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Linear projects: A rising threat to our forests and wildlife: Fauna

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier this month, on December 5, locals at Hojai in Assam’s Nagaon district witnessed a distressing incident. A speeding Kanyakumari-Dibrugarh Vivek Express rammed into three elephants, killing them. It included two pregnant elephants, who delivered stillborn calves. Only 12 days later, two adult elephants and a calf were killed when a train hit them 125kms away from Guwahati, again in Nagaon district. These two accidents along with another one on December 6 took the life of eight elephants in December alone.The accidents in Assam and the rise in proposed linear projects such as highways, railway line doubling, power transmission lines and canals once again bring to attention how perhaps certain developmental projects pose the biggest threats to our forests and wildlife. A deeper look into projects that have been both, proposed and cleared, reveals that they will pass through some of our most dense forests that are home to rich biodiversity, varied wildlife and are precious sources of freshwater in fast warming climate. In 2016, some crucial linear projects that will fragment our forests, were cleared or have made their way towards being cleared.Wildlife corridors under threatFor instance, in March, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), chaired by the Prime Minister, cleared conversion of the 227-km long Gondia-Jabalpur line from narrow gauge to broad gauge. Of this 227km, 77km will pass through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, considered one of the most crucial in the country for it allows tigers from two different source populations and gene pools to move to newer territories.In Eastern India, the Indian Railways has approved expansion of the 156km long Sambalpur-Angul railway line, that already fragments Satkosia-Ushakoti-Badrama elephant and tiger landscape.Conservationists and wildlife activists have argued that while large linear projects should be avoided in forests and wildlife habitats, there is also an acute lack of standardized environmental safeguards.Lack of willIn the case of National Highway – 7 widening, that will pass through the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor and the Pench tiger reserve, the National Highway Authority of India was dragged to court to have them construct environmental safeguards such as underpasses and overpasses for safe wildlife passage.The NH-7 case illustrated that government agencies were unwilling to initiate expenditure on environmental safeguards to prevent wildlife casualties, until courts ordered them to. Following this case, the union ministry for environment, forest and climate change commissioned the Wildlife Institute of India to prepare guidelines on incorporating environmental safeguards in linear infrastructure. The ministry also commissioned this report with a view to ensure speedy clearances for linear projects.The guidelines were made public in October and suggested minimum engineering solutions such as elevated ramps and sections should for wildlife to cross highways and fencing in case of railways. The guidelines though, do not have to be followed mandatory, as they have not been notified.Environmentalists have also questioned these guidelines. “I don’t think these guidelines will be followed because the project developers always try to go for safeguards that will be least expensive. We need to put in place a conservation fund for linear projects and project proponents ought to involve environmental experts at the start of the project and not at the clearance stage. These projects are fragmenting and damaging valuable forest resource,” said Anish Andheria,, President, Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organisation working in 110 protected areas across 19 states.Other conservationists said that the current dispensation has junked an earlier decision of the environment ministry to stop new roads in protected areas. “The NBWL, in its previous term, had recognised linear infrastructure as one of the major threats to forests and wildlife. This prompted formulation of guidelines that said that no new roads will be constructed in protected areas. Why were those guidelines junked? asks Prerna Bindra, conservationist and former member of NBWL standing committee.Upcoming projects passing through forests and protected areasProposed linear projects waiting for wildlife and forest clearance:Dedicated freight corridor passing through Gautam Buddha Sanctuary, home to leopards, bears and chitalCasterlock-Kulem railway line doubling and Tinaighat – Castlerock railway line doubling in Dandeli wildlife sanctuaryHubli-Ankola railway line will pass through Western Ghats forests, Bedthi conservation reserve at Yellapur and buffer region of Anshi Dandeli Tiger ReserveBarkhera-Budni third railway line construction in Ratapani wildlife sanctuary. Project will take up 104.75 hectares of the sanctuary

From Modi & Rahul to Saif-Kareena, everyone who faced the wrath of trolls in 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Internet trolls kept the social media abuzz in 2016 and spared none, be it Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, cricketer Mohammad Shami or even ‘Saifeena’ , unleashing posts and memes that ranged from controversial to hilarious to bizarre.Demonetization Demonetization was one of the most trending topics of the year 2016. Following its announcement on November 8, Twitter went into a meltdown and within hours, trolls produced a goldmine of memes and posts on the social media.Commenting on long queues at ATMs and banks, one Twitter user Sahil Shah said, “Don’t know if line to ATM or Shirdi.” A meme showed Modi’s face photoshopped on a painting of French Queen Marie Antoinette with a caption reading Modi Antoinette. It said, “I they don’t have notes, let them use plastic.”One Karthick posted, “The volume of memes generated within 1 hour of PM’s announcement shows that unemployment is a bigger problem than black money,” alluding to the number of posts and memes that surfaced online post demonetization.Mohammed ShamiRecently, Shami was attacked by trolls after he posted a picture with his wife Hasin Jahan, who was wearing a sleeveless gown. They asked him to ensure that his wife is dressed modestly in a hijab.However, other social media users, including cricketer Mohammed Kaif, lyricist Javed Akhtar and his actor son Farhan came to Shami’s defence. Kaif tweeted a screenshot of the critical comments saying, “The comments are really really Shameful. Support Mohammed Shami fully. There are much bigger issues in this country. Hope sense prevails.”Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan’s son TaimurSimilarly, Bollywood actors Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan came under fire from social media users over naming of their newborn son, Taimur. People took umbrage saying it was the name of a Turco- Mughal emperor who invaded India in the late 14th century. They also called for boycott of the actors’ films and compared Taimur to Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden.Some users, however, mocked the choice of name in a light hearted manner. One tweet said, “I think instead of screwing up Mumbai station names, the Maha government should change Taimur Ali Khan’s name, that too on priority basis!!” An RJ from Kolkata Mir Afsar Ali attracted online trolls for wishing everyone a merry Christmas but the radio jockey hit back at his detractors in a Facebook post that went viral, saying he was shocked by some of the comments advising why a Muslim should not be “celebrating/wishing” on the festival.Rahul GandhiLately, even political leaders seem to have taken to trolling people. Rahul Gandhi, who himself is a frequent target of trolls, took a dig at the government over the frequent changes in policies following demonetization. He posted a picture of a pole with a cluster of traffic lights, saying, “Government orders after demonetization.” Soon after the post, a parody account of the Congress leader, @RoflGandhi_, tweeted, “Bhai thoda sa toh gap rakho apne aur mere account mei.” Trolls also poked fun at Rahul Gandhi when his Twitter account was hacked, with one user saying, “#RahulGandhi’s account hasn’t been hacked, it’s just that for the first time he himself is tweeting from that account.” “So finally staff at @OfficeOfRG have taken that phone back from #RahulGandhi,” another one tweeted.Arvind KejriwalTrolls also took a dig at Kejriwal, with one Manish Jain saying, “#RahulGandhi Someone please also hack Kejriwal’s account. Won’t be difficult. Password must be modimodimodi .” Memes about Sonam Gupta also kept social media buzzing as users endlessly discussed whether she was ‘bewafa’ or not. It all started with a Rs 10 note on which someone had written ‘Sonam Gupta bewafa hai ‘. Soon the picture went viral, catching the attention of trolls and spawning memes. Pictures of currencies of different countries with ‘Sonam Gupta bewafa hai ‘ written on them also turned up online.The Delhi Chief Minister, who has been nicknamed Mufflerman by netizens, took to Twitter to make an official announcement of winters hitting Delhi. “Thand aa gayi hai. Muffler nikal agay hai. Aap bhi apna khyal rakhien,” said the AAP chief.Sushma SwarajEven the favourite of social media, Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, expertly trolled a man who had sought her help in replacing a defective refrigerator. She replied to his tweet, saying, “Brother I cannot help in matters of a refrigerator. I am very busy with human beings in distress.”Shilpa ShettyBollywood actor Shilpa Shetty too was trolled on Twitter after she said that George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” should be included in the syllabus as “it will teach the little ones to love and care for animals”. Twitterati also did not take kindly the statement and #ShilpaShettyReviews trending on Twitter with people posting jokes about other books and movies. “The Mummy Returns is a great sequel… To Stepmom. #ShilpaShettyReviews,” a Twitter user wrote.Similarly, another user tweeted, “Fifty Shades of Grey is an amazing coloring book. Children will love it.” Social media users also did not spare director Ashutosh Gowarikar over the historical inaccuracies in his film “Mohenjadaro”. “Relax guys, its an Ashutosh Gowarikar film. By the time he was done shooting Indus Valley got iron tools, horses and silk. #MohenjoDaro,” Twitter user Subhashish said. “Currently Independence Day looks more historically and scientifically accurate than Mohenjo Daro,” Mihir Fadnavis said.Suresh PrabhuA man was trolled by the Twitterati when he tweeted Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, asking for diapers for his toddler with most users requesting the minister not to pay attention to such “nonsense”. One user asked if the “Railways was a diaper service company”.

Another train derails near Kanpur: 62 injured

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than 60 passengers were injured in Wednesday’s Ajmer-Sealdah Express derailment accident near Kanpur, raising serious questions on the safety of train passengers in the country. While the cause of the accident could not be ascertained, sources said railway fracture was suspected to be the possible reason for derailment of 15 coaches Ajmer-Sealdeh Express.The incident comes just a month after 150 people were killed and more than 200 injured when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express train derailed in Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh on November 20. While the investigation report of that incident is yet to come out, initial report had suggested rail fracture as possible reason for that accident too. Incidentally, both these accidents occured in the early hours of morning.Wednesday’s mishap took place when the train was crossing a bridge overhead a dry canal in the area and reportedly two coaches of the train also fell in the canal. Some railway officials, who did not wish to be named, said it was almost miraculous that there were no casualties. They added that had the train been running on a high speed, the impact of the accident would have been much more. “The train had just pulled out of a railway station and its speed was rather slow. The train was travelling at a speed of 108km per hour,” an official said.Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced a thorough investigation into the accident and Commissioner Railway Safety of Northern Circle was put in charge of the inquiry. Sources in Railways said a possible fracture in the track appeared to be the prima facie cause of the mishap. Maintenance issues coupled with drop in temperature cause fracture in rails. A senior railway official, however, said that weather and fog had no role to play in Tuesday’s accident.There has been an increase in incidents of derailments this year. According to railways data, there have been 67 derailment cases this year since April while it was 52 in the corresponding period last year. Railway Board Member (Traffic) Mohd Jamshed however, said that the total number of accident cases has come down in comparison to previous years though the railways’ plan of action is to achieve zero accident target. The total number of accidents was 137 three years back which has come down to 87 this year, Jamshed said. Prabhu announced ex-gratia of Rs 50,000 for seriously injured and Rs 25,000 for people with minor injuries. 62 people suffered injuries and 11 of them had grievous injuries, a railway official said.

Kanpur Train Accident: Two killed, 44 injured in Sealdah-Ajmer Express derailment

Fifteen coaches of the Ajmer-Sealdah Express, Train number 12987, derailed near Rura, around 70 kilometres from Kanpur, on Wednesday, PTI reportd. It was initally reported that two people were dead and 26 were injured. Railways, however, later confirmed that no deaths have been reported and put the number of injured at 44.

While Kanpur IG Zaki Ahmed told PTI that two people have been killed in the mishap, railways are yet to confirm the same.

The Kanpur train accident took place when the train was crossing a bridge overhead a dry canal in the area, Northern Central Railways PRO Amit Malviya said. According to reports, rail traffic between Etawah and Kanpur is affected.

Speaking to ANI, Anil Saxena, ADG, PR Railway said, “No casualties have been reported so far. Ambulances are already on the spot and rescue work is in progress. A medical train from Kanpur has also arrived on the spot. All trains between Etawah and Kanpur are affected, and we are trying to divert them to an alternate route.” Saxena also told ANI that:

Rescue  and relief works in progress at the site of accident where  Ajmer-Sealdah express train derailed early on Wednesday near Rura railway station in Kanpur dehat district on Wednesday. PTIRescue  and relief works in progress at the site of accident where  Ajmer-Sealdah express train derailed early on Wednesday near Rura railway station in Kanpur dehat district on Wednesday. PTI

Rescue works in progress at the site of where Ajmer-Sealdah express train derailed early on Wednesday. PTI

Ahmed told PTI that 13 sleeper coaches and two general coaches of the train derailed in the accident. The injured have been rushed to a nearby hospital. Rescue and relief operations have been started at the accident spot with the district health department dispatching 14 ambulances and relief teams from Kanpur and Tundla, he said.

Buses have also been plied to drop the stranded passengers from the spot to Kanpur railway station.

The Delhi-Howrah route via Kanpur has been temporarily closed and the Shatabdi express from Delhi to Kanpur has been cancelled, Malviya said.

As per local sources, a few of the bogies of the train also fell into a canal, travellers stuck in it were yet to be rescued soon till 8 am, Times Now said.

Meanwhile, railway minister Suresh Prabhu said has announced an ex-gratia to the injured, on Twitter. He said, “I have directed CRB, all senior officials to personally ensure best possible help,” he tweeted, adding that a thorough investigation will be carried out to ascertain the cause. He also tweeted:

According to local police, the railway authorities have not arrived on the spot. The reason for the accident is not known as yet.

The Indian railways has also announced that four trains — 12826/Jharkhand Sampark Kranti Express, 12382/Poorva Express, 12312/Kalka Mail, 12488/Seemanchal Express — have been diverted.

The Railways have issued the helpline numbers for Kanpur — 0512-2323015, 2323016, 2323018 and for Allahabad — 0532-2408149, 2408128.

More details awaited.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 11:32 IST

Sealdah-Ajmer express derails | Investigation will be carried out, ex-gratia will be paid to injured: Suresh Prabhu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu on Wednesday said that thorough investigation will be carried out after several passengers were injured in Ajmer-Sealdah express derailment.At least two people were killed and 26 others injured as 14 coaches​ of the train derailed near Rura railway station in Kanpur Dehat district.Taking to micro-blogging site, in a series of tweets, Prabhu said, “Personally monitoring the situation in wake of unfortunate derailment of Sealdah-Ajmer express near Kanpur. Have directed senior officials to reach the site immediately​.”The minister said that immediate medical help and necessary assistance is being provided to the injured and passengers to ensure least inconvenience.Stating that thorough investigation will be carried out to ascertain the cause, Prabhu said, “Ex-gratia will be paid to injured. We are making alternate arrangements for passengers to continue with their onward journey.”

Saeldah-Ajmer express derails | Investigation will be carried out, ex-gratia will be paid to injured: Suresh Prabhu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu on Wednesday said that thorough investigation will be carried out after several passengers were injured in Ajmer-Sealdah express derailment.At least two people were killed and 26 others injured as 14 coaches​ of the train derailed near Rura railway station in Kanpur Dehat district.Taking to micro-blogging site, in a series of tweets, Prabhu said, “Personally monitoring the situation in wake of unfortunate derailment of Sealdah-Ajmer express near Kanpur. Have directed senior officials to reach the site immediately​.”The minister said that immediate medical help and necessary assistance is being provided to the injured and passengers to ensure least inconvenience.Stating that thorough investigation will be carried out to ascertain the cause, Prabhu said, “Ex-gratia will be paid to injured. We are making alternate arrangements for passengers to continue with their onward journey.”

Suresh Prabhu promises WiFi in 200 stations in the coming year

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As part of its programme to upgrade facilities for rail users, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday that 200 more stations and some additional trains would be provided with Wi-Fi in 2017. Dedicating six Wi-Fi facilities to rail users at Kannur, Ernakulam and Kollam at a function here, he said 100 stations had been fitted with Wi-Fi this year and the target was to double this number in 2017. “More trains will also would be provided with Wi-Fi next year,” he said. “The objective is to have Wi-Fi facility in all railway stations in small cities and towns,” he said.The Minister said steps were also on to construct escalators in stations, he said. Welcoming the Kerala government’s decision to sign a Joint Venture with Railways for development projects in the state, he said that as partners, the railways would be developed in the state. “The Centre and state will have equity in the venture and funds for the projects will be raised through market borrowings with the consent of the state government,” he said.The resources spent under the JV would be in addition to funds earmarked in the Railway budget, he added. Stating that investment in railway infrastructure can bring development to its optimum level in Kerala, Prabhu said he had asked some banks to prepare a business plan for the state.Prabhu admitted that there was a lack of railway investment in Kerala and said the NDA government’s move was to reverse that trend. Referring to remittances to the state from Non-Resident Keralites, he said even they could invest in railway projects. “They can develop a railway station”, he said, adding that the key objective was to join hands for development. The Railways was also looking out for resources other than its normal revenue. They were also looking into the possibility of converting its hospitals as medical college hospitals, he said.Chief Minister Pinrayi Vijayan and G Sudhakaran, PWD Minister and in charge of Railways were among those present.

UP: 7-year-old raped in Lucknow, hospitalised in serious condition

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a shocking incident, a 7-year-old girl was allegedly raped in Lucknow’s Ashiyana Police Station area. She has been hospitalised in a serious condition.As per TOI, the girl resides in Kila Mohamadi village of Aashiana. Her father works as a class III employee with Railways in Lucknow.The victim had gone to buy toffee at 3.30 pm but did not return. Her parents began to look for her but after failing to find her they lodged a missing report at the Aashiana police station.When the search was going on, some locals found bleeding in a grove near a Gurudwara in Ashiana. She was taken to Lok Bandhu Hospital by the police and later to the King George’s Medical University.According to Circle Officer, Cantt, Avanish Mishra, there were grievous injuries in the girl’s private part indicating sexual assault. He also said that since the girl was found quite far from her home and it is not possible for a child her age to travel so far. “It seemed that someone picked her from way,” he said.

State, Railways yet to form joint venture firm for rail projects

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>State, Railways yet to form joint venture firm for rail projectsOver a year after railway minister Suresh Prabhu and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis met in New Delhi to discuss rail infrastructure and the modalities of forming a joint venture (JV) firm or special purpose vehicle (SPV) to fast-track Maharashtra’s rail projects, a Right to Information plea by DNA has shown that no such JV or SPV has as yet been formed.In its RTI reply signed by VS Dahiya, joint director (Works), Railway Board, the railway ministry stated, “The ministry of railways and the Government of Maharashtra are in process to form a joint venture company for the development of rail infrastructure in the State of Maharashtra. GoM has communicated their willingness to sign a JV with MoR. Neither any JV agreement has been signed, nor any SPV has been formed as yet.”According to railway officials, the SPV or JV will streamline the construction of rail infrastructure in the state as a dedicated team would work to carry out various legal processes to kick-start a project. “It would be like the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC), a SPV between the state and the railways, that has been overseeing Mumbai’s rail projects and has been acting as a bridge between the state, the railway ministry, Western and Central railways, and the World Bank. It has increased the pace of work since the early 2000s,” explained an official.During the Delhi meeting between Prabhu and Fadnavis on November 4 last year, it was mutually agreed to form a SPV with Prabhu, even asking the state government to finalise a funding model for the SPV.According to officials, work on the SPV should be expedited as Maharashtra has got Rs 4767 crores for rail projects this year, a 206 per cent increase from the average of Rs 1171.4 crores received by the state between 2009-14. “When the funds are in, the work shouldn’t suffer,” said an official.Earlier, in a statement released on November 30 this year, the railway ministry had said that as of now five state governments — Chattisgarh, Haryana, Gujarat, Kerala, and Odisha — had formed joint venture firms with the railways. A total of 16 states had also decided to share costs in 43 projects, the total cost of the projects at current prices being Rs 62,379 crores.

The long road for Talgo

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>What exactly is the deal with the Talgo train from Spain that the railways tried on its tracks- with massive media hype- between May and September? The truth is that we are as far as buying a Talgo train now as we were when the trials had not even started. On December 2, replying to a query in Parliament, minister of state for railways Rajen Gohain said it in as many words. His exact words- ‘the trial was limited to assessment of timing and detailed technical assessment with regard to complete compatibility with Indian Railway’s fixed infrastructure and other requirements was outside the scope of the trial. No decision has been taken for the purchase of these coaches.’The Railways, after all the hype and hoopla, has tied itself in more than a few knots when it comes to the purchase of these Spanish trains.Parliament’s nod for aluminium trains:The Talgo rakes are made of aluminium, a completely new material to make rakes as far as India is concerned. We in India make rakes with corten steel- used in the older Integral Coach Factory Chennai coaches- or stainless steel, used in the new LHB coaches made mainly in the Rail Coach Factory Kapurthala.The usage of aluminium will require a fresh sanction from Parliament and also a detailed study of how the material would perform in Indian conditions, especially the varied climatic conditions in which our trains run. Both of these could take time, said officials in the know.The tender question:Moreover the purchase of these rakes would require the railways to call a tender as buying it from a single firm without giving others a chance might give rise to accusations the railways could do without, said officials. “Calling of tenders itself could take a lot of time because these would be tenders running into several hundred crores. They will have to be vetted by various departments and the criteria involved will have to be such that other train manufacturers also get a fair chance if they want to participate. There can be no custom-made tender for Talgo trains,” explained a retired top railway official. To get things into perspective, a contract won in Spain by Talgo on November 28 this year will see the first of its trainsets coming into service only 38 months later.The maintenance muddle:The other hitch is that it would be almost impossible for the railways to buy these Talgo rakes off-the-shelf because the Spanish firm generally sells rakes with a clause that it maintains the rake exclusively for the remainder of its life. This, according to railway officials, would almost certainly be rejected because the railways has so far been learning new technology by maintaining stock from manufacturers as diverse as Alstom, Bombardier, Siemens and EMD.However Subodh Jain, former Member Engineering said that currently the worldwide practice is that manufacturers provide scheduled maintenance. “Daily examination and cleaning is done by the operator (the railways). We maintain our stock because we manufacture it,” Jain added.The need for Indianisation:One of the biggest dilemmas the railways is facing in the purchase of these rakes pertains to the speed of operations. What is the point of buying a 200kmph rake when the track isn;t good enough for anything over 150kmph at best? As reported by DNA in its November 9 edition, the railway ministry has formed a three-member committee to study the modalities of buying rakes from Spanish train manufacturer Talgo. The three members of the committee would be Additional Members of the Civil, Mechanical and Budget stream of the Railway Board. Officials DNA spoke to maintained that the train which was tested was not conducive for running on Indian Railways under current conditions as the rake was slimmer and lower than what is ideal for platforms in India. “The width of long-distance trains in India are 3250mm and suburban trains running in Mumbai have a width of 3660mm,” said one official.High speed trains, low speed tracks:It is a question that railway officials are asking for the Talgo as well as the Rs 5000 crore plan to purchase high-speed trainsets to replace Rajdhanis and Shatabdis. As reported by DNA in its November 11 edition, the railway board is divided on the purchase of trainsets over speed.While a section of officials believe that buying expensive 200kmph trainsets now and running them at lower speeds till our tracks are upgraded to 200kmph would be a financial folly. These officials believe that by the time the tracks are upgraded- which might take anything between five to eight years- it would be possible to get better tachnology trainsets at the same cost or lesser. The railway ministry had earmarked Rs 2952 crores for the current fiscal to buy 15 such trainsets.”It applies for the Talgo as well. If you buy them now, they won’t be able to run at their full potential at least till another 5-10 years,” was the chorus from several officials. They said that this ‘back to the drawing board’ move for the trainsets was made after going through the trials of the Talgo.Despite having a top speed potential of 200kmph, the maximum speed the Talgo could achieve during the trials was 117.5 kmph when it made the trip between Delhi-Mumbai on September 11 in 11 hours and 48 minutes.”This was because our tracks, many of then having a top capacity of 160kmph, cannot support trains beyond a certain speed due to curves, age and other geological problems. So unless tracks are not upgraded, buying expensive trainsets or even the Talgo of 200kmph might not be a good idea,” said an official.Changing gauge: Advantage or disadvantage?One of the biggest advantages that the Talgo has over several of its bigger railway manufacturing competitors is a technology called the Automatic Variable Gauge System (AVGS). Tis system allows the Talgo to change gauge even in motion as it makes its way from tracks of a particular width to another. The alternative way is to use two different rakes and asking passengers to shift from one train to another, which in turn is a messy time-consuming affair. This is a huge advantage when the Talgo makes its way around Spain- which has 3 different gauges like India- or when it makes the cross-border routes like between Spain and the rest of Europe as well between the CIS countries and the rest of Europe.However, as officials pointed out, this advantage is nullified. “Though we have three different gauges- broad, metre and narrow- none of these stations intersect. Moreover narrow and metre gauge routes are now confined to small stations in rural areas and none of them are on high-end routes that the Talgo will ultimately be used for,” said the official.The tilting advantage:The construction of the Talgo is such that it allows the rake to tilt in such a way that it can make corners and curves on tracks at higher speed. While manufacturers like Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens also have these tilting mechanisms, officials said the Talgo mechanism is by far the better one. “However whether this tilting really plays a huge part in India will have to be seen as out track curves come with varying speed restrictions that have been place for years,” said the official.The Talgo RTI:A Right to Information plea filed by DNA on the Talgo came up with these answers:1) No Make in India as of now.2) Cost of trials was footed by the railways3) There was no agreement between railways and Talgo on testing the rake4) There is assured purchase agreement between railways and Talgo.Talgo wins in Spain:On November 28, the Spanish Ministry of Development announced that Talgo had been selected for a 786 million euro contract to supply 15 high-speed trainsets to government operator RENFE and maintain them for 30 years. Talgo is expected to put the first of its Avril trainsets in service as part of this contract in 38 to 42 months. These trains have a top speed of 330 kmph and are to have 416 standard and 105 business class seats. The company claimed that it had spent 50 million euros to develop the Avril high-speed train concept.

Mumbai: Railway official KL Bhoyar in CBI net for exchanging demonetized notes

Sat, 17 Dec 2016-01:35pm , Mumbai , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>CBI has booked an Assistant Commercial Manager of Railways posted at Mumbai’s Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus for allegedly exchanging demonetized currency having face value of Rs 8.22 lakh with newly introduced Rs 2,000 notes. CBI sources said the case has been been registered against KL Bhoyar, Assistant Commercial Manager, Central Railways posted at CST Mumbai under sections related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act.It is alleged that he exchanged notes having face value of Rs 8.22 lakh with Rs 2000 and Rs 100 notes at a booking counter at CST Mumbai and Kalyan in Thane District, the sources said.They said CBI is carrying out searches at his official and residential premises.

Railways lost over Rs 7 crore due to Naxal disruptions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian railways lost more than Rs 7 crore in 2015 due to destruction of its property by Naxalites. According to sources, the states in which the railways suffered the maximum losses due to Naxal disruptions were Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa.Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain disclosed the figures in a written reply to the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. He said railway property worth Rs 7,02,92,441 was damaged by Naxalites in 2015. The minister also informed the Parliament that the loss suffered by the railways due to Naxal activities in 2015 was less than the losses in 2014.Railways spent Rs 3,415 crore to safeguard its property in the 2014-15 and it has already spent Rs 3,833 on the same this year. The minister apprised the Parliament that the railways had taken many measures in order to protect its property but added that policing in railways was the responsibility of states. “Policing on railways is a state matter and prevention of crime, registration of cases, their investigation and maintenance of law and order is the statutory responsibility of the state police, which they discharge through Government Railway Police (GRP) of the state concerned,” Gohain said. He, however, added that the Railway Protection Force (RPF) supplements the efforts of GRP by deploying its staff on trains and railway stations.Listing measures to prevent sabotage of railway property and security of passengers, he said that railways had also installed CCTV cameras at 344 railway stations. Gohain added, “RPF personnel escorting trains in Naxalites/Maoists/insurgent affected areas are equipped with sophisticated weapons, sufficient ammunition, bullet proof jackets, walkie-talkies, dragon, search lights etc. ” Apart from the security personnel, dog squads are extensively engaged at railway stations and trains for anti-sabotage checking, said Gohain.

States to steer future suburban network?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It seems the railway ministry has finally had enough of running suburban systems. In a draft policy issued a couple of days ago to all state governments by the Works Planning directorate of the ministry, the latter has put all responsibility of conjuring up new suburban systems in cities on the respective states. State governments have been asked to give their feedback in the next fortnight.The catalyst for the ‘hands-off’ policy, according to officials, is the bleeding status of its seven current suburban railway systems. According to the CAG report tabled in June this year, the cumulative losses from the suburban systems of Central, Eastern, South-Central, South-Eastern, Southern, Western and Kolkata Metro for the period 2010-15 stands at a whopping Rs 13,631 crore. During this period, the Railways carried a total of 3,054 crores, of which suburban passengers accounted for 2,225 crores or 72 per cent of all passengers.According to the draft policy released this week, “feasibility studies for suburban projects, duly considering the technical requirements, site feasibility and operational requirements, shall be carried out by the state government at their own cost.” Another criteria is that, “the complete cost of land acquisition, leasing of railway land and resettlement and rehabilitation shall be met by the states, by providing interest-free subordinate debt to the Special Purpose Vehicle or from its own resources.”Going further, the draft states that “guarantees for the loans to be taken by the SPV shall be provided by the state government.” The future sustenance of the suburban system has been given to the state government. The draft statement states that “state government would set up a dedicated urban transport fund at state level and city level through levy of dedicated taxes, levies, betterment tax, impact fee, development charges and higher floor area ratio in the influence zone of proposed railway stations to create a pool of resources for part financing the project’s capital cost, replacement of assets and providing operational subsidies.”

Jaish-e-Mohammad ‘member’ sends letter to Eastern Railway HQ, threatens to kill Bengal CM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The Eastern Railway headquarter has received a letter demanding Rs 50 crore, non-payment of which it said would harm the passengers in Howrah division, officials said here in Kolkata on Monday. Security has been beefed up at important stations and railways installations, they said. “A handwritten letter was received at the headquarter and it has been given to the police to investigate,” Divisional Railway Manager (Howrah) R Badrinarayan said. “It says Rs 50 crore should be paid. There is a mobile number given. It said if the demand was not met, there would be threat to lives in Howrah division,” he said.Eastern Railway officials said security has been beefed up at important stations, including at Howrah and other installations of the Railways. The police confirmed that the letter on a plain paper demanding the amount was received by the Eastern Railway authorities at its headquarter at Fairlie Place. An investigation is on to find out the source of the letter, they said.With PTI inputs

Cashless economy: Here is why experts aren’t upbeat on Jaitley’s digital bonanza

‘Discount’ was the bait that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley used repeatedly in his speech on demonetisation in a bid to push people towards digital payment modes, a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an announcement to annul Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

At Firstpost, we spoke with personal finance expert, Jitendra P Solanki, founder, JS Financial Advisors, a financial planning firm to decode the positives and the negatives of the speech of the FM. Solanki said that what is perplexing about the announcement is that the Finance Minister has not made it clear that the discounts being offered is for a limited period or not. “To be able to enthuse more people to get on to digital mode of payments, the government must ensure deep penetration of banking facilities across the country, besides good internet connectivity. Otherwise, the thrust toward digitisation may affect businesses and livelihoods of people,” he said.

Amit Trivedi, financial market trainer, author, says that Jaitley’s announcement was a nudge to people to adopt cashless transactions. “The force was applied by the demonetisation announcement on 8 November and Jaitley gave a nudge on 8 December.” He sees demonetisation and Digital India as two sides of the same coin with the goal being to get the country to go cashless in a major way. Though the plan is huge, implementation will throw up hurdles, he says, given the size of the country and the education levels of the people.

Let’s take a look at each of the 10 ‘discounts’ offered by Jaitley:

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI file photoUnion Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI file photo

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI file photo

Announces 0.75 percent discount for people buying petrol, diesel via digital payment platforms. A total of 4.5 crore consumers buy petrol and diesel worth Rs 1,800 crore daily. In one month, digital payments have doubled to 40 percent. The government expects fuel transactions worth Rs 2 lakh crore to be carried out via digital mode.

What the government is doing is forcing people to go digital and use any type of card, be it debit or credit card to get to digital mode of payments. This will have only a limited effect, say analysts. It must be remembered that any usage of cards on the digital mode has a cost factor unlike offline payment methods. Why would anyone pay more, even if it is only the case of 75 paise discount as the government has announced with regard to buying petrol and diesel via digital payment platform?

Effective 1 January 2017, 0.5 percent discount would be available for people buying monthly seasonal tickets in the suburban railway networks through digital payment mode, starting from the Mumbai suburban railways.

This discount will only help users who are familiar and comfortable making digital payments. Though this move of the government too can be suspected to give a certain push to the number of people opting for online mode of payments, the large majority will hesitate to get on to the digital bandwagon. People are still wary of using the medium and there is a trust deficit. This is because many people are aware that credit and debit cards password numbers can be photographed, copied or the details siphoned off . Case in point, Kerala ATM fraud a few months ago. Unless security challenges are not addressed, people will be hesitant to use digital modes of payment. Cyber laws are very weak in India and people will have to make repeated visits to call centres, banks in case of a fraud. Even after making repeated rounds to banks and call centres, there is no certainty the user will get his money back. However, this announcement will give a push to digital users who will go all out and use it with the added incentive of a discount.

“Monetary incentives alone may not be enough,” says Trivedi. He wants the government to clarify on online charges for payments of utility bills. ” If I want to pay my electricity bill online, there is a charge to be paid online. These payments and bookings will have to be streamlined,” he says.

Insurance cover worth Rs 10 lakh for travellers who book railway tickets through digital mode

Insurance was always available with the Railways and those who opted for online booking were aware of it. However, insurance was optional and customers would not avail it. Now this facility is extended to digital payment methods. However, its benefit is questionable as it is a ‘forced’ manner of getting people to adopt a new technology.

A discount of 5 percent for transactions on digital payment mode for railway facilities like catering, retiring rooms
With this discount, what the Railways are doing is asking customers to pay for using Railway facilities using digital modes. A five percent discount is not much of a margin and not many would opt for it.

Buying general, life insurance policies from the websites of public sector insurance firms and using the same for paying premium would attract discounts of 10 percent and 8 percent respectively.
This is a curious offer. Why is the FM only focusing on public sector insurance firms? This is hardly a discount at 8 and 10 percent. With this offer what the government is doing is ensuring business for public sector insurance companies. This is a biased decision. Discrimination between public and private insurance firms in this manner is unwarranted. Just for the sake of the discounts being offered, no one will opt for a public sector insurance firm. Besides, there are other aspects that come into play when one buys a insurance.

NABARD will give RuPay card to people who possess Kisan Credit Card.

RuPay card has gained a market share in comparison with Visa and Mastercard because it is offered by banks. However, extending it to kisan credit card may not lead to any significant strides in business. Will the kisan, for whom it is intended, use it? Though the government has opened Jan Dhan accounts for the bankless, it has largely remained zero balance accounts. For RuPay card to make a difference to the farmer, he has to know bank transactions. Banking services need to penetrate remote villages and far flung areas in the country. Has the credit card gained popularity with the farmer as of now? It is debatable.

Seeking to expedite the digital switchover, the government has decided to provide two point-of-sales machines each to villages with and over 10,000 population. A total of one lakh villages will be selected for the purpose across the country.

Currently, the number of Point of Sale (POS) machines are too low. For a population of 10,000, this can work provided villagers have a bank account and also an income to be able to swipe money off machines. If there is not much income then the use of POS machines will be limited.The other major hurdle for government is infrastructure — Internet connectivity in urban areas are not up to the mark. So what is the government talking about?

A 10 percent discount on digital payments for RFID or fastags for highway toll has also been made.

This is one of the good things in the announcement made by Jaitley. A 10 percent discount is good enough for digital payments for RFID, said Jitendra Solanki of JS Financial Advisors. But there is a catch here too. With security remaining a cause for concerns, how many will whip out their debit or credit cards or use mobile wallets for highway toll is to be seen.

In order to ensure government departments and public sector enterprises go on a cashless path, the Merchant Discount Rate will not be borne by customers for public dealings.

This is a also a good move by the government as it concerns payment to government departments. Going cashless will provide benefits to citizens.

Public sector banks are advised that merchants should not be required to pay more than Rs 100 per month as monthly rental for PoS terminals/Micro ATMs/mobile POS from the merchants to bring small merchant on board the digital payment ecosystem.

This is a good move, too. To use a POS machine, a merchant has to pay around Rs 250 or Rs 300 to the bank. This was a big hurdle for small shopkeepers. To pay just Rs 100 per month is an affordable fee and many shopkeepers will now be encouraged to use it and increase their business.

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 13:32 IST

Mumbai rail woes: Not possible to run trains from Churchgate to Central suburbs, says WR

The Western Railway on Thursday said that it would not be possible to run trains from Churchgate to Central Railway suburbs such as Thane, Dombivali and Ambarnath because of lack of space to lay down additional tracks for this purpose.

Western Railway officials said so at a high-level meeting called by the Bombay High Court to discuss ways to cope with 80 lakh commuters who travel daily by suburban trains on the Western and Central Railway routes. The meeting also discussed safety measures to be undertaken to prevent accidents on railway tracks.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The meeting was called as a result of a PIL filed by activist Samir Zaveri regarding deaths due to overcrowding in suburban trains, The Indian Express reported. A high court bench, headed by Justice VN Kanade was hearing the PIL.

On the problem of overcrowding in Mumbai local trains, DNA quoted the court as observing, “Around 80 lakh passengers travel daily by the suburban railways. This could equal the average population of a European country”.

According to the report, the court also observed that while Mumbai is the country’s financial capital, “a girl residing along the Western Railway line is hesitant to marry a potential groom living along the Central line, due to overcrowding on trains”.

The Western Railway authorities also made a presentation on deaths related to overcrowding in trains and explained the court that casualties came down from 4,319 in 2015 to 3,641 till November 2016 on the Central line. The report prepared by the railway authorities added that most victims are between the age group of 21 and 40 years, The Indian Express added.

Interestingly, the court proposed a potential solution to the problem, directing the Western Railways to draw a circular timetable for Virar-bound trains from Churchgate during peak hours, the DNA report added.

And while the issue of safety of passengers was raised by the Bombay High Court, the Maharashtra government is pondering on a decision to withdraw all the ambulances provided to the suburban stations, a Mumbai Mirror report said on Friday.

According to the tabloid, the government has cited under-utilisation of the ambulances and lack of funds as the reasons behind its likely decision. If the move is approved, this will be in contravention of a 2015 Bombay High Court ruling which directed the railways to provide emergency medical services at all suburban railway stations.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 12:44 IST

Demonetisation day 30: Modi govt’s 10 biggest cashless announcements

On the occasion of a completion of a month of the demonetisation process of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday sought to woo citizens towards digital transactions by announcing a slew of steps from cheaper fuel to travel insurance on railway tickets bought online.

“We need to slowly cut out cash transactions and implement cashless economy, Dealing in cash has economic costs, so the government is promoting payment by credit, debit cards and e-wallets,” Jaitley said at a press conference in New Delhi.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photoFinance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photo

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photo

Here are the 10 key points of Jaitley’s digital push announcements:

• Announces 0.75 percent discount for people buying petrol, diesel via digital payment platforms. A total of 4.5 crore consumers buy petrol and diesel worth Rs 1,800 crore daily. In one month, digital payments have doubled to 40 percent. He said that the government expects fuel transactions worth Rs 2 lakh crore being carried out via digital mode.

• Effective 1 January 2017, 0.5 percent discount would be available for people buying monthly seasonal tickets in the suburban railway networks through digital payment mode, starting from the Mumbai suburban railways.

• Insurance cover worth Rs 10 lakh for travellers who book railway tickets through digital mode

• A discount of 5 percent for transactions on digital payment mode for railway facilities like catering, retiring rooms has also been announced by the Union finance minister.

• Buying general, life insurance policies from the websites of public sector insurance firms and using the same for paying premium would attract discounts of 10 percent and 8 percent respectively

• NABARD will give Rupay card to people who possess Kisan Credit Card

• Seeking to expedite the digital switchover, the government has decided to provide two point-of-sales machines each to villages with and over 10,000 population. A total of one lakh villages will be selected for the purpose across the country.

• A 10 percent discount on digital payments for RFID or fastags for highway toll has also been made.

• In order to ensure government departments and public sector enterprises go on a cashless path, the Merchant Discount Rate will not be borne by customers for public dealings

• Public sector banks are advised that merchant should not be required to pay more than Rs 100 per month as monthly rental for PoS terminals/Micro ATMs/mobile POS from the merchants to bring small merchant on board the digital payment ecosystem.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 18:37 IST

Mumbai: Angry protesters block track at Titwala station, services suspended between Kalyan-Kasara

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Several commuters were left stranded on Kalyan-Kasara railway route on Central line in Mumbai after the angry protesters at Titwala railway station blocked the track due to delayed local.According to reports, commuters waiting for 5:25 CST train got on the track to express anger over passage of an outstation train before a local train.”Due to public agitation at Titwala, train services R suspended between Kalyan-Kasara. Train services on Karjàt-Kalyan-CST section are running, ” Chief Public Relations Officer Central Railways tweeted.The PRO also appealed agitating passengers at Titwala to board the trains so that train services could resume. (More details awaited)

Woman who lost husband in 26/11 set to complete HSC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>November 26, 2008 is a day Mumbai never forgets. The terrorist attack resulted in hundreds of deaths and left citizens on edge. While the day affected everyone, several individuals have shared inspiring stories of how they picked themselves up after losing a loved one. An anonymous woman, who was profiled on Humans of Bombay on Sunday, shared her story of how she completed her education after she lost her husband at Mumbai CST.“I’ve always been a homemaker while my husband worked at the railway station. We were very content with our lives,” she said.The woman spent most of her time raising her two daughters, while her husband would work. One day, she fell ill and the family faced difficulties. It was at this time when her husband requested his mother to come from their native place in Bihar to take care of his wife. “After a few months when I recovered and my mother-in-law was leaving to return to Patna, my husband went alone to drop her off at the station, sometime around 9 pm. I was sleeping when my sister-in-law called me around 10 pm, told me about the attacks and said my husband wasn’t answering his phone. I rushed down to the phone booth to call him and after trying many times someone finally picked up and said, ‘the person who’s phone this is, is dead; come claim the body’.It took the woman a few months to recover, but as time went by she began pulling herself together. “I had two daughters who had their whole lives in front of them and I had to make sure that I did everything I could to educate them better. I received compensation from the government which I used for their education and to take care of the house and my mother. I was also offered a job by the Railways, but since I had only studied till Class VIII, I couldn’t get a job that paid me half as well, but I took it anyway. I wanted to set a better example for my daughters, so after a few months I decided to join school again,” she recalls.During that period, she would prepare food for her children, drop them to school, go to work, return to make dinner, do her homework and then attend night school. “I have no idea where the strength came from. I just loved that I was educating myself to never feel helpless again—I finally passed my SSC and I am on my way to clearing my HSC and through this time I got my promotion as well.”While remembering her husband, the woman says she knows that he would be proud. “Sometimes life takes people away. I still sometimes question why 26/11 had to ever happen, but the only way to fight back is to not give up. Every year, that day marks the death anniversary of my partner, but it also remains the day I became independent, where I didn’t succumb to the terror but used the pain to make my girls and me stronger.”

13-year-old Mumbai boy shoots and strikes gold

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Punit Singh, a Class VII student of Swami Vivekanand School, Chembur affiliated to Vivekanand Education Society, Chembur won the gold medal in the under-14 age group category in the 10 meters event at the National Air Rifle Championship held in Hyderabad last month.“VES School has been largely instrumental in helping Punit reach this position as the school motivated him to pursue his talent, registering his name in air rifle tournaments and supporting with by paying the fees. A focused approach towards his goals, strict adherence to practice schedules and no compromise on hard work has ensured that he always stayed on top of his league. Despite a hectic schedule, he has been regular in his studies and his grades have not suffered,” said Manjeet Singh, Punit’s father.Punit has been practising regularly for the past one year at the Swatantryaveer Savarkar Rifle Club at Shivaji Park, Dadar under the guidance of noted coach Vishwajeet Shinde (Railways). Prior to the Hyderabad Championships, Punit had won the bronze medal in the Mumbai Inter-school shooting championship held in August 2016 and the gold medal in the zonal championships held in September 2016.Without resting on his past laurels, Punit is now planning to train with advanced equipment and imported guns. He is now aiming to test global waters by participating in youth teams in international air rifle tournaments in future.

Parliament canteens take lead, go cashless

The new facility may, however, kick off only by Friday or next Monday as Parliament Food Committee Chairman Jithendra Reddy said it will take three days to train the staff to use the machines.
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Just two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi pleaded for a cashless economy, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan inaugurated 17 digital payment facility spots in Parliament House on Wednesday. The digital payment facility has been introduced in all canteens. The new facility may, however, kick off only by Friday or next Monday as Parliament Food Committee Chairman Jithendra Reddy said it will take three days to train the staff to use the machines.He said in the wake of cash crunch, people have been finding it difficult to make payments in Parliament canteens. “Sometimes, there is no cash to pay or sometimes there is no change available with the canteen cashier. Card payment will address that problem,” said Reddy, Lok Sabha member from Telangana Rashtra Samithi. The canteens in the Parliament House are run by the Railways, serving on an average 4,500 people during Parliament sessions.

Strategic rail lines along China and Pakistan border to come up

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government has decided to construct strategic rail lines along the borders with neighbouring countries including China and Pakistan, the Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday. The proposal for construction of railway lines along China, Nepal and Pakistan borders has been initiated by the Defence Ministry as a strategic line, Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain said in a written reply.A total of 14 strategic lines have been identified, out of which four strategic lines — the 378km Missamari-Tenga- Tawang line, the 498km Bilaspur-Manali-Leh line, the 227km Pasighat Tezu-Rupai line, and the 249km North Lakhimpur-Bame- Silapathar line — have been decided to be taken up in the first phase.However, he said, none of these projects has been sanctioned. Since all these projects pass through very difficult terrain of the Himalayas, stability, geology, constructibility, maintainability and safety issues are to be examined, he said. Accordingly, the Final Location Survey (FLS) has been taken at a cost of Rs 345 crore. For the year 2016-17, the Ministry of Defence has provided Rs 87.18 crore.

Indian Railways, IRCTC include transgender as third gender in ticket forms

New Delhi: Indian Railways and IRCTC have included “transgender as third gender” in the option alongside male and female in ticket reservation and cancellation forms.

The decision which was taken on a representation made by a lawyer will include the facility for reservations and cancellations, both online as well offline.

The Delhi-based lawyer had made the representation after the Delhi High Court in February had asked him to approach the Railway Ministry while disposing of his petition.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The ministry in its circular referred to the direction of the apex court of April 2014, which had said that hijras, eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as third gender for protecting their rights.

“Supreme Court (in the judgement) has directed that Hijras, Eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as third gender for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III of our Constitution and the laws made by the parliament and the State Legislature.

“It has, therefore, been decided to include the third gender/transgender option alongside male/female in reservation /cancellation requisition form. This information will be captured by the system and tickets to transgender will be issued on full fare,” the circular stated.

Advocate Jamshed Ansari in his PIL before the high court had alleged violation of Article 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), by non-inclusion of “transgender/third gender” as a gender option in its forms.

He had also sought compliance of the apex court judgment in which it directed the Centre and the state governments to recognise transgender as the third sex, and to provide them with the benefits accorded to socially and economically backward classes.

He had further demanded special coaches and reserved seats for the transgender community in all trains, for their “care and protection”.

On which the bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini had asked the ministry to look into the averments made in the writ petition.

First Published On : Nov 27, 2016 10:32 IST

Rlys to crack down on illegal constructions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a bid to reduce train accidents, the Indian Railways has decided to come down hard on unauthorised construction near railway tracks. The decision was taken on Thursday by Minister of State for Railways, Rajen Gohain after he conducted a safety review meeting with senior officials in the railways in wake of the recent Kanpur train accident. The Indian Railways will soon be writing to all state governments for removal of all unauthorised construction near railway tracks, sources said.The meeting was attended by not just top officials of the railway board but ground staff of six railway zones were also roped in for this meeting. Of the total 17 railway zones, these six zones – East-Central, Eastern, South-East-Central, East-Coast, North-East Frontier and Southern – were roped in for the safety review meeting. A senior official from the railways said that of late, maximum safety issues have been raised from these six railway zones. He, however, added that railways will conduct similar safety review meetings with other zones too in the coming days.The MoS (railways) took the decision after trackmen and keymen apprised the minister of safety issues that arise due to presence of unauthorised construction near railway tracks. Officials, who attended the meeting, said that trackmen expressed concerns over maintenance of railway tracks due to presence of unauthorised constructions, mostly slums, close to railway tracks.According to prelimnary probe of the recent Kanpur train accident, the accident was caused due to rail fracture. Poor track maintenance including lack of proper fittings and ballast on the railway lines causes fracture on the tracks. While a simple crack on track may not be of much concern, a severe fracture causing separation of the track can lead to derailment of trains.Railways have approximately 4.31 hectares of land and presently, there are about 1 lakh encroachments on railway land across the country. 879.48 hectares of total land holding, are under encroachment. MoS railways Gohain, in a written reply to Lok Sabha on November 23, said that 206.37 hectares of railway land have been encroached in the Northern Zone, followed by 156.17 hectares in South Eastern Zone and 106.25 hectares in Northeast Frontier Zone.

Toll mounts to 151 Indore-Patna Express tragedy

Kanpur: The death toll in the Indore-Patna Express accident has risen to 151, Kanpur Chief Medical Officer Ramayan Prasad said on Thursday.

The mangled bogies of the train. PTIThe mangled bogies of the train. PTI

The mangled bogies of the train. PTI

When the body of one of the victims was going to be placed in deep freezer in Mati hospital in Kanpur Rural district, the authorities on Wednesday found that the torso belonged to a man while the legs, which had anklets, were of a woman, he said.

The matter came to light during checking of six unidentified bodies at the mortuary of the hospital, Prasad said.

The woman’s body was badly mutilated, he said, adding as the two parts were of different persons, the death toll in the train accident, which was kept at 150, is now being taken as 151, he added.

The body has not been unidentified yet. The medical staff is inquiring into the matter, Prasad said. Now the health officials are looking for the legs of the man whose torso was found and the torso of the woman, the CMO
said, adding parts like legs and arms of several victims of the train accident are missing.

Indore-Patna Express had met with an accident on Sunday.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 22:56 IST

Patna-Indore Express tragedy: Parliamentary Standing Committee’s red flag ignored

The deteriorating quality of food on the Rajdhani and the rail fare across trains seem to be two of the biggest discussion points each time the Railway Budget is presented.

But it’s time we set aside the Rajdhani food for a bit and focus on what should be at the core of everybody’s concern — whether or not passengers will reach their destinations safely, irrespective of budgetary allocations for various expenditure heads. Unfortunately, passenger safety seems to have been the least concern for the political class that sits over the financial fortunes of the Railways each year. And the recent Patna-Indore Express tragedy has once again highlighted this serious issue.

After the accident on Sunday, the government has initiated a probe to find out the possible cause of derailment. The accident site has been videographed, railway engineers and technical staff members were questioned and samples were collected from the debris to ascertain the factors that led to the derailment of 14 coaches of the Patna-Indore Express due to suspected rail fracture.
With as many as 146 deaths, it has become one of the worst rail disasters of recent times. And for once, the issue has united the railway employees’ unions across the political spectrum.

But, what after that?

The same old story of recommendations, promises and near-zero implementation is likely to repeat itself.

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

However, more than a decade ago in 2004, the Parliamentary Standing Committee in its report submitted to the 14th Lok Sabha had made radical observations on safety and the security of the Indian Railways. “We had recommended several measures for the safety and security of passengers in the Standing Committee report from the renewal of tracks to addressing the acute shortage of staff especially in the safety segment. But, barring a few, implementation of major recommendations was never done. So many passengers died in this accident. Had the new LHB-design coaches been used, as recommended, casualties could have been averted,” Basudeb Acharia, former chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Indian Railways and a seven-time Lok Sabha MP from Bengal told Firstpost.

A few Standing Committee observations:

– Resource crunch has been the basic cause for not proceeding with identified safety items like track-circuiting or renewal of the over-aged assets in the past three or four decades.

– Due to an acute shortage of staff at times, even the station masters have to perform commercial duties like the sale of tickets, booking of parcels/goods, attending public queries etc. In the process, there could be a lapse in train operations. Due to a shortfall in staff (that comes under the safety category), the safety of trains/operations has to be compromised.

– Against the 10 hours of duty from ‘rolling on’ to ‘rolling off’ and 12 hours of duty from signing on to sign off, the operational staff, especially gangmen and drivers, in actual practice have to work for even 22 to 24 hours at a stretch. At times, drivers have been found to be working for five consecutive days. Due to work stress and stifling conditions, the life of thousands of commuters is at risk and it certainly affects the safety of train operations.

– In order to earn more revenue, new trains have been introduced and many express trains were converted into super-fast ones and efforts are now being made to provide for commensurate safety safeguards and maintenance facilities. While doing so, proper care is not being taken to replace the over-aged rolling stock. The process of modernisation and renewal of track and maintenance lacks the desired attention.

– While the traffic has increased, the commensurate increase in assets for capacity-generation has not been there. The system is over-stretched, over-stressed and has a direct impact on the safety of the operations in running trains. Renewal and replacement of over-aged assets need to be expedited.

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

“Consecutive Rail Budgets have been ignoring the safety and security part and allocation in this segment is low in comparison to others. In a decade, the staff shortage has reached three lakh and due to this, time-bound renewal and maintenance of tracks is not happening,” added Acharia, who is also president of West Bengal Railway Contractor Labour Union.

The employees’ unions — whether Left or Right, are vocal against the current state of affairs in the Railways.

The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Railway Mazdoor Sangh’s secretary-general, Ashok Shukla pointed out, “Every Rail Budget is politically-aimed. The number of trains is increased, populist announcements are made to keep the electorate happy, but ultimately the key concerns like passenger safety, track maintenance, renewal of tracks etc are compromised. The irony here is that Railways has set its standards in every category of operation, but fails to match it. Ultimately, the passengers have to pay the price.”

“There has been no real change in the mindset of Indian Railways since Independence. The political leadership has no control over bureaucracy even today. In the past decade, due to the government’s policy, there has been a massive curtailment in ground level staff, including loco drivers, whereas at the Rail Board-level, the number of members and officials has remained the same. The posts with permanent jobs have been filled by contractual workers, and the cascading effect is glaring,” Shukla added.

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

“There’s an acute staff crunch in the Railways and in the safety category, the shortfall is one lakh. Several staff members in sensitive positions including signal operators and drivers have to work beyond their capacity and working hours. It has been affecting the performance and safety is compromised. The Railway’s Depreciation Reserve Fund and Development Fund are getting depleted, and whatever is available is mere peanuts. Despite the Parliamentary Standing Committee and Kakodkar Committee’s recommendations, the government has shown a deaf ear to it and train accidents are continuing. We’re taking up this issue with the government,” a member of the Left-affiliated All-India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) remarked.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 14:50 IST

Indore-Patna express derailment: Move ICF coaches, let LHBs take over

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Admitting that old-technology coaches was one of the causes of Sunday’s train accident which claimed 133 lives, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday assured Parliament that the replacement of such coaches would be expedited.Speaking in the House, Prabhu said: “Old-technology ICF coaches lack the crash-worthy characteristics of modern coaches. I had informed this House during the previous Railway Budget to progressively replace and phase out such coaches. This will be expedited.”However, it will be interesting to see how the government manages to expedite the process of replacing Integrated Coach Factory (ICF) coaches when currently the coach-making factories in India are full of supplies of materials which can only be used for making ICF coaches. Currently, the Railways is in the process of replacing ICF with the more modern Linke Holfmann Bush (LHB) coaches, which are considered to be safer.This process had been in the pipeline for the last five years but senior officials from the Railways told DNA that the complete switchover will take at least another two decades. They add that the materials required in building ICF coaches are worth crores of rupees and cannot be discarded just like that. Also, it needs to be noted that ICF coaches have a normal lifespan of 25 years and they can only be phased out only after they outlive this.LHB coaches constitute only 14 per cent of the total train coaches in India while ICF coaches constitute 86 per cent of the total coaches. The cost factor may be one of the reasons for this. ICF coaches cost an estimated Rs 1.25 crore, while LHB coaches cost between Rs 2.5-3 crore.However, the LHB’s cost is more than justified by its safety record. As compared to the conventional ICF coaches, these German technology-based coaches, have several in-built safety features and can absorb shock and impact of derailment more effectively. The coaches are also equipped with advanced couplers and anti-climbing features, to prevent capsizing in case of accidents. Apart from the safety factor, is also the issue of comfort. LHB coaches are considered superior to ICF coaches in terms of providing comfort to passengers.Post the tragedy, a senior official in the Railways told DNA that the ministry has decided to incorporate special safety features in ICF coaches which are still in production or are yet to be produced.A high-level meeting by the Railway Board, post Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s statement in Parliament was constituted to look into this on Monday. Sources said that it has been decided that special safety couplers called Centre Buffler Couplers —which will make the coaches anti-climbing—would be installed in ICF coaches that are yet to be manufactured. They added that the Board has also set a deadline of a month to finalise the logistics of phasing out the old technology coaches.Currently, there are around 53,000 train coaches operating in India and 46,000 of these coaches are old-technology ICF ones.

Patna-Indore Express tragedy: Suresh Prabhu’s resignation no solution, he needs to reform

The tragic Patna-Indore Express accident near Kanpur, killing over 140 people and injuring another 200, has been blamed on a “rail fracture” – a structural malfunctioning of the track due to repeated expansion and contraction because of change in season.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu didn’t mention ‘rail fracture’ in his statement following the accident, but by the time he spoke in Parliament on Monday, the term had already been picked up and repeated several times and was almost taken as the officially stated reason behind the accident.

Though nature does play a hand in weakening the structural integrity of railway tracks, it cannot rupture a gap in the track of the magnitude that caused the accident on Sunday. If that were the case then we would have heard of a multitude of rail accidents all over the world in every winter and summer season change, and high speed bullet trains would not run in China, Japan and other developed countries.

The apparent cause of the accident, as of now, is a routine mechanical fault; the gravity of which was compounded by the lackadaisical “chalta hai” approach of railway officers and staff. The accident was not caused due to human failure, nor was it a result of sabotage, at least there is no such indication so far.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu's resignation after the Patna-Indore Express tragedy is not a worthwhile solution. PTIRailway Minister Suresh Prabhu's resignation after the Patna-Indore Express tragedy is not a worthwhile solution. PTI

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s resignation after the Patna-Indore Express tragedy is not a worthwhile solution. PTI

That firmly rests the blame solely on the mechanical or maintenance division of the Indian Railways. The railways’ brass and lesser mortals thus can’t shift the blame on the paucity of funds and policy issues on safety, even though augmentation and policy implementation of safety remains a major concern. But blaming the accident on a broader safety issue defeats the purpose with respect to the present tragedy.

“There shall be a separate comprehensive investigation aided by latest technical and forensic analysis by an appropriate agency to look into all possible angles. Strictest possible action would be taken against the guilty,” Prabhu said.

One would have to see what kind of action the railway minister is willing to take in the days to come. Will the heads of those who matter roll or will class II and III employees bear the brunt? Demands are being made for Prabhu’s resignation on moral grounds; as had happened in 1999, when the then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar had resigned after the Gaisal train tragedy that killed 290 people and when Lal Bahadur Shastri had resigned in 1956, following the Ariyalur train accident that had killed 142 persons.

As history would suggest, both Kumar and Shastri – who had resigned taking moral responsibility over a train accident – only rose higher in the ranks. Shastri went to become the home and external affairs minister and then eventually the prime minister, whereas Kumar became the rail minister again, and then held other Union ministries as well before becoming the Bihar chief minister.

The rail minister’s resignation after such tragedy, thus, is not a worthwhile solution. In fact, apart from proving a rhetorical point, a minister’s resignation means nothing, unless one wants to secure Prabhu’s future for greater glory. The railway board chairman, its members, general managers, divisional railway managers, the chief engineers and so on, are never made to stand in the firing line.

For them, the business continues as usual. It is high time that they, and not the ordinary mortals in the ministry, must be held accountable for their shortcomings and should lose their high paying job and its perks in the event of a mishap.

Prabhu may have run a successful ‘PR campaign’ through his twitter feed – by providing milk to babies and other such comforts to some passengers – but the present tragedy is a far serious and more pertinent issue. The stories emerging from the accident spot near Kanpur, describing tales of the victims’ suffering, are both touching and highly disturbing. It’s time that the railway minister stands up and takes responsibility, even if it does not translate into his resignation but sets into motion a plan to fix the safety problems for now and forever – be it human, mechanical or technical.

Then there is the other aspect of the mismanagement problems in the railways: Blaming everything on fund and logistical shortages. Now that reports have emerged suggesting how the demonetisation move will help fill the government’s coffers in the long run, this time worn excuse should finally be put to rest. Prabhu and his men have to perform with substance, and not get carried away through sponsored or social media accolades.

Just see what the Railway Ministry had say to the Parliament two days before the horrific accident. An official statement issued by PIB on the basis of a written reply given by Minister of State in Railway Rajen Gohain to the Rajya Sabha on 18 November said: “Track renewal is an ongoing process which is undertaken as and when a stretch of track becomes due for renewal on age-cum-condition basis. Track renewal works are planned in advance every year and their execution is prioritised according to the condition of track and overall availability of funds ensuring all the time that the track is in a sound condition for the safe running of trains,”

“In case, if any stretch of track is not renewed in time due to various reasons including scarcity of funds, material etc, suitable speed restrictions are imposed to ensure the safe running of trains. As on 31 March, 2016, track renewal covering 5,900 km have been sanctioned, out of which 2,668 km is targeted for the year 2016-17. As per norms, track renewal works are to be completed within two to three years of sanction. This, however, also depends on budget availability,” the statement said.

In response to another query on safety, the minister goes on to say that: “The Ministry of Railways has requested the Ministry of Finance to sanction a non-lapsable Rastriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) totalling Rs 1,19,183 crore, out of which Rs 1,11,683 crore is to be funded by the Ministry of Finance for safety improvement of the Indian Railways. The safety related works identified are related to track works, bridge rehabilitation, safety works at level crossing, replacement and improvement of signalling system, improvement and upgradation of rolling stock, replacement of electrical assets and human resource development with approximate fund requirement.”

The rider about “budget/fund availability” is cleverly placed in every sentence of the statement. Now that the Finance and Rail Budget is to be unified, and presented by the finance minister, hopefully no such excuses can be expected again.

Prabhu was handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from outside of the existing talent pool in the ruling BJP to head the railways, with the aim to modernise it. Railways has always held a prime slot in Modi’s plan of modernising and developing India. But the Patna-Indore Express train tragedy is a grim reminder that words are no horses and mere dreams are no reality.

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 18:53 IST

Patna-Indore Express tragedy: Suresh Prabhu needs to reform, resignation no solution

The tragic Patna-Indore Express accident near Kanpur, killing over 140 people and injuring another 200, has been blamed on a “rail fracture” – a structural malfunctioning of the track due to repeated expansion and contraction because of change in season.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu didn’t mention ‘rail fracture’ in his statement following the accident, but by the time he spoke in Parliament on Monday, the term had already been picked up and repeated several times and was almost taken as the officially stated reason behind the accident.

Though nature does play a hand in weakening the structural integrity of railway tracks, it cannot rupture a gap in the track of the magnitude that caused the accident on Sunday. If that were the case then we would have heard of a multitude of rail accidents all over the world in every winter and summer season change, and high speed bullet trains would not run in China, Japan and other developed countries.

The apparent cause of the accident, as of now, is a routine mechanical fault; the gravity of which was compounded by the lackadaisical “chalta hai” approach of railway officers and staff. The accident was not caused due to human failure, nor was it a result of sabotage, at least there is no such indication so far.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu's resignation after the Patna-Indore Express tragedy is not a worthwhile solution. PTIRailway Minister Suresh Prabhu's resignation after the Patna-Indore Express tragedy is not a worthwhile solution. PTI

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s resignation after the Patna-Indore Express tragedy is not a worthwhile solution. PTI

That firmly rests the blame solely on the mechanical or maintenance division of the Indian Railways. The railways’ brass and lesser mortals thus can’t shift the blame on the paucity of funds and policy issues on safety, even though augmentation and policy implementation of safety remains a major concern. But blaming the accident on a broader safety issue defeats the purpose with respect to the present tragedy.

“There shall be a separate comprehensive investigation aided by latest technical and forensic analysis by an appropriate agency to look into all possible angles. Strictest possible action would be taken against the guilty,” Prabhu said.

One would have to see what kind of action the railway minister is willing to take in the days to come. Will the heads of those who matter roll or will class II and III employees bear the brunt? Demands are being made for Prabhu’s resignation on moral grounds; as had happened in 1999, when the then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar had resigned after the Gaisal train tragedy that killed 290 people and when Lal Bahadur Shastri had resigned in 1956, following the Ariyalur train accident that had killed 142 persons.

As history would suggest, both Kumar and Shastri – who had resigned taking moral responsibility over a train accident – only rose higher in the ranks. Shastri went to become the home and external affairs minister and then eventually the prime minister, whereas Kumar became the rail minister again, and then held other Union ministries as well before becoming the Bihar chief minister.

The rail minister’s resignation after such tragedy, thus, is not a worthwhile solution. In fact, apart from proving a rhetorical point, a minister’s resignation means nothing, unless one wants to secure Prabhu’s future for greater glory. The railway board chairman, its members, general managers, divisional railway managers, the chief engineers and so on, are never made to stand in the firing line.

For them, the business continues as usual. It is high time that they, and not the ordinary mortals in the ministry, must be held accountable for their shortcomings and should lose their high paying job and its perks in the event of a mishap.

Prabhu may have run a successful ‘PR campaign’ through his twitter feed – by providing milk to babies and other such comforts to some passengers – but the present tragedy is a far serious and more pertinent issue. The stories emerging from the accident spot near Kanpur, describing tales of the victims’ suffering, are both touching and highly disturbing. It’s time that the railway minister stands up and takes responsibility, even if it does not translate into his resignation but sets into motion a plan to fix the safety problems for now and forever – be it human, mechanical or technical.

Then there is the other aspect of the mismanagement problems in the railways: Blaming everything on fund and logistical shortages. Now that reports have emerged suggesting how the demonetisation move will help fill the government’s coffers in the long run, this time worn excuse should finally be put to rest. Prabhu and his men have to perform with substance, and not get carried away through sponsored or social media accolades.

Just see what the Railway Ministry had say to the Parliament two days before the horrific accident. An official statement issued by PIB on the basis of a written reply given by Minister of State in Railway Rajen Gohain to the Rajya Sabha on 18 November said: “Track renewal is an ongoing process which is undertaken as and when a stretch of track becomes due for renewal on age-cum-condition basis. Track renewal works are planned in advance every year and their execution is prioritised according to the condition of track and overall availability of funds ensuring all the time that the track is in a sound condition for the safe running of trains,”

“In case, if any stretch of track is not renewed in time due to various reasons including scarcity of funds, material etc, suitable speed restrictions are imposed to ensure the safe running of trains. As on 31 March, 2016, track renewal covering 5,900 km have been sanctioned, out of which 2,668 km is targeted for the year 2016-17. As per norms, track renewal works are to be completed within two to three years of sanction. This, however, also depends on budget availability,” the statement said.

In response to another query on safety, the minister goes on to say that: “The Ministry of Railways has requested the Ministry of Finance to sanction a non-lapsable Rastriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) totalling Rs 1,19,183 crore, out of which Rs 1,11,683 crore is to be funded by the Ministry of Finance for safety improvement of the Indian Railways. The safety related works identified are related to track works, bridge rehabilitation, safety works at level crossing, replacement and improvement of signalling system, improvement and upgradation of rolling stock, replacement of electrical assets and human resource development with approximate fund requirement.”

The rider about “budget/fund availability” is cleverly placed in every sentence of the statement. Now that the Finance and Rail Budget is to be unified, and presented by the finance minister, hopefully no such excuses can be expected again.

Prabhu was handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from outside of the existing talent pool in the ruling BJP to head the railways, with the aim to modernise it. Railways has always held a prime slot in Modi’s plan of modernising and developing India. But the Patna-Indore Express train tragedy is a grim reminder that words are no horses and mere dreams are no reality.

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 18:53 IST

Patna-Indore Express tragedy reveals Suresh Prabhu has been all talk no action

On 27 November, 1956, an Indian Railways train met with an accident at Arilayur in Tamil Nadu, killing 144 passengers. Exactly 60 years after that incident, Indians woke up to the news of the Indore-Patna train disaster killing 142 passengers.

This is where the tragic coincidences end.

Back then, when 142 passengers died, Railways minister Lal Bahadur Shastri decided to perform penance and resign. “I am responsible,” Shastri said and quit in Parliament. Accepting the resignation, prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru told the House: “All of us are very unhappy over the tragedy but I am sure — in fact I know it — that probably the unhappiest among all of us is the Railway Minister.” And now we have Suresh Prabhu, a railways minister who offers nothing except self-congratulatory propaganda on Twitter.

“Enhanced amount of ex-gratia compensation to the victims of this unfortunate accident: Rs 3.5 lakh in case of death,” Prabhu informs the applauding nation.

Hope the relief would be in new currency notes, sent to banks that have ATMs that work.

Then he fires a Twitter warning: Guilty won’t be spared. Ah, that’s another way of passing the buck.

Who is guilty, Mr Prabhu?

File image of Suresh Prabhu. AFPFile image of Suresh Prabhu. AFP

File image of Suresh Prabhu. AFP

Since your government came to power, fares and fees have gone up dramatically. Your ministry now charges exorbitant amounts for cancellations, doesn’t give a full berth to kids if full fare is not paid and has increased fares and freight rates under various pretexts. On top of that, we have the harebrained scheme of dynamic pricing that sometimes lead to the hilarious situation of train fares being more expensive than air travel?

According to a white paper put out by Prabhu last year, Indian Railway’s network has 1,14,907 kilometres of total track length. Of this, 4500 kilometres of track should be renewed annually. However, due to financial constraints, the progress in track renewals is constantly coming down over the last six years. As on 1 July, 2014, 5300 kilometres track length is due for renewal. The target for the current year is only 2100 kilometres. Arrears of track renewal are accumulating which will result in disproportionately high maintenance effort. This will also result in reduced reliability of assets.

Please tweet, Mr Prabhu, how much of the earnings were spent on passenger safety? On replacing old tracks, installing automatic train protection system to minimise manual errors?

Please tweet, what is the status of your Rs 1,20,000 crore safety fund called the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh?

Please tweet, whether this fund was cleared by the ministry of finance or it remained just what your government is famous for — a mere jumla?

Please tweet, how have your new ideas like dynamic pricing helped the railways? Last heard, the national carrier was suffering a loss of Rs 30,000 crore because of your ministry’s decision to hike prices and fares without providing additional safety and services.

Please tweet, what is the status of the recommendations of the Anil Kakodkar panel on Railways? What happened to its suggestion that there be an independent safety regulator? Last heard, your junior minister was telling the Parliament that the regulator was under consideration. How many more deaths and accidents will help you make up your mind?

The truth is, the entire railways is guilty of murder of passengers who boarded the ill-fated train. It is the result of lack of urgency for making train travel safe, carrying on with the historical legacies of previous governments that used it just for addressing its political constituency.

Two years ago, when Prabhu had presented his first budget, Firstpost had hailed his decision to eschew populism and work on making Railways a top-class service provider. But, since then, most of his early promise has been belied and reforms halted. Falling revenues, inadequate safety measures reveal that he has been all talk and very little action.

Prabhu is right when he says the guilty should be punished.

Ever heard of moral responsibility? Ever heard of a gentleman called Lal Bahadur Shastri, Mr Minister?

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 15:13 IST

Indore-Patna express derailment will be probed, let’s work to achieve zero accidents: PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On a day when over 100 people were killed in the worst rail accident in recent years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday asked railways to work towards achieving the zero accident target to make train journeys safe. The derailment of the Indore-Patna Express at Kanpur dehat will be probed, said the Prime Minister at the Rail Vikas Shivir (rail development camp) at Surajkund on the outskirts of Delhi where he along with railway men observed two-minute silence to condole the loss of lives.Describing the accident as “unfortunate”, Modi asked railway officials to ensure fool-proof system in train operation to achieve zero-accident target, according to sources present at the Shivir. Later addressing a rally at Agra, Modi expressed his concern and sympathy for those killed and injured in the tragedy, which is the worst rail accident in recent years.He said the accident will be probed. The Prime Minister, who spent more than two hours at the Rail Vikas Shivir, was given thematic presentations on various aspects of the railways, and later addressed the railway officers. He also visited the gallery created for showcasing railways’ new initiatives.
ALSO READ Major train accidents in India since 1988Night vision camera developed by the railways to help loco pilots, a new faster and lighter mode of transportation called Caterpillar train, water vending machines, food box to keep food hot at rail premises, green initiatives like harnessing solar and wind energy were among those exhibited at the gallery.The three-day Shivir, organised to generate innovative yet practical ideas in the most crucial areas of rail operations and chart out a roadmap for substantial progress of the sector, concluded on Sunday.
ALSO READ Indore-Patna express derailment: Businessman rescued after 10 hours, son missingOn the opening day, Modi had addressed railway employees via video conferencing and said the Indian Railways should transform with the change of the century and focus on “new speeds, progress and new capacity” along with gaining financial strength.The venue at Surajkund was divided into various areas named after iconic trains services like Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto, Humsafar, Tejas, Gatimaan, Uday, Antyodaya and Jan Shatabdi. Making Indian Railways the preferred freight carrier in India, reducing the operational cost, improving non-tariff revenue and increasing the investment in rail infrastructure substantially were among the other issues were taken up during the event though the accident cast a spell on the participants, according to sources.

Indore-Patna Express derailment failure of Modi govt: Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress Party on Sunday held Suresh Prabhu-led Ministry of Railways responsible for the derailment of Indore-Patna express and said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who talks of bullet trains, has totally ignored the safety of Indian railways.Demanding an explanation from the ruling dispensation, Congress leader Madhu Yashki Goud urged the government to announce adequate compensation to the grieved. “It is a very tragic incident and one of the biggest accidents in the history of railways. The Congress Party expresses its deepest condolences to the grieved family members and also at the same time demands from the government compensation to the kin of the deceased and injured,” said Goud.”Our party also demands an explanation from the government. The Prime Minister is busy travelling to Japan and talking about bullet train but in his tenure ignored the safety of the Railways. It is utter failure of the Railways Minister,” he added. Echoing similar sentiments, another Congress leader Ahmed Patel held the Centre’s approach towards the Indian Railways responsible for the accident. “There are over 1.22 lakh vacant position in the railways of which 75 percent pertain to safety. Important that government fills them up ASAP,” Patel said.With massive rescue operations in full swing to pull out bodies from the wreckage of the derailed Indore-Patna Express, the death toll in the tragic accident has mounted to a staggering 95. At least 153 people have been injured and several bodies are still trapped under the wreckage of the mangled coaches after the train derailed at the Hanshi-Kanpur intersection in Uttar Pradesh at 3.20 a.m.One army column, a team of doctors and paramedics have been deployed at the spot to help in the rescue operation. Two National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams from Varanasi and one NDRF team from Lucknow have been sent to the accident spot to assist in the rescue operation. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha has ordered a high-level probe into the incident.Earlier today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to the bereaved kin of the victims. (

LIVE: Patna-Indore Express toll rises to 96; Railway Min Suresh Prabhu orders probe

Nov 20, 2016

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    #UPCM @yadavakhilesh announces an ex-gratia of Rs5Lakh each to the deceased in train accident; 50K for serious injury; 25K for normal injury

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Kanpur: At least 96 people were killed and over 150 others injured on Sunday when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna express train derailed near Pukhrayan area in Kanpur Dehat district, with railways officials saying the number of casualties could rise.

The incident took place at around 3 am near Pukhrayan, about 100 kms from here.

Over 150 injured people have been rushed to nearby hospitals in the area. All hospitals have been asked to be alert. More than 30 ambulances are pressed into service, the IG said, adding that over 250 police officials are helping carrying out rescue and relief operations.

Railways Ministry spokesperson Anil Saxena said several people have been rushed to nearby hospitals with injuries, and the casualties may go up.

Indore_Kanpur_train_Indore_Kanpur_train_

Accident relief train was rushed to the spot, he said.

Northern Central Railways spokesperson Vijay Kumar said that doctors and senior railway officials have reached the spot. Rescue and relief operations were being carried out by district administration and railway officials.

Though the cause of the derailment was not known immediately, sources said the nature and timing shows that the accident was caused by a rail fracture. However, the exact reason would be known only after an inquiry.

Buses are pressed into service to help passengers complete their journey, Kumar said, adding that the S2 coach was severely damaged. Four AC coaches have also been derailed.

Meanwhile, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered a probe into the train tragedy.

“All rescue relief work on to deal with unfortunate accident. All medical and other help rushed. Enquiry ordered. Situation monitored closely,” Prabhu said in a tweet.

Railways has also released helpline numbers — Indore 07411072, Ujjain 07342560906, Ratlam 074121072, Orai 051621072, Jhansi 05101072, Pokhraya 05113270239.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu told NDTV that an enquiry is being ordered while the situation is being monitored closely.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 10:30 IST

Patna-Indore Express disaster: UP CM Akhilesh Yadav announces ex-gratia

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the wake of the Patna-Indore Express derailment, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Sunday announced an ex-gratia of Rs five lakh to the families of the deceased, Rs 50,000 for seriously injury and Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries. The announcement came as the death toll climbed to 91 following the untoward incident.Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu had earlier announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh for the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those critically injured. Prabhu also announced a compensation of Rs 25,000 for those who sustained minor injuries. “Ordered DG/Rail Health services and DG/RPF to proceed to accident site to help supervise rescue and relief,” he tweeted.The rescue and relief operation is currently underway.One army column, a team of doctors and paramedics have been deployed at the spot to help in the rescue operation.Two National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams from Varanasi and one NDRF team from Lucknow have been sent to the accident spot to assist in the rescue operation. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha has ordered for a high-level probe into the incident. Almost 14 coaches of the train derailed in the wee hours today resulting in severe loss of lives.The Indian Railways has issued helpline numbers for assistance. Kanpur Rural DM helpline no: 05111-271050; police-05111-271577; Magistrate Hospital duty 9454416414.

Patna-Indore express derailment: Centre announces Rs. 3.5 lakh ex-gratia for kin of deceased

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh for the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those critically injured in Patna-Indore Express derailment incident, in which 63 people have lost their lives.”Enhanced amount of ex-gratia compensation to the victims of this unfortunate accident – Rs 3.5 Lakh in case of death. Rs 50 thousand in case of grievous injury and Rs 25 thousand in case of simple injury. This is in addition to the compensation which will be available through Railway Claims Tribunal,” said Suresh Prabhu on Twitter.”Ordered Member Traffic to monitor the disaster management controll room personally. He’s on job with his entire team,” he added.The Ministry of Railways tweeted, “ADRM & CMS Jhansi reached site MoS @Manojsinhabjp w/ Rly Bd members ME ,MRS & GM one way to site,MR @sureshpprabhu personally monitoring.”National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have reached the spot and have swung into action along with the police in pulling out bodies and providing aid to the victims.At least 63 people were killed and over 150 others injured when 14 coaches of the Indore- Patna express train derailed near Pukhrayan area in Kanpur Dehat district, with railways officials saying the number of casualties could rise.

LIVE: Indore-Patna Express toll rises to 96; Centre announces ex-gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh

Nov 20, 2016

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Kanpur: At least 96 people were killed and over 150 others injured on Sunday when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna express train derailed near Pukhrayan area in Kanpur Dehat district, with railways officials saying the number of casualties could rise.

The incident took place at around 3 am near Pukhrayan, about 100 kms from here.

Over 150 injured people have been rushed to nearby hospitals in the area. All hospitals have been asked to be alert. More than 30 ambulances are pressed into service, the IG said, adding that over 250 police officials are helping carrying out rescue and relief operations.

Railways Ministry spokesperson Anil Saxena said several people have been rushed to nearby hospitals with injuries, and the casualties may go up.

Indore_Kanpur_train_Indore_Kanpur_train_

Accident relief train was rushed to the spot, he said.

Northern Central Railways spokesperson Vijay Kumar said that doctors and senior railway officials have reached the spot. Rescue and relief operations were being carried out by district administration and railway officials.

Though the cause of the derailment was not known immediately, sources said the nature and timing shows that the accident was caused by a rail fracture. However, the exact reason would be known only after an inquiry.

Buses are pressed into service to help passengers complete their journey, Kumar said, adding that the S2 coach was severely damaged. Four AC coaches have also been derailed.

Meanwhile, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered a probe into the train tragedy.

“All rescue relief work on to deal with unfortunate accident. All medical and other help rushed. Enquiry ordered. Situation monitored closely,” Prabhu said in a tweet.

Railways has also released helpline numbers — Indore 07411072, Ujjain 07342560906, Ratlam 074121072, Orai 051621072, Jhansi 05101072, Pokhraya 05113270239.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu told NDTV that an enquiry is being ordered while the situation is being monitored closely.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 10:30 IST

Indore-Patna express derailment: Probe orderd, situation monitored closely, says Suresh Prabhu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday ordered a probe into the Indore-Patna express train derailment in which at least 45 people were killed. Indore-Patna express derailed at around 3:00 am near Pukhrayan, about 100 kms from Kanpur.”All rescue relief work on to deal with unfortunate accident. All medical and other help rushed. Enquiry ordered. Situation monitored closely,” Suresh Prabhu said in a series of tweets.”Senior officers ordered to go to spot immediately. They are on way to accident site. Local MP, MLAs other functionaries rushed. Medical assistance of all kinds is offered. Rail mobile medical units rushed to site. All injured rushed to hospitals, immediate medical help and ex-gratia to unfortunate passengers who died and to injured will be given,” he added.The Railways Minister also said that the enquiry team will start investigation for cause of accident immediately and all necessary assistance provided to the affected. “Strictest possible action will be taken against those who could be responsible for accident,” he said.Railways has also released helpline numbers — Indore- 07411072, Ujjain- 07342560906, Ratlam- 074121072, Orai- 051621072, Jhansi- 05101072, Pokhraya- 05113270239.

Earlier Rail budgets were focused on pleasing parliamentarians: PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asserted that previous Rail budgets were politicized as they were primarily focused to please the Members of Parliament(MP), adding that the decision of Railway Budget merger with General Budget has never been for the electoral gains.”The focus of our Rail Budgets has never been politics. We have worked towards a paradigm shift in the Railways. Usually the core focus of Rail budgets was which Member of Parliament (MP) was pleased by being given more stops in his/her seat, additional coaches etc,” he said. Expressing his nostalgia with railways at the inaugural session of the Rail Vikas Shivir at Surajkund near New Delhi via teleconference, the Prime Minister said that he has spent his childhood on rail platforms and he is equally a railway enthusiast as the dignitaries participating in the event.”My links with the Railways is strong. I always stay at the Railway guest house in Varanasi which is my constituency. My childhood was spent on rail platforms. That is all the more reason I want to transform railways,” he added. The Indian Railways is organizing the three-day Shivir from Friday. The aim of the Shivir is to generate numerous innovative ideas across most critical areas of the railway operations for substantial progress of this sector. Such brainstorming and large-scale planning involving all railway employees is taking place for the first time in the 163-year-long history of the Indian Railways.The Railway Ministry said the outcome of this camp would lead to rapid rejuvenation, transformation, modernisation, efficiency and productivity. Earlier, the government decided to do away with the practice of separate Rail Budget and merged it with the General Budget. The idea was mooted by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and the proposal was approved by the Union Cabinet in September this year. The practice of presenting a separate Railways Budget was introduced way back in 1924.

Swiss maglev pioneer, BHEL in talks for Indian journey

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>One of the world’s foremost maglev firms – the Zurich-based SwissRapide and the country’s leading electrical systems major Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) are in talks to work jointly on urban rail projects based on magnetic levitation (maglev). Maglev is a transport system in which trains glide above a track, supported by magnetic repulsion and propelled by a linear motor, and move at speeds of upto 500 kilometres per hour.In an email reply to DNA, Aida von Schulman, Managing Director (business development) of SwissRapide said, “We are now in the process of establishing a partnership with BHEL, within the intent to approach the Ministry of Railways to start the feasibility study for an airport to city centre link project in Kolkata, Chennai or Hyderabad.”Incidentally, both SwissRapide and BHEL are among the six firms that answered the Railway ministry’s call for Expressions of Interest for maglev-based Ultra High-Speed Rail Systems in September this year.SwissRapide is currently building the 135-km high-speed line linking Bern, Zurich and Zurich International Airport using maglev technology, with line speeds planned at over 550 kmph. The start of commercial operations of the SwissRapide Express is planned for the end of 2017. It is also working on an ultra high-speed line between capital cities of Finland and Estonia, Helsinki and Tallinn respectively, christened FinEst Link.BHEL is an old hand in the field of railway power systems and has built several of the country’s train motors and locomotives. According to Schulman, the calling card for the maglev system could be reduced costs – compared to other forms of conventional high-speed rail systems, commonly called as bullet trains – in the longer run.”Since SwissRapide Ultra-Highspeed Maglev Rail is generally twice as fast point-to-point than conventional high-speed rail, for most service levels, our maglev rail then only requires single track construction, thus reducing the cost of maglev up to 30 per cent lower than conventional high-speed rail. Also, since our maglev rail is twice as fast as conventional rail, only half as many trains are required, which also reduces the overall costs,” Schulman said in her email reply.The firm plans to introduce the same kind of technology that powers the 30-km Shanghai Maglev Transrapid which has been tested to 505 kmph but uses 430 kmph as its cruising speed. It has travelled over 30 million kilometres, since its commissioning in January 2004.

After successful launch of Gatimaan Express, trains to run at 160 kmph on Delhi-Howrah, Delhi-Mumbai routes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After the successful launch of Gatimaan Express, Railways has undertaken a mammoth exercise of reducing journey time on the Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes by increasing speed of trains to up to 160 km per hour at an estimated cost of about Rs 10,000 crore.”We have firmed up an action plan to increase the train speed to up to 160 km per hour on the total 9000-km main trunk routes across the country as part of the Mission Raftaar project. To begin with we have started the work on two major busy routes of Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with the project.Railways has recently introduced Gatimaan Express between Delhi and Agra at 160 km per hour speed.Strengthening of the track, upgrading of signalling system and fencing off vulnerable sections along the route are to be undertaken to ensure 160 km per hour speed on these two busiest corridors, as per the plan.While the Delhi-Howrah route is used by about 120 passenger trains and around 100 goods trains every day, some 90 passenger services and an equal number of freight trains run on Delhi-Mumbai corridor daily.”Once these two major routes are upgraded to 160 km per hour speed, there will be scope for launching more passenger trains in these sectors. This will reduce the waiting list of passengers in some of the popular trains as many more such services with similar facilities will be on the offer,” the official said.As far as cost is concerned, the official said, it is being calculated but approximately it is estimated to cost about Rs 10,000 crore for the two sectors.All zones involving with these two corridors have been instructed to undertake the work on a mission mode so that trains can move at a maximum speed of 160 kmph in the next three years.The 1400-km-long Delhi-Howrah and the 1500-km-long Delhi- Mumbai rail corridors are among the two major busy routes of the Golden Quadrilateral of Indian Railways. Other routes are Howrah-Chennai, Delhi-Chennai and Chennai-Mumbai.Currently, Mail and Express trains including Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains can speed up to 130 km on these two busy routes.”There are about 70% of the total 2900-km-long routes of Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah which are compatible of running trains at a maximum speed of 130 km per hour. So we have to upgrade the rest 30 per cent route up to 160 km per hour speed,” said the official.Some of the sections like Kanpur-Lucknow and Baroda- Ahmedabad routes are to be upgraded to make the entire Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes ready for 160 kmph speed.It is not only passenger trains but also freight service which will also be benefitted from the Mission Raftar project because goods trains will also be able to move in faster speed once these routes are upgraded, the official said.

PM Narendra Modi inaugurates Harni airport, says Vadodara will contribute to aviation sector

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Vadodara and inaugurated the international terminal at Harni airport.He congratulated the Harni airport for being a green airport. “I am happy that two airports in India have joined the green movement – one in Kochi and the other one in Vadodara,” Modi said.”The new aviation policy, released under this government, looks at growth of the aviation sector. We have limitless opportunities when it comes to tourism in India. I am sure that Vadodara will contribute to that a lot.Air connectivity is vital from point of view of tourism sector growth; better air connectivity means more tourists and better economic growth,” said ModiHe also said that India’s first Railway University will be in Vadodara. “​Many innovations have happened in the world; Rail is old, but we need to bring new technology to the Railways. India’s first Railway University will be in Vadodara, imagine the contribution the region is making,” said PM.He will also attend a programme to distribute artificial limbs and other implements to more than 8000 ‘Divyangs’ (disabled persons) in the city. This was Modi’s first visit to Vadodara after becoming PM in May 2014. In last Lok Sabha elections, Modi got elected from both Vadodara and Varanasi seats, but he retained latter. “After arriving in Vadodara tomorrow afternoon, the PM will first inaugurate the newly-built international terminal at the city airport and then he will attend Divyang camp at Navlakhi ground,” said an official of Gujarat Information Department.The state-of-the-art terminal, built at the cost of Rs 160 crore, is spread over 18,120 sq mt and can handle 700 passengers (domestic plus international) per hour. It will have 18 check-in counters. The airport is located in Harni area on the outskirts of Vadodara. After the function, Modi will head to Navlakhi ground, where artificial limbs, tri-cycles and other assistive devices will be distributed to over 8000 ‘Divyangs’. The event has been jointly organised by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Kanpur-based Artificial Limb Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO), and Vadodara district administration, stated a government release. This will be Modi’s fourth visit in last three months to his home state, where Assembly elections are due next year.

India, Russia sign 16 agreements across multiple sectors

Benaulim, Goa: India and Russia on Saturday signed 16 agreements across multiple sectors following delegation-level talks co-chairedd by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Goa.

File photo of Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi. PTIFile photo of Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi. PTI

File photo of Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi. PTI

“New horizons in the India-Russia partnership. Modi and Putin exchanged 16 agreements and three announcements across fields,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted following the 17th annual bilateral summit between the two countries.

Among the agreements signed were procurement of the S-400 air defence system and construction of four Admiral Grigorovich-class (Project 11356) guided-missile stealth frigate in India.

Another agreement was signed to set up a joint venture to manufacture 200 Kamov 226T helicopters.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed for setting up an investment fund of $1 billion.

Agreements were also signed for developing smart cities in Andhra Pradesh and Haryana, and for developing transport logistics systems for such cities.

Another important agreement was signed for the joint study of a gas pipeline to India from Russia.

According to separate agreement, a Russian consortium comprising energy giant Rosneft Oil Company, commodities trader Trafigura and private investment group United Capital Partners agreed to purchase 98 percent of Essar Oil for $10.9 billion.

Rosneft also signed an agreement with ONGC Videsh for education and training in the oil and gas sector.

Both sides agreed to extend cooperation in railways development and to increase the speed of trains between Nagpur and Secunderabad.

An MoU was signed between India’s ISRO and the Russian state space agency on collaboration in space technology.

An agreement was signed on cooperation on international information security.

Another MoU was signed for expansion of bilateral trade and economic cooperation between India and Russia.

A road map for celebrating 70 years of India-Russia diplomatic ties was also announced.

Another announcement pertained to cooperation between the two countries on international issues.

Railways discontinues senior citizens’ concession for NRIs, foreigners

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Foreigners travelling by trains will no longer be eligible for concessions meant for senior citizens, with the railways deciding to tighten the purse strings and restricting such rebates to Indian nationals permanently residing in the country.Though Indian Railway charges concessional fares with regard to people belonging to various categories including sportspersons, the differently-abled, patients and eminent artistes among others, rebate extended to senior citizens has major financial implications for the national transporter.Of the Rs 1400 crore cost that the public sector behemoth incurs on extending the benefit of concessional fares to various classes of people every year, a whopping Rs 1200 crore is on account of senior citizens.According to an Indian Railway notification, senior citizens’ concession shall not be admissible to foreign nationals and NRIs with effect from September 29.Men aged above 60 years and women over 58 are considered senior citizens entitled to concessional fares. The rebate for men is 40 per cent and for women 50 per cent.

Premium train Tejas to ply on Mumbai-Goa route

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It is time for Mumbai-Goa commuters to rejoice! A high-end train, Tejas, has been sanctioned for the sector. Tejas will be what the railway minister Suresh Prabhu, had called ‘the future of train travel in India’ in his budget speech on February 25 this year. “Operating at speeds above 130 kmph, it will offer on-board services such as entertainment, local cuisine, Wi-Fi, etc. through a single service provider to ensure accountability and improved customer satisfaction,” Prabhu had said while addressing the Parliament.The premium train however will run at almost the same speed as other trains currently plying on that route. According to the announcement made by Central Railways on Thursday, Tejas will leave CST at 00:20 hrs and reach Karmali at 11 hrs on the same day. In the return leg, the train will leave Karmali at 12:20 hrs and reach CST at 22:45 hrs. It will halt at Thane, Panvel, Chiplun, Ratnagiri, Kudal and Thivim in both up and down journies, said officials.”Tejas will be offering nothing so great; it will take about the same time as the Dadar-Madgaon Janshatabdi express which also takes a little under 11 hours to reach Goa. The coaches of Tejas will however have better facilities including television screens at the back of the chairs. When we call something the ‘future of train travel’, the main factors we are looking at will always be augmented speed to save time. If this element is not missing in Tejas, then it is just a cosmetic upgrade,” said a senior railway official.Another official called the announcement ‘very premature’. “Only the first coach of Tejas has been constructed completely at the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala. Its trials will be decided by the Railway Board. The plan is to make three Tejas rakes by the end of March 2017, which seems highly unlikely. So as far as Tejas is concerned, it is still in inception and the CR announcement might be more political than operational,” said an official.”If Tejas is meant for business travel, as preached by the railways, then it requires lessening time of travel more than anything else. If it it doesn’t satisfy this condition, how can it qualify as a business travellers’ choice,” asked Manish Chaturvedi, a Bhandup resident.According to officials, one of the main reasons Tejas might be hamstrung when it comes to speed is Konkan Rail itself. The distance between CST and Karmali in Goa is about 540 kilometres and the average speed of the trains currently running on the route is about 55 kmph. The lower speed is because of the peculiarities of the Konkan Railway network. It has a single line running on typically laterite soil mixed with boulders susceptible to landslides during monsoons. The network also has 91 tunnels and 101 cuttings which induce speed restrictions.Features of the Tejas rake:1) Ergonomic seating with improved cushioning and upholstery2) Automatic doors, Infotainment system with on-board Wi-Fi along with a beverage vending machine3) GPS based passenger information display system and passenger announcement system4) Dust sealed gangways, fire and smoke detection system5) CCTV cameras6) concealed LED lighting with adjustable reading lights7) Integrated braille displays8) Bio-vacuum toilets with sensorised taps, flush system, hand dryers etc for a touch-less experience

Mumbai-Goa route gets Railways’ premium train Tejas

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Mumbai-Goa route has been chosen for the railways’ premium Tejas brand of trains. On Thursday, Central Railway announced that the CST-Karmali Tejas will ply on five days, with no service on Monday and Thursday. The train will leave CST at 12:20 am and reach Karmali at 11 am the same day. On the return leg, the Tejas train will leave Karmali at 12:20 pm and reach CST at 10:45 pm. It will halt at Thane, Panvel, Chiplun, Ratnagiri, Kudal and Thivim in both directions, said officials.The start of train’s operations would be announced later, said CR officials.The Tejas train is being built at Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala. As reported by dna, the first coach of the Tejas is ready and will be put on trial in a few days time. According to RCF officials, the coach will be sent to the Railway Board which will decide where the 130 kmph coach will be tested. As per the current schedule, officials said, the train is likely to be commissioned by the railways in February next year. The railways plans to make three such rakes, said officials.One of the biggest challenges, officials said, would be the fitting of television screens at the back of the seats, something that has not been done in Indian trains previously. The performance of these enhanced features at top speeds would be interesting. However, officials pointed out that the first coach built do not have these TV screens fitted into the seats as yet. The blue and yellow seats itself are of a new ergonomic design and provide higher levels of comfort than the seats fitted in the higher class coaches of trains at the moment.Interior of the first Tejas coach. The Tejas train is positioned for the business traveller who is willing to pay more for superior travelling comforts, said railway officials. The 9 sectors identified by the railways on which the Tejas might have a clientele are Delhi-Agra, Delhi-Chandigarh, Delhi-Kanpur, Nagpur-Bilaspur, Mysuru-Bengaluru-Chennai, Mumbai-Goa, Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Chennai-Hyderabad and Nagpur-Secunderabad.Features of the Tejas rake1. Ergonomic seating with improved cushioning and upholstery2. Automatic doors, infotainment system with on-board W-Fi , along with vending machine3. GPS-based passenger information display system and passenger announcement system4. Dust sealed gangways, fire and smoke detection system5. CCTV system6. Concealed LED lighting with adjustable reading lights, 7. Integrated Braille displays8. Bio-Vacuum toilets, with sensorised taps, flushing system, hand driers, for touch-less experience of toilet use

Maharashtra to step up intelligence cells to curb liquor smuggling

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In order to control smuggling of duty-evaded liquor into Maharashtra, the state excise department will set up specialised intelligence cells for the states which border Maharashtra and account for this illegal inflow of booze. This will enable the department to crackdown on such activities through co-ordinated raids and seizures with authorities from its neighbouring states.Maharashtra follows a high excise duty regime which leads to high retail prices of liquor. As the state excise department is the third-highest contributor to the state’s coffers, this smuggling bleeds the monetary resource of the state. Maharashtra, also serves as a transit point for the liquor being transported to neighboring Gujarat, which is a dry state.According to the state excise commissioner V Radha, this move will enable them to tighten the borders and launch co-ordinated action with agencies in other states to check smuggling. The department is also looking to work with other agencies like the Konkan Railways to stop smuggling from states like Goa. Radha says, “This will allow for specialisation for every border.””Since the duty rates in states like Goa are lesser than those in Maharashtra, the valuation and the MRP of liquor is also lower. So, this leads to this cheaper-priced booze being smuggled to Maharashtra for local sale due to the higher premiums involved,” said a senior official from the department, adding that the move will also ensure better co-ordination with authorities from other states for better vigilance.Liquor and black jaggery (used for hooch) is also brought in from Karnataka into Maharashtra, especially in border districts like Solapur while Chandrapur, which was the third district in Maharashtra where prohibition was imposed after Wardha and Gadchiroli, has liquor being clandestinely brought in from Telangana.”Today, our enforcement and vigilance is of a centralised nature. We are now looking to decentralise it further to help us know about those involved in smuggling liquor into Maharashtra, sites where it is stored and the modus operandi. We can cultivate sources in those states and take preventive action with help from the authorities there,” said another official.Maharashtra follows a policy of discouraging liquor consumption through high prices and low sales and has one of the highest excise duty regimes in India. However, neighboring states and union territories like Goa and Daman have comparatively liberal policies and the cheaper costs of liquor there lead to a huge incentive for smugglers and bootleggers to smuggle in the brew to Maharashtra. With neighboring Gujarat under prohibition, Maharashtra has also become a transit point for transporting liquor from states like Haryana and Madhya Pradesh to the dry state.In May, the state excise department also cracked a case involving smuggling of duplicate liquor from Goa, by making one of its first recoveries outside the state. However, officials involved in cracking such cases note that at times, local authorities in other states did not extend necessary co-operation to them.

Cabinet nod for Budget overhaul: Why Modi govt wouldn’t want to meddle with Railways’ autonomy

The decision of the government to announce the Union Budget early (probably the first day of February every year) and merge the Railway Budget with the general budget has been welcomed by most economists. It’s big break from the past.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

It was in 1924, during British raj, that the Railways began to have a separate budget. The British attached tremendous importance to the Railways as it was crucial to move their goods and forces. The practice continued for long also because of the substantial size of the Railways budget in relation to the total budget expenditure. But that scenario has changed.

The political and economic rationale that warranted a separate Railway budget during the British raj has lost its relevance long back and it was only a matter of time before we revisited this practice and brought in reforms in the way budget is presented.

Secondly, the day for the general budget presentation has been the last day in February every year since 1948-49, after Independence. Advancing it will help to take decisions early and follow the process faster to get on to the implementation stage.

The government also wants to do away with the distinction of plan and non-plan expenditure, which too is a logical move given that Planning Commission itself is non-existent now and Five Year Plans are being replaced. Thus, prima facie, all the three changes —merging the railway and general budget, plan/non-plan expenditures and advancing the general budget presentation date–are small but significant reforms steps which may not have major tangible impacts on any stakeholder, but will give more clarity on tax proposals and expenditure.

This is because the Finance Bill will be approved in the first half of the budget session itself, not towards the end after the recess as is the case now. This will mean the government and the private sector can plan the new fiscal year a bit early and not in the middle of the fiscal year. Presently, the Finance Bill is approved towards the end of the budget session. The proposed changes in presentation will ease the time lag in the budget process and subsequent decision-making by government departments and the private sector.

It is wrong, however, to term these as reforms that can do wonders in the economy. “Beyond the fact that general budget is going to be bigger (post Railway budget merger) and the entire process is going to start early with the budget advancing, there aren’t much changes expected due to the budget overhaul in the economy,” said Devendra Pant, chief economist at India Ratings and Research.

As Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in the presser post the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the government will seek GDP data for budget preparation from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) in January itself, instead of 7 February, for Budget preparation. Early presentation of Budget would mean that the entire exercise is over by March 31, and expenditure as well as tax proposals come into effect right from the beginning of the new fiscal, thereby ensuring better implementation.

Railways’ autonomy under threat?
Let’s look at the Railways budget merger specifically. The brighter side of the change is that there will now be presentation of a single Appropriation Bill, including the estimates of Ministry of Railways, thereby saving precious time of Parliament by not having to hold a separate consideration and passing of two Appropriation Bills, Jaitley said.

But it also raises obvious questions.

The first is: Will the Railways, which enjoyed a special autonomy and financial independence compared with other ministries for nearly a century, continue to have functional autonomy? Or will it end up just as another department of the government?

Former railway minister Nitish Kumar (read here ) and former finance minister, Yashwant Sinha (read here ) have flagged this issue.

Look at the numbers. In terms of size, the Railways is the third biggest budget (Rs 1.71 lakh crore in 2016-17) after defence (Rs 2.49 lakh crore) and infrastructure (Rs 2.21 lakh crore). The carrier, which runs around 11,000 trains everyday, of which 7,000 are passenger trains, has pegged a capital expenditure of Rs 1.21 lakh crore in 2016-17, most of which is planned through joint ventures with states and PPP model. For years, Railways has its own independent planning and strategy.

The public carrier’s operations are too critical and sensitive (both passenger and freight movements) for the government to mess with. So far, the Railways had financial autonomy on account of its separate budget. Can the government afford to kill its operational autonomy in the first place? It will be too risky for the Modi-government to do and it wouldn’t want to interfere, too.

The signal from Jaitley’s presser too was that the government wouldn’t want to meddle with the Railway’s functions.

Consider these comments from Jaitley:

One, the government doesn’t intend to supersede the functional autonomy of the Railways but will only present its accounts in the budget, the FM said.

Two, even on the issue of fare and freight rates too, Jaitley said, the decisions will continue to be taken by the Railways.

Three, the government has also promised to hold a separate discussion on Railways expenditure every year.

Four, Railways fund its expenses (employee salaries, pensions) from its revenues and also draws government subsidies. All these will continue to be the same except that accounting will be different.

If one takes these comments at face value, the Railways will not end up as just another department of the government at the mercy of the Finance Ministry.

The bottomline is this: The fear that the country’s largest public carrier will lose its autonomy post the budget merger is unlikely to come true. The government cannot afford to experiment with the Railways’ functions.

(Data support from Kishor Kadam)

Merger of Railway and General Budget will lead to red tapism: Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the merger of General and railway budgets, Congress MP and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said the merger will create more bureaucratic hurdles for the rail ministry as it would strip it off its financial autonomy.”Merging the general budget with the railway budget, in my personal opinion is not good, because for everything the railway department will have to go and stand before the finance department. Even in urgent matters also, they will have to seek the permission of finance department. So, there is no autonomy of finance. Due to this, the railways will be stuck, and the railways is a sensitive department which carries every day more than two to three crore passengers and provides great benefit to the poor,” Kharge told ANI.He also pointed out that the merger will lead to red tapism and will hit development of the railway network.”I am also confident that this government will try to decentralise the railways and will invite private players to run the railway network by citing efficiency issues,” Kharge said.He said the railway budget must be kept separate in the interest of its development and to facilitate quick decision making.”Rail budget and General budget will be amalgamated from now, there will only be one budget,” said Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while addressing a press conference on Wednesday.”However its functional autonomy will continue to be maintained,” he added.The finance ministry had proposed that the budget be presented on February 1 as opposed to the current practice of the last working day of February, allowing the process to be completed before the new financial year begins.

Railways to colour-code dustbins for cleaner stations

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The railways has decided to colour-code its dustbins so as to separate wet and dry waste at the station itself. Railway stations, thanks to the 2.3 crore people who use them on a daily basis, are a huge source of waste, said officials.In a statement, the railways said in order to carry out efficient disposal of waste, it has decided to provide separate dustbins for collection of biodegradable (wet) and non-biodegradable (dry) waste on platforms and all passenger interface areas in A1 and A category stations, apart from the vending stalls.”There will be two different colours – green for bio-degradable wet garbage and black or non-biodegradable dry garbage. The zonal railways will ensure the provision of separate dustbins for segregated collection of garbage at all A1 category stations immediately, followed by A category stations on or before December 31,” said an official.Railway staff will also be trained to ensure this separation, said officials. “This includes vending stalls and pantry staff. A standard operating procedure is already in place for them and its implementation will be made stricter,” said the official.The officials, however, said the biggest factor for the success of this initiative continued to be the passengers themselves. “We can do all we like but if passengers don’t help us, then we are in a bit of a problem. While a small percentage of passengers have started throwing waste in dustbins on platforms, several of them don’t. The choking of railway culverts is a painful reminder that a lot of us are still not using dustbins enough,” said an official.New Solid Waste Management RulesUnder the revised Solid Waste Management Rules, announced in April this year, the government has extended the rules beyond municipal areas and will extend them to urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, airbase, port and harbour, defence establishments, special economic zones, state and central government organisations and places of pilgrimage, religious and historical importance.That’s a lot of waste!Total waste generated annually across India: 62 million tonsPlastic waste: 5.6 million tonsBio-medical waste: 0.17 million tonsHazardous waste: 7.9 million tonsE-waste: 15 lakh ton

Falling from trains accounts for 49% of all rail injuries

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>If there was ever a clear reason why trains require automatic closed doors, this is it. Statistics collated by the Untoward Incident Cell of the Railways in Mumbai shows that the maximum number of injuries to passengers is from them falling from running trains. In fact in the past five years (2011-2015), of the 20,258 passengers who were left injured due to untoward incidents in the Railways in Mumbai, Pune and Solapur division, a sizeable 9,856 passengers – about 49% – were those who fell from trains.The highest number of these passengers is in Central Railway’s Mumbai division – 5,454 passengers – followed by Western Railway’s Mumbai division at 3,742 passengers. This is, of course, because between them WR and CR run about 3,000 local trains each overloaded by as much as 58%.The largest passenger survey by the Railways a couple of years ago showed that during peak hours, there are 5,560 passengers in a 12-coach train with a capacity of 3,522 passengers. A train’s ideal capacity of 3,522 is arrived at by assuming two people stand for every one passenger seated. A normal 12-coach rake has 1,174 seats. Experts believe overloading of anything above 15% is inhuman.Falling down from trains is the second major cause of death as well. Out of the 21,565 passengers who died in these untoward accidents in these four divisions between 2011 and 2015, a total of 4,637 passengers – or about 21.5% – died after falling from running – and almost surely – overcrowded trains.Crossing tracks and getting knocked down, however, continues to be the biggest killer on the tracks. Of the 21,565 passengers who got killed in train incidents, 11,965 – or about 55.4% – died due to being knocked down by a train while they were crossing the tracks.The plan to have automatic closed door mechanism on Mumbai’s locals has so far been a non-starter. In March last year, WR tested this system in one of its women’s coaches but removed it soon after due to technical glitches. This July it again allotted Rs 1.3 crore to fit 22 such automatic doors in three coaches.The accidents in numbers:Accidental Injuries (between 2011 and 2015)Division Line Cross Fell Down Other Total1) Mumbai (CR) 1641 5454 3558 110872) Mumbai (WR) 982 3742 1840 68403) Pune (CR) 235 637 365 12634) Solapur (CR) 41 23 2 68Accidental Deaths (between 2011 and 2015)Division Line Cross Fell Down Other Total1) Mumbai (CR) 6055 2767 2228 111192) Mumbai (WR) 3487 1307 1193 61123) Pune (CR) 1476 401 939 28464) Solapur (CR) 947 162 368 1488(source Untoward Incident Cell/Railways and government railway police/ state government)

Railways flip-flops on hydraulic rescue device purchase to extricate passengers during accidents

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Railways’ flip-flops on the specifications to buy high-end hydraulic rescue devices, to extricate trapped passengers during train accidents, gets even more confusing. While the railway officials overseeing the purchase of such devices had claimed that no manufacturer in the world could cut a 1100 mm by 1300 mm opening in the sidewalls of a railway coach in less than 43 minutes, it turns out there is more to it than meets the eye.One of the three firms that had given a demonstration to the Railways about their hydraulic cutters and rescue devices in 2016, where 43 to 54 minutes were required to do the job, had in 2010 come out with an advertisement that claimed the firm had managed to cut out such an opening on an Indian train in only nine minutes. The advertisement has been dug out by railway activist Ramchandra Karve who has also now brought this to the notice of railway minister Suresh Prabhu.As reported exclusively by dna in its August 18 edition, the railways had kept a specification of 18 minutes to cut out a 1100 mm by 1300 mm opening for such devices. However, a demonstration by three top manufacturers showed the time taken for the work will take anything between 43 minutes to 53 minutes. The demonstration of such hydraulic cutting capabilities, organised by the railway ministry’s Central Organisation for the Modernisation of Workshops (COFMOW) saw three multinationals, Netherlands-based Holmatro, Germany-based Lukas and United Kingdom’s Weber present a demonstration.The 2010 advertisement referred to Prabhu by railway activist Karve is of the firm Lukas. Dna sent a query to Lukas on this issue and the firm promised to get back with answers shortly.The story so far:1) Railways sets specification of 18 minutes to cut open 1100mm by 1300mm in the sidewalls of coaches for accident rescue2) A demonstration by 3 firms shows that minimum time for such work is 34 minutes3) RDSO during a May 10 meeting says it has no idea how the 18 minute specification crept into the purchase plans.4) An old advertisement of one of the firm’s claims that it made one such opening in an Indian train in 9 minutes.

Modi govt bulldozing federal structure, alleges Mamata Banerjee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Launching a frontal attack on the Narendra Modi government, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday accused it of bulldozing the federal structure in the country and said she would seek the President’s opinion on the issue.”Modi government is bulldozing the federal structure and violating Constitution. It is interfering in the functioning of the state governments. We will seek the opinion of the President,” Banerjee told reporters at the ‘Nabanna’, the state secretariat. The state government, she said, received a letter from the Centre during the day saying that centrally-sponsored schemes are being rationalised.”This is being done by force without taking the states into confidence … They talk about cooperative federalism. I don’t know what is cooperative federalism. “If they interfere into the functioning of the states, there is no meaning of the existence of the state governments. It is a very serious matter,” she said.”Narendra Modi is running dictatorship. The people of the country have lost freedom under Modi. “They (BJP) are trying to start a Presidential form of government knowing that they will not win next time,” the Chief Minister claimed. Banerjee said the central government should have only four ministries – Defence, External Affairs, Railways and Finance.

11-year-old kid suffering from cancer writes to PM Modi, UP CM Akhilesh Yadav for help

In an emotional appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, an 11-year-old boy from Agra has sought financial assistance for treatment of his blood cancer.”I have sought help from the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister. I have seen them on the television helping all. So, I wrote to them. Please help me Prime Minister uncle and Chief Minister uncle. I am hopeful they will help me,” the boy Ansh said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ansh’s mother Pooja said that they have sold almost everything for his treatment, adding they are now looking forward for help. “Ansh has blood cancer. We got to know of this when he was eight years old. We had admitted him in a hospital in Delhi, from where he was referred to Jaipur. There, his treatment went on for 2.5 years. His testis has cysts now. One was operated,” said the grief stricken mother. “Now, he is continuously under treatment for the last three years. We have sold almost everything for his treatment. We are facing problem even to buy food. We are extremely worried,” she added.
ALSO READ Unnao: 11-year-old’s letter to PM Modi prompts response by RailwaysAnsh’s father Krishan said he looks forward to assistance from Prime Minister Modi and the Chief Minister. “I am a labourer. I spent all my money and took debts for his treatment. Now, I have nothing left and I am deep neck in debts. I want the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister to help my son. We have seen on television that they help people. So, even we are hopeful that they will help us,” he added.Earlier on Saturday, June 25, 2016, Prime Minister Modi met a six-year-old girl in Pune who had written to him seeking help for her heart surgery owing to poor financial condition of her family.The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) responded promptly and arranged help through the Pune district administration for the girl Vaishali, who needed surgery for a hole in her heart. She was operated upon successfully early this month at a city hospital.

Indore to get two new Express trains connecting Kochuveli, Pune tomorrow

Union Minister of State for Railways, Manoj Sinha will flag off two new Express trains from Indore to Kochuveli and Pune on Tuesday.Sinha is going to flag off Indore Kochuveli weekly Express and Indore-Pune bi-weekly Express in Indore. Besides, he will lay the foundation stone of electrification of Indore- Mhow section and launch Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) service at nearby Mhow station in the district on Tuesday, a Western Railway official said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan is going to grace the two functions at Indore and Mhow stations, he added. Indore-Kochuveli Express will chug off on Tuesdays while Indore-Pune Express is going to depart from here on Tuesdays and Saturdays, Railway Board’s Passenger Amenities Committee member Nagesh Namjoshi said.

No changes in booking rules for wait-list and Tatkal tickets: Railways clarifies

Railways on Thursday said no changes are being made to rules regarding booking and cancellation of wait-listed and Tatkal tickets from July 1 as has been reported on some social media platforms.It had been noticed that a news item was in circulation on various social media platforms, WhatsApp groups and some websites mentioning that several changes and new facilities were being introduced with effect from July 1, the Railways said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”This news is totally incorrect and baseless. A section of media has also published the news without verifying it from authorised sources of the Indian Railway system and it has created confusion among the minds of the people,” it said in a release.There is no proposal to discontinue paper tickets for Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains and for that matter in any class of train. However, for passengers booking tickets online, the tickets received by SMS is a valid authority for travel along with permissible proof of identity, it said.There was no change in the refund rules notified in November, 2015, the release added. Railways will introduce its new time table in the month of October.

Bibek Debroy pitches for scrapping of separate railway budget

The British-era legacy of having a separate railway budget needs to be scrapped, NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy said on Wednesday reiterating the suggestion made by a panel headed by him last year. Debroy, however, dismissed reports that a new committee of NITI Aayog has made a similar recommendation.”I don’t know about any such committee. Whatever we had said in our recommendation is public knowledge,” Debroy said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He, however, is of the opinion that there should not be separate rail budget as recommended by a high-level committee headed by him, which submitted its report last year.The committee had said that the separate railway budget should be phased out progressively and merged with the General Budget.”There is no need for separate railway budget. We have said it very categorically in the committee report. There are five reasons why railways budget is not necessary,” Debroy said.Elaborating it, he said, “The origin of this goes back to the Acworth Committee report in 1924. The report was triggered by the question whether East Indian Railway Company should be granted an extension of its lease… only recommendation of separate railway budget was implemented.”He further said, “All those countries that Acworth Committee mentioned no longer have separate railway budget. The second reason is that there is no constitutional or legal requirement for separate railway budget. Union Budget is a constitutional requirement.”If one is expecting the railways to function according to commercial principles then decisions should be left to railway board. The decision cannot and should not be left to Parliament.”The economist explained, “The railway budget is an avenue for populism with MPs demanding new trains and stops for existing ones. These decisions should be taken by railway board on a commercial basis. A lot of resources are wasted in the process of preparing it. A very complicated relationship between Finance Ministry and Railways has evolved. We should simplify it,” he added.

Compensation to passengers: Madras HC reverse orders of tribunal

Madurai:  The Madras High Court on Saturday ruled that the onus was on the railways to prove whether a person, who died after falling from a crowded train, was a bonafide passenger or not and reversed the orders of Railways Claims Tribunal refusing compensation to families of two such victims.

In a judgement reserved in the principal seat of the High Court in Chennai and delivered in the Madurai Bench, Justice T Raja held that “the onus is on the Railways (and not on the claimants for compensation) to prove that the deceased were not bona fide passengers of trains. Normally it was presumed that a passenger in a train held a valid ticket.”

Allowing two different appeals by a common order, the judge reversed the orders passed by Railway Claims Tribunal in September 2008 refusing compensation to families of two passengers who died while travelling in Electric Multiple Unit trains in Chennai in 2002 and 2006.

Representational image. Photo credit: Wiki commonsRepresentational image. Photo credit: Wiki commons

Representational image. Photo credit: Wiki commons

The judge directed the Southern Railways to pay a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each with interest to the claimants.

The judge held that the tribunal had erred in expecting the claimants to produce valid tickets.

The railways could not deny compensation to the family members on the ground that the passengers were not bonafide travellers and they were not able to produce tickets or any other travel authority to establish that the deceased were bonafide passengers of the train in question.

The tribunal had erred in expecting the claimants to produce valid tickets, the judge said, adding the Section 124A of the Railways Act, 1989, provided for paying compensation for any “untoward incident,” irrespective of the negligence on the part of the railways, subject to conditions that the deceased or injured purchased a valid ticket and it was not an instance of attempt to suicide or intoxication.

One case was filed by parents of T Jagan, who died after hitting an electric post while travelling in an overcrowded train on 10 April, 2006.

The second claim was filed by the wife and children of K Ekambaran, a construction worker, who died in a similar incident on 28 May, 2002.

Bullet trains will change the ecosystem of our country, says Suresh Prabhu

New Delhi: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday expressed concerns over rising demands and expectations of public and said that it was a “challenge” for him which he was ready to “fight”.

In an interview with news channel ETV, he said: “Money is not a problem for the railways now. The problem is to meet the growing demands and expectations of the public. The demands continue to increase as you provide facilities.”

He added: “For example, after an area is added to the rail network, they will demand a high-speed super-fast train and so on. These demands will keep increasing. It’s a challenge for the railways. We will work harder and we are ready to fight for it.”

Commenting about the flagship Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project, Prabhu said it would change the eco-system of the country.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. Reuters

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. Reuters

“Bullet train played an instrumental role in the development of China. It will change the eco-system of our country as well. Speed increases connectivity which leads to business generation,” he said.

Prabhu also said that private investment was necessary to improve rail infrastructure but can’t completely rely on them.

“Investment is required in the railways. We are open for private investment in sectors where they (private players) are keen. We are engaging with the private players in many areas such as redevelopment of the stations. But we can’t completely rely on them. If we do this, then the problems will increase,” the Railway Minister said.

He added that he was hopeful that by 2020 passengers would get confirmed tickets.

“We are trying our best to improve the passenger services in the railways. Considering the present situation, I hope that by 2020 passengers will get confirmed tickets. But this is very challenging since the dependency on railway is also increasing,” he added.

The minister also talked about ending corruption in the railways and restructuring the Railway Board to improve its functioning.

Railways start optional catering scheme in 2 trains on pilot basis for 45 days

The Indian Railways has started a scheme of optional catering in two trains on a pilot basis for 45 days beginning Thursday, Western Railway (WR) said.The two trains wherein the scheme is started are Mumbai Central Nizamuddin August Kranti Rajdhani Express and Pune Secunderabad Shatabdi Express, WR said in a statement on Thursday.”Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had announced on June 8 to undertake the scheme of optional catering in two trains – 12953/54 Mumbai Central Nizamuddin August Kranti Rajdhani Express and 12025/26 Pune Secunderabad Shatabdi Express on a pilot basis for a period of 45 days beginning today,” it added.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During the trial period, catering services will be included by default. However, passengers have to specifically ‘opt out’ from the mandatory food option, the release said.The exclusion of catering apportionment charges will reduce the fare of the ticket and a passenger will have to pay less.”This facility is available in all tickets such as tickets from PRS counters, e-ticketing portals of IRCTC and such tickets shall be issued with reduced fare,” it added.

Railways flag off Tiger Express, a tourist train to spread awareness about tiger conservation

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday flagged off IRCTC’s Tiger Express, a semi-luxury tourist train launched to spread awareness among people regarding tiger conservation, from Safdarjung station.Flagging off the train using a remote control from Mumbai, Prabhu said it has been launched to spread awareness about conservation of tigers.This is the first semi-luxury train on a tourist circuit having a dining car. The itinerary has a tariff structure starting from Rs 38,500, IRCTC said in a statement.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The package includes accommodation in air-conditioned rooms of three stars or equivalent ranked hotels for three nights, sightseeing, food, inter-city transfers and travel insurance, it said.Giving details of the itinerary, an IRCTC official said during the five-night-six-day trip the train would take passengers to Katni from where they will be taken Bandhavgarh by road for a safari.From there they will be taken to Kanha for another safari.The tourists will then be taken to famous Dhuadhar Falls in Bhedaghar, Jabalpur, before heading back to Delhi.”The Tiger Express is one of the most innovative tourist products launched by IRCTC. Its announcement was made by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in his budget speech,” said Dr A K Manocha, CMD, IRCTC.”We’ve planned monthly trips of the fully air-conditioned train October onward,” he added.The train has been launched on the World Environment Day with an aim to spread awareness among people on tiger conservation, the Railways said in a statement.Union minister Harshvardan and BJP national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi attended the function.”I congratulate railways for starting this train. Railways is attempting to make people realize the importance of tigers.And I am happy about the fact that the launch of this train was announced in the budget and I am happy that the train has been started right on time,” Harshvardhan said.

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