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Raj Thackeray has an apt question: Why spend money on memorials when historical forts are in a state of neglect?

With the BJP and Shiv Sena busy bickering over who was “hijacking” the grand Shivaji Memorial for reaping “political gains”,  Raj Thackeray, leader of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), had something pertinent to say.

Barely two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed the ‘jal-pooja’ for the proposed memorial in the Arabian Sea — a Rs 3,600-crore worth of grand affair —  Thackeray questioned how the state government planned to finance it. “Where is the money going to come from? Do they have the money for the project? In the past, they have made many similar announcements, but the funds never came,” he said

Alleging that the state government keeps making such announcements, without planning the resources, he suggested that the money should be utilised for the development and maintenance of the scores of forts and palaces in Maharashtra, many built during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Incidentally, this had been a long-standing demand of the MNS.

As the state government is busy basking in the glory of another multi-billion project to claim the legacy of the the 17th century warrior king, the 3oo forts that the Maratha war hero built and captured during some of Indian history’s most iconic wars are languishing in a state of neglect.

Here’s a look at Maharashtra’s most prominent edifices that are the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj — an integral part of the Maratha pride.

Rajgad Fort

Aerial view of Rajgad Fort. Wikimedia commons

Aerial view of Rajgad Fort. Wikimedia Commons

The 14th century majestic edifice, built atop a hill near Pune, was the capital of the Maratha king and one of the most notable hill forts in the country. However, today, it remains callously ignored and is in dire need of fortified security measure as reports of thefts of historical artifacts from the fort have surfaced. According to a report in Pune Mirror on 12 Decembera piece of Shivaji’s sword disappeared that was a part of a well-known statue called Raj Sadar Sinhasan (the grand throne), at the fort. The report further states that the Maharashtra government has no paperwork to document the exact number and location of these artifacts, which makes it difficult for such thefts to be reported and documented.

From a tourism point of view also, the development of these forts remains far from satisfactory. Another report in The Times of India states that poor sanitation facilities at the fort and lack of a proper motorable road to the hill top are an impediment in harnessing the true tourism potential of the fort. The government, according to the report, is pushing for the historical site to be included among the World Heritage Sites maintained by the Unesco, but with shoddy upkeep, the Maratha heritage is unlikely to be restored to its past glory.

Sinhagad Fort

Sinhagad fort. Wikimedia

Sinhagad fort. Wikimedia Commons

The Maharashtra Tourism website boasts of the strategic fort’s grandeur in these words, “As one of the top military outposts during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the fort of Sinhagad not only offers a fascinating peek into the history of the Maratha Empire but is also a perennial favourite… While taking in the panoramic view of the landscape below, you cannot help but wonder at the vision of those who built such imposing structures at such great heights.”

However, the structure sadly is in a dilapidated state and not much of it’s original structure has remained intact with time. According to The Times of India, parts of the structure are crumbling down due to lack of repair and restoration. The report also states that unmanouverable road, lack of security at the fort and garbage strewn across the place have further reduced its former glory. Vandalistaion is another problem, as visitors, in the absence of proper security carve out names and paint graffiti on the historical structure.

Sindhudurg Fort

Sindhudurg fort. Wikimedia Commons

Sindhudurg fort. Wikimedia Commons

Noted for its serene coastal beauty, the Sindhudurg Fort was built by Shivaji in 1664 AD off the Malvan coast. According to the Maharashtra Tourism website, it is believed that Shivaji personally chose the site for the construction of the fort, and it also has a temple dedicated to the warrior king, built by his son Rajaram.

However, this oceanic fort is also in a poor state, as the administration chooses to look the other way. As per The Times of Indiathe lashing waves from all sides have weakened the structure and its once impregnable boundary wall is crumbling in places. It’s well camouflaged and the sturdy gate has developed creaks because of which it cannot be closed anymore.

Walls of the Shivaji temple now has cracks. This temple has hosted many politicians who have wished to invoke Shivaji’s valour as a symbol of Maratha pride for making political gains.

Shramik Gojamgunde, the founder of Pune-based Sahyadri Pratishthan which is involved in spreading awareness about the conservation of forts in Maharashtra, rues at the terrible state of the over 350 forts dotted across Maharashtra. “The central government has 35 forts under their purview, while the state has 45. Who is responsible for the rest of the forts?” Gojamgunde is quoted in Mid-Day as saying. According to the report, frustrated by the lack of renovation and restoration initiatives, Gojamgunde’s organisation is taking up the work in its own hands and is involved in cleaning up a few forts. They have also installed information boards, where necessary, to inform the tourists about the glorious past of these monuments.

“The only reason we are taking on the responsibility is because the government shuns it. If we don’t do anything about these 2,000 year-old forts, they won’t exist 200 years down the line,” Mid-Day quotes him as saying. However, restoration and maintenance of historical structure should ideally be overseen by historians and the due authorities. The weathering and ageing of these structures is also an essential part which adds to their historical value. Unwarranted renovation work can damage the rustic beauty of these places. Installing newer and more lavish memorials to glorify the Indian history and heroes is a great idea but what is needed is the administration’s attention and support to protect the existing historical heritage.

With inputs from IANS

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 19:41 IST

That extra slice of ham might just worsen your asthma: Here’s why

London: Love to gorge on ham, sausages and salami? Beware, a new study suggests that higher intake of cured and processed meats can worsen asthma symptoms.

Cured and processed meat is rich in nitrites, which may have a role in airway inflammation — a typical feature of asthma, the study said.

Cured and processed meat are not good for asthmatic patients says new study. Wikimedia Commons

Cured and processed meat are not good for asthmatic patients says new study. Wikimedia Commons

The findings showed that individuals who consumed four or more weekly servings of cured and processed meat were 76 percent more likely to experience worsening asthma symptoms.

This could include difficulty in breathing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

“This research extends the deleterious effect of cured meat on health, and the effect of diet on asthma in adults, and provides a novel analytic approach regarding the role of BMI in the diet-asthma association,” said Zhen Li from Paul Brousse Hospital in Paris, France.

The results showed that cured and processed meat plays a potential role in lung function and health, the researchers added.

For the study, the team examined 971 adults (49 per cent men). Their dietary intake was measured using food frequency questionnaires encompassing 118 items in 46 food groups.

Cured meat intake (ham, sausage, salami) was classified as low (for one or fewer) weekly servings, medium (for one-four) weekly servings and high for four or more.

Being overweight or obese, which was previously linked to worsening asthma, accounted for just 14 percent of this association, thereby suggesting that meat intake was independently linked to symptoms.

The study was published online in the journal Thorax.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 13:07 IST

Madras HC refuses to postpone 19 November polls for two Tamil Nadu seats

The Madras High Court has directed Election Commission to file an affidavit of expenses incurred for conduct of assembly elections to Aravakurichi and Thanjavur constituencies, which were cancelled in May following evidence by the poll panel of money used to bribe voters. The court passed the interim orders on petitions by PMK candidates M Baskaran, who contested from Aravakurichi and G Kunjithapatham, who contested from Thanjavur, seeking to recover all expenses from AIADMK and DMK candidates, who allegedly distributed money and gifts to the voters.

Madras-High-Court_Wiki-commons_Yoga-Balaji_380

Madras High Court. Wikimedia Commons

The EC had initially deferred the elections in the two constituencies in May when the state went for polls. The polls were bound to take place in June but were cancelled again. The polls will now be held on 19 November.

When the matter came up to the bench, the court directed EC to file an affidavit within four weeks, setting forth the expenses incurred for conduct of the election under different heads. The petitioners submitted that the amount expended in the election process should be recovered from the ‘delinquent candidates’. They also suggested the court that the EC may file an affidavit on the money spent towards these two constituencies so that the amount is quantified. Later on, it may be debated if the amount can be recovered from the candidates or not.

Additional Solicitor General submitted that cash seized from the constituencies was deposited in the permanent deposit account and that they were awaiting some information from the tax department, which may take up about three months. The court took note of the suggestions of the petitioners, directed the EC to submit the result of enquiry in a sealed cover before it and posted the matter for further hearing on 6 March, 2017. 

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 15:53 IST

Kashmir a matter for India, Pak to sort out: British PM Theresa May

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the UK”s stand on Kashmir remains unchanged and it is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan to address.The issue was raised in the House of Commons during the weekly Prime Minister”s Questions session on Wednesday by Pakistani-born Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, who asked if the Kashmir issue would form part of May”s discussions during her visit to India next month.”I take the same view as this government has since it came into power, and indeed previously, which is that the issue of Kashmir is a matter for India and Pakistan to deal with and sort out,” the British PM said in Parliament, clearly indicating that Kashmir was unlikely to be on the agenda during her bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when she visits India between November 6 and 8.Qureshi, who represents a heavily Pakistani-origin constituency of Bolton in north-west England, had questioned in the Commons: “Will the Prime Minister meet with me and cross party colleagues to discuss the human rights abuses and the issue of self-determination for Kashmiri people, as was set out in the resolution of the UN in 1948 and can she raise this issue with the Indian Prime Minister.” May, while dismissing any meeting herself, said: “The foreign secretary Boris Johnson has heard her representations and I am sure will be interested in taking those issues up with her.”The British PM is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on November 6 for her first overseas bilateral visit outside Europe.Besides inaugurating the India-UK Tech Summit alongside Modi, she will be holding talks with her Indian counterpart before heading to Bengaluru.May will be accompanied by a business delegation comprising small and medium enterprises from across the UK and her international trade minister, Liam Fox.

Canada PM Trudeau to announce apology for not allowing Sikhs to enter nation in 1914

Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, on Monday announced that he will issue a formal apology on May 18, 2016 in the House of Commons on the 102nd anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident.In 1914, around 376 passengers of Sikh descent who arrived in Vancouver in a Japanese steam ship named Komagata Maru were refused entry into Canada because of discriminatory racial laws during the time. Trudeau made the announcement during the occasion of Vaisakhi marking the conclusion of the three-day religious ceremony.

Sister of Indian-origin Islamic State jihadist hopes it’s not him

The sister of an Indian-origin Islamic State terror suspect dubbed “New Jihadi John” has said she is hoping that the masked man in a recent video of the terror group is not her brother and her family was in the dark about how he was radicalised.Konika Dhar appeared before a House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday over the possibility of her brother Siddhartha Dhar being the masked man who recently appeared in an ISIS propaganda video which showed “British spies” being executed.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I’m still holding to the firm belief that what I’m seeing is not him – and I haven’t had verification otherwise.It’s sort of the realisation that ‘is he really my brother that has done this? and I can’t accept that he would ever do that. I can’t accept it,” the London-based law student said.Siddhartha, 32, a former bouncy castle salesman from London, had changed his name to Abu Rumaysah after converting from Hinduism to Islam.Speaking to the parliamentary committee, his sister said she and her family were “left in the dark” over how he came to convert about a decade ago and how he adopted his radical views, but feared he had been “brainwashed” by individuals in the community.In response to a question, she said it would “absolutely” be a good idea to have organisations for families to turn to for advice or share their concerns in confidence.”I think this is one thing that needs to be addressed, because for me personally it was very difficult to know who to turn to. I didn’t know whether to contact the police, whether to go via the media or speak to family members…it was a bit of a shock,” Konika said.”I think not only an organisation but a procedure to follow, because I don’t know what the steps are…I thought I did the right thing, and I hope it is, but I am just wary if I am making things worse now…I justmiss my brother very much and I’m just trying to make him realise that none of this is him,” she said.Labour lawmaker Chuka Umunna asked her if she felt responsible for her brother.”I feel a sense of guilt definitely – I’ve lost my brother and why was I not able to stop it because he is part of me,” she said.Her statement in Parliament coincides with a documentary to be aired on British television tonight which shows Siddhartha Dhar brandishing a black ISIS flag in London in January 2014.’The Jihadis Next Door’, to be aired on Channel 4, captures him telling the filmmaker: “These are the black flags of Islam. This one’s actually the flag of the Islamic State, so one day when the Sharia comes, you will see this black flag everywhere.”He skipped bail and fled Britain later that year with his wife and their four children to join ISIS in Syria.

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