Tuesday 27 February 2007
* Fares for AC I class reduced by 6% in lean season and 3% in peak season
* Superfast surcharge in second class reduced by 20%
* Passenger train tickets will cost Re. 1 less on non-suburban routes
* Railway tickets will be available at petrol pumps, ATMs and post offices
* Around 800 bogies added to popular trains
* Unreserved compartments to have cushion seats
* Number of unreserved compartments up by 6
* Concession for UPSC Examinees up to 50 per cent
* 8,000 automatic vending machines to be set up
* More berths per coach, lower fares
* Specially designed coaches for handicapped
* Sleeper coach berths to go up from 72 to 84
A railway budget has never been so sweet in the recent past. But on second thoughts, it wasn’t so much of a surprise, after all. He has turned the railways around. Profit up by Rs 20,000 crore, that’s what he said today! Lalu has been riding the crest of a wave lately, and it only looks he is getting carried higher and higher.
Imagine he was once synonymous with corruption: a self-centred villain, numb to people’s sensitivities, who drove Bihar deeper and deeper into social chaos. It’s widely speculated that had it not been for the Election Commission’s strict policing, he would have rigged his way back to power over and over again in Bihar.
There’s an unanswered question: if he was so capable as to turn around the railways, why couldn’t he do that to Bihar? What prompted such a turnaround in a man like Lalu? No answers still, only speculations. One of them is: He lost in the election in Bihar. He had to win elsewhere. He had to prove a point. He just decided to turn good, to steal a march over his arch rival, Nitish Kumar, and the New Indian Railways was born! Whatever be the reason, nothing matters, as long as the commuter benefits.
Among all the sweetness of the budget, one element of bitterness remains: As Lalu Prasad was reading out his budget speech, our distinguished lawmakers, who symbolise the great democracy that we are, couldn’t lend their ears to the honourable railway minister and hear out the budget speech quietly in dignity. Why they couldn’t, is as much a mystery as Lalu’s turnaround.
Sunday 25 February 2007
Neelakuyil, made in 1954, was a landmark in Malayalam cinematography. P Bhaskaran not only penned the songs, he, along with Ramu Karyat, directed it. The movie was based on a story written by Uroob. The movie, the first Malayalam movie to be shot outdoors, also won the President’s medal. The movie also had launched Sathyan, another great Malayalam actor.
Incidentally, Sashikumar, the well-known TV personality, and currently with the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, is Bhaskaran's son-in-law.
Photo credit: The Hindu
Obituary in Malayala Manorama
Saturday 24 February 2007
- An elderly woman has died and five other passengers have been seriously hurt in a train derailment in Cumbria. Several carriages were left on their side after a Virgin London to Glasgow service crashed at Grayrigg, near Kendal, at 2015 GMT, at about 95mph. Police said 22 people went to hospital and dozens more were "walking wounded"...
What is remarkable is that only one person, that too an elderly woman, died after the train travelling at 95 mph derailed. (BBC)
Minister Lalu Prasad must naturally have these doubts:
- why in India when a train moving much slower derails, more people die?
- is it because in India, we have much poorer rescue arrangements. The minister must know that a good part of rail lines in India run through areas that are absolutely inaccessible.
Any thoughts on rail travel safety?
The Times of India paid tribute to this great journalist with a special Edit Page today: Homage to Sham Lal.
Leader article: Above the Fray by Dileep Padgaonkar
In a Jungle of Theories, by Sham Lal
Life of Letters, Tribute by Ian Jack, Editor, Granta
Wednesday 21 February 2007
The current investigations will at some point lead to Pakistan. How Pakistan reacts to this will be of interest. Will there be some difference from the way it reacted to Indian investigators’ findings after the Mumbai blasts?
Post-Samjhauta blasts we have also heard new voices coming out of the Pakistan establishment. One reason is of late Pakistan has also been a victim of terror. India has always been the victim for a good 50-odd years. Probably here we are negotiating an important turn. The way Pakistan approaches terrorism as a victim will be crucial in healing the sore that Kashmir has been.
As the Pakistan establishment reconciles to the new reality – as a victim – India too will have to make changes in its perception of the neighbour. We have been seeing Pakistan merely as a perpetrator of violence in India; as a villain. Are we now seeing Pakistan on our side, as a victim? The current split image is bound to create some confusion.
Pakistan has in the recent past proposed joint fight with India against terrorism. We at that time wondered how that could ever happen. That statement in fact had come out of Pakistan’s realisation of it too being a victim of terror. As Khurshid Mohd Kasuri sits down for talks with Indian leaders in New Delhi today, this issue of joint fight will definitely be mentioned, though it may not be publicly acknowledged.
It is time we broke out of stereotype. Pakistan too is fighting a terror war of its own. And at some point there’s a commonality with the one that India is fighting. Indian diplomats and politicians should capitalise on this new turn of events, push the peace talks on to a wholly new track; that’ll finally help Pakistan turn off the terror tap once and for all.
Monday 19 February 2007
The Chief Army Staff, Gen J J Singh, was at my alma mater, Sainik School, Kazhakootam (Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala), on the 17th. More than that, Gen Singh was accompanied by three top officers in the Army – Lt Gen Thomas Mathew, Lt Gen Issac John Koshy and Lt Gen S P Sreekumar, all from the first batch of my school, 1965.
Every since these three old students, got promoted to the top rank, within the last year, my school has been on a high. And this visit of the Chief of the Army Staff has appropriately topped it.
January 17 was the birth anniversary of another old student, Col N J Nair. He was awarded the highest peacetime decorations of Ashok Chakra and Kirti Chakra while combating terrorism.
Nair, who belonged to J J Singh’s Maratha Light Infantry regiment, was awarded the Kirti Chakra in 1983 for his valiant efforts in fighting insurgency in Mizoram. Ten years later, he was posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra when he laid down his life while fighting off an ambush in Nagaland.
Report in The New Indian Express, Zee News
For the first time in four years, Australia have been dislodged from the top. It wasn’t so surprising that Aussies were beaten by the Kiwis yesterday. They are shorn of their best known faces: Ponting, Lee, Gilchrist, etc.
For once India has been performing consistently. The victories don’t anymore look like a flash in the pan, instead like the result of some consummate planning and skilful execution. Interestingly, in Vizag, we notched up 263 without the efforts of Dravid, Sachin and Dhoni. But an explanation has to be sought from Sehwag for getting run out the way he did.
Wednesday 14 February 2007
If we are good why aren’t we winning matches?
If we are good, why aren’t we confident of winning the cup?
Monday 12 February 2007
In these moments of ordeal, some security guards of multi-storeyed complexes have found an ingenious opportunity to make a fast buck. After office hours, they offer basements or the pavements (that are usually not open to the general public) for parking, at a price of course.
The rates are arbitrary and depend on a variety of factors including the supply-demand economics: bigger the crowd, the higher the rate. It also could depend on the financial status of the security guard at that moment. If he has had a lot of cash flowing in, probably you could be lucky to get away with as little as Rs 10 or Rs 15. But of course, you may have to shell out more if you bring in a swank limousine.
Some guards have ingenious ways of measuring the urgency of the vehicle owner. Already having gone around a few circles, the annoyed drivers, wouldn't mind being asked a few questions like: "Where are you going, when will you come back?" From the answers and body language, the guards make a quick assessment and charge accordingly; the rates sometimes as high as Rs 40.
Call this a creative business model or exploitation of hapless citizens, but surely city administrators can learn a few lessons: turn vacant public lands into paid parking zones; work out win-win business models with private parties who have space to let out.
Over to commissioner K Jairaj and administrator Dilip Rau.
(Published in Salt and Pepper column of The Times of India, Bangalore, today)
Wednesday 7 February 2007
We do get excited over the theoretical possibilities that technology offers. At the turn of the century, during the dotcom boom, one of them was how we would all shop online and we would see the slow death of retail markets. The other was how we would all stop reading the newspaper and just be content with what we got on the mobile devices.
I guess our love for the written and printed word is very innate to human nature. So, it’s not surprising that newspaper circulation around the world has gone up.
Look at these latest figures put out by the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers. (Source)
Tuesday 6 February 2007
A zoomed-in image of the mirage seen on the Alappuzha-Chenganassery State Highway. Mirage is an optical illusion, wherein one sees a non-existent pool of water over heated surfaces like roads, pavements, deserts etc. The air immediately above the road is much hotter, forcing the light rays to bend, a phenomenon called refraction. The pool of water is actually a distorted image of the blue sky. The light rays from the sky falling on the hot surface get distorted because of extreme heat and appear from a distance as a pool of water. Objects like vehicles are seen in this pool. Since the vehicles are seen below the normal surface, such mirages are called inferior mirage. What is pictured above is also called "highway mirage". The opposite is superior mirage, which is typically seen in very cold conditions. Objects are seen floating in such situations.