SC asks govt to allow fit taxis on Kothi-Rohtang route

The Supreme Court (SC) today passed an interim order diluting the ban on four-year-old taxis to ply on the Kothi-Rohtang route. A Bench comprising Justices Gyan Sudha Misra and PC Ghose directed the Himachal Pradesh government to test the fitness of the banned vehicles and allow them to ply if they complied with pollution and other norms.

The apex court passed the order on a petition filed by the Him-Aanchal Taxi Operators Union, Manali, challenging the HP High Court’s ban on commercial vehicles of more than four years’ old plying between Kothi and Rohtang.

Appearing for the union, senior counsel KV Viswanathan pleaded that instead having the age of the vehicles as the norm, the state government should prescribe the level of pollutants emitted by the taxis as the criterion for allowing them to ply. In several cases, a four-year-old taxi would not have done even 50,000 km and as such it was not fair to ban it, he contended.

The Bench said it would hear the case again after two weeks and asked the parties to file additional documents. It also asked the government to explore other options keeping in mind the interests of the taxi operators, commuters’ safety and environment.

The SC had issued notice to the state government on July 30 on the union’s petition contending that more than 75 per cent of the taxies numbering about 1,400 would go off the roads under the HC order.

The taxi owners had taken bank loans to buy the vehicles which they were still repaying and as such the HC decision would put them in a deep trouble, it was contended.

The HC had issued the order on the recommendations of the National Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), pointing out the fragile ecology in the high-altitude Rohtang area.

Source: The Tribune


Cashless treatment of crash victims to start on Monday

Tuesday July 23rd, 2013 in India, News, Roads / Routes | Be the first to Comment »

NEW DELHI: The country’s first cashless treatment of road accident victims, which ensures free treatment in the first 48 hours, will be launched next Monday with the 200-km stretch from Gurgaon’s 32-lane toll plaza toJaipur bypass of NH-8 to be the pilot corridor.

Country’s first cashless treatment of road accident victims will be launched next Monday. (PTI file photo)

A trial run has been conducted on this stretch for the past three weeks involving over 70 volunteers trained by AIIMS as first responders. The programme, to be launched by the road transport and highways ministry, aims to shiftcrash victims within 20 minutes to a nearby hospital. Sources said more than 50 hospitals have been networked to admit injured people immediately and provide treatment.

According to various studies, it has been found that the survival chances of crash victims go up by 50% if they are provided treatment within one hour. Over 1.4 lakh people were killed in road accidents in India in 2012.

As part of the cashless scheme, medical expenses of the first two days will be borne by the government. This will ensure quick and hassle-free treatment of the injured. “Medical expenses of those who have insurance will automatically come from the insurance companies. Government will bear the entire expense of those who don’t have such insurance,” a ministry official said. However, there is a maximum cap of Rs 30,000 for free treatment of accident victims.

“We want to roll out the cashless treatment plan for the entire country. Insurance companies will be interested in this since their outgo on account of third party claims will reduce if we are able to check the total number of fatalities,” road transport minister Oscar Fernandes said.

The recent global report on road safety by World Health Organization (WHO) claimed that the number of seriously injured being rushed to hospital was as less as 11 in every hundred in India. Even in the most ideal situation, only 49 in every 100 injured get ambulances. It said several countries had reduced road fatalities by improving ambulance facilities and immediate medical care to crash victims.

Ten advance life-support ambulances have been deployed on the pilot stretch. “These would be stationed at an approximate distance of 20 km from each other, thus serving 10 km on either side. The average response time will not be more than 20 minutes,” said Birendra Mohanty, vice-president of Financial Inclusion Solution Group (FISG) at ICICI Lombard.

Officials said a toll free number (1033) to call an ambulance or report an accident had been activated and a call centre was engaged to take care of all such emergency calls. “We have already asked NHAI to activate this number for all accidents reported on national highways,” said a ministry official.

The plan for cashless treatment of injured in road accidents was first conceptualized in October 2009. In early 2012, the government told the Supreme Court that a pilot project would be launched on the Pathankot-Vaishno Devi stretch of NH-1A.

But late last year, the stretch was changed after the road transport ministry found that Gurgaon-Jaipur stretch had reported the highest number of accidents (over 2,500) and deaths (260) as well.

Source: The Times of India


Curfew in Kashmir’s Buddhist Town

Monday July 22nd, 2013 in India, News, Travel Tips | Be the first to Comment »

SRINAGAR: A curfew has been imposed in Zanskar town of Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir following clashes between members of the majority Buddhist community and police.

The Buddhists are fuming over the elopement of a girl of their community with a Muslim boy.

The duo were captured by the police in Srinagar, nearly 200 kms away from their home.

Today, while the police took the girl back to Zanskar, a mob of around 500 people stopped the vehicle at Padam, demanding that she be handed over to them.

The police used force to disperse them. The girl was later handed over to her parents.

Later hundreds of protestors gathered at Phutang where they again clashed with the police. Two protesters were wounded, one of them having received a bullet.

Senior officers of the district administration have rushed to the town.

Tension has prevailed between the Buddhists and the minority Muslim community in Zanskar since a few Buddhist families converted to Islam last fall.

Source: Free Press Kashmir


400 Air India air hostesses declared absconders

NEW DELHI: This is a telling comment on the decline of Air India from a glamorous airline where dreamy eyed girls dreamt of getting a job in the heydays of JRD Tata’s stewardship, to asarkari organization now fraught by uncertainty following years of government mismanagement. The Maharaja has discovered that almost 400 air hostesses of its cabin crew strength of 3,600 who had taken a two-year leave without pay as per company policy have simply not returned to work although their leave got over a long time back.

AI has now declared them absconders and is beginning a process to sack all those who fail to give a convincing reason for their continued absence from work. Almost 300 of the 400 absconding airhostesses are learnt to be from Delhi alone.

“They must have left at a time when the airline faced uncertainty (which it still does); salary payment was irregular and must have taken up job elsewhere. Once they got jobs elsewhere, they should have resigned from here and not remained on the rolls. However, we officially have no information on them. The probe of the first tranche of 44 absconders will soon be over and we may sack many of them,” said a senior official.

The government’s questionable decision to buy 111 new planes for over Rs 50,000 crore and drowning the airline in debt has led to a state of complete penury in AI, forcing it to survive on taxpayers’ bailouts. “Salary payments remain uncertain and the airline’s survival looks bleak. In this atmosphere, a number of people are eying jobs elsewhere,” said a senior employee.

The airline stumbled on the absconders while asking all of its cabin crew to appear for medical test from January. After much reservation from the mostly unfit and overweight AI cabin crew, a majority of whom are airhostesses, the airline conducted fitness tests on 3,200 employees from January to March while having a total strength of 3,600.

“Almost 40% of the 3,200 cabin crew was found to be unfit, with 557 of them being ‘morbidly obese’. These personnel face the risk of being put on ground duties unless they get back in shape within a deadline of six months. The second round of tests is going to begin now for those who gave the medicals in January. A majority of the airhostesses found really overweight are from erstwhile AI,” said the official.

The management’s move is being backed by the parent aviation ministry with the latter now toying with an idea which is a norm for all private carriers but not heard of in AI — fixing a lower maximum age to remain an airhostess. The retirement age for AI employees is 58 and an airhostess can fly till the day she retires.

Many years ago (in its heady days) the age limit was 45 to have a mix of youth and experience. “The ministry is now planning to have a lower age ceiling for AI airhostesses after which they will transferred to ground duties where they will remain till the age of 58,” said an official. Outgoing CJI’s bid to appoint SC judge nipped.

Source: The Times of India


Flying abroad? Not declaring goods may land you in trouble

MUMBAI: After angadias emerged from anonymity following a recent raid on trucks filled with cash, gold and diamonds, people have been asking if a person carrying a lot of money and valuables can be pulled up for doing so, especially if one is flying. Can a flyer be refused security clearance for carrying cash and valuables above a limit? The rules are different for international and domestic travel.

As per customs rules, for carrying gold and expensive items from India to other countries, one needs to procure a certificate from the precious cargo complex a day in advance.

For travelling abroad, one needs to be careful about one’s baggage. It is usual for one to carry jewellery, cash and expensive gadgets, but unless one declares the goods and their value before leaving, one can fall into customs’ net upon return. As per customs rules, for carrying gold and expensive items from India to other countries, one needs to procure a certificate from the precious cargo complex a day in advance. Upon return, the certificate can be shown to customs to claim duty exemption. “The traveler can thus leave the airport without any hassle,” said an officer from the Air Intelligence Unit.

What about bringing home goods bought abroad? “One needs to pay duty if one brings into the country things that cost more than a certain limit,” said a customs official. The duty is 36% for goods worth more than Rs 35,000. For gold, the duty regime is more liberal for women, the allowance being amounts costing up to Rs 20,000. For men, the limit is Rs 10,000. Amounts of gold above these limits attract a duty of 36%. As for cash, one is allowed to bring into the country $5 000 and an equal amount in traveler’s cheques (above what one declared at the time of leaving India).

Customs officials say travelers should never knowingly hide valuables to escape duty. “If discovered, they need to pay a fine apart from duty. It could also lead to an arrest and a court case,” said an official. “In 20-30% of the cases, the intention is not smuggling, but the cases are classified as such.”

What about domestic travel? Well, there is no rule on carrying cash, gold, jewels or gadgets, which means one can carry whatever one feels like and in any quantity. “We do not set limits on such items as they do not pose a haz ard to aircraft security,” said an official of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.

But then the income tax department comes into the picture. “If the department receives a tipoff that someone is carrying a huge quantity of cash, its officials can stop and interrogate the flyer,” said an officer. “If one can produce a receipt or otherwise show the origin of the cash, there is no problem.”

Source: The Times of India