Bihar plans all-CNG commercial car fleet for Patna


The Bihar government said it plans to convert all commercial vehicles running on fossil fuel to be powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), starting with Patna.

The number of vehicles registered in Bihar jumped 6.5 times in 11 years to 950,120 (February 2018), according to the state transport department. Pollution hasn’t been far behind.

The state capital was ranked the seventh-most polluted city in the world, with a PM (particulate matter) 2.5 count of 119.7 mg, according to the 2018 World Air Quality Report prepared by IQAir AirVisual and non-profit Greenpeace.

The Bihar State Pollution Control Board blamed this on vehicular emission, domestic fuel burning, burning of waste in the open, construction, industrial emissions and road dust.

Owners of all commercial vehicles in Patna have been advised to switch over to CNG to keep air pollution in check, transport department authorities said. “We are encouraging vehicle owners to opt for CNG; not only is it cheaper but also environment friendly,” state Transport Secretary Sanjay Agarwal told Down to Earth on September 5, 2019.

He said the current focus was on Patna and cars with petrol engines, even as the department was firming up a policy. Diesel-run vehicles will be taken up subsequently. Eight companies have been authorised to fit old vehicles with CNG kits, depending on models and variants, he added.

An official report pegged the number of commercial vehicles retrofitted with CNG kits at 150 so far.

The move hasn’t gone down smoothly with owners of commercial vehicles though. Describing the move as a punishment, Ranjeet Kumar, secretary of the Patna chapter of All India Road Transport and Workers Federation, said: “This will destroy our business and leave our families to starve.”

Auto drivers, who make an average Rs400-500 a day, will have to shell out about Rs 35,000 for a CNG kit. “How can they afford that without any government subsidy?” Kumar asked and warned of protests in case the government didn’t look into demands.

Of the state’s 922,500 commercial vehicles, 225,000 are auto-rickshaws, 190,000 trucks, 325,000 tactors, 75,000 buses, and 7000-7500 are tanker lorries.

Agarwal denied that the government was pressuring vehicle owners. State Transport Minister Santosh Kuamr Nirala, however, said on September 4 that though there was no compulsion and vehicle owners can attach kits voluntarily, “after certain period, conversion of all vehicles to CNG will be made mandatory.”

The lack of CNG filling stations — Patna has only two at the moment — is also a worry. The government has announced that three more will be added by mid-October.

RPI demands seats, silent on contesting on BJP symbol


Mumbai: Republican Party of India (RPI) led by Ramdas Aathwale has demanded 10 seats for the forthcoming Assembly election, but has kept a secret whether the party will contest on BJP symbol Lotus or not?

RPI Mumbai unit held a rally at NSCI Stadium in Worli on Thursday. The event was attended by CM Devendra Fadanvis, Union Minister of State Ramdas Athawale, Lok Sabha member Rahul Shewale, Ministers Mahadev Jankar, Suresh Khade and Avinash Mahatekar, among others.

It was being said Athawale will open his cards about whether RPI candidates would contest on Lotus or not. But he did not utter a single word about it. “We want 8-10 seats in the Assembly election. I am confident our alliance will win 240 seats in the poll,” Athhawale said.

Replying to his demands, CM Fadnavis assured him him that RPI will have its own representative in the state Assembly.

“It is now certain the BJP Shiv Sena-RPI-RSP grand alliance will again come to power in the state. But, I promise the next Assembly will have leader of RPI as its member,” Fadnavis assured among thunderous applaus from the audience.

Power follows me, says Athavale

“I am always criticised for compromising valuses to be in power. Actually, wherever I go, power follows me. When I joined the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, they were in opposition.

Later, we came to power at the Centre as well as in the state,” Athawale stated, while addressing his workers. He also praised the BJP-Sena government for effective implementation of various schemes of SC and ST.

Won’t allow change in Constitution

Athwale also countered allegations of the Opposition and stated he would not allow the Modi government to change the Constitution.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a strong supporter of reservation of SCs and STs. The BJP is not anti- Ambedkar or anti-reservation. If any anti-Constitution thing happens, I am there to protect the Constitution,” Athavale said.

Echoing the same sentiment, CM Fadnavis said it was a malacious campaign of the Opposition parties that the BJP would end reservation. “In fact, when the 50 years limit of the SC and ST Reservation ended in 1997,

it was BJP PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee who extended this limit. We are not anti-Constitution. When Modi took oath, he saluted Constitution,” Fadnavis said.

With new fines, axe on licence in Ranchi


If steep fines for traffic violations are not enough, the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019 also permits the suspension of a first offender’s licence for a period of three months, if the transport department deems fit.

Ranchi traffic police department on Thursday shot off a letter to the Ranchi district transport department, recommending the driving licences of as many as 203 people be suspended for three months. These traffic offenders were all caught and fined for violating various traffic rules, including not wearing helmets, under the amended motor vehicles Act from the evening of September 3, when it was enforced in the capital.

However, now the district transport department has to take a final call on the suspension of the licences. Offenders can approach the department, pleading against their licence suspension by promising they would not violate traffic rules in future.

Asked about this double jeopardy, Ranchi traffic superintendent of police Ajit Peter Dungdung explained: “The amended Act, in section 19, has the suspension provision. Now, fine and suspension of licence can go hand in hand. The person whose licence has been suspended will have to also undergo a driver’s refresher training course.”

The traffic SP added that they had prepared a list of people caught violating traffic laws from the evening of September 3 to Wednesday night.

Once the suspension of the driving licence is decided, the transport department will inform the person (driver). If the licence is issued from other district (outside Ranchi in this case) or state, the district transport department will write to the transport officer concerned to suspend the licence.

If the vehicle owner is found driving during the tenure of suspension, he will have to pay Rs 10,000 as fine. If the vehicle concerned is found out on the road during the tenure, being driven by someone else, that person has to pay up Rs 5,000.

Offenders are being fined for traffic rule violations such as jumping traffic light, driving without helmets, lacking insurance papers or pollution certificate, riding a two-wheeler with two or more pillion-riders, overloading, driving in defiance of one-way or without wearing a seat belt, among others.

Biker ire at cop

A plainclothes policeman who attempted to fine a biker without a helmet on Thursday morning near Mausi Bari roundabout under the Sector II outpost of Jagannathpur police station was subjected to the youth’s anger. In-charge of Sector II outpost Kaushal Kishore Thakur, in regular clothes, chased the bike and stopped the rider. The youth did not realise Thakur was a policeman and asked why he was being accosted. When Thakur said he was a cop, the youth said why a cop without uniform or helmet could harass a commuter without a helmet. As Thakur and the youth lost their cool, the driver of a passing car stopped and apparently asked why he (Thakur) was being so rude. An enraged Thakur allegedly took the man’s ignition key. A crowd assembled on the spot. Finally, Hatia DSP Prabhat Ranjan Barwar had to intervene. The DSP said he started a probe on why the issue took such a serious turn.

Double penalty

Transport commissioner Praveen Kumar Toppo on Thursday wrote to all traffic SPs DTOs and DSPs asking them to sensitise officials to follow traffic rules as in case they violate any rule, penalty would be double for them.

Former Jharkhand CMs Babulal Marandi, Hemant Soren meet ahead of assembly polls


s Jharkhand is bracing up for the assembly polls towards the end of the year, political parties have already intensified their campaign. It is going to be NDA, led by BJP, versus others in the state.

However the picture is still grey as to whether the allies of opposition will manage to come on a common platform.

The Congress is yet to take a call in the matter.

It is not known whether the party is interested in a pre-poll alliance with all the allies who are against the BJP.

There has been a change of guard and five working presidents were nominated to bring back the party on track which is loosing it’s base in the state.

However party spokesperson Lal Kishore Nath Shahdeo has accepted that talks are on with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM).

In the prevailing political condition, other allies of opposition have started dialogue among themselves to reportedly forge a formidable alliance to take on the BJP which is riding high on the Modi wave. The saffron party is brimming with confidence after an emphatic win on 12 out of 14 seats in the Lok Sabha elections 2019.

In what is being seen as an effort to break ice two stalwarts of Jharkhand, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) supremo and the first chief minister of the state Babulal Marandi and former chief minister Hemant Soren met at Dhanbad circuit house for more than 25 minutes in a closed door meeting.

Both of them were visibly thrilled post the meeting. Babulal Marandi said that there was nothing to hide. He admitted that he was not against an alliance of like-minded parties.

Hemant Soren reiterated the same. There was no discussion over seat-sharing, Soren said, but when the time comes, everything will be sorted and disclosed to the media.

All is well, Soren said, while dropping a hint that RJD, JMM and JVM could explore the possibilities of contesting the elections under an umbrella.

In 2014, Congress had thrown it’s hat with RJD and JDU in the electoral fray but JMM and JVM had contested on their own.

The major issue which emerges in alliances is seat-sharing. This was the core reason why JMM and the Congress had contested 2009 and 2014 assembly polls without an alliance.

Now, the allies are daring to take on the BJP and whether they will see eye to eye with their partners remains to be seen.

Highly placed sources said that even RJD wants 12 seats and the other allies are opposed to it, citing reasons that they don’t deserve the number of seats they are asking.

Congress wants more seats in Santhal where JMM candidate had won. The allies are headed for a fight over seat-sharing before going to polls. It would be interesting to see who wins the race.Al

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar hints at pay hike for agitating Bihar teachers but only on a condition


In the face of an agitation by teachers seeking salary hike on the Teachers’ Day, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar gave them a stern message as well as hope of a salary hike in the near future.

Kumar asked the teachers to shoulder their main responsibility of teaching with sincerity first, as it was only his government that would do something for them, like in the past. “Don’t worry, we will do whatever is to be done, not others, who are these days joining your dharna. If you deserve, we will be happy to do it for you,” Nitish said, while taking a subtle dig at the opposition parties supporting the agitation.

Reminding them of a reversal at the hands of the Supreme Court earlier this year after a long legal battle and teachers’ condition prior to 2005, when Shiksha Mitras were appointed for a meagre Rs 1500, Kumar said he was not worried about demands raised by the teachers or his criticism, as it was their democratic right, but hoped that they never lose sight of their main role.

He also indirectly hit out at the opposition for allegedly fanning the stir after having called them “incompetent” earlier and also having blamed them for “destroying education”. “I always said that the teachers are competent. I have always stood by the teachers. I respect the teachers. And all I can assure you on the Teachers’ day is that in the future also, only we will do something, not those giving lip service,” Nitish said.

Ahead of the 2015 assembly polls, Bihar government had announced a new pay-scale for the school teachers following their long agitation.

On the occasion, he also launched the “Unnayan Bihar” programme, modelled on the lines of highly successful ‘Unnayan Banka’ project, for class 9-12 in all secondary and higher secondary schools run by the State. The programme involves use of information technology as supplement to classroom teaching to make learning more interesting and receptive.

Kumar said that from April 2020, all the panchayats in the State would have a secondary school starting with Class 9 and equipped to run the ‘Unnayan Bihar’ programme. “In the field of education, Bihar has done a lot with over 99% enrollment, major drop in the gender gap and a slew of other initiatives including huge infrastructure development, but the quality of education remained a concern. It is a global concern and that is why teachers’ role becomes important,” he added.

Kumar said that an intervention by the government will come at an “appropriate” time if the teachers did their job with “sincerity”. “All I expect from you is that you should shoulder your responsibility sincerely, as my commitment is to people. You raise your demands, but at the same time you also teach. Only demand will not do, certainly not if it is at the cost of teaching,” he added.

He also asked chief secretary Deepak Kumar to see what could be done for the teachers, hinting that another pay hike for teachers was under government’s consideration.

“When my government came to power, we had to make large-scale recruitment. We did so with a fixed pay of Rs 4000-7000, but later increased it and in 2015 put teachers on a pay-scale. In 2017, we also announced 7th pay commission benefits. Still, if I have to face criticism, I humbly take it in my stride. But be sure, only we will do it again,” he said.

The CM also honoured 20 teachers from across the state on the occasion. Despite protests by the teachers, all of the awardees turned up to receive the honour.

The awardees welcomed the CM’s speech, especially the hint to increase their salaries, some of the teachers, however, lamented the absence of any acclaimed teacher or eminent academician on the dais on the Teacher’s Day.