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India-Bangladesh railway project to be ready by December 2017

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Agartala: NITI Aayog has decided to commission the proposed 15-km India-Bangladesh railway project along Tripura by 2017, a top state official said on Friday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina discussed about the Rs.575-crore ($90 million) railway project, during the former’s visit to Dhaka on June 6-7.

It was finalised in January 2010 during Hasina’s meeting with the then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.

“NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog on Thursday decided in a meeting in Delhi to put in place the vital railway project between India and Bangladesh by December 2017,” Tripura transport secretary Samarjit Bhowmik told IANS.

Bhowmik, who returned here on Friday after attending the NITI Aayog meeting, said: “The alignment and other technicalities of laying the track to link Agartala railway station with Bangladesh’s Akhaura railway station would be changed. A final report on the new alignment will be submitted to the centre by June 30 for sanction of funds.”

NITI Aayog’s advisor Animesh Singh presided over the Delhi meeting, where officials of Ministries of Railway, Development of Northeastern Region (DoNER) and External Affairs and the Tripura government participated.

The NITI Aayog meeting was held to remove the roadblocks on the Agartala-Akhaura rail project along Tripura capital Agartala. Of the 15 km, 5 km fall in the Indian territory and the remaining in Bangladesh.

“On the Indian side, some portion of the track is likely to be elevated,” the official said.

“The central government is yet to provide funds, resulting in delay in land acquisition and subsequent works,” a top state government official, who did not wish to be named, told IANS.

He said the state government recently approached the Railway Ministry again to allocate funds. “No funds were allocated in the railway budget for 2015-16, even for land acquisition,” the official said.

The project cost was earlier estimated at Rs.271 crore. In addition, Rs.302 crore was needed to acquire around 91 acres of land in India for laying the track.

Bhowmik said that India’s External Affairs Ministry would provide funds to lay track in the 10-km Bangladesh territory.

“Earlier DoNER ministry had committed to provide funds to lay tracks on the Indian side. But in Thursday’s NITI Aayog meeting, the DoNER ministry categorically expressed its inability to give funds. Railway ministry is now likely to provide funds for the Tripura part of the project,” the official added.

State-owned Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) is expected to lay the tracks on both sides of the border. The Northeast Frontier Railway is the nodal agency for the project, for which alignment of rail line and other technical details were earlier finalised by officials of both India and Bangladesh.

Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey said: “The new railway connectivity between the northeastern state and Bangladesh will boost socio-economic, trade and business ties between the two countries. After the commissioning of the railway project, Tripura would act as a corridor to the southeast Asian countries.”

Dey told IANS: “It would become cost-effective to ferry men and material between the two countries and between mountainous northeast region and other parts of India via Bangladesh once the railway project is completed.”

The 1,650-km distance between Agartala and Kolkata would be reduced to only 515 km once the rail track is constructed through Bangladesh. (IANS)

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US President Donald Trump’s Tough Stand Against Pakistan and more Highlights from his Speech

Donald Trump on wanting cooperation from India for reconstruction of Afghanistan

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US President Donald Trump during speech
US President Donald Trump during speech. Wikimedia
  • We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America
  • The new policy by Trump will allow the military to observe the conditions on the ground before they take a decision on if they want to attack or withdraw
  • We have been paying Pakistan  billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting

Virginia, USA, August 23, 2017: US President Donald Trump in his speech at Arlington, Virginia on August 21, 2017, divulged details on his new policy for Afghanistan and South Asia. He made it clear in his speech that American troops will continue to fight the war between US and Afghanistan, the longest war in US history which has been continuing for 17 years.

Trump made it a point to announce that he’s not just rearranging the Afghanistan policy. He also spoke against Pakistan and criticized them for harboring the terrorists and said that the US would want India’s help and contribution to restore the stability of Afghanistan.

Trump said, “In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear. We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter.”

Trump listed out the factors that would lead to a change in Afghanistan and South Asia policy in the coming years:

  • Donald Trump criticized Barack Obama
    Trump, many times during his presidential campaign has criticized former US President Barack Obama “for announcing a date by which American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan.” He said that it allowed Taliban and others like them to reassemble and lay waiting for them to do so.
  • The new policy by Trump will allow the military to observe the conditions on the ground before they take a decision on if they want to attack or withdraw. Though it seems like a wise decision, it also means that the US troops are likely to be in Afghanistan for few more years, by taking into consideration how long this war has continued. The US President stressed upon, “A shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.”

ALSO READ: US Senate Confirms Three Indian Americans picked by President Donald Trump to Key Governmental Posts

  • Trump talked of a successful outcome

America will focus on their interests first, Donald Trump said, “The integration of all instruments of American power – diplomatic, economic, and military – toward a successful outcome.”  Trump said that America has spent a lot of time, money and soldier’s lives to try and rebuild countries in its own image. He expressed that a future political solution in Afghanistan might even include the Taliban, but it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take that decision. “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists,” he said.

  • On Pakistan

Trump said, “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat.” Trump made some strong remarks about Pakistan, a country that has apparently been an American ally for decades, but was also often accused of taking funds from USA and using them to “take part in an arms race with India”, instead of using that money to fight the terror organizations which were often nurtured by them. Trump said, “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.”

  • On wanting cooperation from India

Donald Trump then talked about India and said: “Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India – the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States.  We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.  We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.”

Trump called for India’s helping hand- He wants India to play a much larger role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan, particularly in the areas like development and economic assistance. This came as positive news to New Delhi, and the Ministry of External Affairs was ready to welcome the statement with open arms. The spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs said “We welcome President Trump’s determination to enhance efforts to overcome the challenges facing Afghanistan and confronting issues of safe havens and other forms of cross-border support enjoyed by terrorists. India shares these concerns and objectives.”

ALSO READ: US President Donald Trump Needs to Do Better than Tweeting, to Deal with North Korea

But Donald Trump’s framing of the issue has a problem in it – this seems transactional (like a business deal) and the narrative put forward by the US President saying that Afghan reconstruction is mainly an American effort only. Trump said, “But India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States,” he said this as if he wants to say that this should be the reason due to which New Delhi should do what Washington asks from it. Though India’s trade relations with the US shouldn’t be the reason for which India would take a bigger role in Afghanistan reconstruction. Instead, it is because of India’s personal interests in wanting to see Afghanistan as a stable, peaceful and terror-free region which leads it to move in the direction of forming a partnership with Kabul. Journalist Bobby Ghosh said, “One of the strengths of India’s involvement in Afghanistan is that it is seen unambiguously as Indian involvement.”

The real hindrance to a much larger involvement of India in Afghanistan is the danger of Pakistan taking revenge and they have been more than willing to use their weapons of terror against India in the past. This is where Trump’s strict stand on Pakistan is welcome and much needed.hat we don’t know is how much of Trump’s words will turn into action in the coming years. In the past also, American leaders have vowed to be strict with Pakistan, but they caved into demands of the country’s military. Now, Trump has talked about a “dramatically changed” approach, and these have been the most direct remarks coming from a US president regarding Pakistan till now. Now, only time will tell how much change can this bring.

What we don’t know is how much of Trump’s words will turn into action in the coming years. In the past also, American leaders have vowed to be strict with Pakistan, but they caved into demands of the country’s military. Now, Trump has talked about a “dramatically changed” approach, and these have been the most direct remarks coming from a US president regarding Pakistan till now. Now, only time will tell how much change can this bring.


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What’s In A Name? The Decision to Rename Mughal Sarai Junction Divides the Nation

What's in a name, probe Indians as the controversy over the renaming of Mughal Sarai junction continues to spread like wildfire.

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The Mughal Sarai junction is the latest entrant in the list of places renamed in India. Wikimedia
  • UP government’s recommendation for changing name of Mughal Sarai Junction accepted
  • Opposition ministers express discontentment, get Rajya Sabha session adjourned 
New Delhi, August 5, 2016: It all began with “They are going to change New Delhi’s name too!” In the ongoing session of the Parliament, the Centre approved a proposal to rename the iconic Mughal Sarai railway station in Uttar Pradesh after Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, the Jan Sangh leader. And the citizens of the nation had a lot to say.
The decision came following a proposal by the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh with an intent to revive the legacy of Upadhyaya, who had been mysteriously found dead in the junction in 1968.
The Mughal Sarai Junction is the fourth-busiest railway station in the country, located on the line between Howrah and Delhi. Located right along the Grand Trunk Road, it has since 155 years served as a prime stop along the route.
The Uttar Pradesh government, headed by Yogi Adityanath, had approved the proposal of the renaming of station in June and forwarded it to the Ministry of Railways for the final nod. On August 3, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Ahir cleared the proposal of the renaming of the station to ‘Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Nagar station’.
However, the move evoked a row in the Parliament, with the opposition accusing BJP of trying to change the country’s map.
Strong objections were raised in Rajya Sabha by members of the Samajwadi Party, which had lost power to BJP in Uttar Pradesh this year.
Naresh Agarwal, a member of Samajwadi Party lashed out saying the government was trying to “change the character of the country” and that they will soon “change New Delhi’s name too.”
Immediately after receiving clearance, according to popular opinion, the move wasn’t being seen as a welcome one, with questions on its intent circling discussion environment –  is this cultural hegemony, or maybe instead religious hegemony?

is it right to rename the station?
Even some of the BJP supporters question the decision of the renaming. NDTV

People are also viewing this as a strategy to assert power, to claim land by Yogi Adityanath’s government.
Similar reactions flooded Twitter and public discussion platforms, with the public expressing discontentment over the decision.

public view is divided over the renaming of railway station
Dont they have any real work to do, asks public over the decision to rename station. NDTV

However, every coin has two sides. While the move was being criticized for being outrageously religious, another set of opinions believes the renaming will be a welcome step.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi shot back at the opposition saying, “They want stations in the name of Mughals, but not Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. This view is wrong.”

is it right to change Mughal Sarai junction to Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya station?
Amidst opposition, a set of public believes it was time to drop “baggage” of the past. NDTV

While opinions in support and in rejection of the re-naming continue to resurface, a popular question that has been put up time and again is why this specific decision is witnessing an uproar of this magnitude. Names of places have been previously changed, like in the case of the world famous Connaught Place. People continue to question why are we behaving like hypocrites- we have had the names of so many historical places from our history books changed, so why is this particular case creating a controversy.

Mughal sarai junction to be renamed deen dayal upadhyaya station
Netizens have come forward with their personal opinions at various public portals. NDTV

The move has provoked mixed reactions from the netizens as discussions and opinions have been since floating. However, an increasing group of people also believe that a better decision would be to let the name stay, but revamp the infrastructure of a place, or to make new buildings, schools or other places of public benefit with the newly suggested name.

The country witnesses uproar over centre's decision.
While opinions are divided in support and opposition, another set of opinions dominates discussion platforms. NDTV

The decision is a part of the celebrations by Yogi Adityanath’s government to mark the centenary of Upadhyaya.
– by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter: @SohaKala

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.
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Google and RailTail work together to make the project ‘Free WiFi for over 400 Indian Railway stations’ happen

RailTail claims that 6 million people use the WiFi network every month

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Free WiFi for over 400 Indian railway stations
Free WiFi at railway station. Wikimedia Commons
  • Google first announced a plan to install high-speed wifi at 400 Indian railway stations, in September 2015
  • The project went live in January 2016
  • As a part of the project, Google and RailTail work simultaneously 

New Delhi, August 3, 2017: Free WiFi for over 400 Indian Railway stations Is turning out to be a big hit, and what’s better is the fact that Google has claimed, of the WiFi coverage and capacity being better than that in London or San Francisco.

“If you compare this (quality of internet) with Wi-Fi in London and San Francisco, you will find that the Wi-Fi is better in both coverage and capacity,” said Gulzar Azad, the Country Head Connectivity at Google India, in an interview with India Today.

The internet, according to Azad is “dynamically configured” in a way that the user is able to run apps like WhatsApp and search pages even when a cap for high-speed is consumed after 30 minutes.

Google, first announced a plan to install high-speed wifi at 400 Indian railway stations, in September 2015. The plan was in support of prime minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India campaign.

It was in January 2016 that the project went live, with Mumbai Central station in India’s financial capital becoming India’s first railway station to provide free, high-speed WiFi.

RailTel Corporation of India, a mini-ratna PSU under the Ministry of Railways, has been tasked with providing fast WiFi, called RailWire, for passengers at A1 & A category railway stations across the country. For this, RailTel has tied up Google, the latter being a technology partner, mentioned the Financial Express report.

Also read: Google rolls out free WiFi service at Udhagamandalam (Ooty) station in Tamil Nadu

“Under this partnership, we had a target of completing 100 stations by the end of December 2016. Surpassing the target, we completed 110 stations by the end of 2016. We now have taken up a target of completing 200 stations by the end of 2017,” a RailTel spokesperson told FE Online.

As a part of the project, Google and RailTel are working simultaneously, with RailTel providing the power and fiber network structure for the project, and Google bringing in its expertise on the radio access network front and to enable user experience for mobiles, laptops and other WiFi enabled devices.

RailTail claims that 6 million people use the WiFi network every month.

People who pass through these stations every day now have an access to fast Internet speed to stream, research their destination or download a new book or game for the journey ahead, according to railways.

-by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha