Indian Railways subsidiary Ircon International, Chhattisgarh Government, and South-Eastern Coalfields (SECL), have signed an agreement to develop two rail corridors at a cost of about Rs 4,000 crore. The preliminary work on the corridors with a combined length of 4,000 km, will start before the end of this calendar year, said an official statement. It will facilitate movement of passengers and freight, primarily coal.
The projects will be implemented by two joint venture companies in which Ircon will hold 26 per cent equity and the balance will be held by the State Government and SECL. Corridor-I or the East Corridor will be about 180 km in length from Bhupdevpur-Gharghoda-Dharamjaygarh up to Korba.
Corridor-III or East West Corridor will be of about 122 km from Gevra Road to Pendra Road through Dipka, Katghora, Sindurgarh and Pasan. The names of the JVCs have been proposed as Chhattisgarh East Rail Ltd for Corridor-I and Chhattisgarh East West Rail Ltd for Corridor-III.
Encouraged by the response it received for the first phase of Digitisation of cable TV homes, the information & broadcasting ministry is now gearing up for the second phase, which would cover 38 cities across 15 states. With the analogue signals in Delhi and Mumbai being blocked on October 31 and Kolkata agreeing to switch to the digital addressable systems, the ministry has now started reviewing the preparedness for phase-II cities, the deadline for which is March 31.
On Tuesday, at a meeting headed by Uday Kumar Varma, secretary, information and broadcasting ministry, it was said the deadline for the second phase of digitisation would remain unchanged and to meet the deadline, preparation should be carried out in earnest. On November 11 2011, the ministry had notified the phase-wise digitisation of analogue cable television networks in India . According to data provided by the ministry, as on November 5, 2.24 million set top boxes had been installed in Mumbai, 2.51 million in Delhi and 1.77 million in Kolkata.
Various teams from the ministry have made extensive field visits to Mumbai and Delhi to check for violations. The teams have also visited several homes in these cities to interact with the people and get feedback. The ministry said it had asked multi-system operators (MSOs) to make a thorough assessment of the number of set top boxes, taking into account credible data from the ground level.
“MSOs have also been asked to provide information on the estimated number of set top boxes, as well as their plans for procuring set top boxes, to ensure the deadline of March 31 2013 is met in phase-II cities,” it said. The ministry has also started working on a communication campaign to target the specific needs of the 38 cities to be covered in the second phase. It was emphasised meticulous planning was necessary for these cities, and the lessons learnt from the first phase had to be incorporated in the second. This month, the ministry would hold a day-long workshop to prepare an integrated plan for smooth and flawless transition in phase-II cities.
India is set to cross a major hump in its nuclear power programme with the Kudankulam plant expected to begin generating power within a month after it goes critical in the next 10 days, marking an end to prolonged delays due to local protests and anti-nuclear activism. The first unit of the Russian-built nuclear plant is close to a landmark moment after post-Fukushima public unease over atomic power and a powerful alliance of church groups and activists threatened to thwart India’s ambitious plans to build 20 plants in the 12th Plan.
With Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa backing the project that will ease the state’s power deficit and having faced a Supreme Court scrutiny of the $3 billion plant’s safety features, the government is anticipating a Kodak moment when turbines begin to turn at Kudankulam. Successful commissioning of the Kudankulam unit will help translate the promise of power into tangible benefits that the government hopes will help sway public opinion, particularly in the plant’s neighbourhood. It will also pave the way for faster work on nuclear plants planned at Maharashtra’s Jaitapur and Haryana’s Fatehabad.
India hopes to generate 63,000 MW through nuclear power by 2032 with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh giving a big fillip to the atomic component in electricity generation in the wake of the Indo-US nuclear deal and lifting of trade sanctions by the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008. Apprehensions of the plant’s environmental impact among local fishing communities will need to be further assuaged but the plant is inching towards completion after activists, opposed to nuclear energy in totality, held the project hostage for months. Official sources said protests delayed operations by around six months but criticality is likely in around 10 days as reviews are almost complete.
The reactor will now be closed and pressure tests conducted. Loading of enriched uranium fuel was completed earlier in the month and once criticality is achieved, the controlled fission will begin heating water to produce the steam that will drive the turbines. The project has cleared several hurdles after the initial agreement was signed in 1988 with the blockade of the plant after the March, 2011, Fukishima disaster in the wake of the Japanese tsunami being the most serious.
Paradoxically, the Fukushima events also convinced several nuclear skeptics about the reliability of nuclear plants as there was no large radio-active leakage despite primary and back-up power being knocked out.
In an attempt to increase regional connectivity, the civil aviation ministry is working on a proposal to make it mandatory for airlines to deploy small aircraft to smaller cities. The proposals, currently in the works, include making connectivity to smaller cities mandatory under the route dispersal guidelines (RDG) by changing its current allocation norms. “The growth of aviation has not touched a lot of towns and cities in the country that do not have proper airport but have a lot of potential in terms of providing a market and can contribute to the next wave of growth in the sector. These cities can only be connected through smaller aircraft and we are looking to make it mandatory under the RDG,” said a senior ministry official.
He said that civil aviation minister Ajit Singh is taking keen interest on the issue. “Among the options, it was discussed that mandatory limit should be introduced in the category III cities clause or a segment be created,” the official added. According to existing RDG, the government
categorises routes into three categories in a bid to ensure airlines fly all routes. However, analysts feel the idea of regulating the sector does not make sense at a time when the airlines are in a bad financial state. “We need to reduce and not increase regulatory complexities,” said Kapil Kaul, CEO for Indian subcontinent at Centre for Asia Pacific and Aviation. The civil aviation ministry also has plans to auction air routes which connect smaller cities to boost regional connectivity. An Essential Air Services Fund or EASF will be created for paying the subsidy.
IGI Airport operator, Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), has got ISO 20000 certification for eliminating and controlling IT related threats on its IT service management system. With this, Delhi has become the sixth airport in the world after Dubai, Munich, Abu Dhabi, Incheon and Hyderabad to get this certification, a statement from the DIAL said. The ISO 20000-1:2011 is a service management system (SMS) standard that specifies requirements for an IT service provider to plan, establish, implement, operate, monitor, review, maintain and improve an SMS.
“This confirms our strength on IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) processes and procedures. It also establishes DIAL’s robust ITIL system adhering to world’s most respected framework for IT projects, delivery and applications. Our customers’ data, travel information and transactions are more secured all through this structured ISO approach. Thus, eliminating and controlling all IT related threats,” DIAL CEO, I Prabhakara Rao said.
At DIAL, IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) consists of 13 processes which are used in ITSMS to ensure cost effectiveness, availability, zero tolerance and customer satisfaction. DIAL had, in June, also attained ISO 27001 Continuity, which was an IT information security framework which certifies that the company was demonstrating and following best of the world IT information security principles, processes and procedures. The continuity of the ISO 27001 certification was assessed and adjudged by British Standards Institution (BSI) during their annual audit, the statement said.
After making substantial progress in the first phase of constructing roads in 34 naxal-affected districts in the past two years, the Centre is now planning to build another 5,600 km in these areas. These two-lane roads – estimated to cost the government Rs 9,500 crore in the second phase – would cover more interior stretches in eight states, including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha.
Road transport and highways secretary A K Upadhyaya said the ministry would put these proposals before the expenditure finance committee (EFC) on Wednesday. “Once the EFC clears these projects, we target to complete these stretches by March, 2017. We are aiming to build two-lane roads, and if not at least intermediate road (one lane) to connect areas that have been largely inaccessible so far,” said a senior ministry official.
These stretches have been identified after the Union home ministry held a series of discussions with state governments and respective director generals of police (DGPs). Sources said that constructing these roads is possible only after taking police and security agencies on board since many of these stretches fall in the worst insurgency-hit areas.
The proposal to finalize the estimates of these roads is part of the work plan that highways ministry has envisaged during the 12th Five Year Plan. Highways minister C P Joshi also said in the next five years government targets to expand all national highways to at least two-lane standard. “We aim to connect remote parts of the country with the mainstream, and be a partner in the development process,” he added.
Government had first initiated the Road Requirement Plan (RRP) for improving 5,477 km road connectivity in eight states – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh – in 2009. So far, it has awarded 4,511 km, and construction has been completed in 1,872 km.
In some areas, which have been identified as the most difficult regions under the third phase, the progress has been rather poor. “We have held talks with the local police and agencies like Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to undertake construction in these regions. We will reschedule the work,” Upadhyaya said.
Now, railway passengers can track trains on real-time basis. Railways has launched online application RailRadar, which is an interactive map on Google that can facilitate passengers to track movements of all trains running across the country.
The passengers can locate the trains on real-time basis on both internet and their cellphones. RailRadar, developed by a Railway PSU Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) in collaboration with RailYatri, is a live tracker of all passenger trains traffic in real time. The interactive map will help users to find the exact geographical location of about 6,500 trains on a Google map on real-time basis, an official said.
The system enables a colour-coded method as trains highlighted in blue indicate those that are running on time, while the red markers indicate trains that are delayed or running behind schedule. An official said if you click on a particular train, the map will show the exact route of the train including all the stoppages and the current location of the train on real-time basis. RailRadar can be accessed through the railway website, www.trainenquiry.com.
To know the current status of the train, a passenger can enter a train name or number and the system will inform whether the train is delayed or running on time. The interactive map zooms in and out to get train and station detail. Users can search for a particular station or train to get specific details of trains around the station or running status of a train, location, its route and stoppages. RailRadar gives an overview on train on time and delay status. In case of an accident or unplanned activity, the site would be able to provide users with an overview of situation and train status across the country.
“The live tracker is shown on an interactive map which permits users to watch the movements of trains running across the country,” a railway official said, adding that the move is first for any major railway system in the world. The tracker is already live and can be accessed by travelers.
Giving a push to aviation infrastructure development, Government is planning to build 10-15 greenfield airports and modernising 50 others in the non-metro cities over the next few years. “About 50 non-metro airports are being modernised within the next 2 years and overall 10-15 new greenfield airports are being planned,” Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told reporters on the sidelines of the 49th Conference of Directors General of Civil Aviation of Asia-Pacific region here. Maintaining that the civil aviation sector in India was witnessing an annual growth of 9%, he said, “We expect a double digit growth in air traffic in the next few years.”
Asked about the basis of his assessment, Singh said, “The huge middle class is growing, trade is growing and India should achieve at least 6% GDP growth now. There may have been a temporary setback as we see a decline now, but air traffic is expected to grow substantially.” Earlier addressing the conference, he said the government had initiated a major process of modernising existing airports and developing greenfield ones “through a mixed strategy of public sector, private sector, joint ventures and public-private partnership” to accommodate the growing air traffic.
While airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad had been built with private sector participation, “new airports are ready for commissioning in Chennai and Kolkata very soon,” he said, adding that the government now permits up to 100% FDI in greenfield airports. Referring to the controversial carbon tax being imposed by the European Union (EU) which is being opposed by India and a large number of countries, the Minister said,
“We would request the delegates to oppose any unilateral environment measures imposed by a State or group of States like the EU-ETS (Emission Trading Scheme).” He appealed to the delegates to “work with International Civil Aviation Organisation to evolve global environment protection on the basis of equity and consensus following the broad consensus obtained” in the United Nations fora. Observing that India was a “major corridor” between the East and the West, Singh said the final operational phase and certification GAGAN (GPS Aided Geo- Augmented Navigation) system, developed jointly by Airports Authority of India and Indian Space Research Organisation, was expected to be completed in June 2013. “GAGAN has a footprint overlapping with European Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) on the West and Japanese SBAS on the East,” he said. Asked whether the proposed venture of the Kerala government, Air Kerala, would be allowed to fly abroad, the Minister said like all start-up airlines, it would need to fulfil all criteria for various government approvals. “We will give sympathetic consideration (to Air Kerala) but rules and regulations have to be followed.”
The three-day conference is being attended by top global aviation officials, including ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin, apart from aviation regulatory bodies of over 45 countries and six professional bodies. The theme of the conference is ‘Managing Air Transport Growth in the Asia Pacific Region through a Collaborative Approach to Safety, Security and Sustainability’, which would also review and exchange information, enhance co-ordination of civil aviation activities and harmonise and coordinate implementation of standards and procedures in the region.
Wouldnt it be better if they at least get the tracks in order to run the trains at high speed? Why spend so much money if they want to make the bullet trains crawl on our tracks? Why waste money? Another scam in the making?
The railways have decided to go in for six bullet train-sets at an estimated cost of Rs. 25,000 crore and an announcement is expected in the next rail budget. Bullet trains are capable of clocking a speed of 325 kilometres per hour. But in the absence of requisite infrastructure, these will run at an 110 kmph on existing broad-gauge routes.
Japanese, French and German consortia are in the race to sell these train-sets, even as the Japanese are sponsoring a study on high-speed rail possibilities in India. Justifying the “piecemeal and premature” acquisition proposal, an official said, “Such projects have a long gestation period, but one has to start somewhere.”
The Japanese consortium has quoted a price of Rs. 54 crore per coach — the cost of the train-set working out to approximately Rs. 900 crore “We will go in for some mix-and-match to negotiate a better price. Each train-set should come at a cost of about Rs. 300 to Rs. 400 cr,” an official said.
Kelkar committee warned that the failure to move briskly would expose the country to a crisis worse than what it had endured in 1991.The report suggested that exploitation of governments assets could play a key role. Although most government departments do not have exhaustive asset register,the assessment is that shipping,defence,posts,airport authority and railways would be sitting on largest land banks.According to estimates,railways alone can monetise around 10,000 acres in urban centres,generating Rs 50,000 crore.Similarly,Ports Trust can monetise around one-fifth of 2.5 lakh acres it owns.
The new land alienation policy may even cover Airport Authority of India (AAI) and Ports Trust that enjoy statutory powers to grant lease on their own. Besides revenue for cashstrapped exchequer,the move will result in the creation of maiden database of government land and identification of surplus land with all public entities,PSUs included. Sources said finance ministry quickly has moved on the land issue as suggested by Kelkar panel even though it took almost four weeks to dismiss the panels suggestion to do away with fuel,fertiliser and food subsidy and go slow on proposed food security law. Officials pointed out the move was follow-up to Ashok Chawla committee on allocation of natural resources that has been under discussion for months.The draft policy lays out procedures for sale of land to cut out arbitrary actions that expose the government to charges of corruption like Cabinet nod for land assessed at over Rs 50 crore.
A Public Sector Land Management Committee comprising top secretaries will be tasked with creation of a database within a year.It would ensure that land records are updated and assess the market value based on floor area ratio,presence of utilities,the development potential and availability of minerals around the site.The government departments would also be asked to boost lands market rate by value addition.