Citizens' Issues
Turbulence in the air, airlines need to restructure flights

Only two out of all of India's airlines have been able to pay AAI dues on time. The airlines cannot survive with price wars and need to look at overhauling their flight plans and locations


With the continuing fall in international crude prices, the Oil companies have made a steep reduction in air turbine fuel (ATF) by 12.5%, reaching a cost of Rs52.4 per litre now. Flights to many cities in the north, particularly New Delhi, have been out of bounds due to intense fog and flights have been cancelled or delayed to ensure passenger safety.


It may be recalled that fuel pricing was deregulated way back in 2002 and this latest reduction is 6th in a series of cuts to make the operating cost of airlines a little lower than before. In fact, it is estimated, that fuel accounts for 40% to 50% of an airline's operating cost.


Though this is the lowest ATF rate in four years, airlines are not showing signs of reducing fares, because all of them have suffered prolonged cash crunches. Only Jet Airways and IndiGo have been able to meet their commitments, including the prompt payment of dues to Airport Authority of India.


To recap, Kingfisher is out of the running and down since 2012, SpiceJet has had to cancel flights due to "repossession" of the leased Boeing 737s for non-payment of rentals and some carriers have not been paying their airport dues on time.


In fact, the Airport Authority of India (AAI), who started the squeeze on SpiceJet, has now begun warning other airlines such as GoAir to bring their outstanding dues within Bank Guarantee levels. If not, they may be next in line to be put on "cash and carry" category. Such a move may not be applied on Air India, which owes Rs2,000 crore to AAI, all because they are a "government concern."


The only relaxation that was extended to SpiceJet, on government intervention, has been reported as "due to prospects of former promoter, Ajay Singh, showing interest to infuse some additional capital into the ailing airline.” As mentioned above, only Jet Airways and IndiGo have been paying AAI dues on time.


In order to ensure that passengers are not unduly taken for a ride by domestic carriers, the civil aviation ministry thought of fixing a fare cap of Rs20,000 for domestic sectors; for reasons unknown this has been kept in abeyance. But, in the meantime, airlines have increased the fares, as there is no guarantee that the crude oil prices will not fall further down or that, due to geo-political reasons go up north, all too suddenly.


Under these circumstances, it is in the interest of air travellers as well as domestic carriers that they restructure their flights in such a manner that each has a full occupancy and reduce the number of flights for same destinations in a given day so that they do not have too many empty seats to carry.


(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also 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.)


Mumbai's local train services disrupted all morning today

A disruption due to breaking of an overhead wire on the Central Line of Mumbai's suburban railway network led to a major blockage of services today.


The broken wire disrupted services on one of the tracks causing the trains to be diverted onto the fast track which did not have a stop at Diva. This angered many commuters who got down from trains which were already running late and they ended up causing the entire Central Line from Diva to Kalyan.


The rail roko also took a tense turn with some stone pelting, but reports suggested that local politicians had been called in to restore calm.


The scene at Diva station was worse, commuters broke property at the station and the station was in shambles, with broken glass lying everywhere. The police had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse the irate commuters. A police van was also set on fire according to sources. This has left all four of the Central Line tracks disabled.


The mob at Diva had taken to attacking motormen and venting their anger at any railway officials in sight, as a result all the motormen fled the scene leaving the trains stranded.


Commuters on up-country trains heading to CST were also affected and had to eventually walk to a nearby station. A commuter, Anurag Singh from Allahabad got off the stranded Udyognagari Express and was walking along with the sea of people on the tracks, "I need to reach Diva but i have already been walking from Kalyan," he said while resting near Kopar.


In true Mumbaikar fashion, in the middle of the commotion, people had started hawking water and refreshments for a higher than MRP price, while a few metres away local children were giving away free water to tired commuters.


The snaking line of stranded local trains stretched on as commuters walked back to the nearest station to look for alternative transport.


The creaking infrastructure has shown a sign of cracking over the years but Mumbai’s lifeline has held on till now. It is high time the administration took some pro-active measures before matters come to a head.


Is This Man Responsible for the Murders of 5 American Nuns?

In an interview with ProPublica, Christopher Vambo, a former lieutenant to Charles Taylor, acknowledged that the brutal 1992 killings might have happened under his command.


More than 20 years ago, a terrible crime bloodied this suburb of cinderblock homes, dirt-floor stores and lush green bush grass.

Five American nuns were killed when a vicious battle swept through the town during Liberia's civil war. The killers left their bodies burned and broken, rotting in the sun.

The deaths were numerically insignificant in a conflict that by its end in 2003 had left hundreds of thousands of Liberians dead. But the killings crystallized the horror of Liberia's long war for Westerners.

The Catholic Church, the U.S. Embassy and Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission all investigated. All came to a similar conclusion: The killers were soldiers in the army of Charles Taylor, the Liberian warlord convicted by an international court for crimes against humanity.

No killers,  however, have ever been brought to justice. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation eventually launched an investigation. But long delays by the agency and a steadfast reluctance by the Liberian government to prosecute those blamed for atrocities has meant that none of the suspects has ever faced trial, according to an examination by ProPublica and Frontline.

Read Full Story Here


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