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Mumbai may become a car-packed nightmare – Traffic remains 5 hours to clear

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MUMBAI:

With the cost of automobiles steadily falling and the purchasing power of the middle class on the rise, transport economists and environmentalists fear that Mumbai may soon become another car-packed nightmare like Bangkok. Despite several recommendations on curbing the automobiles influx, Mumbai continues to add about 200 new vehicles to its population of seven lakh vehicles daily. As a result, congestion and pollution levels are soaring by the day, even as road speeds plummet.
“At this rate, we may soon become a gas chamber like Bangkok, where commuters spend hours every day in their cars,” said Kisan Mehta of the Save Bombay Committee. While transport economists have for years been calling for demand control measures to discourage usage of private vehicles, the Maharashtra government has shown little will to curb the auto menace. Possible demand control measures include a heavy tax on the purchase of cars, an annual tax on vehicle usage, special tolls to enter congested areas and stiff parking charges. In several European and Asian cities, auto taxes are several times the cost of the car.

Urban development principal secretary K. Nalinakshan admitted at a seminar on road transport on Saturday that the government had failed to introduce effective demand control measures. “Demand control is the only solution to Mumbai’s road congestion problems, but the government has been at a loss to implement these measures,” he confessed. Instead of upgrading and supporting public transport systems, the Maharashtra government has been accused of catering to the automobile lobby. The World Bank, which is expected to fund the ambitious Mumbai Urban Transport Project-2, has expressed dismay at the Maharashtra government’s decision to construct 55 flyovers in the city to facilitate easier motoring. The World Bank’s consultants objected to the flyover project as it gave a boost to private transport, instead of emphasising public transport options which are considered the most rational and energy-sensible solution to the city’s commuting problems.

“The flyovers will definitely increase usage of motor vehicles in the city, which will further degrade public transport options. The flyovers may be needed in the long-run, but without demand control measures, they are a recipe for disaster,” a World Bank consultant told this newspaper. Even as the flyovers spring up, recommendations on demand control measures gather dust. The government has still to pass a bill empowering the BMC to introduce road pricing measures, sources at the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) said. Meanwhile, the MMRDA has still to complete studies on the impact of specific demand control measures, which are required as a precursor to the MUTP. The automobile lobby, however, insists that there should be no anti-car measures till public transport is upgraded. “Can car-owners be expected to give up their cars and travel hanging out of trains? Luxury bus services must be introduced as an option,” said Nitin Dossa, president of the Western India Automobiles Association (WIAA). The WIAA had recently challenged a minor increase in parking charges in court. However, environmentalists insist that effective taxing of private transport must precede luxury public transport. “The auto lobby should be reminded that in European cities, public transport is luxurious only because cars are heavily taxed,” commented Debi Goenka of the Bombay Environmental Action Group. “In Mumbai, car owners are totally pampered. Road tax is probably the only commodity in the city which is inflation-proof–it still stands at 1940 levels,” he added. Despite opinion to the contrary, Mr Dossa felt car owners were suffciently taxed already. “What about the RTO tax of 10.5 per cent of the value of the car we pay? It is wrong to say that cars are subsidised,” he said.

Hai, this is sri ram, I one of the General Assignment Reporter, at timesnowindia.com, We mainly cover timely news, educational and entertainment, sections. - Chief editor, politico-social activist, software engineer at Accenture India.

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Dearer trend prevails in tea auction in COIMBATORE

EUROPEAN Union proposals on trade in farm products presented to the World Trade Organisation has met resistance from Pakistan and India.

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EUROPEAN Union proposals on trade in farm products presented to the World Trade Organisation has met resistance from Pakistan and India.

However, the proposals from the 15-strong EU on Monday got a less hostile hearing than usual from the cairns group of agricultural exporters, according to an EU official.

Reforms in the farm sector are a major element in the WTO’s mission to open up national markets to free trade. The talks are aimed at agreeing common rules for liberalising markets.

“Our impression is that the Gairns Group, in spite of plenty of reserves … has several parts of our proposals they endorse, they see it as a constructive attempt,” the official said.

“Most critical remarks came from Pakistan, and, to a lesser extent, from India … reflecting their feeling that they want to make progress in the discussion on implementation before they are prepared to contemplate serious negotiations on agriculture,” the official added.

The EU proposals covered five issues: Market access, competition in export matters, domestic support, non-commercial concerns, and different treatment for developing countries. Resistance from Pakistan and India stemmed from their desire to see measures implemented from the previous Uruguay round of trade talks, which lasted from 1987 to 1994, the official said. РAFP

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Know your rights before I-T swoop @ MUMBAI full report

FROM now on, all income-tax raids will begin only after providing to the person being searched, an “information pamphlet”, listing the rights of the person in such situations.

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FROM now on, all income-tax raids will begin only after providing to the person being searched, an “information pamphlet”, listing the rights of the person in such situations.

This step has been taken by I-T authorities to ward off the allegations of harassment that often crop up after the raids. The fact that the assessee may not be aware of his rights in such situations is another reason for certain officers to misbehave.

The rights of the searched party include the presence of two respectable witnesses from the locality, personal search of all members of the search party before the start of search and after the conclusion of search, to have a copy of panchnama (list of the items at site) together with all the annexes, to call a medical practitioner, if unwell, permission for children to go to school after examination of their bags, to inspect the seal placed on various articles and have meals at normal time.

The assessee also has the right to inspect the books of account seized and make copies of extracts from these books in the presence of an authorised officer, or to make an application objecting to the approval given by the income-tax commissioner for retention of the book of accounts.

The assessee also has the right to receive a copy of any statement recorded before it is used against him, in any proceedings — including prosecution proceedings

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Urea production capacity sufficient till 2020 – KOLKATA

INDIA does not need new investment for urea production for the next three years, Union minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Satyabrata Mukherjee said on Saturday.

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INDIA does not need new investment for urea production for the next three years, Union minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Satyabrata Mukherjee said on Saturday. “The government is at present not encouraging setting up of new capacities for production of urea in the country till the year 2003-2004 other than those fertilizer projects in public and co-operative sector for which in principle approval has already been accorded,” Mukherjee said.

This was on account of near self-sufficiency achieved in the production of urea and also on the basis of an assessment of the demand-supply scenario till the year 2003-2004, he said.

The minister, who was speaking on “Prospects of Chemicals and Fertilizers Industry in West Bengal” said the future prospects of the industry in the state would have to be viewed in the context of the emerging policy scenario, availability of feedstock and the scope for new projects in the context of the macro demand-supply scenario.

The state has not even a single urea producing unit and even those started had never commenced commercial production, he said while referring to Haldia unit of Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation which was set up in 1979 but never went into commercial production and was closed down in 1986. The other unit of HFC in Durgapur was also lying closed since 1997.

Mukherjee said the state, with its vast reservoir of knowledge base, excellent port and a large market in hinterland was ideally placed for new investments in pharmaceutical industry. – PTI

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