By Nidhi Kumari:
Dear Indian Railways,
I had the great privilege and honor to meet you a few days back and I must say, “Dude, You are getting worse each day.” No, I am not joking. I had the most harrowing time of my life when I went to my hometown Deoghar (Jharkhand), which falls on the Howrah route. It was an unforgettable as well as an unforgivable journey.
Our berths were occupied beforehand by the people who claimed to have their names in the waiting lists. On asking them to vacate our seats, all we got in reply was this “We have paid equal amount as you have, we won’t leave.” Sheer ‘dadagiri’, like we have grown up watching in Bollywood movies, I tell you. Being an Indian, I have this inborn quality of adjusting and compromising. So, a berth that has the maximum capacity of carrying five people carried eight to nine. Some sat on top, some on the floors, some on the way, some in front of the toilet gates.
People huddled like sheep and hen with only their heads sticking out. No police, no security for patrolling. The Traveling Ticket Examiner commonly known as TTE or just TT came once and that too for getting tickets ‘made’ if someone was without one.
This is how you are managed, so well organized and systematic. Now, if you argue with me and ask me why I did not board the Rajhdhani version or even the AC version of yours, then my reply to you is that the tickets reserved even three months before the journey gives you a waiting list, and in an AC a waiting list is equal to cancellation if not confirmed.
The scenario of Tatkal is that to have a confirmed ticket you need to do the following:-
– Reach the ticket counter a night before with all your bag and baggage.
– Run at full speed to reach the counter (ticket) as soon as it opens.
– Catch hold of a tout or ‘dalaal’, who can get you a ticket for thrice the actual price.
– Have your luck in your pocket and stars by your side.
Going the e-way or online way to book ‘tatkal’ tickets is again a herculean task. Booking timings are around ten in the morning. And the railway site refuses to open at that very moment. This is when you feel like breaking your head or someone else’s. And when you are encircled with situations like a festive season, an important occasion, or an emergency, having a ticket in any train, any class or any berth is all that matters.
And so here I am, traveling in Indian railways with my father. Being an honest man, he believes in always taking the right path and therefore cajoles me every time to travel in that fully crowded sleeper class saying “You will get to see the real India here”. Trust me, it has been around 18-19 years (ever since I have gained consciousness) that I have been experiencing India and there hasn’t been any change.
The toilets make you puke, you use it only when its uncontrollable and out of helplessness, the food gives food poisoning, the tea or ‘chai’ is awful, the ceiling fans are of no use and are apt only for keeping shoes and slippers on them, hawkers wake you up just when you are about to meet Shahrukh in your dream. The people are both abusive and aggressive where your voice is ignored like a fig.
Whose fault is it? Who is to be blamed? Is it the railway authorities? Or is it the Government? Or the people?
The Government allows 3-4 times extra the amount allocated to board a sleeper class. As a result, the people suffer and the Government sits there watching them suffer. There should be a limit to the number of people allowed to board the train. The management and security levels need a check and vigil. Both these departments have to be strict and strong. More and more trains should be made available.
It should be remembered that our country comprises more of middle class, lower middle class and a poor class who are all human beings and not just sheep and cattle. Unlike the rich who can throw money and get anything they put their hands on, the poor is exploited. While the ministers who travel in airplanes and AC coaches, I just want to say that pay heed towards ‘the common man’. I elect you, you are my representative, and I pay my taxes honestly. And therefore, I expect you to do your job with honesty. Stop taking me for granted.
I am hopeful that this coming election, the new Government plans a makeover for the Indian railways which desperately needs attention and a progressive transformation.