Newsviewer Exclusive
Ajay Devgan invests in Gujarat-based solar power plant

The Bollywood actor is keen to introduce the concept in filmmaking, where solar powered generators can be used for electricity on sets, thus saving power

Mumbai: Showing his support for environment-friendly causes, Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn has invested in a state-of-the-art solar park in Gujarat, reports PTI.
The solar park located in Charanaka, Patan District in Gujarat is a joint venture between a corporate company, Ajay and producer Kumar Mangat of 'Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji', fame.

The project started operating in December last year. The plant is unique in its way and has been built using the most advanced technologies.  
"The thought behind our entry is that we believe that solar power is the future of industry. We are aiming to reach 500 mw within three-five years with a total investment of Rs5,000 crore," Mr Devgan said.
Reportedly, the 43-year-old actor is keen to introduce the concept in filmmaking, where solar powered generators can be used for electricity on sets, thus saving power.
Presently, he is shooting for 'Son of Sardar' and his next release is Priyadarshan's action-thriller film, 'Tezz'.


Public Interest Exclusive
Does Mumbai have a disaster mitigation plan?

Are we creating infrastructure with huge investments which have not been designed for meeting challenges from disasters? In fact, these infrastructure themselves pose problems during normal times and more so during disasters

26 July 2005: It was another normal cloudy July day. Stray showers here and there wouldn’t prevent Mumbai people from getting on with their normal commute to work activity in the morning. As day progressed, the suburbs began to receive a heavy downpour. A rain rate of 130 millimetre (mm) per hour is not unusual for Mumbai, but usually such intensities occur for a stretch of say 10 minutes and then averages to 250 to 300 mm in 24 hours about twice a year, with sporadic heavy downpours in between. But what happened on 26 July 2005 was incessant rain of that intensity for six hours at a stretch and then slowing down to 885 mm in 10 hours and 944 mm in 24 hours. This was highlighted by the author in his 24 August 2005 article.

To be able to tackle situation arising out of such calamities or to mitigate the hardship to people, loss of life and property, the government of Maharashtra set up expert’s committee headed by Madhavrao Chitale, a civil engineer who has dealt with the subject of hydraulics at the Maharashtra and central government bodies, at the helm. It gave a comprehensive action plan. To what extent this has been implemented is anyone’s guess. We have been fortunate that the rains in Mumbai have hardly been heavy although we have had August and September as wet months, besides July and June. The ugly face of global warming and climate change can show up as unpredictably as it did on 26 July 2005 and earthquakes do time to time at different locations.

Mumbai has three fault lines in its geological structure in the Basaltic Deccan Trap.  So far in the recorded seismic history of Mumbai, the city has managed with modest levels of earth movements with epicentres nowhere close except the couple of quakes taking place of low intensity with epicentres near the Thane-Kalyan region. Point to note is that until 1967, Koyna was nowhere near high intensity zone, nor was Killari, Latur as the 1993 earthquake disaster showed us. There have been incidents of building collapses in Mumbai from time to time, but it has nothing to do with earthquakes.

Nevertheless, these are disasters of some sorts just as we have fires occurring in buildings with poor inspections and rectification of electrical faults. Have our infrastructure been designed to meet such challenges? Have the Development Control Regulations been strictly followed to facilitate rescue operations in a post-disaster scenario and avoid occurrence of such incidents in future to a large extent?

Take the instance of what happened on Tuesday, 17 April 2012 midnight. The signal cabins between Kurla and Vidyavihar got gutted, taking about four hours to douse the fire. The entire signal system between Sion and Ghatkopar that these cabins controlled became dysfunctional. The Railways estimated that it would take three days to make it operational again. Kurla is the nerve centre on the Central Railway network. It controls operations on main line as well as harbour line and connects south Mumbai with eastern suburbs, as well as the Navi Mumbai right up to Panvel. With signals becoming dysfunctional, all trains passing through Kurla have to traverse with utmost care, taking half to three quarters of an hour for a trip which normally takes less than 10 minutes.

Imagine what situation Mumbai would be in if similar or worse damage would have occurred at several signal cabins for whatever reasons. Didn’t we have serial bombs exploding in 1993 in Mumbai and also on suburban railway network in 2006?

Do we have surplus mobility capacities to meet challenges posed by disasters? Have we learnt anything from the International Conference organized by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in 2009 on Disaster Risk Mitigation and Management? Are we creating infrastructure with such huge investments which have not been designed for meeting challenges from disasters? In fact, if one goes into details, it will become apparent that these infrastructure themselves pose problems during normal times and more so during disasters.

The traffic came to a standstill on 26 July 2005 with in some sections on the eastern suburbs and roads to Navi Mumbai witnessing traffic jams. What would have been the scenario in 2005 deluge disaster and also the 17 April 2012 signal cabin disaster had BRTS been in operation? At the time of writing this, it is not known whether the Traffic Police and the BEST (Brihanmumbai Electricity and Transport Undertaking) had considered the suggestion made to introduce Dedicated Bus Lanes (DBL) for the next three days, until the railways fully restore the disrupted services. DBL will require considerable manpower to enforce the scheme which can be managed for a few days, but ultimately, it has to be BRTS. In the passing, it would be most appropriate to state that if the Konkan Railway’s innovation—the “Sky bus” was operational in 2005, several people who were washed away and perished and many who contracted leptospirosis after walking in contaminated flood waters for long hours and died shortly thereafter, would not have lost their lives in the deluge.

To invoke thinking of disasters and overcoming them, at the 2004 Public Presentation of Mumbai Metro Mater Plan, the author had asked MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority) only to cite ten worst disasters that had occurred globally in the Metro System, especially in the underground sections. The answers are still awaited in 2012! To a query at the seminar on MRTS in 2009 on whether any of the provisions to meet disaster situation which were being shown in the presentation actually been included in the plans for Mumbai’s Monorail Project; the answer was in negative and the reason stated was that it would increase the cost of infrastructure. Even to a query on what mitigating measures were being planned in the fully underground 33.5 km Metro Line III, the managing director of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation dwelt on only the Disaster Management Plan and did not touch upon mitigating features.

Transport planning goes hand in hand with Disaster Mitigation and Management Plans. As far as Mumbai is concerned, unless we create surplus public transport capacities and opt for those modes which will be economical, efficient, effective and provide infrastructure for disaster management facilities at the outset and not forgetting quickly implementable, we will continue to be vulnerable. As far as the author understands, BRTS will largely fulfil this need and Sky bus too. This author had written about it in his article “Commuting in Mumbai, 2008 - Room for Optimism” even much before the 2005 disaster.

(Sudhir Badami is a Civil Engineer and Transportation Analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). He is member of the Committee Constituted by the Bombay High Court for making the Railways, especially the Suburban Railways System Friendly towards Persons with Disability (2011- ). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted at [email protected])



Vitthal Sawant

5 years ago

I think even govt. is not aware about what happened on 17th April 2012 to the central railway or to the poor commuters.

If any disaster management cell is exist in Mumbai or Maharashtra, it could have acted to help poor commuters.

If we do not have backup plan at least govt. can ask offices and factories to work on minimum strength to avoid load on traffic. Govt. should immediately declare holidays to schools, colleges and all womens.

Krishnaraj Rao

5 years ago

Excellent questions raised, Sudhir. There is no long-term planning going on. This is like a race of lemmings to the cliff.

You need to make this debate happen in the mind of the public.

Warm Regards,

Harshad Kanu Kamdar

5 years ago

In emergencies like 120412 could train services not have been terminated at Ghatkopar on the Kayan Ghatkopar section and Matunga on CST-Matunga section? Similarly on the harbour branch also from CST to Chunabhatti and Panvel to Chembur. These sections had not been affected. Here the whole CR suburban section was in a chaos.
Also BEST would have been better equipped to take the passengers from Ghatkopar to Matunga and Chembur to Chunabhatti and back

These requires a good Disaster Management Plan

Life Exclusive
Setting up a joint venture plant in Muscat

Following the success of setting up the garment factory at the Jebel Ali Fee Zone, Finetex was invited to set up a joint venture plant in Muscat. The 23nd part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business

The garment factories in the Jebel Ali Free Zone worked on a systematic basis and had no problem in getting the overseas staff, as visas were made available on request.

In fact, on one occasion, we got into serious problems. As per our standard practice, photocopies of the visas were sent to Haji Cader and based on that he would arrange the seat booking in the airlines and intimate the same to me by fax the names of pax so that I could take the original visa to the airport for clearance. We had a standby officer on duty at the Free Zone, in case we got into trouble of any kind, as names of Sri Lankan boys and girls were long and similar.

The flight time to Dubai was roughly three hours.  So, upon check in and flight departure, I would get the confirmation of pax, vis-a-vis the ID numbers we had provided for each new employee coming in. It so happened, that on one particular occasion after the flight left, we had a wrong Kusumawati on the flight, with the photocopy of a Kusumawathi who could not make it.  Now, as you can watch, the difference is “h” in the last part of the name, and, we know it would be really difficult to get her out of immigration, and rightly so. 

I rushed back to Free Zone office, explained the predicament; Mohammed Sharif in the administration assisted, and I was assured that someone from the office would meet me at the airport, with a new visa for Kusumawati who was on the flight! Without the official visa, the poor girl would be bundled back to Sri Lanka; if not, at best, she would have to spend overnight in the immigration office, until we produced the visa the next morning, if the OSD (generally the Director of Immigration) specially gave such permission. Thankfully, thanks to the prompt assistance, Kusumawati was cleared and reached the camp same day!

In the meantime, as our reputation was spreading far and wide, our orders were increasing and we were getting new and balancing equipments to meet the demands of the orders, which had progressed from simple T-shirts, to heavy-duty cold weather jackets for use in snow conditions. We had no scope to expand in the Finetex plant at Dubai.

One fine day, Zubair turned up and said that he wanted me to visit Muscat immediately and meet a businessman who wanted to get into a joint venture with us. I left for Muscat the following day and met the prospective partners, inspected their site and tried to make an assessment. At that time, there were couple of factories, including Gulf Industries (from the Free Zone, where I had just begun my garment career!) and the scope for development and export was vast.

A few days later, Piyasena Perera joined me for a technical assessment of the site. We spent two days to make up our mind about the feasibility of operation. One of the partners in the Muscat venture was an important high-ranking government official. Perera left, and I had to work out the plans, and stayed on for a few days more to work out the details and logistics.

On my return and submission of my report and assessment, Zubair confirmed the deal and about one week later, we had the industrial license in the name of Elegant Garments.

For easy reference, let us call the local ‘working’ partner as Abdullah.  He had a large house, which had a basement, a road level showroom, and first floor had a few large rooms. The terrace was open. I had to convert this building into a compact manufacturing unit, including housing facilities for some 200 odd staff members, at least 20 of them would be men. 

The distance between Muscat and Dubai on the highway is 440 km. The managers must also have road travel permits, so that they can travel to Dubai at short notice without any hindrance.  On the top of these, I had to arrange for catering facilities for the entire complement of 200+ staff.

Equipment wise, it did not take more than two days to place the order, and was promised delivery in 10 weeks. Right from cutting tables, all other related wooden furniture had to be specially ordered and made, to cover the factory requirements. A separate team was sent from Dubai, who would arrange for complete electrification of the site to convert the large halls into factory sites suitable for a garment factory. 

The carpenters had to take the necessary measurements to ensure bunker beds were prepared to utilize the maximum space in each of the rooms in the first floor. They had to make long benches and tables for the dining hall. There was an endless list and setting up a new factory in a totally new environment is not easy. We had to  set all these in place in less than 10 weeks and had to bear in mind that the technical team would come just the day after the goods are cleared from port, so that the Juki machines can be assembled and be ready for use in a few hours.

Once the commitment was made I flew back to Dubai and arranged to travel back by car with my land entry permit. It was decided that, as Muscat merchants come to Dubai to buy their requirements in bulk, we would be better off economically to have the goods manufactured by the carpenter in his workshop, and only return back to do the final finishing in Muscat.  

Likewise, electrical contractor made the survey and returned to Dubai so that they could fix it some 10 days before the machinery arrived; I had arranged to give the contracts to the same bidders who did our jobs earlier.

Piyasena left for Colombo, immediately upon my return; Haji Cader had already publicised our requirement for staff on both TV and radio, and as Finetex had secured a very high reputation in the market we had an unmanageable crowd of applicants. Perera returned back, with a full complement of staff and as he had a hand in finalizing the machinery list, we were confident that we would not even face teething troubles in this plant.

On schedule, exactly 110 days after the agreement was reached, we were ready for the plant to become operative. Our local partner Abdullah had no difficulty whatsoever in getting the required visa. Every Gulf country, by now, was copying the lead set up by Dubai, in setting up garment factories everywhere. 

It was Zubair’s turn to arrange for my departure to Muscat. He made it clear, that if I was willing to take care of the plant in Muscat, he would even go for discussion with Abdullah for this joint venture, which, in real sense, was that we were doing all the investment, and Abdullah was lending his ‘name’ for a partnership fee. We had another silent partner too, who remained in the background.

When the advance team arrived, it was Perera who went first and I joined him a day later. I had to take care of the team and in Piyasena’s presence all machinery were inspected and accepted.  In the following three days, the bulk of the staff arrived and it was possible to start production by the fourth or the fifth day. We had a plant manager and his deputy (woman) who had years of experience behind them and whom Perera knew personally and had selected the staff with great care.

Our direct orders booked by us at Finetex (for children's clothes I think, for Wal-Mart) were the first ones to be manufactured here. From day one, our production in this plant was in full swing; I had an office in the first floor and a separate accommodation attached to the office.  I joined the staff in the mess in the basement. We all had a minimum 10-hour production schedule every day.

I had two assistants, Francisca and Nancy, who helped me in doing my job in Muscat.

In less than three weeks after the production began, we made our first direct shipment to the USA. After this, I drove back to Dubai to be with my family for a couple of days, and returned back on a Monday morning after a visit to the Finetex plant, leaving there at about 9am and arriving in Muscat plant by about 1 30pm for a lunch with the staff.

Life in garment industry was not easy.  

(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)



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