Will the Railways fulfil Mamata's vision?
Posted on: 20 Aug 2010
If Shasi Tharoor had described the general compartment of trains as `cattle class' instead of that in a flight, it would never have become a controversy. Sometimes even calling it as cattle class would be a luxury.
Four years back, those who travelled in the West Coast Express from Mangalore to Chennai during Onam season would never forget their journey in their life. When the train reached Mangalore the compartments were full. There was no space even to set foot in the general compartments. Those who were not able to get into the general compartment boarded reserved coaches sans reservations. Seeing the rush, the Mangalore station manger informed about the situation to the Palakkad division and asked not to issue tickets at stations from Kasargod to Kannur as those who get tickets from these station would not be able to undertake the journey.
But no one heeded the request and when the train reached Kanhangad, people with tickets were not able to board the train. They created an uproar demanding refund of the ticket money. Apart form fooling the passengers by giving tickets for a fully crowded train, the railways deducted Rs 10 from each ticket.
In addition to the railways' apathy towards employees in security sector, it has not considered to provide good facilities to travelers. Every day 1.73 crore people travel in trains. The railway is not able to elevate facilities from the money got from ticket fares. In 2008-09 the railway received Rs 26, 088 crore from tickets and the expenses were Rs 40,045 crore. The difference Rs 13,957 was crore.
The railways are managing the difference with revenue from goods transportations. As per the railways, by 2010-20, the number of commuters would rise to 15,180 billion. The railways would be able to manage such a rush only if new trains, routes, lines and basic facilities are developed. In many countries high speed corridors with a capacity of 250 km /hour have come into existence. But India has not been able to implement this so far. The railway growth can be assured only if the union government spend more on its infrastructure.
The only solution is to appoint sufficient employees and provide good facilities. The plight of women employees in the Mangalore booking office, who are forced to work for 10 hours in the office without even a toilet, is beyond words. There are quarters for the employees adjacent to each station but most of them are in bad condition. Though the railway has decided to renew it last year, due to lack of money it was not done.
When the railways were privatized, porters were the ones who lost jobs. When the loading and unloading work were given to contractors, the old porters lost their livelihood. The contractors give work to persons of their wish. So the porters are raising a demand to consider them for any job in the lower sections.
With enough problems, it is a fact that the railways had not hiked the fares during the last 10 years. In this period, fuel price hike was done many times. The Railway is the only resort for commonman when the fares on road transport are witnessing every day changes.
With `Vision 2020', Mamata Banerjee aims to reduce the number of rail accidents and if that has to be fulfilled, railways have to work hard in the coming years.