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13 Indians, Israelis with blind climbers, scale Mt. Kilimanjaro



Mumbai, Sep 24:  In an unique adventure sports initiative, a group of blind and able-bodied climbers from India and Israel have scaled the world’s fourth highest and Africa’s tallest peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, an organiser said here on Monday.

The climb between September 8-14 was billed as India’s first Inclusive Climb. It included two blind climbers from India and one from Israel, besides 10 others, said the founder of Summitting4Hope (S4H) and expedition leader Anusha Subramanian.

“The climb to the 5885-metre high Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world, is another victory of inclusion, which is close to the hearts of S4H and Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF).

“It re-evaluated our rigid views about disability and shattered stereotypes that plague persons with disability,” Subramanian, a media professional told news-persons.

She said it is appalling that as a society, we define what ‘they can’ and ‘cannot do’, but combating severe fatigue and acute mountain sickness, all the participants successfully summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The inclusive climb included 14-year old Baepi Donio of Israel — the youngest climber, besides a German teacher, a mother-son duo, two independent filmmakers and six local and three Indian mountain guides in the expedition.

The Pune-based ABBF founder and one of the blind climbers, Divyanshu Ganatra, said that “exclusion is something that persons with disability routinely encounter and with disability, in India, comes ‘invisibility'”, but the real challenge is to understand despite the differences.

“Mountains and nature or outdoors don’t differentiate between anyone, so why is it that we discriminate among people? I believe that to change something, you have to change yourself,” said Subramanian.

Besides Ganatra and Subramanian, the 13-member group included filmmakers Sehran Mohsin and Omkar Potdar, mountain guide Karn Kowshik, IT consultant Prasad Gurav, German teacher Omana Kale, Israelis Uri Basha, Sophie Donio and her 14-year old son Baepi, adventure sports enthusiast Vaishak J.P., motivational speaker Nupur Pittie and consultant Adi Raheja.

The ABBF is said to be the only NGO in the country working with cross-disabilities by providing more opportunities to disabled persons with adaptive adventure and sports activities, marathons, tandem cycling, scuba-diving, paragliding and mountaineering.

S4H, co-founded by Subramanian and Guneet Puri in 2013 with the aim to rehabilitate the flood-ravaged people of Uttarakhand, has supported other causes like Kashmir floods, Nepal earthquake and since last year the disabled persons especially from the economically weaker income groups.


To avoid overcrowding Railways to run 6 more local trains, 2 ladies special

At present 500 special suburban services are being operated by Western Railway for essential services staff



Mumbai Local Train

In order to maintain social distancing and to avoid overcrowding, Western Railway has taken the decision to increase the number of daily special suburban services by adding 6 more services including two Ladies Special trains from Monday.

500 special suburban services were being operated by Western Railway for Essential Services Staff as notified by the Government of Maharashtra. To this, 6 more trains are being added in order to bring flexibility in transportation.

According to an official press release, the increased 6 services have been added between Virar- Churchgate sector. Out of the 6 services, 3 services will be in UP direction from Virar on Slow line and 3 services will be in the DOWN direction towards Virar on Slow line. The 2 Ladies Special services will be run during the morning and evening peak hours between Virar and Churchgate stations in both UP and DOWN directions.

It’s worth mentioning that after complete closure due to the COVID-19 lockdown since March 23, 2020, Western Railway on the request of Govt of Maharashtra had commenced the selected services of special suburban trains from June 15 on the Mumbai Suburban section. The services were gradually increased for the convenience of passengers.

The latest increase was implemented from 21st September 2020, when the total services were increased from 350 to 500 by adding 150 more services over Western Railway’s suburban section. Considering the present scenario of the pandemic, the special suburban trains are regularly sanitized & cleaned to upkeep proper hygiene.

All commuters as permitted by the Maharashtra government, are requested by Western Railway to follow social distancing norms and wear a mask while travelling in special trains.

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CAG picks holes in Railway’s elaborate plans for Kumbh Mela




Prayagraj, Kumbh 2019

New Delhi, Sep 23 : The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on Wednesday pointed out various shortcomings in Railways’ elaborate plans to control rail traffic during the Kumbh Mela in 2019.

In the report tabled in both Parliament, the government auditor slammed the railways for failing to address issues such as running of special trains, works related to passenger amenities and safety, medical facilities to passengers, and waste management at station premises during the massive religious gathering.

It said that this led to inconvenience to passengers, who were not adequately addressed by the railways.

“Temporary fencing at vulnerable locations (track and station entry point) were not completed. This led to cases of free movement of cattle on tracks and passengers trespassing. Audit noted that the Railway estimated (September 2018) an evacuation of 33 lakh passengers, which was subsequently revised (December 2018) to 45.48 lakh. Railways initiated a figure of 73.66 lakh evacuation of passengers during Mela period,” it said.

It also noted that the Railways planned 821 special trains, but ran only 565.

“A significantly higher number of passengers, with fewer special trains resulted in large overcrowding of trains and caused much inconvenience to passengers,” it said.

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Railway Board failed to assess electric locos’ requirement: CAG




Piyush Goyal

New Delhi, Sep 23 : The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on Wednesday said that despite the target of achieving 100 per cent electrification by 2022, the Railway Board failed to assess the requirement of electric locos properly, resulting in a 20 percent increase in diesel locos during 2012-2018, which adversely affected quality of maintenance.

The findings were mentioned in a CAG report tabled in the Parliament on Wednesday.

In its performance audit on “Assessment and Utilisation of Locomotives and Production and Maintenance of LHB Coaches in Indian Railways”, the government auditor said that the increase in the requirement of electric locos and the simultaneous reduction in utilisation of diesel locos was not adequately considered while assessing loco requirements.

“In the Mission Electrification and De-carbonization, the Minister of Railways issued directives (September 2017) for 100 per cent electrification in Indian Railways by 2022. The Railway Board, while assessing the loco requirements for the period 2012-19, did not properly review the increasing rate of electrification in the Railways. Increase in the requirement of electric locos and the simultaneous reduction in utilisation of diesel locos was not adequately considered while assessing loco requirements,” it said.

The CAG highlighted that the main criteria adopted by Railway Board for the assessment of requirement of locos were based on “previous year’s actual production”.

“Requirement of locos was not decided on the basis of actual need and there was no structured methodology for assessing the requirement of locos based on specifically laid down parameters. This led to more number of diesel locos in the system than required. In fact, the diesel loco holdings in Indian Railways increased by 20 per cent (947) during 2012-18,” it said.

Pulling up the national transporter, the CAG said that the Railways was holding and maintaining locos much more than the homing capacity available and this excess holding adversely impacted the quality of loco maintenance.

“Lack of quality control, use of inferior material, poor supervision and inadequate internal control occurred during scheduled maintenance of locos in loco sheds. Audit noticed unscheduled repairs of 17,530 diesel and 22,078 electric locos during 2012-17.

“On account of defective material in manufacturing etc, 46 per cent new locos failed within 100 days of their commissioning. Audit also noticed that almost half of diesel and electric locos failed after their scheduled maintenance by loco sheds,” it said.

The performance audit on production and maintenance of LHB coaches pointed out that data of accidents and fatalities showed that there is an urgent need to switch over to LHB rakes to ensure safety of the railway passengers, especially in trains with higher speeds.

“During 2013-14 to 2017-18, only 30 per cent of the total 19,327 coaches produced were of LHB type. Modern Coach Factory, Rae Bareli (MCF) was set up only for production of LHB coaches. However, against a combined installed capacity of 5,000 LHB coaches for 2013-18, only 1,842 LHB coaches (shortfall of 63 per cent) were actually produced,” it said.

“During 2015-16 to 2017-18, only 108 ICF conventional rakes out of 195 planned (55 per cent) could be converted into LHB rakes. Meanwhile, out of 49,033 ICF design coaches, 609 coaches have already attained their codal life of 25 years as on 31 March 2018. This has implication on passenger safety. About 13 per cent (6,259 coaches) were between the age of 20 and 25 years and would need to be replaced in the next five years,” it said.

The CAG also said that the Indian Railways need to replace at least 6,868 coaches (14 per cent) over a period of next five years. “However, the present production programme was not able to meet the requirement of coach production,” it said.

It also highlighted that the Indian Railways did not have adequate facilities in their workshops for Periodical Overhauling (POH)/Intermediate Overhauling (IOH) of LHB coaches.

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