Citizens' Issues
Aviation ministry to look into proposal for dedicated bus shuttle at Mumbai airport

However BEST is not enthusiastic to start such service even as MIAL is supporting the project

Passengers at the Mumbai airport continue to be stranded in the absence of adequate public transport and the constant refusal by auto and taxi drivers. The dearth of pre-paid taxis adds to the passengers’ woes. Despite being the financial capital of the country, Mumbai is the only major city in the world without a dedicated bus shuttle to the airport even as Bangalore and Hyderabad successfully run such a service. Now to find a solution to this issue, the aviation ministry has agreed to look into the proposal.

Experts on transportation point out that it should be immediately started.
Surprisingly, even the Mumbai International Airport (MIAL) is enthusiastic about the project, it’s only the BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking), having monopoly in Mumbai’s public bus transport, which is apprehensive about staring the service.  

A Mumbai-based activist Indrani Malkani, also a trustee of non-for-profit organisation VCAN (V Citizens Action Network), through South Mumbai MP Milind Deora, had forwarded a proposal to start a dedicated air-conditioned bus service to the Mumbai’s Chhattrapati Shivaji International Airport to the aviation minister Vayalar Ravi.  Mr Ravi acknowledged the receipt of her proposal and has stated that he is “having the matter looked into.”

Mrs Malkani, known for her policy on school bus and member of government-appointed committee on bus safety norms, says that the thought process for this service is based on her school bus policy and way point system of the GPS. “I would now be following with GVK and MIAL.”

She adds, “Earlier Indian Airlines had such service so why not start a similar service again with longer distance covering various locations, which are well connected to other roads and lanes, in the city.”   

In fact Moneylife had also, in September, started a campaign to start such service. (http://www.moneylife.in/article/you-have-landed-at-mumbai-wheres-the-shuttle-to-go-home-part-1/19852.html). Mumbai is the only major city in the world without such service, even as cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore have successfully started it. (http://www.moneylife.in/article/mumbai-airport-does-not-have-a-shuttle-service-while-other-metros-have-excellent-connections-from-their-airports-to-cities/19952.html). Passengers are stranded at the airport terminal due to the regular refusals by taxi and auto rickshaw drivers to ferry passengers without a fuss, inadequate public transport and expensive-but-usually-unavailable pre-paid taxis.

Transport experts in Mumbai agree that there is a desperate need to initiate action to end the harassment of passengers at the domestic and international airport.
Moneylife Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, worked with these experts and drafted a memorandum requesting to start such service. The memorandum was sent to the chief minister of Maharashtra, BEST and NMMT (Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport). (http://www.moneylife.in/?siteurl=www.moneylife.in%2Fcx=012932029967637413115%3Aroup7yt0ras&cof=FORID%3A9&ie=UTF-8&q=Mumbai+airport+)
However BEST was not enthusiastic about the plan. Sudhir Badami, a transport expert, who handed the memorandum to BEST on behalf on Moneylife Foundation, says that, “BEST was apprehensive of the success of such service. This is right considering the lack of passenger support it had for its earlier airport service due to low frequency. If it has to start such service and make it viable, certainly a lot of awareness is required.”

Other transport experts—Jagdeep Desai and Ashok Datar— last month had also met Vikram Sethi, vice-president-operations MIAL, to discuss the same issue.
“MIAL was quite enthusiastic about the project and fully supported the idea. They are ready to provide infrastructure facilities like information desk and parking space to the organisation which starts such service. They are also fed up the politics of taxi and auto unions,” said Mr Datar.

According to Mr Desai, “While MIAL supports the idea, BEST is not ready to work on this project. Even when MIAL met BEST with identified locations for this service, BEST was simply not interested.”

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HC issues notice to CBI on Kalmadi’s bail plea in CWG scam

Sacked Commonwealth Games (CWG) Organising Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi counsel sought bail, claiming that his custody is no more required in the case as the CBI on 3rd November had informed the trial court that investigation is complete

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) response on the bail plea of sacked Commonwealth Games (CWG) Organising Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi in a Games-related scam case, who cited the Supreme Court ruling that bail should be the rule and jail an exception, reports PTI.

Justice Mukta Gupta issued notice to the probe agency and sought its reply on Kalmadi’s bail plea by 6th January.

Mr Kalmadi’s counsel sought bail, claiming that his custody is no more required in the case as the CBI on 3rd November had informed the trial court that investigation is complete.

Senior counsel Sushil Kumar, appearing for Mr Kalmadi, said that his client is in custody since 26th April and charge-sheet has also been filed. He said the trial would take a long time as a foreign firm, Swiss Timing Omega, is also an accused in the case and it has not yet appeared before the court.

The counsel sought that the court hear the bail plea in December, saying it need not go into the merits of the case basing on the Supreme Court ruling, while granting bail to five accused in the second generation (2G) case, that bail is the rule and jail is an exception.

However, justice Gupta, said, “Merits of each case have to be looked into” and fixed 6th January as the next date of hearing.

Mr Kalmadi was arrested on 26th April for his alleged role in awarding the contract for installing the Timing-Scoring-Result (TSR) system to Swiss Times Omega at an exorbitant cost of Rs141 crore, allegedly causing a loss of over Rs95 crore to the public exchequer.

The CBI had filed its first charge-sheet against Mr Kalmadi and ten others on 20th May, describing him as main accused in the corruption case, involving the award of TSR system contract to the Swiss firm.

The trial court had on 6th June dismissed Mr Kalmadi’s bail plea on the ground that gravity of offense is of very serious nature as it had caused loss to state exchequer and unlawful gain to a private vendor to the tune of over Rs95 crore.

Mr Kalmadi and eight other accused persons including officials of Organizing Committee (OC) are lodged in Tihar Jail and are currently in judicial custody.

The special CBI judge had also said that the accused might try to influence witnesses if enlarged on bail.

“Kalmadi is an influential person who was exercising full control over the OC as its chairman and most of the witnesses are his appointees or the employees of the CWG OC,” the trial court had said.

Earlier, the CBI had opposed Mr Kalmadi's bail plea before the trial court, saying his “conduct (in resorting to corruption in holding the 2010 mega sporting event) has tarnished the country's image”.

The agency had argued that Mr Kalmadi, as the head of the OC, had “supreme and overriding powers” and “any official of OC, who dared to protest against his illegal activities, was threatened, harassed and removed from their position or were forced to leave”.

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Targeted interventions have helped in containing HIV epidemic in India

Increased condom use among sex workers and their clients that have taken place as a result of preventive interventions, especially the targeted interventions seem to have contributed to the decline in HIV prevalence among young pregnant women in India

India has been able to avert three million HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections with World Bank support, along with the role of the government and NGOs (non-governmental organisations). The majority of the HIV infections are heterosexually transmitted, with unprotected paid sex being the major route of transmission. Besides being heterogeneous, the epidemic also has high prevalence in the high risk groups (HRGs): injection drug users (IDU) (7.2%), men who have sex with men (MSM) (7.4%), female sex workers (FSW) (5.1%) and people with sexually transmitted infections (STI) (3.6%). The epidemic seems to be stabilising as a decline in HIV has been observed in high HIV prevalence states of southern India (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu). This conclusion is based on a news release from the World Bank on the eve of World Aids Day 2011—which falls on 1st December.

The HIV epidemic in India has remained more contained than was initially predicted. It appears that increased condom use among sex workers and their clients that took place as a result of preventive interventions; especially the targeted interventions (TIs) seem to have contributed to the decline in HIV prevalence among young pregnant women.

In the high HIV prevalence southern states, the number of TI projects for FSWs increased from five to 310 between 1995 and 2008. In high TI intensity quartile districts, 186 condoms per FSW/year were distributed through TIs. This is in comparison to the 45 condoms/FSW/year in the low TI intensity districts. Behavioural surveillance indicated significant rise in condom use from 2001 to 2009. Among FSWs consistent condom use with last paying clients increased from 58.6% to 83.7%, and among men of reproductive age, the condom use during sex with non-regular partner increased from 51.7% to 68.6%. A significant decline in HIV and syphilis prevalence has occurred in high prevalence southern states among FSWs and young antenatal women. The drop in prevalence is associated with a significant increase in consistent condom use. Among the women seeking antenatal care in districts with high intensity of targeted interventions, HIV prevalence declined by more than 50% from 1.9% in 2001 to 0.8% in 2008 compared with low-intensity districts where the infection rate remained constant at 0.9% in both 2001 and 2008.

Despite these advances in prevention in India, human and financial costs of HIV/AIDS continue to increase, requiring continued diligence and support from the government and the international community. “AIDS remains a critical development issue that is reversing decades of human progress. With 34 million people living with HIV, AIDS continues to decimate communities, stymie economic growth, and orphan children,” said David Wilson, World Bank’s Global HIV/AIDS program director. “As one of the early leaders in the global response to the epidemic, the Bank remains committed to doing our part to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS, particularly in helping countries invest in proven, cost-effective prevention efforts.”

The World Bank supports developing countries (like India) in their strategic planning for HIV/AIDS response in a number of ways, including helping countries develop well-prioritised, evidence-based AIDS strategies and action plans; designing proven, cost-effective HIV prevention efforts; strengthening country health systems for more effective service delivery; and social protection for people affected by HIV. Since 1989, the Bank has committed nearly $4.6 billion in financing for HIV/AIDS-related activities in developing countries. Since the launch of the National AIDS Control Program in 1991, India has worked in close partnership with the World Bank and other development partners to focus on prevention among vulnerable populations at highest risk of contracting HIV.

“There has been a tremendous scale-up of prevention and treatment interventions under this program, which has led to an overall reduction in new infections and AIDS-related deaths in India,” said Sayan Chatterjee, secretary and director general of India’s National AIDS Control Organisation. “With expanding coverage of treatment, the program has to ensure that the treatment requirements are fully met without sacrificing the needs of prevention.”

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