The Sealink's 1 yr old

Time flies..!

Somewhere in Vizag....

Giving a big boost to the Indian Navy’s defence capabilities, two state-of-the-art high-speed warships ‘INS Cankarso’ and ‘INS Kondul’ were commissioned in Vizag . The indigenously-built ships, which use water jet propulsion technology, can detect, locate and destroy small fast-moving enemy surface craft engaged in covert operations. Sources said both the warships are fitted with missiles and machine guns. AP Governor E S L Narasimhan commissioned the ships

Somewhere in Hyderabad....

Saina Nehwal flanked by her coaches Pullela Gopichand and Bhaskar Babu got a rousing reception in Hyderabad after her return to the city following her victory at the Djarum Indonesia Open Super Series Badminton Tournament in Jakarta on Sunday

Six-lane highway from Mysore to Bangalore planned

If the Karnataka government has its way, Bangalore-Mysore state highway will soon be upgraded from four-lane to six lane but road-users will have to pay a toll. “We will soon consider to prepare a detailed project report for the construction of a six-lane expressway between Bangalore and Mysore keeping in view the future requirements,” said PWD minister C M Udasi in the legislative council . Though the government had proposed to construct a four-lane road, the minister yielded to the demand of independent candidate Marithibbe Gowda. Udasi said the road will developed on public-private partnership and it would be toll roads. He said the quality of roads would reduce travelling time and accidents and cut down fuel consumption.

Diesel to be freed of govt control

Indicating a new-found determination to stay the course on politically sensitive reform measures, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not only defended the recent decontrol of petrol prices but also said diesel rates would also be freed of government control. In comments while returning from the G20 summit in Toronto, the PM seemed to be in an assertive mood despite the Opposition calling a bandh to protest fuel price hikes. “The fact that petrol prices have been set free, the same is going to be done to diesel prices,” he said. The PM’s view that fuel price decontrol constitutes “much-needed reforms” signals UPA-2’s more upfront approach to reforms, a preparedness to bite the bullet apparently based on an assessment that the Opposition may not be able to extract much mileage. The government’s defence is based on NDA itself having initiated moves to decontrol fuel prices. Apart from pointing to the Vajpayee government having decided to do away with administered prices, the Opposition’s lack of success in the past in raising “price rise” as a political issue might have helped the ruling coalition in firming up a less apologetic stance. As senior officials have indicated, the oil companies’ finances really left government with no options but to remove crutches. Though the PM was careful in not providing any hint about when diesel prices will be decontrolled, his resolve that the subsidy regime cannot be supportedpoints to a need to control fiscal deficit. The usual argument that kerosene and LPG have been spared is absent as their cost has gone up too, the first time in eight years though they still recieve large subsidies.

Reds ambush CRPF again

In another attack that has exposed the CRPF’s defences yet again, Maoist combatants caught a patrol party off-guard in the jungles of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, mowing down at least 26 men and sending the remaining scurrying for cover. A ‘road-opening’ party of the size of a company was ambushed by Maoists 3 km from Dhaudai in Narayanpur district late afternoon. The troopers were returning after clearing a road and were barely 3 km from their camp. CRPF officers said that the patrol of 63 men checking for mines and explosive devices along the road came under fire from a hilltop. According to information reaching the headquarters, 26 men were killed on the spot and eight were injured, five of them critically. The number of dead and injured may go up, said Vijay Raman, special DG CRPF. The latest blow to CRPF, who’re fast becoming cannon fodder as the Centre and Maoist-infested states dither on launching a full-scale offensive, is bound to revive the debate on taking the army’s help in fighting Naxals. In a series of meetings that followed the May 28 attack on Jnaneswari Express, the need to use India’s military prowess was discussed but both the ruling UPA and even the Congress party were divided. Finally, defence minister A K Antony ruled out the use of soldiers to combat Naxals, only limiting the military’s role to training police and para-military forces.


Maha offers 8-yr tax holiday to boost port development

The Maharashtra government has announced an eight-year tax holiday for development of ports. Rolling out the revamped port policy that promises long term incentives to developers including multipurpose jetties and cargo terminals, chief minister Ashok Chavan said that port development ventures would be treated as industrial projects and exempted from royalty on excavation, electricity duty, registration and stamp duty on all instruments pertaining to port development, and free of cost right of way on the government land for water and electricity supply to ports. The new policy will benefit four ports that are in various stages of development in the state. It has made the Maharashtra Maritime Board a special planning authority (SPA) for port development. Under this mechanism, the chief executive officer of MMB will be authorised to issue clearance for land purchase deals involving 10 hectares or more. Mr Chavan claimed the policy was “better than Gujarat” and would attract investment worth Rs 22,775 crore in the port sector during the next five years. The policy would build cargo handling capacity of ports under MMB to 254 million tonne per annum. The chief minister admitted that the development of ports in Maharashtra so far had not been up to the potential. The state has extended the benefits of its package scheme of incentives for industry to the port sector as well. Development of ports, multipurpose jetty, and cargo terminals will get the same set of incentives availed by the industry under this scheme. The state would also make amendments to the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act of 1966 to empower the MMB to acquire private land for port development. The policy commits the port developers to corporate social responsibility and makes the state’s rehabilitation and compensation package mandatory for the project affected persons. It includes returning 12.5% of developed land to the PAPs, at least one job per family of PAPs, compensation to the fishermen, and technical training to the wards of fishermen. Also, the developers have to build road connectivity between the ports and the nearest highway at their cost. For the rail connectivity, a special purpose vehicle will be formed comprising MMB, Railway Development Corporation Ltd, and the port developer. Mr Chavan said the state was open to the public private partnership option for port development and the MMB would call for expression of interest after identification of sites. “We have a number of sites along the 720 km long coastline,” he said.

Mobile phone firms add 16.3 m users in May

Mobile phone firms in India added 16.3 million new users in May taking the total wireless user base to 617.5 million as per figures released by sector regulator Trai . The industry added about 16.9 million users in April. Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom company by customers and revenues, added 3 million new customers in May, the highest in the industry. This operator added the same number of users in April. Bharti Airtel now has a user base of 133.6 million. Bharti Airtel was followed by Reliance Communications, which added 2.8 million new users in the month, lower than 2.7 million it added in April. The operator’s user base now stands at 107.9 million. Vodafone Essar, which added about 2.8 million new users in April, dropped down to the third position with 2.5 million new additions in May. Vodafone Essar’s total user base now stands at 106.3 million. Dual technology mobile service provider Tata Teleservices added 2.3 million users in May, higher than 1.9 million it added in April, taking its total user base to 70.2 million. Gurgaon-based Aircel and Idea Cellular recorded a flat growth in the month compared with April.

Japan, India begin talks on N-power generation

India and Japan began crucial talks to clinch a deal to cooperate in the civilian nuclear energy that would allow sales of advanced technology by Japanese majors like Mitsubishi and Hitachi. Japan has so far been aloof to nuclear technology sharing with India because of New Delhi not being a signatory to the NPT. The ice was broken at a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his new Japanese counterpart Naoto Kan on the fringes of the G-20 summit in Toronto, Japanese officials said. India has already inked similar deals with eight countries, including the US, France, Russia and Canada, which are trying to boost their nuclear power industries. Noting the recent progress in bilateral cooperation in civilian nuclear development, Singh expressed hope for further collaboration in the sector, and Kan responded that there are a number of things Tokyo can cooperate with, Kyodo news agency quoted the Japanese officials as saying. Singh and Kan, who met for the first time since the latter became the Japanese prime minister early this month, also agreed on the need to deepen bilateral ties, while working toward a strategic and global partnership, officials said. Hours after Singh and Kan met in Toronto, senior Indian and Japanese officials began the first round of talks today at the Japanese foreign ministry in Tokyo aimed at sealing a bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation pact. During the two-day meeting, the two countries will try to work out arrangements to allow Japan to export its nuclear power generation technology and related equipment to India while banning India from using them for military purposes and transferring them to another country, Kyodo news reported. India is represented by Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary (East Asia) in ministry of external affairs and Mitsuru Kitano, deputy-director general, southeast and southwest Asian affairs department from the Japanese side. Japan wants to sign the agreement at an early date in line with the new 10-year growth strategy adopted June 18 by its Cabinet, the highlights of which include promoting the export of nuclear power generation facilities, it said. In light of China’s growing influence in the international arena, Japan is apparently seeking to better position itself by strengthening business ties with India, the report said. The talks held between Japanese and Indian diplomats were attended also by officials from Japan’s Cabinet and the ministry of economy, trade and industry.

Somewhere in Srinagar....

A policeman is beaten by agitators in Srinagar. Eight civilians, including a 9-year-old boy, have been killed in two weeks in firing and tear-gassing of protesters

Two foreign firms pitch for Puducherry beach revamp

Two foreign firms specialising in restoring eroding beaches to their ‘original’ glory have expressed interest in reviving the Puducherry beach. New Zealand-based ASR Limited, which has successfully restored Kovalam beach in Kerala with soft engineering solutions like multi-purpose reefs, has advocated a similar solution to arrest sea erosion in Puducherry. Dr Joseph Mathew of ASR, who presented the proposal at a meeting chaired by officials of departments of science technology and environment, port, public works and town and country planning recently, highlighted the features of the eco-friendly technique. Dr Mathew advocated creation of an artificial reef, which helps in moving sediments towards the shore and accumulating sand along the coast. He pointed out that the firm successfully restored Kovalam beach in February using the technique for preventing sea erosion and increasing the beach sediment levels. Director (Institute of Ocean Management) of Anna University Prof Ramesh Ramachandran and experts from the National Institute of Ocean Technology, who attended the meeting, underlined the importance of arriving at ‘soft’ solutions to protect beaches and coastal villages. The meeting resolved to enlighten the government, non-governmental organisations and general public on the importance of protecting and nourishing the coast of Puducherry. In April, the French Consulate had invited directors of a French company, Stabiplage, to investigate and explore various measures to protect the Puducherry coastline in an environment-friendly manner. The French team which visited Puducherry had elaborate discussions with senior officials. Their technology is based on stabilizing the coastline without stopping the free movement of sand and involves the use of geo-tubes — big cloth tubes filled with sand — to arrest coastal erosion and reclaim the lost beach. The firm has successfully executed the technique along eroded coastlines in Africa, Vietnam and France. The experts strongly disapproved the use of groynes in arresting sea erosion. “The coral reef or geo-tubes stabilize the coastline and do not prevent free flow of sand along the coast while groynes, which though stabilize the coastline, prevent the free flow of sand. Moreover, groynes are impermeable and waves rebound leading to further damage of the coastline while coral reef or geo-tubes are permeable and absorb water leaving sand behind leading to accumulation of sand along the coast,” said Aurofilio Schiavina, an expert on coastal zone management based in Puducherry.

Chennai Metro snippets

Access to the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT) in Koyambedu is going to be hassle-free for metro rail commuters. They will be able to walk right up to their buses from the elevated station that the Chennai Metro Rail will build inside the bus terminus. City-based Consolidated Construction Consortium Limited (CCCL) has won contracts to build 10 elevated stations of Chennai Metro Rail including the one at the CMBT. These stations will be located on the Koyambedu-Alandur stretch of Corridor 2 and the Little Mount-Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) stretch of Corridor 1. The work was awarded to the company in the form of two contracts for five stations each on June 22. CCCL bagged the tender in spite of competition from 11 other bidders. Metro Rail will have two corridors with a combined length of 45km — one from Washermanpet to the airport and the other from Central station to St Thomas Mount via Koyambedu. The total cost is estimated at Rs 14,600 crore. The tender for the design and construction of elevated stations at Koyambedu, CMBT, Arumbakkam, Vadapalani and Ashok Nagar/KK Nagar is worth Rs 139.54 crore, while the second tender to design and build stations at Little Mount, Guindy, Alandur, OTA, and SIDCO is worth Rs 94.99 crore. A senior Metro Rail official said that CCCL would design the stations as per the parameters and locations provided by Metro Rail. “The two tenders cover all elevated stations except St Thomas Mount in the ongoing phase 1 of the metro network. A separate tender will have to be awarded for St Thomas Mount station because it is going to be a consolidated hub for suburban railway, MRTS and metro rail,” the official said. Alignment of the elevated viaduct between the airport and OTA is under discussion with the Airports Authority of India. “We have not finalised the alignment for this stretch,” the official said. With works already awarded for the elevated viaduct and elevated stations, Metro Rail is now processing the pre-tender works to identify companies to build the underground stations and tunnels. Sixteen companies, all of them joint ventures between Indian and foreign firms, have pre-qualified to bid for the works. Washermanpet to Saidapet via Anna Salai stretch of Corridor 1 and Chennai Central to Thirumangalam via Poonamallee High Road stretch of Corridor 2 will be underground. Works are in progress to build elevated viaducts between Koyambedu and Ashok Nagar, Ashok Nagar and St Thomas Mount, and between Saidapet and OTA. The contract for the first stretch has been given to Soma Construction and the remaining to Larsen and Toubro.
Metro Map Spots where the Metro Rail stations will be loacted
Koyambedu: Near Koyambedu vegetable market on Tiruvalluvar street
CMBT: Inside the mofussil bus terminus campus
Arumbakkam: Near Aiswarya Mahal on 100 Feet Road
Vadapalani: Near SRM complex on 100 Feet Road
Ashok Nagar/KK Nagar: Opposite Udhayam theatre
SIDCO: Opposite Central Institute of Plastics Engineering & Technology (CIPET)
Alandur: Near Kathipara flyover
Officers Training Academy: Opposite the main entrance of OTA on GST Road
Little Mount: Near Temple Steps on Anna Salai
Guindy: Opposite Guindy suburban railway station

Ahmedabad BRTS update

Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) will now extensively cover eastern parts of the city with its three kilometre long stretch between Narol and Jashodanagar becoming operational on Wednesday. There would be at least five bus stops on this route and four new BRTS buses would be added to the existing fleet. BRTS will then connect the eastern fringes of the city to its main centres in western parts of the city. After the stretch is operational, the total length of BRTS active route will be 31 kilometre. Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited (AJL) plans to finish the Jashodanagar-Soni-ni-chawl BRTS corridor by August 15. At present, BRTS is operational between RTO and Kankaria lake front, Danilimda and Narol. A senior AJL official said, “The new route will draw a major chunk of traffic from Vatva GIDC area. The eight kilometre BRTS stretch from Danilimda to Narol crossroads had not faired well. But things will improve as it gets connected to Jashodanagar.” At present, AJL is earning around Rs 2 lakh per day.

RIL strikes more oil

Reliance Industries (RIL) has made its seventh oil discovery on the western coast at the Cambay basin block in Gujarat. The potential commercial interest of the discovery is being determined through more data and analysis, a company release said .Reliance holds a 100% participating interest in the block, and has so far drilled 17 exploratory wells that cover an area of 635 sq km. The current flow at the Cambay basin block was at 410 barrels of oil per day. The company also said it is continuing further exploratory drilling efforts in the block, and has informed the government about the latest discovery.

Core sector growth at 5% in May

The six core infrastructure industries posted 5% growth in May compared to the same period last fiscal, giving optimism that the country’s overall robust industrial expansion is well on track. The infrastructure industries, which have a combined weight of 26.7% in the overall factory output, grew 3.2% in May last year. However, the May figures are a tad lower that their respective April numbers as the six key sectors—crude, coal, petroleum refining, electricity, cement and finished steel — had posted a growth of 5.4% in April this year. The growth in the infrastructure sector was led by petroleum refinery output, which rose by a robust 7.7% in May, against a negative 4.3% growth in the corresponding month last year. Crude oil production also rose 5.8% against a negative growth of 4.3% in the same month last year, while electricity generation more than doubled to 6.4% from 3% last year. However, finished steel grew slightly lower at 2.5% in the reporting month against 2.8% in the same month last year and coal production also slowed to 0.1% against an expansion of 10.4% in May last year.

Rohtang tunnel

Eight years after former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid the foundation stone for the Rohtang tunnel, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi repeated the ceremony, with Himachal Pradesh CM Prem Kumar Dhumal clarifying that what Vajpayee had presided over was the making of the approach road to the tunnel. The tunnel, when it is completed in 2015 as pledged by the Himachal Pradesh government, will be 8.8km long and connect landlocked Lahaul and Spiti valley with Manali and Leh. The horse-shoe underpass will offer all-year access between these towns and reduce the distance between Manali and Lahaul by 46km and at least two hours of driving time. The current road, known as Rohtang Pass, is closed for six months in a year because of adverse climatic conditions. The tunnel, which will cost about Rs 1,500 crore, will have a double lane with a maximum permissible speed limit of 80km per hour. Constructing it at a height of 13,050 feet will be a challenge for engineers and the most modern tunnelling methods will be used. Describing the ceremony as a “historic’’, Sonia said, “It’s an emotional moment for me because a dream of Rajiv Gandhi is being realised.’’ She further said, “People will be able to meet their daily needs round the year. Medical treatment will be facilitated, and tourism will get a boost.’’ The stretch, which is prone to avalanches, will be completed by BRO. Sonia hoped the tunnel will be laid with concern for the Himalayas fragile eco-system.

Worli - Haji Ali Sealink

Recommended way back in 1970, the Western Freeway sea link’s second part, Worli-Haji Ali Sea Link (WHSL), was finally put into execution mode by the Maharashtra government on Monday evening. The project, supposed to be ready in 42 months starting from December 2010, promises to cut down on the travel time between Bandra and Haji Ali from 60 minutes to 13 minutes as the proposed bridge will bypass 27 traffic signals in stretch between Bandra and Haji Ali. Currently, over 48,000 vehicles use the Bandra Worli Sea link every day and experts feel that the figure will increase to 1.20 lakh per day after the Haji Ali part is commissioned. The consortium of Reliance Sea Link One Private Ltd (RSLOPL) and Hyundai Engineering and Construction Pvt Ltd on Monday signed an agreement with state agency MSRDC to build the 3.4-km (7 km including connectors) link over the sea at a ceremony held at Hotel Trident in the evening. “It will be a challenging task to build this bridge in just 42 months and we are going to achieve the target,’’ said CEO of Reliance Infrastructure Lalit Jalan. Sonia Sethi, MD of MSRDC, assured to clear all approvals so that the construction could get over within the deadline without any hassles. “Though the entire Western Freeway sea link from Bandra to Nariman Point has already received environmental clearance, approvals for small changes in the design at Worli and Haji Ali are expected soon,’’ said Sethi. “We have already started the process in order to put men and machinery on the job. With the financial closure in December this year, we will start on the actual construction,’’ said Jalan. The WHSL is expected to be thrown open to the public by June 2014.

India, Canada ink N-deal

Canada and India signed a landmark nuclear deal on Sunday, ending a quarter of a century of mistrust after India used Canadian technology to build its first nuclear bomb. The agreement will enable India to import Canadian nuclear equipment and technology and secure over 2,000 tonnes of uranium to fuel its rapid economic growth. PM Manmohan Singh, who was present during the signing with Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper, assured that the imported uranium and technology would not be used for “any unintended purpose’’. Harper hailed it as a good agreement because “we cannot live in the past of 1970s”. Canada is the eighth nation to reach a civil nuclear deal with India since the NSG lifted a 34-year ban on India in 2008.


Chennai Rainbow Pride March II

The second edition of the ‘Chennai Rainbow Pride March’ — an event to celebrate alternative sexuality and gender identities — on Sunday saw fewer participants when compared to last year but activists said it was the people themselves who mattered. “We are seeing some families marching with us this year and a lot of new faces, so we are happy. Those who were here last year are playing a larger role and that is a good thing,” said Aniruddhan Vasudevan, a Bharatanatyam artist and member of Shakti Center, a collective that aims to foster dialogue on gender and sexuality. “While transgenders have always been at the forefront of this movement, we have lesbian, gay and bisexual people attending the event as well. It takes a lot of courage for them to come out and make a statement,” he said. The march was the culmination of a series of events to mark ‘Pride Month’, including a meeting of parents of LGBT persons at the Centre for Counselling, a two-day LGBT performance festival called ‘Nirangal’ and the Ms Sahodaran beauty pageant. Vasudevan said it was important for more events like the Pride March to be organised for the general public to be aware of LGBT rights. Raghvendra Upadhyay, a freelance writer working with an AIDS prevention centre in Varanasi, who was at the march, said he saw fewer lesbian couples at the march in Chennai when compared to Delhi and Mumbai. Kiran Mova, an IT professional from Bangalore who had come to Chennai to attend the event with his partner Elen, also endorsed this view. “There were more families at the Pride March in Bangalore as there are more organisations working for the LGBT community there. It seems like a more closed group here,” Kiran said. As the evening grew cooler, the march wound up at Labour Statue by around 5.15pm with a joint proclamation by the community that the event was a celebration of their identity and the decriminalisation of section 377 by the Delhi High Court. Activists requested that transgenders be recorded in the 2011 national census in the gender of their choice and not be limited by the available binary choices of ‘male’ and ‘female’.

DTH goes HD

After Sun Direct introducing HDTV to India.....Dish TV, Tata Sky, Reliance Big TV, Airtel digital have followed suit.....

Somewhere in Moradabad....

Boys covered in mud praying for rains.

Ahmedabad's BRTS route to get green look

In a bid to make the newly-constructed BRTS route from Narol to Naroda Patia green, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has budgeted Rs 24 lakh. Saplings will be planted on BRTS median and traffic island on the route. Recently, AMC floated tenders for 60,511 sq metre of area on BRTS route from Narol-Naroda expressway junction-Viratnagar-Naroda Patia. According to AMC officials, the contractor will be given 75 days for development of stretch and they have to maintain it for two years. However, the plantation on the operational route from RTO to Maninagar is in shambles. A senior AMC official said, “We are making sure that these BRTS stretches are landscaped in a better way and proper monitoring will be done to see that the planted trees are maintained well.”

Deregulation of transport fuels

After an aborted attempt by the NDA regime in 2002 to deregulate fuel prices, the UPA administration has finally bitten the bullet and moved on implementing the Parikh committee recommendations. True, this is still a first step. While petrol price has now been pegged to the international market, diesel remains partly controlled and LPG and kerosene wholly so. But given the price hikes across the board – and the planned deregulation of diesel that is to be implemented in phases – it is a crucial one. The first beneficiaries will be state-run oil companies with under-recoveries dropping from Rs 770 billion to Rs 530 billion. But the ripple effect will, in actuality, spread far beyond that with benefits accruing to consumers in the long term. The challenge now is for the government to stand firm against the inevitable political backlash and populist demands. Given that inflation is as much a function of perception as actual inflationary pressure, a short-term rise in prices of goods and services is perhaps inevitable. But there are several factors that could contain and counter this in the longer run. A decreased subsidy burden on the government will mean a reduced deficit and healthier public financing, exerting downward pressure on prices. And, crucially, by moving to deregulate transport fuels, the government has made competition viable. Private players unable to cope with an uneven playing field where the government mandated loss-inducing price levels, then underwrote public companies’ deficits, will now have an incentive to re-enter the market. And an open market means competitive pricing and inducement for investment to bankroll both the breadth and quality of services, eventually benefiting consumers. There are other non-quantifiable benefits as well. Exposure to price fluctuations in the international market could provide an incentive for energy efficiency and the development of alternative energy and clean technology that is lacking in the present protected economic environment. It could, in short, bring home the energy security and environmental concerns that are shaping discourse between the leading global economies today.

RCOM sells tower biz to GTL

The country’s second-largest wireless carrier, Reliance Communications (RCOM) hived off its tower business to GTL Infrastructure for Rs 50,000 crore ($11 billion) to create the world’s largest telecom infrastructure company not controlled by a telecom operator. The boards of the Anil Ambani-promoted RCOM and its subsidiary, Reliance Infratel (Rel Infratel), and GTL Infrastructure (GTL Infra), a company promoted by Manoj Tirodkar, have approved the transaction. The deal will be implemented through a demerger of Rel Infratel’s tower assets into GTL Infra. Along with the substantial unlocking of value, the deal will help RCOM reduce debt and invest in network upgrades. RCOM, the flagship firm of the Reliance ADA group, has a net debt of Rs 33,000 crore. Selling off the tower assets has ensured that its net debt gets cut by Rs 18,000 crore, leaving a debt of Rs 15,000 crore.


Return of the maverick

Even as the BJP is faced with the Bihar upset, there was some rejoicing at the BJP headquarters on Thursday. The homecoming of expelled party veteran Jaswant Singh and TV actor Smriti Irani taking charge as BJP Mahila Morcha chief saw some colour and outpouring of emotion in the party. “It’s good be back in these familiar surrounding,” said an emotional Jaswant Singh, visibly enjoying the limelight after a year’s oblivion, soon after BJP chief Nitin Gadkari “welcomed” him back into the party, flanked by senior leaders LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Ravi Shankar Prasad and SS Ahluwalia, at the crowded briefing room overflowing with party leaders and media.
While Gadkari said he had wanted Singh to be back in the party soon after he took over as the party chief, Advani said, “With the happiness there is also a sense of relief as I welcome him,” hinting that he was never in favour of expelling Jaswant Singh in the first place. Singh was expelled during the Shimla ‘chintan baithak’ of the party last year. He said he was “very happy” that Singh, whom he had met for the first time during his initial days of political work in Rajasthan, has rejoined the party. According to Singh, Advani wanted all the unpleasantness that had happened in between to be considered a closed chapter. Singh claimed that he was also touched when Gadkari came over to his house after taking over as party chief and asked for his blessings.
Conceding that he has always abided by BJP’s ideology from the time he joined the party, Singh said he will “continue to do so”. Singh was expelled over his controversial take on Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his book on Pakistan’s founding father.Recalling his expulsion from the party at Shimla in August 2009, the MP from Darjeeling said, “I was hurt, humiliated by what I had encountered.”

No to ‘greater Nagaland’

Indicating the Centre’s position on the Naga insurgent outfit NSCN (IM) demand for ‘Nagalim’ (greater Nagaland), Union minister for development of northeastern region (DoNER) B K Handique said it would not be possible to change the boundaries of the northeastern states.Integration of all Nagainhabited areas of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland has been a key demand of the Naga militant group, engaged in peace talks with the Centre for over a decade.“It will be difficult to change the borders of the northeastern states. If somebody wants a bigger state, then land will have to be taken from other states. There will be stiff resistance to such a move,” Handique, who hails from Assam, said when asked about the progress on the Naga peace talks.Earlier this month, another round of peace talks was held between the Centre and NSCN (IM) where the contentious issue of integration of Naga-inhabited areas figured.
On ULFA, Handique said the peace initiatives with the outfit have started in the “right direction” as some very senior leaders of the outfit have backed negotiation to end the decades-old insurgency problem in Assam. “It (the peace initiative) has started in the right direction. We are hopeful of a positive outcome,” he said adding that he had also discussed the issue with PM Manmohan Singh. On whether the Centre will consider giving amnesty to top ULFA leaders currently lodged in various jails in Assam, Handique was quoted as saying by a news agency that the issue may be considered during the talks.

100 days to go....

Canada says sorry

Twenty-five years after the Kanishka tragedy that claimed 329 lives, Canadian premier Stephen Harper apologized for the “institutional failings” that led to the Air India bombing and took the first step towards providing compensation to the victims’ families.In an emotional speech marking the 25th anniversary of the attack, Harper said: “The mere fact of the destruction of Air India Flight 182 is the primary evidence that something went very, very wrong. For that, we are sorry... For that, and also for the years during which your legitimate need for answers and, indeed, for empathy, were treated with administrative disdain.” The PM recommended that an independent commission be established to determine appropriate amounts of compensation for the victims’ families. Air India Flight 182, Kanishka plunged into the Atlantic on June 23, 1985, after an explosion in the aircraft killing all 329 people on board. Without naming Khalistan demand by a section of Sikh community in Canada, Harper said that his government was committed to marginalize extremists and would not allow them to use Canadian soil to export terrorism to India. “It is incumbent upon us all ... to carefully and systematically marginalize those extremists who seek to import the battles of India’s past here and then to export them back to that great and forward-looking nation,” he said.

Seoul says thank you

Airports operate sans licences

Lost in the din of debates on air safety and claims of aerodrome modernisation is a fact only a few know even in aviation circles: only eight of the more than 50 operational airports in the country have the mandatory licences issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation. Airports without a licence include those at Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Madurai, Pune and Thiruvananthapuram.
The last airport to see its licence lapse was Bajpe airport in Mangalore which had a provisional licence at the time of the Air India Express crash which claimed 158 lives on May 22. Its licence expired on June 15. Not having a licence means the airport does not conform to Indian Aircraft Rules, 1937 or the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s safety standards. The immediate fallout, experts feel, could be that insurance companies may not be liable to pay compensation in case of an accident. Such non-compliance could prove costly for Indian aviation which the US Federal Administration (FAA) has already threatened to downgrade from the current top billing to sub-Saharan Africa levels.
“According to Rule 78 of the Indian Aircraft Rules, 1937, only licensed airports should be allowed to operate. Operating unlicensed airports means gross violation of safety norms by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) which owns these airports. This shows the scant respect AAI has for rules and safety of passengers,” said air safety expert Capt A Ranganathan, who has 19,000 hours of flying experience.
While the DGCA website has listed 18 ‘private use’ airports and 23 ‘public use’ airports as having licences (till December 31, 2009), the latest list of licensed airports shows that only nine have their licences renewed and valid. DGCA issues licences to airports which are supposed to meet a number of criteria, including adherence to ICAO Annex 24 safety norms.

Airports without valid licences

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel international airport, Ahmedabad

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose international airport, Kolkata

Anna international airport, Chennai

Lohegaon airport, Pune

Thiruvananthapuram international airport

A new city in the works

Chhatisgarh is planning a new capital.

Carbon credits for Mumbai

The new Siemens-MRVC purple and white rakes may just earn Mumbai its first carbon credits for transport. And, the new swanky rakes would be second only to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to earn credits in the country. A three-member carbon credit validation team from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) as well as officials from Central Railway, Western Railway, Railway Board, Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation, World Bank and the Research Designs and Standards Organization verified if the new AC-DC rakes actually consume 30% lesser energy than conventional ones. The adoption of the three-phase IGBT technology on EMUs (electric multiple units) in Mumbai suburban area has led to reduction in greenhouse gases, say MRVC. “We are confident that we will earn these credits. We would earn around 20 euros per tonne,” said an MRVC source. The corporation, though, would know if they pass the test in the next two months. If they do, Indian Railways will earn more than Rs 5 crore per year. This amount would increase subsequently as currently only 66 rakes are under consideration.
The new DC-AC rakes have regenerative breaking, where, on application of brakes, the traction motor works like a generator and converts kinetic energy into electrical energy. The generated energy is fed back to the OHE, which is used by other trains running in the section. MRVC managing director P C Sehgal said that the project idea note, the first step of the lengthy process to earn the credits, was prepared in August 2007. “This is followed by a detailed document of the project after which it was loaded on the MRVC website (open for public scrutiny) and the approval of the Government of India is sought. After this, it is loaded on the UNFCC website and if they are convinced members of the UNFCC comes to Mumbai.” The ten-member team would see the computer installed in the rakes and check the energy consumed and regenerated.
AC-DC EMU rakes consume 30% less energy than conventional DC rakes Energy consumption of DC unit (three-car) is 4.94 kwh/km Energy consumption of DC-AC unit (3-car) is 3.46 kwh/km The estimated overall emission reduction is 53,381 tonnes of carbon dioxide


Somewhere in Ireland....

Family members of Kanishka bombing victims after attending a service at the memorial in Ahakista on Ireland’s Sheeps Head peninsula to mark the 25th anniversary of the crash. Chanting from the families ended a minute’s silence at the spot at 8.13 am, the moment when a bomb among the baggage on board the AI flight exploded killing all fliers and crew. Stephen Harper, PM of Canada from where the plane had taken off, is set to offer an unconditional apology for serious lapses on the part of the Canadian police and sleuths. Harper is also likely to announce compensation for the victims after a inquiry report last week blamed the Canadian government for the incident.


India - Canada N-deal

The nuclear agreement with Canada will be the latest in a series of civil nuclear agreements India has been signing with key countries in the wake of the deal with the US. It will allow Canadian companies to export and import “controlled’’ nuclear materials, equipment and technology to and from India. In effect, this will see India’s nuclear history coming a full circle. In 1974, Canada had accused India of conducting its first nuclear test with Canadian nuclear material, which was supposed to be for peaceful uses.Briefing journalists, Vivek Katju, secretary (west) in the MEA, said India and Canada were also working on a slew of other agreements on science and technology, health, agriculture and culture. He said a number of agreements and MoUs were under active negotiations and were likely to be concluded and signed during the PM’s visit. These included civil nuclear energy cooperation, social security, mining, higher education and culture.


Gurgaon Metro snapshotz

The monsoon's progress so far

Somewhere in Hyderabad....

Denizens on a shopping spree near Charminar on the longest day of the year as the sun set late (at 7.30 pm) in the city on Monday

RIL's agenda

GoM recommendations on Bhopal

The group of ministers (GoM) on the Bhopal gas tragedy recommended a hike in compensation for victims, review of the verdicts of the Supreme Court and trial court which are seen as being unfair to them and lenient to the accused, and a fresh effort, backed by evidence of graver charges, for the extradition of the fugitive former head of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson. As per the GoM’s recommendation, families of the deceased would be provided Rs 10 lakh instead of the Rs 1-3 lakh provided earlier. Those with permanent disability will receive Rs 5 lakh as against the Rs 50,000-Rs 2 lakh they got earlier, while those with lesser injuries will get Rs 1 lakh. Patients of cancer and renal failure will get Rs 2 lakh. But the government has decided not to look afresh at the classification and decisions taken on the claims by the welfare commissioner, Bhopal.
The GOM’s report—which recommends pursuing Anderson, enhancing compensation and a total package of Rs 1,320 crore for rehab of victims, environmental clean up and all other costs—will be taken up by the Union cabinet for consideration on June 25. While a sum of Rs 300 crore will be set apart for the clean-up job, Rs 227 crore has been earmarked for upgradation of seven hospitals, including the Bhopal Memorial Trust hospital which was set up in the aftermath of the tragedy. Importantly, the GoM has steered clear of the mystery around the arrest and release of then UCC chief Warren Anderson. Fingers have been pointed at the Rajiv Gandhi-led Centre and Arjun Singh-led MP government while diplomats have spoken of a ‘safe passage’.
A new request for the extradition of Anderson from the US will be made by India in the light of the fresh evidence that has surfaced against the fugitive as mentioned in the June 7 trial court judgment. India will take the stand that the ex-UCC chief technically still faced serious charges under Section 304-II (culpable homicide) of the IPC as he was not a party before the Supreme Court in 1996 when the culpability was diluted to a lighter Section 304 A (criminal negligence).
Though India had made the extradition request in 2003, the US had turned it down saying it did not meet the requirements of the extradition treaty. Besides making a fresh extradition effort, the Centre will also file a curative petition in the SC for review of its infamous 1996 judgment diluting the charges against the accused from the stringent section 304-II to section 304A of the IPC.
The second curative petition seeking to review the 1991 judgment endorsing the court-guided settlement between UCC and Union of India for a $470 million Settlement Fund will also be filed. Besides, the GoM also recommended a revision petition before the Jabalpur HC under Section 397 against the judgment of the trial court, arguing that it be set aside and the case referred to the sessions court for a fresh trial under sections 304-II, 324 (causing hurt), 326 (causing grievous hurt) and 429.
These recommendations are based on the evidence dug out from the Bhopal gas leak case trial records.

Mumbai's monorail rake tested in Malaysia

Mumbai took a huge step towards improved commuter connectivity on Monday when the first monorail rake for the metropolis was launched and tested in Rawang, Malaysia, where the 15 four-car rakes are being built. The sleek, blue-and-white rake will be shipped to Mumbai in early July and is expected to begin carrying commuters between Chembur and Wadala in December. After that, Scomi, which has its plant north of Kuala Lumpur, has promised to ship 14 more rakes at the rate of one a month to Mumbai.
The Chembur-Wadala monorail would be extended to Jacob Circle (Saat Rasta) in May 2011 and is expected to ease the rush on other mass-transit systems in the city. By 2016, the entire line is expected to carry 1.25 lakh commuters a day and by 2031 it could carry 3 lakh passengers a day. The monorail will use 18 stations and improve connectivity between the eastern suburbs and central Mumbai. The MMRDA plans to develop Wadala, which will have the main monorail depot, along the lines of the Bandra Kurla Complex.
Mumbai’s first monorail rake was inaugurated by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad. Speaking on the occasion, Gaikwad thanked the Scomi group for delivering the rakes on time, but pulled up the Larsen & Toubro (L&T) group for delays. Gaikwad said the standards for the curved beams, being made by L&T as part of the civil works for the project, are yet to be fully met. He said the monorail project has about 40% curved beams. State urban development secretary T C Benjamin said L&T has been told about the need for perfection.
MMRDA officials said the civil works comprised mainly straight beams and curved beams. While there was no problem with the straight ones, the MMRDA’s consultants want 100% perfection in the curved beams for smooth and hassle-free movement of the rakes. Gaikwad confirmed that Phase-1 would start by December and Phase-2 by May 2011. “Even a day’s delay can mean a fine of Rs 50 lakh to the contractor,’’ he warned.
The MMRDA had earlier planned to deviate from its path at Jacob Circle due to terrorist Ajmal Kasab being imprisoned at Arthur Road jail. But Gaikwad said the MMRDA met the police chief and there was no problem with the route.
The Chembur-Jacob circle route will have 15 rakes, each having a carrying capacity of nearly 600 people.
Scomi group president (engineering) Syahrunizam Samsudin said, “After the successful exhibition run of the first monorail car in Mumbai on January 26, 2010, we have been steadily working towards meeting the deadline set by MMRDA. We plan to complete and dispatch one train a month starting from July from our manufacturing facility. We will ensure that by 2011 all 15 trains are ready in Mumbai.’’
Gaikwad said that plans for monorail connectivity between Thane-Bhiwandi and Kalyan are almost finalised. “Since the Chembur-Saat Rasta monorail was the first of its kind, the MMRDA decided to fund the Rs 2,460-crore project, but the Thane-Bhiwandi-Kalyan line will be on a Public Private Partnership basis,’’ he said.
The MMRDA also plans to construct a monorail between Lokhandwala Complex and SEEPZ. The MMRDA is also planning a monorail between Diva junction and Nevle via Nilje. This would help the area around Kalyan develop into a business hub. In the next few years, the MMRDA is planning a 180-km network connecting Mumbai and its satellite areas.
Since many cities in India—like Pune, Bangalore and Hydearbad—want monorails, Scomi has asked the state for help in setting up a plant. Benjamin said the government would examine the proposal.

Chembur-Jacob Circle — 20 km

18 stations

15 rakes, each with 4 cars

Each rake to carry upto 568 passengers

Speed 31 kmph (max 80 kmph)

Trains to run from 5 am to midnight

Frequency 4 to 6 minutes initially

Phase 1

Chembur-Wadala 8.26 km
Journey Time : Around 25 min

Phase 2

Wadala-Jacob Circle 11.28 km
Journey Time : Around 19 min

Fare System

Smart cards, for single and multiple journeys
Manned ticket office machine
Passenger-operated, ticket vending machine
Ticket readers/portable ticket decoders (used by ticket inspectors)
Computer-controlled gates

Rail Tracker

The monorail requires a 1-metre-wide space, approximately the space of a footpath. It rests on a 6.5-metre-tall pillar, so it doesn’t disturb traffic below

Compared to other mass-transit systems, it produces less noise and is eco-friendly. Hence, it is acceptable in dense residential locales
It is eventually expected to save 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the air daily
Monorails are used in Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and China
Urban development secretary T C Benjamin has asked for cushions to be removed from the Mumbai trains
Source: mmrdamumbai.org


Phase 1 | Chembur-Wadala Opening Date : Dec 2010

Phase 2 | Wadala-Jacob Circle Opening Date : May 2011


Chembur Railway Station
VN Purav & RC Marg Junction
Fertiliser Township
Bharat Petroleum
Mysore Colony
Bhakti Park
Wadala Depot
GTB Nagar
Antop Hill
Acharya Atre Nagar
Dadar (East)
Ambedkar Nagar
Mint Colony
Lower Parel
Jacob Circle