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In view of the Covid crisis, the Indian Railways made a green corridor in an effort to transport Liquid Medical Oxygen across the country. But is rail proving to be faster than road tankers and saving crucial time? Let’s find out.

Gopal Goswami



There is a video doing rounds on social media about the green corridor made by the Railways to transport Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO). Where You Tuber Nitin Shukla is seen explaining the efficiency and planning of the Modi government, he claims while people like Arvind Kejriwal are busy buying fake credits the PM Modi and his team are efficiently delivering things silently. Let’s do fact-check whether his claims, praises are really praiseworthy or not.

On 15 April 2020 Maharashtra Government approached the Ministry of Railways to explore whether they can transport LMO tankers by rail from different oxygen generation facilities from across the country to different supply points in Maharashtra. Ministry of Railways immediately started to explore the feasibility on war footing about the route, working out the modalities and prepare a plan for the movement of tankers.

The main challenge in transporting Medical Oxygen Tankers is to find the shortest suitable railway route from origin to destination. The physical dimension of the tanker loaded on the railway wagon (Over Dimensional Consignment (ODC) in railway’s technical language can safely pass through various fixed railway installations without any infringement. There are several other constraints like the presence of low height fixed structures like Road over Bridges (ROB), low height overhead equipment wires, restrictions on bridges, curves, and running through platforms were examined expeditiously and a suitable route was identified from Mumbai to Visakhapatnam.

The next challenge is to identify suitable railway wagons, it was done quickly and a trial was organised at Boisar on 18 April. A loaded tanker was placed on the wagon and all the required measurements were taken. Specifications for checking/securing for the safety of the tanker during movement were successfully worked out by Railways and Industry representatives. The trial was successful, the first LMO Express was planned and started on 19 April.

In this LMO express from Mumbai to Vizag, it was ensured to select only those tankers which would not exceed the height beyond the A or B class ODC so that good speeds could be achieved. The availability of tankers of 3330 mm or lower were requested from the industry. But out of 12, only seven could meet the height criterion. Ramps were constructed within 24 hours to facilitate the loading of road tankers on rail wagons.

Efforts were made to ensure intensive monitoring and route mapping has ensured that the train could cover this distance in a short time. The top management of Railways i.e., the Railway Board, Zonal/Divisional level management have spent a lot of time to make this happen in the shortest time to bail out Mumbai city out of the oxygen crisis. This all was done despite Covid pandemic and shortage of working staff and resources and running all coaching and freight trains. This movement was successfully planned as a green initiative project (green corridor). This also required coordination with states, industry and other stakeholders viz Ministry of Road Transport & Highways & DPIIT etc.

The results were amazing too. Movement by Rail has proved to be faster than road tankers. Whereas average time taken by road tankers is close to 70 hours from Mumbai to Vizag (compared to 55 hours by rail) and we could transport more quantity of oxygen at a go.

This success led other state governments to approach the railway to arrange transportation of LMOs through Railway wagons. On the request of the UP government, one such train has left from Lucknow (U.P) to Bokaro on 22 April and reached Bokaro in the early hours of 23 April clocking an average speed of nearly 50 kmph despite the normal traffic on the rail route.

Requests are pouring in Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh to move Oxygen Express from Reliance Jamnagar Refinery to U.P and Angul (Odisha) to Vijaywada (A.P). Now Madhya Pradesh has also evinced interest and many more are in the queue to transport Medical Oxygen through railway wagons. But it’s equally important to mention here that Liquid oxygen is hazardous and its transportation requires stringent protocols such as the least sudden acceleration or brakes, restricted maximum speeds, avoiding sharp curves, pressure adjustments etc.

This quick and effective action is contrary to the rigid image Railways has been bearing for decades. They have shown proactiveness and flexibility in their approach to making this endeavour a success. The Maharashtra government has made last-minute changes in delivery points, has requested for a change in destination of loaded tankers from Vizag to Nagpur and Nashik which has also been accepted by Railways at short notice and route mapped accordingly.

Apart from this LMO transporting endeavour, Railways has made 3816 Coaches available as covid isolation care beds in different locations. The state governments have been apprised about the availability of coaches. So far only Delhi and Maharashtra demanded the coaches. Delhi has asked for 50 coaches (800 beds) at Shakur Basti and 25 coaches (400 beds) at Anand Vihar as on date no patient has been admitted to these care centres, despite the fact that Delhi seeing over 25,000 cases daily and need to utilise this facility.

Nandurbar (Maharashtra) has 21 coaches (378 beds) only 32 patients are admitted to these coaches.

To clear extra rush additional trains are being run from Railways during April-May 2021

• Central Railway – 130 trains (364 trips)

• Western Railway – 154 trains (212 trips)

• Northern Railway – 27 trains (27 trips)

• East Central Railway – 02 trains (4 trips)

• North Eastern Railway – 09 train (14 trips)

• North Central Railway – 01 train (10 trips)

• South Western Railway – 3 trains (30 trips)

• Total trains 328 (664 trips)

The trains are for destinations having high demand like Gorakhpur, Patna, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur, Varanasi, Guwahati, Manduadih, Barauni, Prayagraj, Bokaro, Ranchi, Lucknow& Kolkatta as the workers are returning home due to fear of the pandemic.

This pandemic has made drastic changes in the approach of government working and has changed the mindset positively. Railways under the leadership of Piyush Goyal have broken the rigid boundaries set from a century-old pattern of working in this organisation. The praises showered by Youtuber Nitin Shukla are found genuine and appreciable.

Gopal Goswami is a research scholar.

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Punjab CM declares Malerkotla state’s 23rd district, announces development projects



Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday declared Malerkotla as the 23rd district of the state, while also announcing a slew of projects for the development of the historic city.

The Chief Minister made these announcements during the state-level celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, held virtually in view of the pandemic. On the occasion, the Chief Minister underscored India’s secular character, which he said was manifested in the defeat of communal forces in the recent Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Recalling the rich history of Malerkotla, the CM said its conversion into a district, which had been a long-standing demand of the local people, would ease their hardships and enable them to resolve administrative problems more seamlessly.

Initially, said the Chief Minister, the sub-divisions of Malerkotla and Ahmedgarh, as well as the sub-tehsil of Amargarh, would be included in the newly created district. The process of bringing villages under the jurisdiction of Malerkotla district would begin later, after the conclusion of the census operations, he added. The Chief Minister directed the Deputy Commissioner Sangrur to find a suitable building to immediately start the functioning of the District Administration office. The Deputy Commissioner for the newly carved out district would be appointed soon, he said.

Announcing various development projects for Malerkotla, Capt Amarinder Singh also announced the establishment of a government college for girls and a government medical college. The medical college, in the name of Nawab Sher Mohammed Khan, would be set up soon at a cost of Rs. 500 crore, and the state has allotted 25 acres of land on Raikot Road and the first instalment of Rs. 50 crore has already been sanctioned, he added. A new bus stand will also be constructed at a cost of Rs. 10 crore, he said, adding that Malerkotla will also get a ‘Mahila Thana’ which would be exclusively managed by women.

To ensure holistic urban development, the Chief Minister also announced a sum of Rs. 6 crore for the Urban Environment Improvement Program (UEIP).

Further, to promote the cultural heritage of Malerkotla, the Chief Minister said the Punjab Government has acquired the Mubarak Manzil Palace and that he has written to His Highness the Aga Khan Foundation UK to undertake its conservation and restoration. He also recounted his memories with the then Nawab of Malerkotla and spoke about the city’s significance in Sikh history.

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Raipur : The Chhattisgarh government has decided to pay for the education of children who have lost their parents/guardians to Covid and children from families where the earning member has died of Covid.

CMO Chhattisgarh tweeted, “Chhattisgarh government will pay for the education of children who lost their parents due to #COVID19, scholarship also to be provided under state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme. State govt will also take care of the education of children whose earning member of the family has died of Covid”.

Children orphaned due to Covid will also be provided with scholarships under the state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme.

The CMO also tweeted that such children will be given preference for admission in Swami Atmanand English Medium Schools. No fee will be charged.

As per the Health and Family Welfare Ministry of Chhattisgarh, 9,121 Covid cases were recorded on Friday out of 67,738 tests conducted. With this, the total number of cases in the state are reached 8,92,331. The state also recorded 195 deaths on Friday, wherein 92 were from Covid, while 103 patients died of co-morbidities. The Ministry also reported 12,274 total recoveries, including those discharged from home quarantine, bringing the total number recoveries to 7,61,592.

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Messaging app WhatsApp told the Delhi High Court on Friday that it is not forcing any user to accept the 2021 update in its privacy policy as it is not mandatory. It said users will have a choice to accept the new update or choose not to, and are free to delete their WhatsApp accounts any time.

Replying to a petition challenging the privacy policy of the app, WhatsApp submitted that users were not previously given the option to opt out of its privacy policies if they wanted to use the service.

The social messaging app also said that it is not under any legal obligation to provide such opt-outs to its users and added that the law permits companies to not provide their services to users who do not consent to their terms.

The company also said that such practices are commonly practiced by online platforms across the industry whenever they update their terms. The company also said that online platforms are often less transparent by simply implying consent through continued use of their service after a certain date, rather than prominently and clearly giving users control and choice, as WhatsApp did.

The company also submitted that such interference in the privacy update policy would “cripple” the internet-based applications and websites industry.

The messaging app also said that the petitioners’ allegations regarding the alleged disparity with European users are meritless. The company maintained that the 2021 update, which applies to users in India, also applies to most of WhatsApp’s users around the world, including in the US. On the different policy for WhatsApp’s users in the “European Region”, the social messaging app submitted that it is due to different rules and obligations in the European Regio

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Given the Covid crisis, Haryana has announced to give parole to convicted persons who were sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment. It was decided at a meeting of the High Powered Committee held under the Chairmanship of Justice Rajan Gupta, Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court and Executive Chairman, Haryana State Legal Services Authority.

As informed by the Prisons Department, Haryana, a total of 21,804 (108%) prisoners are presently lodged in 19 jails of Haryana against the authorized capacity of 20,041 (100%). Since the first meeting of the High Powered Committee, held on 24 March 2020, 2,580 convicts sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment were released on special parole. Similarly, 2,094 (656+1438) convicts/undertrials sentenced up to 7 years or facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years were released on special parole/interim bail under the orders of HPC.

Subsequently, with a decrease in Covid cases, the High Powered Committee had directed the return of the convicts released on parole in cases where they were undergoing imprisonment for more than 7 years in 9 phases. Till date 2,170 convicts have surrendered in jails under 8 phases and the 9th phase consisting of 280 convicts started from 14 May, 2021.

In pursuance of directions issued by Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on 7 May 2021 in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.1 / 2020 – In RE: Contagion of Covid-19 in Prisons, and considering the emergent situation in and around due to sudden spike in Covid, the Committee has decided to release all convicts sentenced to imprisonment for more than 7 years who were released earlier on special parole under the categories prescribed by the Committee on special parole till 31 August 2021. Special parole granted to convicts who were to surrender in the 9th phase has also been extended till 3 August 2021.

However, convicts who have failed to surrender on the date fixed or are absconding or against whom new cases were registered while on special parole are not entitled to special parole. No special parole shall be applicable to those who are not covered by the categories approved by the High Powered Committee in its previous meetings.

Competent authorities have been directed to consider the concern of inmates who may not wish for release in view of their social background and the fear of becoming Covid victims and may allow them to stay in jail after taking a written declaration from them.

The Committee has also extended the parole/interim bail of 2017 convicts/undertrials who are sentenced up to 7 years/facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years till 31 August 2021. State and jail authorities have been asked to consider the cases of all such convicts/undertrials for parole/interim bail as well as any other convict/undertrial covered by the categories prescribed by the High Powered Committee.

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Urvashi Khona



After facing backlash for the Maharashtra government’s allotment of Rs 6 crore to a private PR agency for handling Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s social media accounts, Pawar has cancelled the notification of the appointment. He clarified that he does not need any outside PR firm and the government department will do its work.

An order issued on Wednesday by RN Musale, under-secretary at the General Administration Department for the year 2021-22, stated that an external agency was to be appointed, with a budget of Rs 5.98 crore, for handling the social media accounts of NCP leader Ajit Pawar. As per the order, this was because the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR) lacks the professional and technical competence to deal with social media. The PR agency which was to be appointed in consultation with the Deputy Chief Minister, Secretariat and DGIPR was also tasked to see how messages and decisions by Ajit Pawar reaches the common man.

However after severe backlash, including from the Opposition, that crores of rupees were being spent merely for advertisements amid the Covid crisis, the Deputy CM – who also holds the finance and planning portfolio – cancelled the decision.

“There is no need to appoint an external agency to handle the social media of the Deputy Chief Minister’s Office. The order in this regard should be cancelled immediately,” read his press statement with an add-on clarification that communication with citizens and the media would be maintained only through the existing public relations system.

Meanwhile, BJP MLA Ram Kadam attacked Pawar, raising the question that if this was the amount to be spent for one minister, what it would be for the others. “People have died in the pandemic due to the negligence of the Maharashtra government. On one hand, the government is saying that they don’t have enough money to purchase vaccines and on the other hand, to pat their backs on social media a team is hired for the Deputy Chief Minister at a budget of Rs 6 crore. If this budget is for one minister, what is the budget for all the ministers?” he asked.

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New Delhi : A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Centre, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) to cancel the CBSE and ICSE Class XII examinations.

CBSE, through its letter dated 14 April, had cancelled the examination for class X and postponed the examination for Class XII. CISCE, through its circulars dated 16 and 19 April, had cancelled the examination for Class X and postponed the examination for Class XII for an unspecified period. The plea asked the court to set aside these notifications issued only in respect of clauses dealing with the postponement of the Class XII examination.

The petition filed by advocate Mamta Sharma asked the court to devise an objective methodology to declare the result of Class XII within a specific time frame. The plea stated that for the innocent students of Class XII, “step-motherly, arbitrary, inhuman directions” have been issued to postpone their final examination for an unspecified duration.

“In view of the unprecedented health emergency and rising numbers of the Covid-19 cases in the country, the conduct of examination, either offline or online or blended in upcoming weeks is not possible and delay in the examination will cause irreparable loss to the students as time is the essence in taking admission in higher education courses in foreign universities,” the plea said.

It added that delay in declaration of results will ultimately hamper one semester of the aspiring students as admission cannot be confirmed until the Class XII result is declared.

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