Setting the agenda for the competent but new Railway Minister
A famous proverb in Hindustani says: “Andher nagari, chaupat raja, taka ser bhaji taka ser khaja.” The proverb, when translated in English, would mean that in an inefficient administration, you have to pay the same price for all items, whether precious or mundane. In other words, it would mean that there remains no difference between values like good and bad, truth and falsehood, cruel and kind.
Similar, if not the same, has been happening at the Old Delhi railway station where the Janta meal is available for Rs. 15 but if, after eating the meal cooked in cheap oil, you feel an urge to use the toilet, you will have to shelve Rs. 10 for the facility.
We are bringing the issue to light considering that hopes are high on incumbent Railway Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who is widely seen as competent and ready to deliver. Hopes of the nation from Narendra Modi for a positive change have also been taken to climax during the run-up to the General Elections. Moreover, talking on the aftermath of the Gorakhdham train mishap, which ironically took place on the same day Sadananda Gowda was swearing in as the new minister, he opined that he needs another 10-day time to come before the public to explain the future road map.
Safety, requirement for new suburban trains, construction of additional branch lines at places, better railway network and better speed are the oft-quoted problems. But on ground level, things will go for a dramatic change for better if the aam aadmi’s small grievances, right from entering the railway premises to facilities on the trains are resolved. A great step forward would be taking measures to put an end to middle-man and tout culture that prevails almost everywhere, but more in smaller towns and cities.
Here we are talking of Old Delhi Railway Station, from where trains commence or pass for nearly the entire North and East India. The famous Train to Pakistan – the Samjhauta Express – too commences from and terminates here. The price of the poori and sabzi that you get in the name of Janta meal at the station has been fixed at Rs. 15. The same poori sabzi may be available cheaper inside the Parliament House. But while the use of toilet facility inside the Parliament House is for free, if you wish to use a toilet at the Old Delhi Railway Station, a public utility ‘Deluxe toilet’ near the main entrance charges Rs. 10 for one time use of toilet. The inside of the ‘Deluxe’ toilet is such that most our readers wouldn’t even think of using the toilet. RNI had to take the pictures from inside to make you believe of the pathetic condition inside this toilet.
Said an employee in charge of collection at the ‘Deluxe’ toilet, when asked the reason for charging Rs. 10 per person: “This is not Sulabh, which was an NGO that got money from the Government. This toilet is being run by a private company. We have to pay Rs. 3500 daily to the company. The sweeper takes a good amount as well. Thereafter, we have to earn to feed ourselves.”
Issue is not this! The real issue is that in the name of public-private partnership, we have started doling out benefits to the rich, who are becoming richer, whereas the poor remains at the same level, ill-paid and at the mercy of his employers. He even lost the job-guarantee that he enjoyed earlier. The Government may have shed itself of the hassles of manpower management, day-to-day handling of affairs, but the middle-man culture propagated by the ousted Congress Government has ensured that the common man still doesn’t get the benefit of operating the service/s. This has become the norm almost everywhere and in every ministry.
The solution is not the increase the price of the janta meal. The solution will also not be to merely reduce the money being charged, because then it will be the man running the toilet who will face the brunt. The solution is to give the upkeep and maintenance of the toilet to that man down the ladder who is shelving 3500 rupees daily to an organization that once used its clout to get the contract.
“If you are already at the Railway Station, use a train toilet where there is no charge,” a more positive-thinking individual might suggest. It could have been a viable alternative for traveling passengers had there been window panes in the toilets of several trains meant for the common man. RNI found that toilets in most of the coaches of Haldwani bound passenger train had windows with no panes that could shield you from the people looking inside. Passengers traveling in passenger trains don’t complain, some would say, and even if they do, there are no listeners.
But the well-off do complain and even their complaints have only been falling on deaf ears in the past. Says SM Haider of Social Workers Association, which has been bringing to light various issues related to the functioning of railways in the past: “We have been highlighting the issues but in most cases there are no listeners. We wrote to the railways that it is extremely hard for the old, the ill and the handicapped to board or get off the train, as the height of the platforms is much lower than the floor of the train. The platform should be at the same height as the floor, on the lines of metro stations. This will take away a lot of hardship that the commuters face and also curb the accidents. But there have been no response. We also wrote that the dissimilar gap between the track and platform at various places is leading to accidents as there are places where the gap is a bit too much. There has been no response. We have been complaining about the deteriorated quality of food in Rajdhani and Shatabdi Trains as well. We even complained about the fact that companies manufacturing confectionary and other eatable items are doing special packaging either with higher MRP or with lesser quantity of food, for the railway stations, perhaps because there are greater commissions involved in the IRCTC purchase. But our complaints fell on deaf ears.”
The incumbent Railway Minister Mr. Gowda has said that he has to study all the issues in detail and discuss with Prime Minister the goals ahead. The Railways, like the rest of the entire country, needs a change – a succour – and the citizens are hopeful that the Railway Minister under the leadership of Mr. Narendra Modi would deliver on their hopes.
Courtesy: RNI News Agency