IRCTC said the agreement with Cox & Kings was terminated due to breach in the agreement and poor occupancy rate of the train whose services were launched at an estimated cost of Rs35 crore
New Delhi: The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by a UK travel company Cox & Kings contesting the decision to terminate a joint venture agreement with the Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) for operating super luxury tourist train 'Maharaja Express', reports PTI.
In its appeal, Cox & Kings challenged the Delhi High Court order upholding the decision of IRCTC to terminate the agreement for operating the train.
A bench of justices Altamas Kabir and J Chelameshwar while declining to interfere with the high court order, however, said the disputing parties were at liberty to approach the Arbitration Tribunal to resolve their disputes.
IRCTC had maintained that the agreement was terminated due to breach in the agreement and poor occupancy rate of the train whose services were launched at an estimated cost of Rs35 crore.
The train launched in 2010 is dubbed as India's equivalent to the Orient Express of Europe, with a passenger capacity of 88, promises to offer an unforgettable ride with kaleidoscopic view of the landscape through its panoramic window and deluxe carriages with contemporary amenities, crisscrossing through Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore, Jaipur, Bikaner, Udaipur, Vadodara and Mumbai.
Cox & Kings had said the termination of the agreement was illegal and claimed that it has invested more than Rs15 crores.
The Delhi High Court had rejected Cox & Kings plea following which it appealed in the apex court.
Dismissing the appeal, the apex court said, "It is no doubt true that the petitioner has invested large sums of money in the project, but that cannot entitle it to pray for and obtain a mandatory order of injunction to operate the train once the lease agreement/arrangement had been terminated.
The court said it was unable to accept the submission that the agreement was akin to a partnership.
"Such submission had been rightly rejected by the Division Bench," Justice Kabir writing the judgement said.
Providing underground Metro in Mumbai makes sense. However, the government should seriously consider introducing BRTS if it is worried about nearly 4,000 fatalities every year on the railway system
Though the Government of Maharashtra (GoMah) through the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) may not acknowledge that there is enough knowledgeable people among the citizens, it seems to be taking some cues from what is being put up in the public domain by some activists. After getting varied feedback from citizens across the society for its 33.5 km Metro Line III which goes through Mantralaya precinct, dense Girgaon areas, upper middle-class Prabhadevi, the business district of BKC, the slums around the airport terminals and the industrial areas of MIDC and SEEPZ and also experiencing stiff resistance by residents and shopkeepers of Bandra-Santacruz stretch and Charkop slums, GoMah has realized that executing infrastructure projects cannot be a cake walk. They seem to have realized that one cannot have one standard for one set of people and another, aggravating norm for others. It has realized, hopefully fully, that democracy has to be reflected on the streets too.
There are near insurmountable problems of putting up the Metro Rail in Mumbai. Let us list them out:
The list can be expanded, no doubt, but recognizing such near insurmountable problems that will make living in Mumbai a curse and to tackle it intelligently, minimizing people’s hardships is what a good government should be doing.
In that direction the step has been take by GoMah through MMRDA by reconsidering the over-ground Metro Route II from Charkop to Mankhurd via Bandra to making it an underground line just as the Colaba-BKC-Airport-SEEPZ Metro Route III has been considered. They have also realized that the Dahisar-Andheri Metro Line IX must also be considered now itself, as that is the need. At no stage can the Metro be above ground for the points enumerated above.
Going underground by itself will not leave city undisturbed if one adopted conventional designs. Access to the stations must be innovatively designed and also should be placed sufficiently deep so that all construction work is done avoiding all utility service lines and by not Cut and Cover Method (CCM) but using Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM).
Frequency of Metro Rail service should be as little as one minute and three coaches per train, thus there could be considerable saving in the costs of underground stations. With coach capacity of 300, at one minute frequency, the service capacity works out to 3 x 300 x 60/1 = 54,000 pphpd (passengers per hour per direction) as against proposed six-coach train at three minute frequency giving a capacity of 6 x 300 x 60/3 = 36,000 pphpd.
At station locations, adjacent buildings must be acquired and access to station platforms must be from these new station buildings and not from footpaths. The persons from whom the buildings would be acquired must be provided for adequately considering what he would have benefited by being in such proximity to the Metro Rail Station. Extra space could then be used for housing some of the Metro Rail personnel and the rest commercially exploited if possible and necessary.
At 20m/day and 300 working days in a year, the number of years the 150 km Metro bore will take 150 x 1000 / 20 / 300 = 25 years. One can deploy four TBMs and the period can be reduced to six years.
Finance will then be the main problem.
Architect Nitin Killawala, one of the petitioners for demanding underground Metro, has presented to MMRDA at the public hearing few months back an alternative to the Line II and Line III by suggesting a route plan. Perhaps the MMRDA did see some sense in that and have begun to rethink. Whichever way it is, if the planners do hold public presentations say every six months rather than reaching only through the media, a lot could be achieved. Planners like Mr Killawala can contribute to the process of planning.
Since the finance problem cannot be sorted out overnight, the project will take time. Therefore an alternative mobility plan must be worked out and quickly implemented. Priority has anyway to be provided to walking and cycling infrastructure —Tokyo has combined cycling and pedestrians pathways and is working wonderfully well—but the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) needs to be also prioritized.
At Rs1,000 crore per km of the underground Metro, the cost could come to Rs1,50,000 crore or if innovative methods utilized it could be brought down to Rs1,00,000 crore. On the other hand even at Rs20 crore/km, a 200 km network of BRTS will cost Rs4,000 Cr only. This can be completed in three to five years.
Thus, if Metro is going to be provided then
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). He is member of the committee constituted by the Bombay High Court for making the Railways, especially the suburban railways system friendly towards Persons with Disability (2011 ). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted at [email protected])
The Wadhwa Committee pointed out that some Rs28,000 crore subsidy annually spent by the government was pocketed by vested interests. Nothing much has been done, except to let the foodgrain rot in the poorly built warehouses!
Everyone is looking up the sky to seek the help of rain gods for the monsoon to arrive. We have repeated assurances from leaders and weather scientists that “it is due anytime now” for the crop-sowing season, and “not to worry too much”. Such vagaries of the rainfall continue to play havoc in India.
In an estimate made by the World Food Programme, almost 25% of the world’s hungry people live in India. Which means some 200 million people or one-fifth of the population are hungry and starving for food and somehow eke out a living.
If statistics are to be believed, most of them unreliable anyway, but still form a basis for facing the reality, millions of tonnes of foodgrain are lost, wasted, damaged and are unfit for human consumption due to a variety of causes.
The PDS (public distribution system) established to ameliorate the living conditions of the poor people living below the poverty line (BPL) is in shambles. A committee appointed by the Supreme Court, headed by former SC judge, justice DP Wadhwa, described the PDS as “inefficient and corrupt”.
The report highlighted that the system was plagued by black marketing and unofficially run by a “vicious cartel of bureaucrats, fair price shop owners and middlemen”. It would be truly interesting to find out how the shop owners are given the ‘license’ to run the “ration shop” as they are popularly called. A detailed study would indicate the political nexus of the vested interests.
The report also pointed out that some Rs28,000 crore subsidy annually spent by the government was pocketed by vested interests and suggested stern action to stem the rot. Nothing much has been done, except to let the foodgrain rot in the poorly built warehouses!
What is really happening? In most production areas, since there are inadequate and poor storage facilities, foodgrain, packed in poor quality sacks, are kept in the open for the rodents to feast, while people starve. Rain or sunshine the grains get damaged, rot and are unfit for consumption. Such criminal wastage goes unreported and unpunished while the poor go hungry and scavenge for food. Every year at least 20% to 30% of the foodgrain produced go waste in this manner.
According to statistics available, there some 492 warehouses in India; two-thirds of the foodgrain are kept in government’s own construction; one-sixth is kept in the open and the remaining in hired facilities. These are neither adequate nor fully suitable and weatherproof to prevent rotting and other types of damages.
Whether the godowns maintained by the FCI (Food Corporation of India) are complying with above essentials is a debateable question.
Recently there was a media and public outcry that instead of letting the foodgrain go waste in this manner, the government must give it away to the poor and the needy. A rough estimate says that one million tonnes of foodgrain would take care of ten million people for the whole year. Petitions were made to the food minister. What happened? Nothing, as usual and somehow, the issue was lost in the maze of other political chaos.
From a bowl in hand and seeking food under the PL-480 Programme India has come a long way, to become a net exporter. But, are we taking advantage of this progress? No. Apart from letting millions starve, decisions on export are subject to whims and fancies of the government as we have consistently inconsistent policies of banning and allowing exports on the pretext of protecting the “aam aadmi”.
Overseas buyers cannot be subject to uncertainty when they have others ready and willing to offer the same products in competition. Whether it is onion to the Middle East or cotton to China, the importer needs have to be supplies in an assured manner. Our export bans also affect the shipping industry.
It is essential that the Central Warehousing Corporation, set up in 1957 and operating only 469 warehouses, with a storage capacity of some 10 million tonnes should be directed to increase or create additional capacities in production areas; modernize them and also ensure that they have good transportation facilities at their disposal for movement of goods. We need to learn and implement better management systems of control and overcome the current lethargy, inefficiency and eradicate the corrupt practices that are visible.
All these are sad state of affairs; it also makes us wonder if these facilities are covered by insurance of any kind?
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)