Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu effected no hike in
passenger fares, indicated a cut in freight tariffs.
He admitted that the global economic slowdown is hurting
India’s core sectors and pointed out that the looming impact of the Seventh
Pay Commission made it one of the toughest times to formulate a Budget.
Yet, Mr. Prabhu, in his second Rail Budget, unveiled a
bouquet of new train services, innumerable new initiatives to make life
easier for passengers and proposed an ambitious capital outlay of Rs. 1.21
lakh crore for 2016-17, a jump of 21 per cent over this year.
While the Railway Minister didn’t refer to a sharp 50
crore shortfall in his passenger traffic estimates for 2015- 16 — the
Railways is expected to carry just 810 crore passengers down from 860crore
that he had projected in the last budget.
He sought to win back passengers by offering some
air-plane-type features like on- board entertainment and travel insurance
options at the time of booking.
Railways is looking at bringing down its freight rates
for the first time in the coming year, in a bid to increase revenues through
Minister also said “With an optimistic outlook for the
economy, we hope to generate revenues of the order of Rs. 1,84,820 crore
next year, 10.1 per cent higher than the revised target for 2015-16.”
The Railways will increase the senior citizen quota per
coach by 50 per cent, resulting in almost 120 lower berths per train for
All stations will be made disabled-friendly and at least
one disabled-friendly toilet in all platforms in A1 Class stations will be
built in the next financial year.
One-time registration for the persons with disabilities
for availing concessions while booking tickets online was also announced
along with online booking of wheelchairs & Braille-enabled new coaches.
As a pilot, the Railways will make available children’s
menu items on trains along with baby foods, hot milk, hot water and changing
boards for babies in train toilets.
The Budget suggests sale of tickets through hand-held
terminals on suburban or short distance travel and sale of platform tickets
through ticket vending machines with credit/debit cards as accepted payment
modes besides cash.
Further, the e-ticketing facility will be extended to
foreign debit/credit cards for foreign tourists and NRIs.
For cancelling a ticket, it is proposed that a customer
can simply call the 139 helpline in- stead of going to a booking window to
avail the refund.
The Ministry is working with insurance companies to offer
optional travel insurance for rail journeys at the time of booking.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced four new
categories of trains — one for unreserved passengers and three for reserved
Antyodaya Express, a long-distance, fully unreserved,
superfast train service, for the common man, to be operated on dense routes.
Govt. will also add two to four DeenDayalu coaches to
some long-distance trains for unreserved travel to enhance our carrying
capacity for the masses.
Minister also announced a fully third AC train, called
Humsafar. The Tejas category of trains will run at 130 km an hour, with
entertainment, local cuisine, Wi-Fi and other amenities on board.
The final category is UDAY (Utkrisht Double- Decker
Air-conditioned Yatri), which will be overnight trains plying on the busiest
routes to increase capacity by 40 per cent.
Products from at least seven Indian companies figure in a
large supply of components that have ended up in explosives used by Islamic
State terrorists, according to a study released.
The European Union-fund- ed 20-month-long study by the
Conflict Armament Re- search (CAR) states that the seven Indian companies
“manufactured most of the detonators, detonating cord, and safety fuses
documented” by their field investigation teams.
However, there was no illegality on the part of the
Indian companies, the report says.
The study established that 51 companies from 20 countries
produced or sold more than 700 components used by IS to build improvised
explosive devices (IEDs).
Companies from other countries such as Turkey, Brazil and
the United States also appeared on the list.
Solar Industries, India, produced one spool of detonating
cord on 27 February 2014 and exported it to the Turkish company Ýlci,
On 31 December 2012, Gulf Oil Corporation, India, had
produced a spool and exported it to the Turkish company NitromakDyno Nobel,
Solar Industries, India, produced a further two spools,
on 21 and 23 October 2012, and exported them [on an unspecified date] to the
Lebanese company Maybel, headquartered in Beirut.
However, all those Indian products landed up with the IS
through some intermediaries.
In its biggest diplomatic move after the Pathankot
attack, India will approach the United Nations to include the Pakistan-based
terror master- mind Maulana Masood Azhar on the list of globally designated
India would formally request the 1267 Sanctions
Committee, which consists of 15 members, to schedule a discussion on Masood
Azhar on Friday.
The decision is significant since it is the second time
in less than a year that India will attempt to isolate an international
terrorist through the anti-terror committee.
In June 2015, India moved the committee in the United
Nations, demanding an ex- planation from Pakistan for its decision to
release the 26/ 11 attack plotter Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi from jail.
The attempt to isolate Pakistan, however, failed at the
last moment because of China’s opposition. this year too, China’s attitude
would be watched.