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Delhi Ring Railway to soon see steam-hauled service to attract tourists

Two options are being considered: A round trip or a hop-on-hop-off ticket.

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Steam locomotives will be chugging along on all hill railways across the country — besides charting out a new course on the Delhi Ring Railway — as the Railways pushes the idea of reviving the glory of its steam heritage.

With the successful operation of a steam-hauled train on the Palanpur-Jogindernagar section of Kangra Valley Railway, all five hill railways now have steam loco services to attract tourists.

Kangra Valley Railway, which is on the tentative list of Unesco’s World Heritage Sites, witnessed the revived steam loco operation recently after more than 20 years. The regular steam loco operation is expected to boost tourism in Himachal Pradesh.

While Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and Nilgiri Mountain Railway have regular steam locos services, the Kalka-Shimla Railway and Matheran Hill Railway are equipped to conduct chartered services on tourist demand.

But the big thrust will be seen in the capital’s long-neglected — and once-popular — Ring Railway, that has fallen by the wayside as the city expanded rapidly.

“It is a big revival of steam locomotives in Indian Railways, and our aim is to have regular steam loco operations in all hill railways — and also in the long-awaited Delhi Ring Railway route,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with rail heritage.

With the advent of diesel and electric locomotives, steam engines were phased out in 1995 by the Railways.

Ring Rail Delhi

Though there was a move to run a steam locomotive on the Delhi Ring Railway during the Commonwealth Games in 2010, this did not materialise for various reasons.

However, the state-run transporter is now actively working on reviving the service to showcase its heritage, bring back the romance of steam engines and promote tourism. The task has been assigned to Northern Railway.

The existing 34 km-long ring railway, which runs parallel to the Ring Road, passes through several prominent places of Delhi like Chanakyapuri, Safdarjung and Sarojini Nagar and is expected to attract large numbers of tourists and rail enthusiasts interested in steam locos.

As per the plan, the train, comprising four heritage coaches with a steam locomotive, would start from Safdarjung station and travel to Anand Vihar, Old Yamuna Bridge, Old Delhi, New Delhi and Nizamuddin station before returning to Safdarjung.

Delhi Ring Rail

Tourists will be able to visit the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk, National Rail Museum, the historic Old Yamuna Bridge, Humayun’s tomb and rail buildings such as Old Delhi station, Kashmere Gate and Baroda House by using the service.

“The landscape along the proposed route will be beautified, besides other necessary arrangements to make it operational. The fare structure and timings are yet to be decided,” the official said.

“Two options are being considered: A round trip or a hop-on-hop-off ticket,” the official added.

At present, there are very few steam locos across the world that are still in working condition.

By : Arun Kumar Das

(Arun Kumar Das is a senior Delhi-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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No definition of green-firecrackers, too late to check: Environmentalists

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Supreme Court of India

New Delhi, Oct 23 (IANS) While welcoming the Supreme Court’s verdict on imposing certain restriction on the timing of bursting firecrackers, environmentalists say there is no definition of green firecrackers, while raising scepticism if this will work this Diwali which is merely two weeks away.

The SC on Tuesday refused to impose a blanket ban on firecrackers, but restricted bursting only “green firecrackers” between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Pointing out that the peak smog episode of Delhi in 2016 and 2017 was around November 7 and November 8 due to the combined effect of stubble burning in neighbouring states, the date this year collides with Diwali on November 7, 2018.

While some environment organisations welcomed the decision, they pointed out the need for round-the-year imposition and check on other sources of pollution occuring from vehicles, industries and stubble burning.

“Issue of concept of green fire crackers, with limited amount of noise and emissions, had been raised in green courts earlier, but such things practically don’t exist in our country. PESO, however, can mark a warning system on firecrackers, but it’s too late for this Diwali,” says environment activist Vikrant Tongad.

Many activists believe that while stockpiling of firecrackers would have already been done, it would be extremenly difficult to check the standards of firecrackers.

PESO or the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation is the nodal organisation to look after safety requirements in manufacture, storage, transport and use of explosives and petroleum. Supereme Court on Tuesday asked it to review the clinical composition of fireworks, particularly for reducing the aluminium content and submit its report within two weeks.

“The stubble burning is at peak right now and last year, Diwali was on October 19 and in 2016 it was on October 30. This time it’s at the time when Delhi has a history of suffering smog episode. Also, there is no concept of green firecracker, so SC’s verdict is not likely to help,” an environment researcher told IANS requesting anonymity.

The expert also pointed out that since the SC had allowed bursting firecrackers for two hours, imposing the restriction would be difficult.

In 2016, PM2.5 or particles with diameter less than 2.5mm, levels in some areas of Delhi increased to 1,238 on Diwali, which was about 50 times higher than the international standards. However, this effect was reduced in Diwali 2017 following a blanket ban, according to a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report. Another post-Diwali assessment across four regions in Delhi found drop in levels of suphur, nitrous and particle pollution in 2017 as compared to 2016.

For instance, post-Diwali PM10 levels in Pitampura area was 690 units in 2017 against over 1,000 units in 2016.

a Greenpeace assessment had found that average PM 2.5 levels post-Diewali in 2017 were 181 microgram per cubic meters, which were 343 units in 2016.

“Like the issue of burning biomass, fire crackers too contribute only to peak episodes and has little to do with sources that pollute the air during most parts of the year.

“We have been witnessing the lack of seriousness shown to this public health crisis by both central and state governments in policy formulation and implementation for many years now,” said Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

(Kushagra Dixit can be reacher at [email protected])

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Decoded: How smell of lavender helps you unwind

They found that linalool odour has an anxiolytic effect in normal mice. However, this did not impair their movement.

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fragrant plants
Fragrant Plants

Scientists have discovered that the fragrant flower lavender is relaxing and may help people unwind and could even be a safer alternative to anti-anxiety drugs.

The study, over mice, showed that the vaporised lavender compound linalool must be smelt — not absorbed in the lungs — to feel its calming effects, which could be used to relieve preoperative stress and anxiety disorders.

Mice show less signs of anxiety when they smell the fragrant flower.

“In folk medicine, it has long been believed that odorous compounds derived from plant extracts can relieve anxiety,” said co-author Hideki Kashiwadani of Kagoshima University in Japan.

The fragrant flower can also act as an alternative to current anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) drugs like benzodiazepines, which is known to cause memory problems, male breast growth and birth defects.

In the study, published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, the researchers tested mice to see whether it is the smell of linalool — i.e. stimulation of olfactory (odour-sensitive) neurons in the nose — that triggers relaxation.

They found that linalool odour has an anxiolytic effect in normal mice. However, this did not impair their movement.

This contrasts with benzodiazepines, and linalool injections, whose effects on movement are similar to those of alcohol.

“The results suggest that linalool does not act directly on GABAA receptors like benzodiazepines do but must activate them via olfactory neurons in the nose in order to produce its relaxing effects,” Kashiwadani explained.

“Our study also opens the possibility that relaxation seen in mice fed or injected with linalool could in fact be due to the smell of the compound emitted in their exhaled breath.”

Lavender could also be used pre-surgery or by those who struggle to take drugs, the team said.

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India’s economic growth not inclusive enough, inequality rises

Basic education, good health and decent environment are not only valuable constituent elements of quality of life themselves but can also aid in driving economic successes of the standard kind in a more equitable manner. India has missed the bus on that front.

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India Inequality

The Indian growth story has been far from perfect. That is not an understatement by any stretch of imagination. A growing challenge for the economy is the fast-evolving problem of inequality.

Most recently, James Crabtree in his latest book, “The Billionaire Raj”, claims that “India is one of the world’s most unequal countries.” His claim is based on the fact that the billionaire wealth as a proportion of the entire country’s output is the highest for India, except for Russia. The latest human development rankings released last week also corroborate his findings. India already ranks a lowly 130 on the index out of 189 countries but when adjusted for inequality, the scores experience a drastic fall of almost 27 percent against a world average of 20 percent.

What explains India’s dismal performance on the inequality front? Why don’t other developing countries face a similar problem? To put it simply, economic growth in India has not been inclusive enough. All the hype about the country’s fast-paced economic growth has not percolated down through the economy. The recently-released Social Progress Index can provide an explanation on why that is so.

The Index, which measures the extent to which a country can provide for the social and environmental needs of its citizens, ranks India at 101; a position it had achieved as early as 2014. India is the worst performer among all the BRICS countries and performs poorly than quite a few other developing countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Indonesia as well. The country’s abysmal performance on social and environmental aspects can explain its widening inequality to a large extent.

To first put things in perspective, the countries which are performing better on the Social Progress Index are managing to do so irrespective of their economic heft; that is, even economies that are poorer than India have ranked higher. But they have made it possible to have broad-based public participation in economic expansion by pursuing policies which allow for extensive schooling, higher literacy, better healthcare, widespread land reforms and greater gender parity. The only way to maximise the gains in poverty reduction for an economy is to make it more participatory, which is not easy to achieve if the webs of social barriers are not broken down through such policies. Economic advancement cannot be equitable if social opportunities are not enhanced on a wider basis.

China offers the perfect case in point for how a large economy can achieve equitable growth on a sustained basis. China was at the same economic level as India around 1980 when it undertook market reforms. At the same time, the country made investments in improving its basic education and health standards. When China soon became an export-led economy, the products did not particularly require highly skilled labour, but schooled and literate population nevertheless. The production of such basic manufactures for the world markets requires adherence to certain specifications and quality controls where good school education comes in handy. A healthy workforce is also imperative to ensure that economic schedules are not marred by illnesses and intermittent absences and that adequate productivity is maintained.

Thus, basic education, good health and decent environment are not only valuable constituent elements of quality of life themselves but can also aid in driving economic successes of the standard kind in a more equitable manner. India has missed the bus on that front. Surely it can continue to achieve high rates of growth with the rather limited bouquet of social opportunities that exist currently. In fact, a lot of complacency arises from the achievement of high growth rates on an aggregate level. But a status quo would only continue to widen the disparity across society that has already reached concerning levels. Most of India’s growth arises from industries which make excessive use of its historic accomplishments in higher education and technical training. The fruits of such a growth, therefore, are skewed on the wrong side of the income spectrum.

The problem with the inequality debate in India is that it is often argued that since poverty has dramatically declined in the country post-reforms, the trend of rising inequality should not concern policy-makers as it is a small price to pay. But, the fact that India is an outlier in terms of inequality among all developing countries, except an oligarchic Russia, should raise the alarm bells. Most importantly, if there exists a way where the gains from existing growth can be more equitably distributed, clearly that is the Pareto optimal path of development and worth striving for.

(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected] and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, senior researcher, Institute for Competitiveness has contributed to the article)

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