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Mumbai needs separate corporation to address railway issues
Over the years, Mumbai city not only discarded Rail stations, but also some of the transport systems and ways. Had we maintained and upgraded these transport modes, Mumbai would have been a different city today, says Rajendra B Aklekar, journalist and author of ‘Halt Station India’
 
It has been a romantic journey of almost 162 years on the Indian Railways and during all these years, we have seen so many changes that sometimes are beyond our imagination. Today, we have metro, monorails making grand entry but Indian Railway will always remain the first, preferred and cheapest choice for the aam admi, says Rajendra B Aklekar. The author and journalist was speaking at Moneylife Foundation on "Romance of the Railways: The changing face of railways and our rich railway history".
 
“Mumbai’s existing infrastructure is saturated. The demand of Mumbai Suburban Rail Network are different from the entire country. Even though, there are two divisions, Central Railway and Western Railway, for everything Mumbai Rail Network requires to approach, take permission from Delhi. This needs to be changed and Mumbai needs a separate, comprehensive local corporation for the region’s railway related needs,” Mr Aklekar said.
 
Several activists, transportation experts supported the idea and proposed to take it with the Railway Minister. 
 
"More than 7.5 million or 75 lakh people travel by Mumbai's local trains. Everyone is in a hurry and no one has time to notice and realize that the line that they travel is the oldest line of the country. It is the ground zero of Indian Railways, from where the lines and the story of the railways in India begun," Mr Aklekar said while explaining why he wrote his book 'Halt Station India'. The book chronicles dramatic expansion of India's original rail network, the arrival of the first train and the subsequent emergence of a pioneering electric line-all in the port city of Bombay.
 
Mr Aklekar, a journalist with Mumbai Mirror, has trained in museology to document Bombay's vanishing relics and helped the railways set up heritage galleries. He has worked on several prestigious projects to conserve the city's ancient structures.
 

In first part of his talk, Mr Aklekar mesmerised the audience with numerable discoveries along the Rail lines over the years. For example, he said, the place at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), erstwhile Victoria Terminus, was known as Phansi Talao some two hundred years ago. "Little did they (terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab and Ismail Khan) knew that they were standing at a place exactly where more than 200 years ago, there was a water tank where criminals and murderers were publicly rallied, tortured and hanged to death. It had several odd machines - one that threw cow dung on criminals, a rotating cage that kept spinning to punish criminals. The place popularly called Phansi Talao ceased to exist in 1860 when the Bombay governor shut the open gallows and shifted it to Dongri," Mr Aklekar said.
Bhavesh Patel with Sampat Shetty
Talking about the development of Railways, which also saw some stations being discarded, the author said, "Historically, we have had means of transport that could have been of immense help now. The railway lines went all the way to Colaba and Ballard Pier, there was a Chembur to Andheri railway line that passed through Kurla, Kalina in place for east west connectivity and trams. All these modes of transport were discontinued as we opened up more and more land for development."
 
Colaba station opened in 1873 was shut in 1930 during the Backbay reclamation project. The two-platform station at Ballard Pier used to ply two famous trains, Punjab Limited and the Frontier Mail to Karachi. However, it was discontinued in the 1940s as the navy took over the site, Mr Aklekar said. 
 
It was the fate of other transportation systems like the Trams as well. Mr Aklekar said, "First proposals for the tram came in 1865 called Bombay Horse Railway Company. However, it did not materialise due to American Civil War. The first section on Tram opened in 1874 between Colaba and Pydhonie. Later in 1926, buses came to Bombay. A survey in 1952 found road transport vehicles increasing and tramway becoming hurdles. On 31 March 1964, the last tram run between Bori Bunder and Dadar after 90 year run." 
 
"Had we maintained and upgraded these transport modes, Mumbai would have been a different city today. Would they have been of real help or not will be debatable, but we would have had established modes of transport in a city,  where we have 15 lakh vehicles today, more than 500 are registered everyday despite limited east west connectivity, Mr Aklekar concluded.
 
 

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82 percent of roads along China border unfinished
In 2006-07, India approved the construction of 73 strategic roads along the Sino-Indian border, but 82 percent of these - scheduled to be ready by 2012 - are unfinished. The new deadline: 2018.
 
Despite ambitious plans, India cannot seem to catch up with China in building infrastructure and militarising the 3,488 km border between the two countries.
 
The roads are part of a quiet but extensive Indian border-strengthening plan, which includes a new army corps of 35,000 (down from 90,000) soldiers, specifically to counter China’s burgeoning conventional forces across the Himalayas, and 14 strategic rail links to deploy troops and supplies.
 
There is little doubt that India is wary of Chinese abilities and intentions, despite recent declarations of peace.
 
“It is not a volatile border. Not a single bullet has been fired for over a quarter of a century now,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an interview with TIME magazine ahead of a visit to China.
 
Modi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also agreed to “resolve outstanding differences” and maintain “peace and tranquillity” but on the border, “transgressions” - as Chinese posturing and troop forays along the unmarked Line of Actual Control (LAC) are called - are common.
 
As many as 1,612 transgressions by Chinese troops inside Indian territory took place between 2010 and August 2014, according to data released by the home ministry.
 
New roads are being built, but progress is slow
 
“While our neighbouring countries can reach the borders within two or three hours, our army takes more than a day to reach there. This is a matter of great concern with regard to our defence preparedness.”
 
This is the observation of a parliamentary committee on defence, alluding to the situation in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
 
No more than 19 of 73 approved roads have been built, according to the report.
 
Delays on 40 roads have pushed deadlines by as far as six years, while construction of two roads has not started. 
 
In Assam, India’s longest bridge, 9.15-km long, will be thrown open later this year. It'll cost Rs.876 crore (nearly $140 million) and is meant to bear the 41.5 tonne T-72 tanks and cut travel time to the Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh, which lies along the LAC.
 
Rail plans are still only plans, while China nears the border
 
India envisages urgently building four rail lines in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir, stretching 1,352 km, to be built collectively by the ministries of railways and defence.
 
While final surveys continue, China is already extending existing rail lines to the border: ToYatung, a trade centre close to Sikkim, and Nyingchi, a small town bordering Arunachal Pradesh. Both projects are expected to be completed by 2020.
 
China recently completed a railway line connecting the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to Shigatze, a town close to Nathu La, a strategic border post connecting Sikkim with the Tibetan Autonomous region.
 
Besides the contentious border, the Sino-Indian border dispute is also fuelled by the Chinese claim to nearly 90,000 sq. km of Arunachal Pradesh, which it refers to as South Tibet, and the Indian claim that China illegally occupied nearly 30,000 sq km of the deserted Aksai Chin region of northern Jammu and Kashmir after the 1962 war.
 
Chinese airfields grow stronger
 
Six key civilian Chinese airfields in Tibet are being expanded to handle military operations,according to Air Marshal M. Matheswaran (retd), former Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff for Policy, Plans and Force Development.
 
Alongside, he said, China is deploying advanced military aircraft and support systems such as air-to-air refuelling capabilities, airborne advance warning systems, sensors, air-defence systems and missile stocks.
 
By contrast, India recently opened three advanced landing grounds (ALGs) in J&K’s Ladakh region at Daulat Beg Oldi, Fuk Che and Nyoma, all close to the LAC.
 
Daulat Beg Oldi is the world’s highest airfield at 16,614 feet. It is about 10 km from the Sino-Indian border and has seen regular landing of heavy transport aircraft.
 
But such landing grounds are not full-fledged air bases. They are landing strips that can be used to drop-off troops and supplies.
 
This is why the Indian Air Force wants to upgrade the Nyoma landing ground by 2016-17 to station fighter jets and provide logistical support to the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Ladakh Scouts, an Indian Army unit.
 
In Arunachal Pradesh, advanced landing grounds are being developed at Tawang, Mechuka, Vijaynagar, Tuting, Passighat, Walong, Ziro and Along, at a cost of Rs.720 crore.
 
Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force has to deploy its frontline Sukhoi SU-30MKI aircraft at Chabua and Tezpur air bases in Assam, up to 405 km from the border. The combat jet can cover this distance in less than 15 minutes.

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COMMENTS

Sandeep Luthra

1 year ago

Don't you think this article has some sensitive information you may not want to share with our dear neighbours

How a Mumbaikar changed a banking law - in 90 days!
A few months ago, a cheque of Rs. 75,000 issued to a Mumbai businessman was repeatedly being returned and he instructed his lawyers to file a case under the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1882.
 
But the businessman, J.P. Vaghani, a partner of J.P. Electronics, a giant consumer electronics distributor in north Mumbai, was aghast at the lawyer's response.
 
"You can no more file the cheque bouncing case in Borivali (suburb) under Section 138 of the Act. It must be filed and fought in Kurla, the location of the bank from where it was dishonoured," advocate Mehul S. Shah advised.
 
This was the starting point of the untiring efforts of 69-year-old Vaghani over the past few months which resulted in a significant amendment to the Act, which got President Pranab Mukherjee's assent vide an ordinance on June 15.
 
"Advocate Shah informed that the new rule was as per a Supreme Court order last year by Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice V. Sen and Justice C. Nagappan. They ordered that a case under Section 138 must be initiated at the place where the branch of the bank on which the cheque was drawn is located," Vaghani told IANS.
 
The bench said: "In this analysis, we hold that the place, situs or venue of judicial inquiry and trial of the offence must logically be restricted to where the drawee bank is located."
 
The judgement became applicable retrospectively - implying that hundreds of thousands of pending cases in various courts around the country would witness inter-state transfers.
 
For Vaghani personally, it meant every time he would have to rush from Borivali to the Kurla court for hearings, seriously affecting his personal and professional life.
 
Moreover, the implications were enormous for the Indian economy, plagued with millions of dud cheque cases every year, he added.
 
Undeterred, Vaghani decided to do something about it and, if possible, get the apex court verdict reversed, but was advised against filing a public suit.
 
Instead, he started researching laws and constitutional literature and various court judgements of dud cheque cases before grabbing the bull by the horns.
 
His son, Rajiv J. Vaghani, explained how his father has been a perpetual crusader for various public causes since four decades and never rests till he gets things set right.
 
"I became aware of the legal complexities. On March 15, I wrote to the law minister of India, referring to last year's judgement, which was tantamount to harassment of the complainants and benefited the accused who issued the dishonoured cheques," Vaghani said.
 
"In such circumstances, if business takes place between Mumbai and Delhi and a Mumbai trader delivers material at Delhi and receives a cheque in Delhi which gets dishonored, then as per recent judgment, the Mumbai trader has to run to Delhi to file a case at the drawee bank's jurisdiction for recovery and again as per the court, dates arise at his own cost leaving all his business at Mumbai," Vaghani's letter stated.
 
He urged the minister to study the reasons behind the court order and initiate steps, including raising the issue in parliament, to revert to the original practice which was operative and undisputed.
 
Vaghani's plea apparently struck the right chord and on April 22, the union cabinet at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared the amendment to the Act clarifying the jurisdictional issues for trying dud cheque cases.
 
"The main amendment is the stipulation that the offence of rejection/return of cheque under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act will be enquired into and tried only by a Court within whose local jurisdiction the bank branch of the payee, where the payee presents the cheque for payment, is situated," the cabinet note said.
 
It added that this would increase the credibility of the cheque as a financial instrument and help traders and commerce in general, allow lending institutions and banks to continue extending finance to the economy without worrying about loan default on account of cheque bouncing.
 
This was not all. Owing to the complexities of passing it through the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, on June 10, the cabinet also decided to promulgate an Ordinance to the effect.
 
The crucial Ordinance was signed and promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee on June 15 - proving a huge victory for Vaghani's efforts.
 
"However, the government has to clarify the status of those cases which have been returned by the courts and the concerned complainant/s did not re-file them till now at the local jurisdiction of the drawee/accused's bank," Vaghani urged.
 
Of course, the ordinance would have to be approved by both houses of parliament within six months of being promulgated.

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COMMENTS

Vaibhav Dhoka

1 year ago

Many a times judicial pronouncements are whimsical and leads to harassment of plaintiff or complainant.Going to courts in India is like getting self inflicted wound.Lawyers usually drag cases too long and thus plaintiff or complainant gets harassed.Judicial practices require review urgently.

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