Trai, in its draft guidelines on unified licences, has proposed a fee of Rs20 crore for a national-level unified licence under the new regime
Telecom regulator Trai will give the recommendations on spectrum auction before 15 April 2012, its chairman J S Sarma said.
“We should be able to give recommendation on this (auction of spectrum) before 15 April 2012,” Sarma told reporters here.
The recommendations are expected to give guidance on key issues including base price of spectrum, amount of spectrum that should be allocated to a bidder and eligible participants.
On the Unified Licensing regime, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman said recommendations for it should be submitted by next week.
“I think by next week, we should be giving out recommendations for Unified Licence,” Sarma said.
In the recommendations, Trai is expected to give out detailed guidelines on unified licences that will be issued to all telecom companies in future and will be delinked from spectrum.
Trai, in its draft guidelines on unified licences, has proposed a fee of Rs20 crore for a national-level unified licence under the new regime.
Under the new regime, it is proposed that there would be only four types of licences as against many across the communications sector at present.
Trai had issued consultation paper on 'Auction of Spectrum' on 7 March 2012.
The regulator in this paper had sought industry views on a host of topics like the amount of spectrum to be auctioned, liberalisation and refarming of spectrum in 800/900 MHz bands, structure of auction and eligibility criteria for participation. Spectrum block size, reserve price, roll-out obligations, spectrum usage charges and trading were the other issues.
The consultation paper showed 60 Mhz and 413.6 Mhz of spectrum will be vacated in 800 Mhz and 1800 Mhz spectrum bands respectively, from the cancellation of 122 2G licences ordered by the Supreme Court in February.
In the consultation paper issued, Trai has put forward various models that can be used for auction.
Similarly, for deciding minimum value for spectrum to start auction, Trai has not specifically indicated price but has asked for a model that should be used for determining the base price.
While industry average growth in November-March was 0.66%, TAFE clocked an average growth of 28.58% during the same period, a TAFE statement said
Beating the industry trend, world’s third largest tractor manufacturer, Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd (TAFE), reported 30.4% growth from Rs6,149 crore in 2010—11 to Rs8,020 crore in consolidated revenues for the financial year ended 31 March 2012.
Overall tractor sales increased sharply by 26.6% at 1,48,112 tractors, as against an estimated industry sale of 6,07,213 tractors and an industry growth of 11.4% for the year. While industry average growth in November-March was 0.66%, TAFE clocked an average growth of 28.58% during the same period, a company statement said.
Announcing these results, Ms Mallika Srinivasan, chairman and CEO, TAFE, said, “We are happy that our focus on product development and expansion of our product portfolio has paid off. Our investments in product and process technologies, improvements to our product mix supported by extensive field effort helped us meet the demands of our discerning customers.”
On the export front, TAFE continues to be India’s largest exporter of tractors with 20,396 completely built tractors exported to 73 countries, a growth of 28.2% over the previous year, apart from kits and aggregates exported during the year.
Nowhere else can we travel on an extensive railway system at prices anywhere close to what we have in India. The experience can be richly rewarding on every rail journey. Good luck with rail travel this summer
With the summer holidays fast approaching and prices on air travel shooting through the roof, it is time to look at that old favourite for long distance travel again—Indian Railways. In what some would call its new improved avatar—with more non-stop Durontos, longer Rajdhanis, efficient VFM Garib Raths, restricted stoppage Sampark Krantis and other express trains with more coaches than before, and a wide range of summer specials—trains do provide a better option from a variety of points of view. And not just in terms of cost.
Quite a few railway stations in India are now vastly improved and dare one say—better than some airports. You do can move usually from city centre to city centre, without any of that heavy bother of reaching airports located in remote places hours in advance and then paying huge “user development fees” and “airport charges”. Such are often running into thousands of rupees now. And as for the average speed still hovering around in the 50kmph range for most trains and working up to 75kmph/80kmph for the faster Rajdhanis/Shatabdis. Please remember—there is also a larger social good at work here.
Fact remains—nowhere else in the reasonable world can we travel on an extensive railway system at prices anywhere close to what we achieve in India. That’s the bottomline. Faster trains = much costlier trains. The upwardly mobile middle class, which had become hooked on to low cost airlines, is discovering high airfares with a shock this season and is reportedly returning in droves to trains, for reasons of price. Those who talk about “bullet trains” are often those for whom price has no meaning, largely because within the Indian system they have got used to travelling free.
For the rest of us, many of us, it is back to basics. Trains. Only to discover long waiting lists and an almost impossible state of affairs with last minute tatkal booking. (There can and will be a separate series of articles on the scams in the Passenger Reservation System / PRS)
Fact also remains—many people who travel by train in India ‘manage’ their reservations by one means or the other, especially when advance bookings are totally full and waiting lists are as much or more than the capacity itself. This writer has been on both sides of the fence in this context, but increasingly, is perturbed by the fact that the reservation system at the Indian Railways is heavily manipulated for all sorts of ‘quotas’—some valid, and some totally rotten.
This single aspect makes the experience terrible. So how do we try to make that experience better, is the point of this article, especially for those who haven’t used a long distance train in a while.
(Writer’s note and disclosure—I have had a love affair with trains since childhood. At this age, nothing gives me more joy than spending some portion of a journey in the general unreserved compartment, while true value for money is achieved on a window side lower berth in the ordinary sleeper (non air-conditioned class) of a long distance train. That is not to say I do not enjoy 1st AC either, and that I am not averse to tipping a sanitation worker to sanitise the toilet before I use it, but read on...)
# Obviously, the best way to go about things is to plan well in advance, and manage your bookings 120 days ahead. However, this is not feasible for everybody, and on some routes, advance bookings run out on trains within minutes of the train opening up for reservations on your date and route. Typically, Hyderabad-Kolkata, Delhi-Mangalore, Mumbai-Allahabad, Bangalore-Cochin, even Delhi-Mumbai, and many other routes, are routes where reservations in most classes and trains vanish in minutes.
# Keep an eye open for the summer specials, especially the ones announced at the last minute, which is easier said than done. Typically, these will be small announcements in the media and almost invisible advertisements in some corner, so here the Internet is your best bet. Some good links are:
Indian Railways Summer Special Trains
Indian Rail Info
Each of these websites is ‘dynamic’ and keep you updated in real time, and maybe some day soon the webmasters and authorities will set up automatic email alerts generated to keep people in the loop.
# Don’t lose heart with long waiting lists in Sleeper and AC 3 Tier class, especially for reservation in trains that have a large number of Sleeper and AC 3 Tier coaches. Multiple bookings are quite common, and the waiting lists usually start evaporating 2-3 days ahead of travel date, as people start cancelling tickets to avoid higher penalties. The same is not true in AC 2 Tier and 1AC, because there are a very limited number of these coaches, and much of their capacity goes in ‘quotas’. Frankly, with the roll-back in fares, AC-3 Tier on super-fast and non-stop or restricted stop trains like the Durontos, Rajdhanis, Sampark Krantis and Garib Raths, make a lot of sense.
# Assuming now that you are on a huge waiting list 120 or lesser days in advance. Use the RTI Act of India, 2005, to ask for information on the booking position on your specific train, as well as information on seats/berths held back for ‘quotas’. Address this RTI to the CPIO at the Railway Board in Delhi. This will bring your train under observation of the Railway Board, it will spook the zone under which the train runs, and there are good chances that all the hanky-panky will vanish, while the villains who mess with the bookings will leave that train alone.
Tip: If you are concerned, then run the RTI Application in somebody else’s name. The addresses are:
The CPIO under RTI Act of India or incumbent thereof,
Railway Board, New Delhi,
DD (PG) & CPIO (Registration & Coordination)
Room # 05, RTI Cell / Rail Bhavan, New Delhi -110001
email addresses are:- email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
# Lower berths in 2AC and 1AC are another huge racket with the Indian Railways. Most, if not all of them, are held back by them in the name of HOR (Higher Officer requisition) or VIP quotas. Sometimes, the upper berths in 1AC are not even ‘released’ to paying passengers, because HORs/VIPs are occupying the lower berths. The Railways try to hide this data. This is the subject of another rather complicated RTI application by this writer, a copy of which can be seen by clicking here.
# Now that you’ve hopefully acquired a confirmed reservation, standard conditions of travel anywhere in the world apply, including all common sense and logical precautions. The advent of almost seamless voice and data communications en route, the proliferation of digital photography, and an experience which can be richly rewarding await you on every rail journey. Yes, often the environs can become crowded, but hey—the other people need to travel too and with a wee bit of the passage of time, everybody ‘adjusts’.
Certainly, try and avoid the ‘older’ trains which have had stops added to their schedule over the years for political reasons, or trains which pass through areas with schedules where commuter and student traffic will also board the train. If you are stuck on such a train, then keep your head down, and don't mess with the locals. They are on the same train same route every day.
Likewise, there are more variants on rackets and con games on trains now than there were in years gone past, and they have the benefit of modern technology too. Travel light, and please don’t carry your family fortunes with you, simple. Food is another issue, and at the end of the day, home-cooked and preserved vegetarian fare is still the best—along with a ‘surahi’ of water.
End game: We can either sit and crib about the state of affairs, including that with the Indian Railways, or we can try to do something about it. It is not for nothing that some dry wit in the Indian Railways nick-named the quota ‘HOR’ a long time ago (evolved from HO quota, by the way). It is also not for nothing that friends of mine who are or have been in the Indian Railways helped me with this article, as they are themselves fed up with this VIP/HOR business, very often they are left with no time for anything else—and let more of us try to imagine what it does to their self-esteem and self-respect as well as dignity.
Good luck with rail travel this summer. And subsequently too. Because nothing is more fun than off-season travel on a good train pelting through this wonderful country of ours.
PS: MoneyLife Foundation is organising a seminar, Country, Before Party and Self, featuring former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi in Mumbai on 16th April. He will speak on why his budget was important for the Railways and the consequence of coalition politics where key ministries are distributed like fiefs to political allies.
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing.)