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Mumbai local trains’ closure may derail Indian economy

However, some like activist Jatin Desai raise doubts over how the government will tackle people facing non-coronavirus related medical emergency in the total absence of public transport.

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Mumbai, March 22 : For the first time in 46 years, the sprawling Indian Railway network, including Mumbai’s lifeline — the suburban trains which ferry around 8.5 million commuters daily — will completely shut down till March 31 for all passengers to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

Though Mumbai witnesses partial or near-total disruptions in suburban trains during monsoons, or the occasional ‘bandhs’, or terror strikes, this is the first time that the government has intervened to close all passenger train services, local or long-distance, barring freight trains, with possibly serious repercussions for the national economy as a whole.

The Centre’s move came even as the Maharashtra government was toying with the idea of shutting down (only) suburban trains since the past fortnight as one of the options to keep crowds off the roads, but didn’t take the courage to bite the bullet.

Way back in May 1974, socialist leader and later Union Minister George Fernandes had challenged the might of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by spearheading a 20-day-long crippling all-India railway strike.

After Fernandes’ strike — billed as the world’s biggest ever labour action — no natural or man-made calamities could ever succeed in stopping the railway networks, and trains continued to chug along the country’s veritable lifelines.

For the coronavirus-gripped country’s commercial capital, the ramifications of local trains’ shutdown are starkly different, as they are intricately interlinked with the country’s economy and prosperity, so it is said that “when Mumbai sneezes, the entire country catches a flu”.

“Mumbai alone contributes around 35 per cent income taxes, nearly two-third of indirect taxes revenue to the national exchequer, accounts for more than 40 per cent of all foreign trade” and overall coughs up around 7 per cent to the country’s GDP. The impact of closure of IR networks can be imagined with long term impact,” a worried Bohra Group Chairman Pratap Bohra told IANS.

The Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) suburban locals serve Mumbai, Mumbai Suburban District, Thane, Raigad and Palghar districts ferrying over 8.50 million commuters to and from their homes-workplaces in the country’s commercial capital.

It also contributes to a mind-boggling network of public bus services, autorickshaws, taxis, aggregator cabs, providing gainful employment to another half a million people, and helps flourish every business that Mumbai boasts — from the scrap business to restaurants and stocks to diamonds.

“The gold, jewellery and diamond industry will be badly hit as most polishers and craftsmen solely depend on public transport,” a prominent diamond merchant A. Shah told IANS.

As an additional precaution, prominent Nagpur lawyer Vinod Tiwari on Sunday wrote to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray demanding that all religious places like temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras, derasars, fire-temples, bhikshu-sthals, samadhis and mausoleums must be sealed for two weeks.

“Despite repeated appeals, many have blatantly flouted norms and continue to remain partially open, leading to overcrowding and threats of the coronavirus spreading from such religious congregations,” Tiwari told IANS.

“Even the financial markets will be hugely hit… Many brokers and sub-brokers have decided to shift their BSE-NSE terminals at home after the exchanges permitted it,” a financial consultant Rajesh Shah told IANS.

With the trains closing down for 10 days, every other business will be paralysed and the government would practically achieve its aim of mooring people at their homes, reinforced with the imposition of prohibitory orders statewide from midnight (March 22-23).

However, some like activist Jatin Desai raise doubts over how the government will tackle people facing non-coronavirus related medical emergency in the total absence of public transport.

“India doesn’t enjoy the kind of medical services in the US or UK… There should be plan to promptly rush medicare if someone suffers a heart attack, or for expectant mothers, or kids with medical emergencies. There should be at least need-based skeletal services made available to people,” Desai told IANS.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])

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Hyundai bets on diesel models, launches Tucson SUV

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Chennai, July 14 : The second largest car maker in India Hyundai Motor India Ltd while continuing to bet on diesel powered vehicles is also looking at faster demand recovery from tier 2/3 cities, said a senior official on Tuesday.

Hyundai Motor also launched its new premium sports utility vehicle (SUV) Tucson for the Indian market.

Speaking to reporters, Tarun Garg, Director (Sales, Marketing and Service) said the timing of Tucson’s launch is right as there are over five lakh Creta buyers in the country who are looking for an upgrade to a premium SUV.

The new Tucson’s starting price is about Rs 22 lakh.

“With over 6.5 million customers worldwide, Tucson is one of the best-selling SUV’s across the world,” S.S. Kim, Managing Director and CEO told reporters.

He said the model was unveiled at the Auto Expo 2020.

Garg said the booking for diesel engine models are growing and the demand is across the country and more so from tier 2/3 cities.

He said when the fuel prices go up, buyers will look at fuel economy and diesel engines are fuel efficient.

According to Garg, Hyundai Motor has got over 45,000 bookings for its SUV Creta model and 56 per cent of that are for diesel engine variant.

Similarly, one third of the booking for Venue and Verna are for diesel models, Garg said.

“SUV lovers want much more than the fuel economy which diesel vehicles offer. It appears demand will stablilise at this level. There is also good demand for petrol models,” Garg added.

Queried about the pay cuts implemented by various companies and its impact on buyers scaling down their model preference Garg said he is not seeing any such trend.

According to him, buyers prefer to come to the showroom to take delivery of new cars even though Hyundai Motor offers to deliver the car at their door step.

Garg said it is not possible to predict the likely sales for 2020 as some states have Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

He said the company is watching the market behaviour on a monthly basis.

Garg said during June 2020, the company has reached 75 per cent of June 2019 demand figures, In July 2020 the car maker plans to touch 90 per cent of July 2019 levels.

On the availability of components as the company is planning to start third shift in its plant Garg said the localisation levels are very high and the dependence on components from China is very low.

According to Garg the company’s supply chain is ready to meet the demand for increased components as third shift production is soon to start.

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No lay-offs by Wipro amid crorona crisis, no such plan

The Bengaluru-headquartered IT behemoth employs more than 1.75 lakh people in several countries across the globe.

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Azim Premji Wipro

Bengaluru, July 13 : Global software major Wipro has not laid off any employee during the Covid-19 pandemic nor has any such plan at the moment, a top company official said on Monday.

“I just want to give comfort and say this categorically that we have not laid off a single employee as the pandemic unfolded,” Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji said at the company”s 74th annual general meeting (AGM) held virtually.

“At the moment, we have no plans to lay off anybody at the company,” he said, replying to a female shareholder.

“We are trying to drive cost deductions through various other means operationally and otherwise,” said Premji.

The Bengaluru-headquartered IT behemoth employs more than 1.75 lakh people in several countries across the globe.

–IANS

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Google to invest Rs 75,000 crore to boost digitisation in India

The investment will focus on four areas important to India’s digitisation– first enabling affordable access to information to every Indian in their own language.

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Sundar Pichai

New Delhi, July 13 : Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday announced a Google for India digitisation fund through which, the company will invest Rs 75,000 crore or approximately $10 billion over the next five to seven years to help India go digital.

“We will do this through a mix of equity investment, partnerships and an operational infrastructure ecosystem in India. This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” Pichai said during the Google for India virtual conference.

The investment will focus on four areas important to India’s digitisation– first enabling affordable access to information to every Indian in their own language.

“Second, building new products and services that are deeply relevant to India”s unique needs. Third, empowering businesses to continue or embark on digital transformation. And fourth, leveraging technology and Artificial Intelligence for social good in areas like health, agriculture and education,” the Google CEO said.

India’s Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad were also present during the conference.

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