Govt proposes highest ever plan outlay for railways

News4u-News Desk- The Government on Tuesday proposed highest ever plan outlay of Rs 65,445 crore to the railways for the current fiscal, with a budgetary support of over Rs 30,000 crore.

Presenting the Railway Budget for 2014-15, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said the “highest ever plan outlay” would include market borrowing of Rs 11,790 crore and internal resources of Rs 15,350 crore.

Another Rs 6,005 crore would be mopped up through public private partnerships (PPP) mode, while railways would create a safety fund of Rs 2,200 crore.

As per Budget Estimates for 2014-15, total receipts are projected at Rs 1,64,374 crore, while total expenditure at Rs 1,49,176 crore.

Operating ratio would be 92.5 percent, which is an improvement of 1 percent over the last fiscal.

While passenger traffic grew by 2 percent, passenger earnings stood at Rs 44,645 crore after revenue foregone of Rs 610 crore on account of rollback in monthly season ticket fares, Gowda said, adding freight earnings are estimated at 1,05,770 crore for this fiscal.

The expenditure on pension is pegged at Rs 28,850 crore, while Rs 9,135 crore would be spent on dividend payment.

On the challenges facing railways, Gowda said, “Surplus revenues are declining. There is hardly any adequate resources for development works.”

The surplus resources, which stood at Rs 11,754 crore in 2007-08, is estimated to be only Rs 602 crore in the current financial year, he added.

He also said Rs 5 lakh crore was required to complete the ongoing projects alone as only 317 of the 674 projects sanctioned in last three decades could be completed.

Completing the unfinished projects would require Rs 1,82,000 crore, he said.

Observing that most of gross traffic receipts was spent on fuel, salary and pension, track and coach maintenance and on safety works, Gowda said that Rs 1,39,558 crore was the gross traffic receipts and total working expenses were at Rs 1,30,321 crore last year.

Govt proposes highest ever plan outlay for railways

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India test-fires advanced version of BrahMos missile

News4u-News Desk- India on Tuesday succcessfully test-fired an advanced version of the 290-km range Brahmos supersonic cruise missile off the coast of Odisha, giving the country the capability to hit enemy targets hidden behind mountains or in a cluster of buildings with “pinpoint accuracy”.

The missile travelled its full strike range of 290 kms in about 500 seconds to hit its simulated target in a copybook fashion after being fired from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur-on-sea, around 15 kms from Balasore, said BrahMos chief A Sivathanu Pillai.

Dwelling on the increased accuracy of the missile, he said, “The advanced guidance system integrating multiple navigation satellites including the Gagan system powered with new software algorithm and developed indigenously by Indian scientists and industries, resulted in pinpoint accuracy of the missile system against hidden land targets in mountain warfare.”

BrahMos and DRDO officials involved in the test-firing at the launch block had said earlier the missile could deviate around 10 metres from its target but the new system would reduce it to less than 5 metres which will make it highly effective against targets such as hardened concrete bunkers in mountain warfare.

The missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher at 10.38 AM, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said.

It is capable of carrying a conventional warhead of 300 kgs.

“It was a developmental trial of BrahMos,” Ravi Kumar Gupta, senior defence scientist and Director, Directorate of Public Interface, DRDO, said.

The two-stage missile, the first one being solid and the second one ramjet liquid propellant, has already been inducted into the Army and Navy, and the Air Force version is in final stages of trial, a defence official said.

Work on the submarine-launched version of the system is also in progress.

This was the 44th test-firing of the missile, said BrahMos, a joint venture firm of India and Russia.

The system is now fully operational with two regiments of the Army.

It is expected to form part of a third regiment of the Army — the 17 Mountain Strike Corps being raised for deployment along the China border, which mostly comprises mountainous regions from Ladakh to the Northeastern region.

The officials at the launch site said the capability of the missile can be of major use for the Navy once it starts using BrahMos for land attack roles.

Induction of the first version of Brahmos system in the Indian Navy commenced from 2005 with the missile being deployed onboard warship INS Rajput.

The maritime force has now equipped eight warships with the cruise missile but they are meant for anti-ship roles.

BrahMos said the Indian companies have played a big role in the development of the system as “about 205 Indian industries have come in a big way by significantly contributing their knowhow and expertise in realising the BrahMos weapon system.

The test today also proved the new canister launcher and fuel management system developed by private vendors L&T and Godrej systems.

BrahMos said the weapon’s successful launch will give a boost to the ongoing programme of future installations of the system in the Army in the field of mountain warfare.

The air-launched version of the missile is expected to be ready for test-firing by the end of this year.

BrahMos missile

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14 killed, dozens hurt in Chicago shootings

News4u-News Desk- Extra police officers on Chicago’s streets were not enough to quell a long weekend of violence that ended with 14 people shot to death and dozens more injured.

During Monday’s news conference, just hours after two more people were shot to death earlier in the day, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said his department’s best efforts could not prevent the bloodshed that spiked dramatically on Sunday.

Chicago’s total of 53 shooting incidents for the holiday weekend easily eclipsed Detroit and New York combined, which had a total of 46 shooting incidents, 10 of which were fatal.

“Going into the holiday weekend we had a plan, including putting hundreds more officers on the streets and what were the results?” McCarthy asked.

“The results were a lot of shootings, a lot of murders, unfortunately.”

The shootings over the Fourth of July holiday weekend included eight incidents that involved police, according to McCarthy.

In five of those instances, officers shot at suspects. Two people, both 16, were killed in those shootouts.

McCarthy said that based on preliminary investigations, all of the officer-involved shootings appear to have been justified, including one in which officers fired after a suspect tried to run them over with his car.

Even with the weekend shootings, Chicago police are on pace with last year for officer-involved shootings, with 33 so far in 2014, compared with 35 at the same time last year, according to McCarthy.

14 killed, dozens hurt in Chicago shootings

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Japan on highest typhoon alert, 480,000 urged to take shelter

News4u-News Desk- Japan braced on Tuesday for one of its worst storms in years as typhoon Neoguri barrelled towards the southern Okinawa island chain, with the national weather agency issuing its highest alert and nearly half-a-million people urged to take shelter.

The top-level warning means a threat to life, as well as the risk of storm surges, landslides and massive damage from the typhoon packing gusts of up to 250 kilometres (155 miles) per hour.

The Japan Meteorological Agency late Monday issued the alert for Okinawa’s main island, home to around 1.2 million people, as well as the outlying Miyako islands.

Waves could reach as high as 14 metres (45 feet), a weather agency official said, as schools across the sprawling archipelago south of Japan’s main islands were closed while air and sea traffic services ground to a halt. About 6,500 Okinawan households had no power early Tuesday.

The storm comes less than a year after typhoon Haiyan, packing the strongest winds ever recorded on land, killed or left missing more than 7,300 people as it tore across the central Philippines in November.

“There are fears about violent winds, high waves and tides and torrential rain that we have never experienced before,” Satoshi Ebihara, the Japanese weather agency’s chief forecaster, told an evening news conference on Monday.

“We are in an abnormal situation where serious danger is imminent,” he said, advising Okinawans to stay in secure buildings or seek out a safer location if they fear their homes could not withstand the powerful storm.

The Kadena Air Force Base, the biggest US Air Force base in the Pacific, located on Okinawa’s main island, has evacuated some of its aircraft as officers stressed that Neoguri may be deadly.

Authorities have now urged about 480,000 people across Okinawa to take shelter in their homes or evacuate to facilities such as community centres and town halls.

“The rain is becoming heavier as the typhoon approaches,” a municipal official of Nanjo said.

“We have urged residents to evacuate when they see any danger.”

The typhoon, which has been downgraded from super typhoon status, was about 90 kilometres (56 miles) northeast of Miyako Island as of 0630 IST, according to the weather agency.

The storm was moving north at about 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) per hour, it said.

The storm could reach the southern main island of Kyushu as early as Wednesday, with the weather agency warning that the amount of rainfall by Tuesday could reach as much as 400 millimetres (16 inches), posing a serious risk of landslides and flooding.

Japan on highest typhoon alert

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PM says Rail Budget futuristic, growth-oriented

News4u-News Desk- Hailing the Railway Budget as “futuristic and growth-oriented”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said it is for the common people as it aspires for better service, speed and safety with focus on development of the country.

He said the Rail Budget presented in Parliament by Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda shows where his government wants to take India through the railways as it focusses on strengthening institutional mechanism, transparency and integrity.

“Congratulations to the Railway Minister for presenting a futuristic & growth oriented budget. It is a budget for the common people,” Modi tweeted.

He said the Rail Budget “aspires for better service, speed and safety. It is an effort to create a modern Railways contributing towards a developed India.”

In a series of tweets, Modi said, “Rail Budget shows the important role of Railways in India’s development journey.” He said the Budget keeps in mind the development of India.

“This Budget shows where we want to take the railways and at the same time where we want to take India through the railways,” Modi said, adding, “We can see the great use of technology also.”

Hailing the Railway Budget, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said it is “realistic and comprehensive” as honest analysis had been made about the state of affairs and health of Indian railways.

“The way forward has been clearly outlined in the Budget. Safety, security and service…all these three aspects have been taken care of and the Railway Minister has also made a realistic assessment about the need to complete the ongoing projects,” Naidu told reporters outside Parliament House.

He said hundreds of projects were announced in the previous budgets but the works have not been completed.

“So this government has taken up that responsibility of completing all ongoing projects on priority,” the Minister said.

“Instead of going populist and becoming unrealistic and creating hardship to the people in the long run, the Railway Minister has made efforts to see that the safety, security and service aspect is given high priority and also completion of ongoing projects have taken on a priority,” Naidu said.

The high speed trains, bullet trains they all are “indication of the thinking of the government”, he said.

“The entire India is connected and I am more happy about the emphasis given on the projects in the northeastern region of the country. No region has been discriminated, every state has been given its due attention,” Naidu said.

The Minister also alleged that the opposition was trying to “politicise and trivialise” the budget.

“People of the country are watching….It is expected of the members of Parliament to hear the budget with attention and subsequently utilise the opportunity to comment on the budget when the occasion come for the discussion of the budget proposals in details,” Naidu said.

“If some people have chosen not to hear the proposal, that means they are doing injustice to the people who have elected them to this House,” he said.

“Some people seems to be not able to digest the fact that the new government has come, a new approach has been taken and a true national budget has been presented,” Naidu added.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Rail Budget aims to improve the financial condition of the railways, secure rail tracks, ensure more amenities for passengers and strengthen the overall infrastructure.

“It’s the budget for the revival of railways. It is a budget for future vision and for restoring the health of the railways,” Prasad told reporters.

PM Modi

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Cannot hold month-old govt responsible for price rise: Naidu

News4u-News Desk- Under attack over rising prices, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu has said that a one-month-old government which is yet to take policy decisions cannot be held responsible for price rise.

With the Budget Session starting on stormy note due to disruptions by Opposition on the issue of price rise and rail fare hike, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said the government was ready to discuss all issues including price rise but under appropriate rules.

“You cannot make a one-month government responsible for all this price hike and all. We have not taken any new policy decision. …You have the problem of monsoon, you have the problem of the wrong economic policies of the earlier government,” Naidu told reporters outside the Parliament on Monday.

Claiming that the government was playing a proactive role to bring down the prices, Naidu said the Minister of Consumer Affairs had called a meeting which was attended by the Finance Minister as well.

He said the Home Ministry has taken an initiative by ordering a massive crackdown against hoarding of essential commodities including onion and potatoes in Delhi and has also given instructions to other states about what should be done.

On Opposition’s demand for a discussion on the issues of price rise of rail fare hike under an adjournment motion, Naidu said the government is ready to discuss everything, including price rise, depending on the rule and also admissibility of the same by the presiding officer.

“In the Rajya Sabha we said we are ready for discussion, discussion started…. In Lok Sabha also, I stood up and said government is ready for discussion, what rules and all, that is the jurisdiction of the presiding officer of the House.”

“Now as the question hour time is over, we should take it up immediately. Congress should be ready for debate, I don’t know why they are hesitating,” he said.

On a question related to statements by Congress leaders that the party may take the legal route if it is not given the position of Leader of Opposition, Naidu said “the Constitution is there and every route is open to everybody.”

Govt says Speaker above party lines, slams Nath’s remarks

Government on Monday slammed Congress leader Kamal Nath for his remarks that Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s decision on the issue of grant of Leader of Opposition status could be flavoured by BJP, saying it is unfortunate as the Speaker is above party lines.

The remarks were made by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu even as the government reached out to the opposition ahead of the Budget Session of Parliament, saying it was ready to discuss any issue raised by the opposition.

“Government has no reservation on any issue. We are willing to discuss each and every issue of national importance,” Naidu told reporters after the meeting which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The breakfast meeting convened by Naidu was also attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Home Minister Rajnath Singh and 45 leaders of various parties including Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Prime Minister H D Devegowda.

Responding to questions over Nath’s remarks on the LOP issue, Naidu said, “It is unfortunate that such a comment has been made by a senior leader like Kamal Nath. He must have made such a comment based on his own experience. The matter will be dealt by the Speaker according to the rulebook and the precedent. Once elected, the Speaker is above the party.” Nath had on Sunday said that the Lok Sabha Speaker’s decision on the issue of Leader of Opposition in Lower House could be “flavoured” by BJP and Narendra Modi.

The Parliamentary Affairs Minister also made it clear that the issue of LOP was not raised at Monday’s meeting which saw a number of party leaders raising the issue of price rise including hike in petroleum products and the recent hike in rail fares.

Kharge said price rise and inflation issues were raised at the meeting.

Speaking separately, the Lok Sabha Speaker said she expects that Parliament will run smoothly and important issues are discussed and sought the cooperation of all members and assured them to give maximum possible time to raise issues.

She, however, did not comment on Nath’s comments saying she will not react to media reports. “I will discuss if somebody comes to me, some leader from Congress or any other party, and raises any issue.”

Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu

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India assures Nepal of extending Line of Credit

News4u-News Desk- India has assured Nepal that it will extend Line of Credit (LoC) for its bigger developmental projects as the two countries held the first meeting to review the progress made on existing undertakings which totals to USD 350 million.

The first meeting of the “LoC Review Mechanism” between the Governments of India and Nepal was held in Kathmandu recently. Indian delegation was led by Alok K Sinha, Joint Secretary (DPA-I) accompanied by Abhay Thakur, Joint Secretary (North), Ministry of External Affairs.

The Nepalese delegation was led by Madhu Kumar Marasini, Joint Secretary, IECCD, Ministry of Finance, according to a statement issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu on Monday.

The meeting held on 4th July reviewed the progress made on the projects under the existing Lines of Credit (LoC) of USD 100 million and USD 250 million extended by India to Nepal through EXIM Bank of India.

“The discussions were held and concluded in a cordial, friendly and constructive atmosphere,” said the press release.

The Nepalese side stated that they look forward to India for assistance in bigger developmental projects.

India stated that LoCs have become another important component of development partnership between the two countries and conveyed that India would be happy to consider extending further assistance to Nepal.

Nepal and India have set up a permanent mechanism to review projects under India’s Line of Credit, which totals to USD 350 million.

India Nepal Flags

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Ghani wins Afghan election on preliminary results

News4u-News Desk- Former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani won Afghanistan’s presidential election, according to preliminary results released on Monday, with 56.4 per cent of the run-off vote to Abdullah Abdullah’s 43.5 per cent.

Officials said the turnout was more than eight million in the June 14 vote out of an estimated electorate of 13.5 million voters — far higher than expected, and a figure likely to trigger further allegations of fraud from both sides.

“The IEC (Independent Election Commission) admits that despite best efforts for a better election, there were some technical mistakes and shortcomings in the process,” IEC head Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani told reporters.

“We can not deny fraud and violations in the process, in some cases some security forces were involved, in other cases senior government officials like the governors or lower-level officials were involved.”

Last-minute talks delayed the release of the results by nearly five hours today, as the two campaigns tried to thrash out a deal over fraud allegations that threaten to fuel instability.

Abdullah has vowed to reject the preliminary result, alleging he was the victim of “industrial-scale” ballot-box stuffing, while Ghani has said he won fairly.

Central to the talks is how many of the total 23,000 polling stations will now be put through an anti-fraud audit.

“We agreed for an audit of 7,000 polling stations, but they had other conditions that we couldn’t agree with, so for now there is only partial agreement,” Ghani’s spokesman Daud Sultanzoy said before the result.

Abdullah’s spokesman Fazel Sancharaki said: “Our main demand was for the inspection of 11,000 polling stations under the close supervision of the United Nations.

Seven thousand polling stations is not enough.

“The negotiations are still ongoing. If they produce a result, we will enter the process, otherwise… we will not recognise it.”

Both sides said the UN was involved in the talks, but its spokesman declined to give further details.

Ashraf Ghani

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Amritraj announces launch of Champions Tennis League

News4u-Sports Desk- Indian tennis legend Vijay Amritraj on Monday announced the launch of Champions Tennis League (CTL) in India with an aim of taking the sport to new levels of awareness and popularity in the country.

The CTL will feature six city based teams, who will play 13 matches over a 10-day period from November 17 to 26.

The teams will be structured into two groups, each having three sides each, where they would play each other in a home and away format. The teams topping their respective group will play each other in the grand finale for the prize money of Rs. 1 crore. The runner-up will receive Rs. 50 lakhs.

CTL teams will feature male and female players with international rankings between No. 5 and No. 25.

Each of the six teams will also have an international legend as their playing captain, apart from a noted Indian male tennis player, plus a top ranked junior Indian girl and boy from each city.

The teams will also travel to other cities, bringing excitement and entertainment in a spectacle that has never been seen on this scale in India before, for tennis.

“I have been discussing an initiative like this with the All India Tennis Association (AITA) for many years now. Finally, we have decided that together, we can bring a level of tennis entertainment that has never been seen in India before,” Amritraj, Chairman and Managing Director of Second Serve Pvt. Ltd., the company behind the CTL, said.

Speaking about team owners and players, he said, “We are in final negotiations with interested parties in Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi and Chandigarh and are working hard to take forward discussions in Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune for our remaining two franchises.

“We would be very happy to have six franchise owners who love the sport and are ready to maximise the opportunities that the franchise gives them within their home city to make this a win-win partnership for everyone concerned.”

He said the players’ names will be confirmed in August, along with other six franchise owners.

“The AITA and I are also very pleased to include our top national junior talent. We are sure that the opportunity to interact and play with the international stars through the duration of the League will benefit them tremendously,” he said.

Amritraj announces launch of Champions Tennis League

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Rangarajan defends poverty estimates; report attacked by political parties

News4u-News Desk- Defending his calculation that three out of 10 in India are poor, former PMEAC Chairman C Rangarajan on Monday said poverty numbers provided by him are not conservative estimates and they are at par with global standards.

The expert group headed by Rangarajan dismissed the Suresh Tendulkar Committee methodology on estimating poverty and estimated that the number of poor in India was much higher in 2011-12 at 29.5 per cent of the population.

As per the Rangarajan panel’s estimates, three out of 10 in India would be poor.

Estimates based on Tendulkar committee methodology, had pegged the poverty ratio at 21.9 in 2011-12.

“I dont think that it is conservative (poverty) estimates. In my view it is reasonable estimates. We have derived poverty estimates independently,” Rangarajan told a news channel.

He was responding to the criticism that anyone spending more than Rs 47 per day in cities and Rs 32 in villages would not be poor.

Elaborating further he said, “The World Bank also talks about purchasing power parity terms. The minimum expenditure per day. They are talking about USD 2 per day whereas our estimate comes to USD 2.4. Therefore it (our poverty estimates) is in keeping with the international standards”.

He explained that the benefits are not being provided on the basis of any poverty line as in the case of food security law which would benefit 67 per cent of the population.

The noted economist believes that it is measure of poverty and measure of understanding how economy is moving. But apart from it there is no immediate policy implication.

He urged the people to look at the poverty line in terms of a household’s consumption expenditure per month which is estimated at Rs 4,860 in villages and Rs 7,035 for cities for a family of five people.

Apart from the private consumption expenditure, people also benefit from public expenditure on health, education and other facilities, he said, adding: “poverty line is at appropriate level”.

“All of these spendings have gone up in the recent past. That explains why urban poverty ratio is much higher in our estimation,” he said.

As per the report submitted by Rangarajan to Planning Minister Rao Inderjit Singh earlier, persons spending below Rs 47 a day in cities would be considered poor, much above the Rs 33-per-day mark suggested by the Suresh Tendulkar Committee.

As per Rangarajan panel estimates, a person spending less than Rs 1,407 a month (Rs 47/day) would be considered poor in cities, as against the Tendulkar Committee’s suggestion of Rs 1,000 a month (Rs 33/day).

In villages, those spending less than Rs 972 a month (Rs 32/day) would be considered poor.

This is much higher than Rs 816 a month (Rs 27/day) recommended by Tendulkar Committee.

In absolute terms, the number of poor in India stood at 36.3 crore in 2011-12, down from 45.4 crore in 2009-10, as per the Rangarajan panel.

Tendulkar Committee, however, had suggested that the number of poor was 35.4 crore in 2009-10 and 26.9 crore in 2011-12.

Rangarajan panel report on poverty attacked by parties The Rangarajan Committee, which has suggested a new benchmark for describing poverty, on Monday came under sharp attack from political parties, which said it amounted to “mocking at the poor” and makes neither “common sense” nor “economic sense”.

The ruling BJP said it will deal with the matter at an appropriate forum of the government.

“We think that the BPL criteria figures are misleading and we will take up the issue with an appropriate forum of the government,” senior BJP leader and Union Minister Uma Bharti said.

“As far the new definition of poverty given by the Rangarajan Committee is concerned it is appalling,” said CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yehcury on the recommendations that a person spending above Rs 47 a day in cities and Rs 32 in rural areas should not be considered poor.

“This is a ridiculous figure. It makes neither common sense neither economic sense,” he added.

The Samajwadi Party rubbished the report and took a jibe at Rangarajan, chairman of PM’s Economic Advisory Committee appointed during Manmohan Singh’s tenure.

“We will give Rs 100 to Rangarajan everyday and ask him to spend a day in a village and let him have a full meal. Then we will believe that findings of the report are correct.”

“Those staying and travelling in ACs cars will not understand what poverty is. We condemn the report,” SP leader Naresh Agarwal said.

BSP supremo Mayawati too attacked the report saying it amounted to “mocking at the poor”.

“This is nothing but making a joke of poor people. Whatever figures that have been given and the way it has been calculated, our party does not support it,” she said.

The Congress, whose government had asked the committee to undertake the task of identifying the poverty criteria, said the issue needs to be debated upon.

“We have to look at the reality. Rangarajan is an excellent economist. The report has to be debated upon and a decision has to be taken by the concerned authority,” senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Veerappa Moily said.

As per the panel estimates, poverty stood at 38.2 per cent in 2009-10 and slided to 29.5 per cent in 2011-12.

Rangarajan defends poverty estimates

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