Same old Railways
Same old Railways
With successive Railway Budgets earmarking whopping outlays and a galore of benefits to improve train travel, the ground reality of this recurring exercise with a new minister at the helm shows that nothing ever changes; the wheel is reinvented and opportunities are lost with a renewed vigour. Even after so many budgets, the world’s largest network still lags behind in becoming the world’s best-kept in terms of amenities, cleanliness, passenger safety and being tech-savvy. Instead of being decisive, we take ill-conceived decisions. Take bullet trains, for instance. Is there even spade-work in place to mitigate the risk of unmanned level crossings to make way for bullet trains? New trains, revised rates and low freight charges hold pride of place in Railways scheme of things, but the proportionate infrastructure remain abysmal as ever.
R Prabhu Raj, Bengaluru
Make trains travel-worthy
In the politically-charged situation prevailing now, the presentation of the railway budget for 2016-17 passed off as a very low-key affair. Prime time television went without analysis and dissection of the budget. The inadequate coverage turned it into a non-event. The contents of the budget speech also could not make it seem anything more than a damp squib. While no hike in passenger fare came as a relief, no worthwhile initiative was spelt out to improve the Railways despite the benefit of falling fuel costs. The announcement of air plane-type features like on-board entertainment, apps and wi-fi services is implementable only in long-distance, super-fast trains with state-of-the-art system. It is practically not possible to implement such luxuries in worn-out and crowed trains short-distance trains. The success of the proposal for cleaning toilets through SMS requests is hard to visualise due to passenger congestion and dearth of cleaning staff. That the minister has reserved the announcement on bullet trains for another day has not gone unnoticed. One laudable thing about this budget is replacing the word ‘coolie’ with ‘sahayak’. Manual scavenging at railway stations, infestation of trains with rats, cockroaches and spiders and other travel-loving creatures, rusty coaches need to be tackled. The rail is the preferred mode of transport for millions of people. It is part of our identity and a sort of second home for those of us commuting by it everyday. Even if our trains are not sophisticated as in the developed countries, they have to be more travel-worthy.
G David Milton, Maruthancode (TN)
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