August 20 was a nightmarish day. I had planned to use Metro to reach New Delhi railway station to catch Maha Bodhi Express for Sasaram. But then it started raining very heavily with water logging in front of our house. I booked a taxi as with water logging, it would have been troublesome for Yamuna.
As usual for an old man I left for the station well in time at 12.15PM. But after reaching, I found from the porter itself that the train has not reached New Delhi till then and it is estimated to be very late, but certainly not before 7PM. I couldn’t dare to get the information from the enquiry desk as it was a mile long, and the digital display didn’t indicate anything. I decided to return. All that cost us Rs 500 for 24 kms.
Lesson: Never start on any train journey in future without checking departure information on internet.
Will I not forget the lesson next time?
After reaching Noida, I had to decide the next course, so I talked to my brother-in-law and Alok and informed the doubt. They felt unhappy but somehow left the decision to me. I didn’t dare to try any alternative train because of the trouble it means and with no one to assist. I contacted Ashok at Vadodara, sent Harendra to station again using Metro to find out the possibility of Maha Bodhi for the day and I myself sat on my laptop. Well in time I got confirmation that the train might start at 7 PM. I gave up the idea of dropping the travel plan that I was contemplating, perhaps unconsciously because of the expected trouble at this time of the year. My brother-in-law had talked of the deteriorated condition of road to his village due to the recent rain.
At 5.30PM we took Metro and reached New Delhi by 6.15. But then the waiting on the crowded platform with no civic facilities started. It was just nightmarish more with Yamuna. She had to walk all the way from the Delhi Metro station to platform 9 with a number of staircases and none of the lifts and escalators provided functioning. Any platform change at the eleventh hour that is pretty common can only mean the missing of the train; she would not have overcome the difficulty of going up and coming down from the crossover bridge.
The UPA government of CWG fame is promising to transform New Delhi to world class level since last six years, if not more. With all the decongestion projects announced, nothing has changed. The crowd management that basically relates to those waiting for trains is dismal. I wonder how the government can prevent terrorists or for any unscrupulous elements to create damage or stamping.
Old and Handicapped: The creation of users- friendly condition is not among the Railway’s priorities. Railways don’t expect old and handicapped persons to use the trains.
We kept on waiting till 8PM for MahaBodhi to arrive on the platform, about 5 hours behind schedule.
It happened the same way on the return for boarding Shramjivi Express at Varanasi where again wasted five hours on August 24. The less I talk of the inside arrangements, particularly the toilets, the better it will be. A little standardization, accountability, discipline, regular maintenance and bare minimum concern for the old persons can make the train journey a great experience.
Who should correct the situation for the people? Mamta Banerji or Railways executives hardly bother about these physically intolerable situations of the passengers. I heard some educated young man saying that the railway officers are worried to see only Duranto trains running as Mamta introduced them.
And let me tell with all confidence that it’s all management problems. The Railways can solve the problem in just one year, or less.
On every station, the Railways can create two big halls with all civic amenities on both sides of the platforms. Underground tunnels can connect the platforms at two or three places. At the entrance of the tunnels, passengers and their luggage can pass through metal detectors 15-20 minutes before the train reaches the platform.
Inference: The Railway ministry must operate under a capable professional CEO and not the political ones such as Lalu, or Mamta with vested interest for party gains, be it trains or employment. Nothing significant has happened in the whole of last decade to improve the situation even a little. Even the new gadgets hardly work and on real time basis.
With every passing day, the life for ‘aam adami’ using the railways is becoming more difficult. Will it require some Maoists type actions against the Ministers or officers running the great Indian Railways to improve it? Why can’t the Railway Board and its members take a vow to make the services tolerable using policy deployment and fixing the accountability for all who are responsible? I wish the Railways would have taken up the task to do that before CWG.
I don’t know if it’s going to happen even by 2030, if a candidate for the chief minister chair of a state goes on becoming the chief of Indian Railway.
PS: To add to the injury, when we got down at Ghaziabad, our bogey stopped at a location without shed on the top. We got drenched in reaching the covered portion. And the autos were demanding whatever they felt like: Rs 300 for Noida that too on sharing with other three.
Who should help the aam adami from these terrorists that one is to face every day every where?