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Six consultants offer to prepare DPR for Vizag Metro Rail in response to RFP

विसाखपट्नम Visakhapatnam (VSKP): Six consultants have applied for preparation of Detailed Project Report (DPR) on Metro Rail for the city.  Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation had earlier in May floated an RFP for consultancy service from reputed Consultants/Planners for preparation of Feasibility Studies and Detailed Project Report (DPR) for Rail Based Mass Rapid Transit System termed as “Vizag Metro” in Greater Visakhapatnam.

At the pre-bid stage, 14 companies had evinced interest, and several queries were raised at a meeting with them.  Bids by the six companies will now be evaluated. Preliminary evaluation will be taken up on some of the parameters by the GVMC.  “However, the State government has to issue a G.O. forming an expert committee to evaluate the companies that bid,” Municipal Commissioner M.V. Satyanarayana told reporters on Wednesday.

The evaluation is expected to take three months, first taking technical bids and then financial bids. Once the agency is decided, it will take four months for feasibility report, on the basis of which the DPR will be prepared.

The DPRs would include feasibility for mono rail and feeder networks to metro by the Bus Rapid Transit System as well, said Mr. Satyanarayana.

Though, initially, the bids were for 25-km at an estimated cost of Rs.1.6 crore, they were subsequently increased to 70-km to 80-km increasing the fee pro rata. The GVMC broadly identified five corridors, going by peak traffic density.

The population of Visakhapatnam is about 2 Millions spreading over an area of 630 Sq.Kms. There are about 7 to 8 lakh vehicles are plying in the city and the share of public transport is about 18%.

High Ridership Corridors which also include National Highway from Tagarapuvalasa to Gajuwaka Via Hanumanthawaka, Maddilapalem, NAD Junction and Gajuwaka and also arterial road from Railway Station to Gajuwaka Via.Scindia. There are also potential routes in the outer periphery of the city, which can also be explored for implementing MRTS (Metro) to serve short-term and long-term needs.  After the proposal was submitted by the GVMC in February 2014, the Urban Transport Department gave in-principle approval for going ahead with feasibility studies and DPR.

The GVMC has proposed to take up feasibility study for taking up Metro project in the city not only limiting to the above four stretches in the National Highway and with an aim to undertake a sustainable metro corridor for a length of 25 km in the first phase to prepare a detailed project report. The feasibility is not limited to the above four corridors and should study the other routes also to arrive at the most feasible route/s.

Delhi Metro gets nod for opening Thiruvananthapuram Monorail Financial bid

Kerala Chief Minister Mr.Chandy chairs the KMCL’s board meeting

तिरुवनंतपुरम Thiruvananthapuram (TVC):  A board meeting of Kerala Monorail Corporation Ltd. (KMCL), chaired by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Wednesday, gave its approval for opening the financial bid submitted by a consortium on the elevated mass rapid transit system (MRTS) for Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.

varkMono031518With this, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), the general consultant for the project in the two cities, can open the financial bid submitted by the consortium led by Bombardier Transportation Holdings USA Inc. for the Rs.5,581-crore project.

Official sources told that the decision to open the financial bid was taken after the official representing E.Sreedharan, Principal Adviser to the DMRC, informed the board meeting that leaving the bid half-way after opening and clearing the technical bid would “lead to litigation”.

The opening of the financial bid was opposed mainly by Managing Director of the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) Elias George and Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) V.Somasundaram. The KMRL MD, who did not attend the meeting, in a note said there was only a single tender for the MRTS and that conditions were being enforced by the consortium. He also favoured retendering as another player had evinced interest, sources said. Mr.Somasundaram, on his part, expressed reservations about the estimate submitted by the DMRC.

Minister for Public Works V.K.Ebrahim Kunju urged the board to “take a decision instead of dragging it.” Following this, the Chief Minister and State Minister for Railways Aryadan Mohammed intervened and favoured the opening of the financial bid submitted for selecting the exclusive developer-contractor.

Once the decision is communicated, the DMRC can open the tender in the presence of the KMCL officials in Delhi.

The question is whether the financial bid will follow the CVC guidelines. There was scope for negotiations if there was variation, sources said.

Ministers K.M.Mani, P.K.Kunhalikutty, M.K.Muneer, Manjalamkuzhi Ali, V.S.Sivakumar, and Managing Director of KMCL P.I.Sheikh Pareeth attended.

Mysore Division plans sale of commercial space to boost revenues

Division will rent out Railway land to advertisers at competitive prices

DRM Mysore Rajkumar Lalमैसूर Mysore (MYS): The Mysore division of South Western Railway is exploring sale of commercial space to advertisers to boost its revenue, the bulk of which is from freight and passenger earnings.

Rajkumar Lal, Divisional Railway Manager, told presspersons here on Wednesday that the Railways has land in prime places across the country, which will be sold to advertisers at competitive prices.

This will be a win-win situation for the Railways and the advertisers. The Railways will also use a small portion of the commercial hoardings to spread its message on hygiene, safety and security. Such land is available in Mysore, Hassan, Arsikere, Davangere, Shimoga and other major towns and cities in the Mysore division, he said.

Mr. Lal said the commercial hoardings will be modular, keeping in mind the heritage status of Mysore and to ensure that the hoardings blend with local aesthetics.

Vinyl wrapping

In addition to sale of prime space, the division will also promote vinyl wrapping of trains so that advertisers can reach out to millions of people.

“Our trains not only pass through different places in the Mysore division but also across the country. Hence the advertisers have an opportunity to reach out to millions of people at a competitive price,” he said.

The available land at level-crossing gates where vehicles stop will also be up put for sale.

Mr. Lal said the Railways were also open to a quid pro quo with the advertisers and they could sell commercial space in return for services such as landscaping the area, maintenance of premises and so on. However, there will be stringent terms and conditions for advertisers to adhere to norms and ensure that the aesthetics of the place was not vitiated, said Mr. Lal. The Railways hopes to earn Rs. 3.5 crore during the current financial year through this, he said.

Earlier, Mr. Lal launched the commercial services of Shrishti Creations, which have installed 30 LED screens at vantage points in the Mysore Railway Station. This will not only beam information pertaining to arrival, departure, late running of trains but also commercials and entertainment programmes. The Railways has received a licence fee but there are no other financial implications involved, he said.

Senior Divisional Commercial Manager K. Anil Kumar and ADRM Rakesh Gupta were present.

Urdu Rail Map of Mumbai launched on Id-ul-Fitr by a Hindu faculty from IIT-Bombay

Mumbai Urdu MapMumbai: Prompted by a request from an employee of a printing shop that printed the Mumbai Rail Map (MRM) in different languages for the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), the Industrial Design Center (IDC) granted the employees’ request by launching the MRM in Urdu on Id-ul-Fitr.  Surprisingly, the faculty who developed the Urdu map of Mumbai Metro Rail belongs to an orthodox Hindu family.  This speaks of oneness of the nation in a vastly diversified country like India.

Prof Mandar Rane, a faculty of visual communication at IDC, IIT-B who, along with his students Jaikishan and Snehal, designed the first Metro Rail Mumbai map to make it easier for Mumbaikars to commute and navigate the rail network said that it was an extension of the work that they done initially but very challenging.

“Mumbai suburban rail is one of the busiest rapid transit systems in the world operating more than 2,000 train services and carrying more than seven million passengers daily. MRM plays a critical role in providing travel related information to commuters. It helps them navigate the rail network better by guiding them and help make informed decision prior to their journey. The first version of MRM was released on December 2013 in English and following several requests for MRM to be designed in Marathi, Hindi and Gujarati they too were subsequently released,” said Prof Rane. MRM is an initiative of ministry of human resource development and IIT Bombay.

HC seeks info on illegal Rail bridge constructed to link ex.Rail Minister Jaffer Sharief’s home

Karnataka HCबंगलूरू Bangalore (SBC): The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday directed the Railways to furnish details pertaining to the construction of a bridge which provides access to former Railway Minister C K Jaffer Sharieff’s property on the outskirts of the City.

Justice Ram Mohan Reddy issued the direction after the Railways refused to provide a manned crossing to the petitioners’ farm at Puttasomanahalli near Pandavapura in Mandya district. The petitioners, C S Rajesh and other 18 villagers had moved the Court seeking right of way to approach their farm on the other side of the railway line, which was blocked by an unmanned railway gate.

The railway gate connecting lines between Bangalore and Mysore was locked on May 25, 2004 and the Railways had been refusing to open it despite the High Court interim order in 2005. The Railways had submitted before the Court that since there was zero traffic along this stretch it cannot provide manned crossing there.

“When you can provide such an acess to a former minister’s property, why this discrimination for a common man?,” the Court observed, and directed the Railways to furnish details of its notification for construction of the bridge, by Wednesday afternoon.

During the post lunch session, the divisional engineer of railways who appeared before the Court submitted that the said notification had been destroyed as it was decades old. The court then sought for the “instruction register” of Railways which records the direction to destroy the notification.

When the official faltered, Justice Reddy lashed out saying, “You are furnishing wrong information and misleading the court. This is how you misutilise the public fund. If you do not have the file, destroy the bridge.” The court also warned the official that he will be sent to jail for misleading the Court. However when the official sought time to search for it, the court adjourned the matter and observed, “Submit the destruction records to the registry. If not, the matter will be entrusted for investigation.”

Security beefed up in Coimbatore after threat of multiple blasts

Police said the caller rang up and said there would be blasts at seven places and to try and prevent them. But when asked to elaborate, he said it was not important and what was crucial was that the explosions would take place, especially in Ganapati area

कोयम्बटूर Coimbatore (CBE):  Security has been tightened at all public places in the city after an anonymous caller rang up the police control room and warned of blasts at seven areas and dared them to try and prevent it.

Police said the caller rang up this morning and said there would be blasts at seven places and to try and prevent them. But when asked to elaborate, he said it was not important and what was crucial was that the explosions would take place, especially in Ganapati area.

On getting this information, Police Commissioner AK Vishwanathan ordered the force to be on full alert and deployed additional force at places with large public concentration, including bus stands, railway stations, airport, places of worship and malls and markets, they said.

A Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad was sent to Ganapati, the area specifically mentioned by the caller.

A senior police official, requesting anonymity, said the department has traced the call and would soon zero in on the person, who was reportedly in an inebriated condition.

The official said police have left nothing to chance and the entire city has been brought under strict surveillance with additional deployment of forces to prevent any eventualities.

RPF beefs up Security and Surveillance at Mumbai CST after Constant terror threats

छत्रपति शिवाजी टर्मिनस, मुंबई Mumbai CSTM: The Railway Police Force (RPF) has decided to beef up security from August 1 at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus due to constant terror threats.The two Railway Police Special Force (RPSF) teams consisting of three personnel are already located at the suburban and outstation section, but since they are stationary officials, they are concerned that they will be sitting ducks if another attack like 26/11 recurs.

“These two RPSF teams that have three people per team but they are stationary and do not move around at all, so we thought that we will make them a combination of mobile and stationary,” said Central Railways RPF chief security commissioner.

“At first, two from the three will go around and patrol their section among the three zones, that is, suburban, outstation and circulating area. They will coordinate during their rounds with personnel who will be monitoring the CCTV footage,” said Mr Singh.

The RPF has also asked for 400 commandos but has received only 100 men three months ago.  There will also be an addition of commandos who are much more physically able to take quick action during a security emergency.

“We will deploy two teams consisting of two commandos like a buddy system and a canine will also be provided for both the units who will be patrolling the entire station during morning and evening peak hours,” said Mr Singh, adding, “CST is an iconic heritage structure. To add to that, the station still sees a very high footfall of passengers,” added Singh.The force also plans to replicate its CST security plan at Kalyan station.

Series of Landslides affects Central Railway services

मुंबई Mumbai: Rail and road traffic to and from Mumbai was hit by a series of landslides. While Central Railway services were affected by landslides near Igatpuri on Wednesday, the Mumbai-Agra National Highway witnessed landslides at five places. While road traffic returned to normal in three hours, rail connectivity was badly affected and many trains were rescheduled or diverted.

A landslide was triggered in Igatpuri at 8am, which received 234mm of rainfall in the 24 hours till Wednesday 8.30am. Trains to Mumbai were stopped at nearest stations. “The landslide affected the Up track (towards Mumbai), so trains were diverted to the Down track (towards Nashik),” a railway official said. There is a third track in the ghat section which ensured movement of trains was not completely stopped. The Down track was cleared by 5pm, but work continued on the other track. “Some trains to Mumbai returned either from Igatpuri or Nashik. Arrangements were made for people to continue on by bus till Kasara and other areas,” the official said.

CR officials said the landslide occurred from the site abutting a resort on the hillock.

A CR spokesperson said, “The incident led to short termination of five services including Nagpur-Mumbai Sewagram Express and Aurangabad-Dadar Janshatabdi Express.” Three trains, the Varanasi-Mumbai Mahanagari Express, Patna-Mumbai Express and Gorakhpur-Mumbai Godan Express were diverted via Manmad-Daund-Pune-Kalyan.

Landslides on the highway caused distress to motorists. “A landslide was reported at 8.30am at five spots around 53km from Nashik in the Kasara ghat section,” police said.

Boulder fall cripples Mumbai-Nashik train services

नासिक Nasik (NK): Thousands of long-distance passengers were stranded on different stretches of Central Railway after a boulder fell on the tracks close to Igatpuri station on the Nashik-Kasara line on Wednesday. Officials attributed the fall to incessant rains in the region.

The incident was reported about 8.30 am at a spot nearly 4 km from Igatpuri and the barreling rock took the overhead wires along with it. The immediate effect of the mishap was that several trains that were close to Nashik and Igatpuri had to be halted.

What compounded the problem was the timing as the morning hours are among the most busy as far as trains coming from the east and north into Mumbai on CR’s lines are concerned. Local train commuters were spared from inconvenience as the boulder-hit site is out of CR’s suburban limits.

On any normal day, the North-East section of CR that is the Kasara-Nashik stretch sees close to 160 train movements, including 50 pairs of mail and express trains that come into and go out of Mumbai and 10 pairs of goods trains in and out of Mumbai. On Wednesday, the movements had come down to less than 10 said CR officials.

Among the trains that got stalled immediately were the 12262 Howrah-Mumbai Duronto and the 13201 Patna-Kurla LTT Express, both trains which generally come into the city packed. This incident also meant that there was a bunching of long-distance trains in the city – on the fifth line right from Bhandup to Vidyavihar, just at the entrance of Kurla Terminus.

Most passengers on the Kurla LTT-Muzaffarpur Express, which was stuck near Bhandup station, were seen squatting along the tracks. “There is no announcement or clarity on when the train would move,” said Rakesh Vishwakarma.

The boulder fall also caused operational hardship for the train-runners – one driver got hurt while piloting a train – as well as passengers as CR decided to run several trains from Igatpuri instead of Mumbai. This meant that passengers with tickets on those train from Mumbai would have to reach Igatpuri somehow to board their train.

While top CR officials rushed to the spot, authorities pressed two specially equipped trains to fix the overhead wires and the tracks. Officials around 6pm said that the tentative time for the clearing of the line was 9pm on Wednesday.

Integrated CCTV Surveillance System almost ready at Mysore Railway Station: DRM

34 CCTVs to monitor Mysore Railway Station to address various security-related issues that’s aimed at zero tolerance towards possible gaps in security preparedness of the Railways – Rajkumar Lal, DRM Mysore Division/SWR said

मैसूर Mysore (MYS): An integrated security system will soon be in place at Mysore Railway Station as part of the overall revamping of security at important stations across the country.

According to Divisional Railway Manager Rajkumar Lal, more than 80 per cent of the work has been completed. The security system is being put in place at a cost of Rs. 2.5 crore, he said. Mr. Lal told presspersons here on Wednesday that 34 cameras will be positioned at vantage points, of which 20 will be the PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) Cameras that will give a full-field view of the area under surveillance.

The remaining 14 cameras will be stationary, focussing on sensitive areas such as platforms, entry and exit points, foot over-bridges and waiting halls, among others. These cameras will provide high resolution displays, recording and video playback facilities.

There will be continuous monitoring of the station premises and the property of the Railways, including coaches, he said. The camera positions have been identified and agreed upon by experts, while the control room to monitor the images has also been established. “By the end of this financial year, the new security system should be in place,” Mr.Lal said.

There will be only one entry and exit point as part of the new security system and the baggage screening will be automated with X-ray scanners as in airports. In addition, there will be an under-vehicle scanning system to ensure that the security is foolproof, he said.

For security on board the trains, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) staff will be deployed on long-distance journeys. The integrated security system is being implemented in nearly 200 railway stations across the country in a bid to thwart untoward incidents.

Three stations in the South Western Railway have been identified for the integrated security system based on their importance and threat perception.

Apart from Mysore, the system will be in place in Bangalore City and Yeshwantpur stations. Apart from CCTV cameras to monitor station precincts and passengers, there will be access control at railway stations to prevent entry of unauthorised persons.

A total of thirty 32-inch LED TVs have also been installed at various locations at the station, including the main concourse, waiting rooms, reservation office, among other places, for the benefit of rail passengers. Arrival and departure time and relevant platform number will be regularly telecast using the URL of the Railways for providing accurate information to the public.

Bangalore Srishti Communications Kumar, the licensee for the CCTV contract, explained its features.

Additional DRM Rakesh Kumar Gupta, Senior Divisional Commercial Manager. K Anil Kumar, Senior Divisional Engineers Soundarrajan, and C.M.Ranganath, Sr. Divisional Finance Manager L.V.Dudam, Sr.Divisional Finance Manager and Sr. Divisional S&T Engineer Sourabh Verma were present.

Several rail projects languish on South Western for want of funds

बंगलूरू Bangalore (SBC): With several projects of South Western Railways needing funds for completion, the funds allocated in the recent rail budget are grossly inadequate.

While the Centre announced Rs.1,576 crore for railway projects under South Western Railways, the ongoing projects require Rs.12,000 crore.

Sixteen new lines were announced in the past at an estimated cost of Rs 10,912 crore, of which only Rs.477 crore have been allocated so far.

Still Rs.8,439 crore are required for the completion of these new lines.

However, with no date set for completion of these 16 lines, coupled with slow progress, it has led to escalation in the estimated cost.

Similarly, for gauge conversion on four existing lines, the estimate was Rs.2,099 crore and only Rs.10.15 crore have been allocated.

The remaining amount is yet to be given.

Also, on 14 lines, doubling was announced at an estimated cost of Rs.4,510 crore and only about Rs.393 crore has been allocated, with Rs.2,551 crore still awaited.

“These projects take long time for completion as lot of technicalities are involved such as land acquisition, designing. Accordingly, approvals have to be taken from the competent authorities. Funds are allocated as projects progress in due course of time.”

Sanjeev Dyamannavar from Praja Raag said, “Some of these projects were announced 8-10 years back without any deadline mentioned. Therefore, projects take much longer to complete in the absence of pressure from authorities. Whenever a project is announced, whether it’s railways or any other, a specific timeframe should be given so that public can also benefit and the exchequer is saved from cost escalations. Funds allocation should be done based on yearly progress that can be made by railways, thus setting a target for themselves for completion of works in the pipeline.”

Delhi Metro asked to make public, reasons for frequent ‘Technical Snags’

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: The Central Information Commissioner’s order opens up the case for transparency in the operations of public transport in India.

The Delhi Metro has been suffering ‘technical snags’ regularly. The recent one was absolutely scary because the doors of a coach remained open for a few minutes in the running train. In Mumbai, a ‘technical snag’ halted Mumbai Metro on the inaugural day recently. All this raises the concern and safety of lakhs of commuters, which makes the issue to be of larger public interest.

Gurgaon resident Aseem Takyar, has been filing Right to Information (RTI) applications since 2013 to the Delhi Metro, and demanding the list of the number of times that the various metro trains of Delhi halted because of technical snags, or otherwise.

He was compelled to file his second appeal before the Central Information Commission (CIC), when he got inadequate reply from the Public Information Officer (PIO) of Delhi Metro despite an order from the First Appellate Authority (FAA) for providing the information. It is a fact that Takyar refused to pay Rs550, the amount for photostat copies for the required information. The CIC also noted that the fee of Rs550 for providinng photocopies of 275 pages was reasonable.

But the CIC has also ruled that the Delhi Metro is legally bound to provide, free of cost, information on the number of trains that halted, reasons for the same and duration of the halts as asked by Takyar.

This is what Chief Information Commissioner of Delhi, MA Khan Yusuf has stated in his order on 22nd July, “…appellant has been asking a complete list of incidences when trains services are halted due to technical snag or due to other reasons on all routes/ lines within last one year, along with duration of halt and service. The Commission feels that respondents are under legal obligation to provide the complete list of the incidences, as asked for, free of cost to the appellant.”

This order would be extremely important to the 25 lakh-odd Delhites who travel by the Metro each day. In fact, this order will have a cascading effect, as it would apply to all such public transport systems like Mumbai suburban local trains, other local trains that ply on various routes as well as water ferries and air flights, all over the country.

Manoj Pai, a member of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), says, “Citizens might like to download this decision and explore further, as the same decision would also apply to unscheduled halts of local trains / rakes, inter-city trains besides bus and ferry services as well, which all fall under the public domain. Activists might like to take a step further and demand the cases where air lines cancelled, delayed, and diverted flights, as well.

The recent budget has allocated funds to develop metros in major towns and cities. This means there would be more citizens directly affected with any `failures’ of this techno savvy public transport system. We also witness the inconveniences faced by Mumbai citizens who patronise locals and are thrown off gear during rains and power short circuits. Flying too is sometimes irritating when flights are suddenly cancelled.

Every affected citizen must take advantage of this CIC order (produced below) and make the authorities accountable by demanding information.

To Download CIC Order, click this: 235435455-Vinita-CIC-VS-A-2013-001934-M-136500-pdf

Flash strike at Madurai by Loco pilots affiliated to SRMU

मदुरै Madurai Jn (MDU): The Rameswaram-Tiruchi passenger train was detained in the originating station for over an hour following a flash strike by loco-pilots affiliated to Southern Railway Mazdoor Union on Wednesday.

The pilots went on strike demanding the railway administration to ensure stipulated working hours, well-maintained running room and quality food for them. The Railway Board had ordered that the running crew should return to headquarters within 36 hours after they joined duty, union’s assistant divisional secretary, V. Ramkumar said. However, it was not followed in Madurai division.

He demanded that accommodation at the running room for loco pilots be provided with facilities available in three-star hotels and the quality of food should be on a par with that given to passengers of two-tier AC coaches of Rajdhani Express.

The strike was withdrawn after the intervention of Divisional Railway Manager A.K.Rastogi, who promised to discuss the issue with the union, he said.

Railways agree to bear 50% of GRP deployment cost in Mumbai Suburban Stations

Mumbai:  The Union Government told the Bombay High Court today that it was ready to bear 50 per cent of expenses for hiring and deploying an additional 100 GRP (Government Railway Police) officials on railways in the interest of women’s safety.

In an affidavit, the Railway Board said it had sanctioned a proposal for additional 100 GRP officials across suburban railway stations and local trains to ensure safety of women commuters.

Justices Abhay Oka and A S Chandurkar asked the concerned authorities to file affidavits within two weeks, explaining when the process of appointing GRP officials would be initiated as well as when it would be completed.

The Railway Board also informed the court that it is willing to bear 50 per cent of the cost to be incurred for additional deployment. Maharashtra government would bear the remaining 50 per cent cost, it said.

The High Court was hearing a suo moto (on its own) public interest litigation (PIL) based on newspaper reports and a PIL filed by an NGO called Help Mumbai Foundation about women’s safety while travelling in suburban local trains.

Initially, there was an issue between the Railway Board and Maharashtra government about who should bear the cost of deploying additional GRP officials.

Later, the Railway Board agreed to bear 50 per cent of the cost incurred to deploy additional GRP officials but said Maharashtra government would have to send a formal proposal through its finance department.

The PIL pointed out that Maharashtra government has not yet decided on the course of action on recommendations made by the Justice Dharmadhikari Committee to curb crimes against women in state.

Maharashtra government had appointed Justice (retired) Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari to head the committee.

The committee, which comprised senior women political leaders, social activists as well as bureaucrats, submitted various reports and recommendations after studying laws related to crimes against women in the state and the country.

Today, the High Court asked the government to inform what it proposes to do about the Dharmadhikari Committee’s recommendations, within two weeks.

Railways promise a major revamp in Food Services on-board trains

As Indian Railways is promising a major revamp in all segments of its behemoth service, food appears to be where the buck stops. Suchayan Mandal travels the length and breadth of the country, gastronomically on wheels, discovering the fragrance of kulhars, the packed meals now served and much nostalgia for the hot food from the various base kitchens.  Sayan Biswas, on his way back from Kolkata in Sealdah Rajdhani Express, had, what he described, a nightmarish experience. Not only did he find stains on the bedsheet, rats under his side of the lower berth but the food he was served was stale. The samosas in the evening had to be accompanied by Gelusil. The evening meal was even worse.

Another passenger, Ramanathan, traveling from Coimbatore to Delhi, was happy with the vada served soon after the train departed. As the long journey proceeded, the quality and taste of the snack changed till he discovered that maida had later been added to the vada dough. Time was when railway food had that unique taste and could be relied upon for quality and quantity. Base kitchens at major junctions would keep trays of hot food ready for the hungry passengers on board. In fact, most travelers preferred to order this food rather than open their food hampers.

Now, with the base kitchens having been dismantled and food supply contracted to commercially-run caterers, that charm of eating on trains has vanished. “Chai” supplied in mini-flasks for the higher classes and brought around in a drum and served in plastic cups has been replaced by tea-bags and hot water. The only constant is the call “Chai, chai”, accompanied by a variety of cooking smells wafting around at almost all stations across the country.

Change in taste

Till 1990s, when there were not many direct trains, people from, say, Bangalore going to Bombay, would wait at Guntakul in Maharashtra for hours, passengers from Kolkata to Coochbehar would take a ferry and then wait for three hours at Maldah in West Bengal. Similarly, those traveling to Madras (now Chennai) from Lucknow would spend some quality time at Jhansi. With direct superfast trains coming in, things have eased but the slow train, which allowed one to finish a novel, could be called a great teacher as well.

“To learn a thousand dialects, eat a thousand cuisines and meet a million people, you need just one berth”, is an age-old Railway proverb. And if you get a chance to travel in a train for 35 hours that connects Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, not only would you feel the inertia of motion even after deboarding, but would also end up wiser and less judgemental than 35 hours ago. And the food, whether bought on the train, off the platform or packed from home, would be a taste of mini-India.

Itarsi is the virtual turn-around as far as food is concerned. As the Himsagar Express enters Madhya Pradesh, crossing the Vindhyas, one can relish North Indian alu bondas for one last time. A few hours later, the bondas will become tangy with tamarind and samosas with tamarind chutney will be replaced by idlis served with coconut chutney. All South-bound trains, no matter wher they come from ~ East, West or North ~ have to pass through this otherwise irrelevant town. Same is the case with Mughal Sarai, Jhansi, Guntakal where trains stops but none get off. Only the food changes.

On board food

Vivek Express, the longest running train linking Seven Sister Hills to the Indian Ocean (Assam to Kannya Kumari) takes three days 10 hours 40 minutes to cover 4,278 km. Unfortunately, erstwhile Railway minister Mamata Banerjee’s dream project had no food being cooked in the pantry car when this reporter took a trip in early 2013. So food had to be ordered and was outsourced from various kitchens pan India. This turned out to be a great way to relish regional cuisine. So, it was lunch from Guwahati, dinner at Alipur Duar, breakfast at Durgapur and so on. At Alipur Duar, the first station in Mamata country, the silence of the coach was broken by a chaiwalla selling a cup of tea for Rs 10.

Ramal who sells Misti Doi in Durgapur station in West Bengal revealed that misti dois were often sold for two days but that he used no adulterated stuff to prevent it from going bad.

While Rajdhanis and Shatabdis, the premiere trains connecting the country’s never ending geography through tunnels, bridges, tracks and fishplates, have their own all inclusive food service, the menu is fixed by the Railway Board. Unlike before, when food was served by Railways-run kitchens, now they are outsourced on contract basis. There is always announcement inside these trains that menus are available with attendants and that passengers could order as per choice. But class disparity still exists in the trains. If one were traveling in 3-tier AC or Chair Car one won’t have access to these menus and would have to survive on what was being served.

In Kolkata Rajdhani, Bhubaneswar Rajdhani, Dibrugarh Rajdhani, Kalka Shatabdi and a few more premiere trains, the evening begins with Samosa, Soan Cake, Sandwich with tea. If one wants coffee instead, the attendant would have to be coaxed and cajoled for a sachet of Necsafe. The dinner will be rice, roti, dal and chicken/ paneer depending on your preference with dahi and ice cream. Now, if one has paid more to travel in first class, brands of curd and ice cream will be better and the dal will be thicker.

Now a small tip for amateur travelers: Make sure to demand the bread to be toasted and egg poached when they ask preferences for breakfast in 3 AC.

In some trains south Indian breakfast is also available, but as said, money is directly proportional to food served, you won’t be offered much. In the Executive chair car and first class the breakfast includes cornflakes with milk, bread basket, marmalade or Chana Kulcha, or stuffed paratha, or Besan chilla with chutney.

For dinner there is an option of Rasgulla or Gulab Jamun but that’s all on paper but not in reality. Railways lists a varied menu from cream soup to hakka noodles but one would have to reach to ministry level to be served so.

A colleague joked, “Railways official menu on Internet is like the syllabus of a 3rd grade B school! The students are enthusiastic in the beginning about the prospect but soon faces trouble once it gets applied.”

Good old days

When the express trains were still brick red in colour, and mineral water bottles were yet to decide their market capturing strategies, green, red Milton water jar were the signature holiday symptoms. Each station the train made a stop, elders would rush forthe nearest tap to refill. Food would be loaded in Aluminium or steel plates with depressions to hold dal, sabji and chutneys. The waiters would balance 8-9 plates of hot food and distribute them. Flared tempers were common as food often fell short. Things changed when thermocol and plastic plates replaced them on the plea of hygiene but ended up ruining the environment with white plates flying across the tracks. “The flavour and fragrance, both were better and hygiene not taken into account whenever train food had to be consumed. No matter what you cook and carry, the train food had some amazing tastes,” believes food enthusiast Sayantani.

Also, the journeys are not about traveling for journey’sake but also about getting acquainted with each other’s cultures. Marwaris, when they travel as a large family, would carry a stock of food that would last the entire journey. Piles of pooris will be in proportion to number of traveling members and number of meals required. Just when you await the pantry boy, the boxes would be opened and the entire compartment filled with a distinct aroma. Tamil families usually carry their stock as well. Bundles of idlis and chutney powder besides lime and curd rise makes up their packed meals. Bengalis, on the other hand, rarely carry food during travel. It is another reason for them to have “bahar ka khana”. After eating they would burp a little and wonder if the chicken served was as good as Rajdhani served six months ago ~ in most of the cases it isn’t.

Trend is in

Good old days have been overtaken by blindfolded consumerism. Several portals, including Comesum and TravelKhana, are delivering restaurant food on train. One just needs to download the app and fill in the details of train, coach and seat number and desired delicacy. At the next station, Pizza or Biriyani or Pasta would be awaiting you in an otherwise unknown station.

The chai story

Chai is one word that is synonymous withIndian Railways. Chai may vary in taste and aroma but the beverage won’t disappoint! “Chai Chai”, the call is the most sought after when traveling by train. As the painted stations whistle by and you start from North India, cardamom tea will be constantly served. Soon, the kettle is replaced by urns, thanks to large business ventures. South Indian mornings on the train are welcomed by the strong aroma of filter coffee.

Flooded tracks disrupt train movement in south Gujarat

Vadodara: Heavy rains in south Gujarat on Tuesday hit rail traffic movement on Mumbai route adversely impacting travel plans of commuters from central Gujarat.

While two trains – Valsad-Dahod and Valsad-Viramgam – got cancelled, several trains were running late on Tuesday.

Although many trains had left Vadodara railway station on time, waterlogging on railway track at Valsad delayed the trains from reaching Mumbai.

Monday’s incident of derailment of some wagons of a goods train near Nadiad had also impacted the timings of some trains which reached late at Vadodara station.

The trains running late included Secunderabad-Rajkot Express, Gujarat Express – both of which were running one and a half hour late while Vivek Express was running late by two and a half hours. Firozpur-Janta Express was running late by fifty minutes.

Sayajinagari Express had arrived half an hour late at Vadodara railway station while Kutch Express, which had arrived late at Vadodara railway station by nearly 80 minutes, reached Mumbai after four hours delay.

Although Jaipur Bandra Express had arrived only five minutes late at Vadodara railway station, it was late by around four hours while on its way to Mumbai.

Saurashtra Mail was half an hour late at Vadodara railway station and was running two and half hours late.

The Valsad-Haridwar Express was re-scheduled. Instead of its scheduled time, it was re-scheduled with six hours delay.

Ministry of Shipping all set to float a new Company to develop Port Rail projects

Under the plan, all the existing 12 Union Government-owned Ports to have Equity Stake in the new firm – will contribute equity capital of Rs.2-3 Crore each in the new Company.

Mumbai: As part of its initiative to fast-track port connectivity, the Shipping Ministry proposes to incorporate a new company to undertake rail projects at all Government ports.

The new entity, which will have equity participation from the 12 Major Ports, is expected to implement all new rail projects and also to undertake the existing rail line operations with in the port area, a Government official said.

Nitin Gadkari, Union Shipping Minister, discussed the Ministry’s proposal with head of government ports at a meeting in Mumbai on Monday. The proposed company will have an initial authorised capital and of ₹100 crore. The official, however, said the proposal is at an initial stage and the details are yet to be worked out.

Currently, rail projects at ports are implemented by special purpose vehicles created by individual ports with the support of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd. However, projects often get delayed under this model.

Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari discussed the plan with Chairmen of all the 12 Ports at a meeting in Mumbai on 28th July, the Chairman of an Eastern Coast Port who attended the meeting said.  Currently port connectivity projects are being undertaken through Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) set up for each project where the port concerned and Indian Railways are equity partners.  “We are facing problems in implementing rail connectivity to ports due to procedural delays,” he said.

Ports like Mumbai and Kolkata operate their own rail lines within the port area. These ports own locos and maintain the rail lines themselves. Mumbai port railway handles around four million of tonnes of cargo a year. The proposed port rail infrastructure company is expected to take over all the railway operations with in the port.

The new company, once it is set up, will implement all planned rail links to the 12 ports. “The new company will be involved with all aspects of the rail link right from the drawing board stage to preparation of detailed project report, raising funds and executing the project,” the chairman of the western coast port mentioned earlier said. It may also induct port users as equity partners in the proposed company.

A spokesman for the shipping ministry confirmed the development.

“Development of ports is also critical for boosting trade. Sixteen new port projects (at the 12 ports ) are proposed to be awarded this year with a focus on port connectivity,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in his budget speech on 10 July. However, experts say that providing rail linkage to state-owned ports is the job of Indian Railways and not that of ports.

“As ports, our primary job is to provide cargo handling services to port users. If we are to get involved in building rail links, what is the role of the Indian Railways which is the federal agency tasked with building rail lines,” the former chairman of a western coast port who superannuated in January said. “It is also not clear who will operate and maintain the rail lines,” he said. Besides, Indian Railways already runs a wholly-owned government company — Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) — to undertake project development, mobilization of finances and implement projects pertaining to strengthening of golden quadrilateral (national highways) and port connectivity, he added.

Among the projects to be implemented by the new company includes rail link to a planned new port at Sagar Island in district South 24 Parganas, West Bengal. A 27 km-long rail link-cum road bridge will be part of the Sagar Island port which is estimated to cost Rs.13,576 crore.

Congestion problem

Rail and road connectivity is a major problem at several ports for movement of cargo from and to ports. Delay in evacuation of imported cargo creates congestion at most ports.

Rail Budget for the current year had indicated plans to implement new projects through public private participation.

Gadkari, who reviewed the Major Ports’ performance, (his first such exercise after taking over as Shipping Minister) has asked chairmen of ports to ensure timely implementation of projects. He assured them the freedom to take independent decisions within the powers under the Major Ports Act.

However, he is said to have given a clear message that in his scheme of things there will be no place for non-performers.

The Minister wants the port cargo capacity in the country to be doubled in the next five years from 800 million tonnes to 1,600 million tonnes.

The capacity creation at major ports has been tardy at Major Ports in the past few years due to a variety of reasons.

Railways to add 13000 new Wagons this fiscal to ramp up Freight business

Shortage of Wagons adversely affected Railway finances during the last 5 fiscals.  To mitigate this and to ramp up further revenue streams through increased freight traffic operations, Govt. release “Developmental Order” for additional 2000 wagons on Monday on four firms.

New Delhi:  Expanding its inventory of wagons and using IT tools to bring transparency in the allotment of wagons are among the major initiatives that the NDA government has moved in with for bringing about a turnaround in rail finances.

Within months of the “regular order” for approximately 11,000 wagons for this fiscal, Railway Minister D.V.Sadananda Gowda on Monday placed a “Developmental Order” of 2000 additional wagons on four firms – two of which are new entrants in the area.

Among reasons the freight operations have been adversely affected has been the ‘shortage of wagons’ during the last 5 fiscals. The Railways have an inventory of 2,19.931 wagons. This is hardly enough to meet current or future requirements, as approximately 5% of the stock is sold off as scrap each year, while a sizable section of the wagons are said to be running on an over-age life.

“The fresh developmental order will help expand the manufacturing base of wagons and also bring in competition in the sector”, an official said.

Over the years, the subsidy element in the passenger segment has been mounting, with losses in the segment estimated at a whopping Rs.25,000 crore this fiscal.

Ramping up freight transportation operations is critical to rail finances, as the public transporter earns 64 paisa of every rupee from freight against 34 paisa earned from passenger services and 2 paisa from sundry operations such as advertisements and sale of passenger tickets.

In order to enable an earning of 34 paisa, a spending of 60 paisa of every rupee is necessitated in passenger services. The extra spending of an additional 26 paisa comes by way of cross subsidy from freight earnings.

“Fixing the freight versus passenger anomalies is one issue. The need is to comprehensively overhaul freight operations by providing for faster movement of goods trains and ensuring a transparency in the allotment of wagons”, an official said .

The details of Gowda’s budgetary announcement for the “e-booking” of wagons and rakes for the bulk movement of items including iron-ore, limestone of food-grains are currently being worked out by rail officials in consort with officials of the Coal, Power and Agriculture ministries.

Run Patna Metro as Joint Venture: Technical Experts suggests Bihar Govt.

Patna: Technical experts of the railways have welcomed the state government’s move to introduce Metro rail services in the city. The best corridor for Metro rails could be the area along the Ganga bank between Danapur and Fatuha, a distance of about 30km, or all along the Bailey Road from Gandhi Maidan to Dak Bungalow and then Dak Bungalow to Saguna Mor and Kurji Mor via Boring Road, they feel.

According to the technical experts, there seems to be no feasibility of the underground (tunnel) Metro rails in Patna keeping in view the geography of the city. However, the Metro rails on the surface on the pattern of Delhi is feasible in Patna on the aforesaid routes, they said adding this ambitious project would cost the government about Rs..400 crore for running Metro rails in a distance of 30km.

The cost of Metro rails on surface is likely to be about Rs.10 crore to Rs.15 crore per km while the underground Metro rail will cost about Rs.250 crore per km for the run of specially-designed imported air-conditioned compressed coaches. Thus it will be better if both the railways and the state government make it a joint venture to turn this dream project into a reality for Patnaites, the experts suggested.

According to former Railway Board member K.B.L.Mittal, Patna is in need of Metro rail services to cope with huge traffic pressure due to increasing population in the city. “It is a welcome step that state government is likely to finalize the project report for Metro rail service next month. Railways and state government should come out with a joint venture to complete this project,” he said.

According to former chief engineer of railways G.N.Sahay, Metro is feasible on the surface especially on the Ganga bank corridor or on the crowded Bailey Road. The state government must find an alternative mode of communication on the busy Ashok Rajpath where university, medical college, hospital, civil court, private nursing homes and several other important institutions are located. While Metro on surface is not feasible on this road, the government could think of providing Metro rail services all along the Ganga bank, he said.

Sahay, who worked with the British Railways and supervised various high speed rail projects in other countries, said the government should not delay this project. The Patna-Digha existing rail line could be utilized for running Metro rail service to benefit the office-goers and students, he said. To reach Patna Junction has become an uphill task in the evening due to huge traffic rush and Metro rail service is the only solution to the present traffic problems, Sahay said.

Railways combined Electricity and Diesel Bill for current FY stands at INR 35000 Crore

New Delhi:  Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda in his budget speech on July 8 claimed that the fare revision – that came into effect on June 25 – would fetch the railways an additional income of Rs.8,000 crore. However, The bad news for the railways is that they are looking at a combined electricity and diesel bill for the financial year 2014-15 of a massive Rs.35,000 crore. And that, railway officials pointed out, was a full Rs.6,500 crore more than the Rs.28,000 crore power-and-diesel bills the railway ran up for the financial year that ended this March.

The bad news just gets worse. Thanks to the fact that electrification of various important routes not moving at the pace the railways required, it spends all this money on diesel, despite it hauling only 38% of the total passenger and goods traffic.

The railways’ Rs.28,500 crore bill for last year comprised electric bills of Rs.9,600 crore, while the diesel bill – despite hauling less traffic – stood at Rs18,900 crore. The estimate for the current year – Rs.35000 crores – is also heavily skewed in favour of diesel, with Rs.24,000 crore expected to be diesel bills.

The issue of the railways’ rising bills was highlighted by Member (Electrical) Railway Board, Kul Bhushan, during a conference of railway electrical and signalling engineers. “The hauling of traffic on electric traction is the cheapest available mode of transport in the country and Indian Railways is progressing steadily towards railway electrification on important and busy routes,” Bhushan told the gathering.

A city-based official, however, said that with diesel prices expected to go up further in the coming months, the calculations of the railways might take a beating even further. It is not as if the electricity bills are giving the railways any comfort, said officials.

In a press interaction earlier, WR general manager Hemant Kumar, while explaining the need for the June 25 fare hike, spoke of how rising power bills was hitting WR. “In the past 2 years, the power rates of both MSEB (Maharashtra State Electricity Board) and Tata Power had risen by 36% and 44% respectively. Currently, we pay the MSEB who supplies electricity to us at Rs.9.14 per unit, while Tata Power supplies at Rs.7.77 per unit,” Kumar told the press.

Diva-Sawantwadi train derailment: Report puts onus on 3 Railway Divisions

Mumbai:  The preliminary report submitted to the railway board on the Diva-Sawantwadi train derailment on May 4, 2014 has concluded that a complete system failure of track, coach maintenance and engine led to the accident.

The report, though preliminary, lays onus on three rail divisions, including the Central Railway (CR), Konkan Railway (KR) and South Central Railway (SC).

CRS Chetan Bakshi said, “A system failure basically means a failure of the tracks which come under the purview of the CR, the locomotive engine that belongs to the SC, and maintenance of the coach which comes under the KR.”

“The report has been submitted to the railway board in the first week of July and now, the three divisions have to answer with their action plan,” Mr Bakshi said.

The track failure, a weld (point where two tracks are fused) fracture, was found to be the primary cause of the derailment. The inquiry also revealed that there had been 165 fractures on the section between Panvel and Roha in the past four years, as reported earlier.

According to Mr Bakshi, coach maintenance, which comes under KR, is under the scanner and so is the locomotive/engine that ran on diesel and belonged to the SC.

“These three aspects and the lack of follow through by all three divisions led to the situation that caused the derailment that day,” Mr Bakshi said.

CR general manager Sunil Kumar Sood said, “We have received the report and the biggest challenge that has been suggested to us is the renewal of our tracks. There are many aspects such as from where we get these tracks as well as maintenance issues.”

“But we are trying to complete all the pre-requisites that the CRS has set for us,” Mr Sood added.

KR chief public relations officer Vaishali Patange said, “The report is with the railway board for acceptance otherwise, we will take necessary action based on the railway board’s decision.” Unfortunately, none of the three divisions have been given a deadline to complete the requirements.

Mechanized Cleaning system introduced at 12 major stations of ECR

Patna: Indian Railways, which has outsourced mechanized cleaning work to private agencies, has introduced the cleaning system at 12 stations falling under East Central Railway (ECR) with an aim to not only provide cleanliness but basic amenities to passengers also.

ECR CPRO Arvind Rajak, while giving details about the mechanized cleaning work, said the cleaning work, apart from Patna Junction, has been launched at Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Dhanbad, Raxaul, Bettiah, Sitamarhi, Bapudham Motihari, Sugauli, Parasnath, Sakri and Jayanagar junctions. The agency will also ensure cleaning work at platforms, waiting rooms, lavatories and washable aprons on platform areas every day, he said and added that the contract for the work was finalized with a private agency at a cost of Rs 5.42 crore for two years for Patna Junction, which is one of the most crowded stations of the country.

According to sources, railways, apart from mechanized cleaning work, has also given a contract to a private agency to remove or collect garbage from 32 stations of the ECR including Patna Junction. Under the system, workers of the agency would be present at major stations to collect or remove garbage from the long distance trains when they reach stations. Railway staff have been asked to ensure that coaches are attended properly by cleaning workers of the agency failing which railways would ensure fine on the erring workers, sources said.

Take up Khurda-Balangir Railway line project on a priority basis: demands A.U.Singhdeo

Bhubaneswar: Former minister and BJD Rajya Sabha member A U Singhdeo has appealed to the Centre to take up Khurda-Balangir railway line project on a priority basis as it will provide a link to the backward KBK region in the State.

Participating in the budget discussion in the Rajya Sabha, Singhdeo said the Khurda-Balangir railway line project announced two decades back has still not been completed due to lack of funds. This year also, only Rs.100 crore has been provided to the project in the Railway budget, Singhdeo said and added that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has decided to provide land free of cost and also bear 50 per cent construction cost of the project.

He said though allocation of Rs.1420 crore for Odisha in the 2014-15 Railway budget is more than last year’s provision, it is significantly less than the State’s demand of Rs.3,160 crore. As far as Railways are concerned, Odisha continues to be a neglected State, he said.

Singhdeo demanded that the recently announced Indian Institute of Management (IIM) for Odisha in the budget should be set up in Balangir in view of the economic backwardness of the area which would help boost the overall development in KBK region. He also requested the Centre to expedite the establishment of three new medical colleges in Odisha as announced earlier this year.

Singhdeo said the Centre should release funds earmarked under different schemes to States in a timely and adequate manner. During recent years, the Centre has been resorting to plan cuts which has adversely impacted fiscal health of the States and scheme implementation, he said.

Rain hits rail services, cuts-off villages in Gujarat

Ahmedabad: Several passenger and express trains in Ahmedabad-Mumbai route have been running behind schedule due to waterlogged tracks, as heavy rain continued to pound southern Gujarat for the past 12 hours.

The rains that threw normal life out of gear in places like Valsad, Navsari and Surat also inundated major highways connecting the state with Mumbai.

As many as 14 villages in Umargam have been marooned and cut-off, prompting district administration to dispatch teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to rescue people stranded there.

Railway Zones, Divisions to be Ranked for Food Quality, Cleanliness

New Delhi:  Flooded with passenger complaints, the railways have decided to rank railway zones and divisions for their performance, particularly relating to quality of food served and cleanliness on trains and at stations. The grading would be done on the basis of feedback received from passengers complaint books, text messages and Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS).

Officials of zonal and divisional railways, which are ranked poorly, would be held accountable and face action. “The fear of action would make these officials accountable. They would have to take corrective steps to ensure better quality food and cleanliness,” said an official.

Faced with public outcry over poor food quality, the railways cancelled the on-board catering contract with Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) in 2010. But food quality remains far from desirable with a group of contractors monopolizing the catering services.

Just around 31 contractors have catering licences for all 264 passenger trains that provide pantry car services and several of these companies have remained in the business for decades. Besides complaints of cartel operations, there are also allegations that members belonging to the same family get contracts by floating multiple firms.

Now the authorities would be forced to take action against these companies if the food quality is not good, the official said.

Sources said minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha is pushing hard to implement the plan to ensure better food quality to passengers. Plans are afoot to provide pre-cooked meals of reputed brands.

“If the services are not up to the standard, especially in hygiene and the taste, severe action would be initiated against the vendors including cancellation of contract,” said a senior official.

The railways also plan to introduce a quality assurance mechanism through third party audit. The budget has announced 40% increase in allocation for cleanliness.

Kochi Metro seeks Financial Aid from AFD for Phase-II expansion

Kochi_Metro_Rail_LogoKochi:  Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) today sought financial assistance from French financial institution Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) for the second phase expansion of the Metro project.

The four member AFD team visited construction sites of the Metro project this morning and later held discussions with Kochi Metro officials.

Later briefing reporters, KMRL Managing Director Elias Goerge said they had submitted the expansion plans of the metro from Aluva to Angamally and Palarivattom to Kakkanad.

AFD has already agreed to extend 180 million Euros (Rs 1,500 crore loan to the Metro project. The first instalment of Rs 160 crore would be received by KMRL in September this year.

KMRL has also sought assistance from AFD for the monorail project in the state.

Investment Target of Dedicated Freight Corridors revised to INR 80000 crore: CRB

s2013050146968New Delhi: The initial investment needed for the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) was estimated around Rs.27000 Crore but it has touched close to Rs.80000 Crore in the span of 6 years for the various genuine reasons, said Mr.Arunendra Kumar, Chairman, Railway Board.

From the day of commencement of the project Dedicated Freight Corridor till date the expenditure had gone up with various genuine reasons. Initially the organisation set up Rs.12000 Crore for the Land Acquisition but later on it multiplied several times. Apart from numerous challenges, the project of Dedicated Freight Corridor is reasonably on time also tuned with our expectations, said Mr. Arunendra Kumar.

Indian Railways (IR) and DFC are focussing the common man as per the directions of Hon’ble Prime Minister, Mr.Narendra Modi. DFC is one the goals to achieve the common man objective that you reduce the transportation cost and reduce it substantially, not in tids and bits, said Kumar.

He said, the bottom line is that DFC which we started, if it does well; we will get more corridors and get more money and it will bring down the cost and enhance the technological levels (i.e. how to lay a line more efficiently, how to run a train more effectively and how to run it safely), said Mr. Kumar.

Indian railways have done extra on tracks and there has to be more track for them to run. “We have been compared with China and other countries but please remember, India is also on the same road. We have bullock cart, BMW and truck goes together likewise on the railway network passenger train, suburban train and goods train are to be delivered on time and with safety, Chairman Railway Board.

Mr.Alok Johri, Member Mechanical, Railway Board said that the Dedicated Freight Corridor will bring a major change not only in the transportation section but will also bring revolution in Indian railways. Pointing at the challenges and the Technological upgradation needed, Mr. Johri said Railways tracks and Locomotives is the major challenge for DFC. He said, inputs from manufactures as about 30,000 wagons of new designs are required immediately. The wagons needed would be 25 – 32.5 tonnes capacity of lighter weight and of different dimensions. The advantage is it will be better for Pay load ratio.

Mr.Johri also stressed that there is lot of opportunities of technological upgradation in the Dedicated Freight Corridor. The high and upgraded technology for monitoring and diagnostic system is the need of the hour and IR is committed of implementing it.

He also pointed, the targeted year of completion of DFC is 2017-18 and in the process bulk of contracts has been awarded for Eastern Corridors.

Another challenge for DFC, Mr. Johri mentioned that the land acquisition as after the new Land Acquisition Act, hefty premium has to be paid for acquisition of land but the government & Indian railways also assured that they will overcome of it.

ASSOCHAM President Mr. Rana Kapoor said, Indian Railways, the lifeline of our Nation, carries over one billion tonnes of freight every year. To actualize the ambitious target of becoming the largest freight carrier in the world, India needs to urgently act on developing last mile connectivity to ports, mines and power plants by fast tracking Dedicated Freight Corridors which will provide strong impetus to the economy, in addition to fostering growth of freight-intensive industries. It is therefore critical for the Government to ensure time bound execution of the project which has the capacity to boost manufacturing output to 25% of GDP by 2025 and result in significant job creation.

Mr. D K Agarwal, Chairman, ASSOCHAM National Rail Council said, Railways should be treated as service of national importance legally e.g it was done in case of DMRC. In fact, Railways are paying directly or indirectly Rs. 13,000 crores annually. This should be exempted and the fund should be used for infrastructure capacity and capability building.

He further said, In public so much debate is there that railways is a split personality – social as well commercial but world over more or less the same philosophy is followed baring few nations.

We have to keep in our mind that before independence total route killometers was over 53,000 and today it is only around 65,000. The pace has to enhanced in a such way that era of past is wiped off, added ASSOCHAM Chairman.

Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train Operational Cost estimated at INR 412 Cr Per Annum: RITES

RITES says the project would yield an annual revenue of INR 2499 Crore in the first year of operation

RITES Ltdअहमेदाबाद Ahmedabad (ADI): A study conducted by RITES Ltd, a government of India enterprise, has said that the annual operation and maintenance cost of the proposed Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train will be Rs 412 crore. The report says the rate of returns from the project will, however, be around 9% a year.

In December 2013, the central government had ordered a joint feasibility study in which RITES and Japan are involved. The report by RITES says the project would yield an annual revenue of Rs 2,499 crore in the first year of operation. The project is likely to be operational by 2021.

Minister of state for railways, Manoj Sinha, in his reply to a question seeking clarification on selecting Ahmedabad as a terminal station for the high-expenditure train project, said that the terminal location has been selected on the basis of multiple criteria. “The criteria include the traffic potential, the paying capacity of travellers, potential of leveraging land resources, availability of land for terminal, and most importantly, the linkage with central business districts,” he said.

The central government said that Japan’s study would compare high-speed rail systems in different countries providing information on technologies, costs and financing of high-speed rails. The study will be completed in 18 months and the report is likely to be submitted in June 2015.

A senior official said that if the RITES report was found to be true, the operation cost per day would be Rs 1.12 crore. This would turn out to be at par if not cheaper than airlines charges, he said.

Ahmedabad as a terminal has been finalized. From the Mumbai end, it will travel to Thane (near Diva), before heading towards Palghar via Virar, and will then follow the existing alignment in Gujarat with halts at Surat, Vadodara and Ahmedabad.

Biodiversity Science Express chugs out of Delhi on ‘National Biodiversity Mission’

Awareness on Biodiversity to be raised through Science Express Biodiversity Special – to cover more than 50 locations

biodiversity science expressNew Delhi: Minister of State (Independent Charge) Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar along with Minister of Railways D.V.Sadananda Gowda and Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science and Technology, Dr.Jitendra Singh flagged off the 3rd phase of Science Express Biodiversity Special (SEBS) at Safdarjung Railway Station today. An innovative exhibition on wheels, this train aims to create awareness amongst masses in general and youth in particular about the exceptional biodiversity of India.

science-express-delhi-PTI-360It is a flagship venture of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Ministry of Science and Technology and Indian Railways.

Embarking on a journey of 17,000-km, the ‘Science Express Bio-diversity Special’ chugged out of Delhi Safdarjung railway station.

Speaking at the occasion, Prakash Javadekar said in order to evince interest amongst the school children, people across the country, an advertising campaign would also be initiated so as to sensitize and educate the masses on the nuances of the rich biodiversity of the country.

D0KLAAP241333Javadekar emphasized that Science and Technology had commenced a successful journey today to sensitize the richness of India’s diversity amongst the masses. In order to take the issue associated with biodiversity forward, society needed to base its foundation on the rationale of scientific temper.

It was important in the backdrop of India comprising 2.5% of land mass on earth, 17% of world population and yet being home to 8% of world biodiversity.

SCIENCE_EXPRESS_6295fThe Minister added that this was no ordinary train. It is a journey of learning, spreading the message of Bio diversity conservation and telling people that even in these modern times, we still have to depend on bio diversity. The train covering a span of 194 days at 57 locations would benefit 30 lakh students, he said.

The train is on a 197-day tour which will see it cover 57 stops across 20 states. It will end its journey in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar on February 6 of next year.

1TA41867Three ministries – Science and Technology, Environment and Forests and Railways — have collaborated to roll out the Science Express and all three ministers were present today for the launch.

Highlighting the importance of the initiative, the Minister mentioned that the train was in fact the brand ambassador of the COP 11. It showcased the rich biodiversity of India to delegates from over 190 countries.

scienceexpress_048_largeFor this the train was stationed at Secunderabad in October 2012 to facilitate visit of delegates to the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity. Indeed, there were quite a few records and milestones that we believe this train has achieved.  It was perhaps the world’s most visited train exhibition. Within India, it had gone to the highest rail track possible for broad gauge, and also covered some extreme locations in the north, south, east and west.

E0P4CLE1291In his address, Railway Minister, Shri Sadananda Gowda stated that this initiative was unique and innovative as it touched “real India”. It provided a platform to showcase the achievements of science to the people. Minister for Science & Technology, Shri Jitendra Singh mentioned that science needed to be utilized for the larger picture of social transformation. This implied using science for optimum social progress and scientific transformation.

SCIENCE_EXPRESS coachThe present run of the train is in the 3rd Phase. In this phase, the train is envisaged to cover 57 locations on Broad Gauge network of Indian Railways across the entire length & breadth of the country.

SCcience Express Bidiversity special, the state of the art exhibition on train aims to create awareness on biodiversityof India, climate change and similar issues among various audience, specially students. This exhibition train will be on display at Chhatrapati Shhivaji Terminus in Mumbai on Sunday 16 th September 2012. Pic:Sandeep MahankalOf the 16 coaches of the Science Express- Biodiversity Special, 8 are solely dedicated to showcasing the myriad biodiversity spread across all the bio-geographical zones of India through a variety of interactive exhibits, short films & videos that are shown on Plasma & LED TV screens, large format displays, kiosks and back lit panels.

The remaining coaches have interesting & informative exhibits on Climate Changes, Energy and Water conservation and other topical issues.

1ZIKE1CEC1640The train is a unique platform for dissemination of information on the bio-diversity and the flora and fauna of India. Care has been taken to not only display animal portraits but also to give information on them, including on habitat and food habits.  The train will cover the north, south, east and west of India. Surprisingly, it does not have any of the north-eastern states on its itinerary.

“If the protection of environment is etched in the minds of students, they will never do anything that will harm nature. A nation that does not accept science or opposes it is bound to fail,” he stressed.

C2SINEXR1502He also urged Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda to make the train operational for the entire year. Gowda stated that the initiative was innovative and touched the “real India”. It provides a platform for showcasing the achievements of science as also the railways, which extends logistical support to the Science Express.

The current decade (2011-2020) has been declared as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity and United Nations Decade for Deserts and Fight against Desertification. The ‘Science Express – Biodiversity Special’, therefore, primarily addresses the theme ‘biodiversity’. The state-of the- art exhibition aboard SEBS aims to create wide-spread awareness on the unique biodiversity of India, Climate Change, Water, Energy Conservation and related issues among various sections of the society, especially students.

DE06P44COLC157Since its launch in 2012, the Science Express Biodiversity Special train has covered 114 stations and travelled across more than 37000 kms in the first two phases. Phase-I of the SEBS was launched on World Environment Day (5 June, 2012) from Safdarjung Railway Station, New Delhi. Phase-II of the SEBS was launched on April 9, 2013 from Safdarjung Railway Station, New Delhi. It covered 62 locations and over 22 lakh people, including 5 lakh students and 29000 teachers from 6005 schools, enjoyed learning in a fun filled way.

SCcience Express Bidiversity special, the state of the art exhibition on train aims to create awareness on biodiversityof India, climate change and similar issues among various audience, specially students. This exhibition train will be on display at Chhatrapati Shhivaji Terminus in Mumbai on Sunday 16 th September 2012. Pic:Sandeep MahankalThe present phase would culminate on 4th February, 2015 at Gandhinagar, Gujarat after covering 57 locations whereby the SEBS train would have covered most of the major stations across the country.

Minister for Science and Technology, Jitendra Singh, said that science needs to be utilised for the larger goal of social transformation. It has to be used for optimum social progress and scientific transformation, he said.
SCIENCE_EXPRESS coach

NFR Construction Orgnisation to built bridge with world’s tallest pillar on Jiribam-Tupul BG line

Jiribam (JRBM):  Construction of the world’s tallest railway bridge with the tallest pillar — it’ll be 141 metres-high — has begun near Noney in Manipur, said Northeast Frontier Railway Construction Organisation in a release issued here on Monday.

The bridge, which spans over a gorge with an overall length of about 700 meters, is part of the 111-km long Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal broad gauge railway line under construction that will connect Manipur’s capital Imphal with the country’s railway network.

“This bridge is slated to become the tallest in the world from the point of view of pillar height surpassing the existing tallest of Mala-Rijeka viaduct on Belgrade-Bar railway line in Europe where the height of pillars is 139 m,” senior Public Relations Officer, Construction, D.C. Borah said in the release.

Landslip disrupts traffic on Kirandol-Kottavalasa line

lanslide किरंडुलकिरंडुल Kirandul (KRDL):  The traffic on Kothavalasa–Kirandul (K-K) railway line, the lifeline for people of Jagdalpur and for movement of iron ore, has come to a grinding halt as earth and boulders fell on the track on the Jarti-Malliguda section in the early hours of Monday. A total of 76 passengers, who were travelling by the Durg – Jagadalpur express, were stranded. Authorities arranged buses and 40 passengers were sent back to Jeypore and Koraput and 36 passengers were sent to Jagdalpur. The railway authorities also arranged food and water for stranded passengers.

“Initially, boulders fell at two or three places but before the restoration work could begin e boulders fell at around 10 different places. The track has also been washed away at a few places between Koraput and Jeypore,” Senior Divisional Commercial Manager of Waltair Division M.Yelvender Yadav said.

Trains cancelled

Train no.18006 Jagdalpur-Howrah-Samleswari Express leaving Jagdalpur on July 28 has been cancelled. Train no. 18005 Howrah-Jagdalpur-Samleswari on July 28 will be short-terminated at Titlagarh and return as 18006.

Train no. 18447/18448 Bhubaneswar-Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express has been cancelled between Koraput and Jagdalpur. However, the trains will run from Koraput with regular scheduled timings. Train no. 58501 Visakhapatnam – Kirandul Passenger will run up to Koraput and return as 58502 and train no. Trian no. 18212 Jagdalpur – Durg Express has been cancelled on July 28, according to statement issued by the East Coast Railway (E Co R).


  • 76 passengers sent by buses to Jeypore, Koraput and Jagdalpur
  • Track also washed away at a few places

Demand for Kumbakonam-Jayamkondam-Vriddhachalam railway line gathers momentum

Commuter Associations say the proposal of Vriddhachalam-Kumbakonam line is awaiting Railway Board’s approval

कुम्बकोनम Kumbakonam (KMU): The demand for laying a new railway line in the Kumbakonam-Jayamkondam-Vriddhachalam section before the forthcoming Mahamaham festival, has gathered momentum, with various organisations making a fervent plea for the same.

The demand of these associations, particularly the All Traders’ Association Kumbakonam, Thanjavur District Rail Users’ Association, Rail Passengers’ Association, Papasanam, got a shot in its arm when this issue was raised by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Rajya Sabha member V. Maitreyan in the Upper House recently.

Kumbakonam-Vriddhachalam sectionMr.Maitreyan, hailing from Thanjavur district, said: “The survey for the 65-km Kumbakonam–Vriddhachalam new railway line via Jayamkondam and Andimadam had been completed and is waiting for the approval of the Railway Board. The estimate for the project is around Rs. 750 crore. If this line is expedited to be completed before Mahamaham festival slated for 2016, this will prove an alternative route to Chennai, Tirupati, and Bangalore.”

Dr. Maitreyan demanded doubling of the Thanjavur-Kumbakonam line, converting halt stations at Darasuram and Tirunageswaram, which are adjacent to Kumbakonam, into block stations (crossing stations), to enable better platform management at Kumbakonam railway station during the festival. Besides, he demanded improving infrastructure in Kumbakonam station, including construction of Yatrinivas.

The above associations while congratulating Dr. Maitreyan for taking up this issue have welcomed the announcement made by D.V. Sadananda Gowda, Railway Minister, that he would discuss on the laying of new railway line between Kumbakonam and Vriddhachalam with the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. The All Traders Association Kumbakonam at its meeting held recently celebrated the announcement of the Railway Minister by distributing sweets to its members and so on.

A.S.A.M. Adiyan Chettiar, its president, and V. Sathyanarayanan, its secretary, in a statement said the association had been pleading for this railway line for the past 15 years. The association urged the Railway Ministry to accord priority and complete this project before Mahamaham.

They thanked Dr. Maitreyan and R.K. Bharathimohan, MP, who spoke on this issue in the Lok Sabha and for drawing the attention of the Railway Minister.

They thanked the Union Minister of State for Heavy Industries Pon Radhakrishnan for drawing the attention of the Centre.

They urged the Centre and the State government to implement all demands put forth by the association on war-footing before the Mahamaham festival, in the interest of the large number of devotees visiting this temple town from across the world on the occasion.

Fighting bull and cow derail an express train in UP!

डालीगंज Daliganj Jn (DAL): Four coaches of a train derailed late on Monday here when a fighting bull and cow suddenly came on the railway tracks and hit engine of the moving Lal Kuan Express, officials said. But no passenger was injured.

The incident occurred near the Daliganj railway station in the state capital.

Railway officials rushed to the accident site and till early morning work was underway to bring the derailed coaches back on track and restore traffic on the section.

The impact of the collision derailed four general sleeper coaches. Thankfully the train was at the outer signal of the station and hence not at high speed, an official said, adding otherwise the accident would have been deadly.

Passengers were immediately taken off the train and moved to the station. An explanation has been sought into how the stray cattle found their way onto the tracks.

Adani Group gets Australia nod for Coal, Rail projects

AdaniRailThe Australian government has given environmental approval to Adani Mining’s 16.5 billion dollars Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Infrastructure project in Queensland.

The Australian high commissioner to India, Patrick Suckling said on Monday that his government’s decision to give the green signal  to the  project shows that Australia is open for business.

“This project will drive economic growth and create more than 6,000 jobs in Australia. It will also boost India’s development by providing electricity to 100 million Indians,” he said.

WR, SER champions in Railway Table Tennis Championship

कोलकाता Kolkata (KOAA): Western Railway and South Eastern Railway have emerged men`s and women`s champions respectively in the 62nd All India Railways table tennis Championship in Guwahati recently.

Pravakaran of Southern Railway and Tekeme Sarkar of Northeast Frontier Railway won the individual men`s and women`s titles respectively.

Pravakaran defeated Anirban Nandi of South Eastern Railway 4-2, while Tekeme beat Rupsha Bhattacharya of Metro Railway 4-3 in their summit clashes.

South Eastern Railway women`s team of Anindita Chakraborty, Medha Moitra, Pallabi Kundu, Saptaparni Guha and Gargi Nag won all the five matches en route to the title.

The SER eves defeated Western Railway 3-1, runners-up Central Railway 3-1, Metro Railway 3-0, Northeast Frontier Railway 3-0 and Eastern Railway 3-0.

In the men`s team event, Western Railway edged out Southern Railway for the title while SER had to settle for the third place.

No plan to phase-out Sleeper Class coaches: Railways

New Delhi: The ministry was reacting to a new report that said the Railway Board was thinking of replacing all second-class coaches with AC coaches.

The Indian Railways on Monday denied a news report that claimed there was a plan to replace Sleeper Class coaches with air-conditioned (AC) coaches.

“There is no plan to phase out Sleeper Class coaches. They will continue to be deployed in train services,” the ministry said on its Twitter account.

The ministry was reacting to a report in The Times of India that said the Railway Board was thinking of replacing all second-class coaches in Express and Superfast trains with AC coaches in the next few years.

The report cited the example of Southern Railway, which, it said, had started replacing old second-class sleeper compartments in some trains with AC coaches, reducing the number of sleeper coaches.

SCR Launches a Special Drive on Safety at Unmanned Railway Level Crossings

सिकंदराबाद Secunderabad (SC): South Central Railway has initiated a fortnight-long special drive o­n safety at Unmanned Railway Level Crossings (UMLCs) all over the Zone. P.K.Srivastava, General Manager, South Central Railway issued instructions to undertake this focused campaign aimed at avoiding accidents at unmanned level crossings. The General Manager held a detailed review meeting through video conferencing with Divisional Railway Managers of all the six Divisions of the Zone at Rail Nilayam, Secunderabad, today i.e., 28th July, 2014 o­n issues related to safety at UMLCs and also the modalities for the fortnight long safety drive launched.

6549633285DSC1778 During this fortnight long special campaign, SCR officials will focus o­n thorough inspection of safety measures including the availability of requisite infrastructure at Unmanned Level Crossings such as road surface, proper approaches, warning boards to road users, stop boards, whistle boards, speed breakers and visibility to the road users etc. A close watch will be kept o­n the loco pilots to monitor their whistling habits while approaching a level crossing. Joint ambush checks will be conducted involving the Railway Protection Force, Government Railway Police and civil authorities at the Railway Level Crossings, to apprehend errant road users under the Motor Vehicles Act / the Railways Act etc.  Safety seminars are being organized in all the Divisions o­n SCR to sensitize the railway staff, the road users and the public in general o­n this subject.

6549616829DSC1775With a view to spread Public awareness o­n safety at level crossings, SCR has taken up a multi-pronged publicity campaign through various Media – the newspapers, television, FM radio, CCTVs and public announcement system at railway stations. Emphasis is being given to educate road users o­n the need to observe all safety precautions while passing across UMLCs (STOP, LOOK and PROCEED).

In addition, safety messages are being delivered to the public through directed SMS system highlighting the need to be cautious and watchful at the time of crossing UMLCs. Street Plays are also being organized at strategic locations to reach out to targeted groups of people in rural areas, duly utilizing the services of the local village panchayats. Posters / banners / leaflets are also being displayed / distributed at public places to strengthen the public awareness o­n the precautions to be taken at level crossings in the interest of public safety.

BJP’s ‘Making Railways Better’ initiative gathers huge response

New Delhi:  Do you think India needs a bullet train at this point in time? Who is responsible for dirty trains? Limit entries to prevent crowding of platform, bring platform charges at par with airports. Charge people more for tickets, make railways compensate passengers for late trains.

These were some of the questions and suggestions that have emerged from the group – Making Railways Better – started by BJP’s communications cell. The party started this initiative after connecting with over one lakh people through its governance initiative Transform India on Local Circles, a web-based platform.

Given that over 2 crore passengers use trains every day, the Making Railways Better group is growing fast. The group, which started just over two weeks ago, already had over 6,402 members on Sunday, up from 3,000 members on Thursday.

In fact, based on the feedback of its members, lack of cleanliness in coaches, stations and toilets have emerged as the biggest problem that passengers face.

Other issues included unhygienic food, difficulty in online/offline ticket booking, lack of safety on tracks which lead to frequent accidents, corruption and discretion of train ticket examiners, lack of punctuality of trains and crowding of stations and platforms by people without travel and platform tickets.

“The focus of the initiative is to have collective governance, identify the root cause and suggest solutions,” said Sachin Taparia, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Local Circles. The white papers are then sent to the concerned Ministers and Ministries.

For instance, for the Railway Budget, the Transform India initiative had provided 16 inputs from which 11 were accepted. While some inputs were ongoing proposals such as foreign direct investment in Railways, higher use of IT, use of e-procurement, others included anti-populist proposals such as the need to limit the number of passengers in a coach, free passes, and concessions.

Incidentally, BJP’s IT cell has also been involved in an initiative with the Railway Ministry.

A day before the Budget, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda inaugurated the Railways’ page on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. They also launched a phone number where people could dial in and hear the railway budget.

When contacted, Arvind Gupta, Head-IT Cell, BJP, said that these initiatives will help people give their feedback to the Railways, while the phone number was event-based.

Fan clubs of Railway enthusiasts such as Indian Railways Fan Club Association are also involved in giving feedback to the Railways.

Karnataka’s Vokkaliga community pins high hopes on Sadananda Gowda

Bangalore: On a Sunday two weeks ago, Railway Minister DV Sadananda Gowda was on a visit to Mandya, the crucible of Vokkaliga politics in Karnataka.

Along the 45-km stretch from Mysore, crowds had collected at a few places, holdings placards and shouting slogans in praise of Gowda. He stopped at each crowd, and acknowledged the warmth of the people with his signature smile.

The spontaneous celebration was spurred by the fact that a Vokkaliga has become a prominent Union Minister with the coveted railway portfolio.

Just three years ago, when the BJP appointed Gowda as Karnataka chief minister, it made subtle attempts to tell Vokkaligas that the party had rewarded the community. In fact, the party was only trying to turn the calamity of BS Yeddyurappa’s exit as chief minister over the mining scam into an opportunity.

It thought along the way it could please Vokkaligas-the second largest community who make up about a fifth of Karnataka’s population, and use the surname of Gowda. But the ploy didn’t work because in his political career, the 61-year-old politician had never played the community card.

The culture of Gowda’s region was the big influence: he comes from Sullya, the taluk in the coastal Dakshina Kannada district where most people, including Gowdas, speak the local dialect of Tulu. The tradition of Gowdas living in places like Kodagu (Coorg)-Dakshina Kannada belt is vastly different from that of Vokkaligas in the old Mysore region.

But Sadananda Gowda may well be blurring those boundaries. Not that Gowda has changed his shades, and is projecting himself as the new Vokkaliga mascot, but the politically influential community is embracing him as its leader, and taking pride in the fact that one of them is the railway minister. “We have reposed faith in Gowda.

As a community, Vokkaligas are backward educationally and economically. He has a good opportunity to emerge as a strong leader. The coming days will judge whether he is able to cash on the opportunity,” said Dr Appaji Gowda, president of the Vokkaligara Sangha, the community organisation with about 2.9 lakh members. Numerically ahead of Vokkaligas in Karnataka are Lingayats, and quite often, the chief minister is from either of the two communities.

“Traditionally, Lingayat leaders came from the (river) Krishna belt, and Vokkaliga leaders from the Cauvery belt,” said D Umapathy, a Delhi-based journalist who has been tracking Karnataka’s politicalaffairs for about three decades. “But Sadananda Gowda is an exception, coming from the non-Cauvery region. (PM Narendra) Modi giving him the railway portfolio has cemented his position in the party as well as the community.” According to a political analyst, the fact that Gowda does not belong to the Vokkaliga mainland is working to his advantage.

It’s the old Mysore region that nurtured powerful Vokkaliga leaders – be it former PM HD Deve Gowda, or former CMs SM Krishna or HD Kumaraswamy, or potential CM candidate DK Shivakumar. In fact, within the BJP, former Deputy CM R Ashoka did try to project himself as BJP’s tallest Vokkaliga leader. But Sadananda Gowda has pipped Ashoka at the post in the latter’s home-turf of Bangalore.

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