Train to Vaishno Devi

After missing several deadlines, Railways has finally got the mandatory safety clearance from the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) to commission the much-awaited train service to Katra, the base camp of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, before the Rail Budget 2014-15.

The 25km long Udhampur-Katra rail section in Jammu and Kashmir is slated to be inaugurated by this month-end by Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with railway minister Sadananda Gowda.

The CRS had conducted the inspection of the Udhampur-Katra line, constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 1,050 crore, for three days from January 27.


There were certain issues raised by the CRS and the mandatory clearance was obtained this month after those were addressed, said a senior railway ministry official.

Although a date for opening of the Katra line is yet to be finalised, it will most probably be before the Rail Budget as all preparations for the inaugural run are almost complete, the official added.

The NDA government’s first Rail Budget is expected to be presented on July 9. Ahead of that exercise, railways has hiked passenger fares by 14.2 per cent.

There has been a trial run of the Udhampur-Katra service after it got the CRS clearance.

The 53km-long Jammu-Udhampur rail line is already operational and once the Udhampur-Katra line, which is a part of the Kashmir rail link project, is made operational, the trains will be able to come up to Katra directly. That would enable pilgrims headed to the Vaishno Devi shrine to travel directly to the base camp at Katra.

Railways is considering extending Jammu Mail and Sampark Kranti trains up to Katra, besides introducing new trains, including Katra-Kalka Express, Delhi Sarai Rohilla-Udhampur Express, and Ahmedabad-Udhampur Express.

According to the official, there are demands from several zones for train services to Katra.

A set of local trains from Jammu to Katra and Pathankot to Katra are also likely to be introduced to cater to the rush of Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrims from Jammu and Pathankot to Katra.

An estimated 10 million devotees visit the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine every year.

The line to Katra has seven tunnels and over 30 small and big bridges. Katra station has been completed with modern facilities, including tourist guide counter, cloak room, waiting hall, VIP lounge, escalators and lifts and parking space on either side.



Shoppers strip down to their undies for sales offer at clothing store

Customers run into a Desigual store on the first day of winter sales in downtown Turin, January 4, 2014. The first hundred customers to enter the shop wearing just undergarments got two pieces of clothing for free, in a promotion held annually by Desigual. Reuters

Who doesn’t like a sale? Everyone does! But this sale, organised by Spanish clothing brand Desigual, was a sale with a difference.

Branded “The Seminaked Party” in Rome and Turin, the sale started off the clothing brand’s January sales.

According to the rules of the sale, the first 100 customers through the doors were promised a free outfit if they came dressed only in their underwear.

The rest of the naked half crowd got a 50 per cent discount off the summer collection as a reward for their efforts.

And the scene at the outlets was as expected: men and women sprinting inside to ensure that they didn’t go home empty handed or half naked.

While the women were their bikinis, the men turned up in boxers and some in their Y-Fronts giving the girls a run for their money.

The brand has been carrying out this campaign since 2005 and has previously held such parties in Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, some US cities and London.

Customers wait outside a Desigual store on the first day of winter sales in Turin. Reuters

A man runs into the Desigual store on the first day of winter sales in Turin, January 4, 2014. Reuters

Men shop at a Desigual store on the first day of winter sales in Turin. Reuters

A woman shops at a Desigual store on the first day of winter sales in downtown Turin, January 4, 2014. Reuters

People in their underwear queue in front of a clothing store in Paris, January 9, 2013. Reuters

Shoppers in their underwear shelter from the rain as they queue to enter a clothing store in London June 16, 2011. Reuters

Shoppers pose for photographs as they queue to enter the Desigual store in London in this January 2011 photograph. Reuters

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Bharat Ratna for ‘living legend’ Sachin Tendulkar

Hours after Sachin Tendulkar retired from his long cricketing career, the Indian government has conferred him with the Bharat Ratna — the country’s highest civilian award.

Eminent scientist Prof C.N.R. Rao is the other recipient of the Bharat Ratna.

Full text of the announcement:

The Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award is being conferred on eminent scientist Prof C.N.R.Rao and cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar.

Prof. C.N.R. Rao is an eminent scientist and a well recognized international authority on solid state and materials chemistry.

He has published over 1,400 research papers and 45 books. Prof. Rao’s contributions have been recognized by most major scientific academies around the world through conferment of memberships and fellowships. He has been honoured with several national and international awards.

Shri Sachin Tendulkar is undoubtedly an outstanding cricketer – a living legend who has inspired millions across the globe. During the last 24 years, since the young age of 16 years, Shri Tendulkar has played cricket across the world and won laurels for our country. He has been a true ambassador of India in the world of sports. His achievements in cricket are unparalleled, the records set by him unmatched, and the spirit of sportsmanship displayed by him exemplary. That he has been honoured with several awards is testimony to his extraordinary brilliance as a sportsman.


Mars Orbiter Mission: India’s most ambitious space odyssey

India’s most ambitious space odyssey – the first interplanetary mission to Mars – to reach the orbit of the Red Planet has begun with the country’s workhorse rocket – the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle – lobbing the Mars Orbiter spacecraft successfully into the Earth’s orbit. The sling shot operation, as scheduled 43 minutes after launch, has put the spacecraft on a 300-day journey towards Mars to the first level of fruition.

When it happens in mid-September 2014, India will join the elite club of the world’s deep space pioneers and showcase the country’s technological prowess to explore the Solar System while seeking solutions for everyday problem’s on Earth. India’s ISRO will then be the fourth space agency after the Soviet Union, United States and Europe to try and reach Mars.

“Our mission is a challenging one for it is primarily to demonstrate and prove technology,” said the Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman Koppillil Radhakrishnan. This is India’s first Mars mission, and no country has been fully successful in its first try. More than half the world’s attempts to reach Mars – 23 out of 40 missions – have failed, including missions by Japan in 1999 and China in 2011.

So, the mission begun at the Srikharikota spaceport at 2.38 pm on November 5 can be called an unqualified success only after another nine-and-half months when the spacecraft swings into the Martian orbit.

The Mars Orbiter spacecraft blasting-off from the Sriharikota space port. AP

After it begins to orbit Mars and surveys its geology and atmosphere, instruments aboard MOM will gather data to help determine how Martian weather systems work and what happened to the water that is believed to have once existed on Mars in large quantities. It will also search Mars for methane, a key chemical in life processes on Earth that could also come from geological processes. The data and findings are vital to improve the understanding of how a planet develops geologically, what conditions might make life possible and where else in the universe it might exist.

A successful Mars mission would be a boost for India’s space diplomacy as it has, in the past two decades, begun sharing experiences with other countries. “The Mars Mission could lead to significant international collaborations and debunk the view that India is competing with China,” said the former ISRO chairman Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan.

India Rs.450 crore mission to Mars is intended to survey its geology and atmosphere. This is important as it will help improve understanding why only the Earth is habitable and others are not. “We can make other planets habitable with data from such missions. It will take time, but it is possible to make Mars habitable,” says another ex-ISRO chairman Udipi Ramachandra Rao.

The spacecraft shares some scientific objectives with America’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission (MAVEN) which will be launched in a fortnight. Sensors on both spacecraft will examine processes that have drastically thinned the Martian atmosphere, which was one thick enough to allow substantial bodies of liquid water to exist on the Red Planet’s surface.

MAVEN’s principal investigator Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado has had some preliminary discussions with the Indian team. The ISRO chief admits that there are some overlapping objectives and there are plans to work together with the data. At another level, the mission to Mars is expected to fire and ignite young minds, according to the Mission to Mars director Kunhikrishnan.

However, the real excitement for Indian scientists, who have had missions to the Moon, begins only at the end of the 300 day journey, possibly September 24, 2013, when India would have crossed the 400 million km barrier. Only then will they steal a march over their Chinese peers, who failed in their effort to launch a small spacecraft called Yinghuo-1, originally scheduled to ride piggyback and separate from Russia’s Phobos-Grunt on reaching the Mars orbit. 


Miss Asia Pacific 2013 Srishti Rana’s crown seized at airport

The diamond studded crown of India’s Srishti Rana, who has been crowned Miss Asia Pacific World 2013 in Busan South Korea, was seized today for not paying customs, a senior customs official said.

21-year-old Rana was intercepted by the Customs after she landed at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport here, sources said, adding that she was asked to pay the duty as the crown contained diamonds.

It was, however, not known when the crown was seized.

In order to waive of duty of any participant getting such an award, the customs department needs to get a special exemption notification by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), the official said.

Since they did not get it like in this case, they can seize the crown for the time being, the official added.

Rana was crowned Miss Asia Pacific World 2013 by last year’s winner Himangini Singh Yadu at a glittering ceremony.

This is India’s second win in a row at the Miss Asia Pacific World pageant.


Most Expensive Yachts Ever Built

Price: $4.8 billion It almost hurts doesn’t it? Made with over 100,000 kg of gold and decorated with everything from T-Rex bones to miniature meteorites this unfortunate case of what-the-heck-do-I-do-with-5-billion-dollars is owned by an anonymous Malaysian businessman, probably Robert Kuok.

Price: $800 million Going back to pay our friend Roman Abromavich a visit we might find him aboard his nearly billion dollar mega yacht, the Eclipse. We are still not really sure what sets it apart more though, the anti-missile defense system or the paparazzi zapping laser that scans the horizon for cameras and fires beams of light into their lenses destroying them completely.

Price: undisclosed It is essentially an entire country on a boat. Complete with roads, mini cars, and even an airport, Nigel Gee’s floating city is in a league of its own.

Price: $300 million Owned by Shiek Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, this floating city is appropriately named.

Price:$323 million When you are Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko you can name your yacht whatever you want, including your first initial. And just in case you were wondering about the interesting design, it’s so that he can cut through ice bergs like a boss.


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