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Railways on a rebranding drive

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Some platforms may soon host shaadis

By Sujit Bhar

Indian Railways is on a rebranding drive it says, this process having started from its last financial year. It says it wants to look new, improved. Recent announcements, however, have taken the people by surprise.

Here are two news items that one may find a bit strange.

The first says that railway platforms may soon host wedding receptions. The railways want to rent out platforms at less busy stations for wedding receptions and even other functions. As a test case, the Indian Railways has chosen two “safe” locations, the Surat and Navapur stations, in Gujarat and Maharashtra, respectively.

A proposal to this effect has been sent to the ministry for approval, a report says.

A senior railway official has been quoted as saying: “Surat station is massive, and there are people there who would actually pay to have their wedding receptions or parties on platforms as well. We will propose platform No. 4 for the project as it has two-three booking offices, which is ideal for these kind of functions,” he added.

The second news item shows the capitalist motive within the somewhat socialist objectives of Indian Railways.

It says that the fourth largest railways in the world (after the US, China and Russia) will now be branding not only its trains but also the stations. Technically it is possible that multinational companies such as Pepsi or Coca-Cola could be in the fray, as well as Indian specials such as Reliance or Tata Motors, maybe.

The idea is to keep fares at its current levels (which have, anyway, become less poor-friendly with the introduction of surge pricing), while earning better returns from the branding exercise. Whether such branding exercises would be extended to freight trains is not clear.

The proposal, as reported, is not just for providing ad space. It would be a package, where the “sponsor” would be able to do its branding exercise inside as well.

These were probably necessitated when the railways were slipping into deep deficits, coming out of the once surplus era.

A quick look at its finances – as Railway Minster Suresh Prabhu has admitted in Parliament, the system itself remains unproductive – reveals the following.

The railways’ operating ratio was a sad picture today, explained the minister. He said that for every rupee gained, the railways was spending 92 paise on just operations. This was as steep fall from the days of railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav (2004-2009) when Indian Railways allegedly managed a massive surplus, inviting studies from Ivy League colleges. Yadav was invited to lecture at eight Ivy League schools including Harvard and Wharton.

So what happened suddenly? It seems that there was some number fudging involved, and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had refuted Lalu Prasad Yadav’s claims. The uplift of the railways, said the CAG was more of a “cosmetic exercise,” according to an agency report.

It was somewhat like the case of showing that single crocodile chick over and over again. It was, the CAG had said, a “new practice of issuing a statement of cash and investible surplus”. How did this happen? The CAG pointed out that the claim made by Lalu (in 2004), of a “profit” of Rs 25,000 crore, actually covered this “cash and investible surplus”.

It was just a fudging of the books, in which this was not included in the “net surplus”. Sadly, the so-called “cash surplus” included the money available for paying dividend, contribution to the Depreciation Reserve Fund used for renewal or replacement of existing assets. It also included other funds for investment, the agency reported.

It was a huge fall from grace for the Indian public sector behemoth. Now that the Railway budged is part of the main Union Budget, there will not only be a huge budgetary crutch provided, but also a leeway to escape [public scrutiny.

This branding process should also help.

Last year the railways had announced that 400 ‘A-1’ and ‘A’ category stations “shall be offered to interested parties for redevelopment on ‘as is where is’ basis.”

This is a large number and one has to wait and see how it works out.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

India News

Gujarat Jain couple donate Rs 200 crore wealth, renounce world

The Bhandari couple was accompanied by 35 individuals in February and led a 4 km procession during which they donated all their belongings, from mobile phones to air conditioners.

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A Gujarat-based businessman and his wife have donated their lifetime earnings of Rs 200 crore and have taken the decision to renounce all materialistic desires to become Jain monks. In February this year, Bhavesh Bhandari and his wife donated all their wealth during a ceremony. The Bhandari family, which hails from Himmatnagar, has been in the construction business. The family decided to follow in the footsteps of their 16-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter, who adopted monkhood in 2022.

Bhavesh Bhandari, who belongs to a Jain family, had been a part of construction business in Ahmedabad and Sabarkantha and was accustomed to a life of luxury and prosperity from a young age. The Bhandari couple was accompanied by 35 individuals in February and led a 4 km procession during which they donated all their belongings, from mobile phones to air conditioners. A short video clip from the event shows the couple wearing regal attire on top of a chariot and making donations. Adorned in rich attire and jewellery, they stood atop a truck adorned to resemble a chariot, tossing garments and banknotes to the people standing below,

After the couple made their pledge on April 22 to adopt monkhood, the couple is going to break all familial relations and renounce any material possessions and desires. Afterwards, they will begin a barefoot journey across India and will sustain themselves solely on alms.

According to reports the couple will be allowed to own two white garments, an alms bowl, and a rajoharan, a white broom used by Jain monks to clear insects from an area before sitting — a symbol of the non-violent path which they follow. In a similar incident in January, the 8-year-old daughter of a Gujarati diamond merchant renounced material comforts and worldly desires to embrace monkhood. Devanshi Sanghv had participated in a grand procession with camels, elephants, horses and great fanfare before embracing a life of monkhood.

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India News

Lok Sabha elections 2024: BJP releases 12th list of candidates, Udayanraje Bhonsle to contest from Satara

The BJP on Tuesday released its 12th list of seven candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections

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The 12th list of seven candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, which are scheduled to start on Friday, was announced by the BJP on Tuesday. Among the seven candidates is Chhatrapati Udayanraje Bhosale, the 13th descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who will contest from Satara, Maharashtra, and Abhijit Das Bobby, who represents Diamond Harbour in West Bengal.

The current MP for the Trinamool Congress, Abhishek Banerjee, has been paired against Abhijit Das Bobby, who contested unsuccessfully for the Diamond Harbour seat in the general elections of 2009 and 2014.

Abhishek Banerjee won in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with 40.31 percent of the vote, while Abhijit Das secured 15.92 percent of the vote to finish third. Dr. Abul Hasnat of CPI(M), who received 34.66% of the vote, came in second.

With 7,91,127 votes, the leader of the Trinamool Congress party was able to hold onto the seat in 2019. Nilanjan Roy of the BJP received 4,70,533 votes, while Fuad Halim of the CPI(M) secured third place with 93,941 votes.

The 13th descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Chhatrapati Udayanraje Bhosale, is another prominent figure on the list. He is contesting for the Satara Lok Sabha constituency in Maharashtra as a member of the BJP.

In the 2019 by-election, Bhosale—a former leader of the NCP who joined the BJP in 2022—lost the seat. There has been a back-and-forth in the seat on the Lok Sabha election candidate between the BJP and NCP.

Shashikant Shinde has received his ticket from the NCP (SP).

Shashank Mani Tripathi from Deoria and Thakur Vishwadeep Singh from Firozabad are the final candidates on the BJP’s 12th list.

In Uttar Pradesh, there are two seats.

Meanwhile, Union Minister Som Prakash’s wife Anita Som Prakash, who is a resident of Punjab, will contest for the Hoshiarpur seat in lieu of her husband.

Manjeet Singh Manna Miawind from Khadoor Sahib and Parampal Kaur Sidhu from Bathinda are the other two candidates, both of whom are from Punjab.

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India News

Prime Minister Narendra Modi says RJD is responsible for destroying Bihar, slams Lalu’s party over various corruption cases

The prime minister made a scathing attack at the opposition and said Ghamandia Gathbandhan has no vision or trust. He said when INDIA bloc alliance goes out asking for votes, then they do so on the basis of the work done by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that India and Bihar are moving forward to return to their ancient glory and added the upcoming Lok Sabha elections is an election to take a resolve for developed India and developed Bihar. PM Modi was addressing an election rally in Bihar’s Gaya, where he said that the public support that has gathered on the land of Gaya clearly shows enthusiasm of the people once again for the Modi government.

The prime minister spoke on BJP’s manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and said that it is for the first time that a Sankalp Patra of any party is being called a guarantee card as in the last 10 years, people have seen Modi’s guarantee for fulfillment of a guarantee.

PM Modi said for the next five years, Modi’s guarantee card has been updated. He promised 3 crore houses will be made for the poor, the poor will get free ration for the next 5 years and those above 70 years of age will receive free treatment upto Rs 5 lakhs He said the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi yojana will be continued and all of these are Modi’s guarantees.

The prime minister made a scathing attack at the opposition and said Ghamandia Gathbandhan has no vision or trust. He said when INDIA bloc alliance goes out asking for votes, then they do so on the basis of the work done by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. PM Modi said the people of Bihar know why they try and take credit for the work done by Nitish and the central government.

The prime minister said RJD is responsible for destroying Bihar and slammed Lalu’s party over various corruption cases including land for jobs scam, fodder scam. Speaking about BJP’s manifesto PM Modi said, there is a roadmap for every section and sector of the society.

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