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The New Education Policy 2020: Addressing language deprivation and economic survival of tribal mother tongue speakers

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Rabindranath Tagore in his poem ‘Bharat Teertha’ wrote “…No one knows at whose beckoning call how many streams, of humanity came in indomitable waves from all over the world, over the millennia and mingled like rivers, into this vast ocean and created an individual soul, that is called Bharat”. As India revels in the celebration of its 74th Independence Day, I feel that it becomes necessary to revisit what the Indian story of the 21st century has to offer its often neglected, out- of- the- ‘mainstream’ constituents.

Tribals constitute about 8.6% of the nation’s total population and possess their own customs and languages. The usage of the word ‘tribe’ has been regarded as a colonial invention to classify people so diverse from one another in terms of physical and linguistic characteristics, demographic scale, ecological living conditions, and stages of social creation and degree of acculturation and growth. The Report of the High Level Committee on Socio-Economic, Health and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of India in 2014 listed 705 individual ethnic groups as scheduled tribes.

On the eve of Independence, there prevailed two dominant discourses on tribes in India. According to Prof. G.S. Ghurye, the indigenous tribes belonged to the same group as the Hindus; they had been pushed to backwardness because of their isolation with the larger Hindu society in due course of time. The contrasting view offered by the British-born anthropologist, and tribal activist Verrier Elwin attributed the marginalization of the tribals to their contact with the outside world, which had led them to become increasingly indebted and to lose control over their land and forests. This, in turn, brought about crippling effects on their social and cultural life as well. Linguistic identity is a key element in social and cultural life of every community. Languages are repositories of historical/geographical knowledge and healthy community interactions. Indigenous people speak hundreds of languages. The nationalist leadership attributed much of the condition at which tribals found themselves at the eve of independence principally to their social and geographical isolation and socio- economic backwardness. Therefore, the tribal policy in independent India came to be centered on the agenda of drawing the tribal communities out of their primordial condition of living and bringing them into the wider mainstream Indian society which was seen as representing a dimension of civilisation. Various provisions related to the tribal community in the Constitution of India clearly reflect this vision of the nationalist leadership. These include, among other provisions, extending fundamental rights to tribes as any other citizen, providing for their statutory recognition (Article 342) as well as proportionate representation in the Parliament and state legislatures (Articles 330 and 332). The Constitution also mandates the state to make provision for reservation in favor of tribal communities [Article 16(4)]. Besides these, the fifth and sixth schedules of the constitution (Articles 244 and 244A) provide for special administration of tribal areas.

 India, with 197 endangered languages, tops the list in UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (2010). Around 100 of these 197 endangered languages are from tribal areas of the Northeastern region of India (NEI). Further, 13 of them are classified as critically endangered. When a language is lost, cultural tools for encrypting and distributing indigenous information structures among the groups are also lost. This loss becomes even more acute in a country like India where caste, class, gender, religion, lingual and regional fault lines play a paramount role in defining identities of citizens at various levels. The speakers of minority and indigenous languages are devoid of the sense of individuality and recognition when languages spoken by the tribal communities are excluded from mainstream educational discourse. Here, I feel that it is important to note that most tribal languages are written in either the dominant regional language or another major language script. Given the respect that a language backed by codified script commands in the syllabic world, languages lacking a script are often trivialized as dialects, clearly missing the reality that writing frameworks often evolved well after languages and are not important language resources. The proponents of bringing tribals into the ‘mainstream’ in their zeal often ignore that privileging homogenisation and standardization of languages leads to linguistic and cultural inequality resulting in loss of freedom, and disparity in participation and growth. It is in this context that I analyse the issue of education in the local language/ mother tongue and the preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages.

How did Language Policy Evolve in India?

The Indian Constitution emphasized that for an initial period of fifteen years, the official business of the Union should be performed both in English and Hindi. Following this time, Hindi would become the Union’s only official language. It also acknowledged linguistic diversity. Part XVII contains provisions on Official Language, including Articles 345-347 on ‘Regional Languages’ and ‘Language of the State.’ The Constitution allows the Indian States to define their own official language(s) by legislation under these articles. It also emphasized that ‘the language(s) chosen by the States need not be one of those listed in the Eighth Schedule’. Article 29(1) provides for safeguarding the rights of linguistic and cultural minorities, which ensures the right of linguistic and cultural minorities to maintain their linguistic and cultural practices. Article 30(1) provides that linguistic and religious groups have the right to establish and administer educational establishments to protect their linguistic and/or cultural heritage. Further, Article 30(2) forbids the State from discrimination against minority educational institutions on the basis that they are under the supervision of linguistic or religious minorities in offering financial assistance. These two broad provisions meant for the protection and promotion of multilingualism are equally applicable to tribal communities. The Official Language Act, 1963, officially established Hindi and English as the languages of the Central Government, thus, allowing States and provinces to use their ‘own’ languages. However, the re-organization of states based on linguistic cohesiveness had already begun with the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1953. The inclusion of certain languages in the Schedule VIII further led to the local pushpull of linguistic identities. The Constitution of India recognises twenty-two languages as ‘scheduled languages.’

The Linguistic Geopolitics of NEI

The Partition of India in 1947 reduced the North- East India to a landlocked region. Tripura, Manipur and Khasi Hills of Meghalaya were erstwhile Princely States that merged with India after independence. At independence the entire region except Manipur and Tripura comprised the state of Assam. The vast international border and weak communication between the North- East and the rest of India added to the diaphanous nature of insulated politics there. At the same time, the influx of migrants from neighbouring States and countries brought about major demographic changes in the region. The seclusion of the region, its complex social character and backwardness compared to other parts of the country -all resulted in complex set of demands, sometimes even secessionist, from different tribal pockets of the North- East. The demands for political autonomy first arose when the non- Assamese felt that the Assam government was imposing Assamese language on them. In Assam, forced Bengali immigration had led to minor and major ethnic movements. Hence, the declaration of Assamese as the official language was seen mostly as a win over the Bengali imposition. There were agitations and riots throughout the State. Leaders of the major tribal communities formed the Eastern India Tribal Union which later transformed into All Party Hill Leaders Conference in 1960. They wanted to separate from Assam and form a separate tribal State. Ultimately, several states got carved out of Assam on the issue of linguistic identity. At different points in time, the division of Assam led to the formation of Nagaland in 1963, Meghalaya in 1970 and Mizoram in 1972, to protect the languages of Naga, Khasi and Mizo, respectively. Kokborok, the Tripuri language was given recognition by the Left Front government as the second official language in 1978 but the script chosen was Bengali. This later became a point of contention for younger generations of Tripuris who insisted on Borok being written in the Roman script rather than Bengali. The creation of several Autonomous District Councils for ethnic tribes, like the Maras, Lais and the Chakmas gave momentum to the demand of a separate identity in Mizoram. This further provided the impetus to other tribal minorities to fight for separate Autonomous District Councils, e.g.: the Hmars (recognized as one of the major languages only in 1986), the Brus and the Paites.

Why are the Tribal Languages on the Verge of Extinction?

After the Census of 1971, the languages that were spoken by less than 10,000 speakers were placed under the section ‘Others’. According to the data of Census of 2011, there are 121 languages and 270 mother tongues spoken in the country. The data below gives a clear picture on speakers of Scheduled and Non-Scheduled languages in the NEI.

The above data shows that all the NEI states have a large number of people who speak Non-Scheduled languages. The share of Non-Scheduled languages speakers is high as 85% in Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya. Only the state of Assam has the least population of 7.22% who speaks NonScheduled languages.

While exploring the reasons behind the endangerment of tribal languages in NEI, I came across six major causes responsible for their ‘linguistic genocide’.

According to Marchang (2017) the output value per factory was about Rs. 15 crore in NEI as against Rs. 27 crore in India. Moreover, only 2% of higher educational institutions of India were in NEI during 2012-13. Language can be passed from one generation to another if there are economic incentives for the younger generation to stay in the region in which the language is spoken. Lack of opportunity in education and employment is a major reason why tribals from NEI migrate to other regions within the country. The yearly out-migration from tribal areas of NEI to the rest of India almost doubled between 1991 and 2001. Considering these endangered languages are mainly tribal languages, lack of economic incentive and the resultant migration could be considered as a key factor contributing to the loss of mother tongue speakers. As observed in tribal regions in Africa which have indigenous languages disappearing, the presence of ex- colonial languages like English and the disproportionate prestige attached to them plays a major factor in the neglect of these languages. One of the factors for some of the indigenous languages not getting attention could be that there are other languages with a bigger population of speakers getting asymmetric attention. In this context, the ‘Assam factor’ plays a primary role in the linguistic tussle in NEI. For example, while Assamese had already been a part of Schedule VIII, a yet another language- mainly spoken in Assam – Bodo was added to Schedule VIII in 2003. However, Nissi/Dafla spoken in Arunachal Pradesh or Konyak/Ao spoken in Nagaland are not in the list of languages demanded to be included in Schedule VIII. Less percentage of people speaking Non-Scheduled languages in Assam can be attributed to inclusion of ‘Bodo’ in the list of Scheduled languages in 2003. Though Article 350A of the Indian Constitution calls for attempts by the State and local authorities to provide appropriate facilities for the teaching of children belonging to linguistic minority groups in their mother tongue at the primary level of education, this is not carried out in practice. Since the school textbooks and other curricular material in dominant languages hardly talk about the regular life experiences of tribal children, the language barrier gets supplemented by the content barrier. The publication of newspapers in India caters to only 35 languages; while the state run enterprise All India Radio broadcasts in 120 languages. More than half of all internet content in the world is in English. Therefore, the exclusion of tribal languages from education and their limited or no usage in media and internet constitute one of the foremost causes for their endangerment. A thorough analysis of the Constituent Assembly debates and the first list of languages from Schedule VIII highlights that the standard used to create a bifurcation between ‘Scheduled’ and ‘Non-Scheduled’ languages did not take into consideration the status of languages in the country. With the Constitutional Amendment of 2003, two tribal languages – Bodo and Santali – were recognized as official languages. It was the first time since the Constitution of India came into force that such recognition was accorded to a tribal language. Even though Bodo and Bhili are spoken by lakhs of people, much greater than the numbers for Sanskrit, until 2003, Bodo was not included in the list. This shows that greater attention has been given to Indo-Aryan and Dravidian family languages as compared to the tribal languages from NEI which are from other language families. The risk of endangerment for the languages lacking a script increases manifold. For tribal speakers of such languages, the memories are weaved as designs at the helms of the clothes and history is remembered as ballads and songs.

The Policy Developments

The Provincial Education Minister’s Conference in 1949 stated that:

“The medium of instruction in the junior basic stage must be the mother-tongue of the child and that when the mother-tongue was different from the regional or State language arrangements must be made for instruction in the mother tongue by appointing at least one teacher to teach all the classes, provided there are at-least 40 such pupils in a school.”

 In 1952, the Secondary Education Commission proposed the study of at least two other languages, e.g. Hindi and English, at the higher primary level. The ‘Three-Language Formula’ which was suggested by Central Advisory Board of Education in 1956 was adopted in the Chief Ministers’ Conference in 1961. The purpose of Three-Language Formula was to ‘promote national integration and equalise the burden of learning languages on children in Hindi and non-Hindi speaking areas’. The Kothari Commission (1964-66) proposed an ‘updated’ Three-Language Formula, which acquired widespread acceptance and is the language policy currently in effect in most of India. In 1968, the National Education Strategy recommended the Three-Language Plan to be introduced. The Parliament adopted the National Policy of Education (NPE) in 1986. As per the policy framework, provision relating to scheduled tribes was not treated as a matter of language or titled bilingual education but instead implemented as follows:

 The socio-cultural milieu of the scheduled tribes and its distinctive characteristics underline the need to develop the curricula and devise instructional materials in the tribal languages at the initial stages, with arrangements for switching over to the regional language.

 In 1992, the Three-Language Formula was revised again under the aegis of National Policy on Education. As per the 2002 National Council Of Educational Research And Training Survey data and Sixth and Seventh All India School Education Survey (1993 and 2007) the ‘first language’ and ‘second language’ offered at the primary stage in the North Eastern states, especially, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim, is usually English or Hindi. Khasi and Garo were recognized as the Associate Official Languages only in 2005 in Meghalaya by the enactment of the Meghalaya State Language Act of 2005. This indicates that the successive governments at the Centre and the State level have remained lackadaisical in their bid to expand the usage of local languages in educating the tribal children despite various states having their ‘own’ languages as the official language and there being the constitutional provisions guaranteeing the protection of interests of linguistic minorities.

 The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 among other things says the local language/ mother tongue would be the preferred medium of instruction till grade five, possibly Class 8 (in both public and private schools). ‘Since children learn languages most quickly between 2-8 years, and multilingualism has great cognitive benefits for students, children will be immersed in three languages early on, from the Foundational Stage.’ Local sign languages will also be taught wherever possible and relevant. The policy also acknowledges that ‘only about 15% of the country speaks English, and this population almost entirely coincides with the economic elite.’ English is regularly used by the elite as a prerequisite for jobs — even in cases of jobs where knowledge of English is entirely irrelevant. This results in the marginalisation of large sections of society based on language. Nonetheless, taking into account the advent of technological advancement and globalization, and ‘to help break the current divide between the economic elite and the rest of the country’, English as a language must also be available and taught in a high quality manner in all schools. ‘The emphasis should be on functionality and fluency.’ Meanwhile, ‘the medium of instruction should be conducted to the extent possible through the local language/ mother tongue and other Indian languages.’ The dichotomy drawn between the local language/ mother tongue as the medium of instruction and English as a discipline, if upheld in letter and spirit, has the potential to ensure both the preservation of linguistic pluralism and economic survival of tribal mother tongue speakers. Experience of the policy initiatives from the past shows that an ambitious policy like NEP 2020 requires micro- level management of schools starting from the panchayat level; decentralisation of planning and execution, from the recruitment of teachers and their training to identifying children speaking varied local languages and creating nation- wide database for the same with the use of high- end information technology, is the key to its successful implementation.

India’s languages are some of the richest, most scientific, and most expressive in the world, with a compendium of ancient as well as modern literature that help form India’s national identity. Multilinguism is a necessity for India to conserve its linguistic and cultural diversity. A multilingual India is better educated and also better nationally integrated. Languages form a critical part of heritage of tribal communities. By compelling tribal children to receive education about history and culture in a language that is alien to them, constitutional and other policy objectives of tribal justice are defied. The 21st century story of India must offer its indigenous communities a multilingual India that is more inclusive, more creative, and more innovative; where the chances of socio-economic development for all and political stability strengthen the spirit of democracy.

 Vijay K. Tyagi is an LL.M candidate at the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi, and Ex-LAMP Fellow. Inputs by Himanshu Khanna.

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‘If you want a change, choose me’ : Tharoor on Congress president poll

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Shashi Tharoor claims party's support

In the upcoming presidential election of the grand old party, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor reiterated on Saturday that his contest against senior party member Mallikarjun Kharge “is not a battle.” Following days of turmoil surrounding the intra-party troubles in Rajasthan, Tharoor and Kharge finally submitted their nominations for the crucial elections, which are set for October 17, on Friday.

“This is not a war. We can belong to different schools of thoughts. Let the members decide,” Tharoor told news agency ANI in an interview on Saturday. “All I am telling the members is  that if you’re satisfied with the functioning of the party, please vote for Kharge Sahab. But if you want a change, choose me.. If you want the party to function differently.”

His remarks came as news spread that the Gandhis were endorsing the 80-year-old Kharge for the top party position. On Saturday, Kharge announced his resignation as the opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, a day after more than 30 leaders surprised many by end-of-nomination support for his candidacy. In contrast, Tharoor was not accompanied by as many senior leaders.

“But there is no ideological problem here. Whatever the message has so far of the Congress will continue to remain,” Shashi Tharoor said on Saturday, dismissing any differences.

Even though the Gandhis made it clear that they would no longer be running for president post, their management has continued to draw criticism. Regarding the family’s importance for the party in light of the BJP’s dynastic politics allegations.

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Kharge resigns as Rajya Sabha Lop, following ‘one person, one post’ formula

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Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge submitted his resignation as Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House as he filed his nomination for the party’s chief post, after the Udaipur announcement of “one person, one post.”

“I hereby tender my resignation from the post of Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha, consequent upon my filing of nomination for the post of President, All India Congress Committee,” Kharge said in his letter to interim party president Sonia Gandhi.

In February 2021, Kharge took over as the Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House following Ghulam Nabi Azad’s retirement. If Kharge, who is considered to be the front-runner, is chosen as the party president, the Congress may need to find a new LoP in the Rajya Sabha.

Although the selection process for Kharge’s replacement won’t begin until the results are announced, party leaders said that Digivjaya Singh, Mukul Wasnik, or Ranjit Ranjan may be possible candidates.

According to party insiders, Singh, who opted out of the race to support Kharge, might emerge as a possible successor to Kharge. “He doesn’t hold any organisational position and a leader from the Hindi belt can also act like a balancing factor,” said a leader, adding that senior party leader Mukul Wasnik may also be considered. Among women leaders, Ranjit Ranjan, a fierce orator from Bihar, or Gujarat’s former leader of the Opposition Shakti Sinh Gohil could also be considered, said a Congress leader from Rajya Sabha.

In an April 2022 decision, the Udaipur Chintan Shivir demanded that the policy be put into effect at all party levels.

Ashok Gehlot, the chief minister of Rajasthan, decided not to run for president of the Congress after Rahul Gandhi’s strongly advocated “one person, one post” formula sparked an uprising inside the state party last week. A majority of Congress MLAs in Rajasthan staged a separate meeting and prevented the adoption of a one-line resolution authorising the party leader to propose Gehlot’s replacement.

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As ‘Bharat Jodo’ enters Karnataka, rattled BJP gives front-page ad that distorts history: Jairam Ramesh

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As Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra entered the BJP-ruled state, according to Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Saturday, the BJP placed a front page advertisement in a Kannada newspaper. Ramesh said in a tweet, “The advertisement mischievously distorts history as usual. Savarkar propounded two-nation theory & Jinnah ensured it got done. Syama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of Jan Sangh championed partition of Bengal.” BJP is rattled by the yatra’s success, the Congress leader continued.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi entered the election-bound state of Karnataka on Friday. There, the yatra will travel 511 kilometres across seven districts in 21 days.

Rahul Gandhi remarked in a statement at the beginning of the march’s Kerala leg that the Bharat Jodo Yatra is the voice of the nation and that no one can stop it.

“Entire control is lying with the (Central) government. If we speak in Parliament, they shut our microphones,” Rahul Gandhi said.

A new Rahul Gandhi and a new Congress party have emerged from the Bharat Jodo Yatra which forced the BJP and the RSS on the backfoot, Jairam Ramesh said on Friday. “People asked who is ‘thodoing’ (breaking) Bharat for Congress to do Bharat Jodo, our answer is Mr Modi’s ideology, policies, personality is thodoing Bharat. Because economic inequality is increasing, social polarisation is increasing and political over-centralisation is increasing, the Congress is doing this yatra,” Jairam Ramesh said.

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Rajnath Singh Urges Industry cooperation to take Indian defence sector to new heights

Government Steps to Improve Defence Industry manufacturing eco system are showing results: RM

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Rajnath Singh

Introduction
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh exhorted the Indian defence Industry to make new investments and lay more emphasis on research & development to scale new heights. He was addressing the 117th Annual session of PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PHD-CCI ) held in New Delhi on September 30th, 2022. “Make new investments, put more emphasis on research & development, and harness its full potential to take the Indian defence industry to new heights. This effort of yours will be very important not only for the defence industry, but also for the overall growth of the entire country,’ he said.
Raksha Mantri added that the Indian defence sector offers immense potential and the companies even from abroad see opportunities. PHD-CCI being one of the oldest industry associations having many national and international members could act as ambassador of the Indian defence industry. “Your roots are spread far and wide in the country and abroad. You can fulfil your role by communicating with all the domestic and foreign companies, connecting them with the Indian defence industry and acting as a bridge between these two,” he said
Appreciating the PHD-CCI for scheduling a dedicated session on ‘Make in India: A success story of India’s Defence Indigenization’ Raksha Mantri said that this is equally related to the national security, and the economic progress of the country. National security is one of the most important components in the progress of a nation. The social, economic and cultural upliftment of the nation are not possible without security.. India had paid the price in past for neglecting national security. Even after independence not enough attention was given to make defence sector strong and self-reliant, he lamented.
Striking an optimistic note, Raksha Mantri said that Indian defence industry is progressing steadily in partnership with private sector.”There was either no way for the private sector in the past to enter the defence sector, and even if there was some scope, the industry was not ready to set foot in the defence sector due to various reasons”. These reasons were lack of political will, appropriate policy to incentivize their entry, high investment and long gestation period.
Raksha Mantri noted that the government has removed these bottlenecks and played the role of an incubator, catalyst, consumer and facilitator in the case of private industry. Several steps have been taken by the Ministry of Defence, under the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Self-reliant India’ initiatives of the Government, to change the old traditions, and to create a manufacturing climate, in which the public and private sectors could participate.
Elaborating upon the far-reaching reforms undertaken by the MOD to bolster the private sector participation in defence sector, Raksha Mantri said that Government labs opened to the private industry, transferred technology at zero fee, provided access to test facilities, and upfront funding through DRDO was provisioned.
The Ministry of Defence has issued 3 positive indigenization lists of 309 items which will be procured from domestic vendors as per norms. Three lists have also been issued by Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU), in which more than 3700 are Line Replacement Units, Sub-systems and other Components. In addition, an iDEX initiative has been launched to encourage innovators and start-ups. The policy decision has been taken to increase the limit of FDI to 74% by the automatic route, and to 100% by the government route in special cases. Government has taken several steps like introduction of defence industrial corridors– two Industrial corridors have been set up each in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, corporatization of OFB which creates win-win situation for armed forces, industry, start-ups and innovators, said Raksha Mantri.
He further said : “The magnitude of all these efforts is beginning to come before us. Today we are not only producing to meet our own defence needs, but also fulfilling the defence needs of many other countries under ‘Make for the World’. It is a matter of great happiness that defence exports have increased manifold from what we used to have, and have reached Rs 13,000 crores last year. We used to be counted as one of the biggest arms importers in the world until now. But today we are one of the top 25 arms exporting countries of the world. We have targeted a turnover of Rs 1.75 lakh crore in defence manufacturing, including Rs 35,000 crore from exports in aerospace, and defence goods and services by 2025.”
PHD-CCI is one of the oldest chambers in the country. Since its establishment in 1905, it has been proactive National Apex Chamber working at the grass-root level and with strong national and international linkages. The Chamber acts as a catalyst in the promotion of industry, trade and entrepreneurship. PHD Chamber, through its research-based policy advocacy role, positively impacts the economic growth and development of the nation.

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Indian Railways to release its new All India Railway time table

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Indian Railways to release its new All India Railway time table

The Ministry of Railways will be releasing its new All India Railway Time Table known as “TRAINS AT A GLANCE (TAG)” effective from 1st October, 2022. The new Trains at a Glance will also be available w.e.f. 1st October, 2022 on Indian Railways’ official website i.e. www.indianrailways.gov.in.

Highlights of the new time table are as follows:
I. Indian Railways runs about 3,240 Mail/Express trains which include Vande Bharat Express, Gatimaan Express, Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express, Humsaafar Express, Tejas Express, Duronto Express, Antyodaya Express, Garib Rath Express, Sampark Kranti Express, Yuva Express, Uday Express, Janshatabdi Express and other types of trains. In addition, about 3,000 Passenger trains and 5,660 suburban trains are also operated over the Indian Railways network. The volume of passengers carried daily is about 2.23 Crore.
II. To clear extra rush and meet passenger demand, more than 65,000 Special train trips were operated during 2021-22. About 566 coaches were permanently augmented to increase the carrying capacity.
III. Maximize the utilization of rolling stock:
i. During review of the lie over of rakes it was observed that the rakes can be better utilized for extending the existing services or increasing the frequency. This would maximize the utilization of the rolling stock and provide better connectivity to the travelling passengers.
ii.During the year 2021-22, 106 new services were introduced, 212 services were extended and frequency of 24 services was increased.
IV. Proliferation of Premium Trains:
i. At present, Vande Bharat Express trains are operating between New Delhi – Varanasi and New Delhi – Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra. One more Vande Bharat Express train has been introduced between Gandhinagar Capital and Mumbai Central w.e.f. 30.09.2022. It has been proposed to introduce more Vande Bharat Express trains over the Indian Railways network.
ii. Tejas Express services offering onboard services like entertainment, local cuisine, wifi etc. are also being proliferated over Indian Railway network. At present, 7 pairs of Tejas Express services are operational over Indian Railways.
V. Provision of Corridor Blocks in the working Time-Table of the divisions:
To provide sufficient time for the maintenance of the fixed infrastructure like track structure, signaling gears, overhead equipments, it has been planned to ensure provision of fixed corridor blocks. The duration of these corridors blocks will be from 3 hours in each section. This will not only improve the reliability of the assets but also enhance the passenger safety.
X. Conversion of Rakes ICF to LHB:
The conversion of Mail/Express trains operating with ICF design rakes is being undertaken to improve passenger safety and provide faster transit with better riding comfort. Indian Railways converted 187 Rakes of ICF to LHB for the period of 2021-2022.
VII. Efforts to improve punctuality of late running trains:
Necessary changes in the time table have been incorporated to improve punctuality. Due to concerted efforts the punctuality of Mail/Express trains has improved by about 9% as compared to the punctuality during pre Covid (2019-20).
viii. Standardization of rakes:
The rakes at different maintenance depots have been standardized by integration of the rake links to improve flexibility in operations and thereby help in improving punctuality.
IX. Replacement of conventional Passenger trains with MEMU/DEMU:
In the year 2021-22, 60 number of conventional passenger services have been replaced by MEMUs thereby increasing the overall mobility of the system.
X. Availability of Trains at a Glance as “e-Book”:
As a part of digitalization of train Time Table, Trains at a Glance (TAG) will now also be available as ‘e-Book’ which can be downloaded from IRCTC website (www.irctc.co.in & www.irctctourism.com).

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Strict Action against defaulters: Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav

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Strict Action against defaulters: Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav

Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav, conducted a detailed review on 30.09.2022 on measures and actions planned towards abatement of air pollution by all stakeholders concerned in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas, in the wake of poor air quality conditions generally prevailing during the period between October – January each year,
Union Minister impressed upon key sectors that contribute to air pollution and are critical in the ensuing 3-4 months period. He emphasized that source of air pollution such as paddy stubble burning, open biomass / municipal solid waste burning, industrial emissions and particulate matter / dust emissions from construction / demolition activities and roads / open areas were directed to be focussed for concerted preventive and mitigative actions.
Union Minister directed for timely and effective implementation of various components of the detailed plan of actions, developed by the NCR States and Punjab, pursuant to CAQM Framework / Directions on management of paddy stubble burning. Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change called upon Punjab to expand the coverage of area under Bio-Decomposer through pro-active action by the State Government specially since a very marginal increase had been proposed in the coverage of area under Bio-Decomposer i.e. form 7500 acres in 2021 to merely 8000 acres in 2022.
Chairman, CAQM also emphasized the need of time bound implementation of the action plan particularly by the State of Punjab. Optimal utilisation of available crop residue management machinery with the states was identified as a key factor towards effective management of stubble. Extensive use of technology and mobile applications for mapping the demand and supply of such CRM machinery through the CHCs and cooperatives was emphasised upon during the meeting. It was also stressed upon enhancing the net of PUSA bio‑decomposer application for in-situ management of the stubble. Towards ex-situ utilisation of paddy straw various options are now being progressed with including biomass power generation, bio-ethanol production, CBG production, co-firing in thermal power plants, fuel for industrial boilers and other misc. applications, composting, cattle fodder and misc. commercial applications in furnishing materials and packaging etc. Progress on co-firing of biomass in thermal power plants has not been up to the desired levels and the Minister called for immediate corrective measures by Thermal Power Plants to substantially enhance co-firing. The Minister asked CAQM to utilize his statutory powers to take action against the defaulting the Power plants and also any other defaulting entities.
Union Minister expressed his concern and dis-satisfaction with the preparedness of Punjab in taking concrete action on the ground towards Air Quality Management while pointing out that the State Government had not planned adequately for management of almost 5.75 million tons of stubble which is a huge gap and was likely to have an adverse impact on the air quality in Delhi and NCR region.
The Minister exhorted the need to switch over to clean fuels for industrial applications and directed for a quick transition to clean fuels as per the approved standard fuel list for NCR as directed for by the CAQM. Controlling heavy pollution from a large number of diesel generator sets operating in NCR was also identified as key action area and the Minister emphasised on strict implementation of restrictions on use of DG Sets and emission control measures in this context.
The review highlighted the need for effective dust control measures in various anthropogenic activities, construction / demolition activities, roads and open areas. Effective utilisation and augmentation of mechanised road cleaning equipment, water sprinklers and anti-smog guns by NCR State Governments / GNCTD was also emphasized during the meeting.
Considering the criticality of air pollution related mattes including the weather conditions around Diwali festival, the Minister directed for special and timely measures to control the air pollution levels.
As air pollution in the region is a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral phenomenon, spreading across geographical boundaries, the Minister reiterated the need for collective and concerted efforts of all the stakeholder agencies, departments in the State Govts. and public at large towards abatement of air pollution in the region and to this effect directed that all directions, orders and guidelines of the CAQM / CPCB/ State Pollution Control Boards be implemented in right earnest and critically monitored / reviewed periodically by the authorities concerned.
Senior officials from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change including Secretary, Chairman, Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), Secretary in-charge in the State Govts. of Punjab, Haryana, UP and GNCT of Delhi, Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board, NCR State Pollution Control Boards, DPCC and other major stakeholders participated in the review meet.

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