Citizens' Issues
Expectations high as Prabhu presents his second rail budget
New Delhi : Will Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu increase passenger fares and freight tariff in his budget on Thursday? That's the question that pops up as he presents his ministry's annual budget for the next fiscal amid shrinking margins, that is leaving little room for modernisation, upgrade and safety.
 
In the previous budget, the minister spared passengers from a fare hike, but freight rates were increased by 2.1 percent to 10 percent, even on commodities such as grain, pulses, urea and coal. And in July 2014, the hikes amounted to 15 percent in passenger fares and 6.5 percent in freight.
 
Industry chambers have advocated a hike in passenger fares this time.
 
"There is lack of political will to raise passenger fares, though the reluctance is not shared by passengers who will be willing to pay more if it is accompanied by better services like timely arrival of trains, cleanliness at stations, safety and improvement in food," Assocham said. 
 
Introduction of new trains without much capacity addition in terms of new lines has become a norm. The issue that Prabhu will have to tackle is to improve the operating ratio that spells out how much of the revenue generated is spent on day-to-day operations.
 
In the last budget, the minister had targeted to bring the operating ratio down to 88.5 percent, or the lowest in nine years, from an unsustainable level of 93.6 percent in 2013-14 and 91.8 percent for 2014-15. But globally, a 75-80 percent or lower is seen as a healthy benchmark.
 
The network length of Indian Railways has also not expanded in the requisite manner. It has increased just 0.06 times since 1989-90, but passenger and freight traffic has increased 3.3 times and 2.2 times, respectively. The average train speed of 25 km per hour for freight and 70 km per hour for passengers is also among the lowest globally.
 
The railways will also have to contend with a 40 percent (Rs.320 billion) jump in wages. Experts have, accordingly, called for some newer approaches to enable the Indian Railways to raise money and fund its development.
 
"The sheer number of land parcels held by Indian Railways across the country makes this entity an important stakeholder in transit-oriented development," said Anuj Puri, chairman of JLL India, referring to mixed-use residential and commercial area with access to public transport. 
 
"This budget we expect the railway minister to look at monetising railways' land parcels in urban areas through transit-oriented development -- in order to boost cities' liveability quotient and modernisation of their skylines," Puri said.
 
Some of the other issues that stakeholders expect Prabhu to address include introduction of more wagons, development of physical infrastructure, fine-tuning the public-private partnership model, improvement of passenger amenities and making rail transportation competitive.
 
India boasts one of the oldest and the largest railroad networks in the world, ferrying some 23 million people, or a population the size of Australia, as also 2.65 million tonnes of goods on its coaches, each day.
 
It serves from 7,172 stations via 12,617 passenger and 7,421 freight trains on a track network spanning Baramulla in the Himalayan foothills of Kashmir to the southern tip of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, and from Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh to the port town of Okha in Gujarat.
 
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.

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Jon Favreau breathes new life to Kipling classic 'The Jungle Book'
Los Angeles : Building on the structure of Rudyard Kipling's timeless classic and the power of the 1967 animation film, director Jon Favreau has given a new vision to "The Jungle Book" backed by cutting-edge technology.
 
The director says he has blended technology with the old story to honour the original and at the same time appeal to new audiences with his animation offering.
 
The director also asserted that with the film, which will come out in Indian theatres on April 8, a week before it releases in the US, he has tried to push the envelope by embracing new technology to create a virtual world.
 
Favreau, who began his career in the industry as an actor in "Rudy", sat down to explain his vision at Hollywood's The El Capitan Theatre here with selected mediapersons from all across the world.
 
Why remake a classic? Why give it a technological twist? These are the questions that Favreau set out to answer around Disney's film, which brings a story straight from the enchanting forests of India and presents a modern take on Kipling's classic, originally published in 1894.
 
Favreau said that he was motivated by Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn to take the technological route for the film.
 
"The idea of going out to the jungle and shooting this, it just felt like it wouldn't have the magic that the 1967 film had had. There was a dreamlike quality to it. There was a surreal quality to it. It was a high-water mark for character animation and to me, that's what I remember about it. And so I wanted to make sure we preserved that.
 
"But what Horn said was: look at the technology. Look at 'Life of Pi', 'Avatar'. Why not use the technology to create a whole world that transports you? Let's really embrace this new technology and see what we can do if we push its limit."
 
The live-action epic adventure showcases Mowgli's journey of self-discovery when he's forced to abandon his home in the forest. And Neel Sethi, who traces his roots to India and plays Mowgli, is only just being in an otherwise animation film.
 
The film is supported by a stellar voice-over cast including Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson and Christopher Walken.
 
Favreau also presented a glimpse of his vision by screening portions of the film.
 
The director explained that by re-imagining the film "you are serving many masters...you are trying to honour the memory, preconceived memory of people who grew up with it, but you are also trying to make a movie that appeals to the full audience -- that is ethically what we set out to do".
 
"We are trying to pay tribute, and we can also see that with the visual effects, we are pushing the technology. We are mixing the old story with cutting edge technology," he added.
 
So, how was the film made?
 
"We went back to the structure of it and saw what Kipling did because he offered a lot. We kind of picked between the two. The story structure of the 1967 film was good and offered a lot; so I stuck to it as much as I could. What I have tried to do is to focus on the images that I remember from it before going back to look at it again," he said.
 
He is brimming with joy after using "level of artistry and technology" to narrate a story with "humour and emotion, and showing nature, animals, and getting into that real deep mythic imagery that I think always marries well with technology, and always has."
 
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.

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Beware, Facebook or social media addiction can trigger cocaine-like high
New Delhi : Can spending excessive time on Facebook or other social media be as dangerous as addiction to cocaine or gambling?
 
Well, yes, if researchers from California State University-Fullerton are to be believed.
 
They say social media obsession may lead to something akin to classical addiction. Such use triggers two key parts of the brain associated with rewards: The amygdala which is the integrative place for emotions, behaviour and motivation and the striatum -- part of the forebrain and a critical component of the reward system.
 
The findings, recently published in the journal Psychological Reports: Disability and Trauma showed that social media-related "addictions" share some neural features with substance and gambling addictions.
 
Since the meteoric rise of the internet usage and emergence of various social media platforms, many young Indians have been left socially isolated and lonely.
 
It's time for a reality check in our backyard.
 
Take Krishnan (name changed), a 15-year-old social media addict in the capital, who recently visited Dr. Sameer Malhotra, director, mental health and behavioural sciences at Max Healthcare.
 
Hooked on to Facebook for nearly 16 hours a day, he had developed an obsessive personality profile and was neglecting priorities of life, including education.
 
"I have been seeing many youngsters who are in the grip of social media addiction. In the case of Krishnan, I treated him through both counselling and medication which helped channelise his energy in positive work," Dr. Malhotra told IANS.
 
"Facebook addiction is similar to cocaine addiction to a certain level as there are certain neuro-chemicals like dopamine which operate across brain reward pathways and are responsible for maintaining addictive behaviour," he said.
 
According to Dr. Malhotra, teenagers with Facebook addiction-like symptoms may "have a hyperactive amygdala-striatal system, which makes this 'addiction' similar to many other addictions."
 
For Dr. Samir Parikh, director at department of mental health and behavioural Science, Fortis Healthcare, excessive use of social media is a common trend today and such preoccupation leads to an interference in one's social, occupational as well as other areas of functioning.
 
"Yes, it could be considered similar to drug addiction to a certain level though it is not exactly the same. The difference is more in terms of the physiological manifestations involved in the influence of a substance," Dr. Parikh told IANS.
 
Addiction is defined as repetitive habit pattern that increases the risk of diseases or associated personal and social problems. It is a subjective experience of "loss of control".
 
Addiction connotes dependence because there are common neurochemical and neuroanatomical pathways found among all addictions -- whether it is substance, gambling, sex, eating, internet use or Facebook obsession.
 
"They all display similar patterns of behaviour like inability to abstain, impairment in behaviour control, craving, diminished recognition of significant behaviourial problems, interpersonal issues and a dysfunctional emotional response," says Dr. Birendra Yadav, psychology clinical operations at telehealth venture-Poccare, Healthenablr.
 
Experts say Facebook addiction can lead to impulse-control disorders, especially among adolescents where it has led to high prevalence of depression, aggressive behaviour and psychiatric symptoms.
 
The social media has also been found to have affected lifestyles, resulting in irregular dietary habits, decreased physical activity, short duration of sleep and increased use of alcohol and tobacco.
 
Is it true that getting out of Facebook addiction is easier than that of substance abuse?
 
"This is subjective and depends on the context, personality and state of mind of the individual concerned and you need to build the will power of the person through both counselling and medication," Dr. Malhotra says.
 
"Overcoming any kind of addiction is possible with adequate professional interventions," Dr. Parikh said.
 
The bottom line: use social media, but do not let it take over your life. Investing time in "real" relationships rather than in the cyberworld can lead to improved mental health, say experts.
 
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.

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