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Ladakhis don’t want to be swamped by outsiders

The people are trying to measure the impact of abrogation of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, from which Ladakh was separated on August 5.

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Ladakh Jammu and Kashmir

Leh, Sep 10 (IANS) Over a month after Ladakh got the Union Territory status, anxiety has replaced initial excitement. The fear of “outsiders” threatening the existence of locals has gripped the streets of Leh.

Craving for a separate identity from Jammu and Kashmir has always been there in Ladakh. But many are now apprehensive about the loss of special status, they enjoyed under the previous arrangement, which insulated them from external influences.

Over a period of time, the rugged and picturesque cold desert has grown into an attractive alternative to insurgency-hit pristine Kashmir Valley for tourists. Ladakh becomes a thriving tourist hotspot, especially in summer, boosting the local economy.

Tourists are welcome, but the natives want to run their own affairs.

“We are simple people. With whatever little knowledge we have of tourism, we try to earn in six months to survive for the whole year. But once big industrialists are allowed to buy land, we will be out of competition as we don’t have the wealth and skill to match them,” said Skalzanj Dadul, a taxi driver.

A shopkeeper in the main Leh market echoed the views and claimed Ladakh might soon turn into a Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand — the two other hill states in the north that are battling rapid commercialisation.

“You will see Leh turning into Nainital or Shimla, which have lost their original lustre due to influx of investments. The locals merely turn into employees of outsiders,” said Pim Pim Avezevdo, who sells pashmina silk mufflers to foreign tourists.

The people are trying to measure the impact of abrogation of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, from which Ladakh was separated on August 5.

“All I know is that everyone was in celebratory mood when they announced a separate UT of Ladakh, but after 3-4 days my manager told me how absence of Article 370 would turn adverse for us and will allow migrated labourers to replace us,” said a waiter at a small cafe, located deep inside Old Leh town.

Making the situation worse is the clampdown in J&K from where supplies come to Leh. Since Ladakh is mostly cold desert, the vegetables grown here are barely enough to feed the locals and the region has to depend on neighbouring Kashmir Valley to sustain tourism.

Because of the situation in the Valley, vegetables are being routed from Manali leading to price escalation, explained a restaurant owner.

However, the central government has been trying to clear air on various doubts and make sure that normalcy is brought back to the cold desert.

“I want to assure everyone living in Ladakh, we will not let any outsiders to eat up your share of land, profit or revenues. Outsiders will be allowed in the Valley with a single aim to help native,” Union Tourism and Cultural Minister Prahlad Singh Patel had said in Leh while addressing a gathering.

(Rohan Agarwal can be contacted at [email protected])

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India

Private players to run trains on key routes: Railways

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New Delhi, Sep 24 : The Indian Railways is mulling the idea of handing over operations of more trains to private players in the coming days on several important routes with improved services and amenities for passengers.

The decision comes under the 100-day agenda of the national transporter to hand over operations of the trains to private players on key routes.

Earlier, the Indian Railways had announced to grant operations of two of its luxurious Tejas Express trains to Indian Rail Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) between Lucknow-New Delhi and Mumbai-Ahmedabad.

According to a railway ministry official, the national transporter has called a meeting of senior railway officials on September 27 under the chairmanship of Member, Traffic of the Railway Board to decide the operational issues relating to private operation of passenger trains.

In a letter to all the Principal Chief Operations Managers of the Central, Northern, North Central, South Eastern, South Central and Southern Railway dated September 23, Principal Executive Director of Coaching of the Railway Board, A. Madhusudan Reddy said, “As part of the 100-day action plan, the ministry has proposed that private operation of passenger trains be introduced to provide world class services.”

He said, “Under the railways proposal, private operators would be identified through a participative bid process to run private passenger day or overnight trains connecting important cities.”

“It is contemplated that the private operators shall induct modern passenger trains and operate them on paths allocated to them on payment of haulage charges,” Reddy said.

“Thus in order to prepare the RFQ (Request for quote) and concession documents, it is necessary to identify the routes and the number of services that can be run,” he said.

According to the railway ministry plans, besides the Lucknow-New Delhi and Mumbai-Ahmedabad being given to the IRCTC for operations, the national transporter is mulling to give trains to private operators on inter-city services on 14 routes, while 10 on overnight and long distance services and four suburban services.

The railways has proposed giving trains to private operators on long distance or overnight journey trains on the routes of Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Lucknow, Delhi-Jammu/Katra, Delhi-Howrah, Secunderabad-Hyderabad, Secunderabad-Delhi, Delhi-Chennai, Mumbai-Chennai, Howrah-Chennai and Howrah-Mumbai.

It has proposed to invite the private players for the intercity express on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Mumbai-Pune, Mumbai-Aurangabad, Mumbai-Madgaon, Delhi-Chandigarh/Amritsar, Delhi-Jaipur/Ajmer, Howrah-Puri, Howrah-Tata, Howrah-Patna, Secunderabad-Vijaywada, Chennai-Bengaluru, Chennai-Coimbatore, Chennai-Madurai and Ernakulam-Trivandrum routes. The railways has also proposed the operation of suburban trains in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Secunderabad by private players.

The railways had earlier clearly said that before engaging private operators to run the trains, the national transporter will consult the trade unions and other stakeholders.

The IRCTC has started the booking of tickets for the Tejas Express between Lucknow-New Delhi from October 5 onward journey. The IRCTC’s Tejas Express will be flagged off from Lucknow on October 4.

The minimum fare for the Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express has been kept at Rs 1,125 for the AC chair car, while the fare for Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express AC chair car will be Rs 1,280.

On the other hand, the ticket price for Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express Executive chair car has been kept at Rs 2,310 and the Delhi-Lucknow fare for Executive Chair Car will be Rs 2,450.

The passengers travelling on Tejas Express from Lucknow to Kanpur in AC chair car will have to shell out Rs 320 and Rs 630 for the Executive Chair car (ECC). For Lucknow to Ghaziabad travel, the passenger needs to pay Rs 1,125 for the AC chair car, while Rs 2,310 for the ECC. On the return journey, the fare is Rs 1,155 for AC Chair car from Delhi to Kanpur while for the ECC it is Rs 2,155.

All these fares are subject to the application of dynamic fare, just like airlines, the IRCTC has said.

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India

File affidavit detailing guidelines to regulate social media: SC to Centre

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New Delhi, Sep 24 : The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to file an affidavit within three weeks detailing statutory guidelines to balance online privacy, state sovereignty and the reputation of an individual.

A Bench, headed by Justice Deepak Gupta, gave the order while hearing a case on linking of Aadhaar with Facebook and regulating of the social media.

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India

Police can’t seize property during investigation: SC

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Supreme Court of India

New Delhi, Sep 24 The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that police has no power to seize immovable property during an investigation.

The top court upheld the Bombay High Court order.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna had heard the matter relating to powers of the police under section 102 of the Criminal Procedure Code in respect of seizure of property during investigation.

The court was hearing Maharashtra government plea challenging a Bombay High Court order which held that the police has no power to seize property during the course of an ongoing probe.

The ruling was announced by the bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

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