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$2.4 Billion Expressway Halves Delhi-Agra Commute Time

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$2.4 Billion Expressway Halves Delhi-Agra Commute Time   Noida/Lucknow: The $2.4 billion Yamuna Expressway opened its toll gates Thursday, promising to cut the travel time between New Delhi and Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, by nearly half to around two-and-a-half hours.

Built by infrastructure major Jaypee Group, a return drive the same day on the 165-km, six-lane highway will attract a toll of Rs.510, with the state government approving a maximum levy of Rs.2.10 per km for a passenger car, one-way.

The toll will come into effect Aug 16 after a six-day celebratory waiver.

On the national highway, where traffic snarls are commonplace, it takes upward of four hours between Delhi and Agra. But with an upper speed limit of 100 km per hour for a passenger car, the new expressway has cut that time taken by almost half.

The company said the initial feasibility studies showed a potential for 20,000-40,000 vehicles each day. Jaipur in Rajasthan, Agra in Uttar Pradesh and the national capital of New Delhi constitute what is called the golden triangle for tourism in India.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav inaugurated the $2.4 billion freeway from the state capital Lucknow by way of a video-conference link to the actual event held at its starting point at Greater Noida.

“The Yamuna Expressway is conceived with the idea to not only reduce travel time between New Delhi and Agra but also open up avenues for industrial and urban development of the region and provide the base for tourism and other industries,” the Jaypee Group said.

Originally conceived as the Taj Expressway project during then Mayawati government in the state in 2001, it could not take off for another two years due to a change in the regime. It was revived by her administration after regaining power in 2007.

Officials said the six-lane highway is built under the public-private partnership model and is the biggest such project in the country. Jaypee Infratech, the company that has built the project, has a 36-year concession (rights) over the it.

The promoters will also develop integrated townships over 500 hectares each at Noida, Jaganpur, Mirzapur, Tappal and Kuber. They have also build three toll plazas, 41 minor bridges, 70 vehicular underpasses, 76 pedestrian underpasses and 183 culverts.

Jaypee Group deputy chairman Manoj Gaur said during the inauguration function in Lucknow that his company will also build a 100-bed hospital near the expressway spread over five acres under the Yamuna Expressway Social Upliftment Trust.

Chief Minister Yadav asked the developers to upgrade the service lanes along side the expressway and fulfil the commitments made to farmers. He also ruled out acquisition of farmland by force and said infrastructure was a priority for his government.

Some key points of the expressway project:

– Touted as India’s longest access-controlled concrete expressway

– Provision to expand freeway to eight lanes, against current six lanes

– Toll at three plazas with 16 gates on each side to make the process swift

– Medical facilities like vans, stretchers, bed and medicines on call

– Tie-up with two major hospitals, with air ambulances for emergencies

– Fuel stations, ATMs, small convenio and public convenience facilities soon

– Talks with known brands for food courts along the expressway

– Two-wheelers also allowed with a speed limit of 60 km per hour

– Speed limit for heavy vehicles also fixed at 60 km per hour

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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Temple

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