PM Narendra Modi should urgently consider a significant roll back in rail fare hike, especially the over 150% hike in monthly season ticket or pass, says the letter sent by Moneylife Foundation, Samir Zaveri Railway Helpline and Coalition for Safe Rail Travel
Moneylife Foundation, the Samir Zaveri Railway Helpline and the Coalition for Safe Rail Travel urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to roll back the highly unreasonable hike in suburban train fares and season tickets (monthly pass).
Sucheta Dalal, Founder-Trustee of Moneylife Foundation, in a letter sent to the PM, said, "While we support the need for taking tough decisions and understand that a lot of corrective measures are required to bring the economy back on track, I am sure you will agree that a 100%-153% hike is unfair and hard to deal with when inflation is also very high. The fare hike will cause enormous hardship to over 75 lakh Mumbaikars, for whom the suburban railway network is a lifeline."
"Sir, I would like to add that the cost of a railway monthly pass is not the only daily commuting expense for most Mumbaikars. A large section of people have to spend on buses or auto-rickshaws to reach their homes or offices even after getting off from trains. Auto fares are also due to be hiked even though there is no effort in the past decades to provide decent connectivity from train stations."
"It is hard to believe that this extraordinary hike has been done with full thought and understanding of the Mumbai situation. We urge you to consider a significant roll back urgently," Ms Dalal said in the letter sent on behalf of over 30,100 members of Moneylife Foundation and thousands of railway activists and daily commuters from Mumbai.
Her letter added that, "We have a lot of expectations from your government and urge you to re-consider such a drastic step. There are other revenue options available. Ever since the 1990s, there have been many suggestions to raise funds through the exploitation of valuable space at the railway stations. This would be an opportunity to modernise stations and also provide commuter facilities such as restaurants, shopping and even decent paid toilets. None of this has happened -- instead illegal hawkers crowd run-down over-bridges while corrupt railway officials and police collect bribes."
"We don't even have ambulances and proper medical facilities for the 25 odd people who meet with railway accidents everyday. Another avenue to raise funds would be to create paid parking towers near stations, at least in the distant suburbs, to provide better connectivity. Surely, these ideas can be revived to raise funds to make life easier for the Mumbai commuter, rather than burden them further with higher fares. We would be happy to provide any cooperation that is sought from our groups," the letter noted.
Last week, Indian Railways decided to hike passenger fares by 14.2% and freight rates by 6.5% from 25th June. Second Class monthly season ticket (MST) fares of suburban and non-suburban would be charged on the basis of 30 single journeys instead of approximately 15 single journeys. Fares of First Class monthly season tickets will be charged at four times the Second Class MST fares as is done presently. Revised fare are also applicable as per the existing method of computation on quarterly season tickets (QST), half yearly season tickets (HST) and yearly season tickets (YST), the Railway Ministry had said in the release.
Hitisha Jain writes about an NGO that invests in multi-dimensional rural development
Forty-two years ago, the late Dr Achyut Shankar Apte, late Father Matthew Laderle and Meenaxi Apte embarked on a project for the development of rural communities. They realised that this would require attention to every aspect of their lives—agriculture, animal husbandry, livelihoods, education, health and family welfare. This required working in close cooperation with the rural folks and they began their work at Phulgaon (Maharashtra), 30km from Pune. They set up the Investment In Man Trust (IIMT) which has grown steadily to expand its reach to eight villages near Pune. The work is carried forward by chairperson Asha Sheth, trustee Sudhakar Marathe and other members.
IIMT’s objective is economic regeneration and welfare in rural India jointly with organisations that share similar objectives. It provides education through baalwaadis to children with special needs as well as deserted children. Since 1972, IIMT has been running baalwaadis without any government support; these now number 20. These focus on nutrition and teaching children through play.
While baalwaadis are for children below six years of age, IIMT works with children of all ages. “At present 650 children are provided with primary and secondary education. We are looking forward to start English medium classes. Seeing the growing demand from the parents, these classes will have nominal fees,” says trustee Sudhakar Marathe. To ensure quality education, IIMT conducts teacher’s training periodically.
Balgruh provides shelter to deserted children for which IIMT has four houses each protecting eight children under the care of ‘house mother’. This activity is in collaboration with SOS Children’s Village Movement. Children entering at the age of five continue to live there up to the age of 21. Girls are allowed to stay even after 21. Marriages are arranged at appropriate age.
Children attend the local school till 10th standard and move to Pune for higher education where they stay with the ‘house mothers’. So far, 73 children have completed their education and are independent. Over 50 are married and well-settled in life.
Ishwari Training Centre trains physically handicapped women in livelihoods and crafts. “By the end of the training, women can become self-reliant. This programme commenced in 1990, which includes theory and hands-on training in making handicrafts, embroidery, tailoring, bakery products. It is a ‘learn and earn’ process”, Mr Marathe pointed out.
Aanganwaadi Worker’s Training is being conducted, since 1983, on behalf of Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), New Delhi, and Maharashtra State Council for Child Welfare (MSCCW), Mumbai. The Aanganwaadi workers employed in Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) are provided one-month training along with refresher courses. Mr Marathe said, “The main objective is to train Aanganwaadi workers in topics like objectives of ICDS, health & nutrition, early childhood care & education, community participation, information, communication & education.” The expenses are borne by ICCW and MSCCW. IIMT has trained 5,000 aanganwaadi workers so far.
The organisation realises the need for higher education in rural areas as IT industry is growing around Pune. IIMT is planning to start a college for girls with facilities of residential hostels. Along with higher university courses, IIMT is planning to develop short-term training programmes required for employment with large industries and medical services in and around the city.
IIMT’s future plans include setting up rural camps with proper accommodation and toilet facilities. Donations to IIMT are exempt under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act. IIMT also welcomes donations in kind such as toys, computers, clothes, food, etc.
Investment In Man Trust (IIMT)
4th Floor, FP No. 588A
Below Parvati Overbridge, Parvati
Pune 411030, Maharashtra.
Email: [email protected]
Perhaps the real reason why China, and India have so far not produced top ranked, or any ranked football teams is because of their size. Football is not necessarily part of the cultural mainstream in both countries and at present they both have the luxury to insulate themselves from the world’s culture
Last week with hundreds of millions of my fellow humans, I watched a match of the football World Cup final rounds. There are teams representing 32 countries in these rounds: I watched the rout by Croatia over Cameroon 4-0. Croatia?
What is a country that has a bit over 4 million people doing in the World Cup? Not only Croatia, but its neighbor Bosnia and Herzegovina with a slightly smaller population is also there. How can these tiny countries compete against giants like Brazil and Mexico? How did Croatia manage to field a team that thrashed a team from a country five-times its size?
Why is one of the leading athletic powerhouses, the US, ranked 14th behind countries like Belgium and Uruguay? More to the point why aren’t the two largest countries on the planet China and India not even represented? They rank 103rd and 154th respectively. Yet Shanghai and Mumbai alone both have more people than either Belgium or Uruguay.
There is a joke in China. The Buddha tells the people he can fulfill only one of their wishes. Someone asks: “Could you lower the price of property in China so that people can afford it?” Seeing the Buddha frown in silence, the person makes another wish: “Could you make the Chinese football team qualify for a World Cup?” After a long sigh, the Buddha says: “Let's talk about property prices.”
Lord Buddha may have started to grant the first wish, but the second is still elusive. This is quite odd. Both Chinese fans and their leaders love the game. Mao Zedong played keeper. Deng Xiaoping was a life long football fanatic. China’s present leader, Xi Jinping, has three wishes. He wishes that China will first qualify for the World Cup, host a World Cup, and finally win a World Cup. Despite this high level support, Chinese football has never come close to its promise.
Since its beginnings Chinese football has been exceptionally corrupt. It started out as teams sponsored by unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of state owned enterprises. Starting in 1994 during the early reforms it attracted more investment corporate sponsorships and these generated higher salaries. But the rot started early.
Investors started to fix matches as favors for local officials. They were called “favour”, “relationship” or “tacit” matches. Then the gambling syndicates and triads moved in and began excreting influence over players, coaches, referees and even the investors.
By the early 2000, the morals of the game were so bad that sponsors began to avoid it. No one was caught because the state organization, the Chinese Football Association, responsible for investigating and punishing misdeeds was the one involved in fixing games.
As investors and sponsors withdrew, the economic growth of China increased the level of betting. So players with less pay had larger incentives to throw games. This went on until an investigation started in Singapore in 2009 led back to China. This resulted in a scandal that couldn’t be hidden. So over 20 people were arrested and punished including Nan Yong, then boss of the Chinese Football Association.
Recently Chinese football has improved thanks to money from developers. Owners of 13 of the 16 clubs in the Chinese Super League are either developers or have big property interests. The developers have poured money into their teams increasing salaries. This lowers the incentives for players to take bribes. They have also hired former stars to raise standard. One, Evergrande, the owner of the Guangzhou club, has even built a enormous football academy with 2500 students and 50 football pitches.
Corruption is a real problem in China, but the real issue is the failure to encourage children to play the game. Between 1990 and 2000 more than 600,000 teenagers played the sport. By 2011 that number had fallen to little more than 100,000. The reasons for lack of young players are varied.
Some commentators cite the preference of Chinese parents for education rather than sport as a way to advance. To an extent this is true. Often the best players are from poor backgrounds. Professional football players start at age 13. In most of the world it is a working class game. Without a large pool of potential players, China has developed a few stars, but not the depth. Players get better because the guy on the bench is almost as good.
In India at least the clubs are looking for the poorest. The Pune club busses in orphans and slum kids to watch the games. They are a welcome addition to the few thousand paying fans. However, despite having 131 million fans of international football, it will be hard for the clubs to outdo the national obsession with cricket.
The US has a different obsession, American football. In February ,the country comes to a stop as 111 million Americans sit down on a Sunday to watch the championship game, known as the Super Bowl. In contrast, only 24.3 million Americans watched the 2010 World Cup a record, but a small fraction of the billion viewers worldwide.
It is common wisdom that the US is not a football powerhouse. This is incorrect. Actually it is, just not men’s football. Its women’s team is ranked number 1. In the past six World Cups, the women’s team has won it twice and has never been out of the top three.
Demography is what is really changing American Football. Originally a middle class sport, it has changed as the result of a 43% rise in Hispanics. Many of these Americans are from such football mad countries as Mexico and Central America. This fast growing market is the target of just about every US business, which has brought the dollars to the game. The result is that top league, Major League Soccer (football to you), has an average attendance of 18,600 per game ahead of both the Basketball and Ice Hockey Leagues. Where attendance and advertisers go, television is not far behind.
But perhaps the real reason why China, and India have so far not produced top ranked, (or any ranked) teams is because of their size. Football is not necessarily part of the cultural mainstream in both countries. It is adopted because small countries have little choice but to be aware of the world. They do not have the luxury to insulate themselves from the world’s culture. Globalisation intrudes from the foods they eat to the television they watch. In time this will change even in giants like India and China, but perhaps not for at least another World Cup.
(William Gamble is president of Emerging Market Strategies. An international lawyer and economist, he developed his theories beginning with his first-hand experience and business dealings in the Russia starting in 1993. Mr Gamble holds two graduate law degrees. He was educated at Institute D'Etudes Politique, Trinity College, University of Miami School of Law, and University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business Administration. He was a member of the bar in three states, over four different federal courts and speaks four languages.)