Any small incident like signal failure can bring the suburban rail network across Mumbai to a halt. The question, however, is why the Railways do not have any backup system in place?
Just two days ago former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi, while speaking at an event organised by Moneylife Foundation had said that the entire railway system is in mess and there is a urgent need to modernize it so that people can travel safely with some dignity, unlike what every commuter, especially on Mumbai local trains experience every day.
He saw the signs and last night a fire in a signal cabin near Kurla station created huge problems to daily commuters on the Central Railway (CR) network on Wednesday. It took me nearly four hours to reach Dadar from Kalyan, despite travelling in a mail/express instead of suburban rail (local in Mumbai lingo). All through my journey today (what seemed to be endless) I was thinking about the vulnerability of Mumbai rail network, and suddenly realised that I was forewarned by the former rail minister himself.
Mr Trivedi said, “There are no maintenance contracts given by the Railways and they are carrying out even the basic repairs on ad-hoc basis." This is the reason, why you, me and every daily commuter on Mumbai local suffers, whether it is rains or no rains.
And this is what Mr Trivedi has prescribed, sorry, proposed in his Rail Budget. He wanted to modernise the railway network, improve efficiency of its services and therefore proposed a passenger fare hike. "There is dirt on the tracks, the toilet system corrodes the tracks and the Railway Protection Force, many of the times, tries to loot people. But to change all this we need a paradigm shift and I was trying to make a beginning,” he had said.
So what really happened this time? According to the CR officials, there was a midnight fire in a signal cabin near Kurla station which caused heavy damage to signalling gears. The fire was brought under control but there is no quick respite for replacing the damaged gears and cables. It will take the Central Railways more than three days to bring all its services back to normal, they said.
Here please don't consider ‘normal’ as normalcy. For CR, normalcy means all locals running late by 10 to 15 minutes every day and for that they don’t give the damn to the commuters. For example, the 8.43am Kalyan to Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) Fast local is scheduled to reach Dadar station at 9.29am. I am travelling in the same local since the past many years and have never found it reaching Dadar at its designated time. The local always reaches Dadar only after 9.35am and never before. The train runs at normal speed, but the problem is its ‘unofficial’ halts. All local trains on CR passing through Thane are ‘mandatorily’ halted before the station for reasons known only to the Railways.
While coming towards CST, all local trains are halted near the bridge on Thane Creek and while going toward Kalyan all trains are mandated to take a halt near the Kopri Bridge. In fact, with my experience and that of several other fellow commuters, we can say that Thane has become the bottleneck on Central Railway’s suburban network. Unfortunately, nobody wants to address this issue, which can save precious time for commuters as well as the Railways.
Coming back to today's journey, although I had to spend three times more than my regular travel time, it was not that bad because I travelled in a mail and not in local train. Those who travelled in local trains could be seen cursing themselves and were walking on the tracks as the trains were simply not moving.
But again, this brings us to the main question. Has the local rail network in Mumbai so become vulnerable that even a small incident like a signal failure can bring the entire system to a halt?
The midnight fire in a signal cabin near Kurla burnt down signal gears and cables. But then what about the back up? Why is there no backup system in place? Why on earth is the Central Railways running its entire system on a single line of resources?
Every monsoon, there are water-logging incidents on the railway tracks in Mumbai. Every year, both the Railways and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) claim that they had cleaned all the nullahs and cleared all debris from the gutters, on and near the rail tracks. And yet every year, except a few years when BB Modgil was in charge of CR, we witness water-logging on railway tracks, which affects trains services and thus commuters. Mr Modgil, during his tenure as general manager of Central Railway, used to start the monsoon work as early as March and finish it by last week of May. Unfortunately, after his retirement, the Railways and BMC are back at their schedule to carry on monsoon work till the rains arrive and then stop it.
So what can we, the daily commuters and sufferers do? As Mr Trivedi, the former Rail Minister had said, we should insist that the original Rail Budget gets passed in Parliament. "People should meet their Members of Parliament (MPs) and demand that it (the original Rail Budget) should be passed for improving the Railways. You can approach your chief ministers, particularly from Maharashtra and ask him what would happen to the projects that are proposed in the Rail Budget?” Mr Trivedi had said.
I think we need to ensure that the money we spent on our train travel is well used in improving the present infrastructure, improving the quality of travel and the facilities available at all stations of the Indian Railways.
Nifty has to refrain from breaking today’s low to record some more gains
The market opened on a positive note encouraged by the RBI’s rate cut on Tuesday. But the gains tapered off in the second half as the key European indices were in the red. Yesterday we had mentioned that if the Nifty closes above 5,310, it is likely to hit 5,370. Although the index crossed the level of 5,310, it settled 10 points below it. We may now see the benchmark moving sideways with an upward bias. However, for the uptrend to be intact, the Nifty has to hold itself above today’s low of 5,293. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw a volume of 66.44 crore shares.
Extending the gains after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday cut key rates by 50 basis points, the market opened higher this morning. A positive trend in the Asian pack, following overnight gains in the US markets, also supported the investor sentiment back here. The Nifty opened 31 points up at 5,321 and the Sensex resumed trade at 17,447, a gain of 89 points over its previous close. All sectoral indices, led by metals and realty, were in the green in early trade.
The benchmarks hit their intraday highs in initial trade itself with the Nifty going up to 5,342 and the Sensex rising to 17,523. The market came off the highs as consumer inflation for March came in at 9.47% compared to 8.83% in the previous month.
The indices were range-bound in subsequent trade in the absence of any fresh triggers. The benchmarks inched lower in noon trade following a flat opening of the key European indices.
The market slipped further southwards in post-noon trade as the European markets extended their losses in early trade. The domestic indices touched their lows in the last half hour of trade. At the lows, the Nifty went back to 5,293 and the Sensex slipped to 17,372.
The market settled a tad above the lows. The Nifty closed 10 points higher at 5,300 and the Sensex rose 34 points to finish trade at 17,392.
The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was 996:720.
The broader markets outperformed the Sensex today, as the BSE Mid-cap index gained 0.46% and the BSE Small-cap index advanced 0.50%.
The top sectoral gainers were BSE Auto (up 1.52%); BSE Healthcare (up 1.01%); BSE Oil & Gas (up 0.77%); BSE Metal (up 0.75%) and BSE Consumer Durables (up 0.46%). The main losers were BSE Realty (down 0.97%); BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (down 0.53%); BSE Capital Goods (down 0.27%) and BSE Bankex (down 0.10%).
Bajaj Auto, Tata Motors (up 2.70% each); Sun Pharma (up 2.52%); Tata Power (up 2.30%) and Hindalco Industries (up 2.15%) were the top Sensex gainers. The losers were led by DLF (down 2.05%); ITC (down 1.79%); Larsen & Toubro (down 0.95%); BHEL (down 0.82%) and Coal India (down 0.60%).
ACC (up 4%); Tata Power (up 2.88%); Cairn India (up 2.85%); HCL Technologies (up 2.80%) and Ambuja Cement (up 2.69%) settled higher on the Nifty. The laggards were DLF (down 2.46%); Reliance Communications (down 2.42%); IDFC (down 1.87%); Axis Bank (down 1.72%) and ITC (down 1.54%).
Markets in Asia settled higher on higher demand for Spanish government bonds, better-than-expected US corporate earnings and IMF’s global forecast supported investor confidence. Raising its growth forecast for the global economy, the IMF said the world economy will expand 3.5% this year compared with a January projection of 3.3%.
The Shanghai Composite surged 1.96%; the Hang Seng climbed 1.06%; the Jakarta Composite gained 0.21%; the KLSE Composite rose 0.17%; the Nikkei 225 jumped 2.14%; the Straits Times advanced 0.47%; the Seoul Composite surged 0.97% and the Taiwan Weighted settled 0.25% higher. At the time of writing, the key European indices were mostly lower and the US stock futures were mixed.
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of shares totalling Rs441.15 crore on Tuesday. On the other hand, domestic institutional investors pulled out Rs213.21 crore from the equities segment.
Turnkey engineering major Punj Lloyd has bagged a contract from Horizon Terminals, an Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) subsidiary, to build a bulk oil terminal. The terminal inside the Jebel Ali Free Zone, along with a 60 km jet fuel pipeline to the Dubai International Airport, will have state-of-the-art oil terminal facilities with storage tanks capacity of 141,000 cubic metres. The stock closed 0.96% lower at Rs56.65 on the NSE.
Simbhaoli Sugars is setting up a 1,000 tonnes per day sugar refinery in a joint venture with global agri-business group EDF & Man Holdings near the Kandla Port. The 50:50 joint venture—Uniworld Sugars Pvt Ltd—will invest Rs 235 crore in the refinery project. Simbhaoli Sugars settled 0.34% lower at Rs29.30 on the NSE.
IDBI Bank has cut deposit rates by 10-50 basis points across various maturities, becoming the first lender to cut rates following the RBI 50 basis point rate cut on Tuesday. It has also reduced lending rate benchmarks—base rate and benchmark private lending rate—by 25 basis points. Following the rate cut, the new base rate is 10.5% and the BPLR is 15%. The stock declined 1.79% to close at Rs107.05 on the NSE.
An analyst with a brokerage firm commented that it would take more cuts and a longer period of time for sentiments to revive because this is one single cut in interest rates, whereas over the last two years the RBI has raised rates 13 times
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may have slashed policy rates by 50 basis points (bps), but that wasn’t enough to lure in homebuyers. “While the rate cut of 50 basis points is definitely a ray of hope, this ray does not dispel the shadows as much as may be initially supposed. It is unlikely that residential property prices will come down because of this rate cut and it is the price of properties that is the decisive factor in residential real estate sales,” says Om Ahuja, CEO-Residential Services at Jones Lang LaSalle India.
Even for those who are hoping for a slight decrease in their EMIs (equated monthly installments) for home loans, it could turn out to be a dampener. “Banks are likely to wait for some time before incorporating the decreased rates,” said a spokesperson of State Bank of India.
Already, banks are stressed because the profit margins have been under pressure; despite offering higher interest on deposits the numbers have not gone up. “In such a situation it will be difficult to lend at a decreased rate,” said an official of HSBC Bank.
For homebuyers, things are not looking brighter. “I wouldn’t bother much if I have to pay Rs1,000 more or less per month when I am paying for a flat worth Rs60 lakh for over 10 years,” said Rahul Sadanand, who has bought a flat near Man Sarovar in Navi Mumbai. He added, “I would rather pay more per month and have the price of the flat reduced.”
To add to his worries, there are experts who believe that the situation is not going to be any different for at least a year. “Construction has stopped because the new Development Control Rules (DCR) has thrown everyone into a tizzy. On the contrary, builders are not willing to sell at a loss and are holding up prices. In such a case, hardly anyone is gaining by a measly cut,” said an analyst with a brokerage firm.
The analyst said that it would take more cuts and a longer period of time for sentiments to revive, because this is one single cut in interest rates whereas over the last two years, the RBI has raised rates 13 times. “And right now, we do not see any more cuts in some time,” he commented. He said that new home loan customers are more likely to enjoy the advantage, while people who are already paying their EMIs may have to continue with their old rates.
However, there seems to be a silver lining. The RBI has asked banks not to levy pre-payment charges on their customers, which may come as a relief.