New Delhi: Given the task of reforming India Railways, Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu has directed all directorates in the ministry to send a five year vision document of what they plan do every year and also listing targets starting 2015.
The directorates engineering, traffic, mechanical, signals, finance and staff have been asked to send a detailed presentation of their five year target and how do they plan to achieve it. The minister will review the targets listed by the directorates and the concerned officials will be held accountable for not meeting the targets.
The need for having sectors wise targets for railways was felt as sometimes focus remain on specific sectors and that hampers overall development. These targets will be regularly monitored and updates will sought by the ministers’ office.
According to a senior railway ministry official, the minister is very specific about railways goal based approach to reform the state run transport.
“He (Prabhu) felt that all departments need to have their individual targets to meet and most of the directorates are in the process of preparing them while traffic and engineering have already sent it. We will assess them once we receive all and minister will give clearance to them,” said the official.
Prabhu has also launched an online monitoring portal ‘e-samiksha’ to monitor the progress of projects and budget announcements. It mainly focuses on budget review, board meetings, zonal railway review, infrastructure targets and project implementation review.
There are several other modules in the e-samiksha software, which can be used for coordination by respective Directorates, Zonal and Divisional level officials in Indian Railways. It is a real time, on-line system for monitoring of follow-up action on the decisions taken during the presentations made by different ministries to the Prime Minister.
The follow-up action in respect of each decision is to be updated by the concerned ministries as and when the status changes or at least every month. Prabhu had directed that software needs to be developed to enable online monitoring of Budget Implementation and Project monitoring.
Malout (MOT): Movement of nearly a dozen trains on Ganganagar-Bathinda section was affected on Friday after residents of this township staged a dharna at the railway station for halt of two trains – Ganganagar-Nanded Sahib and Bikaner-Sarai Rohila at Malout.
Hundreds of protesters, including traders, descended on the tracks at 10am and were still protesting at the time of filing of this report. A massive dharna forced the authorities to stop trains at Bathinda, Gidderbaha and Ganganagar railway stations. Malout residents have been on protest since April 13.
“We went on hunger strike from May 6 to 21 but it had no impact of the authorities so we decided to disrupt the rail traffic today,” said Rail Thahrao Sangharsh Committee convener Sukhdev Singh Gill. He claimed there was complete bandh in Malout as the residents want the two train to stop here.
While Ganganagar-Nanded train reaches here at 4.30pm, Bikaner-Sarai Rohila train’s arrival time is 5.15am. “As business activities of the traders here are linked to those in Delhi and Rajasthan, both these trains suit the business class. However, in the absence of stoppage at Malout, we have to go either to Bathinda or Abohar to board these trains,” said cloth merchant Prem Kumar.
Train passengers, though, were a harried lot. Naresh Kumar, who was among those stranded in Bathinda, claimed, “Hundreds of train passengers had to face a lot of hardship on this summer day due to the rail blockade. I had to reach Abohar for an urgent work but had to cancel the visit.”
Muktsar deputy commissioner Jaskiran Singh said, “I have forwarded their demand to the railway authorities and it is for railway authorities to take a decision in this regard.”
Ambala Divisional Railway Manager A K Kathpal said, “We have cancelled nearly a dozen trains for the day on Ganganagar-Bathinda section due to the protest held by Malout residents. The protesters need to take up the matter with the railway ministry and causing inconvenience to passengers is not the right thing to do.”
Mumbai: Container train operator Arshiya Rail has written to the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, seeking freight rate relaxation for moving finished steel products on rakes.
The Indian Railways does not permit container train operators to carry some heavy, bulk cargo as it considers such traffic its own turf, which it has managed to protect by increasing the haulage rates sharply for such commodities.
The letter comes ahead of a meeting that container train operators are slated to have with the Railways.
What Arshiya Rail is basically seeking is that container trains carrying steel products be allowed to bring empty rakes back to the steel plants free of Railway haulage charges.
Arshiya is undergoing debt restructuring and part of its debt was recently sold by its lenders to Edelweiss asset restructuring company.
Incidentally, the policy circular — rate circular 5 of 2011 — for which Arshiya is seeking relaxation was earlier taken up by the Association of Container Train Operators with the Railway Board. However, there has not been any favourable action yet.
After this circular, many container train operators said they were forced to change their mix of domestic and foreign traffic to retain margins.
At present, Arshiya’s container trains operate primarily in the East-South sector. It does not operate in the North-west export import sector, which offers relatively better margins. Industry sources say it is this traffic mix that is making it difficult for Arshiya to improve margins.
Dhaka: Bangladesh will start the operation of the Dhaka Metro rail project partially by the end of 2019 after soil testing comes to an end, according to project officials.
According to The Daily Star, the service, as planned, will be initially launched on a 10-kilometer stretch between Uttara and Agargaon.
The basic design has been submitted by the consortium of consultants and they are now working on the details.
The project is aimed at reducing the traffic congestion in the city through a comfortable and improved public transportation service.
Mofazzel Hossain, Director of Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project, said that the train will enable commuters to travel from Uttara to Motijheel in only 38 minutes as opposed to two hours on normal days.
DMRC asks the State to entrust the work on a turnkey basis and on deposit terms as a government initiative. Says JICA should be approached jointly for loans
Thiruvananthapuram (TVC): The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has informed the State that the government and the DMRC should jointly approach the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to fund the Light Metro projects in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.
The DMRC has also pointed out to the government the need to complete the formalities to facilitate the visit of an appraisal team from JICA without delay as the Japanese STEP (Special Terms for Economic Partnership) loan needs to be concluded in six months. The DMRC has given a seven-point “way forward” for the Rs.6728-crore project to Kerala Rapid Transit Corporation Ltd (KTCL), the Special Purpose Vehicle set up to execute the project, to expedite the kick-off of the Phase I MRTS in 35.12 km in the two cities.
The DMRC has also asked the government to suggest to the Department of Economic Affairs to avail STEP loan with relaxed conditions to fund the MRTS.
The Detailed Project Report (DPR), after getting the clearance of the Cabinet, should be forwarded to the Union government for “in principle approval”.
With JICA providing STEP loan, the State and Centre will have to meet only 10 per cent of the project cost plus the taxes and land cost. The State and Union governments’ share will then come down to Rs.569 crore as equity and Rs.350 crore as subordinate debt (taxes), totalling Rs.919 crore. The State will have to find an additional Rs.341 crore for land in the two cities. The State has been told that the work should be entrusted on a turnkey basis.
The DMRC has also suggested including flyovers at Sreekaryam, Ulloor, Pattom and Thampanoor junctions as part of the project. The total cost of the flyovers is estimated to be Rs.200 crore without land cost. The DMRC has pointed out that making the flyovers part of the Light Metro project will enable JICA funding for them too.
The agitation had begun at 6 pm on Thursday, affecting train traffic
Bharatpur (BTE): A total 70 trains have been affected – ten of them cancelled and the others diverted – on the busy route that connects Delhi and Mumbai, as hundreds of protesters sat overnight on rail tracks in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district to demand reservation in the state for Gujjars.
A railway statement listed the trains affected, among them Rajdhani trains between Delhi and Mumbai and also Shatabdis. It said the agitation had begun at 6 pm on Thursday, affecting train traffic.
On Thursday evening, the Gujjar Reservation Front of Rajasthan had called for a ‘mahapanchayat’ or big meeting in Samogar village of Bharatpur. About a 1000 protesters later trooped down to the rail tracks and sat there.
They have said that they will not budge till their demand for reservation in the state is met. The Rajasthan government says it cannot make any promises, with the matter in court.
“We are always open to discussion but this issue is now in court,” said Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
Gujjars have been demanding reservation since 2007. They were given 5 per cent reservation in a separate quota, but as that exceeded the 50 per cent quota mandated by the Supreme Court, the matter is now caught in a legal tangle and is being heard in the Rajasthan High Court.
In the past, the Gujjars have launched two violent agitations blocking railway tracks and roads in Rajasthan, throwing law and order out of gear.
Ahmedabad (ADI): Describing him as a “habitual offender”, the CID (Crime) — the agency which is investigating the alleged Rs 113-crore Ahmedabad Metro Rail scam — on Thursday said that the former IAS officer, Sanjay Gupta, has been booked in as many as 91 court cases lodged across the country.
Opposing his bail plea, the CID affidavit has also alleged that Gupta’s brother has threatened witnesses and the act has been audio-video recorded.
Gupta has move a special anti-corruption court seeking bail in connection with the multi-crore scam case. He is lodged in the Sabarmati Central Jail.
According to the CID affidavit, total of 91 cases have been lodged against Gupta in connection with alleged financial irregularities in Muzaffarnagar, Sangrur, Kaithal, Yamunanagar, Jaipur, Ambala, New Delhi, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, among other places, for cheating, breach of trust and cases of cheque returns.
The affidavit claims that “the accused is a habitual offender and various summons, warrants and notices have been issued against him by the courts”. Following the affidavit, Gupta’s lawyer I H Syed told the court that he would file a counter affidavit on Friday. According to the affidavit, Gupta opened firms in the name of his office boy, among other staffs. The CID has also produced statements of witnesses who were directly or indirectly associated with him.
The affidavit stated that Rajesh Mishra, one of the witnesses, was threatened by Gupta’s brother Arvind and the “act” has been audio-video recorded. There are three other employees of Gupta’s firm who have recorded evidence and produced before the police, the affidavit stated. Gupta was the chairman of the Metro-Link Express for Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad Company Ltd (MEGA) between 2011 and 2013. The CID has claimed that the scam happened between 2012 and 2013.
In 2013, Gupta had resigned from the post. He was arrested last Thursday and lodged in the jail. The CID investigation has allegedly revealed that Gupta as chairman of MEGA made a payment of Rs 147 crore for filling land (20 lakh cubic metre) to construct a casting yard and a depot at Bhat Koteshwar-Motera.
However, in reality, only 9.42 lakh cubic metre filling was done and remaining over 11 lakh cubic metre, whose filling cost is estimated to be around Rs 113 crore, has no record. A 1985-batch former IAS Gupta owns Neesa Group of hotels and resorts under the brand name of Cambay in various parts of the country.
Opposing the bail plea, the CID affidavit claims that it has traced money transaction of Gupta allegedly revealing how he siphoned off large amounts of money to his companies which are found to have been forged.
Thiruvananthapuram (TVC): In a meeting organized by Trivandrum development authority a month ago, principal adviser of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (DMRC) E Sreedharan explained how monorail project had turned out to be a failure. He said that there were only a few private players such as Scomi, Hyundai and Bombardier. Scomi was avoided due to faults in Mumbai metro. Hyundai was avoided so that they had to take tied up or STEP loans of JICA. Finally, Bombardier, the lone bidder, had quoted an exorbitant rate forcing government to scrap the project.
Just a month later, Sreedharan has urged government to seek the same Special Terms for Economic Partnership (STEP) of Japanese loans for light metro project. Sreedharan has informed the state government that the loans will be available at very cheap interest. However, experts in the field say that the interest of the loan may go above 9% due to fluctuations in foreign exchange rates and various other factors.
The Union government is discouraging tied up loans in infrastructure projects as it is against participation of companies from countries other than from the country of interest of financier. Even an Indian company can participate in the tender only if they have a joint venture with any Japanese technology provider.
The DMRC is pressurizing the government to approve the detailed project report of light metro, which has too many flaws pointed out by the finance department. The DMRC has informed the state that they could begin process for loan only after getting approval for DPR, a decision on which has been delayed since October last due to various flaws.
However, the project needs permission of department of economic affairs and it is a time consuming process. The state government has already announced its decision to approve the DPR and award the general consultancy to DMRC on nomination basis, against the recommendations of finance department.
JICA website specifies that Japanese technologies or equipment must be used for projects which utilize STEP loans. “This may not affect projects like JICA-assisted water supply projects, where Japanese companies do not have much role. But for mass rapid transit projects, the state will have to purchase Japanese goods or use the consultancy of Japanese firms without any open tender.
Sources said that though Sreedharan assured CM of JICA loans for light metro, the DMRC is also trying for French loans — loans from Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD). It is worth noticing that though JICA expressed interest in Kochi metro project, the Kochi Metro Rail Ltd finally accepted AFD.
The Union government and finance department has suggested Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode for the light metro project. However, the state government has decided not to use PPP mode due to objection from Sreedharan.
Sources said all these concerns will be part of the note to be put up by the works department before the cabinet next week.
Bangalore (SBC): City will soon be the centre for a first-of-its-kind shelter for retired Railway Police Force (RPF) dogs from across India. The South-Western Railways (SWR), Bengaluru Division, will drive the retirement programme and the shelter will come up on Railways property at KR Puram.
Sunanda Arul, Additional Divisional Railway Manager, SWR, Bengaluru Division said that the shelter will provide a dignified life to RPF dogs post retirement and that Bengaluru was chosen mainly because of its favourable weather. “The KR Puram shelter will accommodate 50 retired RPF canines from across the country. The project is currently in the planning stages and details will be finalised in a month’s time.”
The RPF’s dog-squad comprises of two breeds – Labradors (for sniffing and bomb detection) and Dobermans (used for chases and catching criminals). “They remain in service for 10 years, after which they are put to rest. Normally , they have a life span of 13-14 years,” said Arul.
These RPF dogs are entrusted with the duty of escorting passenger trains, providing security on platforms, passenger and circulating areas and protecting railway property. Around 50 dogs retire annually .
Currently , there are approximately 350 dogs in service across 70 RPF divisions across the country. The Bengaluru division has nine dogs of which two are Dobermans and the rest are Labradors.
The SWR will collaborate with doglovers, veterinary experts and city based welfare institutions like Compassionate Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA) and Karuna Animals Welfare Association (formerly SPCA Bangalore) to benchmark best living conditions and healthcare facilities. “We will have six staff members to attend to them at all times and have a Vet on call. The dogs will lead an active life and be vaccinated once a month,” the railway officer said.
Financial donations apart, SWR is also open for giving dogs away for adoption. “Currently, we have two trainers for one dog. To match up to those standards, adopters need to have considerable experience in taking care of pets,” Arul said.”These are well-groomed dogs that are not used to ready made, processed food.
So they have to be provided with home-cooked, non-vegetarian food at all times.” She added that at present, SWR has 12 dog-lovers on board, including former finance commissioner Vijaya Kanth. But they are still on the lookout for more support. “Every dog gets `5,000 aspension post-retirement, which we plan to use. That apart, we have also reached out to the Railway Board for more funds.”
Dr Shiela Rao, a veterinarian and trustee of CUPA, welcomed the initiative and hoped that it would lead the way for the police force to follow suit.
“Dogs tend to suffer from various old-age problems like arthritis, diabetes, skin and kidney diseases. RPF dogs are generally more sensitive to it given the rigorous nature of their duty ,” she told. “A free, open environment, access to healthy food and water and active socialisation with other dogs will do well for their longevity ,” Rao said.
New Delhi: India is in the best possible situation in the global market, says Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. Going ahead, he sees domestic demand in India growing. “India is poised in a favourable situation to take benefit of the global scenario,” he adds. Speaking at an Event – Modi Sarkar – Year One Dialogues, he says in the one-year since the Modi government took charge, “we have been working towards removing growth roadblocks.” He says Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for ‘Make in India’ is not just to make anything in India, but it is a call for make tomorrow’s India. According to him, China is slowing down due to overcapacity and over investment. Countries such as Japan, China and the US are today looking at markets like India to invest, he adds. Prabhu says it was not easy to change the perception of India as an investment destination. “When we took over, current account deficit (CAD) and fiscal deficit were big challenges,” he says. These factors led to foreign investors shying from investing in India. The government has managed to contain fiscal deficit at 4 percent of GDP for 2014-15 at Rs 5,01,880 crore. The revenue deficit has also been confined to 2.8 percent, beating the Budget target of 2.9 percent for the last fiscal. Speaking about the challenges ahead of the government, Prabhu says agriculture is a key challenge for the government. “Agriculture can never grow at a rate seen in sectors such as services,” he explains. However, he adds that the NDA government will ensure an integrated agriculture market.
New Delhi: There is a “bloodless coup” underway in the Indian Railways that’s altering the organization in fundamental ways but without the glare or the pain that a formally labelled restructuring exercise would entail, says Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
Responding to criticism that he has shied away from making largescale transformational changes in an organisation that has for long been defined by many as slothful, unwieldy and inefficient, Prabhu said he had chosen to be pragmatic rather than dramatic while at the same time seeking to achieve big results.
He told in an interview ahead of the Modi government’s first anniversary that he did not fancy fighting “1 lakh people” only to achieve something small for notching up a Harvard case study . “I am saying I want to do a bloodless coup without doing that,” he said, adding he preferred quiet reforms rather than big-bang ones that ran into a storm of protests. Prabhu, a banker-turned-professional politician who was picked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to run the railway ministry in November 2014, presented his maiden railway budget in February . Several experts said that while he brought in a technocrat’s focus to fix the organization’s many problems, he had proposed little by way of bold steps.
However, the railway minister said he was restructuring the Railway Board in his own way and these were fundamental and far-reaching. “From delegating powers from me to the Railway Board, to the GMs…Railway Board has already become an organization that will deal with policy by definition,” he said.
This is something that several railway committees had recommended but successive ministers never got down to implementing. Prabhu said he had even delegated his own administrative powers to Minister of State Manoj Sinha, leaving himself free to handle the big picture and oversee policy implementation. He also noted that the delegation of powers had ensured the corridors of Rail Bhavan were free of people trying to influence contracts and favours.
Granting more autonomy
Prabhu said he had already signed MoUs with two railway zones, “giving them autonomy and letting them function accordingly”. He added that he did not want to use labels such as `restructuring’ as “the word” will become controversial.
He said the process of creating a railway regulator had begun and economist Arvind Panagariya and others were working on it. “E-tendering has already started. We are creating a completely integrated IT platform that can be monitored on realtime basis. We have delegated powers. It is restructuring much more than you can imagine,” Prabhu said.
Seeking to quell the perception that the speed of reforms was slow, the minister said 36 out of 39 announcements made in the railway budget had been implemented.
Asked if funding for the railways, said to be one of the lynchpins in PM Modi’s plans to revive the economy, was a problem, Prabhu said it wasn’t and that there was more money available globally than what the organization could handle.
In addition to the Rs 1.5 lakh crore from LIC, Prabhu said the railways was exploring funding from multilateral agencies such as World Bank and Asian Development Bank, and through tax-free bonds.
Congress leader M. Mallikarjun Kharge garlanding the portrait of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the DCC Office in Kalaburagi to mark his 24th death anniversary
Kalburgi: The former Union Minister and Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha M. Mallikarjun Kharge launched a frontal attack on the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre for neglecting the railway projects sanctioned by the previous UPA government and withholding the funds for the irrigation projects approved by the previous government.
Addressing presspersons in Kalaburagi city on Thursday, Mr. Kharge said that the Union government had not cared to provide funds for these projects, including the Railway Division sanctioned at Kalaburagi, new rail coach building factories at Yadgir and Kolar, railway doubling and electrification works in the South Central and Central Railways, among others.
There was also no word on the new railway lines sanctioned by the previous government, such as the Wadi-Gadag line, he said.
The previous UPA government had approved the modernisation of the Narayanpur Left Bank Canal (NLBC) and the Upper Tunga projects. In the first year (2014), the State government had spent Rs. 1,964 crore in the NLBC modernisation programme and the Union government should have released Rs. 270 crore as its share, but had released only Rs. 70 crore. In the current year the Centre has to release Rs. 955 crore and so far nothing had been released.
He reiterated the demand for the Union government to run the ESIC Medical Education Complex in Kalaburgi city, and said that he and All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi had written to the Prime Minister on this topic. Besides this, a delegation of the party had also called on Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya on this issue.
Railway projects will be taken up: Joshi
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State president Pralhad Joshi said that the railway projects that were sanctioned by the previous UPA government would be taken up and completed, and there was no question of any project being shelved for any reason.
Mr.Joshi, answering questions from reporters at a press conference, said that issues such as the delay in taking up the projects sanctioned by the then Railway Minister M.Mallikarjun Kharge and the continued functioning of the ESIC Medical Education Complex in Kalaburagi city, would be soon taken up by the MPs from the State with the Minister concerned.
Mr.Joshi said that despite the fact that the projects were sanctioned at the fag end of the UPA rule with an eye on the parliamentary elections, the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre had not cancelled any project. He said the BJP MPs would soon meet Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, and request to speed up the work on establishing a Railway Division in Kalaburagi and attaching it with the South Western Railways.
New Delhi: Railways will opt for web-based bidding system for involvement of private players in upgrading of stations across the country.
“The existing stations were constructed almost a century ago and are congested now. Population have increased since then and we have to expand stations to provide better amenities,” Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said here today.
Prabhu said the entire process involving private participation in station redevelopment scheme will be transparent.
“We will soon come out with RFQ (request for quotation) for station development. We have identified six/seven stations for it and work will be taken up for two stations at first. It will be a web-based tendering system,” he said.
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that stations should provide airport like facilities, Prabhu said railway stations have more footfalls than airport.
“Whatever revenue we will earn through redevelopment it will be ploughed back for passenger amenities,” he said.
Asked why new trains were not announced in the Rail Budget this time, Prabhu maintained that he is not averse to launching new train but addition of more trains will choke the routes further.
New train should run but no new announcement, he said and added, “Our main trunk routes between Delhi and Mumbai and between Delhi and Kolkata are heavily congested. The Delhi-Kolkata route passes through Bihar and UP.”
Prabhu also mentioned the over-congestion in the Allahabad-Mughal Sarai section in Delhi-Kolkata route.
The route is already occupied by two times more than its capacity and even a small asset failure has huge effect on the route delaying several trains for hours, the minister said.
He said that the railways is currently reviewing the requirement to minimise the impact of asset failure.
“We have received requests from all our MPs about the new trains and the review process is on,” he said.
Prabhu also mentioned about the launching of customer portal service for registering complaints and suggestions.
“We have launched a customer portal where one can register complaints and give suggestion,” he said.
Asked on the possibilities of running bullet train in the country, Prabhu said there is a requirement for high speed train but time line cannot be given at this stage.
Feasibility studies are on for running bullet train on Mumbai-Ahmedabad and Delhi-Chennai routes. While Japan is involved in Mumbai-Ahmedabad section, China is doing it in the Delhi-Chennai route.
“We will take further step only after the feasibility reports are submitted,” he said.
However, Prabhu said efforts are on to increase the speed of Rajdhnai, Shatabdi and other Mail/Express trains.
Hoping that improvement in railways will be seen in the next ten years, Prabhu concluded his speech saying “do your best and forget the best.”
After introducing an app to buy suburban tickets, Southern Railway is planning to develop an app to enhance passenger security. It will be on the lines of the one developed by the Central Railway and Western Railway for suburban commuters in Mumbai. The public transport app called m-Indicator, aimed primarily at women, was launched in January. The move to develop an app comes after instructions from the Railway Board that all railway zones should develop apps for passengers to access services of Railway Protection Force (RPF). Currently, passengers use helplines. A senior railway official said, “We are trying to rope in a few private app developers. The idea is to improve upon the one available for commuters in Mumbai. Our requirements are different, so we need more features.” The commuter security feature of the app does not require internet to function. It sends out SMSes to RPF when a commuter presses a panic button and a call is connected automatically. RPF will be able to track the commuter and send a team for assistance. “There is no deadline set for completing it but we are trying to get it done in a few months. The app will take time to be developed as it needs customisation to suit the needs of Chennai commuters. These changes and improvements are being decided upon,” he added. More than 10 lakh commuters use suburban trains in Chennai.
New Delhi: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday said the much-hyped bullet train project needs more feasibility studies before the government decides on its implementation.
Speaking at New Delhi, the railway minister admitted that the bullet train will take more time. “Since it is going to be a new animal in India that requires a lot of feasibility studies before arriving at any concrete decision, the main focus is to improve current infrastructure including increasing the speed of exiting trains,” said the former Shiv Sena leader, who joined the BJP a day before he was sworn in as the rail minister on November 9, 2015.
Prabhu was confronted by former Rail Minister Lalu Yadav, who dismissed the project, calling it impossible. “It won’t be possible to roll bullet trains out in India as it needs massive investment on infrastructure,” Lalu said.
Bringing the bullet train in India was one of the electoral issues in last Lok Sabha polls. In his interim Rail Budget presented by former Rail Minister Sadananda Gowda, a Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train was planned. Gowda had proposed Rs.100 crore for the infrastructure development for the high-profile project.
Gurjar community people agitating to demand reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for their community. “We want five per cent reservation under the legal limit of 50 per cent. The governments have been cheating us for the last several years. We are presently getting only one per cent and we want four per cent more,” Gujjar leader Kirori Bainsla said
Bharatpur (BTE): The Gujjar community, led by Kirori Singh Bainsla, intensified its agitation demanding five per cent reservation in government jobs on Thursday, with hundreds of community members blocking and damaging the railway track connecting Delhi and Mumbai.
Rajashthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said that there is “no point blocking rail tracks, we’re ready to talk”
“The protesters have damaged parts of the railway track by removing the fishplates,” said Bharatpur collector Ravi Jain.
At the time of writing this report, several trains were in the process of being diverted to alternate routes, with the Gujjars blocking the tracks at Pilupura village in Bharatpur, about 235 km from here.
Four trains running on the Delhi-Mumbai route had to be diverted, including Avadh Express, Patna Express, Mewar Super Fast Express and Ziyarat Express.
Besides, at least nine trains were affected owing to the blockade. These include: Pashchim Express (Amritsar-Bandra), Awadh Express (Bandra-Gorakhpur), Janata Express (Firozpur-Bandra), Azimabad Express (Patna-Ahmedabad), Kota-Patna Express, Kalka-Bandra Express, Ratlam-Mathura Passenger, Mathura-Sawaimadhopur Passenger, Bayana-Mathura passenger.
This was the same stretch that the community had blocked in 2008 during the previous term of chief minister Vasundhara Raje, and later in 2010 under the Congress government led by Ashok Gehlot.
“We are still waiting for the government representative to reach out to us. No one has talked to us yet,’ Bainsla told.
The law and order situation was under control and no untoward incident had taken place, Bharatpur SP Rahul Prakash said.
“About 500-700 Gujjars have reached Pilupura and are blocking tracks,” he said.
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said the government was ready for talks with the community leaders.
“What is the point of blocking railway tracks without even talking to the government. We are always ready for talks. We believe in taking all 36 kaums (communities) together and want to protect the interests of everyone,” Raje said here.
Bainsla had launched a “Nyay Yatra” (Justice March) on 11th May, which concluded in Bharatpur’s Bayana earlier this morning. On Thursday, a caste mahapanchayat was convened to decide over the future course of the agitation. Later in the evening, Bainsla led community members to Pilupura, after claiming the government did not reach out to him for talks.
Since 2007, when the Gujjar community started its agitation from Patoli in Dausa, about 72 people have lost their lives owing to police action.
The agitation, which began with the demand of Scheduled Tribe status for the community, was revived again in 2008 and then in 2010.
The Gujjars have since been demanding five percent reservation in the Special Backward Classes category, within the 50 percent reservation limit. The matter is sub judice at the Rajasthan High Court.
Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot is also a Gurjar, which gives a further boost to the community. The Gurjars feel they have been wronged by the denial of the Scheduled Tribe status because of another caste, the Meenas, opposing it.
Gurjars allege that most of the schemes meant for the weaker OBCs has been cornered by the influential Jat community, forcing them to demand a special category within the OBC list.
Ticketing arm of Indian Railway IRCTC doesn’t seem to leave any opportunity to capitalise its reach and traction. After partnering with Amazon and Paytm, the government-owned ticketing portal has partnered with mydala to provide deals and offers to customers.
The partnership will give travelers access to the best deals and offers while booking their tickets.
Partnership looks to be a better proposition for both parties. While mydala will have access to IRCTC’s two crore registered users and opportunity to lure 1.2 million daily visitors with deals, IRCTC gets an additional revenue channel.
This partnership is an IRCTC’s move to deliver significant improvement in customer experience. Importantly, this is the third partnership in a row this year by IRCTC. Earlier it partnered with Paytm for train ticket booking through latter’s wallet and Amazon to power IRCTC’s online retail market.
IRCTC has also launched COD from this January.
Speaking at the launch, Anisha Singh, Co-Founder and CEO, mydala, said,
Consumers who visit IRCTC’s portal are usually looking at managing their train journey as well. We have the maximum reach in Tier 2 and 3 cities, with a presence in 196 cities and our network will provide users with the option to do much more – get restaurant deals and lots more and get savings on the same.
Established in 2009, mydala offers customized and cost-effective solutions to advertisers/merchants to reach their target audience through attractive offers and promotional campaigns. The company has four million transacting customers monthly and enables over $50 million of retail every month.
“This tie-up will give millions of our travellers and customers the benefit of not just booking their tickets but also plan their onward journey. It’s another step towards IRCTC’s commitment to its customer’s satisfaction,” said A.K. Manocha, Chairman and MD, IRCTC.
With increasing online shopping in the country and e-commerce players looking to scale faster, IRCTC sees tremendous opportunity to monetize its mammoth registered user base and 1.2 million daily visitors. Moreover, e-commerce companies see IRCTC as a mass marketing platform to showcase their offerings.
Based on industry sources, Amazon had shelled out significant amount to win bid for IRCTC’s online retail initiative. According to reports, Flipkart and Snapdeal have also shown interest in the deal. While the details of IRCTC-mydala alliance aren’t disclosed, it seems to be on the lines of Amazon deal where IRCTC will have commission on every transaction along with the base bidding price.
Mumbai: In a major embarrassment to Central Railway, a power transmission tower, limited space, a narrow tunnel and low-lying bridges have yet again stopped the historic conversion of the trains from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC).
This was to have taken place on Saturday night, but did not only because the commissioner of railway safety was not informed.
CR officials had decided to switch over to AC from the obsolete DC technology on Saturday night. They had issued formal notifications in newspapers and had starting working on the plans. However, at the last minute the commissioner of railway safety said he wants to conduct an inspection along the stretch.
The railway board had issued a permission letter for the conversion but said CR had to be careful at four locations.
Commissioner of railway safety Chetan Bakshi said he had not been informed by CR of the conversion dates. “Now, I will be inspecting the stretch where the conversion is to take place as scheduled,” he said.
The 9th World Congress on High Speed Rail “UIC HIGHSPEED 2015″ will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all professionals worldwide to review the past half century and to envision the next half century
Paris: UIC alongwith East Japan Railway Company is co-organising 9th World Congress on High Speed Rail “UIC HIGHSPEED 2015”. It is the largest international congress and exhibition devoted to High Speed Rail in the world, which has been initiated by UIC and gathered 1,000 to 2,000 professionals once every few years since 1992, will finally come back to the birth place of High Speed Rail, Japan.
The Congress is being coordinated by East Japan Railway Company in collaboration with all parties involved in high speed rail in Japan, and more generally with all UIC member railways. This is the world’s most important meeting for high-speed rail, and is expected to attract more than 1,000 attendees from across the globe to exchange views on the development and achievements of high-speed rail worldwide. The World Congress will feature international rail experts on transportation policy and technology. It will bring the public and private sectors together to provide insight and identify best practices for implementing high-speed rail projects at every stage – from planning, financing, and construction, to operations and management. Also, the Congress will feature an exhibit showcasing high-speed rail products and services.
This edition of UIC HIGHSPEED Congress 2015 in Tokyo will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all High Speed Rail professionals including decision makers, authorities, railway industry, railway undertakings, infrastructure managers, research institutes, universities and others to review the past half century and to envision the next half century of high speed train operations worldwide.
Congress overview and 50-50 concept
The 9th UIC HIGHSPEED World Congress in Tokyo will coincide with the 50th anniversary of high speed train operations worldwide. Indeed, since 1964, many different countries and regions worldwide have opened and developed their own high speed system. 15 billion passengers have travelled at global level – twice the world’s population – for the past half century. Nowadays there are nearly 23,000 km of dedicated high speed lines operating in the world. In 20 years, this figure will double.
The Congress will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all professionals worldwide to review the past half century and to envision the next half century. Therefore, unlike past congresses, the 9th UIC HIGHSPEED Congress will embrace the “50-50 concept” which will create a temporal dynamism throughout the congress. That is, the first half of the congress will focus on challenges already raised and the lessons drawn from experience over the past 50 years, and the last half will focus on the new challenges to face and the opportunities to take over the next 50 years.
In addition to the above-mentioned temporal “50-50 concept”, the congress will embrace the concept of the topics to be presented and discussed. That is, half of the topics will focus on political, managerial and administrative issues, and the other half will focus on technological issues, because both are essential to review and envision High Speed Rail. Therefore the congress will have and revolve around the 5 parallel sessions with the 5 streams:
Infrastructure and other fixed installations
Culture and Society.
The 9th UIC HIGHSPEED World Congress will reflect the temporal and topical 50-50 concept on its programme and will be structured:
Trade exhibition to illustrate the latest development of products and services in the field of High Speed. The exhibition will be held in the same resort as the congress sessions.
Technical visits with 8 courses including rides on Shinkansen trains running at a maximum speed of 320km/h and varieties of Shinkansen related facilities.
This UIC HIGHSPEED 2015 World Congress will be held at Tokyo International Forum, located in the middle of the Marunouchi business district, between Tokyo Station and Yùrakuchò Station.
The UIC (Union internationale des chemins de fer) or International Union of Railways, is an international rail transport industry body. The UIC’s mission is “to promote rail transport at world level and meet the challenges of mobility and sustainable development. As on date there are 202 members in the UIC across all 5 continents with 78 active members (including the railways from Europe, Russia, the Middle East, North Africa, South Africa, India, Pakistan, China, Japan, Korea, Kazakhstan, and companies operating worldwide such as Veolia Transport), 51 associate members (including railways from Asia, Africa, America and Australia), 72 affiliate members (related or ancillary rail transport businesses or services).
Ahmedabad (ADI): Sanjay Gupta, the jailed ex-IAS officer and former Executive Chairman of Metrolink Express for Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad’ (MEGA), today sought bail in the Rs 113-crore metro rail scam.
In the application before Additional Sessions Judge N G Dave, Gupta said he had been wrongly implicated in the case.
Since the case was based on documentary evidence, there was no need to keep him in jail, said the application. His former aide and MEGA project’s former Construction Manager Radhesh Bhatt too has sought bail.
CID, which is probing the scam, opposed the bail pleas.
The affidavit, filed by the investigating officer DSP S G Parmar, said Gupta had tried to influence the witnesses and tamper with the evidence and CID had audio and video evidence of this.
Further hearing on the bail applications would take place tomorrow.
CID arrested Gupta and Bhatt on May 14, alleging that financial irregularities to the tune of Rs 113 crore took place during their tenures in MEGA in 2012.
Gupta quit IAS in 2003 to start his own business. He owns Neesa Group which runs hotels. He was appointed Executive Chairman of Metro project in 2011 and resigned in August 2013.
CID has alleged that Gupta and seven of his subordinates siphoned off Rs 113 crore by presenting forged bills and bogus documents related to ground filling work carried out near Bhat village for Metro project in 2012.
Gupta also allegedly floated several bogus firms by appointing Neesa Group employees as directors and showed these firms as material suppliers. He paid Rs 11.12 crore to seven such companies and the money eventually went to his own accounts, CID says. It has also alleged that Gupta accepted Rs 60 crore as commission from other suppliers.
Secunderabad (SC): Anti-Terrorism Day was observed by South Central Railway today ie., 21st May, 2015 at its Zonal and Divisional Headquarters. At Rail Nilayam, Secunderabad, the Zonal Headquarters of SCR, Shri Umesh Singh, Additional General Manager, SCR administered the “Anti-Terrorism Day Pledge” to the officers and staff. The pledge reads as follows:-
“We the people of India, having abiding faith in our country’s tradition of non-violence and tolerance, hereby solemnly affirm to oppose with our strength, all forms of terrorism and violence. We pledge to uphold and promote peace, social harmony and understanding among all fellow human beings and fight the forces of disruption threatening human lives and values”.
Shri Umesh Singh, AGM South Central Railway seen administering Anti Terrorism Day pledge to railway staff
Noida: The financial bid for the 28.8-km Noida-Greater Noida Metro link was finalized on Wednesday by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
The tender, which had been divided into three parts, has been awarded to a consortium of Taiwanese and Indian companies working with a Spanish consultant. The joint venture consisting of Continental Engineering Corporation and Ayesa Engineering, will undertake the construction of the track work for about Rs 1,500 crore, about 15% less than the estimated cost of Rs 1,735 crore. Work on the ground for the track is now expected to begin by June 15.
For Greater Noida this will be the first Metro link providing connectivity between the two cities and Delhi. “The route will prove to be a milestone in the future development of not only the twin cities but the entire state of UP,” said Rama Raman, chairperson and CEO, Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway Authorities. “The Metro will boost urbanization, generate employment and provide a surge to economic activity,” he said.
According to DMRC officials, the contract with the consortium involves designing and construction of elevated viaduct and 22 elevated stations. The work is to be completed within 24 months. The technical bids for the track were finalized in March this year. Thirty companies had put in their bids for the mega project. The construction of the route has been divided into three parts and ten bids had been received for the each of the three parts. However, the lowest bidder was awarded the contract.
According to DMRC, all tenders related to civil works for the track have already been awarded. All other tenders related to electrical work, signalling and telecommunication, commissioning of overhead equipment, modification and shifting of EHT transmission lines infringing the Noida-Greater Noida corridor at various locations, will soon be finalized.
By June 15 all tenders will be cleared even as civil work should start in the next fortnight, officials said. With the Metro link on track, work on the route, which is estimated to cost Rs 5,526 crore, is expected to be completed by December 2017.
With the financial bids finalized, the Noida Metro Rail Company (NMRC) also held a review meeting of the sanctioned route on Wednesday. Convened by Raman, the meeting undertook an assessment of the route with different departments and officials of the Noida and Greater Noida Authorities in attendance.
Issues related to transfer of land falling in the route alignment, shifting and relocating trees, providing recycled water supply at the depot and stabling yard, realignment of electrical supply lines and provisions for traffic diversions once the Metro pillars are put in place and providing for last-mile connectivity, were discussed.
Raman directed officials to clear all roadblocks still in the way of the track, without delay.
DMRC officials further said that they have proposed to make large-scale utilization of solar energy along the track. The stations along the route will be green and environment friendly. The depot will also be equipped with solar panels, said officials.
NMRC has already approved the design of the Metro coaches and stations. The Noida-Greater Noida Metro will also support Platform Screen Door technology. This ‘cutting-edge’ safety feature consists of transparent doors that separate rail tracks from platforms. Train doors and platform doors are aligned and open simultaneously after the train has stopped preventing accidents. The Metro will also be equipped with an Automated Fare Collection system, officials said.
Gurgaon (GGN): A committee has suggested that the stretch of the proposed Rapid Rail Transit System (RRTS) corridor in Gurgaon be made underground as well to ensure timely completion and avert litigation over land acquisition.
The committee constituted to decide on the alignment of the Delhi-Gurgaon-Rewari-Alwar RRTS said on Wednesday that the stretch from IFFCO chowk in Gurgaon also be made underground.
The proposed 180-km rail network, a central government project, aims to connect Delhi to Alwar via Gurgaon and Rewari. According to the original plan, the first 38km of the corridor from Kashmere Gate in Delhi to IFFCO Chowk would be underground, and the speed with which the train would ply here is about 100km per hour. The remaining length of the corridor after IFFCO Chowk was planned to be via tracks on the ground level after which trains would shuttle to their destination at 160kmph.
However, the development of the RRTS corridor after IFFCO Chowk would involve major land acquisition, for which a meeting was called under the chairmanship of the HUDA administrator Anita Yadav to discuss the alignment of the corridor from IFFCO Chowk towards Kherki Daula. According to Yadav, land has to be acquired in Mohammadpur Jharsa, Narsinghpur and Kherki Daula, apart from a 22-metre-wide strip of land for the ‘right of way’ for the RRTS project.
She said that a survey conducted in 2011 by Urban Mass Transit Company Limited said 41 structures were falling within these portions of land to be acquired for alignment.
” In view of these issues, the committee is of the view that even the remaining portion of the corridor in Gurgaon also be made underground so that timely completion of the project is ensured and any litigations in the acquisition process can be avoided,” she said.
The meeting on Wednesday by the committee to explore the cost and possibility of acquisition of structures for the RRTS project included Senior Town Planner VK Goel, District Town Planner Sanjay Kumar, HUDA Superintendent Engineers A K Gutpa and A K Maken, Naib Tehsildar for the Land Acquisition Officer Mahavir Singh apart from HUDA Administrator Anita Yadav who chaired the meeting.
New Delhi: The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) on Wednesday signed an agreement with the RailTel Corporation of India for starting wifi Internet services at some select stations on its network.
Five stations of the Delhi Metro system have been identified for these service initially.
“The stations are Rajiv Chowk, Kashmere Gate, Vishwavidyalaya, Central Secretariat and Hauz Khas,” a senior official of the DMRC said.
“As per the Memorandum of Understanding, the installation of the equipment is expected to be completed within the next seven months,” he said.
RailTel shall conduct the necessary surveys, install equipment and carry out maintenance of the installed infrastructure.
Asked if it will be a free or paid service, the official said, “Those modalities will be worked out once the infrastructure is in place.”
The facility would be available at these stations only and not inside the trains.
“Later trains may be included.” The agreement was signed at the Metro Bhawan in the presence of DMRC’s Managing Director Mangu Singh and RailTel Corporation of India’s Chairman and Managing Director R K Bahuguna.
“DMRC is exploring the possibilities of introducing wifi-based Internet facilities at its metro stations as well as trains. This MoU is the first step towards that direction,” the official said.
Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Mong Koo Chung meets India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi
New Delhi: Hyundai Motor Group’s Chairman Mong-Koo Chung met with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to exchange ideas on Korea-India’s auto industry’s cooperation and mutual development. This was stated in a press release issued by Hyundai Motor India. The company has expressed its desire to expand its business into sectors like construction and railways in India. The Group, at present, is the largest exporter of cars from India. Hyundai Motor Group started its railway business in India with Hyundai Rotem securing its first order in 2001. In the construction business alone, the company has successfully secured business in bridges, harbours and power plants.
Chairman Chung mentioned, “Hyundai Motor’s Chennai plant is a symbol of Korea-India economic cooperation and I thank the Indian government for its support in Hyundai Motor’s growth in the Indian Market.”
Chairman Chung commented “I hope in the future Hyundai Motor Group will be able to continue its cooperation with India in other areas such as construction and railway to play a more meaningful role in Korea-India’s mutual economic development.”
Modi replied “It is a great pleasure to meet with Chairman Chung. Hyundai Motor plays a key role in India’s auto industry. India will actively seek possible ways to continue its cooperation with Hyundai Motor. I hope Hyundai Motor will become a leading global company through its success in India.”
Hyundai Motor, in its first year in the market, ranked second among the car brands in India. It continued to launch strategic models specifically targeting India and now leads the market by selling 400,000 vehicles annually.
The Indian plant can currently produce up to 650,000 units operating on three shifts and improving the UPH (unit per hour) within its two plants.
Hyundai Motor Group started its railway business in India with Hyundai Rotem securing its first order in 2001. By securing subsequent orders such as Bangalore and Hyderabad metro deals, Hyundai Motor Group has the largest market share in India’s EMU market.
In the construction business alone, Hyundai Motor Group has successfully secured business in bridges, harbors, and power plants. Hyundai Motor Group is aiming to expand its business as the Indian government is actively investing in infrastructure projects.
In the auto component business, Hyundai Motor is helping its business partners in its expansion into the Indian market. Currently, 71 component suppliers including 42 tier I suppliers have expanded into the Indian market along with the Hyundai Motor and continuing its growth in the market.
As the auto industry output continues to increase Hyundai Motor will support its component suppliers to attain business with other global auto companies in India, the release added.
Mysore (MYS): The Mysore Division of the South Western Railway has proposed important passenger amenity works during 2015-16 including provision of platform shelters, facilities for differently-abled persons and new retiring rooms at different stations.
Besides, the first phase of the subway connecting platform number 1 with platform 2 and 3 at Mysuru station is expected to be completed by the end of the current year, while new ATMs will be installed at Mysuru and Hassan stations.
The Divisional Railway Manager Rajkumar Lal told presspersons here on Friday that platform shelters have been proposed for 18 stations across the Mysuru division during the current year and it is expected to cost Rs. 1.19 crore.
Seating arrangements at Mysuru station are being improved at a cost of Rs. 52 lakh.
Extension of platforms at 30 stations and this is expected to cost Rs. 1.62 crore, said Mr. Lal.
In view of the growing passenger rush and to clear summer rush, the authorities have sought augmentation of Basava Express to Bagalkot and Gol Gumbaz Express to Solapur, Hampi Express to Hubballi and Tirupathi Fast Passenger trains.
In a bid to streamline queue system and reduce congestion at the current booking counter, Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATMVs) will be installed at nine stations in the division. Mr. Lal admitted that the project was delayed but pointed out that the earlier tenders had to be cancelled after which fresh tenders were invited. The ATMVs would be in place by the end of June, he said. Senior Divisional Commercial Manager Anil Kumar was present.
New Delhi: Under fire from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for trains running late, the Indian Railways in the last one month improved train punctuality from 72 per cent to 78 per cent and as a result saved 17,000 precious minutes of passengers.
The Prime Minister had in March sought explanation from Railways over late running of trains after several MPs complained about it. The Railways have been receiving daily report – a first for the railways – from all 16 zonal railways about punctuality of trains.
The latest punctuality analysis of over 7,000 passenger trains by traffic directorate shows that it improved from 72 per cent to 78 per cent in last one month and saved 17,000 minutes in terms of time.
It was found that North Central Railway (Allahabad) performed worst with 40 per cent punctuality against the benchmark of over 80 per cent. Northern Railways (New Delhi) and East Central Railway (Hajipur) also top the list of biggest defaulters with punctuality below 60 per cent.
Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha, who has been personally keeping a tab on the punctuality figures, said that punctuality of trains is a key focus area and all zones have been given targets to improve punctuality percentage.
“We have issued orders to Allahabad zone to improve their punctuality by 10 per cent, keeping in mind the constraints and congestion on the route connecting Bihar, NorthEast and West Bengal. We are keeping everyday information about punctuality of trains and it will improve further in days to come,” Sinha told.
The Railways has also found that there are cases of incorrect reporting of train timings which are being done by manually feeding wrong information about the movement of trains in the Central Coaching Operations Information System. But now a system has been put in place that train delayed over 30 minutes would automatically get registered in the system and none can fudge the punctuality figures.
The minister said that it has also been decided to change the timetable of trains which have been running late for over six hours on a regular basis for the last two years. The timetable would now show the delayed timing for the convenience of passenger.
Matter of Time
■ Punctuality of trains improved from 72 to 78 per cent in last one month and saved 17,000 minutes in terms of times
■ North Central Railway (Allahabad) performed worst with 40 pc punctuality
■ Northern Railways (New Delhi) and East Central Railway (Hajipur) have punctuality below 60 per cent
While discussing one year of the Modi government, senior minister Suresh Prabhu has admitted to a news channel that the backlash to the land reforms was the result of poor public communication of the benefits of the new rules to acquire farmland. “I agree that wrong communication has created misconceptions. We are now telling the people and our perception is going. Our bill is pro-farmer,” said Mr Prabhu, who is Railways Minister.
He rebutted criticism that the government’s focus on introducing bullet trains is a misplaced priority given the vast state of disrepair and inefficiency in the world’s fourth-largest rail network.
“We can do both. Just because I love my mother doesn’t mean I am not loving my wife,” said Mr Prabhu in a unique analogy.
The government’s new rules for how businesses can buy land have led to it being tagged by Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi as ‘a suit boot ki sarkar (government for the elite).’ “I don’t know what it means,” said Mr Prabhu. “(The) opposition doesn’t want us to wear shoes. Now they want to decide the dress code for the country and do moral policing,” he joked.
The land bill, seen as the centerpiece of the government’s economic reform agenda, has been sent to a parliamentary committee for review after a united opposition blocked it from being brought to the Rajya Sabha or Upper House where the government is in a minority.
While assessing the government’s first year in office, Mr Prabhu said reports of the Prime Minister’s Office being over-centralised are incorrect. “PM Modi is not domineering. He is available for consultation for everyone and he is a tall leader who overawes,” said Mr Prabhu.
Raises questions over most of the recommendations made by NITI Aayog in a scathing 32-page letter
New Delhi: The Bibek Debroy committee’s report on ways to restructure and modernise Indian Railways has come in for severe criticism from the workers union – National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) – that represents majority of the 13 lakh railway employees.
In a scathing 32-page letter to Debroy, the federation has trashed most of the recommendations made by the NITI Aayog member including introduction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and private partnership in operations, formation of a regulatory authority and revamping the railway board through its bifurcation.
NFIR has alleged Debroy did not examine the actions of successive governments in starving the railways of investments and deliberately withholding passenger fare hikes through a decade.
“For instance, when fares were raised and withdrawn during one railway budget, the loss was around Rs 7,000 crore. The organisation is not responsible for the investment starved situation,” the union said.
According to NFIR, it is not desirable to experiment with FDI and private players in infrastructure without building massive railway infrastructure first. It argues political compulsions and commitments are responsible for slowing down of the railway network and train speeds and not railway workforce.
“In its euphoria to provide a new roadmap for the Railways, with private players pitching in, perhaps the committee has failed to go deep into these initiatives on the European railways, whose tariffs soared, and most of the rail systems such as the one in Britain still provide huge subsidies to infrastructure companies, which remain state-owned,” the letter said.
The workers union also invoked British author and railway historian Christian Wolmar to highlight the failed privatisation experiment in British railways which has been recommended by Debroy. Wolmar had stated that “privatisation and fragmentation had created a dysfunctional (British) railways as it was undertaken for ideological and financial reasons with little consideration of passengers.”
Interestingly, the union has also claimed that either the inputs for the Debroy panel were hurriedly taken from the railway board or sufficient time was not spent in understanding what was supplied.
“For instance, a table at Page 66 of Debroy report wrongly shows Parbhani as another division under South Central Railway whereas it has only 6 divisions-Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Guntur, Guntakal and Nanded,” NFIR contended.
Trashing Debroy’s argument in favour of increasing competition by introduction of new players, NFIR argued his report has ignored how, thanks to massive gauge conversion exercise since 1990s, Indian Railways has managed to successfully increase freight volumes without substantial increase in route Kilometer.
“There are certain elements of discord and inconsistency within the report. For instance, it is stated the Committee does not recommend privatisation of IR except in very specific non-core segments and goes on to state that privatisation is to be implemented as liberalisation while deliberating on rationalising production of rolling stock, which is essentially a core segment of IR. This is basically the irony of the entire report,” NFIR said in its letter.
The union has also cautioned against the negative impact of introducing PPP at a time when projects worth Rs 1.86 lakh crore to be implemented under the mode are virtually stalled.
“Restructuring cannot be an exercise which can be subjected to such a disastrously confused perspective of connecting the current state of matters with what can be actually and effectively desired for the future,” the letter stated.
Criticising the Debroy panel for failing to understand the real reason for a regulatory body, NFIR has argued “the necessity is perhaps of not a ‘Regulatory’ mechanism but of an automatically processed routing-and-rating system in-built within the IR. Similarly, if Pension liability is ‘unbundled’ from IR’s liability, staff costs would sound almost menial.”
The union has said Debroy panel missed the crux of the issue – unlike many other railways in the world, Indian Railways has not had a connection between the volume of freight carried on a line and the freight rate fixed for that line.
The letter also states that panel has wrongly concluded that Indian Railways is to be freed from certain activities in order to concentrate on core business. It asks the committee to appreciate that self-sufficiency is essential in production and maintenance of locomotives and coaches and entrusting railways’ activities to outside agencies would dilute quality of service.
Railway workers union says
Debroy did not examine the actions of successive governments in starving the railways of investments and blamed workforce for problems
It is not desirable to experiment with FDI and private players in infrastructure without building massive railway infrastructure first
In euphoria for roadmap, Debroy ignored the shortcomings of European railways including the failed privatization model of British Railways
A table in Debroy report wrongly considers Parbhani as a Division under South-Central Railway while it is actually not, indicating the inputs were taken by the panel hurriedly from the railway board
Restructuring cannot be an exercise subjected to such a “disastrously confused perspective” of connecting the current state of affairs with what is desired for the future
Nagpur: The district administration has started acquiring land for metro rail project. So far 10 notices have been sent to the owners.
New district collector Sachin Kurve said that three notices were sent on Wednesday. “All of them are government agencies. Two have responded saying that they wanted alternate land. Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) too wants another piece of land for its 9,400 square meter land in Sitabuldi,” he added.
The alternate land for State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) firing range has been identified at Bid Borgaon (taluka Hingna). The proposal has already been sent to the government.
The land to be acquired lies in Dhantoli and Sitabuldi mouzas, except the one in Nildoh required for metro rail depot. The owners of the land include revenue department, MSEDCL, New English High School Association, Central Jail Press, Patwardhan High School, Police Department and Morris College.
Kurve also informed the media that he would start a system wherein the persons who have applied for a government certificate will get updates on their mobile phones through SMSes.
Patna (PNBE): Chief minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday approved the draft detailed project report on the Patna Metro rail.
A corresponding proposal would now be sent to the state cabinet for approval.
The officials of Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) took the decision during the presentation on the draft DPR before the chief minister.
Nitish also instructed the RITES officials to conduct survey of two more routes in the Metro rail network – Danapur to Gandhi Maidan and Gandhi Maidan to Patna City – in the second phase of the project.
The draft DPR approved today talks about two corridors in the first phase of the Metro project covering a total distance of 31km. The first one would be an east-west corridor, which would run from Mithapur bus stand to Saguna Mor via Bailey Road and Patna Junction, covering a distance of 14.5km. The second selected corridor is a north-south corridor, which would run from Patna Junction to the proposed bus stand at Bairiya on Patna-Gaya Road via Ashok Rajpath, Gandhi Maidan and Rajendra Nagar Terminal, covering a total distance of 16.5km.
“The DPR on Metro rail project would now be sent to the cabinet for a nod. Upon approval from the cabinet, it would be sent to the central government for seeking its approval as the project is proposed to be executed in government-funded mode,” said a senior official present in the meeting.
The official added that the cabinet’s nod would also be sought for formation of a special purpose vehicle, to be named Patna Metro Rail Corporation, which would look after execution of the project.
Sources said the central and the state governments would contribute towards the project. Besides, the state government would also approach international funding agencies such as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) or Asian Development Bank (ADB) for seeking soft loans.
Prospective investors have turned down the public-private partnership mode of execution of the project. During a global investors’ meet held in Patna on the Metro on January 28, most of the 40 firms had turned the PPP mode of execution of the project.
Among the notable firms present in the meet were Reliance Infrastructure Limited and Tata Reality and Infrastructure Limited, who can make financial contribution to the project. Most other firms were either technical consultants or infrastructure developers, who do not make financial contribution to the project cost.
Mumbai: Residents commuting from Jogeshwari (West) to (East) or vice-versa can soon expect some relief from traffic congestion during the peak hours.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is planning to construct a 400-metre skywalk near the crowded Jogeshwari railway station. The skywalk proposed to be built with elevators is estimated to cost Rs 9.5 crore and will be completed in a span of 18 months, including the monsoons, officials confirmed.
According to officials, the elevators will motivate people to use the skywalk which are otherwise rarely used in many parts of the city. S O Kori, Chief Engineer of the Bridges Department said, “We have invited bids for the project and are expecting to initiate it immediately after the monsoon. We want to complete all the formalities in this time period.”
According to official estimate, over 2,000 people are present at the suburban railway station during peak hours in the day. Currently, the only means of going from east to west or vice-versa is the level-crossing. The skywalk is expected to extend from the Ismail Yusuf college in the eastern side of the suburb to Malkambaug, a Parsi colony, on the western side.
Another civic official from the bridges department said, “The skywalk will also connect to a new booking office, which will be constructed along with it, at the railway station. People will find it easier to use the skywalk because of the elevators. The only other skywalk in the city which has elevators is in Kandivali.”
Visakhapatnam (VSKP): Representatives of various peoples’ organisations have demanded that the Railway Minister make a categorical announcement on formation of the new railway zone in Andhra Pradesh with headquarters in Visakhapatnam during his reported visit to the city on May 27. In a letter to the Railway Minister, former Union Secretary E.A.S. Sarma said that the new zone should not be truncated to suit the political interests of the government.
Praja Spandana president C.S. Rao also echoed similar views and wanted that a declaration made on the zone without further delay.
Reports are in the air for the last 3 days at Andhra Pradesh and New Delhi that Centre is likely to grant Railway Zone status to Vizag in Andhra Pradesh before end of this month. According to sources close to the BJP, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and Andhra Pradesh BJP President Kambampati Hari Babu, who recently had a meeting with Railways Minister, were given hint about this. Railway Zone is likely to be arranged at Visakhapatnam as expected earlier.
According to sources, the BJP state wing is said to be planning to conduct a huge meeting on 26th May at Visakhapatnam, where Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu will announce this on the eve of NDA government completing one year in power.
The state BJP wing believes that it is necessary to conduct huge meeting to highlight this development to reduce the negative opinion generated against it in the people because of negative publicity by some ruling and opposition parties over NDA government’s failure to implement its promises made to the state. This may also prevent the ruling TDP leaders and Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu from claiming the full credit of this.
However, BJP may invite him and all the ministers of his government to this public meeting likely to be held at Visakhapatnam on May 26th.
Flipkart, India’s emerging e-tailing giant, is valued by private equity investors at around $11 billion. In its next round of funding, it could get a valuation of $15 billion (that’s more than Rs 95,000 crore at current exchange rates).
Snapdeal, another e-tailer, is currently valued at around $4-5 billion. Like Flipkart, it has only made huge losses all its short life, but that has not deterred investors from putting millions of dollars in its kitty for funding growth.
Makemytrip, an e-tailer focusing on the travel segment by allowing users to book airline tickets, hotel rooms and cars online after comparing prices, is valued at around $800 million currently. It is struggling to break even in a crowded market for such services.
Now, what if I were to tell you that there is a future Flipkart-cum-McDonald’s-cum-Makemytrip-cum-brand merchandiser in the government’s kitty and – more importantly – makes money on most things it does, how should it be valued?
When last heard of, the boringly named Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) was given a valuation of Rs 6,000-14,000 crore. Thanks to its public sector status, it is punching far below its weight and worth.
It should be valued around $5 billion now, and, with technology and other investments, could easily be worth $10 billion in five years.
IRCTC is the undiscovered, uncut diamond in the government’s haystack. If its profile is raised and it is allowed to raise money to invest in technology and traffic growth, it could even be worth more than Flipkart at some point.
IRCTC is the Indian Railways’ online ticketing agent, and makes Rs 10-20 on every ticket sold from its website. In 2013-14, it sold more than Rs 15,000 crore worth of tickets, earned revenues of Rs 955 crore, and net profits of Rs 72 crore.
That profit figure may sound tiny, but the real jewel in the IRCTC diamond mine is not the cool profits on e-tickets, but the hot customer data it owns and which can be mined to sell even more products and services. IRCTC Managing Director AK Manocha on these stats once said: “We have 3.1 crore customer data, get over two million hits a day, and book 5.5-6 lakh tickets a day.”
IRCTC knows which of its customers live, and their annual spends on railway or airline tickets. It can leverage this information for growth in multiple directions.
The valuation of Flipkart, Snapdeal or Makebytrip is derived not so much from their sales margins or profits, but from the knowledge they have of their customers and their purchase habits. By this yardstick, IRCTC is India’s real e-commerce giant and future Flipkart.
Consider IRCTC’s many pluses.
First, it is a monopoly. There is no competitor in two core areas of operations –- railway catering services and e-ticketing.
Second, even in online ticketing, half its market is waiting to be tapped. Currently just over 50 percent of railway users buy tickets from IRCTC. This means railway ticketing sales could potentially double. And as the railway network grows, more passengers means more organic growth possibilities.
Third, IRCTC can use some of the vast railway station real estate to not only set up food and other retail operations, but also to vend its own labels. It already has its own mineral water bottling facilities (brand: Rail Neer), and from here to creating packaged food brands is just a step away. At the very least, it can create own labels and franchise them for a fee to scores of small manufacturers across India. Rail travelers are big consumers for your market is captive for several hours during long-distance train journeys.
Fourth, IRCTC can potentially diversify into all forms of ticketing. It is already selling airline tickets, but there is almost no marketing here. Moreover, there is no reason why it can’t sell movie or concert tickets online. A few sensible acquisitions can boost its turnover multi-fold.
Fifth, since it already has a database of more than three crore users, it can cross-sell small everyday products to anyone in any place in India. Remember, it already knows where they live. All it needs is a logistics tieup – it is already owned by India’s biggest logistic company, the Indian Railways – for local deliveries, and it could become a poor-man’s Flipkart. If the Flipkarts can use IRCTC to sell, isn’t it time IRCTC itself used its database to discover new profits?
Sixth, with the right acquisitions, and strong investments in technology, it can become the Godzilla of Indian e-tailing and e-commerce.
Seventh, an obvious area for diversification is finance – payment banking and e-wallets. One wonders why IRCTC has not applied for a payment bank licence. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu should do this pronto. If an e-wallet company like PayTM can be valued at $1.5 billion, an IRCTC payment bank can be worth more.
When last attempted, IRCTC was given a potential valuation of Rs 6,000-14,000 crore – that is, $1-2 billion.
This is nonsense. With the right investments it can be worth at least $5 billion in the next one year, and much more than that over three to five years.
Suresh Prabhu is sitting on huge potential wealth here. If he invests in it, IRCTC can be a potential source of not only future revenues, but huge disinvestment cash in future. IRCTC can provide the fuel for further investment in Indian Railways.
Of course, he has to make a deal with Arun Jaitley to ensure that any IRCTC disinvestment money comes into his pocket and not Jaitley’s.
The Arunachal Pradesh government is planning to establish Cold Storage facilities jointly with Indian Railways in the state to facilitate agriculture and horticulture marketing and food processing.
Chief Minister Nabam Tuki during his recent NEC Plenary meeting at New Delhi had raised the issue of setting up of cold storage facilities, an official communique said here today.
As a follow up measure, a team of officers from Container Corporation of India Limited (CONCOR) and the officials of Fresh & Healthy Enterprises Limited (a Subsidiary of CONCOR) from the Ministry of Railways has met the state Chief Secretary recently to have preliminary discussion.
It was observed that three places namely Naharlagun, Ruksin (Pasighat) and Bhalukpong would be ideal for setting up of cold storage facilities due to proximity to the railway head, the communique said.
To begin with, survey and investigation besides preparation of Detailed Project Report (DPR) would be initiated for setting up of cold storage facilities at Naharlagun, near railway station.
The state government would provide land as well as capital subsidy under the central schemes and construction, while operation and maintenance would remain with the Container Corporation of India.
An MoU in this regard is likely to be finalized in coming months.
Director, Trade & Commerce has been nominated as nodal officer for the project, it added.