets. Om is witness to the entire incident but despite his attempts to save his love, they both die. But life has its way of doing justice. Om is reborn again...and this time in the house of superstar Rajesh Kapoor. And therefore by the time he is 30, he is a superstar himself!

But glimpses from his past keep bothering him...Till one day he starts recollecting his past, reunites with his mother and friend (from his previous birth), finds the man who killed his love (the producer), and in his attempts to draw out the truth from this killer, shrewdly makes him go through superbly re-enacted past scenarios (in the process, even managing to discover a girl identical to Shanti). The climax has its own surprises before Om can avenge Shanti’s death. That exactly is the story of Om Shanti Om!

Mindless??!? Well that’s what Bollywood masala is supposed to be. It’s how you present it that makes the difference. And never has Bollywood masala been made with so much class and style. Never has it been made with so much mass appeal, and yet so much humour for the super-intelligent of the class audiences. Never has it been cinematically so well made. Never has such mindless stuff been made in a manner that could appeal to international audiences. And never has the actor with arguably the ability to display the greatest range of emotions on screen, and greatest international appeal – Shah Rukh Khan – been a part of such a film. So, there you have it – Om Shanti Om is indeed Bollywood masala at its grandest all time best!!

No wonder then that at the time of going to press, OSO had already started rewriting box office history with collections of more than Rs.100 crores from the first four days alone. In the UK box office, with only 52 prints and a collection of half a million pounds, it has beaten Tom Cruise’s latest flick, Lions For Lambs, which released 404 prints and could muster an initial of only 400,000 pounds. Bollywood’s greatest ever masala film might also become Bollywood’s greatest ever box-office hit!!!

London Mayor in Mumbai.

And Londoners thought the Northern line was bad.

London mayor Ken Livingstone pushed through a swell of passengers hanging from the door of a commuter train on Wednesday, fulfilling a wish to experience rush-hour Mumbai when more than 550 people cram into a carriage built for 200.

Livingstone, in India on a six-day visit, boarded a packed train to make a 25-minute journey, as thousands of commuters looked on at the security arrangements and hordes of journalists.

The mayor pushed past passengers hanging from a door-less first class coach and was quickly offered a seat by some commuters. He then sat by the window and spoke to reporters.

"This is amazing how people cope," the mayor said, in a comparison with the more orderly crowds of the London Underground.

As arteries that keep Mumbai's economy ticking, its suburban trains carry some six million people a day to offices, shops and factories.

But arriving safe and sound for work after a trip is no mean feat. An average 4,000 people die every year on Mumbai's railways, crushed under trains, electrocuted by overhead power lines or killed as they lean from jam-packed carriages to gasp for air.

Livingstone travelled on one of the dozens of new trains built with German help to replace rakes that have been running on technology from the 1920s.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mumbai train.

The railways have shouted themselves hoarse about the dangers of travelling atop trains. But commuters seem to prefer courting danger rather than missing their train, sometimes with fatal consequences.

On Monday evening, three teenagers travelling on the roof of a local train were electrocuted near Khadwali station. Two of them were so seriously burnt that they are battling for life at Thane Civil Hospital. The third boy was taken to Rukminibai Hospital in Kalyan.

Anil Jadhav, 15, Rajkishor Chauhan, 15 and Rahul Sharma, 15, all residents of Sion Koliwada, had gone for a picnic to Khadwali river.

While returning to Mumbai, the youngsters chose to travel on the roof of the Kasara-Mumbai local even though the train was empty.

An eyewitness said, “There was no reason for the youngsters to climb on to the roof as the train was empty. They were in the picnic mood and probably wanted to be adventurous. They were shouting and yelling on the roof.”

However, the boys seemed unaware of the alternate current on trains between Titwala and Kasara.

“The suburban trains in Mumbai run on 1,500 kV of direct current, whereas certain portions like between Titwala and Kasara and Borivli and Virar have been converted to alternate current measuring 45,000 kV. Such a huge voltage automatically repels anyone coming near it,” a railway official said.

This is exactly what happened to the boys. The strong current burned them horribly and flung them into the air. Rajkishor and Rahul suffered 80 to 90 per cent burns while Anil has comparatively fewer burns.

Train services on the route were disrupted after the incident.

“The circuit tripped after the accident and technicians had to be called to the spot to restart the train. The railways keep on announcing the hazards of travelling on rooftops of trains, yet people completely ignore our warnings,” a railway spokesperson said.

• " The railways keep on announcing the hazards of travelling on rooftops of trains, yet people totally ignore our warnings" – Railway spokesperson
mumbai news

Police woman Missing???

It is a 'missing person' case that nobody in the city's police department wants to touch. It's just too embarrassing.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Maria Fernandes, 41, who was last posted in Zone-VII, has been missing for over two years now. Nobody has any clue where she is. Nor has anybody heard from her in the past two years.

Fernandes, a 1991 batch Indian Police Service officer, stopped coming to work sometime in August 2005 just days after the then commissioner of police A N Roy rejected her leave application. She has been untraceable ever since.

The only tid-bits of information one is able to gather about her whereabouts are in the form of speculation. Some officers say she has gone abroad for higher studies, while others say she has settled down to a peaceful life somewhere in Australia.

This is not the first time that Fernandes has carried out this disappearing act. Director General of Police Dr P S Pasricha said she had disappeared under similar circumstances in 2002. "She was untraceable for a year then. Now she is gone again. I will initiate action against her," he said.

Fernandes served as deputy commissioner of police, Zone VII, from December 29, 2004 to August 17, 2005. She was posted at the Mumbai Police Headquarters for six months in 2004.

Roy, who possibly triggered Fernandes' disappearance, said he does not have any details of her service records. "I do not move arround with these papers in my pocket. You will have to get the details from the commissionarate," he said.

A former personal assistant of Fernandes said she just stopped coming to office one fine day. "I have all her papers with me, even personal documents. I wish I knew where she is, I could have sent all her belongings to her," she said.

DCP Maria Fernandes
Special Inspector General of Police Ahmad Javed, who was joint commissioner of police (law & order) when Fernandes vanished without a trace, said he was on leave when she stopped attending office. “When I resumed duties, she was gone,” he said.

Commissioner of Police Dhananjay Jadhav too said he was unaware of the case's details. “I was not in Mumbai then. I will have to see files,” he said.

Nobody in the department was even willing to discuss whether Fernandes had any relatives in Mumbai.

“Don't ask me about this case. It's ridiculous — talking about a missing fellow police officer,” a police officer said.
mumbai news

Monday, November 19, 2007

Unitech enters Mumbai.

Unitech Ltd, the country's second largest realty firm, has forayed into the Mumbai's property market and plans to invest Rs 4,000 crore in the next three years on real estate development.

According to company sources, Unitech plans to develop three million sq ft, primarily office space, in Central Mumbai in the next three years and is targeting to construct up to nine million sq ft in the next five years.

The company would develop the project, spread over about 20 acres, in an equal partnership with a local developer. It has bought equity stake in the special purpose vehicle, which owns the land, they added.

When contacted, Unitech's Managing Director Sanjay Chandra confirmed the development and said: "We have entered the Mumbai market and we are working on several transactions".

Chandra, however, declined to share further details of its foray into the lucrative property market of Mumbai.

For Unitech, which has a presence in NCR, Kolkata and Andhra Pradesh, the sources said Mumbai is going to be as large a market as the national capital region.

The project in Mumbai is likely to start in the next three-four months. Unitech would lease the office space and is likely to earn a monthly rental of over Rs 100 crore. It may build little bit of retail space and a hotel in the project.

The company is looking at acquiring 70-80 acres of land in Mumbai and has completed the first phase of acquisition, the sources said, adding the company also plans to develop residential property in Mumbai as well.

Unitech presently has a land bank of about 20,000 acres with a saleable area of 850 million sq ft, of which 65 million sq ft is under construction. It had a land bank of over 10,500 acre in September last year.

Unitech has committed about Rs 15,000 crore in last one year to enhance its land bank, sources said.

Out of the total land bank, the company has 17 per cent in NCR, 21 per cent in Kolkata and 24 per cent in Andhra Pradesh.

Unitech plans to deliver about 15 million sq ft of real estate space this year and aims to double it in 2008-09.

The company's current net debt stands at Rs 4,500 crore, which is likely to go up to Rs 8,000 crore by March 2008.

In the second quarter, Unitech reported a consolidated total income of Rs 1,064.25 crore, up 142 per cent from the corresponding period last fiscal. Its profit after tax (PAT) stood at Rs 410.12 crore for the quarter.

For the half year ended September 30, the consolidated total income was at Rs 1,963.93 crore and consolidated PAT was Rs 775.80 crore.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Madhuri is back!!!

Madhuri Dixit is back, in the city as well as on screen!

Yes, the dhak-dhak girl stepped out of the Mumbai international airport at 2.30 am yesterday, her familiar million dollar grin lighting up the early morning.

The long-haul flight from her home in Denver, LA, had done nothing to wilt the face that has launched so many Bollywood hits. In fact, Madhuri looked as fresh as a proverbial daisy. At that hour too, the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is a beehive of activity, and it did not take more than a few seconds for passengers and their relatives to recognise her. “It’s always a warm feeling to touch Mumbai’s soil,” said Madhuri waving out to strangers. “The people, the air, and things around, all have a sense of familiarity. It’s an extremely comforting feeling for me.”

She is back for little more than a fortnight. Last time she was here, it was to shoot over seven months for her comeback film Aaja Nachle , produced by the Yashraj banner. This time, she has come to promote the film. “That’s why I did not bring along my sons Arin and Ryan, as I’m here for only 20 days. My husband Ram is joining me later,” she said.

Madhuri intends to pack in as much as she can in these 20 days. Visiting reletives, meeting filmmakers and, yes, promoting the film. “I am very proud and happy with the film. And even though I have seen it all, there is still a sense of anxiety, excitement and nervousness before a new release, that’s because the audiences can always spring a surprise,” said the gorgeous actress.

The moment she landed, Madhuri asked about the latest buzz in Mumbai on Om Shanti Om and Saawariya . “But I don’t want to be influenced by others’ opinions, so I am going to see both films myself, and very soon, though I don’t know which one I am going to see first. I have worked with Sanjay in Devdas , and I know his mad love for filmmaking. And Shah Rukh Khan, well, he’s been one of my favourite co-stars. I love him and his unbounding energy. I am going to watch OSO for him,” Madhuri revealed.

She regretted that she could not get home in time for Diwali, last week. “Diwali in Denver, is a time to gorge on sweets. And I ate so many, put on so many calories, that I was afraid to come back like that,” she reported. “Fortunately, I could get rid of the weight as well. I am coming here to promote my new film and I can’t afford to be seen with any extra flab!”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Worlds richest from Bombay.

London-based steel magnate Lakshmi N. Mittal continues to lead the growing pack of Indian billionaires, but local tycoon Mukesh Ambani is closing in, according to Forbes Asia magazine.

Surging share prices coupled with a stronger rupee have helped Ambani's net worth surge 2 1/2 times in the past year to US$49 billion, the magazine said in a statement Thursday. Mittal's wealth totaled US$51 billion as of Nov. 2, it said.

In March, when Forbes released its 2007 rankings of world's richest people, Ambani trailed Mittal by US$12 billion.

Ambani's wealth grew faster as share prices of his Reliance Industries, which is largely focused on oil refining and petrochemicals, more than doubled in the past year and the rupee appreciated about 12 percent against the U.S. dollar.

Mittal's business is not listed on the Indian stock market, one of the world's fastest growing.

The stock boom coupled with rising real estate prices helped India add 18 new billionaires in the past year, taking the total to 54.

Their collective net worth was estimated at US$351 billion, making them the wealthiest group in Asia, the Forbes statement said, contrasting sharply with the 400 million Indians who still live on less than a dollar a day.

The methodology of the rankings remains similar to the practice Forbes followed in previous years.

The worth of an individual's holdings in public companies was based on the Nov. 2 closing stock price, and the value of private companies was estimated by evaluating comparable public firms in the industry and by consulting with experts in the field.

Ambani's estranged brother, Anil Ambani, whose conglomerate has interests in telecommunications, finance and power generation, came third with a net worth of US$45 billion.

Moving up the billionaires' list was Kushal Pal Singh, who has emerged the world's richest real estate developer after listing his flagship company DLF Ltd.

The top four in the Indian list were worth more than the 40 richest Chinese combined, Forbes said.

"Had these four been worth as much in March, when we published our annual list of the world's billionaires, they all would have ranked among the world's 10 richest," it said.

Mittal took fifth place in the March list, while the Ambani brothers ranked 14 and 18 respectively.

Mumbai beats Delhi in riches.

Mumbai has pipped Delhi as a city with the highest number of billionaires in the country.

The latest list of richest indians, compiled by Forbes magazine, has named 23 billionaires from Mumbai. Delhi accounts for only 12 such people.

Among top five richest Indians living in India, two are from Mumbai and two from Delhi. But, Mumbaikars enjoy higher ranks than the Delhiites.

The billionaires from Mumbai are led by Ambani brothers - Mukesh (2nd rank) and Anil (3rd rank) - with fortunes to the tune of $49 billion and $45 billion respectively.

In Delhi, the richest person is Kushal Pal Singh of DLF (4th rank) with fortunes worth $35 billion, followed by Bharti Airtel's [ Sunil Mittal (6th rank) whose wealth adds up to $12.5 billion.

Among other cities, Pune and Bangalore has six billionaires each. Meanwhile, in the list of 'India's 40 Richest', there are 15 billionaires from Mumbai, 10 from Delhi, five from Pune and four from Bangalore. In this list, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad have a billionaire each.

There are 14 Indians, with wealth of $1 billion each, who have not made a cut into the '40 Richest' list, according to the magazine.

Eight of them are from Mumbai and two from Delhi. Naresh Goyal of Jet Airways , Nandan Nilekani of Infosys , Kishore Biyani of Pantaloon, Retail and Pradeep Jain of Parsvnath Developers are among these people.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Opps Salman does it again!!

A car allegedly driven by a Canadian model with Bollywood actor Salman Khan in it met with an accident injuring a police constable in Central Mumbai's Worli area, police said on Monday.

"Going by the photographs (printed in a city tabloid on Monday) it seems Salman was in the vehicle which met with an accident but my men at Worli have said he was not driving the vehicle as being speculated," Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) K L Prasad said.

According to the report, a car with Salman in it hit a motorcycle on which a police constable was riding pillion and injured the latter.

A crowd gathered at the spot soon after and one among them also clicked photographs of Salman at the spot with his mobile phone.

Salman's lawyer Dipesh Mehta has said neither Salman nor his vehicle was involved in any accident. The report further quotes him saying, "Well, he must be travelling on the same road when he stepped in to help."

A senior police official said, "The people caught hold of the woman offender and we requested Salman to leave the spot immediately as the crowd was swelling as the news spread that Salman was at the spot. We wanted to concentrate on the accident and not waste our energy in crowd management."

He said the woman had an international driving license and the owner of the vehicle was her employer. He, however, did not give further details as to what the woman does.

Salman is an accused in a hit and run case wherein his SUV ran over pavement dwellers in suburban Bandra killing one and injuring four others in the wee hours of September 28, 2002.

World bank project rolls on Mumbai tracks.

The much-publicised Rs 4,500-crore Mumbai Urban Transport Project, primarily a World Bank baby, got underway yesterday afternoon. The first suburban rake (a train consisting of 12 coaches), designed by Siemens of Germany and built at Chennai’s Integral Coach Factory, had its inaugural run between Churchgate and Virar, the last destination of Western Railway’s Suburban Section.
The inauguration was delayed by several months and brought cheers from more than 3.5 million commuters. They looked forward to travelling in a swanky, spacious and technically equipped train. Under the MUTP, Mumbai’s suburban sections of Western and Central Railways are expected to get 157 such rakes.
The decrepit fleets being used by the two railways to carry about 6 million commuters turned obsolete years (decades?) ago but are being run at the risk of potential harm to commuters who find local trains ~ arteries of Mumbai ~ convenient. For want of enough rakes, the railways were unable to increase their daily services. This made travel a daily ordeal.
The new train inaugurated yesterday had been lying unused in a carshed since its arrival in July.
Authorities had deferred their launch on several counts. First, they realised that the motormen (drivers) needed to be trained to run the rakes. Second, their suitability on local tracks was to be tested. It took several months to press the train into service. Third, another rake of identical built is being tested. Finally, a new start to the modernisation of suburban sections has been welcomed by the commuters.

1500 Cr mall in Mumbai???

Chennai-based real estate developer ETA Star Property Developers, a part of $4 billion ETA Ascon group based in the UAE, will build a Rs 1,500 crore mall in Mumbai’s Juhu area.
The construction work will begin in January next year.
ETA has formed a 50:50 joint venture with Supra Estates to develop the 10 acre plot (450,000 sq ft) into a shopping mall and also for building service apartments. The companies have paid Rs 800-900 crore for the said plot of land.
P H M Syed Ismail, managing director, ETA Star Properties, said, “The mall will be given on a seven-year lease upon completion of the project in 2010. Construction will start in January next year.”
ETA has brought Rs 200-250 crore as equity contribution for the project in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) and will raise the balance through banks and other financial institution.
ETA has also forged a joint venture with Wavy Construction for a project based in the hill station of Khandala, Maharashtra. The project involves building luxury villas, health spas, hotels and furnished apartments.
Even as the structure of the joint venture is yet to be finalised, both companies will inject Rs 400 crore for the project spread across 28 acres. A US consultancy firm, Tony Asahi, has been appointed to provide a detailed study of the area, which would help draft the final outlook of the project.
The study would be complete within three weeks and the construction should commence in February next year. Details of the venture like number of villas and hotels will be determined next month,” said Ismail.
ETA is currently executing a Rs 13,500 crore integrated township project at Sriperumbudur near Chennai. The project, spread over a land area of 1,200 acres, will be finished in seven years.
ETA Star has created a separate special purpose vehicle for the project in which it would hold 59.9 per cent, a foreign partner 40 per cent with Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation holding the rest. ETA Star is talking to a few companies in the US and Europe for the project.
The company is involved in real estate ventures mainly in the southern region of the country with projects spread across Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
The company is executing a residential project in Chennai, where it is developing apartments under the name of Jasmine Court. The project follows two other projects ‘Binny Crescent’ and ‘The Gardens’, both residential projects in Bangalore.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New local trains in Mumbai??

A new set of local trains are being introduced by the Western Railway - the first of which was flagged off on Monday.

Mumbai's super local have it all - break neck speed, better ventilation and comfortable seating.

The notable features of the train are extra bars at the door for people to hold on to, high power blowers for better ventilation and double size windows especially for standing commuters.

Apart from this it comprises GPS controlled display boards - one special feature tailor made for the choc-a-block trains.

''The blowers have sensors that can detect high carbon dioxide levels and pump in oxygen so people don't suffocate,'' said K C Jena, Chairman Railway Board.

''It's airy and there is more light but the most important thing is frequency without that I don't know how it will help,'' said Jennifer Mirza, Filmmaker.

Twelve-coach train is made to carry 2500 passengers but as soon as it entered the suburban train network it was already carrying 7000.

So what will become of this brand new baby by the time it is well travelled needs to looked out at.

Monday, November 12, 2007

How Bombay evolved.

From a fishing hamlet to the financial capital of the country, Mumbai has come a long way. Another journey in its future has begun now as the Government as well as the international community are in the process of making this city a Regional Finance Centre (RFC) by 2012 and an International Finance Centre (IFC) by 2022. But this is not a smooth journey for Mumbai to attain that goal, taking into consideration, the present infrastructural facilities and the most important c omponent, the political will, which are lagging behind.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the announcement first in March 2006 to make Mumbai a global financial centre. Mumbai, he said, with its top-class human capital and commercial acumen, have a role in this new global financial architecture as international financial centres. “Mumbai can emerge as a new financial capital of Asia and be the bridge between Asia and the West in the world of finance.” With this aim, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had drawn a roadmap for fuller capital account convertibility. The Government also set up a High Power Expert Committee (HPEC) to suggest ways and means to make Mumbai an IFC. While many other technical issues such as developing financial products and deepening the debt market and other legal issues could be handled easily, a serious debate is under way: Whether to make the entire Mumbai city as an IFC or to have only a certain area of Mumbai to be developed as an IFC?

Compelling case

The report of the HPEC makes a compelling case for Mumbai to become an IFC. There was a need for de-regulation leading to further liberalisation and globalisation of the Indian financial services for successful promotion of a world-class IFC.

Mumbai needs a City Manager (whether elected or appointed) who is directly accountable to its citizens and residents. The city needs an administrative apparatus for governance that is under the direct control of such a City Manager — with the support of the State and the Centre — and that has its own revenue base and financial independence to match.

‘Milch cow’

“Mumbai has been a ‘milch cow’ for both the Centre and the State for some time. It has got very little backing for its own urban development. That asymmetry needs to be reversed,” the committee observed. Many experts conceded that self-governance for Mumbai and better infrastructure like housing are the basic necessities for making Mumbai an IFC.

India needs more capital to sustain higher rates of growth and thus the need for a robust international finance centre. It needs to decide whether it would house a financial centre which caters internationally or one which caters nationally — it is time for India to decide whether it needs to be the next financial services purchaser or services provider. No doubt, the HPEC report would prove to be a path breaking reform proposal for the Indian financial system.

“The creation of an international hub in Mumbai has to look at the wider eco-system rather than just the financial sector. Successful financial hubs are first foremost ‘global cities’ that act as clusters of human capital. If one can bring together right people and institutions, the economics will follow,” states Sanjeev Sanyal of Deutsche Bank in an article ‘Building an IFC in Mumbai’.

Other issues

Among other issues, Mr. Sanyal said, every effort must be made to ensure that the city’s human capital does not de-cluster. Rent-control and road congestion in South Mumbai have forced the economically active population to relocate themselves. Mumbai needs more tertiary educational facilities, both inside the city and within easy reach. A financial hub does not just require a plethora of finance institutions.


Some argue that these issues would be resolved by creating a separate enclave for IFC. The HPEC is categorical in its opposition to such an enclave approach. The committee stated that it would take a great deal of effort to police a special economic zone with special privileges in order to ensure that there were no leakages to the mainstream economy. .

In a recent visit to India, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, said that the fast growing cities needed all the attention of national policy but to help cities “we must not stop developing the countryside.”

The report of the HPEC concludes, “Mumbai needs to be seen across India and around the world as a welcoming, cosmopolitan and cultured metropolis capable of accommodating a large number of expatriates. It is only with such an ethos that Mumbai can become an IFC.” Making a separate area of Mumbai as an IFC would be an escape route to avoid the ground realities.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Must see Mumbai:Lonely planet.

Mumbai has been tipped by travel experts Lonely Planet as one of the must-see places for travellers to visit in 2008, in a new book published worldwide this month.

"Lonely Planet Bluelist: The Best in Travel 2008" captures what’s hot in travel for the coming year, and is an annual collection of the best trends, destinations, journeys and experiences from around the world.

Mumbai is featured in the ‘Go List’ section of the book - a chapter dedicated to the 30 most exciting destinations for the year ahead. The book says Mumbai is “set to reclaim the world’s attention” in 2008, with the city’s growing economic strength ensuring that Mumbai has “become noted for its sleek shopping, gourmet dining and swanky bars as much as for grand colonial architecture.”

Elsewhere in the book, Mumbai is also featured as one of the top 5 places to “lose yourself” and as one of the world’s top ten incredible metropolises.

Sam Trafford, Lonely Planet’s Commissioning Editor for South & Central Asia, said that Mumbai was chosen because “it gives an interesting glimpse of the new booming India, with a vibrant shopping, restaurant and nightlife scene catering for self-confident Mumbaikers. It’s a side of the country many travellers skip through but is well worth taking the time to seek out.”

Ms Trafford said she wanted to show international travellers that Mumbai was more than a gateway city, and “encourage travellers who fly in or out of Mumbai as part of a longer trip to linger for a while and get to know the city.”

Lonely Planet Bluelist 2008 features fun, inspirational lists of the world’s best travel experiences profiled under 30 categories -- everything from quirky places where you can sleep behind bars, to a hit list of the world’s most amazing tropical paradises, or the greatest river journeys. Under each category, the top ten options are highlighted along with stunning photos and a snappy write-up from Lonely Planet’s expert authors.

India features heavily throughout this year’s Lonely Planet Bluelist 2008: Chandi Chowk is profiled as one of the top 10 “Food Wonderlands of the World”, Golden Temple and the source of the Ganges are nominated as two of the world’s best spiritual sites. The Bring Your Own Film Festival is nominated as one of the world’s “Great Film Festivals”, and India also makes it on to the list of “Strangest Museums”, with the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets!

Another section of the book, called “Bluelist moments”, records readers’ best travel recommendations caught on camera. Three out of the ten experiences captured are in India, including predawn at the Pushkar Camel Fair, Boatmen carrying coracles at Hogenakkal, and the statue of Gomateshvara at Sravanabelagola.

Lonely Planet is a leading independent travel information company, with offices in Australia, the UK and USA. Lonely Planet publishes over 500 titles in English, covering ever corner of the planet. Lonely Planet guidebooks also appear in Spanish, Italian, French, Korean, Japanese, German and Chinese. Lonely Planet sells over 6.5 million books in English each year in 200 countries, and also produces an award-winning website, inspiring television programmes, and digital travel products.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Mukesh Ambanis gift to wife?

,As birthday gifts go, this one takes the cake.
Mukesh Ambani, the country's richest man and Chairman of Reliance Industries, is understood to have gifted his wife, Nita, a unique, customised, plush corporate jet, on her birthday which was on November 1.

Its cost -- a mind-boggling Rs 240 crore-plus.

The aircraft, an Airbus 319, has all the luxury trappings associated with the lifestyle of jet-setting kind such as a sky bar, a master bedroom as well as a bathroom with fancy showers.

When contacted, a Reliance Industries spokesperson told that "we have no comments to make. It is purely a personal matter." The aircraft is reported to be equipped with a business centre, satellite television and a cabin with state-of-the-art systems for music and g
ames besides wireless communication.
What else to expect when your hubby is the worlds richest individual!!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Emergency in Pakistan.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday imposed emergency rule, a move that will put off elections due in January.

Here are some facts about Musharraf:

* The second of three brothers, Musharraf was born into a middle class Muslim family in India in August 1943. His family moved to the newly created majority-Muslim state of Pakistan following India's independence and partition in 1947. He spent seven years in Turkey, during his civil servant father's posting to Ankara. In 1956 the family settled in Karachi, where Musharraf attended Roman Catholic and other Christian schools.

* Entering the Pakistan Military Academy in 1961, the keen sportsman and career military man first saw action as a young officer in the 1965 war against India and was decorated for gallantry. Marrying in 1968, he endured the army's humiliating defeat by India in the 1971 war and served for seven years in Pakistan's special service commando group.

* Promoted to the rank of general and named army chief in October, 1998, Musharraf seized power from then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999 in a bloodless coup. He first led the country as chief executive and then won a five-year presidential term in a 2002 referendum critics say was rigged.

* One of President George W. Bush's most important non-NATO allies in Washington's war on terrorism, supporters paint Musharraf as a strong leader who can save Pakistan's moderate Muslim majority from militant, religious extremism seeping into cities from tribal areas along the northwest frontier. However a bloody army assault on Islamabad's Red Mosque in July, during which 102 people were killed, led to a rise in attacks by Islamist militants that have killed several hundred people.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Big companies how much customer centric?

When one deals with the big league companies as a customer one expects a decent experience,that is how one believes in a brand and pays the premium for it.

My recent experience with Reliance for broadband connection was a sour taste in mouth where after the application was taken and a connection promised in 3 working days ultimately took 16 days!!That too after my telephonic follow ups from department to department.

When the consensus is that the customer is the king,this ill treatment is hazardous for the reputation of the Brand.So dear friends at Reliance Broadband better gear up cause Airtel is Watching!!!