I haven't gone through the details of the budget which was presented and I do not want to do that. But something remarkable has just happened.
The Railway Minister's own party has disowned his budget. His party chief became so annoyed that the party has asked for his removal. The head of the coalition has to just fall in line, even when they all are in praise of the policies that are presented in the said budget by this minister.
It is no surprise ! That is the way this country is evolving !
You just cannot dream of having good management systems and governance in a country which is in its infancy state of development and initial stages of experimentation with democracy.
I know there could be thousands of learned and knowledgeable persons in this country of over a billion. But their views are minority voices.
Minority voices do not have the power to make changes, unless they occupy the 'trump-card' position by accidents of time !
So is the case with the Indian Railways.
There are thousand and one ways that this organization is moulded in to one of the best in the world.
There could be scores of good managers , administrators and professionals in the Indian railway organization who knows the ways and means of doing that.
But that is of no use in a democratically evolving set up like this for the time being.
To be a knowledgeable and competent person among a majority that has not reached that state of mind capacity indeed is a painful thing !
So why to give suggestions for improving the railways now ?
Should I reserve it for the opportunistic moment of the future, if at all it comes ?
Even so, let me write down some of those suggestions the railway authorities could keep in mind for implementing if they ever feel doing some thing for improving the great Indian railways :
1. Do some real surveys to find out those loss making train services and take actions not to put the best and brand new coaches for those services. Use the brand new coaches for the long distance trains only as a policy.
2. Lease out some railway space in all railway stations in major cities and towns where private players can set up decent traveller accommodations for genuine passengers who reserve their journey in advance for a comfortable stay for periods not exceeding one or two days. The rooms so provided shall be neat, clean and preferrably with air conditioning or fans and with clean toilets. Star rated luxuries are not what the passengers need, but reasonable neatness, comforts, safety and affordability. Their should be provisions for booking such accommodations in advance while the tickets are booked. Presently many stations have retiring rooms maintained directly by the railway employees. They keep the most ridiculous type of staff to look after these at present who have no manners or courtsey. More over in many crowded stations, such rooms are perennially not available for genuine passengers. If this facility is available, many long distant travellers could conveniently break their tiring train journey enroute to take a refreshing break in some other cities and towns and continue their journeys comfortably in other short distance trains. If the railway managers use their brains properly, they can very well do it in the most beneficial manner for both the railways and the passengers.
3. Raiway can think of implementing the system of 'registered baggage handling' facility for the long distance travel for main sectors of travel just as the airlines are doing. For example for those reserved a/c class passengers travelling between Delhi and Mumbai shall have their registered baggages handed over to the baggage handlers at Delhi and take them back at Mumbai from the baggage office. The railway may fix the type of baggage the passengers are required to carry for this purpose and the maximum number of pieces and their weights. They may also charge a fee for excess baggage. There should be one secured baggage coach in all long distance trains. This service could also be entrusted to private players ensuring proper quality. This would reduce the mad rush in the stations. The railways should also ensure availability of porters for carrying and loading luggage of the passengers and a facility to avail these services with advance booking.
4. Make all long distance trains with air conditioned class only. The system of allotment of seats berths shall be based on the distance travelled rather than the preferrence of the passengers. For example all passengers travelling day time for less than 8 hours shall be booked only on chair car. Those travelling 8-24 hours shall be on a/c 3-tier coaches. Those travelling more than 24 hours shall be on a/c 2-tier coaches. The air conditioned first class services shall be totally eliminated and such coaches shall be available only on special tourist services or for official purposes. The number of each category of coaches shall be based on the passenger demand as analysed by past history.
5. Non-a/c coaches shall be limited short distance travel trains which run less than a day. If possible such trains shall be run only in those regions where the temperatures do not exceed 32 degrees celcius.
6. Make all long distance a/c coach trains with catering charges included in the cost of travel just as now being done for Rajdhani and Shadabdi type train services. This will eliminate passengers to travel with lighter luggage avoiding those filled with all kinds of eatables. This will also reduce the influx of all kinds of vendors in the coaches disturbing the passengers.
7. There should be announcements for the passengers regarding the approaching stations and the time of halt, delays etc in all the coaches. It is not a difficult thing to implement for the railways if the want to do this. It should be a mandatory service. Though this is available now in Rajdhani and Shadabdi trains, it is not strictly followed by those responsible for implementing this without fail.
8. The Indian railways is a mammoth organization. Centralization of authority for each and every thing would cause serious damage and the local railway officers showing their helplessness to deal with the genuine grievances of the passengers. Railways should provide adequate powers for their officers who are to face the public and notify those officers, their contact details and their powers for decision making. It is quite natural that the ministers, being public representatives, liking to grab all powers of decision making. But they should remember that unless they delegate their powers effectively they would become laughing stock in the eyes of the public whose position do not show any results of effective management !
There could be more such suggestions.
I request the learned readers who use the Indian railways to open up their feelings and suggestions here using the blog comments tool.