Congress will be victorious in 2014 polls: Manmohan
NEW DELHI, March 6: A confidant Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday blasted the BJP and the NDA and exuded confidence that the Congress-led UPA would return to power in the next General Elections due in 2014
Replying to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha, Dr Singh opened his offensive — without mentioning names — by referring to the tough speeches against him at the just concluded BJP party conclave, particularly by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The Prime Minister's speech was punched with economic data and urdu poetry.
Singh compared the performance figures of his government in the past nine years with that of the NDA rule from 1998 to 2004 to assert that the people would vote the Congress back.
He went on to say, “The BJP fielded an iron man (in 2004) who said Manmohan Singh is the weakest PM. We all know what happened. People will repeat the same feat.” He also called the BJP’s India Shining campaign “a disaster”.
Singh, known for his quiet demeanour, appeared to allude to Modi while saying, “Jo garajte hain, woh baraste nahi (barking dogs seldom bite).”
Stating that he would “not use the same language as the BJP” when its leaders had made “choicest abuses” to belittle his government’s achievements, the PM said, “Humko hain unse wafa ki umeed, jo jante nahee hain wafa kya hain (we hope for loyalty from those who do not know the meaning of the word).”
In response, leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj recited a poem: “Kuch toh majboorian raheen hongee, yun hee koi bewafa nahee hota (there must have been some compulsions. One is not disloyal for no reason at all).”
BJP president Rajnath Singh, also a Lok Sabha MP, said he had never seen the PM so aggressive. “Main isko accha sanket maanta hoon kyunki mujhe lagta hai ki diya bujhne se pehle lau sabse tez jalta hai. Iska matlab hai ki aap ki sarkar bujhne wali hai (I see it as a good sign because the flame burns brightest just before it is about to die. The flame of your government is about to die).”
Earlier, the Prime Minister made comparisons between the NDA rule that preceded his first government in 2004 and the achievements of the UPA.
“The best I can do is to compare the nine years of UPA with the six years of the NDA. People can compare and decide what has been done. Our average growth rate in these nine years has been 7.9%, during the NDA tenure growth was not more than 6%.”
He said, “During UPA rule, poverty declined by 2% compared to 0.8% during the previous regime. The industrial growth rate is 8.5%, while it was 5.6% during the NDA rule.”
Speaking about the state of the economy, the PM admitted inflation had been a persistent problem and that India had faced a difficult situation in the past. But sounding an optimistic note, he said the UPA government was capable of bringing the economy back on the growth path.
“Our focus remains inclusive growth. We are faring better than global economies.
However, difficulties remain. We are capable of bringing the economy back on the growth track. We can grow at 7-8%,” he said.
Union Budget fails to enthuse Aam Aadmi
By Rakesh Nangia
NEW DELHI, Feb 28: Amid a lot of expectations from across the world, the stage was set in the Indian Parliament for the Finance Minister, Mr.P.Chidambaram, to formally unveil and announce the Union Budget 2013-14 at a time when the country is facing the worst slowdown in a decade and countrymen are looking towards a revival in the economy for a sustained growth in future.
• Was the Government able to restore the global investor’s confidence in the Indian
• Were the tax reforms initiatives sufficient;
• Are the expectations of the common man met;
• Has the budget proposals pleased the middleman who has been marred by inflation;
• What has been offered to the corporate world in this budget;
• What has the government planned to restore the growth pace back on track;
The story of other reforms, industry specific initiative and a lot more….all this, we would try to cover in this article.
Let us first look at the key highlights of the Union Budget 2013-14:
• Fiscal deficit seen at 5.5% of GDP this year and expected 4.8% in next year.
• Current account deficit a bigger concern than fiscal deficit, to be financed through foreign investment in India through FDI, FII and ECB
Budget plan and allocations
• Budget estimate of total expenditure of over INR 16.65 lakh crore with planned
expenditure of over INR 5.55 lakh crore during the year 2013-14
• Allocations for SC/ ST sub plan increased substantially
• Around INR 97,134 crore allocated for programmes relating to women and INR 77,236
crore allocated for programmes relating to children
• Health and education remains priority. Increased allocations amongst various schemes
• Over 46% increase in allocation to Ministry of Rural Development to INR 80, 194 crore in 2013-14
• Total food-grain production over 250 million tonnes in current year
• Average annual growth rate of agriculture and allied sector was 3.6% during XI Plan.
Proposal to allocate INR 27,049 crore to the Ministry of Agriculture
• For 2013-14, target of agricultural credit kept at INR 7 lakh crore
• Encouragement for Green Revolution and allocation for various agricultural initiatives
• National Livestock Mission proposed to be set up with a budget provision of INR 307 crore
• Additional provision of INR 10,000 crore for National Food Security Act
Investment, Infrastructure and Industry
• Various initiatives proposed to mobilize funds for investment in infrastructure sector
• Infrastructure tax-free bond and Infrastructure Debt Fund (IDF) encouraged
New regulatory authority for road sector
• Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) has been set up for taking decisions in respect of a number of gas, power and coal projects
• Certain incentives for ports, national waterways, oil and gas, textiles, coal and power sector
• Benefits for MSME to continue
• Clean energy initiatives encouraged
• Allocation for public sector banks
• Proposal to set up India’s first Women’s Bank as a public sector bank with INR 1,000
crore as initial capital
• Focus to increase the penetration of life and general insurance in the country
• SEBI Act proposed to be amended to strengthen the regulator
• Various proposals for simplifying foreign investment in India and listing of SMEs
• Proposed rule to treat investment of 10% or less stake in a company as FII and more than 10% as FDI
• Skills development initiatives, increased allocation for defence, innovation in science and technology
• Measures to promote sports, private FM radio services, post offices etc
• Special initiative/ allocations for woman, youth and poor
While the above covered the key proposals for various sectors and the estimated budget allocations, the Finance Minister had very limited to offer on the direct and indirect tax front.
Some key Direct and Indirect Tax Proposals are enumerated below:
Direct tax - General
• Aim to increase tax GDP ratio
• Tax Administration Reforms Commission to be set up
• No revision in the slabs or the rates of Personal Income Tax – a minor relief of INR 2,000 for tax payers having income less than INR 5 lakh and re-introduction of surcharge of 10% on persons other than companies having taxable income of over INR 1 crore
• Permissible premium rate increased from 10% to 15% of the sum assured in certain
cases of life insurance policies
• 1% withholding on value of the transfer of immovable properties where consideration exceeds INR 50 lakhs - agricultural land exempted
• Additional deduction of upto INR 1 lakh on account of interest on home-loan taken on or after 01.04.2013 upto 31.3.2014 for first time purchase of property having value upto INR 40 lakhs, which are financed by loans from financial institutions not exceeding INR 25 lakhs.
• Increase surcharge on companies whose taxable income is more than INR 10 crore:
o Domestic companies – from 5% to 10%
o Foreign companies – from 2% to 5%
• Surcharge in all other cases like DDT increased to 10%
• Tax deduction of 15% to manufacturing companies on investment of INR 100 crore or
more in plant and machinery during the period 1.4.2013 to 31.3.2015
• Concessional tax rate of 15% on dividend from foreign subsidiary continued for one more year
• Tax holiday under section 80-IA for power sector upon setting up an undertaking
extended from 31 March 2013 to 31 March 2014
• Securitisation Trust and Investor Protection fund (in certain cases) exempted from tax Withholding tax of 20% on profits distributed by unlisted company to its shareholders through buyback of shares – tax exempt in hands of shareholders
• Increase in tax rate on payment of royalty/ fees for technical services to non-residents from existing 10% to 25%, subject to tax treaty benefit
• Reduction in certain rates of Securities Transaction Tax, and introduction of Commodity Transaction Tax (CTT)
• Modified provisions of GAAR to come into effect from 1.4.2016 – the main purpose of the arrangement should be to obtain tax benefit
• No change in tax rates of excise duty, service tax and peak rate of basic customs duty
• Custom duty concessions to air craft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industry
• Custom Duty on Set Top boxes, raw silk increased
• Custom duties on Steam Coal and Bituminous Coal equalised – 2% custom duty and 2%
CVD levied on both kinds of coal
• Custom duty on imported luxury goods such as high end motor vehicles, motor cycles, yachts and similar vessels increased
• Duty free import of gold limit increased to INR 50,000 for male passenger and INR
1,00,000 for a female passenger
• Excise duty relief to readymade garment industry, handloom industry and ship building industry
• Excise Duty on cigarettes, SUVs, marble, mobile etc increased
• Two new services included in the negative list for service tax
o vocational courses offered by institutes affiliated to the State Council of
Vocational Training; and
o testing activities in relation to agricultural produce
• Proposal to levy Service Tax on all air conditioned restaurant
• Rate of abatement reduced from 75% to 70% for High-end constructions of homes/ flats with a carpet area of 2,000 sq. ft. or more or of a value of INR 1 crore or more
• Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme introduced to motivate defaulting
service providers to file returns and pay tax dues
• Work on draft GST Constitutional amendment bill and GST law expected to be taken
Personally, with the parliamentary elections coming next year, I believed that this year budget would be highly tax friendly for the common man. However, with what we see from the budgetary proposals, the burden of fiscal deficit has held back the Finance Minister to pass any tax benefit to the common man this year. Instead, the tax rates for high earners and large corporate have increased due to imposition of higher surcharge, which will add revenue to the Government kitty.
Although, the Government believes that this one year imposition of surcharge is important to bridge the gap to meet the fiscal deficit, the focus should have been more on widening the tax base and curb practice of tax evasion.
The only relief for individual tax payers is for new and first time home-buyers who would be allowed an additional deduction of INR 1 lakh on account of interest on loan from a financial institution for purchase of a property. However, the monetary thresholds specified for this deduction could make the availability of this deduction difficult for all the first time home-buyers.
Investment based allowance for manufacturing sector is a welcome move to boost investment in the sector and generate employment opportunities along-with other incentives. Power sector gets an additional year breather owing to extension of tax holiday.
Increase in the withholding tax rate on royalty and FTS payments to overseas entities to 25% is a shocking move, considering that in most of the cases, the foreign groups structure such arrangements from a tax-friendly treaty jurisdiction. Further, the corporate tax outflow will rise in the next year due to increase rate of surcharge. All this will take time to settle down.
The new GAAR provisions were on expected lines, however, a new SAAR has been introduced this year by imposing tax on buy-back of shares by unlisted companies. The idea is to specifically tax the unlisted companies which efficiently repatriate profits to the shareholders by way of buy-back, with a view to avoid DDT and reduce the taxation rate in hands of shareholder.
Continuing the concessional rate of tax on foreign dividends at 15% is again a positive step, which has been further encouraged by removing the cascading effect caused by imposition of DDT on onward distribution of dividends (out of foreign dividends) to the shareholders of the Indian parent.
There has been a lot of hue and cry from the global investors on the last year’s changes in the tax regime, especially on account of the retrospective amendment on indirect transfer of Indian assets. The Finance Minister has not addressed this particular aspect in his proposals, much to the disappointment of global investors.
On indirect tax fronts, there are no major amendments, except for some changes in the tax rates and some clarifying provisions. The Finance Minister has given one time amnesty scheme to service providers by introducing ‘Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme”, which though a positive step, but is also viewed as a discouraging step for the genuine service tax payers.
The Budget Speech on GST indicates that the Government is optimistic about introducing GST in India and looks forward to the support of all the state ministries for successful implementation of GST regime.
Overall, this year budget proposals have not been very boosting and even the Finance Minister acknowledged it by saying that with our challenging economy, there is little room to give away tax revenues or the tax base. Considering the present economic scenario, the country needed a much stronger budget this year to address the concern of the common man, at the same time, ensuring that the vision of the finance ministry for an sustainable and inclusive growth is achieved smoothly.
One would hope that the proposed tax reforms bring back the country on the path of perpetual emergence and development and surpass the global turmoil.
many things still to do, we can only wait and watch to observe how and to what extent these tax measures help the nation and the people.
No hike in rail fares; Indian Railways enters 1 billion tonne select club
NEW DELHI, Feb 26: The Railway Budget for 2013-14 on Tuesday spared passengers from any further hike in fares but raised various other charges on tickets along with freight tariff of less than 5 per cent.
Presenting the Budget in the Lok Sabha, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who had effected an across-the-board hike in passenger fares only last month, said he does not intend to pass on the impact of deregulation of diesel price for now and the Railways will absorb a burden of Rs 850 crore on account of this.
The first Congress minister to present a Railway Budget in 17 years, Bansal adopted Fuel Adjustment Component introduced by former Trinamool Minister Dinesh Trivedi which will be dynamic in nature and change in either direction with revision in fuel cost twice a year.
He said this may result in an upward revision of freight tariff, effective from April 1, this year, by less than 5 per cent.
In his 75-minute speech which was drowned in opposition slogan-shouting towards the end, Bansal said there are a number of supplementary charges which have not been revised for last several years.
"I propose to effect marginal increase in some of these. These include supplementary charge for superfast trains, reservation fee, clerkage charge, cancellation charge and tatkal charge," he said, without specifying the quantum of these charges.
Bansal, however, proposed to abolish the concept of enhanced reservation fee with a view to simplifying the fee structure, having already discontinued development charge in January this year.
In January, the minister effected an across-the-board hike in passenger fares that would net Rs 6,600 crore a year.
However, the subsequent hike in diesel price and electricity charges put an additional burden of Rs 3,300 crore on the railways which is projected to see a loss of Rs 24,600 crore in the current financial year, up from Rs 22,500 crore in 2011-12 in passenger traffic segment.
67 express trains, 26 passenger trains introduced
NEW DELHI, Feb 26: As many as 67 express trains and 26 passenger trains are being introduced this year, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal announced on Tuesday.
Presenting the 2013-14 Railway Budget, Bansal also said that five Mainline Electrical Multiple Units (MEMUs) are being introduced this year besides eight DEMUs.
Besides, he proposed extension of as many as 57 trains and increasing the frequency of 24 trains.
The express trains include Hazrat Nizamuddin-Mumbai AC Express via Bhopal, Khandwa and Bhusawal, which would be a weekly service, and a similar venture between Bikaner and Chennai.
As part of providing greater connectivity to Vaishnodevi, a New Delhi-Katra AC Express is being introduced, which would run six days a week. The Katra stretch connecting the holy town to Udhampur is expected to the commissioned by May-June.
With the commissioning of the line, feasibility of issuing 'yatra slips' to pilgrims travelling by rail at the time of booking of the ticket is being explored in coordination with the Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board.
A Puri-Ajmer Express, which would be a weekly service, is also being introduced so also a weekly Puri-Sai Nagar Shirdi Express.
Una-Nangaldam in Himachal Pradesh is being connected to Hazoor Saheb Nanded in Maharashtra through a weekly express train which would travel via Anandpur Saheb.
Also being introduced is a weekly Ahmedabad-Jodhpur express and a similar venture between Bandra and Haridwar, and Bandra and Jaisalmer.
Yesvantpur-Lucknow Express is also being started weekly via Rae Bareli and Pratapgarh.
The Railway Minister said that to facilitate the journey of pilgrims, he has decided to add more trains to religious destinations as trains to such places are always overcrowded.
He has proposed to take up the construction of railway line from Rama Mandi to Maur Mandi via Talwandi Sabo to provide connectivity to Takht Shri Damdama Sahib, which is the only Takht among the five Sikh Takhts that is yet to be connected by rail link.
Highlights of Railway Budget 2013-14
Presenting the Rail Budget 2013-14 in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said government is committed to ensure security, safety and better passengers facilities including sanitation in trains and railway stations.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE RAILWAY BUDGET - 2013-14
1. Safety; 2. Consolidation; 3. Passenger Amenities; 4. Fiscal Discipline.
Ø Indian Railways (IR) enters the one billion tonne Select Club joining Chinese, Russian and US Railways; Ø IR also joins Select Club running freight trains of more than 10000 tonne load; ‘Fuel Adjustment Component’ concept to be implemented linking tariffs with movement of fuel prices;
Ø Target of Rs 1000 crore each fixed for Rail Land Development Authority and IR Station Development Corporation to be raised through PPP in 2013-14;
Ø New fund – Debt Service Fund – to be set up to meet committed liabilities of debt servicing for WB and JICA loans for DFC and other future liabilities.
Measures for improving Safety & Security:
Ø Making a Corporate Safety Plan for a ten year period (2014-2024).
Ø Elimination of 10797 level crossings during the 12th Plan and no addition of new LCs to the IR system henceforth.
Ø Introduction of Train Protection Warning System on Automatic Signalling Systems.
Ø Rigorous trials of the indigenously developed Train Collision Avoidance System.
Ø Using 60 kg rails, 260 meter long welded rail panels and improved flash butt welding technology.
Ø Introduction of 160/200 kmph Self Propelled Accident Relief Trains.
Ø Induction of crash worthy LHB coaches with anti-climb feature.
Ø Rehabilitation of identified 17 distressed bridges over next one year.
Ø Provision of comprehensive fire and smoke detection systems.
Ø Provision of portable fire extinguishers in Guard-cum-Brake Vans, AC Coaches and Pantry Cars in all trains.
Ø Use of fire retardant furnishing materials in coaches.
Ø Measures initiated to deal with elephant related accidents.
Ø Four companies of women RPF personnel set up and another 8 to be set up to strengthen the security of rail passengers, especially women passengers.
Ø Recruitment to RPF with 10% vacancies reserved for women.
Rail Based Industries
New factories/workshops to be set up:
Ø a new Forged Wheel Factory at Rae Bareli in collaboration with Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited.
Ø a Greenfield Mainline Electrical Multiple Units (MEMU) manufacturing facility at Bhilwara (Rajasthan) in collaboration with State Government and BHEL.
Ø a Coach Manufacturing Unit in Sonepat District (Haryana) in collaboration with State Government.
Ø a Midlife Rehabilitation Workshop at Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh) in collaboration with the State Government.
Ø Bikaner and Pratapgarh workshops to undertake POH of BG wagons.
Ø a workshop for repair and rehabilitation of motorized bogies at Misrod (Madhya Pradesh).
Ø a new wagon maintenance workshop in Kalahandi (Odisha).
Ø a modern signaling equipment facility at Chandigarh through PPP route.
Ø Setting up of Railway Energy Management Company (REMC) to harness potential of solar and wind energy.
Ø Setting up of 75 MW capacity windmill plants and energizing 1000 level crossings with solar power.
Ø Deployment of new generation energy efficient electric locomotives and EMUs.
Ø More usage of agro-based and recycled paper and ban use of plastic in catering.
Passenger/Rail Users’ Amenities:
Ø Identification of 104 important stations for immediate attention to all aspects related to cleanliness.
Ø Progressive extension of bio-toilets on trains.
Ø Provision of concrete aprons on platforms with mechanized cleaning facilities.
Ø Extension of On Board Housekeeping Scheme and Clean Train Stations to more stations and trains.
Ø Extension of Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS), Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs), Coin-operated Ticket Vending Machines (CO-TVMs) and schme of Jan-Sadharan Ticket Booking Sevaks (JTBSs).
Ø Setting up of six more Rail Neer bottling plants at Vijayawada, Nagpur, Lalitpur, Bilaspur, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.
Ø Pilot project on select trains to facilitate passengers to contact on board staff through SMS/phone call/e-mail for coach cleanliness and real time feedback.
Ø 8-10 more mechanized laundries for quality washing of linen.
Ø Provision of announcement facility and electronic display boards in trains.
Ø Providing free Wi-Fi facilities on several trains.
Ø Upgrading another 60 stations as Adarsh Stations in addition to 980 already selected.
Ø Associate voluntary organizations for providing first aid services at railway stations.
Ø Introduction of an ‘Anubhuti’ coach in select trains to provide excellent ambience and latest facilities and services.
Ø 179 escalators and 400 lifts at A-1 and other major stations to be installed facilitating elderly and differently abled.
Ø Affixing Braille stickers with layout of coaches including toilets, provision of wheel chairs and battery operated vehicles at more stations and making coaches wheel-chair friendly.
Ø Some JTBS to be reserved for disabled people.
Ø Curbing malpractices in reserved tickets including tatkal scheme.
Ø Third party audit and tie up with food testing laboratories for food quality control; ISO certified state-of-the-art base kitchens to be set up in railway premises.
Ø Centralized Catering Services Monitoring Cell set up with a toll free number (1800 111 321)
Ø Launching multi-modal travel package in cooperation with Jammu & Kashmir state government.
Ø Issuing ‘Yatra Parchis’ to pilgrims travelling by rail to Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine at the time of railway ticket booking.
Ø Introduction of an educational tourist train with concessional fares -‘Azadi Express’ – to connect places associated with freedom movement.
Ø Introduction of executive lounge at 7 more stations, namely, Bilaspur, Visakhapatnam, Patna, Nagpur, Agra, Jaipur and Bengaluru.
Ø ‘Aadhar’ to be used for various passenger and staff related services.
Ø Internet ticketing from 0030 hours to 2330 hours.
Ø e-ticketing through mobile phones.
Ø Project of SMS alerts to passengers providing updates on reservation status.
Ø Covering larger number of trains under Real Time Information System.
Ø Next-Gen e-ticketing system to be rolled out capable of handling 7200 tickets per minute against 2000 now & 1.20 lakh users simultaneously against 40,000 now.
Financial Performance 2012-13:
Ø Loading target revised to 1007 MT against 1025 MT in BE.
Ø Gross Traffic Receipts fixed at `1,25,680 cr in RE, short by `6,872 cr over Budget Estimates.
Ø Ordinary Working Expenses retained at BE level of `84,400 cr; pension payments increased by `1,500 cr to `20,000 cr.
Ø Dividend liability to government to be fully discharged.
Ø ‘Excess’ of `10,409 cr as against the budget amount of `15,557 cr.
Ø Loan of `3,000 cr taken in 2011-12 fully repaid along with interest.
Ø Operating Ratio of 88.8% as compared to 94.9% in 2011-12.
Budget Estimates 2013-14:
Ø Freight loading of 1047 MT, 40 MT more than 2012-13.
Ø Passenger growth - 5.2%.
Ø Gross Traffic Receipts - `1,43,742 cr i.e. an increase of 18,062 cr over RE, 2012-13.
Ø Ordinary Working Expenses - `96,500 cr.
Ø Appropriation to DRF at `7,500 cr and to Pension Fund at `22,000 cr.
Ø Dividend payment estimated at `6,249 cr.
Ø Operating Ratio to be 87.8%.
Ø Fund Balances to exceed `12,000 cr.
Annual Plan 2013-14:
Ø Highest ever plan outlay of `63363 cr.
Ø Gross Budgetary Support - `26,000 cr
Ø Railway Safety Fund - `2,000 cr
Ø Internal Resources - `14,260 cr.
Ø EBR - Market Borrowing - `15,103 cr;
Ø EBR - PPP - `6,000 cr.
Ø 500 km new lines, 750 km doubling, 450 km gauge conversion targeted in 2013-14.
Ø No supplementary Demands for Grants introduced in Monsoon Session or Winter Session of Parliament;
Ø Loan of `3,000 cr repaid fully;
Ø 347 projects prioritized with assured funding;
Ø Operationally important projects and also last mile projects to receive liberal funding;
Ø A new fund – Debt Service Fund – set up to meet committed liabilities;
Ø Stringent targets for efficiencies in maintenance of rolling stock and fuel consumption;
Ø Target to create fund balance of `30,000 cr in the terminal year of the 12th Plan.
Ø Fund allocation for staff quarters enhanced to Rs 300 cr.
Ø Provision of hostel facilities for single women railway employees at all divisional headquarters.
Ø Extending treatment facility in case of medical emergency to RELHS beneficiaries to all cities in hospitals empanelled with CGHS and Railways.
Ø Condition of barracks to be improved for RPF personnel.
Ø Provision of water closets and air conditioners in the locomotive cabs to avoid stress being faced by loco pilots.
Training and Recruitment:
Ø 1.52 lakh vacancies being filled up this year out of which 47000 vacancies have been earmarked for weaker sections and physically challenged.
Ø Imparting skills to the youth in railway related trades in 25 locations.
Ø Setting up of a multi-disciplinary training institute at Nagpur for training in rail related electronics technologies.
Ø Setting up of a centralized training institute at Secunderabad – Indian Railways Institute of Financial Management (IRIFM).
Ø Five fellowships in national universities to be instituted to motivate students to study and undertake research on IR related issues at M.Phil and Ph.D. levels.
Ø Setting up of a chair at TERI promoting railway related research to reduce carbon footprint.
Ø Railway Teams won 9 National Championships in 2012.
Ø Railway Sports Promotion Board awarded the ‘Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar – 2012’.
Ø Complimentary card passes to recipients of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna & Dhyan Chand Awards to be valid for travel by 1st Class/2nd AC.
Ø Complimentary card passes to Olympic Medalists and Dronacharya Awardees for travel in Rajdhani/Shatabadi Trains.
Ø Travel by Duronto Trains permitted on all card passes issued to sportpersons having facility of travel by Rajdhani/Shatabadi Trains.
Ø Facility of complimentary card passes valid in 1st class/2nd AC extended to parents of posthumous unmarried awardees of Mahavir Chakra, Vir Chakra, Kirti Chakra, Shaurya Chakra, President’s Police Medal for Gallantry and Police Medal for Gallantry.
Ø Police Gallantry awardees to be granted one complimentary pass every year for travel along with one companion in 2nd AC in Rajdhani/Shatabadi Trains.
Ø Passes for freedom fighters to be renewed once in three years.
Ø 67 new Express trains to be introduced.
Ø 26 new passenger services, 8 DEMU services and 5 MEMU services to be introduced.
Ø Run of 57 trains to be extended.
Ø Frequency of 24 trains to be increased.
Metropolitan Projects/Sub-urban Services:
Ø Introduction of first AC EMU rake on Mumbai suburban network in 2013-14.
Ø Introduction of 72 additional services in Mumbai and 18 in Kolkata.
Ø Rake length increased from 9 cars to 12 cars for 80 services in Kolkata and 30 services in Chennai.
Ø Proposal for setting up of Railway Tariff Regulatory Authority formulated and at inter-ministerial consultation stage.
Ø Fuel Adjustment Component (FAC) linked revision for freight tariff to be implemented from 1st April 2013.
Ø Supplementary charges for super fast trains, reservation fee, clerkage charge, cancellation charge and tatkal charge marginally increased.
Ø Enhanced reservation fee abolished.
Rail Budget reformist, forward-looking: PM
NEW DELHI, Feb 26: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hailed the railway budget, presented on Tuesday, as "reformist and forward-looking" and said that Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has done a commendable job in meeting competing demands of improving services and controlling expenditure.
Singh complimented Bansal for his "innovations" in critical areas of Railway infrastructure and paving the way for capacity expansion.
"It is a reformist and forward-looking Budget which presents a realistic picture of Railway finances," he said while commenting on the Railway Budget which did not propose any hike in passenger fares even though some supplementary charges were hiked.
"The Minister for Railways has done a commendable job in meeting competing demands of improving and increasing services for commuters and controlling expenditure of his department," Singh said.
Congress has tremendous talent: Rahul Gandhi
NEW DELHI, Feb 21: Congress V-P Rahul Gandhi indicated that he was in the process of finalising his team that would take the party into next year's Lok Sabha elections. Speaking to reporters outside Parliament House, Gandhi said he was trying to familiarise himself with the party and he found "tremendous talent" in Congress.
"As I am speaking to all the people in Congress, I find tremendous talent there. And it is just a question of aligning it and getting on with it," he said indicating he could bring slight changes at All India Congress Committee.
He was reacting to a question on whether there are any changes on the cards in AICC and about his ongoing meeting with the party's central leaders and those from states.
The Congress leader said he was "checking from them what they are feeling" and also "just familiarising" himself. "I am meeting all the people. Checking from them what they are feeling. I am talking to them. I am trying to understand what they would like. I am quite excited about it," he said, adding, "I am just familiarising myself a little bit."
Gandhi, who heads the party's coordination panel for the 2014 polls, is expected to give important role in the party to younger leaders. However, there is no clarity on the reshuffle exercise that is expected to be taken soon.
Gandhi had taken over as Congress vice-president at Jaipur chintan shivir on January 19. At that time, speculation was rife that he would bring with him his new team. However, he has gradually made it clear that he would not want to bring radical changes at AICC and would like to work with the old guard.
He formally took over his position in the AICC on January 23. Soon after he had interactions with party general secretaries and secretaries, spread over three days, followed by meeting with chief ministers, state unit chiefs and legislative party leaders where they had "free and frank" discussions on the various issues plaguing the outfit.
The feedback is expected to help Gandhi work out the much-awaited party reshuffle which will throw up a team to face the slew of assembly polls this year culminating in the big fight of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The party is unlikely to conduct a reshuffle exercise till Parliament breaks for recess on March 21.
Pranab pledges reforms for greater transparency
NEW DELHI, Feb 21: The Government has pledged to usher in reforms for greater transparency, probity and accountability in governance and to enact a slew of legislations to tackle bribery by domestic and foreign public officials.
In an hour-long address to the joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday, his first, President Pranab Mukherjee also touched on various issues like slower growth of economy and steps to deal with factors responsible for the slowdown.
Against the backdrop of the recent gangrape and brutal assault on a 23-year-old girl in Delhi, he expressed deep concerns over incidents of sexual offences against women and referred to the promulgation of an ordinance providing for stringent punishment in such cases.
"My government remains committed to ushering in reforms for greater transparency, probity, integrity and accountability in governance," Mukherjee said.
"To this end, my government attaches priority to the enactment of legislation proposed in the Whistle Blowers' Protection Bill, the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organizations Bill, Citizens' Right to Grievance Redress Bill, and The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, which already stand introduced in the Parliament," he said.
The President said the government is also considering amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act to punish the guilty and protect the honest public servants more effectively.
The address, a constitutional requirement, marks the commencement of the Budget session of Parliament.
Mukherjee also announced that government proposes to introduce the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill in this session as a significant measure towards judicial reforms.
The President devoted a considerable part of the speech to the economic situation and the burden of gathering anxieties about slowdown, job security and employment prospects.
"People are concerned about the security of our women and children. They are also anxious about timely delivery of their entitlements and about persisting social and economic inequality," he said.
Mukherjee said the past year has been very difficult one for the global economy.
"Europe is in recession. Most emerging markets are growing very slowly. It has been a difficult year for India also. Both global and domestic factors have affected our growth.
"We need to address the impact of both. My Government has responded to the situation by taking several measures to revive investment activity and investor sentiment," he said.
Mukherjee, who was Finance Minister before his election as President last July, noted that the Indian economy is currently experiencing slower growth.
"Real GDP grew by 5.4 per cent in the first half of the current fiscal year. This is significantly lower than the average of around 8% in the last decade. Our slower growth is the consequence of a combination of global and domestic factors," he said.
The President assured the nation that the government was taking steps to deal with the factors responsible for the slowdown.
"Inflation is easing gradually but is still a problem. In recent months, there have been positive developments too. There has been a moderation in core inflation and recovery in growth is likely. Policy measures announced during the year have also restored optimism at home and abroad," he said.
"My government has announced a road map for fiscal consolidation by containing the current years fiscal deficit at 5.3 per cent of the GDP. The Government is also working with State Governments to reach a consensus on the Goods and Services Tax," he said.
In his speech, he also referred to the enactment of a path-breaking the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, providing for stringent punishment for persons who commit or abet such offences.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill has already been passed by Lok Sabha for ensuring a safe and secure environment for women in work places.
"My Government is also deeply concerned about incidents of sexual offences against women. After considering the recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, the Government has promulgated an ordinance, amending the criminal law to provide for stringent punishment for heinous sexual offences against women.
"The Government has also begun to implement a series of administrative measures to improve the safety and security of women in the country," the President said.
On foreign policy, the President said India continued to seek peace, stability, cooperation and economic development in the sub-continent.
"We attach the highest priority to relations with our immediate neighbours. With Pakistan, we have made progress towards normalization of relations, strengthening mechanisms for bilateral trade and facilitating greater people-to-people contact," Mukherjee said.
In an apparent reference to the recent beheading of an Indian soldier on the Line of Control, he said while India remained committed to taking the process forward, "it is also important that Pakistan abides by its commitments and desists from acts that contribute to a trust deficit".
He said the government proposes to introduce a Constitutional Amendment Bill in Parliament to give effect to the provisions of the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh and its 2011 Protocol, which will strengthen border management and security.
The President said the government was making progress in the engagement with Sri Lanka, including in efforts to resettle and rehabilitate the internally displaced persons there and to ensure a life of peace, dignity and equality for the Tamil people.
Mukherjee said India will work with the new Chinese leadership to reinforce the positive direction of our relationship.
On the United States, Mukherjee noted that the Strategic Partnership with Washington has deepened, with progress across all areas of relationship and India looks forward to intensifying this engagement during the second term of President Barack Obama.
Expressing commitment to dealing with Left Wing Extremism in a comprehensive manner, the President said the government was pursuing a two-pronged approach of conducting "proactive and sustained" operations against extremists and focusing attention on development and governance issues in extremist affected areas.
A new scheme for construction and strengthening of 400 police stations has been started in the affected areas.
The first phase of the plan for improving road connectivity in 34 most affected districts at a cost of Rs 7,300 crore is likely to be completed by March, 2015, he said.
He acknowledged that the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East has shown a perceptible improvement.
The number of tourists visiting Jammu and Kashmir has increased from 8.99 lakh in 2011 to 12.37 lakh in 2012.
Compared with 2011, the number of fatalities in incidents of terrorist violence in 2012 declined by nearly half, he said.