City Buzz: Cities on the boil over activist arrests | NCR submerged | Mumbai eyes inglorious record… and more

From the crackdown on several city-based activists to the biggest ever municipal bonds issue by an Indian city -- check out some of the major headlines from urban India over the last week.

Activists arrested across cities, thousands protest

Raids across seven cities saw the arrest of prominent left-wing activists , accused of having linkages to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). Police said that the arrests were made following a probe into the violence that took place during the meeting in Elgar Parishad on December 31,2017 during the commemoration of the efforts of the Mahar community in the battle of Bhima-Koregaon.

Arrests were made in the early hours of Tuesday in Mumbai, Thane, Hyderabad, Ranchi, Delhi and Faridabad. The five arrested are activist and  writer P Varavara Rao from Hyderabad, lawyer Vernon Gonsalves from Mumbai, human rights lawyer Arun Ferreira from Thane, activist-lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad and human rights activist Gautam Navlakha from Delhi.

The arrests met with wide outrage, especially among human rights defenders, independent academics and intellectuals, and sections of civil society that felt that the move merely reflected the continuing and broader crackdown on those who critiqued government policies and stance. Protests took place across the country against the arrest of the activists, terming it a witch hunt that let off the real perpetrators of the violence in the Bhima-Koregaon incident.

 Eventually, the Supreme Court intervened on a petition filed by historian Romila Thapar and others, seeking relief for the arrested. The apex court ordered that the activists be placed under house arrest, while observing that ‘dissent is the safety valve of democracy’. 

Amaravati Bond listed in Bombay Stock Exchange

In what is the largest issue of bonds by a local authority, funds were raised for the new capital city of Andhra Pradesh through the Amaravati Bond 2018. The bonds have been issued by the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (AP-CRDA). The issue was oversubscribed by 1.53 times. The ten-year bond comes with a fixed interest rate of 10.32% to be paid quarterly.

The bonds have been listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange. The bonds were issued for Rs 1300 crore but raised funds to the tune of Rs 2000 crore. The funds raised are to be used in the creation of infrastructure for the establishment of a greenfield capital city, Amaravati in the birfurcated state. Projects worth Rs 27,000 crore are set to be undertaken in Amaravati, with projects worth Rs 11000 crore to be awarded in the first phase.

The issue comes closely on the heels of similar efforts by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and Pune Municipal Corporation, who have raised Rs 395 crores and Rs 200 crores respectively through municipal bonds. 

NCR suffers water-logging, traffic jams after rain

Intermittent intense spells of rain across the national capital region caused parts of Delhi and Gurgaon (Gurugram) to come to a standstill due to water-logging and submerged sections of the road causing traffic jams.

Areas affected in Delhi include major roads such as Janpath, Indraprastha Marg, Teen Murti, NH24 and Rao Tula Ram T-Point en route to the airport. In Gurgaon, knee-deep water was seen in areas such as Gold Souk Road. With traffic jams in Subhash Chowk. 

Residents woke up to flooded streets after the rains lashed the NCR, with Gurugram receiving the highest rainfall in eight years. A bus was stuck in a submerged underpass in Hanuman Mandir in Delhi and a rescue operation was launched to save the 30 passengers stuck in the bus. The situation called for emergency response from the authorities.

Streets were submerged, bringing traffic to a halt, and the traffic police issuing advisory on areas to avoid during the rain. 

Mumbai’s ignominious claim to the record books

A crowd-sourced audit of Mumbai’s potholes has uncovered a staggering number that may soon see the city end up in the record books for having the most number of potholes! An initiative by Andheri resident Navin Lade to document the potholes across the city has so far resulted in a count of 27,366 potholes. The campaign to document the potholes began in July, 2017. Navin called for Mumbaikars to send in pictures and videos with location of the city’s many potholes to create a database.

Mumbai’s tryst with potholes has been called to attention many times, particularly in the aftermath of the monsoons each year. With recent deaths, citizens have called on the BMTC to take action to ensure that the roads are pothole-free. Novel protests have also been staged to highlight the issue.  However, the authorities claim that they have managed to fix 90% of the potholes they have received complaints against.

Kolkata sees night bus service extension

The West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC) has extended night bus services to the city’s IT hub – Sector V and New Town – which is expected to serve close to 60000 people employed in the offices in the area. The transport service already runs a successful night service in key areas such as Jadavpur, Howrah, Esplanade and Chitpore.

The buses will be fitted with CCTV to ensure the safety of passengers. Police checks at random have also been ordered as an additional measure. The service was first introduced in March this year with 112 buses plying between 10 pm and 6 am. The service has seen positive response, encouraging the WBTC to extend the routes to other parts of the city. The buses currently ply 14 routes and there are AC and non-AC options for commuters.

[Compiled by Aruna Natarajan]

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