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Railways imposes ‘superfast’ levy on 48 more trains, but will that help?

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Super-Fast-Train

Cash-starved Indian Railways has increased the fare of 48 mail and express trains by upgrading them to “superfast” and raising their designated average speed by mere five kilometres per hour from 50 kmph, according to the new timetable released November 1. However, upgradation is no guarantee that these trains would run on time. Also, the new levy has been brought in just ahead of the cold season when all north-bound trains will be running late by several hours due to foggy weather.

At present, many trains, including premier services like Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi, run late on a regular basis.

No additional passenger amenities have been provided in trains converted to the superfast level. But passengers will have to shell out Rs 30 more for Sleeper, Rs 45 for Second and Third AC and Rs 75 for First AC class as superfast charges.

The railways is expected to mop up an additional Rs 70 crore from these levies. The transporter possibly imposes these charges to avoid a backlash on passenger fare increases. With the addition of the 48 trains, the total number of trains designated as superfast has risen to 1,072.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), in its last report in July, had made critical observations about the superfast levy.

The CAG also found that passengers paid for superfast charge though the trains were not running at designated speeds. It also said that rules for refund of superfast surcharge to passengers, in cases where Superfast services have not been provided to the passengers, have not been framed by the Railway Board.

“On test check, Audit observed that in North Central and South Central Railways, superfast charges (Rs 11.17 crore) were levied and collected during the period 2013-14 to 2015-16 from the passengers on days, where 21 superfast trains did not attain the average speed of 55 kmph (on broad gauge) for a ‘Superfast’ train,” the CAG observed in its report.

According to the data available with the railways, 890 superfast trains had run late during July, August and September this year.

As many as 129 superfast trains were delayed in July, 145 in August and 183 in September for one hour to three hours. However, 31 superfast trains were behind schedule by more than three hours in July and 37 in August. As many as 196 superfast trains were late by 30 minutes to 60 minutes in July, 186 in August, 240 in September.

Some 326 superfast trains were late by 15 minutes and 30 minutes in July, 287 in August and 267 in September. The overall punctuality of trains, at present, is hovering around 73 per cent — not a good benchmark.

The new superfast trains include Pune-Amravati AC Express, Pataliputra-Chandigarh Express, Visakhapatnam-Nanded Express, Delhi-Pathankot Express, Kanpur-Udhampur Express, Chhapra-Mathura Express, Rock Fort Chennai-Tiruchirapally Express, Bangalore-Shivmogga Express, Tata-Visakhapatnam Express, Darbhanga-Jalandhar Express, Mumbai-Mathura Express and Mumbai-Patna Express.

According to information available with the Directorate of Safety, the railways had undertaken repair works of tracks, including renewal of aging rails, in almost all regions. As a result, trains are not allowed to run at high speeds in these sections because of concerns about passenger safety.

There are also capacity augmentation works going on to decongest over-saturated routes.

Delays are endemic to the system. Most trunk routes are heavily congested and a slight delay causes a ripple effect on the network. Trains run late ranging between one hour and 15 hours or more in many sections due to various reasons.

The Railways lists 33 categories of reasons for delays, of which seven, it says, are outside its direct control, such as the alarm chain being pulled, protests on the tracks, bad weather, accidents and law and order situation.

According to Railway norms, a train that is up to 15 minutes late is considered to be on time. Beyond that, the punctuality parameters are divided into brackets of minutes — 16 to 30, 31 to 45 and 46 to 60. The last and most crucial segment is “more than an hour”, which is open-ended — it covers all trains that are late by more than an hour, irrespective of the delay.

By Arun Kumar Das

(Arun Kumar Das is a Delhi-based freelance journalist. He can reached at [email protected])

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National Milk Day: Know history, significance of this day; Interesting facts about milk here

National Milk Day was established in 2014 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation to commemorate Dr. Verghese Kurien, who is considered the father of India’s White Revolution.

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Amul Milk Production

Every year, National Milk Day is celebrated on November 26 across India. The largest milk producing country celebrates this day to demonstrate the importance of milk in everyone’s life. It is worth noting that National Milk Day and World Milk Day are two different events, observed on different dates with different significance.

National Milk Day was established in 2014 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation to commemorate Dr. Verghese Kurien, who is considered the father of India’s White Revolution.

Why is National Milk Day Celebrated?

National Milk Day is celebrated on November 26 all over India, and it was established by the Food and Agricultural Organisation in 2014.

The day is dedicated to honouring Dr. Verghese Kurien, who is considered to be the father of India’s White Revolution. November 26 is also his birth anniversary, which is why this day is even more important as it also highlights his contribution to the country’s dairy farming and production.

First National Milk Day:

The Indian Dairy Association (IDA) in 2014, took the initiative to celebrate this day for the first time. The first National Milk Day was marked on November 26, 2014, in which various milk producers from 22 states participated.

Kerala-born, Dr Verghese Kurien is known as the ‘Milkman of India’ and the father of the 1970s White Revolution. He came with the one billion litre idea of turning a milk-guzzling country into world’s top dairy producer.

National Milk Day: Interesting facts about milk here

Milk is one of the best sources of calcium and the only drink in the world that contains such a large amount of natural nutrients.

Dr Verghese worked towards enabling the country to have its own production centres of milk. His support was crucial in making the Amul girl ad campaign-which is one of the longest-running campaigns for decades.

His accolades include Ramon Magsaysay Award, World Food Prize, Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Wateler Peace Prize.

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Global availability of Covid vaccine for public only by mid-2021: Moody’s

The report said mass vaccination that significantly reduces individual and public health concerns would lift sentiment and present a significant upside to global growth.

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Covid 19 Vaccine

New Delhi: While recent news about the high effectiveness of two coronavirus vaccines is a promising sign in the effort to combat the pandemic, a vaccine for Covid-19 will not be widely distributed before mid-2021, Moodys Investors Service said on Tuesday.

“However, these developments do not change the assumption underpinning our economic forecasts that widespread, global availability of the vaccine to the general public is only likely by around mid-2021,” Moody’s said in a report.

It added that the recent positive news about the effectiveness of vaccines under development will do little to ease the immediate concern that the current rise in coronavirus cases across the US and Europe will dampen sentiments and economic momentum in these regions this quarter and the next.

“Our baseline economic forecasts balance the downside risks of increasing infections and new lockdowns in the next two months, against the potential for widespread vaccinations over the next 12 months. If lockdowns are more severe than we expect, the negative effect on GDP could be offset if a coronavirus vaccine is available quicker and uptake is wider than we had expected,” it added.

Although successful Phase 3 trials of vaccines are a big step, there are numerous hurdles ahead, including satisfying approval requirements by regulators in individual countries, production of the billions of doses required for mass vaccination, ensuring proper storage and building distribution networks.

Distribution will likely occur in phases once regulators approve a vaccine, with health officials prioritizing access for healthcare workers and those in other high-risk professions, as well as for people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as older people and individuals in care homes.

Moody’s said two important variables in overall success of vaccines in curbing the pandemic will be the public’s willingness to get vaccinated and what percentage of the population will need to be vaccinated in order for the spread of the virus to be brought under control. Vaccine availability likely will vary across countries, with cost and access major hurdles in particular for less-developed economies.

Many advanced and a handful of middle-income emerging market countries have already secured contracts for hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccines. Residents of these countries will be among the first to get the vaccinations, with their economies benefiting from the associated easing of the public health crisis. The earlier the health crisis in a country subsides, the stronger the country’s economic recovery will be, it added.

The report said mass vaccination that significantly reduces individual and public health concerns would lift sentiment and present a significant upside to global growth.

As long as the coronavirus remains a health risk, social distancing restrictions and the reluctance of consumers to engage in high contact social and economic activity will mar the recovery of services sectors. As vaccines become broadly available, health fears and concerns about an uncertain economic and financial outlook should recede, allowing for a quicker resumption of activity in high contact sectors such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, mass transit, airlines and travel and tourism.

Moody’s said the pandemic has already inflicted enormous damage on the hardest-hit sectors and will continue to undermine their financial condition and prospects, with repeated virus outbreaks and lockdown measures suppressing demand. The risk of business failure increases exponentially the longer the pandemic prevents a return to some semblance of normal activity.

A vaccine will help accelerate the recovery. But for many of these businesses, survival will remain challenging until the virus is no longer viewed as a significant public health threat. It is difficult to know how many businesses will survive several more months of below-normal revenue, it added.

Small and midsized businesses across advanced and emerging market countries are at risk and more of them will undoubtedly close on account of the prolonged cash flow shock. And those that do survive will have the long and arduous task of rebuilding their balance sheets while also, in many cases, facing significant changes in consumer behavior and demand patterns. “Therefore, even if economic activity returns to healthy levels once a vaccine is widely available, the detrimental economic impact and transformed operating environment will be felt for years to come”, Moody’s said.

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Guru Tegh Bahadur Martyrdom Day: J-K Lt Governor Pays Tribute To Sikh Guru

Manoj Sinha noted that the pious day is a reminder to respect and uphold the ‘faith, belief and rights of people’.

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Manoj Sinha

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha paid rich tributes to Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh guru, on his martyrdom day on Tuesday.

“The teachings and martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur underline one of the most fundamental principles of human existence, which is ensuring the right of everyone to breathe free and live unshackled,” Sinha said.

Guru Teg Bahadur’s sacrifice is an important reminder for the future generations to be committed towards upholding the faith, belief and rights of people, he added.

On this pious day, everyone must resolve to dedicate themselves to selfless service of others, the LG said.

“Peaceful co-existence, mutual respect for each other’s religious beliefs go a long way in uplifting individual lives and achieving harmony and compassion in the society,” he added.

Guru Tegh Bahadur was born on April 1, 1621. He resisted forced conversions of Hindus, Sikhs, Kashmiri Pandits and non-Muslims to Islam and was killed on this day in 1675 on the orders of the then Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi.

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