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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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9 murders to hide one, Bihari man’s macabre act in Telangana

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Hyderabad, May 25 : To hide the murder of a woman, a man from Bihar committed nine more murders by throwing the victims into a well in Telangana’s Warangal district last week, the police said on Monday.

Cracking the mystery behind the nine bodies recovered from an open well at Gorrekunta village near Warangal town on May 21 and 22, the police arrested Sanjay Kumar Yadav (24), who confessed to committing the gruesome crime to hide the murder of a woman with whom he had live-in relationship.

Revealing the details of the macabre murders, Warangal Police Commissioner V. Ravinder told a news conference that the accused killed nine persons, including six members of one family, by mixing sleeping pills in their food and then throwing them one by one into a nearby well.

As all the victims were sedated after having their food laced with sleeping pills, the accused put each person in a gunny bag, dragged them one by one and threw them into the well, about 100 metres away from a godown of a gunny bag making unit where the family of a migrant worker from West Bengal and two Bihari youth were living. Another migrant from Tripura, who was also present in the building, was also murdered.

The bodies of Mohammed Maqsood Alam (55), his wife Nisha (48), both natives of West Bengal working in the gunny bag manufacturing unit for the last 20 years, their daughter Bushra Khatoon (22) and Bushra’s three-year-old son were found in the well on May 21.

The next day after emptying the well, the police found the bodies of Maqsood’s sons Shabaaz Alam (20) and Sohail Alam (18), Bihari workers Sriram Kumar Shah (26), Shyam Kumar Shah (21) and a migrant from Tripura, Mohammed Shakeel (40).

Investigations revealed that Yadav, who was also working at the gunny bag unit, developed a relationship with Nisha’s niece Rafiqa (37), who had come from West Bengal with three children after separation from her husband and was employed in the same factory.

Yadav had taken a room on rent and was living with her. Police investigations revealed that Rafiqa had recently admonished him for trying to sexually exploit her daughter.

The accused hatched a plan to kill Rafiqa and informed Maqsood’s family that he is taking her to West Bengal to talk to her elders for marriage. They boarded the Garib Rath train to Visakhapatnam on March 6, but during the journey, he bought butter milk and after mixing sleeping pills, served it to Rafiqa. After she fell asleep, he strangulated her and threw the body from the train near Nidadavole in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.

The accused got down from the train at Rajahmundry and returned to Warangal. When Nisha and her husband enquired about Rafiqa, he said she had reached her village and would come back later.

When Maqsood’s family threatened to approach the police, he hatched a plan to eliminate all of them.

As May 20 was Shabaaz’s birthday, he came to their house in the evening and mixed sleeping pills in the food prepared at home.

As two Bihari youth living in the same building had seen him at Maqsood’s house, he went to their room and mixed sedatives in their food to wipe out the evidence.

Shakeel, a native of Tripura who had come to Maqsood’s house at the latter’s invitation, too became Yadav’s victim.

The police commissioner said the CCTV footage of the accused leaving his house on the evening of May 20 and returning the next morning provided the vital clue to the investigating team.

“We have no evidence that there is any other person involved in the crime,” the police chief said, dismissing reports that four people were picked up in connection with the case.

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Mumbai crosses 1,000 deaths, MMR has over 40K cases

Though trailing a distant second after Mumbai, Pune Division fatalities touched 321, besides 6,933 patients.

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Mumbai, May 25 : Exactly 65 days after recording the first Covid-19 death, Mumbai on Monday crossed 1,000-mark with 38 deaths, taking the death toll to 1,026, while the Mumbai Metropolitan Region notched over 40K cases, health officials said here.

Maharashtra recorded 60 Covid-19 deaths on Monday and the number of cases reached 52,667 with 2,436 new infections.

This comes to roughly one death every 24 minutes, and an average 102 new cases recorded every hour in the state on Monday.

The state has been recording fatalities above 50 and new patients over 2,000 daily for the past nine consecutive days now, and the previous highest 24-hour figure for infections was 3,041 cases on May 24.

With 60 fatalities — down by 16 from the highest ever 76 notched on May 19 — the state’s death toll has touched 1,695 and the total number of coronavirus patients increased from 50,231 on Sunday to 52,667 on Monday.

The health department said of the total number of cases declared Monday, 35,178 were ‘active cases’ — swelling by 1,190 over Sunday’s 33,988.

Of the total 60 fatalities, 38 were recorded in Mumbai alone, taking the city deaths up from Sunday’s 988 to 1,026 now, while the number of Covid-19 positive patients here shot up by 1,430 cases to touch 31,972 today.

Mumbai’s congested Dharavi slum continued to be a major hot spot with 42 new cases Monday, taking the total number of infectees to 1,583 there and 59 deaths till date.

Besides Mumbai’s 38 deaths, including one from Bihar, there were 11 fatalities in Pune, 6 in Thane (Navi Mumbai, Thane and Kalyan-Dombivali), 2 in Aurangabad, and one each in Ratnagiri and Solapur.

They comprised 42 men and 198 women, and nearly 78 per cent of them suffered from other serious ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, heart problems and asthma.

On the positive side, 1,186 fully cured patients returned home Monday, taking the number of those discharged to 15,786.

As part of the easing up of domestic air travel, Mumbai International Airport Ltd on Monday handled 47 incoming and outgoing flights by seven airlines catering to 14 national sectors.

They included 3,752 outbound passengers, maximum on the New Delhi sector and 1,100 arrivals, with full Covid-19 protocols implemented.

The Muslim community of Ichalkaranji, Kolhapur donated their Ramzan monthly expenses to sponsor a 10-bed intensive care unit at the Indira Gandhi General Hospital here which was dedicated online by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Thackeray announced that by May 31, 2,475 Covid-19 beds, many with ICU-Oxygen, will be operational at the upcoming jumbo hospitals in Bandra Kurla Complex, NSCI Worli, and NESCO Goregaon, and in each ward in Mumbai 100-bed hospitals with 20 ICU beds have been taken over.

The number of ambulances in the city for Covid-19 has gone up from 100 to 450 now and their services will be available through a mobile app, while the availability of hospital beds data will be available real-time on a dashboard, the CM added.

The Maharashtra Industries Development Corporation (MIDC) Ltd distributed 2 lakh tonnes of foodgrains to the people of the worst-hit Dharavi, said Industry Minister Subhash Desai.

The MMR continued to cause grave concerns with 1,154 Covid-19 deaths and positive cases shooting to 40,438.

Though trailing a distant second after Mumbai, Pune Division fatalities touched 321, besides 6,933 patients.

The next major area of concern is Nashik Division with 103 deaths and 1,618 positive cases, followed by Aurangabad Division with 49 fatalities and 1,508 cases, and finally Akola Division with 34 deaths and 766 cases.

There’s Latur Division with 8 deaths and 249 cases, Kolhapur Division with 6 deaths and 527 patients, and finally Nagpur Division with 8 deaths and 577 cases.

Meanwhile, the number of people sent to home quarantine increased from 499,387 to 530,247 Monday — a jump of 30,860 — and those in institutional quarantine went up from 35,107 to 35,479, a spurt of 372 suspect cases.

The state’s containment zones increased from 2,283 to 2,391 on Monday and 16,106 health teams have carried out a survey of a population of around 66.1 lakh in the state.

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

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Tourists should not travel to Goa; hotels still non functional: Official

The airport has resumed facilitating routine domestic flights after two months, when regular flights were restricted on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Panaji, May 25 : Goa Health Secretary Nila Mohanan on Monday advised tourists not to travel to the coastal state, on a day when 10 out of the 13 flights, which were scheduled to land at Goa’s Dabolim airport, were cancelled.

Mohanan also said that only 66 passengers had arrived in the state via two flights from Bengaluru and Delhi, while one flight is expected to land late on Monday.

“We are telling tourists that if you do not have a house in Goa, do not come,” Mohanan said.

She also said that no hotel was allowed to function routinely and cater to guests in the state and only those hospitality facilities which function as quarantine centres were allowed to operate in the current circumstances.

“According to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, no permission has been given to start regular hospitality services. Only hotels as quarantine centres can function,” she said.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had on Sunday said that the state administration expected nearly 2,000 persons to arrive in Goa by domestic flights on Monday alone.

“Thirteen flights were scheduled to arrive in Goa on Monday, out of which 10 got cancelled. Thirty passengers arrived in Goa from Bengaluru, while 33 passengers arrived from Delhi,” Mohanan said.

The airport has resumed facilitating routine domestic flights after two months, when regular flights were restricted on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Out of the 63 passengers who arrived in Goa on Monday, 40 (including three minors) opted for home quarantine, while the rest opted to undergo paid Covid-19 tests, results of which would be available soon, she said.

Mohanan also said that the state’s tally of active Covid-19 persons stood at 48.

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