Citizens' Issues
A dormitory for ladies at Bengaluru railway station
The South Western Railway (SWR) here on Tuesday opened a dormitory exclusively for transit halt of lady passengers at the city's main station.
 
Touted to be the country's first such amenity for women passengers, the dormitory with 16 cubicles on the first floor of the station's city building has been carved out of the 30-bed dormitory common for men and families.
 
"We have decided to provide a separate dormitory at the city station for lady passengers in response to such a demand from them online and offline," SWR general manager P.S. Saxena told IANS here on the occasion.
 
The dormitory will be manned by women staff and housekeeping by women attendants.
 
"Besides a bed, a small table, a chair and a locker, the dormitory has a common washroom and an attendant for help or service," the official said.
 
To ensure safety and security of women passengers, a sentry will be on duty in two shifts and a closed circuit TV camera in and around the dormitory will monitor movement of commuters and others.
 
A cubicle will be charged Rs.125 for 12 hours and Rs.200 for 24 hours. Accommodation will be available on first-come, first-served basis and stay can be extended by 12 or 24 hours subject to availability.
 
The cubicle can be taken on arrival at the station or booked in advance online system after making train reservation to the city station.
 
"We will assess response for 90 days and decide to continue the all-women dormitory. We will expand capacity if demand is high and reduce cubicles if not many takers for it," Saxena noted.
 
Being among the 200 A-1 class stations in 68 divisions across the country, the Bengaluru main station in the city centre is one of the busiest, operating about 70 trains to ferry over a lakh passengers daily.
 
"Several women passengers from other parts of Karnataka and outside the state travel in train to the city on short visits for various reasons, ranging from work, studies, tourism or transit halt to changing trains. 
 
"As the station is centrally located and much safer, a dormitory is a secure place for them to stay," Saxena added.

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Growth not picked up as expected: Arvind Subramanian
India's economic growth did not pick up as much as people expected as a result of government action, the government's Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian said on Tuesday.
 
Reeling out facts and figures on the performance of the NDA government during its first year, Subramanian told reporters here that people were judging the rulers by outcome and not effort.
 
"Going forward, people will judge us on economic growth, which will be the focus of our next course of action," he said.
 
Admitting that the controversy over the Minimum Alternative Tax (MAT) had hurt the government's image, the adviser said it would not be imposed again as the government has learnt from its mistake.
 
Observing that the government could have done much more in its first year, Subramanian said the number of stuck projects was coming down but there was not much pick-up in new projects.
 
"In one year, more could have been done but I think structural reforms agenda has been substantial.Reduction in corruption is visible, as evident from a clean and transparent auction of coal and spectrum; liberalisation of gold import regime, and reducing rents intrinsic to quantitative restrictions," he said.
 
Achievements during the year gone by included cooperative and competitive federalism by adopting the 14th Finance Commission's recommendations and creating Niti Aayog in place of Planning Commission, he said.
 
"The government is close to securing political agreement to launch the game-changing Goods and Services Taxes (GST) regime from next fiscal," he said.
 
Referring to the creation of 150 million Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan accounts since August 2014 for financial inclusion, he said similarly initiating a comprehensive social security through pension, life insurance and accident schemes reflected the government's commitment to growth with equity.
 
"As the macro-economic situation has seen a massive turnaround, more can be done in the next 18 months, while 'Make in India' will be a long-term strategy to make the country's economy competitive," he said.
 
Noting that structural reforms would take time to influence growth, the former IMF economist said that policy support was crucial over short run, especially for consumption and public and private investments.
 
On the flip side, private investment continued to be weak as a legacy of the boom period, while declining exports was a cause for concern, as merchandise trade was yet to recover.
 
"We also need to find ways of relieving the distress in rural incomes. MNREGA, crop insurance, minimum support price will help improve farmers' income," Subramanian noted.
 
He cautioned that interest rate cuts in China and elsewhere would make Indian exports and manufacturing uncompetitive.

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Backpackers' hostel, budget hotel: fresh graduates' ventures get thumbs up
In his 20s, Paavan Nanda, the MDI alumnus and co-founder of Zostel Hospitality Private Limited, said that they have a single motto: "Change the way India travels"
 
The idea stemmed from a basic problem that they, like most other students and budget travellers, face while travelling - finding a safe, clean, and affordable place to stay in a good location.
 
So, what did this group of management and tech students do? Brainstormed their way into launching India's first backpackers' hostel which provides all the amenities at a neat price of Rs.499. Needless to say, Zostel has filled a big vacuum in the Indian hospitality industry and is doing exceedingly well.
 
Started in late 2013 by four students of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM)-Calcutta, two from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), and one from Gurgaon's Management Development Institute (MDI), Zostel has a presence in key tourist locations in Rajasthan (Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur), Uttar Pradesh (Agra, Varanasi), Delhi and Goa. And the list is getting longer.
 
In his 20s, Paavan Nanda, the MDI alumnus and co-founder of Zostel Hospitality Private Limited, said that they have a single motto: "Change the way India travels."
 
"Zostel is not just a pad to crash in. It aims to provide a holistic experience to travellers. The atmosphere is designed to be fun and cool. Boarders are encouraged to congregate in the common rooms which are equipped with playstations, board games, cards games and other modes of recreation. There are bonfires and music sessions in the evenings, and the staff also help travellers join guided tours in the city, book tickets, even plan their itinerary for excursions in nearby regions," Nanda told IANS.
 
At the given price, a traveller can avail a bed (usually a bunk bed) in an airconditioned dormitory, store luggage in a private locker and use the Wi-Fi and avail services of the community kitchen, library and common room. There are three-bed to 12-bed dorms, as well as private rooms for Rs.999. For women travellers there are all-girls' dorms too.
 
"Zostel is a market leader in its category. When we started out, the concept of a backpackers' hostel was still new in India and, therefore, 90 percent of our boarders were foreigners. But domestic demands soon surged. Now, the break-up between domestic and international guests is 50:50," Nanda said.
 
Encouraged by the response, he went on to say that there will be 40 new Zostels coming up in the next four months in key tourist locations across the country.
 
Of course the journey hasn't been a piece of cake for these youngsters.
 
"We bootstrapped it, to begin with," Nanda said, adding: "But we had education loans to pay off and we wanted to expand to other cities fast, so we had to enter the market".
 
So they decided to enter business-plan competitions where they would get a platform to present their ideas, fine-tune them and meet potential investors.
 
They participated in 14 such competitions, including one by the Richard Ivey School of Business, Canada; IIT-Bombay; and the Wharton India Economic Forum B-Plan contest and won all of them. They made Rs.40-Rs.50 lakh ($63,000-$78,000), all of which went into the business. Malaysia-based angel investor Presha Paragash also pitched in with Rs.5 crore.
 
The team has, however, not stopped at Zostel. Another initiative, Zo Rooms, which is in a similar space but with a different challenge - of good and reliable budget hotels - is their new baby.
 
"With the emergence of corporate travel and ever-increasing mobile penetration, India wants a reliable brand of budget hotels that is available at every locality within a city. We discovered that there was a high degree of uncertainty with unbranded hotels - wrong pictures, fake reviews, dicey booking statuses, non-functioning amenities and unhygienic surroundings," Nanda said.
 
According to Nanda, the budget hotel industry in India is short of 100,000 well-serviced rooms under Rs.2,000 per night.
 
"Zo Rooms started with a vision to clean this space and provide a suave, tech-savvy option of accommodation to today's youth. The four-month-old Zo Rooms has 120 hotels across 10 cities. Unlike other hotel chains, which offer a handful of properties in a city, Zo Rooms has a locality-level presence. This significantly reduces the guests' intra-city travel time. By December 2015 the company plans to have 1,000 plus hotels across 50 cities in India on its platform," he added.
 
As fresh graduates, Nanda admits, they have difficulty sourcing deals, negotiating prices of properties, and working out plans to expand pan-India.
 
"Our venture lies at the crossroads of technology and real estate. One is a sophisticated field, the other is considered dirty," Nanda said.
 
But with a team that's young, confident, and teeming with ideas there's hardly any challenge that will stop them.

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