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Mumbai may become a car-packed nightmare – Traffic remains 5 hours to clear

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MUMBAI:

With the cost of automobiles steadily falling and the purchasing power of the middle class on the rise, transport economists and environmentalists fear that Mumbai may soon become another car-packed nightmare like Bangkok. Despite several recommendations on curbing the automobiles influx, Mumbai continues to add about 200 new vehicles to its population of seven lakh vehicles daily. As a result, congestion and pollution levels are soaring by the day, even as road speeds plummet.
“At this rate, we may soon become a gas chamber like Bangkok, where commuters spend hours every day in their cars,” said Kisan Mehta of the Save Bombay Committee. While transport economists have for years been calling for demand control measures to discourage usage of private vehicles, the Maharashtra government has shown little will to curb the auto menace. Possible demand control measures include a heavy tax on the purchase of cars, an annual tax on vehicle usage, special tolls to enter congested areas and stiff parking charges. In several European and Asian cities, auto taxes are several times the cost of the car.

Urban development principal secretary K. Nalinakshan admitted at a seminar on road transport on Saturday that the government had failed to introduce effective demand control measures. “Demand control is the only solution to Mumbai’s road congestion problems, but the government has been at a loss to implement these measures,” he confessed. Instead of upgrading and supporting public transport systems, the Maharashtra government has been accused of catering to the automobile lobby. The World Bank, which is expected to fund the ambitious Mumbai Urban Transport Project-2, has expressed dismay at the Maharashtra government’s decision to construct 55 flyovers in the city to facilitate easier motoring. The World Bank’s consultants objected to the flyover project as it gave a boost to private transport, instead of emphasising public transport options which are considered the most rational and energy-sensible solution to the city’s commuting problems.

“The flyovers will definitely increase usage of motor vehicles in the city, which will further degrade public transport options. The flyovers may be needed in the long-run, but without demand control measures, they are a recipe for disaster,” a World Bank consultant told this newspaper. Even as the flyovers spring up, recommendations on demand control measures gather dust. The government has still to pass a bill empowering the BMC to introduce road pricing measures, sources at the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) said. Meanwhile, the MMRDA has still to complete studies on the impact of specific demand control measures, which are required as a precursor to the MUTP. The automobile lobby, however, insists that there should be no anti-car measures till public transport is upgraded. “Can car-owners be expected to give up their cars and travel hanging out of trains? Luxury bus services must be introduced as an option,” said Nitin Dossa, president of the Western India Automobiles Association (WIAA). The WIAA had recently challenged a minor increase in parking charges in court. However, environmentalists insist that effective taxing of private transport must precede luxury public transport. “The auto lobby should be reminded that in European cities, public transport is luxurious only because cars are heavily taxed,” commented Debi Goenka of the Bombay Environmental Action Group. “In Mumbai, car owners are totally pampered. Road tax is probably the only commodity in the city which is inflation-proof–it still stands at 1940 levels,” he added. Despite opinion to the contrary, Mr Dossa felt car owners were suffciently taxed already. “What about the RTO tax of 10.5 per cent of the value of the car we pay? It is wrong to say that cars are subsidised,” he said.

Hai, this is sri ram, I one of the General Assignment Reporter, at timesnowindia.com, We mainly cover timely news, educational and entertainment, sections. - Chief editor, politico-social activist, software engineer at Accenture India.

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2,500 militants on Pak border – Indian Military force

AT least 2,500 separatist guerrillas are waiting near the Pakistan border to cross into troubled Kashmir, a senior Indian army official has said.

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SRINAGAR

“Our figures show at least 2,500 terrorists awaiting to infiltrate across the LoC opposite the Kashmir region,” Major General J N Mukherjee, stationed in Srinagar, strife-torn Kashmir’s summer capital, told newspersons on Saturday.

“Of these, approximately 200 are opposite Kanzalwan, 250 opposite Machil, 200 opposite Kern, 150 opposite Tangdhar, 350 in Lipa Valley, 300 opposite Uri and Gulmarag and 500 in Muzaffarabad,” Mukherjee said.

Kanzalwan, Machil, Kern, Tangdhar, Lipa Valley, Uri and Gulmarag areas lie on the 740-km (463-mile) Line of Control which divides bitterly-disputed Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Muzaffarabad is the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Mukherjee said the Pakistan army provides training to separatist militants in 123 training camps. “…of which 42 (training camps) are in Pakistan, 70 in POK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) and 11 on the Afghanistan border. As per our information, at least 3,000 terrorists are under training in various camps,” Mukherjee added.

He said separatist militants were being provided with sophisticated weapons and equipment by Pakistan, including missiles, rockets and “state-of-the-art communication systems.”

Mukherjee said the newly-formed Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group had recruited at least 5,000 people in Pakistan.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of Mohammad) group was recently launched by Masood Azhar, a Pakistani Islamic cleric released by India in exchange for 155 hostages aboard a hijacked Indian Airlines plane late last year.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in separatist violence in Kashmir since 1990. – Reuters

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School Donates For Victims Of Earthquake -@ Lilawati Vidya Mandir

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Lilawati Vidya Mandir, Shakti Nagar donated Rs 1 lakh, a truckload of clothes, apart from food and bedding to the victims of earthquake in Gujarat. The school also observed a two-minute silence in the memory of those who perished in this calamity.

The staff and students of the Apeejay Institutions being run by Apeejay Education Society contributed a sum of Rs 14,07,892 for the victims of the Gujarat earthquake. A delegation consisting of the principals, directors of the Apeejay Institutions alongwith head boys and head girls of the schools, sent by Dr Satya Paul, Chairman of the society. Presented the amount to Swami Gokulananda at a brief ceremony in the premises of Ramakrishna Mission.

SSKLT Gujarat Sr Sec School has been working earnestly to provide relief materials to Gujarat earthquake victims. School sent 175 big sacks of rice and dals. Vegetables oils, tea etc, They have also collected medicines, match boxes. Candles, soaps, poly jars and utenslls etc. Students even donated the money collected for the farewell party towards the relief funds.

The students and staff of kalka Public School contributed clothes, food and medicines as well as Rs 1,11,150 towards the Gujarat Relief Fund.

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