Argentina’s Train to the Clouds

News4u-Travel Desk- Located 4,000 m above the sea level in the Andes, Tren a las Nubes or ‘Train to the Clouds’ is one of the highest railways in the world. It begins its journey from the city of Salta in Argentina at an altitude of 1,187 m, passes through the Valle de Lerma, enters the Quebrada del Toro and finally ends its journey at the La Polvorilla viaduct (4,200 m). During the 16-hour trip, the train travels 217 km and climbs a staggering 3,000 m. It crosses 29 bridges, 12 viaducts, 21 tunnels, swoops round two gigantic loops and two switchbacks.

Train to the Clouds got its name from the numerous clouds that are often seen under bridges and around slopes. American engineer Richard Fontaine Maury, who was in charge of the project, laid down the route in the 1920s. He designed a singular system supported by bridges, tunnels, viaducts, spirals and zigzags. The zigzags allow the train to climb the mountain by driving back and forth parallel to the slope of the mountain. Maury did not use funiculars or cogwheels normally used on steep slopes, instead relied on switchbacks to gain height.

The train was originally constructed to serve the borax mines of the area, transporting goods from the coast of Chile through the Andes Mountains to north-western Argentina. The route started taking tourists from 1970s. The train leaves early in the morning from Salta city, crosses Lerma Valley, then Toro Ravine and finally, the large territory of the Puna. The train makes only two stops—almost at the end of the trip. The first one is at San Antonio de los Cobres, an old town with low-built houses and a tiny market. Here tourists will find picturesque stalls offering handicrafts, items of clothing and souvenirs to take home from the train trip.

The second stop and the end of the route is the spectacular La Polvorilla viaduct. The curved viaduct is 224 m long and 70 m high from the valley. Train to the Clouds glides across the viaduct and stops before reversing back, poised for the return journey. At the final destination, passengers can get off the train, feel the pure and cold air on their face, walk slowly in order to get their bodies used to the altitude, and take photos. The trip back to Salta is completed in the dark and reaches Salta just before midnight.Agencies


Argentina’s Train to the Clouds

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The Religion of War

News4u-Features Desk- American and European leaders are “shocked” that the Islamic State (IS) barbarians beheaded two American reporters, Steven J. Sotloff and James Foley. Their “shock” is disingenuous and troubling.

They react as though such barbarism is something new among Islamists. It is anything but. And if not earlier, then certainly in the aftermath of al Qaeda’s attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, a spike in Islamic groups’ and individuals’ barbaric crimes has been reported worldwide.

Islamist beheading is nothing new. Open a Quran in any translation to find the instructions

that the IS and other jihadists groups are following, in the name ‘the Beneficent, the Merciful Allah.’ Bloody fighting as prescribed in the Quran serve as the foundation of their religion of War.

Here are a few examples: The Book of Muhammad, verse 4 (47:4) – “Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), strike off their heads; at length; then when you have made wide Slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives: thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens.”

According to the Book of Al-Maeda, verse 33 (5:33) -“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.”

And the Book of Al-Anfal, verse 12 ( 8:12) – “I (Allah) will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off.”

The IS and other jihadists are doing their best to follow the Quran’s barbaric instructions, using machetes, the popular modern version of the Prophet’s 7th-century sword. Indeed, a sword features in the national flags of Iran–the center of Shia radicalism, and Saudi Arabia–the center of Sunni/Wahhabi radicalism. The sword is not merely a symbol. The sword represents WAR. the most important value for this radical regimes.

The Saudi kingdom carries out barbaric physical punishments today as they have done since Ibn Saud founded it in 1932. Cutting off hands of thieves, stoning to death, beheading and crucifying those who violated the sharia, are carried out regularly.

Under Hassan Rouhani’s, the new “moderate” Iranian president, the number of officially reported executions increased from 580 to 687 (by the end of 2013 and in a more rapid pace since), the majority of which (68%, or 458) were carried out after Rouhani ascended to power, according to Iran’s Human Rights organization. The mullahs seem to prefer hanging, though the sword is

When American politicians and talking-heads point out that even Wahhabi Saudi Arabia and Qatar (47% Salafi/Wahhabi) are warning of the more radical Islamic State, take it with a grain of salt and keep in mind that the Saudis fear for their kingdom and Qatar has been funding Al Qaeda, al- Nusra, Hamas, and the like for many decades..

Yet the West’s thirst for Saudi, Qatari and Iranian oil and gas blinded them to the atrocities and barbaric nature of the religion of war and destruction. And when Western greed was oiled by Muslim Brotherhood hooked their lies in familiar Western democratic terminologies, the liberals in the US and Europe swallowed the bait.

The question now is how deep has the bait penetrated and whether the West can unhook itself long enough to realize that it’s time to call the enemy by its name everywhere it manifests itself and then take the necessary steps to defeat it, much like Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Perhaps he can help Obama with a pragmatic strategy to stop the spread of a sect of a barbaric jihadi murderers before it spells over across the ocean.Courtesy AC Democracy

By Rachel Ehrenfeld


The Religion of War

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India will stick to its position on food issue at WTO: Nirmala

News4u-News Desk-India will stick to its position on the food security issue at the WTO trade negotiations as it is the sovereign duty of the government to protect the interest of its poor, Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said.

“Our position remains intact, that we will underline the fact that India has a sovereign duty to protect its poor… India has sovereign right to hold foodgrains for that purpose. And, therefore our negotiations with WTO will certainly be on reiterating this position,” Sitharaman told reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday.

She was replying to a question on the progress of the ongoing WTO talks at Geneva.

India had made it clear at Geneva that it would not ratify the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) until a permanent solution was found on the food security issue.

New Delhi had asked WTO to amend the norms for calculating agriculture subsidies so that the country could continue to procure foodgrains from farmers at minimum support price and sell them to poor at cheaper rates without violating the norms.

The current WTO norms limit the value of food subsidies at 10 percent of the total value of foodgrain production.

However, the quantum of subsidy is computed after taking into consideration prices that prevailed two decades ago.

India is asking for a change in the base year (1986-88) for calculating food subsidies. India wants a change taking into account the inflation and currency fluctuation.

There are apprehensions that once India completely implements its food security programme, it could breach the 10 percent cap.

Breach of the cap may lead to imposition of hefty penalties, if a member country drags India to the WTO.

According to a WTO filing, India has given a total farm subsidy of USD 56 billion, of which trade distorting subsidy amounts to only USD 13.8 billion for 23 commodities, including rice and wheat.

An official has said the food subsidy provided by the Indian government for paddy during 2010-11 worked out to be only around 6 percent of the total output of the commodity in value terms. In case of wheat, the subsidy is negative one percent.

On 22nd September, WTO chief Roberto Azevedo had expressed serious concerns over the fate of Bali package, saying the deal was “at risk” and the future seemed “uncertain”.

Nirmala Sitharaman

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India would stand by you says Modi to the new Afghan Prez Ghani

News4u-News Desk- Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Afghanistan’s new President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday and assured him that India would stand with him, as a friend and a partner, at every step as his government builds a strong and peaceful Afghanistan.

On his part, Ghani, during the telephonic conversation with Modi, described India as the “foundation of Afghanistan’s diplomacy and economic strategy” and suggested immediate commencement of dialogue between the two governments, including between their national security advisors and economic advisors.

The Prime Minister lauded President Ghani’s “wisdom and statesmanship, and his commitment to unity, peace and progress in Afghanistan, which had enabled the formation of a broad- based and inclusive government and a peaceful political transition” and mentioned that his experience will be beneficial for India and the region.

“Prime Minister Modi conveyed that India will stand with him, as a friend and a partner, at every step on the way as his government moves forward in its efforts to build a strong, stable, peaceful, democratic, inclusive and prosperous nation,” according to an official release.

Appreciating the people and the political leaders of Afghanistan for their faith in democracy and will to prevail over violence and terrorism.

Modi expressed confidence that Ghani’s expertise, global experience and grassroots knowledge, borne out of travel to every district of Afghanistan, will help him implement his bold agenda of economic reforms and development in Afghanistan.

President Ghani conveyed his deep sense of appreciation for Prime Minister’s letter of congratulations and described India as the “foundation of Afghanistan’s diplomacy and economic strategy”.

Ghani complimented Modi on his electoral success and his development vision, which he said would be beneficial for Afghanistan and the entire region.

On his part, Modi noted that India’s relations with Afghanistan have been forged by ancient cultural links and timeless bonds of mutual affection and admiration, which had grown deeper in recent years as the Afghan people have strived to rebuild their lives and their nation.

Ghani also accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation to visit India at the earliest opportunity.

In a first transition of power since Hamid Karzai became president after 2001 US-led invasion, Ghani was sworn in as president of Afghanistan on September 29.

India would stand by you says Modi to the new Afghan Prez Ghani

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Dubai’s Burj Khalifa bags another Guinness World Records

News4u-News Desk- The world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa has clinched its newest Guinness World Records title for being the highest man-made vantage point on earth.

For the first time, Emaar Properties, the developer of Burj Khalifa, opened the doors for the public on Tuesday to soak up unmatched views of the Dubai city from the all-new ‘At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY’.

The grand unveiling of Burj Khalifa-SKY was also attended by the adjudicators of the Guinness World Records, who declared Dubai’s newest tourist attraction as the ‘Highest Observation Deck’ in the world.

At 555 metres high, Burj Khalifa bagged the laurel from Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China, which held the record for its observation deck at 488 metres high.

The new honor adds to Burj Khalifa’s three existing Guinness World Records titles for the Tallest Building, the Tallest Man-made Structure on Land and the Highest Restaurant from Ground Level.

Talal Omar, Country Manager for the Middle East and North Africa for Guinness World Record, said, “Burj Khalifa has done it again, surprising the world with its iconic scale and the ongoing creative enhancements. The new Guinness World Records title is another feather in the cap for Dubai.”

Burj Khalifa

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ISRO successfully launches navigation satellite IRNSS 1C

News4u-News Desk- The launch of IRNSS 1C, the third of seven satellites in the series to put in place India’s navigation system at par with US’ Global Positioning System, was successfully launched in the wee hours of Thursday from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota.

At 1.32 a.m. Thursday, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C26) carrying the 1,425-kg Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System-1C (IRNSS-1C) lifted off.

As part of its aspirations to build a regional navigational system equivalent to Global Positioning System of the US, ISRO plans to send seven satellites to put in place the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS).

The first two satellites in the series, IRNSS 1A and IRNSS 1B were launched from Sriharikota on July 1, 2013 and April 4 this year respectively. IRNSS’ applications include terrestrial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management.

ISRO successfully launches navigation satellite IRNSS 1C

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India outclass Pakistan 6-0 in Sultan of Johor Cup

News4u-Sports Desk- Defending champions India bounced back from their loss to Great Britain in style with a 6-0 thrashing of arch-rivals Pakistan in their third match of the Under-21 Sultan of Johor Cup at the Taman Daya Stadium, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia on Wednesday.

The two teams played traditional hockey in the first 15 minutes but the Harjeet Singh-led side started its dominance soon after and the aggression paid off with a penalty-corner conversion by forward Imran Khan in the 22nd minute.

The vice-captain’s powerful strike was defended by Pakistan goalkeeper Muhammad Khalid but he had no answer to Imran’s rebound, which gave India the lead.

The Indian team soon doubled its score through Parvinder Singh from open play in the 34th minute.

Armaan Qureshi continued India’s surge with another field goal in the 49th minute.

India struck again four minutes later, this time through Harmanpreet Singh from a penalty corner. Varun Kumar converted another penalty corner in the 67th minute.

Still hungry for more, Armaan netted his second goal of the match via a penalty corner to make it six-nil for India and coach Harendra Singh was sure satisfied with the performance.

“It’s good win but there’s still lot of areas to improve,” said Harendra.

“I’m happy we didn’t lose our emotions. The input given to the players were well executed by them.”

“I have to give credit to my players. They switch from fast play to holding the ball very well. It was a display of maturity,” he added.

India, who beat New Zealand in their first league game, will take on hosts Malaysia on Friday.

In another interesting game, the Australian U-21 side came from three goals down to edge past New Zealand 4-3 and stay atop the league table in the six-nation tournament.

India outclass Pakistan 6-0 in Sultan of Johor Cup

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Black money: Swiss to provide info in a time-bound manner

News4u-News Desk- In a major breakthrough in India’s fight against black money allegedly stashed abroad, Switzerland on Wednesday said it will examine Indian requests for banking information on a priority basis and provide requested details in a time-bound manner.

The Swiss authorities would also “assist in obtaining confirmation on genuineness of bank documents on request by the Indian side and also swiftly provide information on requests related to non-banking information”.

“… the Swiss competent authority will provide the Indian side with the requested information in a time-bound manner or else indicate the reasons why the cases cannot be answered within the agreed timeline,” a Swiss-Indian joint statement said after a high-level meeting between the official of the two countries on tax matters.

The meeting took place in Berne between Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das and his Swiss counterpart, State Secretary for International Financial Matters, Jacques de Watteville.

They discussed various bilateral and multilateral tax and financial issues and also agreed on continuing the dialogue between the two countries, a statement from Swiss government said.

Das stressed on the high priority given by India to tackling tax evasion, while the top officials of the two countries also welcomed the recent developments in the field of international taxation, including the new international standard for automatic exchange of information (AEOI) and the BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting).

They also “reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to combating tax fraud and evasion within the applicable legal framework”.

There has been a huge political uproar over huge amounts of black money allegedly stashed by Indians in Swiss banks and the new government has maintained that it would make all efforts to tackle this menace.

As per Swiss National Bank’s latest data, the total money held by Indians in Swiss banks stood at over Rs 14,000 crore as on December 2013, up by nearly 42 percent from a year ago.

Wednesday’s meeting, which assumes significance in the wake of Switzerland repeatedly rejecting India’s requests for information on so-called HSBC list, followed a Swiss delegation’s visit to New Delhi in February 2014 and was the first high-level meeting between the two countries’ tax and financial authorities since the new Indian government took up office in May this year.

India has sought information on bank accounts and other details of the persons named in this list, but Switzerland has been refusing to cooperate saying these names were obtained “illegally” or through sale of stolen data by a hacker.

With regard to the application of the Swiss-Indian Double Taxation Agreement as revised by the Protocol of August 30 2010, both sides acknowledged the progress achieved in the bilateral cooperation between the two countries while noting there were still ongoing discussions on certain issues.

Das and Watteville reaffirmed their respective positions in this regard, while the Swiss officials “indicated that Switzerland would be willing to examine requests for which investigations have been carried out independently from what the Swiss government considers as data obtained in breach of Swiss law.

Adrian Hug, Director of the Swiss Federal Tax Administration, agreed that the Swiss competent authority would assist in obtaining confirmation of the genuineness of bank documents on request by the Indian side and also swiftly provide information on requests related to non-banking information.

“In order to deal expeditiously with pending cases, Das agreed to indicate to the Swiss competent authority which cases should be dealt with as a matter of priority and to give additional information where appropriate.

“On this basis, the Swiss competent authority will provide the Indian side with the requested information in a time-bound manner or else indicate the reasons why the cases cannot be answered within the agreed timeline.

The Swiss government said that the Das and Watteville also discussed “bilateral and multilateral topics related to fiscal and financial matters”.

“Noting with satisfaction the strong economic ties linking India and Switzerland, they agreed that the ongoing dialogue between the two countries offers a great opportunity of working together in the future,” the joint statement said.

“As a matter of principle, the Revenue Secretary (of India) and State Secretary (of Switzerland) decided that the competent authorities of the two countries should continue their regular consultations to come up with effective and pragmatic solutions agreeable to both sides in accordance with their legal order and international obligations.

“Das and Watteville acknowledged AEOI as an effective instrument to tackle tax fraud and evasion on a global scale. They recalled that India belongs to the group of the early adopters.

“They noted with satisfaction that the Swiss Federal Council has confirmed to the Global Forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes (Global Forum) its intention to have the necessary laws in place to implement the new standard by 2017/2018 without prejudice to Switzerland’s parliamentary approval procedure,” the joint statement said on Wednesday.

Watteville noted India’s wish to engage in discussions aimed at concluding an AEOI agreement between India and Switzerland, which last week said that it would initially focus on the US, Europe and selected countries with close bilateral ties for automatic exchange of information. India does not figure among these countries so far.

While referring to the parameters defined by the Swiss Federal Council in approving the negotiation mandates on 8th October 2014, Watteville assured Das that Switzerland would commence talks with India in this regard at the earliest after completion of its domestic procedures.

The joint statement said that two officials also acknowledged the important role played by the Global Forum, an international body for cooperation in matters related to suspected tax evasion cases, in fostering tax compliance worldwide.

“In view of the forthcoming plenary meeting of the Global Forum in Berlin, India acknowledged Switzerland’s view that the Global Forum should offer a fair and equal treatment of all jurisdictions undertaking a peer review.

“In this regard, Das noted the progress achieved by Switzerland in the peer review process in the context of Switzerland’s supplementary report.

“Revenue Secretary Das and State Secretary de Watteville agreed to continue the ongoing dialogue between India and Switzerland on tax and financial matters in a spirit of mutual cooperation,” it added.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Swiss Ambassador in India, Linus von Castelmur had said in New Delhi that his country is fully co-operating with the authorities here on tax matters.

An Indian delegation, led by Das, is visiting Berne to meet Swiss officials as both sides look to resolve tax matters, including those related to alleged illicit wealth stashed by Indian citizens in banks in Switzerland.

Emphasising that Switzerland is “fully co-operating with Indian authorities” on tax matters, Castelmur said the issues of the past should be addressed in a pragmatic way while respecting international obligations.

“We are very happy that Das is in Berne today and we wish him very good and for dialogue between the two delegations. We wish them well that issues will be solved… I think problems in the future would be solved very easily,” the Ambassador said.

The visit comes amid Swiss government previously refusing to share information on the list of names obtained by Indian authorities through other nations, namely France and Germany, saying they figured in lists stolen by certain ex-employees of the banks concerned and that no details can be shared on the basis of illegally-obtained information.

“We still have problems of the past and cannot make undone 20, 30, 40 years of the past. I think we have to work on that in a pragmatic way in respecting our international obligations but also our eternal rule of law,” Castelmur said.

Noting that Swiss authorities are fully co-operating with India, he said, however, there is a problem about requests on stolen data.

Besides Wednesday’s talks, a Joint Economic Commission meeting and a Financial Dialogue are also scheduled to take place in Berne soon, followed by a bilateral Political Dialogue next month.

Indian and Swiss authorities have been in talks for quite some time on the matter of alleged black money parked by Indian citizens in banks in Switzerland.

In July, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had informed Parliament that Switzerland has raised some legal issues with regard to providing details of Indian citizens who have parked illegal funds in Swiss banks.

Asserting that the government was making all efforts to get details of such accounts, Jaitley had also said it was collecting evidence in this regard.

A Special Investigation Team (SIT), chaired by former Supreme Court judge Justice M B Shah, is looking into the menace of black money.

India -Swiss Flags

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Record 76 pc polling in Haryana amid stray violence

News4u-News Desk- Haryana on Wednesday created history clocking an all-time high polling of about 76 percent, surpassing the previous best of 72.65 percent in 1967 in the high-stakes battle among top contenders Congress, BJP and INLD amid stray incidents of violence in many parts of the state.

“Haryana registered an all-time highest poll percentage in its history. The final percentage may change once all the figures are compiled,” Haryana Chief Electoral Officer Shrikant Walgad said.

He said polling remained by and large peaceful barring sporadic incidents that left 32 persons, including 10 policemen, injured.

Over 1.63 crore voters including over 87 lakh women were eligible to cast their vote in today’s polls for 90 Assembly seats in the state.

At the close of polling at 6 PM, there were queues of voters inside many polling stations.

Heavy polling was witnessed at places including Fatehabad, Hisar, Jind, Kurukshetra, Mewat, Rohtak, Sirsa and Yamunanagar, Kaithal while in Faridabad, Gurgaon and Panchkula districts, the polling remained moderate.

Polling was also heavy in constituencies from where top guns including Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda (Cong), Haryana Ministers Randeep Singh Surjewala and Kiran Choudhary, INLD’s Abhay Chautala and Dushyant Chautala and HJC’s Kuldeep Bishnoi are in fray.

In 2009 polls, turnout of 72.37 per cent was recorded. Earlier, in 1967, the highest polling of 72.65 per cent took place.

Incidents of violence were reported from various districts including Hisar, Mewat, Sirsa and Jind.

In Hisar district’s Barwala, 30 persons, including 10 policemen, were injured and seven motorcycles set on fire by a mob following a clash between polling agents of two rival parties, during which stones were pelted.

Police said an argument broke out between two polling agents of rival parties in village Niyana after which the situation turned tense. A case had been registered in this connection, they said.

There were reports of clash taking place between INLD supporters and some rival groups in Punhana in Mewat district.

Some people received minor injuries in the incident, SP of Mewat, S S Bhoria said.

Asked to comment on reports that a one-month-old baby died as she fell off from her mother’s lap when there was commotion after the incident in which stones were also pelted between supporters of two groups, Bhoria said the baby was ill.

Walgad said the reported death of a child in district Mewat was not poll related.

In another incident, two persons were injured in firing during a clash between supporters of two groups in Sirsa, Sirsa SP, Mitesh Jain said.

Some anti-social elements opened fire after a minor clash occurred between INLD and BJP workers in Sirsa.

A supporter from each side was injured in the incident and the seriously injured has been hospitalised.

In another incident, the window panes of a car belonging to a supporter of Haryana Lokhit Party Gopal Kanda were broken following minor clash between the supporters of HLP and INLD workers in Sirsa. Kanda, a former Haryana Minister, is seeking re-election from Sirsa.

Amid tight security, polling commenced in all the Assembly seats at 7 AM and continued till 6 PM to decide the fate of 1,351 candidates.

Counting of votes will take place on 19th October.

In Narnaund, BJP candidate from the assembly segment and chief ministerial aspirant, Capt Abhimanyu alleged that attempts to capture booths were made in Baans village in the constituency at the behest of rival INLD, which vehemently denied the charge.

Abhimanyu told reporters in Narnaund that wires of web-casting camera were cut in Booth No 140 and attempt was made to capture booths.

In a separate incident, INLD’s Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala, who is contesting as party candidate from Uchana Kalan constituency, alleged that some BJP supporters had clashed with INLD supporters in Uchana.

From Uchana, Dushyant is locked in a keen tussle with BJP leader Birender Singh’s wife Prem Lata Singh.

Uchana Kalan in Jind district is currently represented by former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, who had defeated Birender Singh, then a Congress leader, in 2009 Assembly poll.

There were reports of minor scuffles taking place between supporters of rival parties in some other parts of the state as well, even as glitches in EVM machines were reported from a couple of places.

Walgad said the EVMs would be kept in the strong rooms in the presence of observers before being handed over to CRPF.

The candidates or their agents could also be present when the EVMs would be stored.

There was enthusiasm among the voters since early morning. Though polling started on a slow note, it gradually picked up the pace as the day progressed.

Among the candidates who had cast their votes before noon included Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in his home district of Rohtak.

After a hectic campaign, Hooda today looked relaxed and began his day by playing a game of badminton. He also had tea at a roadside stall in Rohtak town.

Record 76 pc polling in Haryana amid stray violence

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TRAI suggests 10% higher price for auction based on data usage

News4u-Business Desk- Telecom sector regulator TRAI has suggested a 10 percent higher base price for the next round of spectrum auction in the 1800 Mhz band (2G spectrum) in view of the increasing data usage by consumers.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended a price of Rs 2,138 crore per Mhz for the 1800 Mhz band.

It also suggested a price of Rs 3,004 crore per Mhz for the premium 900 Mhz band, in which mobile signal covered about twice more area than 1800 Mhz band.

It however recommended, keeping in view changing market dynamics on account of the expiry of the licences of telecom service providers (TSPs) and continuity of services for customers, that more radiowaves should be made available before conducting the auction scheduled for February 2015.

The spectrum price of the 1800 Mhz has been suggested at Rs 2,138 crore per Mhz, which is lower compared to the February 2014 auction.

Government had received bids valued at Rs 2,270.4 crore per Mhz in the 1800 Mhz band in that auction earlier this year.

It said that since spectrum auction should not be conducted for Maharashtra and West Bengal service areas due to non-availability of full spectrum, the price of radiowaves that will be put for auction will come down to Rs 2,138 crore per Mhz.

However, the price recommendation would still be higher by around 10 percent while comparing the forthcoming auction of the radiowaves in the Licence Service Areas (LSAs) with the earlier one.

This higher pricing is based on the increasing mobile Internet penetration and higher average data usage compared to the earlier period.

In the 900 Mhz band, the price of Rs 3,004 crore per Mhz is only for 18 out of 22 service area as spectrum in this band is not available in Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata service areas.

The spectrum auction is to be conducted for radiowaves in 900 Mhz held by existing telecom operators — Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications through their licences that are expiring in 2015-16.

In the 900 Mhz band, about 184 Mhz of spectrum is likely to be auctioned. In 1800 Mhz, government has proposed to auction 104 Mhz of spectrum which included spectrum held by licences that are expiring in 2015-16 and unsold airwaves in February auction.

However, government wants to keep 8.2 Mhz of spectrum as Defence band which leaves only 104 Mhz spectrum available for auction.

“The Authority recommends that the average expected valuation of 1800 MHz spectrum should be the higher of the two figures average expected valuation based on simple mean or the price realised in February 2014 auction in each LSA,” Trai said.

For 900 Mhz, Trai decided that “the value of 900 MHz spectrum in each LSA should be the lower of the two figures - average valuation of 900 MHz or twice the value of 1800 MHz spectrum”.

In a bid to increase the pace of investments in telecom in the North Eastern states, Trai recommended that the reserve price for North East LSA may be fixed at a discount of 50 percent on the recommended reserve price.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday, Trai Chairman Rahul Khullar said: “This is not a normal auction. Considering the available airwaves, the prices can go through the roof like the situation in May 2010.”

He said the upcoming auction is critical for TSPs whose licences are will expire in 2015-16. In 900 MHz band, only the spectrum held by them is available for the auction.

These licensees will have to win back this spectrum to ensure business continuity or else their investment could be impacted, he added.

Trai in its recommendations said in a situation of short supply, market prices will rise, which can lead to frenzied bidding if more players enter the fray.

A similar escalation of prices was witnessed in the May 2010 auction when 3G spectrum was auctioned. The short supply of 3G spectrum led to a massive increase over the reserve price, it added.

Khullar said the other problem is that incumbent TSPs would be willing to pay huge sums to retain their spectrum so as to protect investments and ensure continuity of business.

“And, all industrial rivals know this, which is why even a non-serious bidder is potentially in a position to push up the final auction price,” he added.

Such a situation will lead to either the operator wins back the 900 MHz spectrum but at a very high price thereby seriously limiting its ability to invest or the incumbent looses the spectrum, which will lead to discontinuation of service and huge loss in terms investment made in that LSA.

“Once services are discontinued and a new entrant comes into the LSA, they will need time to roll-out services. This will obviously pose problems for consumers.

“Moreover, if existing consumers port out under Mobile Number Portability (MNP) to another TSP in the same LSA, then, in effect, the auction would have led to a consolidation of market power (dominance) of that TSP. (Leave aside the fact that it effectively deprives consumers of choice of service provider),” Trai said.

The authority recommended that there is an obvious and compelling need to make available additional spectrum for the conduct of a fair and equitable auction.

Apart from 900 and 1800 MHz bands, new technologies can also be deployed in other bands.

For instance, there is deployment of LTE in the 700 MHz bands and 3G in 2100 MHz band in a number of countries.

“Trai has emphasised that there is a need to make available additional spectrum before conducting the auction,” Khullar said.

The upcoming auction should be scheduled after the issues related to supply constraints are resolved.

Auctions in the 800 Mhz, 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz and 2100 Mhz band should also be conducted simultaneously, he added.

On making additional spectrum available for commercial use, Trai said the ministers of finance, defence and telecom need to initiate a dialogue to look into this issue.

It said 1.2 Mhz spectrum in 900 Mhz band should be taken back from BSNL for all the service areas where licences are set to expire in 2015-16, except in Punjab.

In lieu of that the state-run telecom player should be assigned 1.2 Mhz in 1800 Mhz band in those LSAs where its spectrum holding is less than 3.8 Mhz — Gujarat, Rajasthan and West Bengal.

Spectrum should be put to auction in a block size of 2×200 Khz in both 900 and 1800 Mhz bands.

In the 900 Mhz band, the bidders should be required to bid for a minimum of 2×3.6 Mhz in those LSAs where spectrum being put to auction is 10 Mhz or more and 2×2.4 Mhz in the remaining LSAs, Trai has suggested.

“Department of Telecom (DoT) should take a completely fresh look at the implementation of E-GSM band (Extended GSM),” it suggested.

Besides, unused spectrum in the Defence band should not be kept idle, Trai said.

“In the LSAs, where spectrum assigned to Defence in the 1800 Mhz band is more than 20 Mhz, DoT should coordinate with Defence for vacation of spectrum held by Defence in excess of 20 Mhz,” it added.

The entire 2×60 Mhz in the 2100 Mhz band should be made available for commercial use, the regulator has recommended.

“The government should announce the roadmap for spectrum auction in the 700 Mhz band. This should be done before the conduct of the upcoming auction in 900/1800 Mhz bands,” it added.

All efforts should be made to make available spectrum in contiguous form.

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