Making the railways more efficient

The Indian Railways is at the crossroads. It has a network of 63,465 route km employing 16 lakh people. Its finances were in bad shape for many years, but had a sudden turnaround during the last two years. Its net revenue earnings rose from Rs 4,478 crore in 2003-04 to Rs 8,000 crore in 2005-06. However, this financial turnaround is not the end of the story of the ailments the railways has been suffering from for over three decades. It is confronted with many issues ó capacity building, track replacement, doubling and electrification (the present pace is 150 km an year), modern signalling system, safety, maintenance and hygiene.

Over the years, the railways has lost the freight and passenger traffic by 40 and 20 per cent respectively. It can bring around a corresponding turnaround in the national economy if it is able to improve the ratio to 60 per cent and 70 per cent respectively. This is because goods traffic on rail rather than by road saves oil consumption to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore a year and equivalent savings in foreign exchange.

There is need to improve the functional efficiency in the railways. It should shed flab to infuse greater vigour and efficiency into the system.



Night train to Delhi

The people of Amritsar thank Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav for having introduced the Jan Shatabdi Express from Amritsar to Hardwar. We request him to fulfil our long-standing demand for a late night train between Amritsar and Delhi. The train can be planned on the pattern of the Shramshakti Express between Delhi and Kanpur. The trains from both sides could leave at 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. respectively.

The present train timings donít help us catch early morning flights as also late evening flights from metros to Delhi. The proposed late night train will help passengers reach home on time, avoiding overnight stay at Delhi.

Dr VIMAL K. SIKRI, Principal, Govt Dental College and Hospital, Amritsar

PPF deposit

Till the financial year 2005-06 (Assessment year 2006-07), Rs 70,000 was the savings limit on which the income-tax rebate was admissible. For 2006-07, it is Rs 1 lakh.

The government should also raise the limit of deposit in PPF from Rs 70,000 to Rs 1 lakh. This will save the people from the burden of purchasing NSCs which would involve additional paperwork and record maintenance. NSCs are available only in denominations of up to Rs 10,000.

D.K. AGGARWAL, Phagwara

Undo the wrong

By not including a representative of the armed forces in the Sixth Pay Commission, the Centre has once again failed to protect the interests of the armed forces.

It is against the provision of Article 14 of the Constitution that an employee who is retired at the age of 40 years is clubbed with those employees who retire at the age of 58-60 years, for qualifying service to earn full pension, that is 33 years.

In all, 70 per cent of the armed forces personnel retire at the age of 40 years. The Supreme Court, in its judgement (AIR-1988-2125) in Raghu Nandanlal Chaudhary and other petitioners (who retired at the age of 55 years) versus Union of India, ruled that the qualifying service to earn full pension should be 30 years for those retiring at the age of 55 years.

The Centre should have notionally fixed the limit of qualifying service for those retiring before 58 years. But sadly systematic and willful injustice is being done to the armed forces personnel in pension benefits. It is time the Centre removed the glaring anomaly in the fixation of qualifying service to earn full pension for the armed forces.

Major NARINDER SINGH JALLO (retd), Mohali

Unclean trains

The newly introduced Amritsar-Hardwar Jan Shatabdi Express reaches Hardwar at 1.55 pm and returns at 2.35 pm, leaving no time for the train to be cleaned up. Owing to non-availability of spare coaches, the same unclean trains, soon after reaching their destination, are again pressed into service as a general routine these days, much to the passengersí discomfort.

The introduction of hundreds of new trains by different railway ministers, in competitive populism, without a matching induction of new coaches has led to this practice.

I am sure, there must be a way out. Will Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is being lauded for a turnaround in the railways, pay his attention to the cleanliness of the trains as well?

Wg-Cdr C.L. SEHGAL (retd), Jalandhar

Criteria for SEZs

Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are welcome, but these should not be established at the cost of the farmers and their fertile land. Poor Peters are always robbed to pay rich Pauls. This has to be stopped.

Unfortunately, the government is always in favour of the affluent. We will make real progress only when the government acts in the interest of the poor and common people.

For setting up SEZs, the land must be purchased directly from the owner. Food production should not suffer. Industrialisation should not be done on the fertile land. There is plenty of barren land in our country which can be utilised for establishing SEZs and big industries. The government should provide the necessary infrastructure for setting up SEZs.

We should not follow other countries blindly. Conditions prevailing in our country should be kept in view.




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