Citizens' Issues
High speed Spanish train arrives next week to outpace Gatiman
New Delhi : Even as the railways have decided to start work on the Rs.98,000-crore bullet train project next year, a swanky new Spanish high-speed train will arrive here next week for trials, for a service between the national capital and Mumbai.
 
"This Spanish high speed train is expected to cut travel time between Delhi and Mumbai to 12 hours," a senior rail ministry official said, referring to Talgo's variable-guage train that will be tested initially for speeds of up to 200 km per hour.
 
"The trial will commence between Mathura and Palwal by the end of this month or in May."
 
With a 70-year history behind it, Talgo of Spain is a top global supplier of high speed trains. Among its various projects, it is the lead supplier of rolling stock for the Haramain line between Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
 
The Spanish high-speed train is expected to reduce the travel time between New Delhi and Mumbai by up to four hours.
 
Currently, the super fast Rajdhani Express train takes around 16 hours to complete the 1,384 km stretch between New Delhi and Mumbai. 
 
The Mumbai Central-New Delhi Rajdhani Express has an average running speed of nearly 91 km per hour. It can attain a top speed of 130 km per hour.
 
Recently, the Indian Railways launched the country's first semi-high speed train -- Gatimaan Express on April 5, 2016.
 
The Gatimaan Express can attain a maximum speed of 160 km per hour. It operates between the national capital's Hazrat Nizamuddin station and Agra Cantonment station. 
 
In February, the Indian Railways had entered into a Rs.98,000-crore pact with Japan for a high-speed bullet train linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad. 
 
India's first high speed train service has been envisaged to operate at speeds of 300-350 kmph. It would mostly be funded by the Japan Investment Co-operation Agency (JICA) which would provide around 80 percent of the investment as a soft loan.
 
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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Bowing to pressure, government withdraws new PF withdrawal rules
Hyderabad/New Delhi/Bengaluru : Under fire from political opponents and bowing to pressure from trade unions, including from RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the government on Tuesday withdrew its new rules of provident fund withdrawal.
 
Within hours after announcing the decision to withhold the rules till July 31, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya declared that the proposed move has been rolled back.
 
"We are cancelling the notification issued on February 10. The old system will continue," he told a press conference in Hyderabad on Tuesday night - his second there in the issue in less than five hours.
 
Dattatreya said the employees, whenever they want, can withdraw employer's contribution of 12 percent.
 
The minister said the Central Board of Trustees (CBT) of Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) will meet to ratify this decision.
 
He had earlier told reporters in New Delhi that the final decision on withdrawal of employer's contribution to the provident fund corpus until the employee attains the age of 58 years will be taken only after July 31.
 
He said the notification will not be implemented from May 1 as announced earlier and he would hold talks with all stakeholders and call a meeting of the CBT, which will take a final decision.
 
The minister, who is CBT chairman, assured that they will take a decision for the betterment of employees and to make the system foolproof.
 
He had said as a result of this decision, the earlier scheme for withdrawal of PF will continue till July 31 and Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) subscribers can file for full and final settlement.
 
Dattatreya clarified that the notification restricted withdrawal of only 3.67 percent of the employer's share out of his total contribution of 12 percent, until after retirement, but during an earlier review it was also decided to allow an employee to withdraw even this amount for four purposes - treatment, purchase of house, marriage and education of children.
 
He said the decision to keep the move in abeyance was taken following representations received from trade unions and workers.
 
The BMS on Tuesday said they will continue to protest till all restrictions on PF withdrawal were removed.
 
The government decision came in wake of protests by garment workers in Bengaluru to press for removal of such curbs.
 
Workers of a garment factory took to the streets and blocked traffic on the busy Mysuru-Bengaluru highway and set many vehicles ablaze on Tuesday to protest amendments to the provident fund rules, police and eyetwinesses said.
 
Some 20 people were arrested and police fired warning shots as stone-pelting protestors attacked the Hebbagodi police station, a police officer said.
 
On the Bengaluru violence, Dattatreya said the protestors were migrant workers, who work for two to three years at one place and then migrate. "That is why they are demanding they should be allowed to take their money," he said.
 
Claiming that the Narendra Modi government is pro-worker, he said there was lot of misinformation going on in the country and it had taken many key decisions like enhancing the pension, bonus and insurance coverage.
 
Meanwhile, trade union leaders said that they are of the view that the curbs on withdrawal are unnecessary as the quantum involved is just 3.67 percent of the employer's contribution.
 
"It is an unwanted and unnecessary decision. All the trade union representatives in the board of trustees had opposed the move. Even a couple of employer's representatives were in agreement with our views," Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) president and CBT member A.K. Padmanabhan told IANS.
 
According to him, it is a confusion created by the bureaucracy and there is no rationale for restricting the withdrawal.
 
"It is after all the employees' money. Now it seems there will be one more notification," added Padmanabhan, alleging that the reduction in PF interest rate, and the budget proposals on taxing the PF corpus at the time of withdrawal are all part of the government's plan to push the people's savings towards the share market.
 
In February, the labour ministry had issued a notification restricting 100 percent withdrawal of provident fund by members unemployed for more than two months. The earlier decision was then deferred till April 30 but as protests persisted, the government has decided to postpone it yet again.
 
The EPFO had also restricted withdrawal of PF to the employee's own contribution and interest earned on that, if the claimant has remained unemployed for more than two months.
 
According to the new norms proposed earlier this year, subscribers are not to be allowed to claim withdrawal of PF after attaining 54 years of age, and would have to wait till 57. Earlier norms allowed contributors or subscribers to claim 90 percent of their accumulations in their PF account at the age of 54 years, and the final claims to be settled just one year before their retirement.
 
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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HDFC to divest 10 percent stake in insurance arm
Mumbai : Housing Development Finance Corp (HDFC) on Wednesday said it intends to sell up to 10 percent stake in its life insurance arm by way of an initial public offer when market conditions are favourable.
 
The development financial institution held a 61.3 percent stake in the non-listed HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company as on March 31, and said in a regulatory filing with the bourses that it intended to retain it as a subsidiary after the public offer.
 
For the financial year ended March 31, HDFC Life had a gross premium income of Rs.16,313 crore and a total income of Rs.17,954 crore. The profit-after-tax was Rs.818 crore, while the net worth was reported at Rs.3,150 crore.
 
The announcement on divestment was made just before the opening bell at Indian bourses on Wednesday. The shares of the company rose Rs.20.75 or 1.84 percent at Rs.1,148.05, within minutes after trading started on the BSE.
 
HDFC Life is a joint venture between the Indian financial institution and Standard Life, a global long-term investment savings player with headquarters at Edinburgh in Britain, that had a revenue of nearly $13 billion in 2015.
 
Earlier this year, HDFC had concluded the sale of another 9 percent stake in HDFC Life to Standard Life for around Rs.1,700 crore, to take the British company's holding to 35 percent from the earlier 26 percent.
 
This had valued HDFC Life at around Rs.18,500 crore. The group now hopes for a valuation of around Rs.22,500 crore during the public offer.
 
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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