Friday, February 18, 2011

For a better Thane

Divide and prosper?

Friday, February 04, 2011
By Kaptan Mali
Demand to split Thane district for overall development gets stronger

Thane, the satellite city of India’s economic capital Mumbai, has transformed itself in recent decades from being an industrial and rural area to a fast growing city of multiplexes and high-rises. But, one thing has not yet changed — its tag of being the biggest district in India on the basis of population.

Due to this, authorities are having problems in developing Thane equitably. On the one hand, there is a section of the population that is getting the best of benefits while, on the other hand, people in rural areas like Jawahar-Mokhada and Shahpur are dying of malnutrition.

Thane district is spread over an area of around 9,337 sq. km and is the only district in India where there are seven municipal corporations, five municipal councils, 1,748 villages, 15 tehsils and 37 cities. But a major part of the administration is looked after by the Thane headquarters, which faces problems when it comes to taking care of the entire district. The district is bound by Pune and Ahmednagar in the east, Nashik in the east and northeast, Valsad District of Gujarat and the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli in the north.

Often, the residents of these areas have to visit the district headquarters for basic government facilities, which sometimes is a 6-8 hour journey one way.

Further, the district comprises of hilly, coastal, as well as jungle areas, making it even more difficult for officials to manage it effectively. For over two decades, there has been a demand to divide the district in order to make the administration more effective and swift, but nothing has been done so far.

Explained advocate Chitaman Vanga, Member of Parliament from Palghar, “It is too difficult for just one superintendent of police and one collector to handle such a vast area. There must be a division of the district. As per the plan, the government has allocated only Rs.361 crore for the development of rural areas in Thane whereas, for urban development, more than Rs.600 crore has been allocated.” Advocate Vanga also feels that while the total population of Thane district presently stood at around 1.5 crore, once the Churchgate-Dahanu suburban train service begins, it will only worsen the situation.

In 1992, O.P. Sharma, a social activist who has been fighting for the division of Thane for over 25 years, had initiated a movement to make Jawahar Taluka a district. He succeeded partly. Giving the example of Mira-Bhayandar, Sharma explained, “In 1984, Mira-Bhayandar was a Gram Panchayat and in 1995 it became a municipal corporation and now it is competing with Mumbai. So, one can also hope for such type of development in Thane once it is divided.”

Sharma, however, added, “Before coming to the conclusion of dividing the district, the government must do a thorough survey and analysis of the people residing here. There should be three divisions as per its geographical characteristics – hilly, coastal and urban. Also, there must be a headquarter for each division.”

Santosh Giri, a resident of the district, has a different viewpoint though. “The division of Thane will be a costly affair for the government. Instead, they should appoint an additional collector with an IAS rank in each of the three areas of the district and provide them with the responsibility of the entire development of the area. If these people work with full integrity, the area will prosper like other regions of the country.”

A senior Thane IPS officer, on condition of anonymity, commented, “It is true that the division of Thane will help us in managing the district in a more effective way. At present, there should be a separate police commissionerate for Mira Bhayandar and Vasai.

It will reduce the burden of the Thane rural superintendent of police.” When contacted, Thane District Magistrate, A.L. Jarhad, assured, “There has been a demand to divide Thane for the last 15 years. A district planning committee is looking into the issue.”

Thane in numbers
Tehsils: 15
Panchayat samitis: 13
Cities: 37
Municipal corporations: 7
Municipal councils: 5

Police Policing

Relating to the Public: PRO’s at police stations

Monday, November 22, 2010
By Kaptan Mali
The Thane police department has started a new initiative to bring general public and police officials closer and remove the fear of police from the public’s psyche. The Thane police have decided to appoint Public Relation Officers (PRO) who will be the first contact of visitors to any police station.

The initiative started by Thane Police Commissioner SPS Yadav on an experimental basis. The program will be reviewed by the Deputy Commissioners of Police and Yadav in a few weeks and will later be implemented in all the police stations.

The constables who have been assigned the PRO’s job have been trained by senior officials. These PROs will hold the information of all officers and departments including absent officers. Accordingly they will guide visitors. The PRO will also place his remarks on the applications of the visitors which will serve as evidence for both police and the visitors.

Thane police commissioner SPS Yadav told ADC, “At the police stations, the public is found wandering from one department to another because there is no one to guide them. There must be a qualified officer (PRO) to guide them to the right department with their queries.”

According to Yadav there is a fear in the minds of the general public regarding the police department which he wants to eliminate through this initiative. If the general public is treated well by the police it will not only restore their faith in this institution but also help the police in reducing crime and assist in intelligence gathering.

Yadav further added that the PRO will be the first person to interact with the visitors and will note details about the visitor to help us during the investigation or act as references which will increase the accountability of the concerned department.

However police stations across Mumbai have public relations officers but are rarely seen doing their job.

something positive

On the rite path

Saturday, November 20, 2010
By Kaptan Mali
 Antim Samskar Seva specialises in performing the funeral rituals of different religions

In Mumbai’s fast-paced life hardly anyone has the time to even think about others. And then, there are a few like Dr. Ramnik Parekh, who devote their money and time for the dead, to provide them a respectful last rite. Very few in the city know about the procedures for last rites of all the religions. For such people, the Antim Samskar Seva – founded by Dr. Parekh – has the answers.
Dr. Parekh has devoted several years of his life studying the different types of last rite rituals of different religions after that he set up his organisation. Antim Samskar Seva has an air-conditioned hearse equipped with all the essentials required for any last rite with four staff members, who are just a call away. They claim to reach the spot in an hour’s time. In the cities, very few people know how to make a ‘bier’ (wooden stretcher) on which the dead body is taken to the crematorium. Also, there are very few shops where the materials required for it are available.
The organisation provides two types of services, one from hospital to home and second from home to crematorium. In two years since its inception, the Antim Samskar Seva has provided their services to over 350 families from different communities of Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhists, etc. Nowadays, they get an average of one to two such requests per day.
Dr. Parikh explained, “In foreign countries, the dead bodies are given a respectful farewell and they are taken to the crematorium in a well-decorated Mercedes or a Rolls Royce. Crematoriums there are a place of peace and greenery with a planned set up, but in India the situation is totally opposite. I want the same type of respect for the dead here too and my Antim Samskar Seva is just an effort in this direction.”
The doctor added that a simple last rite in Hindus requires at least 24 articles. “After the death of a family member, when the entire family mourns, they have the responsibility of performing the last rites too. In such a scenario, all the preparations happen in a scattered manner. Here’s where our team provides them with expert, humble service without depending on the deceased’s family for as little as a match box.”  
He further revealed, “We execute the whole process quietly and discreetly and also ensure that the ashes are recovered and handed over to the family. We also help the family members to donate the organs of the dead on their request as well as complete the formalities to obtain the official death certificate from the BMC.” 
The journey…
In 1982, Dr. Parikh’s father met with an accident and was admitted to J.J. Hospital, where he died. His father’s body was then put in a hearse provided by the hospital van, which had blood stains and was filthy. While transporting his father’s body to Pedder Road, the hearse van developed some mechanical problems. Later, his father’s body was taken in another hearse. After witnessing the disrespect to his father’s body, Dr. Parikh decided that, in the future, he will do something in this regard. It led to the formation of the Antim Samskar Seva in 2008.
The team
Antim Samskar Seva consists of…
  • A coordinator (social worker), two helpers and a driver in uniforms
  • Seating facility for a few mourners
  • Bottled water with disposable cups
  • Spiritual recitations or chanting of religious shlokas in the background (on demand of the family)
  • All the requisites like earthen pot, bier/ stretcher (ready to use), flowers/garlands, salt, ghee, etc.
(Antim Samskar Seva can be contacted on 9223355500/ 9223355511. E-mail: