Times of India | 8 months ago | 24-09-2022 | 04:29 am
MUMBAI: Maharashtra continued to see a steady decline in the neonatal, infant and under-five mortality rates and has fared among six to 11 states that have achieved targets set under the UN's sustainable development goals (SDGs) to bring down child deaths, as per the Sample Registration System (SRS), 2020, data released on Thursday. An urban-rural divide, though, is seen in the figures. The neonatal mortality rate (NMR) was 11, putting the state among six others in the country to achieve the SDG target of fewer than 12 deaths per 1,000 live births. Maharashtra's infant mortality rate (IMR) is 16 now against the India average of 28, and the under-five mortality rate is 18 now compared to the national average of 32. The SDG target for under-five was to reduce deaths to fewer than 25 per 1,000 live births. It has put Maharashtra in the league of 11 states to reach the milestone, including Kerala (8), TN (14) and Delhi (14). There is a difference of nine points, though, in the NMR numbers between Maharashtra's urban and rural areas. While urban Maharashtra (6) has met the SDG goal for reduction in neonatal mortality, rural Maharashtra (15) has quite a distance to travel. For IMR, the urban figure was 11 and rural, 20. The best states, like Mizoram, Kerala, Manipur and Sikkim, reduced nearly all mortality rates to under 10. Paediatrician Abhay Bang, who has been working in tribal Gadchiroli, called for data on micro trends to get an accurate picture. "Hidden within these relatively lower mortality rates are both the Marine Drives and the Melghats," he said on Friday. The SRS does not provide district-wise rates. "Most unfortunately, the SRS does not provide a separate estimate of the IMR in tribal population, which is more than a crore in Maharashtra," Dr Bang said. An expert committee on tribal health gave the government this suggestion in 2018, but to little effect. Vivek Pandit of Shramajivi Sangathana said such low rates are hard to accept when malnutrition exists in many districts, such as Palghar, Raigad, Thane and Nashik. "There is no doubt that deaths have come down, but the state still records thousands of them annually," he said, adding that deaths are missed too. In the past decade, IMR has dropped by 43% in Maharashtra. There is a need to comprehend the shift in causes of death and strategise accordingly, said Dr Jayashree Mondkar, professor emeritus of neonatology at Sion hospital. "Earlier infectious diseases were big killers, but now we see maximum deaths due to congenital problems, prematurity," she said.
In order to provide a safe crossing for pedestrians and decongest roads, the National Capital Regional Transport Corporation (NCRTC), which is executing the Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System – India’s first rapid rail project – is constructing three bridges at Anand Vihar Rapidx station in Delhi.“A dedicated pedestrian bridge is being constructed at Anand Vihar RAPIDX station of the Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut RRTS corridor. Apart from this, two separate bridges are also being built for segregated entry and exit of vehicles into the station premises as a part of multimodal integration with all existing modes of transport at this point,” an NCRTC official said.The three bridges will be built over the Ghazipur drain passing between Anand Vihar RAPIDX station and Chaudhary Charan Singh Marg.While the right bridge will be used for vehicular entry inside the Anand Vihar RAPIDX station, the left bridge will be used for vehicular exit. The middle bridge will be used only for the to-and-fro movement of pedestrians inside the station premises.The bridge being constructed over the Ghazipur drain for the entry of vehicles into the Anand Vihar RAPIDX station is about 10 metres wide. Taxis, private vehicles etc will be able to enter the premises from this entrance bridge and drop passengers at the station gate. The exit bridge being constructed over the drain at the left end of the station is 13 metres wide and will enable these vehicles to drive back to the main road. The pedestrian-only bridge is 6 metres wide.Lakhs of commuters travel daily from Anand Vihar via various modes of transport. It has been often observed that passengers have to go through a lot of trouble to change their modes of transport. This leads to overcrowding, which hinders the movement of vehicles and leads to traffic jams on the road, officials said.Keeping these problems in mind, the NCRTC decided to construct separate entry and exit routes to ensure the smooth, convenient and safe travel of commuters. The location of the station has also been strategically planned in such a way that it is built as close as possible to existing public transport means, officials added.The station is being integrated with six modes of public transport, which include Swami Vivekananda (Anand Vihar) inter-state bus stand, city bus stand, Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation bus stand at Kaushambi, two Metro lines (pink and blue line) and the Anand Vihar railway station.A bus stop is also proposed to be built on the main road along these bridge routes. Commuters can get down here and enter the station through these bridges. Stairs, lifts and escalators will also be provided.The NCRTC aims to make the entire 82 km-long Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut corridor operational by 2025. Before that, it will commission the 17 km-long priority section of this corridor this year.
Newspaper adverts announcing the birth of the Coromandel Express in 1977 to the world gave all indications that it was a star product even before it started operations. “Instead of 32.35 hours taken by the Madras Mail, this train will take 25 hours to complete its journey,” the advert Yugantar, a Bengali newspaper, announced.“The train is totally vestibuled to enable serving of meals from the pantry car,” it said, as a USP of the new train, telling the world about the “first inter-city bi-weekly train” that started on March 6, 1977 from Madras and March 7 from Howrah.Long before the word was coined, the Coromandel Express was already pegged as an “overnighter”, offering the latest in comfort and speed that Indian Railways — still trying to graduate from its Colonial legacy of steam engines — had to offer. By 1977, the Rajdhani was running successfully between, say, Howrah and Delhi. The Coromandel was all but the “Rajdhani” of the coastal route, minus the name. For starters, the train had a library.“My parents were pleasantly surprised to find a library as part of the bouquet of facilities aboard the new train,” says Souroshankha Maji, a researcher and rail heritage enthusiast whose lecturer parents, Saroj and Debani, were among the first batch of passengers on the Coromandel Express in 1977.The dining car served delectable dishes, although not as part of the ticket, like the Rajdhani. Over time, the AC coaches also started showing movies on board through video cassettes.“Before the Coromandel, there was no premium product other than the Rajdhani. So everything about it was designed to be one — the timings, the speed, the amenities, everything,” says Sanjoy Mookerjee, a 1978-batch officer of the Indian Railway Accounts Service, who retired as Financial Commissioner of the Railway Board in 2016.Starting around the evening from Howrah, the train would reach Vizag early in the morning, so that people working in industrial hubs like the Vizag Steel Plant and Visakhapatnam Port could use it as a viable transport option from Calcutta. Medical tourists and those who wanted to go to Bangalore from Madras were its target customers. People from Bengal going to Tamil Nadu for treatment were also target customers. Aspirants of engineering seats through the KCET were also targeted and so on.The train would reach Madras in the evening, so that people on the way to Kerala, Karnataka and other parts of Tamil Nadu did not have to wait too long for a connecting train. The Coromandel was designed like that. In fact, trains like the Yesvantpur-Howrah Superfast came to fill the vacuum later on as bi-weeklies, so that people could travel between the two cities directly.“These trains were launched as new-age products of Railways, as alternatives to the popular trains of the Colonial era. On that route, the Coromandel was an alternative to the Madras Mail. Around the same time, the Gitanjali Express was launched as a new, faster alternative to the Bombay Mail between Bombay and Howrah,” says Shri Prakash, a 1971-batch officer of the Indian Railway Traffic Service, who retired as Railway Board Member (Traffic) in 2009.The train, which was supposed to only make an operations/technical halt in Kharagpur, was eventually made to halt there as a commercial stoppage. “Students from IIT started boarding and deboarding there, giving zonal railways the idea that this was a major catchment area,” says Mookerjee.The birth and evolution of trains like the Coromandel Express tell the story of the evolution of Indian Railways and in a way, how India travels.Such was the popularity of the Coromandel Express, or “Coro” as it was popularly called, that two railway zones — Eastern and South Eastern — started fighting for its earnings in Kharagpur. “The stop in Kharagpur was formalised after that,” he says. Somewhere down the line, it also became a daily train, which it remains to this day. And that is how the train remained. A cash cow and a star product of South Eastern Railway.“When Lalu Yadav started the Tatkal scheme, the Coromandel was the only train in India which had a Tatkal coach attached for every class. Because the demand justified it,” says Trayambak Ojha of the Indian Railways Fan Club (IRFC), the largest global collective of India’s rail enthusiasts.“By the time I started taking the train around 25 years ago, to travel between my college in Chennai and home in Kolkata, the library had been replaced by a Railway official carrying a trunk full of books which you could borrow to read on the train. It was its hallmark,” he says. “The popularity was such that for its departure at 5 pm or so, general class passengers would start crowding platform number 14 of Howrah since morning.”Old-timers recall how the train changed with time, but not its appeal. “By the beginning of the millennium, the dining car was gone, but its food was still a hit. The pantry served a very popular fried rice-chilli chicken combo. During the bird flu scare around 2000, they replaced the chilli chicken with chilli fish, and it was still a hit,” Ojha says.The Coromandel started becoming like just other popular trains when the Railways started standardisation of rakes. There were to be only three types of trains — the Rajdhani, the Shatabdi and everything else, like the Coromandel.Its popularity forced the Railways to increase its halts at Bhadrak, Balasore, Khurda Road, Brahmapur. This increased its run time by three hours. A few years ago, it was taken off Howrah platforms and made to run to and from the nearby Shalimar station. And that is how it remained, as it lay in Odisha. Just another train, derailed.
Airfares in India are soaring. While they had started firming up last year itself as travel demand rebounded after the Covid pandemic subsided, this year’s summer travel season has seen an unusually high spike in ticket prices. Go First’s bankruptcy plea and subsequent suspension of its flights joined other factors such as surging demand and capacity constraints, among others, in forcing flyers to pay through their noses bang in the middle of the country’s peak summer travel season.Social media platforms are replete with consumers complaining about surge pricing. The government, too, has taken note of “abnormal surge pricing on certain routes” and asked airlines to “self-monitor” and devise a mechanism to ensure reasonable pricing on such routes.Any respite in the near term, however, is likely only if and when the tidal wave of travel demand ebbs, which is likely only once this year’s peak summer travel season is behind us. Longer-term price stability and affordability will depend on various other factors too, including travel demand trajectory, the pace of capacity addition by airlines, and jet fuel prices and other cost centres.A perfect storm: High demand, capacity constraints, Go First bankruptcyOn May 2, Go First announced that it was voluntarily filing for insolvency and the airline has not operated even a single flight since May 3. In April, the Wadia group airline had ferried close to 8.3 lakh flyers and held a domestic market share of over 6 per cent. The sudden disappearance of Go First’s capacity from the market was the last thing consumers needed. Market leader IndiGo and SpiceJet were already affected by capacity constraints as parts of their fleet were grounded due to different reasons.On the other hand, demand surged, notwithstanding high airfares. As per preliminary industry data, May saw over 1.3 crore domestic flyers, up from March and April, and likely higher than or at least comparable with the pre-pandemic peaks. For some time now, industry insiders have been highlighting that flyers seem to be willing to shell out more on travel after the pandemic. The pent-up demand from the pandemic, which scuttled travel plans of many people for up to two years, just does not seem to be abating.“Despite an increase in airfares by about 35-40 per cent for domestic routes compared to the previous year, our customers are displaying an increased appetite for travel spending. The surge in domestic airfares for favourite tourism routes are resulting in international short hauls becoming an attractive option in comparison,” said Indiver Rastogi, President & Group Head of Global Business Travel at Thomas Cook (India) and SOTC Travel.Even as other carriers did depute additional capacities on routes where Go First was a sizable player, the demand-supply mismatch could not be fully mitigated.Although airfares generally have been higher in recent weeks, it is worth noting that abnormal surges have been witnessed mostly on routes with a strong Go First presence and some others seeing rapid growth in demand. Also, surges are mostly seen in cases where flights are being booked closer to the date of travel.Go First’s absence has rewarded other airlines in the form of higher load factors. But very high load factors are a problem for flyers, particularly those who book their tickets last minute or very close to the date of travel, as very limited available inventory means they are likely to be offered seats in the top fare buckets.Most-affected routesAccording to industry insiders, routes affected the most are the ones connecting major cities with airports like Leh, Srinagar, Goa, Bagdogra, Ahmedabad, and Pune, and other popular travel destinations like Andamans and Kerala.“Despite the current situation with capacity constraints driving airfares, Indian travellers are making the most of the summer vacation period. We are witnessing brisk demand of over 3x compared to last year. Airfares for popular leisure sectors from Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru have witnessed a surge versus last month–Leh 60-80%, Srinagar, Chandigarh, and Port Blair 50-70 per cent, and Kochi and Goa 40 per cent,” Rastogi said.According to Sabina Chopra, Chief Operating Officer for Corporate Travel and Head of Industry Relations at Yatra.com, the travel booking website is seeing 20-25 per cent higher demand in the domestic travel sector compared to pre-pandemic levels. As compared to the summer travel season last year, Yatra.com has observed an increase of 15-20 per cent in domestic airfares.With regard to routes affected the most by the suspension of Go First flights, Chopra said, “According to our data, the most popular routes were Srinagar, Ladakh, Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Bangalore, and Bangalore-Chennai. These routes had consistently witnessed high demand and had played a pivotal role for the airline.”Higher fuel cost vis-à-vis pre-pandemic periodThe cost of aviation turbine fuel (ATF), or jet fuel, might not be playing a role in month-on-month or even year-on-year rise in airfares to current levels, but it is a significant factor in how fares have moved between the pre-pandemic period and the present. ATF is the single-biggest cost for airlines and for Indian carriers, it accounts for over 40 per cent of their operational expenses.While the price of jet fuel has cooled off from year-ago levels and is also lower than in preceding months, it is significantly higher than the levels seen in 2019 and early 2020, just before the pandemic brought the aviation industry to its knees. As per data provided by the country’s largest fuel retailer Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), jet fuel is currently priced at Rs 89,303.09 per kilolitre, down from Rs 95,935.34 in May and significantly lower than the peak of Rs 1.41 lakh in the second half of June 2022. However, when compared to March 2020 and June 2019, jet fuel prices are currently higher by 57 per cent and 37.4 per cent, respectively.“Due to the escalating fuel costs, airfares have seen a significant rise of 30-40 per cent across all domestic routes (compared to pre-pandemic levels),” Chopra said.
In a second petition filed before the Gujarat High Court challenging the significant differential pricing for pilgrims undertaking Haj from Ahmedabad compared to those from Mumbai, Justice V D Nanavati on Wednesday remarked to the petitioner to be grateful that they are at least getting an opportunity to undertake the pilgrimage.Justice Nanavati issued notice to the respondent authorities on Wednesday, which includes the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the Haj committees of India, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The authorities are expected to respond to the notices by June 9.Four Muslim families in another petition had earlier challenged the differential pricing, where the Gujarat High Court had issued notice to the authorities on May 30. Both petitions are now due to be heard next on June 9.The petitioners have pointed out that while the difference in the charges in the two embarkation points between 2017 and 2022 has ranged from Rs 2,000 to nearly Rs 5,850, the difference this year is Rs 67,981.It is also the petitioners’ case that while the charges for those embarking on the pilgrimage from Ahmedabad and Mumbai have remained nearly similar since the two embarkation points are almost equidistant, this year, the cost from Ahmedabad is Rs 3.72 lakh as against Rs 3.04 lakh from Mumbai. This does not include the converted currency of 2,100 SAR (Saudi Riyal), which was earlier given to all pilgrims.Justice Nanavati on Wednesday remarked to the petitioner’s advocate M A Kharadi, “At least you have got an opportunity to visit the place of pilgrimage, be grateful for that. I think if you are going for pilgrimage you should be glad that when there were draws which were drawn, you were selected and you have got an opportunity to visit…Be happy that you are able to travel.”Once a pilgrim is selected by the draw of lots, the requisite amount — charges fixed by the Haj Committee of India — needs to be deposited. This includes the to-and-fro travel expenses from the respective embarkation points to Saudi Arabia, accommodation in Saudi Arabia, and other logistics, and exchanged and converted currency of 2,100 SAR for spending during the pilgrimage.The petitioners have also highlighted that in the previous years, the break-up of the amount recovered under various heads was made known and disclosed to the pilgrims and the same has not been done this year.
Recently, there were several reports that actor Naga Chaitanya has been roped in to play the lead role in the South remake of Kartik Aaryan’s Hindi blockbuster Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2. However, the actor’s team has issued a statement rubbishing these reports.Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, which released in 2022, starred Kartik Aaryan in the lead role along with Tabu in a double role. The horror comedy film set the cash registers ringing at the box office upon its release and had a long theatrical run.There have been several reports about Kartik’s film getting remade in South, and Chaitanya’s name was being associated with it. However, the actor’s team issued a statement on Monday which read, “FACT CHECK: The news which is being circulated on social media regarding @Chay_Akkineni doing the south remake of #BhoolBhulaiya2 is completely false. Requesting the respected media handles not to spread the fake news.”According to several reports, while Naga Chaitanya was going to step into Kartik Aaryan’s shoes, Jyotika was said to be roped in to play Tabu’s character in the film. It was also said that producer KE Gnanavel Raja has bagged the rights of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and will be making the movie in South.Chaitanya’s Bollywood debut Laal Singh Chaddha turned out to be a box office dud despite having Aamir Khan as the lead actor. The film, which was an official remake of Oscar-winning Hollywood movie Forrest Gump, was heavily panned. Speaking about the film’s failure, the Telugu actor said that he has no regrets.Earlier in an interview with Mirchi 9, Chaitanya said, “The main reason for me to do that project was to travel with Aamir sir. As an actor, I wished I get to travel with him for just 2 days to learn from him. I walked into the project with this mindset. But I got to work with him for 5-6 months. There was a lot of honesty, even in the way Aamir sir was working.”