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World's largest annual pilgrimage on in Iraq despite threat of IS attacks
 Millions of people across the globe are risking their lives this year to reach Karbala, in Iraq, to mark "Chehlum" - the 40th day after the death of Imam Hussain - even as threats from terror group Islamic State (IS) loom large.
 
 
Also known as Arbaeen, the Shia Muslim religious observance is being seen as a statement of defiance in the face of the IS militant group which has grown in strength from year to year.
 
The IS comprises largely of Sunni fighters who have killed a large number of Shia members and have often threatened to attack the annual gathering.
 
The Sunni-Shia split in Islam happened after the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD, leading to a dispute over succession, although both the groups consider the Quran to be divine
 
The Arbaeen is the world's largest annual gathering and far exceeds the number of visitors to Mecca for the Haj -- which draws around two million devouts.
 
The 20 million mourners at last year's Arbaeen dwarfed other gatherings and was almost 60 percent of Iraq's entire population. And the numbers keep growing every year.
 
This year, the pilgrims must reach Karbala by December 2, a date which marks the end of 40 days' fasting following Ashura -- the ritual which marks the death of Hussain, Prophet Mohammad's grandson. 
 
Karbala marks the site where Hussain and his men were killed by the cohorts of Caliph Yazid in 680 AD.
 
People traditionally walk from Najaf to Karbala, a distance of some 80 km, and some even make the 684-km journey from the port of Basra on foot, which takes two weeks. The arduous pilgrimage passes through hostile territory with deserts which are baking hot during the day and freezing cold at night. 
 
The pilgrimage was banned under former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein but was reintroduced in 2003 after his ouster.
 
The Arbaeen pilgrimage has been targeted by the IS and other terror groups in the past with Sunni militants attacking the pilgrimage with suicide bombers and even rockets, leaving scores of people dead.
 
Yet, despite the spectre of sectarian violence, millions converge on Karbala every year.
 
While Arbaeen is a distinctively Shia ritual, some Sunnis and followers of other religions, including Christianity, attend.
 
"I can see people from all faiths here. I have a lot of Indian companions here which makes my trek easier," Rafaqat Ali from Jammu & Kashmir told IANS on phone from Najaf, south of Baghdad.
 
Ali, who started on Sunday and expects to be in Karbala on December 2, said he had no fear of any threat. "I'm happy that I reached this holy place, which has been a cherished dream of my mother," he said.
 
"People, even 100 years old, are walking faster than youngsters... among the pilgrims are also the differently-abled and women -- firm in their resolve to reach the golden tomb of Hussain," said Riyaz Hussain of south Delhi, also enroute to Karbala from Najaf.
 
Even as the security conditions deteriorate, more and more people this year appeared to be motivated to go to Karbala defying the terror threat looming over the pilgrimage.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
 

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Mumbai-Nagpur road 80% of the Rs52,000 crore infra projects just sanctioned

The CM Devendra Fadnavis, who hails from Nagpur, has asked the MSRDC to complete all the projects by 2019

 

The Maharashtra government has approved infrastructure projects, including Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway, tunnels bridges on Mumbai-Pune expressway and east coast water transport project.

 
In a meeting the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the government also approved Thane-Borivali tunnel under the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a new 12kms tunnel through the Lonavla hills for a road parallel to the existing ghat section of the Mumbai-Pune expressway, and a six-lane bridge parallel to the existing Vashi creek bridge.
 
Quoting officials from Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), a report from DNA, says, the east coast water transport project worth Rs300 crore was also approved during the meeting. It will operate at three nodes - Ferry Wharf, Mandwa and Nerul. The construction of the terminals will take around 12-14 months, which means the operations will begin in early 2017. CIDCO is expected to float tenders next week while the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has split the work into packages, the report says.
 
Some other projects which were approved include the 4-km elevated road (Rs800 crore) on Ghodbunder Road (Thane) from Gaimukh to beyond the forest area. The construction of a third bridge on the Thane creek at Vashi (Rs800 crore), an underground tunnel between Thane and Borivali, an elevated road at Bhiwandi-Kalyan-Shil Phata (Rs2,600 crore), 27 rail over bridges in Vidarbha (Rs 800 crore) and the four-laning of the Vakan-Pali-Khopoli road (Rs500 crore) are also planned.
 
The new Vashi creek bridge will make the bridge section 12-lane wide to match the existing width of the rest of Sion-Panvel highway.
 
An elevated road on the Thane-Ghodbunder road and between Bhiwandi and Shilphata via Kalyan will make vehicle movement faster Panvel, Navi Mumbai and Dombivili from Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Borivili and Thane.
 
Chief Minister Fadnavis has asked the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) that will implement the projects to complete them by 2019. 
 
Here are the major projects and estimated costs...
  1. Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Highway -    Rs41,200 crore
  2. Thane-Borivali Tunnel -                                                     Rs3,000 crore
  3. Bhiwandi-Kalyan-Shilphata Elevated Road -                  Rs2,600 crore
  4. Rail over bridges at 27 places in Vidarbha -                    Rs810 crore
  5. Vashi creek bridge -                                                             Rs800 crore
  6. Wakan-Pali-Khopoli four lane connector -                        Rs500 crore

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