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Vacant seats, more losses likely for Indian Railways this Diwali

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New Delhi, October 28: Indian Railways continue to face blues as seats in premium trains such as Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto Express are reportedly going vacant, ahead of Diwali festival.

This could be a clear red signal of a looming threat of a further fall in railway revenues during the festival season including winter vacations, Christmas and New Year.

According to Dainik Bhaskar, as on 27 October, 72 seats were vacant in Rajdhani AC II Tier bound for Bilaspur. The figure is going to fall in the coming months as trains are expected to be facing at least 40 per cent more traffic during Diwali festival.

The Railways Ministry had introduced flexi surge pricing scheme as a “water test scheme” on September 9 on premium trains, ahead of festival season in the country so as to cap as much as Rs 1000 crore in a year.

Under the flexi surge pricing, the fare for premium trains go as high as 50 per cent. The fare hike is followed by every 10 percent sale of tickets. Thus during the festive rush, anyone who failed to book ticket in the past has available seats of premium trains to book at escalated price. The flexi fare was expected to add at least 200 crore in October month.

On the contrary, the revenue collection of Railways in the first half of October has declined by Rs 232 crore as compared to the revenues collected same time last year. In fact railways have experienced the lowest footfall this October.

The data reveals that railways collected only Rs 4,072 crore from October 1 to 10 this year which is Rs 232 crore lesser than the collection of 2015-16. Last year, railways collection was Rs 4,304 crore in the same period.

Another report claimed that Mumbai Rajdhani, August Kranti Rajdhani, Sealdah Rajdhani and Trivandrum Rajdhani have a large number of vacant seats for the coming festival season, including December and New Year. Normally these trains are jam packed, followed by a long waiting list.

A senior railway ministry official also admitted that occupancy in premium trains is certainly hit by 15 to 20 per cent after flexi fare scheme was introduced.

“The flexi fare scheme has backfired. Occupancy in trains has gone down substantially as passengers are getting flight tickets at cheaper rates. The railway ministry will review the scheme only after three months,” said the official.

Also Shatabdi trains to Amritsar, Lucknow and Kanpur have lower occupancy this year.

It is suspected that the airline companies are making out for this mega loss in Railways.

Clearly the central government has failed to run railways on track whether it is by scrapping railways budget and saving 10000 crore dividend or introducing flexi surge price scheme.

Wefornews Bureau

 

India

‘Ex-HAL chief’s statements on Rafale factually incorrect’

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Rafale deal scam

New Delhi, Sep 20 : Government sources on Thursday dismissed as “factually incorrect” media reports of former Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) chief T.S. Raju claiming that the defence undertaking had signed a work-share contract with French company Dassault Aviation — the manufacturer of Rafale fighter jets.

“In the news item published (Thursday) ex Chairman and Managing Director, (CMD) HAL has been quoted as stating that an agreed work-share with Dassault Aviation (DA) was submitted to government. The same news item also referred to the cost of the aircraft, life cycle cost issues, etc. The statement attributed to ex CMD, HAL is factually incorrect,” said the sources.

The sources said that Raju was a member of the Contract Negotiations Committee of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and “there were many major areas of disagreement between HAL and DA”.

They said that the HAL, in a letter on Oct 10, 2012 to the MOD, “brought out these disagreements pertaining to the work-share between them”.

“Subsequently in July 2014, HAL in its letter to MOD has also highlighted one major unresolved issue regarding responsibility sharing between DA and HAL for licence manufacture of the aircraft.

“Further, the man hours required for manufacture of various components of the aircraft in HAL was also a point of disagreement between DA and HAL. There is, therefore, a contradiction in the claims attributed to Raju,” they said.

The sources also said that the since the work-share between DA and HAL was “never agreed upon”, the statement claiming lower life cycle cost is “completely presumptive”.

They said that because of these reasons, the proposal for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) could not be progressed further.

In an interview to a national daily, Raju who retired from the HAL on Sep 1, asserted that HAL “could have built Rafale fighters in India had the government managed to close the original negotiations with Dassault”.

Riding on Raju’s statements, the Congress led by its president Rahul Gandhi demanded Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s resignation accusing her of “lying”.

The party claimed that Raju’s remarks “nailed Sitharaman’s lie” that HAL didn’t have the capability to build the Rafale.

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India

Modi, Hasina jointly inaugurate oil pipeline, railway projects

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Narendra Modi Sheikh Hasina

New Delhi/Dhaka, Sep 18 : Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday jointly e-inaugurated the construction work of a cross-border oil pipeline and a railway project, with the former describing the two countries as members of the same family.

Hasina and Modi joined the event in the evening via video-conferencing from Dhaka and New Delhi, respectively.

The 129 km India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline connecting Siliguri in India with Parbatipur in Bangladesh will transport petroleum products from Numaligarh Refinery in Assam. Of the total length, 124 km will be constructed in Bangladesh and 5 km in India.

“Geographically we may be neighbours, but emotionally we are members of the same family,” Modi said while addressing the programme.

“Our mutual cooperation in the last few years has shown the world that when two neighbouring countries strive to work together, what all can be achieved,” he said.

“Whether it be a decades-old border problem or development aid cooperation project, we have made unprecedented progress on all issues.”

At the same event, the ground-breaking ceremony of a rail project to improve Dhaka’s connectivity with Tongi and Joydebpur, two towns on the outskirts of the capital city, was also held.

Officials said 48.80 km of the two new dual gauge rail lines would be constructed on the Dhaka-Tongi route and a 12.28 km new dual gauge railway double line on the Tongi-Joydebpur route.

Tuesday’s inauguration of the two projects came a little over a week after both the Prime Ministers inaugurated two railway projects and an electricity project on September 10.

Stating that the pipeline will further boost bilateral cooperation, Modi said that energy was the cornerstone of any country’s development.

“The pipeline will help in the development of the northern Bangladesh. Though it is being done with grant-financing from India, the project will be dedicated to the people and government of Bangladesh once completed,” he said.

Modi said the railway project will not only bring relief to road traffic in Dhaka, but also boost freight revenues.

Speaking from Dhaka, Hasina said that ever since she formed her government in Bangladesh in 2009, she has been working relentlessly to deepen ties with India.

She thanked Modi for the new projects which she said will help in Bangladesh’s development.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan joined the video conference from Delhi and Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali from Dhaka.

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Business

No relief in sight from rising oil prices

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Dharmendra Pradhan

New Delhi, Sep 12 : There is no relief in sight from the rising petrol, diesel and gas prices which are burning a hole in the consumers’ pockets.

The government on Wednesday eluded questions on the subject at an official media briefing here, with Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan asserting that he would not answer questions outside of the day’s Cabinet decisions.

“We will confine ourselves to the Cabinet decisions only,” Pradhan told IANS when asked if a relief was in the offing from soaring oil prices.

The Minister also chose to keep mum when asked if the Union Cabinet discussed the issue on Wednesday.

On Monday, Pradhan had an hour-long meeting with BJP President Amit Shah after the opposition organised a Bharat bandh on the issue.

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