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Local environmentalists protest the move to reduce eco-sensitive zone around the Taj Mahal

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Taj_Mahal_Tomb_at_sunrise

Agra: Local environmentalists on Wednesday again voiced their opposition to the Uttar Pradesh government’s move to reduce the eco-sensitive zone limit around Sur Sarovar or Keetham Lake from ten km to just 250 metres.

In an unanimous resolution passed at a conference held at Youth Hostel Hall in the city, the green brigade warned of dangerous consequences of what it called a “suicidal step”.

“The eco-sensitive zone acts as a buffer for the Taj Mahal against toxic gases released by Mathura Refinery. The green belt has halted the march of desert towards Agra. The dense forest also filters dust-laden westerlies going towards Taj Trapezium Zone,” the resolution contended.

The green activists have been holding meetings and staging dharnas for the past 10 days ever since Divisional Commissioner, Pradip Bhatnagar, asked District Magistrate, Pankaj Kumar, to forward to the state government a proposal to reduce the forest area on the Agra-Delhi national highway.

“The issue has been examined. Keetham lies in the TTZ area where polluting units are already banned. There is no need for (imposing) unnecessary limits which may further enhance the arbitrariness of forest authorities,” Bhatnagar told a media outlet.

The Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) comprises of the 10,400 sq km area around the Taj Mahal to protect the monument from pollution. Over 40 protected monuments – including World Heritage Sites of the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri – come under the zone. It has been named so since it is located around the Taj Mahal and is shaped like a trapezoid.

Union Environment and Forests Minister, Prakash Javedkar, last week assured a delegation of Eco-activists that the state government’s proposal would be studied by a panel of experts and only then, a final decision will be taken, Sur Sarovar Van Kshetra Bachao Samiti president, Goswami Murari Lal Sharma, said.

The minister agreed to review the circumstances under which the limits of the famous Sur Sarovar bird sanctuary and Ramsar wetland at Keetham was sought to be reduced to 250 metres, said Devashish Bhattacharya, a member of the delegation.

While those who have purchased land for industries or multi-storeyed apartments in the area are happy, the greens are incensed over the “unwise” decision of the district authorities.(IANS)

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Uber India Rolls Out Driver Reward Programme “Uber Plus”

Uber India has planned free doctor access and micro loans for drivers

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Uber
Uber has rolled out a reward programme for drivers in India. Wikimedia Commons

Global ride-hailing major Uber on Wednesday rolled out a driver rewards programme called “Uber Plus” in India that will let drivers earn points for rides so that they can win free doctor consultations, concessions on education modules, access to micro loans, faster airport pick ups and savings on vehicle maintenance costs.

These points will be earned by the driver partners in 13 cities over a fixed period of every three months and can be then accumulated to unlock higher rating tiers such as blue, gold, platinum and diamond which, in turn, will let them access better rewards, informed the company.

“Under the programme, the Uber drivers get access to four tiers. To unlock these awards, they need to maintain a certain threshold rating and keep a low cancellation rate to unlock access to these benefits,” Prabhjeet Singh, Head of Cities, Uber India and South Asia, told IANS.

Uber Plus
Under this programme, Uber drivers get access to four tiers. Pixabay

“We have always worked towards prioritising their welfare and making them feel valued, respected and appreciated. ‘Uber Plus’ is an effort in that direction and will enable our driver partners to access greater benefits during their everyday journeys,” he added.

The rewards and offers are only available to drivers who use the Uber driver app, are participating in Uber Plus and meet applicable criteria.

Asked if this initiative will help in bringing down the number of cancellations, Singh replied: “We encourage ri ders to flag such cases if the driver cancels because the mode of payment is not cash, etc. That will help us take strict action against such drivers.

“We want to encourage behaviour which helps improve the marketplace reliability. Less the cancellation, the chances of the trip getting completed goes up and, overall, the network efficiency increases.”

An initial pilot phase was carried out in Delhi-NCR, Chandigarh and Mumbai and now, Uber Plus is being rolled out across 10 new cities, including Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Pune, Kochi, Guwahati and Jaipur.

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“We also want to reward drivers who have lower cancellations,” said Uber.

Under the driver programme, Uber has partnered with “Ayushman Bharat” to provide access to free healthcare to its drivers, wherein they have access to free healthcare of up to Rs 500,000 in empanelled hospitals. (IANS)