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Railways sees zero passenger deaths but financial crisis looms

“During 2017-18, the net revenue surplus decreased by 66.10 per cent from Rs 4,913.00 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 1,665.61 crore,” it pointed out.

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Piyush Goyal

New Delhi, Dec 30 : The Indian Railways has recorded its safest-ever performance in the first six months of this financial year with zero passenger fatalities but the national transporter is also facing a financial crisis due to implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav said on Monday.

Speaking to media persons here, the Chairman said, “With our focus on the safety of passengers, the railways took number of works including the upgradation of railway tracks and its coaches and it resulted in zero passenger fatalities in this financial year from April 2019 to November 2019.”

He also said that as part of the mega plan on safety of the passengers, the railways eliminated unmanned railway crossings at 904 places between April 2019 to November 2019, which is 200 per cent more as compared to 296 during the same period last year.

He also said that it renewed over 3560 km of the tracks across the country between this period and also rehabilitated over 861 bridges. “These steps also ensured in improving the punctuality of the trains as mail or express trains punctuality rate between April 2019 to November 2019 was at 76.67 per cent as compared to 68 per cent last year during the same period,” he said.

On the financial condition of the national transporter, Yadav said: “No doubt that the railways is facing financial challenges. And to come across the financial crisis, the railways is doing a lot of things.”

He stressed that the railways faced the financial issues due to the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, as it has around 12 lakh employees and 13 lakh pensioners”. “But things will start improving in the next few months,” he asserted.

The Indian Railways recorded an operating ratio of 98.44 per cent in 2017-18, the worst in the last 10 years, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in its report tabled in Parliament on December 2 this year.

According to railway officials, the operating ratio is a measure of expenditure against revenue and it shows how efficiently the national transporter is operating and how healthy its finances are.

An operating ratio of 98.44 per cent means the Railways spent Rs 98.44 to earn Rs 100.

The government auditor also highlighted that since 2016-17, the revenue surplus of the national transporter has been falling, which is indicative of failing financial health of Indian Railways.

“During 2017-18, the net revenue surplus decreased by 66.10 per cent from Rs 4,913.00 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 1,665.61 crore,” it pointed out.

The CAG also said that the factors mainly attributable to meagre surplus were increase in working expenses (8.14 per cent) and negative growth rate of sundry earnings (16.20 per cent). “Staff cost, including pension payments, constituted the bulk of working expenses,” the CAG said.

The national transporter would, in fact, have ended up with a negative balance of Rs 5,676.29 crore instead of surplus of Rs 1,665.61 crore, but for the advance received from NTPC and IRCON, it said.

The Chairman also said that the national transporter, which got the highest ever capital expenditure in this year’s Budget at Rs 1.6 lakh crore, had utilised over Rs 1.03 lakh crore, which is 63.7 per cent of the total amount.

With the increase in the capex amount the railways was able to take up many infrastructure works across its network for the doubling and tripling of railway tracks, for broad gauge conversion and for laying the new lines and for electrifying its network, he said.

He also emphasised how the railways brought down its expenditure of over Rs 12,000 crore on fuel in the last two years by switching to the electric locomotives.

“We had set a target of saving around Rs 40,000 crore in the next 10 years, but we are now able to save by over Rs 6,000 crore consecutively on fuel in the last two years,” he said, adding that if we keep on saving like this, then we would be able to Rs 60,000 crore and more in the coming years on our fuel expenses.

India

Identity-based politics good for democracy: Mukherjee

He said the third victory of Indian democratic principles was the successful suppression of the radical and violent rebellion in Naxalbari through the ballot paper.

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Pranab-Mukherjee

New Delhi, Feb 23 : Former president Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said democracy and republicanism were two values people must strive to protect and cherish, and termed identity politics a positive development in relation to the deepening of democratic ethos.

He was delivering valedictory address at the 10th edition of the Bharatiya Chhatra Sansad here.

“Democracy in India gave rise to identity-based politics. Purely from the lens of deepening democracy, I see this as a positive development because it leads to wider representation. However, an electorate divided on caste and community lines throws up a polarised mandate,” Mukherjee said.

Lauding the strength of Indian democracy, the former president said it had only deepened with time and added that good governance was critically dependent on prerequisites like inviolable adherence to rule of law, existence of participatory decision-making structure, responsiveness, transparency, accountability, corruption-free society, equity and inclusiveness.

“We have entered the 71st year of our Republic. Democracy and republicanism are two values which we must not only strive to protect, but also cherish, celebrate and treasure. Democracy is the rule of, for and by the people and the Republic signifies the rule of law,” he said.

Citing instances to stress the maturity of Indian democracy, Mukherjee said the foremost achievement of the first general election lay in the fact that it cemented the painstakingly brought about unification of India.

“Despite the complex arrangement of categorisation under parts A, B, C and D of the Provinces, States, Territory and areas, the entire geographical territory of India voted as a singular electorate, electing for themselves a single Union Parliament.

“Of course, by the time the second general elections happened, the complex categorisation had been done away with, since there were just states and UTs in existence,” Mukherjee said.

He described the participation of the Communist Party of India in the Constituent Assembly elections even though they were peripherally opposed to it as a marker of the strength of Indian democracy.

He said the third victory of Indian democratic principles was the successful suppression of the radical and violent rebellion in Naxalbari through the ballot paper.

“Indian democracy and its inherent power of assimilation have successfully thwarted insurgency and separate movements, and elections have successfully co-opted varied groups into the electoral mainstream.

“The various accords — Punjab Accord, the Shillong Accord, the Mizo Accord, the Assam Accord and the recent Agreement on Bru- Reang and Bodo people — are examples of the same,” the former president added.

Mukherjee, while addressing the youth, noted that India’s tryst with democracy was a story which needs to be told time and again.

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Cities

NRC will not be implemented in Bihar: Nitish

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Nitish Kumar

Patna, Feb 23: Chief Minister Nitish Kumar reiterated on Sunday that the National Register for Citizens would not be implemented in Bihar and only the National Population Register would be updated the way it was done in 2010.

The Janata Dal (United) president had in December already made its stand clear that the NRC would not be implemented in the state, though the party supported the Centre’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

“NRC is not going to be implemented here (in Bihar) and only NPR will be carried out the way it was done in the year 2010. It will be done on the basis of that only,” Kumar said in an official release.

He said this while addressing a function at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University at Chandanpatti in Hayaghat block of Darbhanga district, where he laid foundation stones for several schemes worth Rs 80 crore pertaining to minority welfare department.

Kumar laid stones for a 100-bed hostel at Biraul in Darbhanga, 100-bed hostel each for girl and boy for the university students, G plus three multi-storeyed building at waqf land and 560-capacity intake minority residential school, the release said.

Kumar had asked the Centre to drop new columns in NPR forms like parents’ places of birth and Aadhaar, saying they were “not necessary” and might lead to apprehensions.

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Cities

Anti-CAA protest turns violent in Aligarh, Internet blocked

The police lathicharged the protesters and also used tear gas shells to disperse the crowd.

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Aligharh Protest

Aligarh, Feb 23 : The protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) turned violent on Sunday evening after the women sitting on protest were asked to move from there.

Many shops, two-wheelers and police barricades were set ablaze and stone pelting was reported from Babri Mandi, Ghas-ki-Mandi and Upperkot.

The police lathicharged the protesters and also used tear gas shells to disperse the crowd.

The administration has also blocked Internet services in the area from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight.

A huge crowd has gathered to protest against the CAA and the NRC at Shahjamal Idgah here. Women protesters have been removed from Upperkot Kotwali area. The crowd has been chanting anti-government slogans.

Several Bhim Army workers were also present among the protesters at Delhi Gate and Upperkot area.

The police said the women started throwing stones at police vehicles. The police said they have identified several students of Aligarh Muslim University who are involved in the stone pelting incident.

Heavy police force has been deployed at Delhi Gate and Upperkot.

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