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Interim Rail Budget: Passenger fares, freight rates untouched

NEW DELHI: Passenger fares and freight rates were left untouched on Wednesday in the Interim Rail Budget, which talks about plans about involvement of private sector and FDI as part of efforts to modernise the largest transport network in the country.

Presenting the interim budget for four months in the Lok Sabha, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said an independent Rail Tariff Authority is being set up to rationalise fares and there was a proposal to expand dynamic pricing of tickets in line with the airline industry.

He announced the launch of 17 new premium trains, 39 express trains and ten passenger trains in the coming year and providing rail connectivity to Katra and Vaishnodevi in Jammu and Kashmir, and Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast.

Kharge’s budget speech was cut short because of continued slogan-shouting and unruly behaviour by MPs from Andhra Pradesh, with even four ministers trooping into the Well over the Telangana issue.

The minister also announced starting of more high-speed trains and said the ministry was exploring low-cost option of semi high-speed trains on select routes moving at 160-200 km per hour.

The budget speech did not touch upon passenger fares or freight rates. Kharge later said no hike has been proposed.

Annual Rail Plan has been pegged at Rs 64,305 crore with a budgetary support of Rs 30,223 crore.

Encouraged by the success of a premium AC special train between Delhi and Mumbai, the Railways has decided to run 17 more such trains in busy routes and explore the possibility of running semi-high speed trains between 160-200 kmph to Chandigarh and Agra from here.

The premium train to Mumbai, run to handle the extra rush during Christmas and the New Year, had fetched an increased earning of about 48 per cent as compared to Mumbai Rajdhani, as the fares were charged under dynamic fare mechanism scheme much like that done by airlines.

“Such dynamic pricing was widely appreciated by users and media and gave increased earnings of about 48 per cent as compared to Rajdhani services on the same sector. We are considering operation of this scheme on a larger scale,” Kharge said in his Interim Budget speech 2014-15.

He announced 17 such premium trains from different parts of the country which are considered high density routes.

The minister said there are seasonal and occasion-specific instances when demand for travel by certain train goes up and passengers are prepared on such occasions to pay more to undertake journey.

Most of these train are weekly or biweekly and would run in routes such as Howrah-Pune, Howrah-Mumbai,Kamakhya-Chennai, Mumbai-Patna, Nizamuddin-Madgaon, Sealdah-Jodhpur, Ahmedabad-Delhi Sarai Rohilla and Trivandrum-Bangalore.

Some premium trains have also been introduced to Katra and rail connectivity to the holy town is expected to be commissioned soon.

The minister announced 39 new express trains, 10 passenger trains, four MEMU and three DMU trains.

He also announced a semi-high speed project, with trains running at 160-200 kmph on existing routes such as Delhi-Agra and Delhi-Chandigarh.

“Indian railway also intend to explore low cost options for raising speeds to 160-200 km on existing select routes like Delhi-Agra and Delhi-Chandigarh,” he said.

Anticipating healthier economic growth, the Railways has targeted a record Rs 1.6 lakh crore in revenue for the next financial year, while no increase has been proposed in passenger fares and freight rates.

“The Budget Estimates for goods, passenger, other coaching and sundry other earnings have been kept at Rs 1,05,770 crore, Rs 45,255 crore, Rs 4,200 crore and Rs 5,500 crore, respectively, in 2014-15,” Kharge said.

In the current financial year, earnings from freight and passenger services are estimated at Rs 1,31,500 crore.

No increase in passenger fares and freight rates has been proposed in the Interim Rail Budget for 2014-15.

According to the budget document, the Annual Plan for 2014-15 envisages investments of Rs 64,305 crore. The Budget Estimate for 2013-14 was Rs 63,363 crore and the Revised Estimate was Rs 59,359 crore.

Budgetary support from general revenue has been proposed at Rs 30,223 crore, it said.

“Anticipating a healthier growth of economy, the freight traffic target is proposed at 1,101 million tonnes, an increment of 49.7 million tonnes over the current year’s revised target of about 1,052 million tonnes,” the budget document said.

The following are the highlights of the Interim Railway Budget 2014-15, the last of Rail Budget of UPA-II:

Proposal for passenger train up to Katra in Jammu
Dedicated Eastern and Western freight corridors
Railway service to be extended for the benefit of Vaishnodevi pilgrims
Meghalaya set to come on rail map as part of extension of network in the north-eastern states
Premium AC Special train in Delhi-Mumbai sector with shorter advance reservation period and dynamically varying premium over tatkal fare
Railways meet from own resources total additional impact of Rs one lakh crore because of 6th Pay Commission
Independent Rail Tariff Authority set up to advise on fixing of fares and freight, to engage all stakeholders
Seventeen new premium trains, 38 express trains and 10 passenger trains to be launched
Annual Rail Plan envisaged at Rs 64,305 crore with a budgetary support of Rs 30,223 crore
FDI being enabled to foster creation of world-class rail infrastructure; several PPP projects in pipeline
Rail infrastructure by cost sharing with governments of Karnataka, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana
Rail Land Development Authority has raised Rs. 937 crore so far
Operating ratio likely to be 90.8 per cent; Railways will end current year with surplus
Electrification of 4,556 km railway line completed against a target of 4,500 km
Target of doubling gauge was also surpassed: 2,227 km was completed against a target of 2,000 km
The Railways to encourage transportation of milk
Steps to reduce running of empty freight carriages
Bio-toilet facility to be provided in more trains
— PTIBack











Telangana issue derails presentation of Rail Budget

NEW DELHI: The storm over Telangana on Wednesday derailed the presentation of the Interim Rail Budget 2014-15, with Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge being forced to cut short his speech in the Lok Sabha because of turmoil.

With tempers running high on the issue of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, a clash was averted between a supporter and opponent of Telangana due alertness of some leaders.

The Well of the House looked a battle ground on the Telangana issue, with members from Andhra Pradesh cutting across party lines converging there.

In an unprecedented action, four Union Ministers from Seemandhra trooped into the Well demanding a united Andhra Pradesh.

Ministers K.S. Rao, D. Purandeshwari, Chiranjeevi and K. Surya Prakash Reddy were in the Well, while Minister M. Pallam Raju and Kruparani Killi were seen supporting them by standing in their seats.

Alertness of JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress and Jagadambika Pal of Congress helped avert an ugly situation as M. Jagannath (Cong) and N. Sivaprasad (TDP) moved aggressively towards each other.

Jagannath, a supporter of Telangana, was angry over Sivaprasad’s action of tearing some papers, apparently concerning the bill on separate state.

They were, however, not allowed to come closer by alert members.

YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy also joined the protesting Seemandhra MPs in the Well.

This could be perhaps the first occasion when the Railway Minister was forced to lay on the table his budget speech which was taken as read.

The House witnessed further trouble after AIADMK and Trinamool Congress members stormed the Well alleging discrimination against their states, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, respectively.

Turmoil in Parliament over Telangana and other issues has taken a toll on the proceedings ever since the extended Winter Session began on February 5.

Andhra Pradesh has been sharply divided on regional lines on the Telangana issue and the storm has refused to die down in Parliament despite Congress expelling six MPs from Seemandhra on Tuesday, signally its commitment for formation of Telangana.

After witnessing the turmoil in the Lok Sabha, during presentation of the Rail Budget, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told members that his “heart bleeds” to see what is happening in the House.

“It is sad for democracy that such things are happening after all appeals for calm,” he said. — PTIBack










No constitutional amendment required
on Telangana: Law Ministry

NEW DELHI: The Bill to create a separate Telangana does not require a Constitutional amendment and the new state can be carved out by a simple majority in Parliament.

The Law Ministry has told the Lok Sabha Secretariat that the Bill to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh does not require a Constitutional amendment and passage of a simple legislation, as planned, was enough.

In an opinion rendered to the Lok Sabha secretariat on Wednesday morning, the Law Ministry has cited Article 3 and 4 (2) of the Constitution to support its view.

It also told the Lok Sabha Secretariat that a Group of Minister on Telangana has already gone though the issue before recommending to the Union Cabinet to bring a simple legislation to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh.

Article 4 (2) states that “No such law as aforesaid shall be deemed to be an amendment of this Constitution for the purposes of Article 368” which deals with constitutional amendments.

As of now, the Bill does not seek to amend the Constitution.

The Lok Sabha Secretariat had asked the Law Ministry whether a constitutional amendment was required to create the 29th state of the country. A constitutional amendment requires two-third majority.

There was a view in the Lok Sabha secretariat that a constitutional amendment is required to create a Legislative Council in Telangana.

“The officials of the Legislative Department of the Law Ministry were involved in drafting the bill. Had there been a need for a constitutional amendment, they would have pointed it then itself,” a senior government functionary said in New Delhi.

The Telangana Bill is now expected to be introduced only after the House approves the Vote-on-Account, 2013-14, on February 18, just three days before the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha is supposed to conclude.

Earlier, the Rajya Sabha secretariat had flagged the issue that since it was a money bill, it cannot be introduced in the Upper House. — PTIBack











PM’s disapproval of disruptions in Parliament
not fair: Pallam Raju

NEW DELHI: In an open defiance, Union Minister M.M. Pallam Raju on Wednesday questioned the government’s hurry to push the Telangana Bill and said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s disapproval of disruptions in Parliament was not “fair”.

Raju, Minister for Human Resource Development, who hails from Seemandhra region, insisted that the Bill for bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh is “absolute injustice” in the current form and it should not become a reality.

He justified the uproar created by his party colleagues from Seemandhra, including four ministers, who trooped into the Well of Lok Sabha disrupting the presentation of Interim Rail Budget, saying that it is expected of them to put up a “final battle” in Lok Sabha against the proposed division.

“I do not think the comment is fair just to isolate what is happening today. It has been happening in the House. Certainly, I think there has been a failing somewhere,” Raju said.

“It is not just today. It happened in 15th Lok Sabha and it has happened on multiple issues,” the minister said.

He was replying to a question about the disapproval by the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath of four Union ministers from Seemandhra region storming the Well in Lok Sabha along with other members over the Telangana issue.

“My heart bleeds to see what is happening in the House. It is sad for democracy that such things are happening even after all appeals for calm,” the Prime Minister said soon after the ruckus in the Lower House.

Kamal Nath said it is unfortunate and will set a bad precedent for the Lok Sabha in the future.

Defending his colleagues, Raju said the manner in which some issues have been handled has not been right and there is widespread perception that injustice is being done.

“And, therefore, that public pressure translates on to the elected representatives and it is expected of us to put up a final battle in the House,” he said.

Raju said that the Bill should not become a reality in its present form because justice is not being done to two of the badly affected regions — Rayalseema and Seemandhra — and questioned the hurry with which it is being brought in this session, suggesting that the matter can be taken up by the next Lok Sabha as well after the polls.

“There is absolute injustice in the current form of the Bill. I hope that amendments will take place before it is introduced. There is no reason why it should be rushed in this Lok Sabha. It can always be taken up later.

“The process has begun. It is well on its way and I think it would be fair to rectify the defects and the shortcomings and then introduce it,” he said.

The Union minister’s comments are significant coming a day after the expulsions of six Seemandhra MPs from Congress.

The MPs had given a notice of no-confidence motion against the government opposing the decision on Telangana.

The MPs expelled by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi are Sabbam Hari, G.V. Harsha Kumar, V. Arun Kumar, L. Rajagopal, R. Sambasiva Rao and A. Sai Pratap.

The party has sought to give a strong message on the Telangana issue by taking this “unprecedented” step.

Sabbam Hari has threatened self-immolation in Lok Sabha if the government tabled the Telangana Bill.

Another Congress MP Ananta Venkatrami Reddy, who is among the 12 party MPs from Seemandhra who did not sign the notice for no-confidence, said on Tuesday, “We are totally against the Bill for the bifurcation of the state and will vote against it when it comes to the House. We will see that the Bill is defeated.”

There are 25 MPs from the Seemandhra region including 18 from Congress, three from YSR Congress and four from TDP.

Maintaining other Congress MPs from Seemandhra are also opposing the Bill, Reddy said, “But how can we put a no- confidence motion against our own government. One thing is clear that we are totally opposed to the Telangana Bill.”

The issue of the separate state rocked both Houses of Parliament leading to several adjournments.

The government proposes to bring the Telangana Bill in the current session despite a sharp division among political parties, including ruling Congress, over the issue. — PTIBack











IPL auction: Yuvraj bought for 14 cr

BANGALORE: Flamboyant all-rounder Yuvraj Singh was the surprise recipient of a windfall at the IPL players' auction, fetching a record bid of Rs 14 crore from the Royal Challengers Bangalore while Dinesh Karthik also clinched a mind-boggling Rs 12.5 crore purse from Delhi Daredevils on Wednesday.

Both Yuvraj and Karthik, who are not even regular members of the Indian team, triggered stunning bidding wars among the franchises to set a new record in earnings in the cash-rich league. They surpassed the Rs 11.04 crore that was bid on Gautam Gambhir in 2011, the highest till now.

Controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen, whose England career came to an abrupt end after a disastrous Ashes campaign earlier this month, fetched a huge Rs 9 crore purse, bought by Delhi Daredevils, the franchise he played for last season.

Upcoming New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson, who scored the fastest ODI century smashing a 36-ball ton to breach the record set by Shahid Afridi in 1996, expectedly got a decent package of Rs 4.5 crore with the Mumbai Indians though there was strong buzz of him emerging as the highest paid from this auction.

Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson (Rs 6.5 crore, Kings XI Punjab), all-rounder Glenn Maxwell (Rs 6 crore, Kings XI Punjab), Indian opener Murali Vijay (Rs 5 crore, Delhi Daredevils), South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis (Rs 5.5 crore, Kolkata Knight Riders), Robin Uthappa (Rs 5 crore, KKR), West Indian batsman Dwayne Smith (Rs 4.5 crore, Chennai Super Kings), Amit Mishra (Rs 4.25 crore, Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Aaron Finch (Rs 4 crore, SRH) were some of the players who triggered intense bidding in the auction.

"It's a grand affair and every edition IPL has grown bigger. The seventh edition would be no exception, it will be grander and more entertaining for fans and franchises," IPL chairman Ranjib Biswal said before the start of the star-studded auction where Bollywood actors and business tycoons were present.

Actress Preity Zinta, co-owner of Kings XI Punjab, Juhi Chawla, co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, businessman Vijay Mallya, Nita Ambani (Mumbai Indians), cricketers Rahul Dravid (Rajasthan Royals), Anil Kumble (Mumbai Indians) were among the celebrities present at the auction which was beamed live.

Former Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene, former New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor, Australian T20 specialist Cameron White, who captained SRH for a while last season, West Indian Marlon Samuels, pacer Daniel Christian and England batsman Ian Bell surprisingly found no buyers.

Australian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, batsman David Hussey and retired pacer Brett Lee also suffered a similar fate but all the unsold players can come back into auction on Thursday.

Yuvraj, a cancer survivor, fetching such a huge price tag came as a massive surprise since the left-hander is no longer in the ODI team due to poor form though he was picked in the squad for the World Twenty20 Championship in Bangladesh.

"The team is looking stronger with him," said RCB co-owner Vijay Mallya even though he admitted that he ended up paying Rs 4 crore more than what he had planned.

Similar was the case of Karthik, who does not figure in the Indian team, but generated immense interest among the franchises.

At a base price of Rs 2 crore, there was a bidding war between Delhi and Hyderabad for him before KKR also jumped into the fray. But Delhi seemed persistent and in the end, outbid the other two contenders.

The 33-year-old Pietersen was always expected to be a hot pick given that he would be available all through the season post his forced retirement from international cricket.

So it came as no surprise that his name triggered a three-way bidding between CSK, KXIP and Delhi. The player eventually went to Delhi, who exercised the 'Right to Match' provision to grab him being his former employers.

Kallis was taken by KKR through the same provision after initial bidding war between CSK and Delhi.

Veteran Indian opener Virender Sehwag (base price Rs 2 crore), who had been released by Delhi, went to Kings XI Punjab for Rs 3.2 crore. The India discard's name was all set to be hammered in as unsold before Punjab bought his services fending off bids from Mumbai Indians.

Australian all-rounder Steve Smith was bought by Rajasthan Royals for Rs 4 crore while Sri Lankan Thisara Perera went to Kings XI Punjab for Rs 1.6 crore.

Hard-hitting Indian all-rounder Yusuf Pathan was re-bought by KKR for Rs 3.25 crore, South Africa's Quinton de Kock was grabbed by Delhi Daredevils for Rs 3.5 crore.

The name of Anderson, who had a base price of Rs 1 crore, was expected to generate the buzz and it did with Rajasthan Royals and RCB opening the bid. Mumbai Indians took little time in jumping into the fray, followed by the Delhi Daredevils.

Delhi backed out when the Kiwi sensation's price crossed the Rs 4 crore mark. For a while Sunrisers Hyderabad also tried their luck but Nita Ambani's Mumbai were determined to clinch his services.

Uthappa, another player who has not been in the Indian team for long, again managed to get a good deal of Rs 5 crore with KKR. He had gone for Rs 9.6 crore in the 2011 auction.

The Pathan brothers, Yusuf and Irfan, had to be content with a much lower package this time around after a combined collection of approximately Rs 18 crore in the 2011 auction.

While Yusuf got Rs 3.25 crore (KKR), Irfan fetched a deal of Rs 2.4 crore (Sunrisers Hyderabad) this year.

Indian pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Mohammed Shami (Delhi Daredevils) fetched identical bids of Rs 4.25 crore. Varun Aaron went to Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs 2 crore,

The out of form Ishant Sharma, who was yesterday axed from the Asia Cup and the World T20 squad, managed to get a decent package of Rs 2.60 crore from his previous team Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Manoj Tiwary, who has now recovered from a knee surgery, was bought by Delhi Daredevils for Rs 2.80 crore, along with his state skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who fetched a contract of Rs 1.5 crore.

Interestingly, many of the Sri Lankans cricketers went unsold largely because of their unavailability for the entire duration of the IPL 7, which is clashing with their tour of England and Ireland.

The players will sign a one-year contract with their respective franchises, who have the discretion to extend them by two more years.

The salary cap for the IPL fees of the entire squad has been fixed for Rs 60 crore this year which will be increased by five per cent in 2015 and 2016. — PTI









AAP supporters to get 50 pc waiver on pending power bills

NEW DELHI: Rewarding those who had supported them and refused to pay their power bills during AAP's agitation, the Delhi government today decided to give them a 50 per cent relief on their pending bills and also waived the penalty.

A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting of the Delhi Cabinet.

"The Delhi government today decided to give a 50 per cent subsidy to those who did not pay their bills from October, 2012, to April, 2013, (the duration of the agitation) and continued not paying till December.

"Moreover, any penalty on bills would also be waived off," AAP Minister Manish Sisodia told reporters after the meeting.

Just after its formation, AAP had launched a 'Bijli Satyagraha' against "inflated" power bills in the national capital. As part of the campaign, Kejriwal had urged people to refuse to pay their power bills.

Although around 10 lakh people had signed AAP's petition against power distribution companies during the agitation, only 24,000-odd consumers actually stopped paying their bills.

The decision will thus benefit these 24,000 people as the Delhi government foots a Rs 6 crore bill on their behalf.

Keeping a pre-poll promise, Kejriwal had announced a 50 per cent subsidy on electricity consumption of up to 400 units in Delhi after coming to power following the recent Assembly elections.

Later, the AAP government also ordered the Comptroller and Auditor General to audit the finances of the three private power distribution companies serving Delhi. — PTI










US defends its stand on Powell-Modi meeting

WASHINGTON: The US sought to play down Thursday's meeting of ambassador Nancy Powell with Narendra Modi, saying it is part of increased engagement with Indian leaders and indicated that President Barack Obama may not have been involved in the decision to end the BJP leader's boycott.

The State Department also scotched speculation about the meeting leading to the US lifting a nine-year-long visa ban on Modi in the wake of the 2002 Gujarat riots, insisting that there was no change in its visa policy.

Washington also made it clear that it was not taking any position on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Justifying Powell's meeting with Modi, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said all relevant people required to take a decision were involved in the process.

However, the official did not confirm if President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry were involved in it.

"These decisions don't always rise up to every highest level. But certainly, all relevant individuals who needed to weigh in weighed in, and agreed that it was certainly an appropriate meeting to have," Psaki told reporters.

"We are often engaged in concentrated outreach to senior political and business leaders. We began doing that months ago, if not years ago — in different scales, of course — to highlight and continue our US-India relationship. There has been no change in our policy per se. This is an effort in that engagement," Psaki said.

Powell is expected to travel to Gandhinagar to meet Modi on Thursday, the first by the top US diplomat after the post-Godhra riots. In the last few years, several European allies have met Modi.

"We do broad outreach with a range of officials in India and many countries around the world with different backgrounds. And it's simply just an example of that," she said.
Reiterating that the US does not take positions in elections of any country, Psaki argued that Powell meeting Modi is not an example of the US taking a position.

"We don't take positions. So no, it wouldn't be a reflection of that. It is just a reflection, as I've stated a few times, of us reaching out to a range of individuals from different backgrounds, different political affiliations, which we do in countries around the world," she said.

Psaki said there is no change in the US visa policy. "When individuals apply for a visa, their applications are reviewed in accordance with US law and policy. This is not a reflection of any change ... This is simply a meeting happening on the ground in India. It's not a reflection of anything else than outreach to a broad range of officials," she said.

Responding to questions, Psaki refuted the allegations that this decision of the Administration is influenced by the lobbying efforts of some pro-Modi group and business community in the US.

She said it was certainly not a reflection of anything changing regarding America's longstanding and strong advocacy for human rights around the world. — PTI










MNS agitation: Raj Thackeray detained, freed

MUMBAI: MNS chief Raj Thackeray was on Wednesday arrested at suburban Chembur here as the state-wide 'rasta roko' against toll plazas called by the party began with several protesters being taken into custody for disrupting traffic at many places across the state.

Raj Thackeray, who left his home in Dadar in central Mumbai at about 10 am, was stopped in Chembur and arrested by the police while he was heading towards the Vashi toll booth. He had planned to lead the road blockade at the Vashi toll plaza.

According to police, Raj was taken in a police van along with his party workers.

The MNS chief was released after around two hours. He asked party workers not to resort to violence.

the police took MNS workers into custody at several places, including Pune, Ahmednagar and Vasai. Tyres were burnt in Thane, while in Pune MNS workers deflated tyres of some vehicles.

The stir has commenced despite police serving a notice to Raj warning against participating in the agitation.

Undeterred by the notice, Thackeray, whose supporters vandalised scores of toll plazas across the state over the last fortnight, said traffic on the state highways was stopped from 9 am.

In Dahisar, a suburb of Mumbai, a group of hundred people led by MNS MLA Pravin Darekar began protesting near Dahisar toll plaza. But nobody was detained from the spot, police said.

In Pune, about 25 MNS activists were rounded up by police when they tried to disrupt traffic at Chandani chowk along Pune-Mumbai highway in response to the 'rasta-roko'.

Tyres of some heavy vehicles were deflated by the party workers, led by former MNS corporator Rajabhau Gorde, in the demonstration at Chandani chowk.

A similar protest near 'Amritanjan' bridge along the highway disrupted vehicular traffic temporarily, police said, adding that a heavy bandobast has been put at various points in the city leading to highways where the toll collection booths are set up.

Yesterday, the police had served a notice on Raj under section 149 of the CrPC, asking him to respect the law of the land and refrain from taking up any activity that would cause a law and order problem.

However, in some relief for commuters, Raj had said on Tuesday that life in cities would not be affected. "We have decided to exclude schools and colleges from the stir in view of exams. The cities won't be affected by the stir," he had said.

"A person from the state government was in touch with me on the phone requesting me to call off the stir," the MNS leader had said on Tuesday.

The Maharashtra Police has decided to press into service contingents of Rapid Action Force and State Reserve Police to deal with the stir. — PTI — PTI











Cold wave intensifies in Srinagar

SRINAGAR: Cold wave intensified across Kashmir Valley and Ladakh division as mercury plummeted several notches below freezing point in most places with Kargil town recording the coldest temperature at minus 21.8 degrees Celsius.

Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, witnessed a drop of 2.5 degrees as the minimum temperature fell to minus 2.0 degrees Celsius last night, a MET department official said.

Mercury plunged by almost eight degrees in Pahalgam resort in south Kashmir, which serves as base camp during annual Amarnath yatra, to settle at minus 12.4 degrees Celsius compared to minus 3.7 degrees Celsius last night.

The minimum temperature in Kargil was minus 21.8 degrees Celsius last night, a slight increase from minus 23.4 degrees Celsius.

The nearby Leh town recorded as low as minus 15.9 degrees Celsius, a drop of four degrees from previous nights 11.8 degrees Celsius.

The official said the mercury in Qazigund — the gateway town to Kashmir Valley — dipped by one degree to settle at minus 1.8 degrees Celsius, as against the previous night's minus 1.0 degrees Celsius.

He said the minimum temperature in the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg settled at a low of minus 10.8 degrees Celsius as against last night's minus 9.8 degrees Celsius.

However, the day temperature in the Valley started improving as the sun shone brightly for second consecutive day this morning, following snow and rainfall yesterday. — PTI




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