Updated: July 30, 2019 10:44:26 am
Survivors of the 2014 Malin landslide and other residents of the area will hold a programme to commemorate the victims on the fifth anniversary of the incident that killed 151 people.
On July 30, 2014, on a rainy morning, a village of 50 families located at the foothills of the Sahyadri mountain range, disappeared within minutes as the hills came down in a massive landslide. At least 151 people and 300 cattle were killed in the tragedy.
The scale of the incident was so massive that several hundred jawans of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), district administration officials, health department officials and NGO volunteers worked day and night for 17 days, digging through the debris to find bodies of the diseased. Saurabh Rao, who was then the district collector, camped in the area for several days to co-ordinate the operation.
Once it was over, the district administration turned its attention to the next big challenge — rehabilitating survivors. The district administration then started looking for a place for a new village. A location that would be safe and also agreeable to survivors. Initially, the revenue department suggested 10 different locations, of which two were discarded after a geological survey indicated they could face a landsilde in the future.
It took at least seven months for officials and villagers to agree on a site. Until the houses were ready, the administration made temporary arrangements for the villagers in tinshed houses in the village school premises. The survivors complained that they were facing great hardships, especially during rains, while new houses were being built at a snail’s pace.
Now, the local gram panchayat and the zilla parishad have decided to organise a small event at the memorial that was built at the feet of the hill where the village once nestled.
“There are issues that we still face in the rehabilitated village. Some of the houses leak and despite our complaints, the issues have not been fixed. It rains very heaviliy in this region and every monsoon, water drips from the roof, making it difficult to store foodgrains, and we are even afraid of getting electrocuted,” said Dagadu Jhanjar, a resident.
According to village residents, there are a few survivors who did not get a house. Vijay Lembhe, a local resident, said one such survivor is Kamal Janardan Lembe. “Although she lost her house in the tragedy, since it was not registered with the local gram panchayat at the time of the landslide, she was not considered during the house allotment. Her husband was unwell when the incident happened. They survived the landslide but he passed away six months later. Now she stays with her son in the tinshed, where all the survivors had been temporarily accommodated by the district administration before they were moved to the new village,” said Lembhe.
State panel to cap fees charged by self-financed univs
The Maharashtra government is planning to constitute a committee to cap the fees charged by self-financed universities in the state so that education remains affordable to all, said Minister for Higher and Technical Education Vinod Tawade, during a visit to Savitribai Phule Pune University on Monday.
Responding to allegations that several self-financed universities are charging exorbitant annual fees for courses, Tawade said, “We will soon constitute a committee, led by eminent personalities, including a Padma Bhushan awardee, to study and look into the fee structure. It has been learned that these universities charge heavy fees, some of which are comparable to fees for courses offered in universities abroad. But this will not be allowed.”
The demand for technical courses, including engineering, has been declining over recent years and colleges are finding it hard to run courses as more than half of the seats have remained vacant. “The problem is that there are more colleges than there is demand for a course. That is precisely why the Maharashtra government wrote to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to not grant permission to open any new engineering college in the state,” said Tawade.
Several engineering colleges in the state had to be shut down due to poor student admission — many that managed to fill just 40 per cent of the seats had to be permanently shut down. With fees charged by private schools, particularly English-medium ones, skyrocketing, the demand for Marathi-medium schools has been rising.
The method of teaching and support for the English language has been hit among government-run Marathi-medium schools, noted Tawade. He said, “More parents are admitting their wards to Marathi-medium schools and in the last three years, more than 92,000 students have switched to Marathi medium from English medium.”
Tawade also noted that soon Marathi, will be given the status of an upgraded language and be made mandatory in CBSE and ICSE schools in Maharashtra.
“I am very hopeful that the Marathi language will get its due status and it will be mandatory for all schools, regardless of the curricula, to offer Marathi. Schools not complying with this will face action,” said Tawade.
Met student wings of every party: Tawade
With student elections in all state-run universities and colleges due this year, all security measures will be taken care of and meetings with student groups across party lines have been conducted, said Vinod Tawade, state minister for higher education. Tawade was speaking on the sidelines of his official visit to Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) on Monday.
“We have held meetings with the student wings of every political party ahead of the elections. This was done simply to ensure that no incidents of violence or untoward events unfold due to campus elections,” said Tawade.
Student elections will return to Maharashtra this year after a gap of nearly 26 years. The upcoming polls are a matter of great concern for numerous colleges, especially those located in sensitive localities and areas across the state. During his visit to SPPU earlier this month, Pune City Police Commissioner Dr K Venkatesham had not given any clear assurances when asked if the police will provide security in campuses during elections. Tawade also said that student groups have been urged not to form panels during the elections.
While an entire generation in Maharashtra has missed campus elections, it will not be so for the current batch of college students. “Times have changed and so has technology and aspirations of both the candidates and students. I strongly feel that the political campaign will be carried out online,” said Tawade.
Recently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) had ordered all universities to initiate faculty recruitment process and complete it within six months.
PMC to recover 40 per cent concession amount in property tax without penalty
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) said Monday it is cancelling a 49-year-old property tax concession scheme, nine months after the state government suspended it.
In a proposal tabled in the Standing Committee, Municipal Commissioner Saurabh Rao said the state government on October 25 last year had suspended a PMC resolution dated April 4, 1970, which provided 40 per cent concession in property tax to the owner of a self-occupied property, and the process of cancelling it is underway. “Since the concession is now illegal, it is not being applied to new properties that are being assessed. So, the scheme is being cancelled and the difference in amount will be recovered without penalty,” he said. Old properties that are already self-occupied by the owner and were not availing the concession but are now seeking it will not be given the benefit, Rao added.
The 40 per cent concession in property tax was introduced in 1971 as a relief for people affected by the Panshet dam tragedy. In the state audit report of 2010-11 and 2012-13, objections were raised on the implementation of schemes that included concession of 40 per cent in property tax and 15 per cent as repair and maintenance cost, while it was supposed to be a maximum of 10 per cent, as per the law.
The issue was referred to the public accounts committee, which decided to suspend the PMC resolution of concessions in property tax.
The PMC has recently reduced the concession of 15 per cent to 10 per cent for maintenance, but was supposed to withdraw its resolution of 40 per cent concession for self-occupied properties.
Property tax is the largest direct revenue source of the civic body. Earlier, the main revenue source of the PMC had been the Local Body Tax (LBT), which replaced the octroi. However, the Union government had abolished LBT while introducing the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The state government was compensating for LBT, but there was no assurance on how long it would be continued.
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