Apropos of the edit “Policy sans data even odd” (FE, January 6), we are reaping the whirlwind after decades of singularly carefree and rapid industrialisation. While we may yet spend decades more on deriving a complex algorithm on the cause and effect of human follies, there would be many experimental steps in the interim to re-rail our equilibrium with nature. The Delhi attempt at some correction is one such, if only to add to existing data. More than the ultimate efficacy of the odd/even plan in tackling air pollution, the greater take-away from the experiment is that the urban citizen has evolved in his mindset. It would be churlish to credit the high level of compliance to the rule to the elevated fine amount. Normally, it was the rural folk who were credited with greater respect for preservation of nature, as seen in the Chipko movement. The urban citizen, too, has done his part with odd/even and has risen to the occasion; that is no mean feat in the scheme of things. Urban pollution would need to be tackled on many fronts. And this puts far greater onus on elected bodies and the larger polity to put their heads together. As the SC judges car pool to work, a similar effort by higher bureaucracy in the capital would have been highly redeeming and a signal of earnestness from the policy framing elite. If they have done so,we are not aware.
Apropos of the thought-provoking editorial “Getting railways on track” (FE, January 7), it goes without saying that the financial health of the Indian railways has not deteriorated over night. There have been many a slips between the cup and the lips. In any case, it has to sail with the wind now. It has no option except to make suitable arrangements to meet its additional financial burden, aggregating R32,000 crore, owing to the implementation of the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission this year itself. Mind you, raising passengers fares could be one option, but it has its own, well-known limitations. It is really a matter of grave concern that Railways’ share in traffic freight (a major source of its revenue earnings) has fallen from 89% to 36% between 1950-51 and 2010-11. The slide has not stopped even now. But why? This speaks volume about the fact something is wrong with Railways’ action plan. Moreover, it is also learnt that the Indian Railways is also currently banking on state-owned LIC, as also on external commercial borrowings, to spruce up its resources apart from seeking the usual budgetary support from the ministry of finance. While there is nothing wrong with the railways minister Suresh Prabhu trying to push the Railways Regulator Bill, it must also be kept in mind that Prabhu should not expect some financial windfalls from the regulator fixing fares in the midst of so many ‘ifs and buts’. However, your editorial’s plea that the regulator could fix passengers’ fares and fine tune this when the Railways has a fully functional commercial accounting system in place, is perhaps fraught with several administrative and related risks. Why can’t Prabhu best use the existing administrative set up to fulfill his such “out of the box” ideas? Further, it would be naive to assume that things would ideally move as per his game plan. In all fairness, the railways passengers fare structure must always be in consonance with the quality of services the Railways is able to offer to them. The same can’t be out of sync with the ground realities, irrespective of their stated cost to the railways. Prabhu must also get his top priorities timed and rationally implemented.