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Agra

IAF's Mirage-2000 lands on Yamuna Expressway as part of emergency drill

An Indian Air Force Mirage-2000 on Thursday landed on the Delhi-Agra Yamuna Expressway near Mathura as part of the IAF's plans to use national highways for emergency landings by fighter aicraft.

 
IAF fighter aircraft lands on Yamuna Expressway near Mathura
 
 
An Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage-2000 today successfully landed on the Delhi-Agra Yamuna Expressway near Mathura as part of the IAF's plans to use national highways for emergency landings by fighter aicraft.
 
"This capability was demonstrated by IAF on May 21, 2015 by a Mirage-2000 aircraft which got airborne from one of the IAF bases in Central India," a press release from the Air Force said.
 
"All facilities like make shift Air Traffic Control, safety services, rescue vehicles, bird clearance parties and other requirements were set up by IAF personnel from Air Force Station Agra," it said.
 
The IAF had, in coordination with the District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of Agra and Mathura tied up all the necessary arrangements for activation of the selected stretch.
 
"The aircraft made a practice approach on the highway, coming down to a height of 100 mtrs before landing off the next approach. The operations were conducted with active support from the government of Uttar Pradesh, Yamuna Expressway Authority, Toll authorities of JP Infratech and Civil Police," the release said.
 
"The IAF has plans to activate more such stretches on highways in the future," it added.
 
The 165 km Yamuna Expressway stretching 165 kms., which connects Delhi and Agra, is a six-lane controlled expressway.
 
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40 students from HP injured as their bus overturns near Agra

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About 40 students of a private school in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh suffered injuries when their bus overturned after one of its tyres burst on the Yamuna Expressway near Agra this morning.
 
The students were on a study tour and were on their way to the famed Taj Mahal in Agra when the mishap occurred near Jharna Nala in the Etmadpur police stations limits.
 
Police sources said more than 20 of the injured were admitted for treatment at the Agra Medical College Hospital, where the condition of about eight of them was stated to be serious but stable.
 
Senior district administration and police officials rushed to the scene and to the hospital to meet the victims, the sources added.
 
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Swiss couple suffer serious injuries in brutal attack at Fatehpur Sikri

 
Swiss couple injured in attack at Fatehpur Sikri
A young Swiss couple suffered injuries when they were brutally attacked by a group of youngsters who pestered them for "selfies" with the woman before pelting stones and beating them with sticks, leaving the man with a broken skull and his girl friend with a fractured hand in Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Pradesh.
 
Located about 35 km from Agra, the city of the Taj, Fatehpur Sikri was briefly the capital of the Mughal empire and is now an enchanting tourist destination, attracting tourists from all over the world.
 
Sources said the incident occurred on Sunday afternoon when the pair, Quentin Jeremy Clerc and Marie Droz, both 24, were strolling near the railway station at Fatehpur Sikri after spending the previous two days in Agra.
 
The sources said a group of youths started following them around and kept making comments before trying to stop them and force Droz to pose for photographs with them.
 
Media reports quoted doctors treating the couple that Clerc had a fracture in his skull and a clot in his brain. He is also suffering hearing impairment in one of his ears. Droz suffered a fracture in her arm, apart from multiple bruises. After being treated at a local hospital in Fatehpur Sikri and then in Agra, they have been shifted to the Apollo Hospital in Delhi, the sources said.
 
The couple arrived in India on September 30 and have been travelling around. They were in Agra for two days before visiting Fatehpur Sikri.
 
Police have identified three of the miscreants, said to be  juveniles, from the photographs they clicked with the couple. One of them has been detained, while efforts are being made to trace the other two.
 
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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on micro-blogging site Twitter that she had sought a report from the  Uttar Pradesh Government after seeing media reports about the incident.
 
"I have just seen this. I have asked for a report from the State Government," she said. "My officers will reach them in the hospital," she said. Since then, officials from the Ministry of External Affairs have visited the couple in hospital and also talked to the doctors and local officials.
 
Meanwhile, Union Minister of Tourism K. J. Alphons has expressed concern over the incident in a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who was visiting Agra today.
 
“I am deeply concerned that two Switzerland citizens were attacked and injured at Fatehpur Sikri yesterday," he said in his letter
 
"You would kindly appreciate that such incidents negatively impact our image and are detrimental to our efforts in promoting India as a tourism destination. A fast and speedy response in identifying and ensuring speedy action including conviction of the guilty would be reassuring, as also a good message of our efforts to prevent recurrence of such incidents," Mr. Alphons said.
 
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16 IAF aircraft land on Agra-Lucknow Expressway in major highway landing exercise

As many as 16 aircraft of the Indian Air Force, including fighter jets, carried out major landing operations on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway on Tuesday as part of exercises aimed at increase its flexibility in the use of air power.

 
Indian Air Force aircraft land on Lucknow-Agra Expressway
As many as 16 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF), including fighter jets, carried out major landing operations on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway today as part of exercises aimed at increasing its flexibility in the use of air power.
 
The series of landings took place close to Bangarmau in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh, about 60 km west of Lucknow, the state capital, where a three km stretch of the expressway was specially prepared for such operations.
 
The landing operations commenced at around 1015 hrs and continued till about 1200 hrs. 
 
The aircraft which participated in the operation comprised IAF’s frontline air superiority fighters including the Sukhoi-30, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar fighter aircraft. These aircraft took off from Bareilly, Gwalior and Gorakhpur, respectively. 
 
In addition, the IAF carried out drills in which Garud commandos were inserted and extricated for ground operations, by the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft which took off from Hindon airbase.
 
A team of senior IAF officials headed by Senior Air Staff Officer HQ CAC, IAF Allahabad Air Marshal AS Butola were present to oversee the operations. 
 
While the operation was conducted under the aegis of HQ CAC, Bamrauli Allahabad, Air Force Station Bakshi Ka Talab Station Commander, Gp Capt J Suares and his team, were responsible for the overall control and coordination of the exercise.
 
On site arrangements were made for a Mobile Air Traffic Control, Radar Control, Meteorological Facility, Aerospace Safety and Security Control. In addition, to deal with any situation, crash, firefighting, rescue and medical teams were positioned. IAF sought assistance from State Government authorities for temporary closure of the expressway and other matters like crowd control, and so on.
 
A large number of police personnel were stationed along the stretch to ensure smooth conduct of operations.
 
The exercise commenced with an impressive short landing by the C-130 which on its landing roll itself started offloading the Garud commandos and their vehicle in a manoeuvre called Combat ERO (Engine Running Offload). Immediately on disembarking from the  C-130, the commandos took up position on either side of the airstrip to cordon it off for the fighter operations. 
 
This was followed by two sets of 3-3 Mirages, five SU30s and three Jaguars.   All 14 fighter aircraft carried out a roller/touch and go manoeuvre on the expressway. The C-130 then returned for another short landing to extricate the Garud commandos.
 
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A press release from the Ministry of Defence said that, over the past few years, IAF has been increasing its efforts to utilise certain straight stretches of National Highways for emergency landings. Such highway stretches are planned to be used in emergencies, if an active airport is not available for some reason. These operations increase the flexibility in the use of air power, it said.
 
In addition, use of transport aircraft for quick insertion of forces for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations into civil areas and Special Forces in case of contingencies has been validated, the release said.
 
IAF had carried out landings by fighter aircraft for the first time on the Yamuna expressway on 21 May 2015. The stretch of Agra – Lucknow expressway was earlier activated for the first time for IAF operations in November 2016 in which six fighter aircraft of the IAF landed on the expressway.
 
However, in today's exercise, IAF included the Jaguar fighter aircraft for the first time. Also for the first time, IAF’s C-130J transport aircraft participated in highway landing operations for insertion and extrication of Garud Special Forces. 
 
While today's operations required the closure of a portion of the expressway for road traffic, through the excellent support of the UP State Government and UPEIDA, once the planned works are completed, such road traffic closure will not be required henceforth. Two diversion roads on either side of the airstrip are near completion. In addition, wire fencing on both sides is also being undertaken to keep the airstrip clear of stray animals. Two parking areas for aircraft at both ends of the airstrip are also nearing completion.
 
Several countries like Germany, Sweden, South Korea, Taiwan, Finland, Switzerland, Poland, Singapore, Czechoslovakia and Pakistan have dedicated stretches on their highways and expressways for aircraft to land and take off in emergencies or war like events.
 
"This operation has majorly boosted IAF’s capability to undertake unhindered operations even during non-availability of standard runways. It has demonstrated the expert flying skills of its fighter and transport aircrew, and the capability of its ground crew in activating such expressway airstrips on short notice. Such activations of highway stretches all across India are planned to be practised regularly by the IAF in future," the release added.
 
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Coach of empty rake of Gwalior-Agra passenger train derails at Agra, no one injured

 
Gwalior-Agra passenger train coach derails near Agra Cantt
A coach of the empty rake of the Gwalior-Agra passenger train derailed near the Agra Cantonment railway station here as it was moving to the railway yard for cleaning, but no one was injured in the incident, official sources said.
 
The mishap occurred around 4 am today when the empty rake was being taken to the yard after all the passengers had disembarked, they said.
 
According to them, the third  coach of the rake had derailed and railway staff were able to rerail it soon afterwards.
 
"No one was injured in the incident, and neither was rail traffic affected in any way," they added.
 
Today's incident is the latest in a series of derailments that have occurred in dfferent parts of the country in recent weeks.
 
On August 19, at least 22 passengers died and 106 others suffered injuries when 14 of the 23 coaches of the 18477 Utkal Express, from Puri in Odisha to Haridwar in Uttarakhand, derailed at Khatauli, about 25 km from Muzzafarnagar, in Uttar Pradesh.
 
On August 23, at least 49 passengers suffered injuries when 12 coaches and the engine of the 12225 Azamgarh-Delhi Kaifiyat Express derailed in Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh after a dumper collided with the train at an unauthorised crossing.
 
On August 25, five passengers suffered minor injuries when the four front coaches of a local train from Andheri to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) derailed in the railway yard near Mahim South in Mumbai.
 
On August 29, nine coaches and the engine  of the 12290 Duronto Express from Nagpur to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Mumbai derailed between Vasind and Asangaon in Maharashtra but none of the passengers was injured.
 
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5 dead, 40 injured as tanker rams into two tractor-trolleys near Agra

 
Five dead, 40 injured as oil tanker hits two tractor-trolleys
At least five people died and about 40 others suffered injuries when a speeding oil tanker rammed into two tractor-trolleys carrying about 60 pilgrims at Sikandra on the Agra-Mathura highway in Uttar Pradesh late last night.
 
The tractor-trolleys, carrying the pilgrims from Etah district to Mathura for the Govardhan parikrama, had stopped at a wayside restaurant when the tanker crashed into them, police sources said.
 
Residents of nearby areas, police and other emergency personnel rushed to the spot and helped remove the injured to the Agra Medical College Hospital.
 
Traffic on the highway was disrupted for about two hours as the rescue efforts were being made.
 
According to the sources, four of the victims died on the spot while one succumbed to injuries later.
 
The cabin of the oil tanker caught fire in the accident, but the tanker itself was not full, they added.
 
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The City of the Taj is a good option for a short getaway

 
We wanted to take a short break from Delhi recently and, after considering various options in the region, zeroed in on Agra. Most of us had been there before, but not together as a family. And one of us had not visited the place,  and that was  good enough reason to make the trip to the city of the Taj -- the monument of love.
 
Summer is  not the best time to visit Agra, but we had no choice as far as the dates were concerned. 
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal
 
Our last trip was about a decade ago (and that, too, was in June!). Since then,  the 165-km six-lane controlled Yamuna Expressway from Greater Noida, near Delhi, to  Agra has opened, cutting the travel time considerably. That is the route we took, and it was one of the smoothest drives we have had in India, with the journey taking about three hours. We made sure the driver of our Toyota Innova stayed well within the speed limits and stuck to his lane, and that made the trip enjoyable, without the tension associated with travel on wide highways.
 
This is the expressway on which an Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage-2000 successfully landed near Mathura on May 21, 2015 as part of the IAF's plans to use national highways for emergency landings by fighter aircraft. That will give you some idea of the quality of the highway and you cannot help feeling a sense of pride as you race ahead.
 
From Delhi, we drove through Noida and then Greater Noida and before long we were on the Yamuna Expressway. We left around 1 pm on a Sunday afternoon, after brunch, but the efficient air-conditioning in the car meant that we did not suffer on account of the heat outside. Our aim was to reach Agra long before sundown, and that we did, with more than a couple of hours to spare.
A view of the mosque at Fatehpur Sikri
A view of the mosque at Fatehpur Sikri
Once you leave Greater Noida, there is not much to see on the way to Agra. The expressway does not pass through any towns and there is hardly any inhabitation for long stretches, unlike the National Highway (NH)-2, which is the older and longer route and passes through towns such as Faridabad, Ballabhgarh and Mathura.
 
It may not be a very wise decision to drive in the night on this route, given the stories you read in the newspapers about crimes on the highway. Ideally, you should leave early in the morning and try and reach Agra by noon. Winter is the best time to visit Agra, but you have to be very careful because of the thick fog that is likely in these parts and the consequent traffic risks.
 
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
There are three toll plazas along the expressway at Jewar (38 km), Mathura (94 km) and Agra (150 km). Jewar, by the way, is the place where a new international airport has been planned, one which will bring Agra even closer to tourists from other parts of India and abroad. All three have good food courts and other facilities, including reasonably clean toilets. We are the sort who like to stop for short breaks on road journeys and we did this at Jewar on the way out and just outside Agra and Mathura on the way back. There is a wide choice of food and drinks, especially at Mathura and Jewar, and there were lots of families enjoying themselves in these food courts.
 
There are any number of options at Agra as far as hotels are concerned -- from luxury properties to modest ones. On our previous trip, we had got a good deal from the Taj. This time, we  booked ourselves rooms at Sterling Holidays' Agra Regal Vista for our stay. It is small hotel but quite exceeded our expectations. The check-in was a smooth process, the rooms were comfortable, all the fixtures worked, and room service and housekeeping were effficient. We took the breakfast-dinner package and enjoyed the food at each of the meals. The spread was limited, but the quality was good and consistent. What we appreciated even more was the restaurant's and the hotel's willingness and ability to respond to our requests. A good place to stay for those travelling on a budget and well located on Fatehabad road in the city.
 
What many people try and do is to make a day-trip to Agra and squeeze everything into a few hours. But we think it is much better to stay in the city for a couple of days and enjoy at leisure what the Taj and other monuments have to offer.
 
Based on our experience from the previous time, we asked the hotel to arrange for guides for us, and they found us two -- one for Fatehpur Sikri and the other for Agra on the following day. These guides were slightly more expensive but much better than the ones we would otherwise have ended up picking at the monuments. 
The Angoori BaghEntrance to Agra FortA view of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort
The Angoori Bagh; Entrance to Agra Fort; A view of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort
After a quiet evening and a relaxed dinner, we set out early next morning for Fatehpur Sikri, a fascinating city built by Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century about 36 km from Agra. Legend has it that Akbar, then 26, did not have an heir and went to a saint, Shaikh Salim Chishti, who lived at Sikri. He blessed Akbar, who had three sons after that. As a gesture, he built a whole new city in Sikri and named it Fatehpur Sikri, the City of Victory. It is a superb example of the splendour of Mughal architecture and has featured in many Bollywood movies. It was meant to be a joint capital with Agra, but was soon deserted because it did not have a proper water supply system. 
 
Fatehpur Sikri is a fine example of a combination of Hindu and Muslim architecture and attracts thousands of tourists from around the world today. There is a fair bit of walking to do to see all the structures, but they are worth every bit of the effort you make. In particular, the Diwan-I-Khas, the Panch Mahal, a five-storeyed building which offers a panoramic view of the surrounding areas, the tomb of Salim Chishti, Buland Darwaza, the 54-metre high gateway built in 1575 and the Diwan-I-Aam and the Jama Masjid are some of the major attractions. Listed as a World Heritage structure by UNESCO, Fatehpur Sikri is clearly one of the places people must visit at least once in their lives.
 
We were back in Agra by noon and, after a quick lunch, went to the Taj Mahal. Again, there is a lot of walking involved, and it would be a good idea to equip yourselves with a bottle or two of drinking water. 
 
Even if you have been to the monument before and have seen hundreds of pictures, nothing quite prepares you for the majestic beauty of the structure when you first set eyes on it from the gateway. You will be overcome by a variety of emotions as you enter the complex and slowly walk towards the mausoleum.
 
Before that, we hired the services of a photographer, who took pictures of us outside the entrance and then at various points inside the complex. At the end, when you come out, you get an album of pictures.
 
As is well-known, the monument, often described as poetry in marble and one of the wonders of the modern world, was constructed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1630 A.D. Its construction began in 1632 and was completed in 1648. More than 20,000 workers were said to have been employed to build the mausoleum. It stands on a raised, square platform (186 feet x 186 feet) and is a part of a vast complex that includes a large garden, a mosque and several other grand buildings. 
 
As things turned out, Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb in the Agra Fort for nine years, which he spent just gazing at the Taj Mahal across the Yamuna.
A part of the Agra FortA part of the Agra FortThe Diwan-e-Aam at Agra Fort
A part of the Agra Fort; A part of the Agra Fort; The Diwan-e-Aam at Agra Fort
Agra Fort, which we visited next morning, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, about 2.5 km northwest of the Taj Mahal. It was built by Akbar in red sandstone and served as his residence and military strategic headquarters. The vast complex has splendid palaces in red sandstone and marble, built by Akbar and later Jehangir and Shah Jahan. Among the buildings that have survived are such exquisite structures as the Sheesh Mahal (Glass Palace), the royal dressing room adorned by mirror-like glass-mosaic decorations on the walls; the Diwan-I-Aam, where ordinary people could communicate with the rulers and which once housed the Peacock Throne; and the Diwan-i-Khas, a private hall where the emperor met kings and other dignitaries.
 
There also the Anguri Bagh, Khas Mahal, a white marble palace, various mosques, and Musamman Burj, an octagonal tower with a balcony facing the Taj Mahal.
 
Other places of interest in Agra include Sikandra, the mausoleum of Akbar; Itmad-ud-daula, the tomb of Mir Ghiyas Beg, a minister in the court of Shah Jahan and the first tomb in India that was entirely made of marble; and the Red Taj Mahal, the tomb of Dutch soldier John William Hessing built by his wife Ann Hessing in his memory after his death in 1803. 
 
Tourism is a major contributor to Agra's economy but the city has a lot of manufacturing units, too. Among other things, it is known for its leather industry.
 
An important fact we noticed was that the city appeared to be a much cleaner place as compared to what it was on our earlier visit. Also, there are now any number of good restaurants. We tried one of them, Pind Baluchi, and enjoyed the experience.
 
All in all, thanks to the expressway, Agra is a good destination for a weekend getaway from Delhi.
 
Photographs: Kevin Verghese Sam
 
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Ten dead as car plunges into canal in Mathura district of UP

 
10 dead as car falls into canal in Mathura
Ten persons died when the car they were travelling in veered off the road and plunged into a canal in Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday morning, official sources said.
 
The victims included nine persons, who were related to each other, were on their way from Bharatpur to a temple at in Rajasthan when the mishap occurred around 4.30 am near Mogarra village on the Mathura-Jajampatti road.
 
The driver of the car also died in the accident, the sources said. 
 
A crane was used to pull the car out of the water and the bodies of all the victims had been recovered, they said.
 
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14 people dead after truck plunges into roadside canal in Etah district of UP

 
14 dead, 23 injured in Uttar Pradesh road mishap
As many as 14 people died when a truck carrying them veered off the road and fell into a roadside canal in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh in the early hours of today.
 
At least 23 others suffered injuries in the mishap and were initially treated at a nearby hospital before being referred to the Sarojini Naidu Medical College and Hospital in Agra, where six have been admitted for treatment and the rest discharged.
 
Etah District Magistrate Amit Kishore told NetIndian over the telephone that the accident occurred around 3 am today when the group, which belonged to Nagaria village in the Shamshabad area of Agra district, were returning home after attending a "tilak" ceremony in Jalesar of Etah district.
 
The mishap occurred near Sarai Neem in Jalesar area of Etah district, Mr. Kishore said.
 
According to various accounts, the driver of the truck appeared to have lost control over the vehicle and it crashed through the railings and plunged into the canal, which had about two feet of water. The driver was among those who died in the incident.
 
Mr. Kishore, the Superintendent of Police and other senior officials rushed to the scene to oversee the rescue and relief efforts.
 
In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the mishap and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2 lakh from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for the next-of-kin of the deceased men and Rs. 50,000 each for those seriously injured. 
 
"My thoughts are with all those who lost their loved ones in the accident in Etah, UP. May those injured in the accident recover quickly," he said.
 
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Seven dead, five injured as truck rams into three autorickshaws at Agra

 
7 dead as speeding truck rams into three autorickshaws
As many as seven people died when a speeding container truck rammed into three autorickshaws one after the other on the Agra-Mathura highway near here on Sunday morning.
 
Police sources said the truck first hit one autorickshaw and then crashed into two others.
 
While seven people died, about five others suffered injuries in the mishap and have been admitted to local hospitals, they said.
 
The driver of the truck has been arrested in connection with the incident, the police added.
 
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Kalindi Express derails at Tundla, near Agra, no casualties

 
Kalindi Express derails at Tundla, near Agra
The engine and a general coach of the 14723 Kalindi Express, bound for Bhiwani from Kanpur, derailed after a side collision with a goods train at Tundla, near Agra, in Uttar Pradesh in the early hours of today, but no one was injured, the Railways said.
 
The incident occurred at 0140 hours when the Kalindi Express,which had left Tundla station and had apparently overshot a red signal, rammed into the goods train which was pulling into the railway yard, the sources said.
 
A couple of wagons of the goods train also derailed. The rear portion of the Kalindi Express left for its destination at 0520 hours, they said.
 
Senior officers of the Railways rushed to the site to oversee the relief efforts, the sources said.
 
The derailment disrupted rail traffic on the busy Delhi-Howrah route and the Railways diverted trains via Ghaziabad and Lucknow on the Down line and via Agra on the Up line, the sources said.
 
The Railways have set up the following helplines:
 
Tundla: 05612 - 220337 , 220338 ,220339, 1072
Hathras:  05722 - 1072
Kanpur:  0512 - 2323016, 2323015, 2323018
 
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India's fastest train flagged off from Delhi to Agra

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Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu flagged off India's first semi-high speed train, Gatimaan Express, capable of running at a maximum speed of 160 kmph, from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Agra Cantonment here today.
 
The launch of the train is in keeping with a proposal made by Mr. Prabhu in his Railway Budget for the year and heralds a new era of high-speed rail travel in India.
 
After the inaugural run, regular services of the train commenced with a journey in the return direction in the evening today.
 
Mr. Prabhu said the Railways planned to run more Gatimaan trains on different sectors and was confident that this would enhance tourism in India.
 
He said the Railways hoped to increase the average speed of all passenger and freight trais and they had already started working on mission "Raftaar", which would be accomplished in five years.
 
Powered by a 5500 HP electric locomotive, the non-stop train will have two Executive AC Chair Car and eight AC Chair Car coaches. The coaches to be used in Gatiman Express train are new LHB coaches with enhanced passenger amenities and are turned out by Rail Coach Factory (RCF), Kapurthala. The coaches have been fitted with bio-toilets and are fit to run at 160 kmph.  
 
The fare for chair car in the fully air-conditioned Gatimaan Express has been fixed at Rs 750, while for Executive Class it will be Rs 1,500.
 
Onboard catering on this train has been organized by the public sector Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). 
 
IRCTC has made arrangements for deploying train hostesses also on board the train.  The train will see improve catering and will have options for different kinds of cuisines.  Another unique feature of this train is free of cost on board entertainment facility.  Under this facility, passengers can view various entertaining videos during travel on their smart phones, tablet or laptops even without internet connection through Wi-Fi.
 
In conjunction with this train, IRCTC has also arranged two different guided tour packages of Agra to coincide with its time-table. One package is for the full day whereas the other package is for two days.
 
Mr. Prabhu also inaugurated a new Executive Lounge constructed by IRCTC at Agra Cantonment Railway Station through remote control from Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station.  Having a seating capacity for 75-80 persons, to be launched in phases, the lounge is located on Platform No. 1 of the station. Modeled on airport lounges, the lounge provides a range of complimentary and paid facilities such as meals on order, channel music, hot beverages (tea/coffee) and soft drinks, round the clock wi-fi facility, luggage racks for in-house passengers, wheel chairs, recliners, TV, train information display, Business Centre with fax, printers, desktops, newspapers and magazines, clean toilets and shoe shiners. 
 
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The services of the Executive Lounge will be available to passengers at a nominal entry fee of Rs.100 for two hours and Rs 50 for per additional hour. It includes the usage of Wi-Fi, toilets, recliners and browsing of newspapers and magazines apart from unlimited tea/coffee and soft beverages. 
 
Additional services such as the Wash & Change, meals and facilities at Business Centre are chargeable. Rate for wash and change is Rs 75. IRCTC also plans to provide more such executive lounges at Jaipur, Vishakhapatnam, Vijaywada, Howrah, Varanasi, Lucknow, Kanpur and Jammu. 
 
Mr. Prabhu also commissioned the main concourse with enhanced facilities for passengers at Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station.  The renovated concourse has been provided with counters for platform ticket, Enquiry, May I help you booth as well as offices for Station Manager, Ticket Checking staff, and so on. It has been provided with a spacious porch area for easy access of station premises to passengers. It is expected to provide better aesthetics and convenience to rail passengers.
 
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Fewer foreign tourists visiting Taj Mahal: Govt.

The number of foreign tourists visiting the famed Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh has been showing a downtrend, faling from 7,43,256 in 2012 to 6,95,702 in 2013 and further to 6,48,511 in 2014.
 
Minister for Culture and Tourism Mahesh Sharma told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to a question yesterday that, however, no market study had been to pinpoint the reasons for fall in footfalls of foreign tourists to Taj Mahal. 
 
"However, some of the factors determining international tourist arrivals in any tourist destination including Taj Mahal (Agra) are: the prevailing travel trends,  economies of the tourism source markets, connectivity, availability of reasonably priced hotel accommodation, good tourism infrastructure etc.," he said.
 
Dr. Sharma detailed the remedial measures taken by Ministry of Tourism to ensure the safety and security of tourists including foreign tourists in India.
 
He said the Ministry of Tourism had launched a 24X7 toll free multi-lingual tourist helpline in 12 international languages, including Hindi and English on February 8.
 
The service is available on the toll free number 1800111363 or on a short code 1363 and operational 24X 7 (all days) in a year offering a multi-lingual helpdesk in the designated languages to provide support service in terms of providing information relating to travel and tourism in India to the domestic and international tourists and to assist the callers with advice on action to be taken during times of distress while travelling in India and if need be alert the concerned authorities.  
 
The calls made by tourists (both international and domestic) while in India will be free of charge, he said.
 
Dr. Sharma said the government had adopted the code of conduct for safe and honourable tourism, which contains a set of guidelines to encourage tourism activities to be undertaken with respect to basic rights like dignity, safety and freedom from exploitation of both tourists and local residents, in particular women and children.
 
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All the Chief Ministers of the State Governments and Administrators of Union Territory Administrations have been asked to take immediate effective steps for ensuring a conducive and friendly environment for all tourists and also request them to publicize the steps being taken/proposed to be taken to increase the sense of security amongst the present/prospective visitors and also to counter the negative publicity, if any.
 
He said the Centre had convened the National Tourism Ministers’ Conference here on July 18, 2013 and August 21, 2014, which resolved that the Departments of Tourism of all States and UTs would work for ensuring the safety and security of tourists, especially women. The State Governments/UT Administrations of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha have deployed Tourist Police, in one form or the other, he said.
 
He said the Centre also provided grant of Central Financial Assistance to the State Governments of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh for setting up of Tourist Facilitation and Security Organization (TFSO) on a pilot basis.
 
"In the wake of some unfortunate incidents happening involving foreign tourists, Ministry of Tourism posts an advisory on its website www.incredibleindia.org," he said.
 
The Ministry of Tourism has issued the Guidelines on Safety and Security of Tourists for State Governments/Union Territories and Tips for Travellers in September 2014.  These guidelines were sent to the State Governments/Union Territories and other relevant authorities to stress the importance of safety and risk management, assist in identifying best practices and encourage closer cooperation for ensuring a pleasant experience to the tourists.  
 
"The Guidelines are indicative references that may be useful to the States in sharing or adopting the best practices and design their domestic measures to better protect tourists.  In addition to these guidelines 'Tips to Travellers' are also offered to make the visit of tourists to Incredible India, a memorable experience," he added.
 
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11 dead, 8 injured as truck runs over members of wedding procession

 
Speeding truck runs over eight in Firozabad
 
At least 11 persons died and eight others suffered injuries when a speeding truck lost control and ran over members of a wedding procession in Firozabad district of Uttar Pradesh late last night.
 
Police officials in Firozabad told NetIndian that the victims, all men, included two brothers-in-law of the bridegroom.
 
The injured were rushed to a nearby hospital from where the more serious cases were referred to the Sarojini Naidu Medical College Hospital in Agra, they said.
 
According to the police, the driver of the truck lost control over the vehicle when he suddenly swerved it to avoid hitting a motorcyclist who came on to the road from a petrol station.
 
The truck first hit an autorickshaw and then crashed into the wedding procession before hitting an electricity pole and coming to a halt.
 
The wedding procession was headed towads the nearby Hans Vatika, a popular venue for social events in the area, police said.
 
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav announced a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who lost their lives in the incident and Rs. 50,000 each for those who suffered serious injuries.
 
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CCEA clears six-laning of Agra-Etawah section of NH-2 in UP

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The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) yesterday cleared a proposal for six-laning of the Agra-Etawah section of National Highway (NH) – 2 in Uttar Pradesh 
 
The project will be taken up under the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) Phase-V and the approval is in BOT (Toll) mode on Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (BOT/DBFOT) basis, an official press release said.
 
The cost of the project is estimated at Rs.1787.02 crore including cost of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities. The total length of the road will be approximately 124.52 kms, it said.
 
NH-2 connects the important industrial towns of Agra, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etawah and other towns in the south-western part of Uttar Pradesh. 
 
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Hilton Worldwide opens DoubleTree by Hilton Agra in city of Taj Mahal

Hotel chain Hilton Worldwide today announced the opening of DoubleTree by Hilton Agra in the city of the Taj Mahal, one of the top tourist destinations in India.
 
With this launch, Hilton Worldwide has a presence across the Golden Triangle, the most popular tourist circuit in the country, with hotels in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR), Jaipur and Agra. 
 
The hotel is owned by Archer Hospitality Private Limited and managed by Hilton Worldwide, a press release from the company said.
 
“The opening of DoubleTree by Hilton Agra marks our entry into one of the most important leisure markets in India for both DoubleTree by Hilton and Hilton Worldwide,” said John Greenleaf, global head, DoubleTree by Hilton. 
 
“We look forward to delighting guests with our globally-recognised service culture, demonstrated from the moment a guest walks through a hotel’s doors and is presented with our signature warm chocolate chip cookie upon check-in, and continuing throughout every aspect of the guest’s stay."
 
Set in the heart of the bustling city and minutes from the Taj Mahal, the hotel offers views of the magnificent mausoleum. It is also near popular attractions and shopping districts including the Agra Fort, Akbar’s Tomb, Jama Masjid and Kinari Bazaar. The hotel is located 10 kilometres from the Agra Airport and seven kilometres from the Agra Cantonment Railway Station. 
 
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Guests driving from Delhi can also easily access the hotel from the Delhi - Agra Yamuna Expressway, the release said.
 
The hotel has 104 guestrooms, including four suites, all equipped with modern amenities including wi-fi. It has four dining venues, recreational facilities such as an outdoor pool, fitness centre, spa, salon, meeting and event venues. 
 
“The opening of DoubleTree by Hilton Agra is a significant milestone as it marks the entry of Hilton Worldwide into this prime leisure destination,” said Daniel Welk, vice president, operations - India, Hilton Worldwide. “We look forward to welcoming guests with the award-winning service culture for which the DoubleTree by Hilton brand is known around the world.”
 
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ONGC inks MoU with ASI, Tourism Ministry to conserve Taj Mahal

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The public sector Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC) has signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Union Ministry of Tourism to conserve the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
 
The project will be undertaken under the Clean India Campaign, called Swachcha Smarak, Swachcha Bharat, launched by the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the ASI.
 
ONGC has taken up the conservation of the Taj Mahal as part of its structured corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, a press release from the company said.
 
To begin with, ONGC will invest Rs 20.75 crores for the conservation of the Taj Mahal. 
 
The MoU was signed yesterday at the historic Red Fort here by Mr. Alok Mishra, Executive Director-Chief CSR, ONGC, Mr. Rakesh Tiwari, Director General (ASI) and Mr. R K Bhatnagar, Additional Director General (Tourism).
 
Minister of State for Tourism Shripad Naik was amongst those present on the occasion.
 
The Clean India Campaign is aimed at restoration, preservation, beautification and ensuring general cleanliness in and around famous monuments in India. The objective is also to ensure increased tourist inflow to the country, improve the quality of services and provide a hygienic environment in and around the tourist destinations across the country.
 
The campaign was launched with a symbolic cleaning of the Red Fort premises by Mr Naik.
 
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Railways set new record with trial run of 160 kmph train from Delhi to Agra

 
Railways conduct trial of Delhi-Agra semi-high speed train
The Indian Railways set a new national speed record when a passenger train achieved a speed of 160 km per hour on a successful trial run between New Delhi and Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, today as a precursor to running semi-high-speed trains on this and other routes.
 
Mr Anurag Sachan, the Divisional Railway Manager of Northern Railway's Delhi Division, told NetIndian that the train covered the 192 km distance in 99 minutes, beating the previous high of 150 kmph achieved by the Delhi-Bhopal Shatabdi Express.
 
The train consisted of 10 Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches, manufactured by the Rail Coach Factory at Kapurthala in Punjab with German technology, hauled by an electric locomotive, he said. These coaches are now used in Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains on different routes.
 
Mr Sachan said the Commissioner of Railway Safety, whose permission is necessary for running the high-speed train on a commercial basis, was also present on the train during the trial run and was satisfied with the results.
 
Once the Railways receive his written go-ahead, they will plan to start regular services of the train from November onwards between New Delhi and Agra. They are also looking at running similar trains between Delhi and Chandigarh (about 250 km) and Delhi and Kanpur (about 500 km).
 
Mr Sachan said the Railways had to carry out some minor works along the New Delhi-Agra route, including for protection of the tracks from trespassers, for today's trial run. Announcements were made at stations along the way to ensure people did not cross the tracks when the train was expected to pass those points. Patrolling teams were deployed along the route to ensure the tracks were free of trespassers, he added.
 
The fact that the Delhi-Agra stretch lies on the Delhi-Bhopal route, on which the 150 kmph Shatabdi runs, helped, with no major changes or upgradation needed for the tracks and other facilities.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had talked about plans to introduce high-speed trains in India, like the "Bullet Trains" in Japan, during the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections that brought the Bharatiya Janata Party to to power. But while today's trial run would be considered fast by Indian standards, it is far behind the speeds of 320 kmph that the Bullet Trains achieve.
 
The trial run came days before Minister for Railways D V Sadananda Gowda presents his Railway Budget for 2014-15 to Parliament, when he is expected to unveil plans to modernise the Railways.
 
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AAI signs MoU with UP Govt for development of seven airports in state

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The Airports Authority of India (AAI) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Government of Uttar Pradesh here today for the development of seven airports and civil enclaves in the state.
 
These are the airports at Meerut, Moradabad and Faizabad and new civil enclaves in Agra, Allahabad, Bareilly and Kanpur, an official press release said.
 
The MoU was signed in the presence of Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh.
 
The Government of Uttar Pradesh has handed over three airports -- Meerut, Moradabad and Faizabad -- to AAI. Further, the State Government has also agreed to provide land and other logistical support for establishing new civil enclaves at Agra, Allahabad, Bareilly and Kanpur, the release added.
 
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Agra autorickshaw driver allegedly kills American wife, blows himself up

Agra auto driver kills American wife, blows himself up
An American woman, who fell in love with an Indian autorickshaw while on a visit to the city of the Taj Mahal in July last year and got married to him three months later, was allegedly stabbed to death on Thursday night by her husband, who later set himself on fire and died.
 
The woman identiied as Erin Michael Willinger, who also went by the name of Erin White, alias Kiran Sharma, 35, had met Bunty Sharma, 32, when she visited the city in July last year along with friends.
 
While her friends moved on, she decided to stay back with Sharma and got married to him in October, sources said.
 
According to them, differences arose between them soon, with each accusing the other of hiding a previous marriage. They started living separately, but met occasionally to discuss things, the sources said. White had approached the Mediation Cell of Agra Police in January this year.
 
The sources said that Bunty took Erin, who was a yoga teacher, in his autorickshaw to a less-frequented area, where he allegedly stabbed her several times, resulting in her death.
 
After disposing of the body in a deserted area, he went home, where he switched on the  cooking gas stove and lit a match when the room was filled with gas. Neighbours who rushed to the spot on hearing a loud explosion found his charred body.
 
The sources said that White was deeply in love with India and its culture and had launched a project to clean up and beautify Agra. In fact, on the afternoon of Thursday, the day she was killed, she had held a press conference on her project, Agra Shundhar Hai, a movement to make the cit beautiful by focusing on water, plastic waste and garbage disposal.
 
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Air India to start direct flights from Mumbai to Agra, Allahabad, Gwalior

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National carrier Air India today said it would introduce direct flights from Mumbai to Agra, Allahabad and Gwalior with effect from September 9, 2013.
 
The flights will be operated by Alliance Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India, a press release from the airline said.
 
The flight from Mumbai to Agra will operate twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. AI 9623 from Mumbai to Agra will depart at 1215 hrs and arrive in Agra at 1410 hrs while the return flight AI 9624 from Agra will depart at 1440 hrs and arrive in Mumbai at 1635 hrs.
 
The flight from Mumbai to Allahabad -will operate four days a week on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. AI-9614 from Mumbai to Allahabad will depart at 0745 hrs and arrive at Allahabad at 0945 hrs. The return flight   AI 9613 from Allahabad will depart at 0915 hrs and arrive in Mumbai at 1115 hrs.
 
The flight from Mumbai to Gwalior will operate twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. AI 9621 will depart from Mumbai at 1215 hrs and arrive in Gwalior at 1400 hrs while the return flight will depart from Gwalior at 1430 hrs and arrive in Mumbai at 1615 hrs.
 
"By offering a non-stop flight to these destinations, the airline will be fulfilling a long standing demand of passengers for a direct flight to Allahabad, Agra and Gwalior without a stopover at any other metro city. The airline is also offering attractive introductory fares on these sectors," the release added.
 
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Govt. suspends rating of Agra hotel after alleged attempt to molest foreign tourist

Union Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi today ordered the suspension of the 3-star rating of Hotel Agra Mahal in Agra after taking serious note of reports about an alleged attempt to molest a foreign tourist there today.

Media reports from Agra said the British tourist suffered injuries in her leg when she jumped out of the balcony of her first-floor hotel room to escape after she got scared when the owner of the hotel knocked on her door twice in the early hours of today.
 
An official press release said here that the Ministry of Tourism had also issued a notice to the hotel asking it to show cause why its licence should not be cancelled. She went to the nearest police station and filed a complaint.
 
The hotel owner denied the allegation, saying he had only tried to wake her up because she had asked to be woken up early to catch a bus to Jaipur. 
 
The woman was moved to another hotel, where she has been provided with security by two policemen. A consular team from the British High Commission here is also in Agra to help her.
 
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Sharma launches government-to-business portal

Union Minister for Commerce Anand Sharma launched an eBiz portal at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Partnership Summit in Agra today and said the project would mark a paradigm shift in the approach to providing services for India's investor and business communities.

The government-to-business (G2B) portal has been developed by IT services provider Infosys Limited in a public-private partnership (PPP) model.
 
The online single window was conceptualised in the form of the eBiz Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance Plan in order to enable businesses and investors to save time and costs and improve the business environment in the country.
 
"The project aims to create a business and investor friendly ecosystem in India by making all business and investment related regulatory services across Central, State and local governments available on a single portal, thereby obviating the need for an investor or a business to visit multiple offices or a plethora of websites," he said.
 
Mr Sharma said the core value of the transformational project lay in a shift in the Governments’ service delivery approach from being department-centric to customer-centric.
 
“eBiz will create a 24x7 facility for information and services and will also offer joined-up services where a single application submitted by a customer, for a number of permissions, clearances, approvals and registrations, will be routed automatically across multiple governmental agencies in a logical manner," he said.
 
“An inbuilt payment gateway will also add value by allowing all payments to be collected at one point and then apportioned, split and routed to the respective heads of account of Central / State / Para-statal agencies along with generation of challans and MIS reports. This payment gateway is the first of its kind designed in India and can become a universal payment gateway for all eGovernance applications,” he said.
 
The Department of Industrial Promotion & Policy, Ministry of Commerce & Industry is the nodal government agency responsible for the implementation of the eBiz project. 
 
Infosys has been selected as the concessionaire/ project implementation partner and is responsible for the design, development, implementation and maintenance of the eBiz solution. 
 
Mr Sharma said the Government was firmly committed to wide-ranging initiatives aimed at fostering the business environment in the country in a holistic manner. 
 
"Our approach includes leveraging technology to bring transparency, improve efficiency and promote convenience. eBiz is an important step in this direction and we are pleased to work in partnership with Infosys on this project, which we hope will become a benchmark for successful Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the country," he said.
 
Mr Saurabh Chandra, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion observed that the project is the first of its kind ever implemented in the country.
 
"It marks the highest level of maturity in web-based eGovernance applications as it strives to achieve horizontal integration across various verticals of Central government, State governments and para-statal agencies," he said. 
 
The first phase of the project provides an interactive tool that helps investors assess the licenses and permits requirements while setting up and operating a business in India. 
 
The License & Permit Information wizard will provide authentic information 24X7 to investors and businesses by providing answers to questions in an interview style format, he added.
 
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Air India puts Agra on its air network map

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National carrier Air India today commenced a flight linking Delhi with the historic cities of Varanasi, Agra and Khajuraho on its network map.

The inaugural flight on this sector was received at Agra by Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh in the presence of members of Parliament (MPs) and Air India chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan.
 
The daily flight AI 406 will operate on the route Delhi-Varanasi-Agra-Khajuraho and the return flight, AI 405 will fly from Khajuraho to Varanasi and terminate at Delhi.
 
Addressing the gathering, Mr Singh emphasised the importance of air connectivity to and from Agra. "This is just the beginning of our efforts to enhance air connectivity all over India by strengthening our airports and improving the airport infrastructure in the country," he said.
 
An Air India press release said the flight would be operated with an all-economy class Airbus A320 aircraft, three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Flight AI 406 from Delhi to Agra will depart Delhi at 1245 hours hours and reach Varanasi at 1400 noon, take off from Varanasi at 1435 hours and reach Agra at 1530 hours, leave Agra at 1605 hours to reach Khajuraho at 1645 hours. 
 
The return flight AI 405 will leave Khajuraho at 1720 hours and arrive in Varanasi at 1810 hours, depart from Varanasi at 1845 hours and reach Delhi at 1955 hours. 
 
"The introduction of this much needed flight will link the three cities of the golden triangle of most international tourists to India – Agra, Khajuraho and Varanasi, and facilitate the movement of tourists to these destinations. Air India is offering a slew of competitive fares on this sector," the release added.
 
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Air India to link Delhi with Agra, Varanasi and Khajuraho

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National carrier Air India will launch from December 26 a flight to link the capital with the tourist Golden Triangle of Agra, Khajuraho and Varanasi.

The flight AI 406 will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, on the route Delhi-Varanasi-Agra-Khajuraho and the return flight, AI 405, will fly from Khajuraho to Varanasi and terminate at Delhi. 
 
Flight AI 406 from Delhi to Agra will depart Delhi at 1245 hours and reach Varanasi at 1400 noon, take off from Varanasi at 1435 hours and reach Agra at 1530 hours. It will leave Agra at 1605 hours to reach Khajuraho at 1645 hours. 
 
The return flight AI 405 will leave Khajuraho at 1720 hours and arrive in Varanasi at 1810 hours, depart from Varanasi at 1845 hours and reach Delhi at 1955 hours. 
 
Air India is offering a slew of competitive fares on this sector, a press release from the airline added.
 
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