Indian Railways need fresh air of LPG – Pankaj Bhatiya

Why fast speed bullet trains like China, Japan & France is still a dream for us? Why Indian Railways doesn’t adopt the advanced technology for safety? Why we never find a clean toilet in our trains? Why cockroaches in luxury trains like Rajdhani, Duranto & Shatabdi are a common sight? Why our trains are generally late? Why we don’t get good food in our trains? Why our trains and tracks are not secure? Why all the trains on select busy routes are always packed throughout the year? Why the black marketing of train tickets is still a common phenomenon? Why we still struggle to book tickets online during peak hours? Why we don’t have multiple options to choose from when it comes to train journey in India and finally why the hell our Railway Ministry is the only one having a separate full-fledged annual budget and is the most sought after cabinet birth in new era of coalition government?

If you travel in Indian Rail more often than not, you would have come across all these questions many times. Let me try and give answer to as many as possible if not all. The crux of all these problems is the monopoly of government in railways. We have seen the innumerable and enormous benefits of Liberalisation, Privatisation & Globalisation (LPG) in many sectors like banking, insurance, aviation etc which were earlier controlled by the public sector. Competition in these sectors has resulted in drastic improvement in customer services, wide range of products, multiple choice of service providers, attractive pricing & overall increase in market size. But the “Lifeline to the Nation” is running way behind the global rail services in terms of modernisation of facilities, services and advanced technology. High speed rail lines and bullet trains are still a dream for us and we are way behind countries like Belgium, Turkey, Taiwan & South Korea with China leading the pack with 3937 miles high speed lines in operation and another 2712 miles under construction. Just imagine the 1400 KM train journey between Delhi to Mumbai reduced to 5 hours with high speed bullet train zooming at a speed of 300 KMPH! Also imagine if you have 4-5 different options of trains run by Tatas, Birlas, Reliance & of course Indian Railways originating early morning from both locations. Number of passengers taking flights will come down drastically and with this the sky rocketing air fares. Just imagine the huge spur in overall economic activity if all metros are connected with each other through high speed rail network.

Eternal doomsters will argue against opening up of the largest intercity public transport in the country citing multiple silly reasons like increase in fares, government losing control on fares, private players neglecting bottom of the pyramid passengers, and Indian Rail being the transport of masses. We all know that all this is sheer bullshit as nothing like that happened in any of the sectors opened up after liberalisation of economy in early 90s. In fact it is the other way round. Market has expanded and better products & services have reached to a much larger section of society with effective and efficient use of modern technology. This is true in every sector like Banking, Insurance, and Civil Aviation etc.

The biggest argument in favour of LPG of Indian Railways is that the government should not do any kind of business. The business of the government is to govern the nation and not to do business. We all know the plight of many state roadways and our Maharaja Air India. When the government can’t run a Bus Transport and Airlines business profitably, what makes us believe that it will be the other way round in Railways!

Second argument is the element of corruption which comes to anything associated with government. We all know the level of corruption and favouritism in many railway tenders, which is one of the main reasons why we don’t get best facilities in our trains, balance sheet of the railways is always red and despite hike in goods tariff and passenger fares railway ministry never have money for modernisation and technology for better safety. Having a separate full-fledged cabinet ministry and huge budget railway ministry is hot favourite of every coalition partner in government. Use of political clout by various leaders to divert the train routes and set up of new rail coach factories in their constituencies is an open & bitter truth. New trains announced in budget don’t start until next budget due to political equations and compulsions. LPG will minimize the politicisation of railways.

If not run trains, what government should really do! It should focus on expanding and improving infrastructure. There is a huge gap of railway stations, terminals, platforms at many busy railways stations with respect to the burgeoning population and increasing number of trains. Providing world class basic public amenities and ensuring public security at stations should be the focus of the government. Many a times all of us wonder why our railway stations can’t be like airports; neat & clean platforms, good waiting lounges, better sitting arrangement, choice of multiple restaurants, air conditioned premises, more windows to buy tickets, better public announcement and display system, security check before boarding. Like civil aviation sector government should focus more on creating and maintaining world class infrastructure. Let everyone including the bottom of the pyramid sections of the society share and enjoy the fruits of development. This would be the real inclusive growth.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On Google PlusCheck Our Feed