Task Ahead: how Suresh Prabhu can deliver justice to railway commuters

The public now knows that Suresh Prabhu would take serious interest in his job and do all that he can to make railways useful to all the users. Suresh Prabhu, known as a no-nonsense man, and currently the Railway Minister, who took over from DV Sadananda Gowda, got swamped in a close-door investor meet that was there last Friday.

Press reports indicate that he and his team were deluged by complaints of various kinds.

Over 60 representatives from various organizations attended the meeting. They were assured that there was a definite need to establish a “transparent frame work under which customer-investor can make investment in the railway sector” and this will be taken care in due course. It is expected that this sort of investor-meet will be held every two months.

Arunendra Kumar, Chairman of the Railway Board, while attending the meet reassured those present that the Railways would “take care of the concern of all stake holders, while implementing the public-private partnership (PPP) projects”. This remains to be seen in the next few months.

Broadly speaking, the Railways cater to the needs of (a) civilian passenger traffic (b) commercial (c) industrial (d) defence services (e) emergency needs (f) maintenance repairs and related works and (g) development and expansion.

The public now knows that Suresh Prabhu would take serious interest in his job and do all that he can to make railways useful to all the users. Let’s take a look at the issues that aam aadmi is concerned about. His only means of transportation is offered by the Railway system that is affordable and within his reach.

A majority of the ordinary travellers who use the railways cannot even fill in the application forms and mostly travel under the “unreserved” category. Due to inadequacy of services, these are congested and fully crowded.

For those who buy the ticket in advance, and do fill these application forms, for reserved travel, they face a different set of problems that need to be eradicated, if not minimised to the extent possible.

Instances are known and these occur regularly, because of lack of foresight that the senior citizens are given “upper berths” to sleep when overnight travel is involved. The ticketing clerk is “helpless” and he/ she will always say, rather reassuringly, that the travelling ticket examiner (TTE) or ticket checker (TC) in the train should be approached for help. Most do; and, some expect “bakshis” to be paid for this service!

Why not provide in the software system a provision whereby, for the elderly, invalid a certain seats are pre-blocked, which are near rest rooms (toilets) and closer to the doors, and which can be actually assigned by the TTE one hour before the departure of the trains?

Secondly, most of the railway compartments do not have ramps to enable wheel chair passenger to board the train. There ought to be ramp facility from the platform level to reach the coach. Also, it is imperative that the new compartments under manufacture should provide at least two or three locations in specially identified compartments where wheel-chairs can be locked in and passenger can move about?

Thirdly, in many stations, arrival and departure of trains are needlessly shifted from one platform to another followed by chaotic conditions of movements of the travelling public? This needs to be eliminated completely.

Fourthly, in many stations, there are overhead bridges that one has to take (walk up and down) to be able to board or alight from the train. This makes the porter to carry his heavy luggage. Why should this be so? Can’t we modernize the system by either laying underground passages (in many stations these exist) or introduce mechanical contraptions like the drawbridge that will help one to cross from one platform to another?

This will eliminate the overhead walk on the bridge with luggage. If drawbridge is not practical in some place, the railways could think of horizontal movable bridges that can span across from one platform to another.

Fifthly, even in the so called “reserved” compartments, one can find unauthorised vendors, including those who carry vegetables in baskets (overhead) and selling their wares. Most of them are ticketless travellers and it is doubtful even if they buy a platform ticket to enter the station! Nexus between the railway employees and these vendors need not be over-emphasised

Sixthly, a lot of passengers simply occupy seats in a reserved compartment as also occupy the space at the passage areas of the entrance, which are a nuisance. This has to be stopped too.

Finally, if the authorities (mostly manned by the Police department) can set up booths to allocate cabs and auto rickshaws, on a queue system, who will thus not fleece the passengers, how about setting up a similar point of contact to get the services of porters?

One has to bargain with the porters in handling the luggage who surround the vehicles on arrival at the station and literally snatch the luggage! Similarly, mechanised vehicles for use by senior and invalids are not easily obtainable.

These are a few points that came to the writers’ mind; we would welcome suggestions from the readers so that these can be brought to the attention of Suresh Prabhu for his definite action.