Suresh Prabhu has provided much needed makeover to Indian Railway. Of all the initiatives that he has taken as railway minister, one that stands out is his accessibility for the common man. He is active on social media platforms and is empathetic to passengers’ grievances. There have been instances where entire railway machinery has swung to action just in response to a mere tweet by a passenger; be it hygiene & cleanliness issue in the train or be it some errant railway official. This has instilled a feeling of belongingness in people and fear in officials.
While this has worked wonders in many cases, the real issue is: are we treating the disease or just the symptom? When a passenger complains about lack of cleanliness at station or inside railway coach, do we restrict ourselves to getting that particular issue resolved? While, this in itself would be a great step, the better approach would be to identify the root cause and get it fixed. If a coach is dirty, we need to hold up the agency responsible and check for other coaches/trains/stations that the same agency was supposed to clean. This would help us funnel out issues and subsequently the entire system would be far more efficient.
My recent train journey made me feel otherwise. While we are resolving the issues raised on priority, we are not plucking out the root. I booked a general ticket from Habibganj to Indore.I explicitly asked the lady at counter to provide tickets for the 12914 Trishatabdi SF train. She charged Rs 95 and gave ticket for express train. She did the same to two other persons ahead of me in the queue. When I reached Indore, TTE at the platform informed that I had traveled in a superfast train with a express train ticket, which I was unaware till then. I told him the problem and I also insisted that no one in the entire train who boarded from Habibganj and had booked ticket around 1 AM would have superfast ticket because the lady at the counter was giving express tickets even when we were specifying the exact train and there was only one counter open then. Upon this, he showed me bunch of tickets which he had collected, only to realize that my claim was true.I was made to come to his office with all my luggage and inquired about my identity and where I was going. He even asked me why I was travelling to Indore when I had to eventually go to some other place etc which was clearly none of his business. After all this, he made me sign a blank challan and charged Rs 250. No receipt was given.
Firstly, why are people at counter not trained properly. How come the lady does not know about one of the prominent train plying through the station she is posted in. How can TTE charge money without giving receipt? It is a classic case of corruption and black money at lower echelon of the railway. In my hope to get some justice, I tweeted to the railway minister and got a prompt reply from the concerned authority. While that was fine, I really doubt there was any action post the reply (none that I know of).
This might not be a very critical issue at hand. But issues like these can go long way in eliminating corruption and pruning out untrained/unprofessional staffs in Indian railway. While the minister himself is doing a fabulous job, his work ethos must trickle down to the rest of the staff. If he ends up being the one man army, situation at the grass root level would not change much. He needs to ensure that entire machinery moves along with him.
Its NOW or NEVER!!