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Premier train passengers don’t think service matches enhanced fare: CAG survey

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New Delhi, July 23: Improved punctuality, cleaner toilets and coaches and better quality food and bedrolls provided in trains are needed to match the increased fare in premier trains, according to a survey carried out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.

A majority of passengers travelling in premier trains responded in the negative when asked whether Indian Railways has seen any improvement in its services commensurate with the enhanced fares, the survey found.

A flexi-fare scheme was introduced in the premier Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains in September 2016 to perk up revenue collections in the passenger segment.

To ascertain the opinion of travelling passengers on the flexi-fare system, the CAG administered a survey questionnaire to 806 passengers travelling in 16 Shatabdi trains and 11 Rajdhani trains during April-May 2017.

In the flexi-fare system, the base fares increase by 10 per cent with the sale of every 10 per cent of seats — subject to a maximum of 140 per cent for AC-3 and 150 per cent for all classes, except AC first and Executive Class.

However, despite the enhanced fare in the premier trains, passengers feel that the services are not in line with the hiked tariff while punctuality has taken a back seat. Also, a decreasing trend was noticed in the occupancy rate after implementation of flexi-fare scheme, according to the CAG.

The survey showed that passengers expect better quality services to match the enhanced fares.

To a question on whether Indian Railways have provided any improvement in the services rendered after with fare hike, 495 passengers replied in the negative.

As many as 324 passengers stated that food served in trains needed improvement and 280 passengers indicated that cleanliness of toilets was not up to the mark.

To the question, “Do you feel that you derive value for the money and time you have spent by travelling in a premium train with flexi fare”, 445 passengers replied in the negative while 361 passengers replied in the affirmative.

As many as 479 passengers replied in the affirmative when asked that given the travel time — and the flexi-fare without value addition — would they prefer to travel by air or bus.

Ninety-seven passengers travelling in the AC-2 and AC-3 classes said the bedrolls provided required improvement, while 176 felt punctuality needed to be improved.

On hygiene, 181 passengers maintained that cleanliness inside toilets required improvement while 280 indicated that cleanliness of toilets required attention.

Other significant issues identified by passengers for improvement included prevention of unauthorised vendors, cleanliness at stations and waiting areas, more options/variety in food served, behaviour of pantry car staff, provision of televisions, mobile/laptop charging points and cleaning of windows and curtains.

Though the railways earned Rs 552 crore from passengers in premier trains after the flexi-fare system (from September 9, 2016, to July 31, 2017), there was de-growth of 2.65 per cent in the number of passengers despite availability of a higher number of berths/seats, which resulted in sub-optimal utilisation of national assets.

The CAG, in its latest report tabled in Parliament, observed that passengers expect better quality services matching with enhanced fare else they would switch to other modes of transport.

The CAG has recommended a review and fine-tuning in the scope of the scheme so that not only more revenue is earned but the number of passengers also increases.

IANS

India

Farm bills Modi govt’s ‘death warrant’ for farmers: Rahul Gandhi on Farm Bill

The Parliament on Sunday witnessed a lot of drama and uproar. Calling the farm bills introduced by the government as “black laws”, Congress party hit out at the government and raised the issue of Minimum Support Price (MSP).

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Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi slammed the farm bills that were passed in the Upper House of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) on Sunday, saying that the ‘democracy is ashamed’ by the decision.

“The farmer who grows gold forom earth, Modi government’s pride is making that farmer cry tears of blood,” the Congress leader wrote on Twitter in Hindi.

Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, which the government says will help boost the farming sector through private investments, were approved in Rajya Sabha today, inviting a lot of criticism from opposition parties.

“Democracy is ashamed of the way this government issued a death warrant against farmers through these bills in Rajya Sabha,” Rahul Gandhi further wrote on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/RahulGandhi/status/1307652716508753920?s=20

The Parliament on Sunday witnessed a lot of drama and uproar. Calling the farm bills introduced by the government as “black laws”, Congress party hit out at the government and raised the issue of Minimum Support Price (MSP).

“Why the government is running away from providing legal obligation for MSP. Who will take a guarantee of MSP outside ‘Mandi’,” Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

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No restriction on accessing any website in Jammu and Kashmir: Centre

Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said the mobile data services are presently restricted to 2G speed in all but two districts of the Union territory.

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There is no restriction on accessing any website, including social media sites, in Jammu and Kashmir, the Lok Sabha was informed on Sunday.

Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said the mobile data services are presently restricted to 2G speed in all but two districts of the Union territory. “There is no restriction on accessing any sites, including the social media sites,” he said in a written reply. Reddy said the internet services are already available in Kashmir on fixed line (without any speed-related restrictions) as well as mobile data services (at 2G speed) since January 24, 2020.

He said restrictions on accessing social media sites were also lifted on March 4, 2020. Further, high speed mobile data services too have been commenced in the districts of Ganderbal (Kashmir Division) and Udhampur (Jammu Division) with effect from August 16, 2020. The minister said fixed line internet connectivity is available without any speed-related restrictions, with Mac-binding.

He said the businesses have had access to internet through fixed line connectivity and internet kiosks opened in large numbers across the Valley without any speed restrictions.

Reddy also informed the Lower House that 2G mobile internet speed is not an impediment in Covid control measures, including dissemination of information to the general public as well as health workers.

Also, he said, e-learning apps and education/e-learning websites of the Government of India, Government of J&K are accessible over 2G internet for downloading e-books and other study material.

“Further, the restriction on high speed mobile internet services has not been an impediment in the administration of justice and the courts have taken special measures to conduct their proceedings during the pandemic by providing video links/URLs to lawyers and the litigants,” the minister said.

“Considering the overall security scenario and in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir issues orders from time to time regulating telecom and internet services in terms of the applicable rules and the principles laid down and directions contained in the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India..,” he added.

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Lok Sabha creates fresh record, burns midnight oil for Public Importance matters

This is the fourth session of the 17th Lok Sabha in a row when the lower House registered a new record by concluding its business in late-night proceedings involving debate on major issues linked to the common people.

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Lok Sabha

New Delhi, Sep 21 : The Lok Sabha inked another record in the history of Parliament by hearing ‘Matters of Urgent Public Importance’ during midnight proceedings of the ongoing Monsoon Session when most of the Indians were sleeping. The lower House which began its proceedings at 3 p.m. on Sunday concluded its session at 12.34 a.m. on Monday, spending more than two hours to hear the ‘Matters of Urgent Public Importance’ raised by the parliamentarians.

Several parliamentarians and officers in the Lok Sabha secretariat said it was the first time in the history of Parliament when the Lok Sabha (House of the People) held ‘Matters of Urgent Public Importance’ or ‘Zero Hour’ after the Lower House was constituted for the first time on April 17, 1952, following the first General Elections – held from October 25, 1951, to February 21, 1952, and the First Session of the First Lok Sabha that had commenced on May 13, 1952.

‘Matters of Urgent Public Importance’ gives Members of Parliament (MPs) a vehicle to discuss a matter of current concern without the requirement for a question to be before the Chair.

The Assembly does not make a judgement on the matter by way of resolution.

Under this procedural device, a Member may, with the prior permission of the Speaker, call the attention of a Minister to any matter of urgent public importance and the Minister may make a brief statement thereon.

There shall be no debate on such a statement at the time it is made. After the statement, brief clarifications can be sought from the Minister by the Member who has initiated the Calling Attention and other Members whose names appear in the List of Business are called by the Speaker.

Only those matters which are primarily the concern of the Union Government can be raised through a Calling Attention notice.

The Calling Attention procedure is an Indian innovation that combines asking a question with supplementaries and making brief comments; the government also gets an adequate opportunity to state its case. The Calling Attention matter is not subject to the vote of the House.

Known as ‘Zero Hour’, the matter of public importance started on late Sunday night after the House passed three major Bills — two related to the Union Home Ministry and one of the Finance Ministry — on the recommendation of Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

Announcing to start the ‘Zero Hour’ of the Monsoon Session, for the first time in the night, Birla, however, requested Members of Parliament to conclude their matters within one minute. “I will give enough opportunities to every MP during Zero Hour but not enough time,” Birla said before creating the history by running the Zero Hour which began around 10.30 p.m. on Sunday and crossed 12 midnight.

Generally, the ‘Zero Hour’ time immediately follows the Question Hour. It used to start at around 12 noon (hence the name) and members can, with prior notice to the Speaker, raise issues of importance during this time.

Due to Covid-19 precautions, it was decided that the half-an-hour time slot will be fixed for the ‘Zero Hour’ during the Monsoon Session of the Parliament which started on September 14 and is set to conclude on October 1.

Soon after the clock hits 12 O’clock, the Speaker again extended the time of the House for more half-an-hour to give chance to all MPs who got a chance to speak during the ‘Zero Hour’.

Birla again extended the time of the ‘Zero Hour’ at 12.30 a.m. on Monday, saying “the time is extended till the end of all matters to be raised”.

The House was finally adjourned at 12.34 a.m. on Monday. The Lok Sabha earlier has held various late-night proceedings.

On March 12 this year during the Budget Session, the Lok Sabha conducted its business till late night in a marathon sitting that crossed 12 hours while concluding debate on the demands for grants under the control of the Ministry of Railways for 2020-21, skipping lunch as well as dinner breaks.

The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, which provided Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, was also passed in the Lok Sabha on December 10 last year in the late-night hearing though it was vehemently opposed by the major opposition parties which described it as “anti-Muslim”.

This is the fourth session of the 17th Lok Sabha in a row when the lower House registered a new record by concluding its business in late-night proceedings involving debate on major issues linked to the common people.

The Lok Sabha created an undefeated record On July 25, 1996, when a discussion on demands for grants on Railways began on the day after the lunch and ended on July 26, 1996, at 7.17 a.m.

Ram Vilas Paswan, the senior Bihar-based politician from Lok Janshakti Party and the present Cabinet Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, was the Railway Minister at that time.

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