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Kolkata tramcar reinvents itself to offer a culinary ride

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Trams in Kolkata

Kolkata, Oct 12 : The trams in the City of Joy may not have kept up with the fast pace of the metropolis, but they refuse to quietly roll off into the sunset. A newly refurbished tramcar, designed as a fine-dining 28-seater restaurant, will trundle out from October 13, offering a culinary ride to customers.

Named “Victoria on Wheels”, the service, an innovative way to keep the tram service alive, will run from Shahid Minar to Kidderpore, offering non-vegetarian and vegetarian meals and some sightseeing on the way.

Aimed at generating revenue for the loss-making Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC), the restaurant on wheels — decked up with artwork depicting various famous tourist spots in the city — is also equipped with air-conditioning, a music system and bio-toilets to attract tourists who seek the unique experience of dining in a moving tramcar.

The Victoria, a catering chain, which has bagged the contract for 10 years through a tender, will pay Rs 1.6 lakh per month to CTC.

“We are adopting various innovative approaches to generate revenue for the tram company as our fare collection has gone down over the years,” a senior CTC official told IANS.

Patronage of the tram service, considered one of the oldest modes of public transport, has fallen drastically because of the onslaught of taxis, private buses and India’s first Metro service – and its routes have also been reduced to less than 30 from more than 50 earlier.

Once upon a time the tram service was the main mode of transport in the city, but not any more – even though the tram fare is still at the lowest at Rs 6 and Rs 7.

“From a mode of transport it has become a ‘mode of experiment’,” said J.P. Mishra, a CTC employee. Somnath Das, another employee, said though various factors have led to the tram service being curtailed, attempts are being made to continue its operation.

“Besides allowing two tramcars to become a restuarant,” Mishra said, “We also offer exclusive tram rides on popular routes during Durga Puja at special rates.”

Victorial on Wheels will make two rides each covering the lunch and dinner hours, and during Durga Puja there will be three rides in the evening.

The package offer is Rs 999 for a non-vegetarian meal and Rs 799 for vegetarian food, including a welcome drink, starters, main course and dessert during a 90-minute ride from Shahid Minar to Kidderpore and back.

(Arun Kumar Das can be contacted at [email protected])

Cities

Delhi’s landfill burns for 3rd day, turns air quality severe

About 2,000 tonnes of mixed garbage is dumped at Bhalaswa everyday.

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Bhalaswa landfill

New Delhi, Oct 23 : The fire that started at the sprawling Bhalaswa landfill site here on Sunday is continuing for the third day on Tuesday, while a very poor quality air is choking Delhi.

The fire-services said that while four tenders are already trying to douse the fire, two more have been sent to the site. Municipal engineers said they have procured more debris to cover the exposed area to extinguish the fire.

The inferno on Delhi’s second largest un-engineered mountain of garbage started due to gaseous fumes. The 40 m tall oversaturated landfill that spreads over 50 acres is located amid one of the most populated regions of Delhi.

“The fire usually starts due to formation of methane gas within the layers of garbage,” Sanjay Jain, Engineer, Department of Environment Maintenance Services (DEMS) at North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), told IANS.

Meanwhile, harmful chemical vapours and gases from the landfill site started showing its effect as the nearest air monitoring station to the Burari Crossing area showed “severe-plus or emergency” air-quality.

The major pollutant PM2.5 or particle with diameter less than 2.5 mm in Burari Crossing was 333 units at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, while the national standard is 60 units and international standard is 25 units.

About 2,000 tonnes of mixed garbage is dumped at Bhalaswa everyday.

According to the 2016 solid-waste management rules, a landfill site must not exceed 20 m in height, must not be older than 22-25 years and must have a clay-lining at the bottom to save the land and ground water.

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India’s economic growth not inclusive enough, inequality rises

Basic education, good health and decent environment are not only valuable constituent elements of quality of life themselves but can also aid in driving economic successes of the standard kind in a more equitable manner. India has missed the bus on that front.

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India Inequality

The Indian growth story has been far from perfect. That is not an understatement by any stretch of imagination. A growing challenge for the economy is the fast-evolving problem of inequality.

Most recently, James Crabtree in his latest book, “The Billionaire Raj”, claims that “India is one of the world’s most unequal countries.” His claim is based on the fact that the billionaire wealth as a proportion of the entire country’s output is the highest for India, except for Russia. The latest human development rankings released last week also corroborate his findings. India already ranks a lowly 130 on the index out of 189 countries but when adjusted for inequality, the scores experience a drastic fall of almost 27 percent against a world average of 20 percent.

What explains India’s dismal performance on the inequality front? Why don’t other developing countries face a similar problem? To put it simply, economic growth in India has not been inclusive enough. All the hype about the country’s fast-paced economic growth has not percolated down through the economy. The recently-released Social Progress Index can provide an explanation on why that is so.

The Index, which measures the extent to which a country can provide for the social and environmental needs of its citizens, ranks India at 101; a position it had achieved as early as 2014. India is the worst performer among all the BRICS countries and performs poorly than quite a few other developing countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Indonesia as well. The country’s abysmal performance on social and environmental aspects can explain its widening inequality to a large extent.

To first put things in perspective, the countries which are performing better on the Social Progress Index are managing to do so irrespective of their economic heft; that is, even economies that are poorer than India have ranked higher. But they have made it possible to have broad-based public participation in economic expansion by pursuing policies which allow for extensive schooling, higher literacy, better healthcare, widespread land reforms and greater gender parity. The only way to maximise the gains in poverty reduction for an economy is to make it more participatory, which is not easy to achieve if the webs of social barriers are not broken down through such policies. Economic advancement cannot be equitable if social opportunities are not enhanced on a wider basis.

China offers the perfect case in point for how a large economy can achieve equitable growth on a sustained basis. China was at the same economic level as India around 1980 when it undertook market reforms. At the same time, the country made investments in improving its basic education and health standards. When China soon became an export-led economy, the products did not particularly require highly skilled labour, but schooled and literate population nevertheless. The production of such basic manufactures for the world markets requires adherence to certain specifications and quality controls where good school education comes in handy. A healthy workforce is also imperative to ensure that economic schedules are not marred by illnesses and intermittent absences and that adequate productivity is maintained.

Thus, basic education, good health and decent environment are not only valuable constituent elements of quality of life themselves but can also aid in driving economic successes of the standard kind in a more equitable manner. India has missed the bus on that front. Surely it can continue to achieve high rates of growth with the rather limited bouquet of social opportunities that exist currently. In fact, a lot of complacency arises from the achievement of high growth rates on an aggregate level. But a status quo would only continue to widen the disparity across society that has already reached concerning levels. Most of India’s growth arises from industries which make excessive use of its historic accomplishments in higher education and technical training. The fruits of such a growth, therefore, are skewed on the wrong side of the income spectrum.

The problem with the inequality debate in India is that it is often argued that since poverty has dramatically declined in the country post-reforms, the trend of rising inequality should not concern policy-makers as it is a small price to pay. But, the fact that India is an outlier in terms of inequality among all developing countries, except an oligarchic Russia, should raise the alarm bells. Most importantly, if there exists a way where the gains from existing growth can be more equitably distributed, clearly that is the Pareto optimal path of development and worth striving for.

(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected] and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, senior researcher, Institute for Competitiveness has contributed to the article)

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Former Chief Standing Council jumped on the fourth floor of the High Court

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Ramesh Charnda Pandey
File Picture of Former Chief Standing Council Mr. Pandry

Lucknow, 23 October 2018 : Former chief standing council and senior advocate Rakesh Pandey suffering from depression commits suicide by jumping from fourth floor of the high court building in Lucknow.

Police yet to confirm whether Pandey accidentally fell or jumped.

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