Book Reviews
Easy-to-read History of Indian Railways
There are several books on the history of Indian Railways, and they are of two kinds—either academic, heavy-reads, or coffee table books with glossy pictures, peppered with some text. The book is easy to read, quick to finish and to the point, as the present generation wants; yet, it sums up the entire history of the Railways up to independence. But, let me point out, compiling an easy-to-read book is one of the most difficult tasks which has been well accomplished.
 
A Niti Aayog member, Dr Debroy has been the chairman of the high-powered committee to restructure Indian Railways. (Many of the committee’s recommendations are being implemented, the main one being the discontinuation of a separate Budget.) As the committee’s work progressed, the members were curious about Indian Railways’ evolution and accumulated an inventory of facts and trivia about it. The book is probably an outcome of this knowledge.
 
Indian Railways: The Weaving of a National Tapestry starts with an introduction by business writer Gurcharan Das, who mentions that the East India Railway Company was one of the first to get going and that the Great Indian Peninsula Railway “constructed a second line” for 35 miles from Bombay to Kalyan. The fact is that though the East India Railway Company was the first one to be formed, the Bombay line was the first official line to open, as the inauguration of the East India Railway got delayed because the ship carrying its locomotives and wagons sank. The main book, however, has no such errors.
 
This book is divided into five chapters, from 1830s to the 20th century, and rightly mentions that the first railway in India started in the 1830s at a small place near Madras. The flow of the book is chronological, beginning with the inception of the first lines in the country and the stray ideas before that period, supported with old maps, photographs and archival news reports, though there is a small mix-up between 1853 and 1953 on pages 4 and 5.
 
While the book has liberally used information from the Indian Railway Fans Club Association’s webpages and several reference books, it also presents a good amount of original data and research from the railway archives and unseen documents. The outstanding part of the research material is the discovery of correspondence between ‘P’ and ‘C’, sometime in 1857, from the railway archives, on the issue of railways versus irrigation. Neither ‘P’ nor ‘C’ revealed who they were; all that we know is that ‘P’ was in favour of the railways and ‘C’ argued against them. An interesting quote from ‘C’s letter, pronouncing railways a failure reads: “The Railway cannot supersede the road in everything; not only so but if it cannot convey everything much cheaper than could be done by the road it must be pronounced a failure.”
 
Interestingly, the book does not just talk about history and statistics, but gives an interesting account and stories from the past, including the entire gripping case history of the 1921 GIP Railway Murder Case and about crime on trains, with a historical perspective, presenting a table of secret lingo of the professional thief. It also goes on to tell you the story of the railway police and the police commission.
 
Another asset of the book is that it has a comprehensive list of the narrow and metre-gauge rail lines, with photographs. The book details the history and perspective of how the railways’ finances were separated, leading to an independent Railway Budget in the 1920s, until it ended this year. Dr Debroy corrects the media’s conclusion that there will be no Railway Budget. “Every organisation has a budget and so will the Indian Railways. What will be different is that a railway minister will no longer present this Budget in Parliament through a speech. The separate presentation will not be required legally and constitutionally,” he explains. 
 
Further, a comprehensive table of evolution of policies and committees on the Railways between 1850s and 1947 shows how railway tracks have changed since inception and how they were when India became independent. The book ends at 15 August 1947. 
 
This book is not a feast but a brunch and will be liked by everyone. 
 
(The author is a journalist, author and railway historian with a passion for the history of Indian Railways)

User

GST: 'No clarity yet on tax on services a worry'
Despite the rollout date of July 1 for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) drawing closer, there is still no clarity on the tax rate for services under the new indirect tax regime, an auditor firm pointed out on Friday.
 
"Entire discussion on GST, is related to goods. There is no discussion on services. We don't know if services will be as per the same rate," Prashant Deshpande, Partner in auditor firm Deloitte Haskins and Sells, told BTVi in an interview.
 
"Services unlike goods are peculiar. If we are providing a service from multiple locations, what will be our GST rate? There needs to be clarity of law on this, so that there are no litigations later," he said.
 
"If a trader has multi-state presence, would he be assessed by states at some places and by the Centre in others?" he asked.
 
As per the understanding between the Centre and states, 90 per cent of the GST payers with up to Rs 1.5 crore turnover will be assessed by states, while 10 per cent will be assessed by the central government.
 
As far as those above Rs 1.5 crore turnover are concerned, the assessment will be done on a 50:50 basis between the Centre and states.
 
Deshpande also noted that the tax rates for various commodities and services should be announced soon, as traders would need at least three months to plan out details.
 
"We need to know the rates at least three months in advance. So, many things go into packaging, etc. There has to be some point of time when rates need to be announced and not just a week before GST," Deshpande said.
 
However, the decision on rates seems to be a long way, because the fitment into tax slabs -- 5 per cent, 12 per cent, 15 per cent and 28 per cent -- is currently ongoing, which will then need approval of the Council.
 
On the rollout date of July 1, he said that from the government's perspective it might not be far-fetched, but the states should also be ready to hold special assembly sessions to get the GST bill passed.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

User

Government approves printing plastic notes
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been authorised to conduct field trials for printing plastic Rs 10 denomination notes which will have a longer life span, Parliament was informed on Friday
 
"Approval for procurement of plastic substrate and printing of bank notes of Rs 10 denomination on plastic banknote substrates has been conveyed to the RBI," Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal told the Lok Sabha in a written reply.
 
Substrate denotes the underlying substance or layer on which currency is printed.
 
The minister said the government had decided to conduct field trials at five locations of the country with plastic banknotes, which are expected to last longer than cotton substrate-based banknotes. 
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

User

We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
  Loading...
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email

BUY NOW

The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)