The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Off the Track

Metro muddle

The Calcutta Metro Rail — the country’s first metro— is in trouble. Its revenue earnings this year have been scaled back to Rs 38.59 crore from Rs 43 crore in the last budget. It means the Metro will earn less than it did in 2001-02 at Rs 39.91 crore. In 2003-04, Nitish Kumar sees revenues at Rs 43.38 crore. Will it deliver'


Farm losses because of lack of storage are pegged at 25 per cent. The railways may finally have an answer. The Kapurthala coach factory has developed a refrigerated van, which can be attached to long-distance trains. Andhra fish will never be the same again in Calcutta.


The railways have taken a shine to Ratan Jyot (Jatropha Curcas) plants, signed a pact under which Indian Oil will grow them and sell oil back to the railways. As part of a pilot project, 5 per cent of the bio-diesel will be blended with ordinary diesel to run locomotives. The bio-diesel has been successfully tested on diesel locomotives hauling the prestigious Amritsar-Delhi Shatabdi Express. The fuel was developed at IOC’s R&D centre near Delhi and went through several tests at the Railway Development Centre in Lucknow.

Lilting lullaby

If you’ve felt uplifted by the musical fare on Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, expect more. The railways have decided to extend the facility to Jan Shatabdi trains. But there’s only condition: it will be only instrumental music, appropriate to the season and the time of the day.

Smirk and yawn

Nitish Kumar wore a smirk on his face. He had spiked the Opposition’s guns by doing what everyone thought was the unthinkable: he cut fares and pared freight rates. The impact of this budget-balancing feat will only show up next year. But he the exercise into a quiet affair — there were no major protests or tantrums. Instead, it was marked by boredom, yawns and rows of empty seats.

Miss Mamata

Trinamool Congress leader and former railway minister Mamata Banerjee, who reportedly wanted her old portfolio back, didn’t turn up at all. She wasn’t there last year either. Today, she missed out on the blandishments that Nitish made to her and Bengal, including the Rs 100-crore mega terminal at Chitpur. However, her party colleague Sudip Bandopadhyay was present in the House and applauded when rail projects pertaining to Bengal were announced.

Zone zest

The railways have decided to operationalise seven new zones and eight new divisions. The north-western railway and east central railway based at Jaipur and Hajipur are already up and running. The other five will take off from April 1. The five new zones are east coast at Bhubaneswer, north central at Allahabad, south east central at Bilaspur, west central at Jabalpur and south western at Hubli.

Bribe the scribe'

The BJP is going out of its way to placate journalists. Besides the 50 per cent concession for accredited journalists, scribes will pay 30 per cent on Rajdhani and Shatabdi.

Flying squad

Many see the attempt to give freebies to journos as an attempt by the BJP to influence reporters. An aide of civil aviation minister Shahnawaz Hussein said he would flag this proposal and send it to his boss. “Maybe he would want to do something similar!

Refund respite

Refund against a reserved ticket after the departure of a train can be claimed from any computerised counter three hours after the train reaches its destination. Things are much harder at present.

Copious cops

The RPF Act and the Railway Act will be amended to provide better security to passengers. Over 3,500 constables will join the force in 2003-04.

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