While the railway commuters nationwide face various issues that include prevention of unauthorised vendors, cleanliness at stations and waiting areas, more options/variety in food served, behaviour of pantry car staff, mobile/laptop charging points and cleaning of windows and blankets are provided. However, there are a minimal scope of the issues getting resolved, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, over 200 news railway lines across the country will be launched by the Indian Railways soon; the decision for taking new lines is made in Railway Budget only, which is a yearly exercise.
Satyen Paranjape, a Nashik resident expressed, “According to me, the priority to improve Railway bridges is needed as recently in the Andheri Bridge collapse incident witnessed quite a few casualties. Passengers are travelling in the risky situations, not only in the local trains but also passenger trains for long hours that are overcrowded. There is a need for proper scheduling as trains are often delayed which is the biggest obstacle faced by commuters.”
As per reports in 2016, Maharashtra recorded the highest number of unsafe and indiscipline passengers commuting by the railways due to a large number of commuters travelling on daily basis. Apart from that, there are several issues that passengers have to undergo trouble not only due to the Indian railways but also Western railways. While Mumbai railways is also known as the lifeline of the city with more than 75 lakh commuters travelling daily risking their lives as many accidents have been taking place in the recent times. Now, there is a ray of hope for the Indian railway commuters to have a low-risk travel as the government is taking an initiative to introduce several new lines across the nation, out of which Maharashtra will have 12 new lines.
The decision to introduce new lines was announced in the Railway Budget on February 1, earlier this year. It may be noted that the completion of projects require clearances from certain departments of State Government and Central Ministries such as acquisition of land, statutory clearances like forestry and wildlife, shifting of utilities etc. While Maharashtra is blessed to have 12 new lines, other states including Assam & North Eastern Region will get 15, Andhra Pradesh: 18, Bihar: 34, Chhattisgarh: 8, Delhi: 1, Gujarat: 4, Haryana: 7, Himachal Pradesh: 4, Jammu & Kashmir: 1, Jharkhand: 14, Karnataka: 16, Kerala: 2, Madhya Pradesh: 8, Odisha: 10, Punjab: 6, Rajasthan: 10, Telangana: 9, Tamil Nadu: 8, Uttar Pradesh: 15, Uttarakhand: 3, West Bengal will be allotted 18 new lines.
Shiv Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar stated it as the pre-decided project of the government. He continued, “It is for the benefit and welfare of the passengers by the government and Railways authority. This is a mere coincidence that it’s happening at a given timeframe and not from the election point of view.”
In order to address the sanitisation-related hygiene issues, the government has ambitioned to go nature-friendly as well, with announcing to have a set up of 21 green corridors in 2017-18 under the Swachh Bharat Mission. As a part of this, Indian railways vision is proliferating to construct bio-toilets on its coaching stock so that no human waste is discharged from coaches on to the track. Also to display the advantage of the fitment of bio-toilets, six green corridors were made functional in 2016-17. The introduction of bio-toilets in coaches has been done to avoid direct discharge of human excreta on railway tracks or station premises.
Congress Spokesperson Dr. Raju Waghmare commented, “Several basic problems undergone by Mumbai suburban train is yet to be solved such as signalling system. The Central government has allocated Rs 400 crore but yet there is a lack of funds for extension of the railways line, how can they announce bullet train amid such chaos? These new policies of line extension and bio-toilets will remain on paper just for the sake of 2019 election.”
The Modi-led government faced criticism regarding the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project – the $17 billion bullet train connecting Mumbai to Ahmedabad. However, many still wonder that when the basic infrastructure of the nation is crumbling, does it make sense to invest money into this one project that will comparatively benefit only a fraction of the society. Amidst the backlash, on one hand, the travellers have raised concern that despite the enhanced fare in the premier trains, commuters feel that the services are not in line with the hiked tariff while punctuality has taken a back seat. On the other hand, the passengers complain about the quality of food in spite of paying extra amount.
A Thane resident on the condition of anonymity said, “Railways first need to complete its backlog projects. Earlier, 12 roots extension plan of railway was sanctioned which is known as Railway corridor. There is a lack of execution in the desired plan which is an obstacle for the passengers to enjoy a flawless train journey experience and bullet train will be an additional benefit to it.”
Nonetheless, it is believed by the political experts that the government’s initiative is nothing but a vote bank politics for the upcoming 2019 elections.