Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chronicles Of A Harried Consumer ~ Indian Railways

Indian Railways is the largest employer in the world according to some statistics. But are these statistics of any use? What are they trying to drive home? That they are providing employment to thousands is really appreciable. But in the midst of all these meaningless statistics, have we ever tried to gauge efficiency? You may argue that terms like efficiency and versatility are relative. I dont agree. Then we should not be comparing mobile phones and tablets. The indian railways is the most used transport system in our country. The poor man s airways. That s how a famous politician called it. Someone even came up with another bit of bootless statistics: One third of the indian population travels on trains at any given time.

Looking at all these facts, shouldnt it be natural that Indian Railways be the most effective organisational community? But no, i cant be more wrong. My experiences with the IRS has always been on the unpleasant side . Try as i might to look at the sunny side of the situation, i m pulled back to the same point where i begin everytime i take a train. Why is the whole system so flawed despite having a whale of an indian population on its payroll?

I am forced to think: Why are the toilets so dirty? Why doesnt the fan work on local trains? Why do we have profanity scribbled on toilets and seats? These are just the beginning of the circle of questions in my head.  My in laws took a train this morning to Chennai from Vadodara. Needless to say, that distance is bound to cause some flurry in old people travelling. Thanks to Indian Railways, the travel began on a very nasty note. They were assigned HA1 compartment. But God forbid, it took us 10 mins to figure out where the coach is. The train departed the station within 12 mins of arrival. Ask the T.T.E, the elite ticket examiner, he irresponsibly shrugs me by showing a hand towards a coach at the far corner. I go there and i see a First Class painted boldly on the coach sides. No PNR charts, no coach display boards. How on earth am i supposed to figure out where coach HA1 is? God bless the soul of a very generous porter who had the smartness to tell me that the coach which the T.T.E pointed to is half 1A.C and half H.A1. The conductor who is assigned to a coach to do this simply seemed to have disappeared. The T.T.E who enjoys a multitude of concessions from the government for rendering his very valuable services shrugged me off impatiently.At the end of the day, its only an illiterate but responsible and good hearted porter who guided us. That s how much the whole system is screwed. And believe me i ve only started.

No one is complaining that you are charging so much. So charge a lil more but give us some nice service. Why does the conductor vanish off the surface of the already stinking train just when it is so obvious that everyone boarding the train s going to need some guidance? And the nerve of him to come and ask for a tip when i m alighting the train. A hundred bucks more on my ticket will definitely not hurt me as i m travelling on second A.C but if you dont treat me well, i m definitely going to be put off. Especially if you are getting paid with the money that i m paying towards the ticket. If its A.C it has to be A.C throughout the journey. I think that much is clear. So why does the A.C go off mid journey. Am i eligible to claim money back for travelling very uncomfortably in a stuffy coach for the half of my journey? How does the conductor manage to do that alone in perfect sequences? Why does the loco pilot never bother to keep in mind the coach position that s put up on platforms? Why are the waiting rooms infested with swarms of mosquitoes? Its not going to take millions of rupees to have the coach name painted on trains.  These are just some of the teeny weeny battles that i ve had to combat during my journey on an Indian train.

Now coming to the dirty toilets and profanity part. Why does the urge to mess a public utility service crop up in every individual? It s after all our trains. There are people like us travelling on the trains. So it s our responsibility to flush the toilets and to refrain from damaging fans, mugs and switches. The railways cant do much if you cant contribute in your own little way. We give lectures on how important women are and how much we respect them. But we are all hypocrites who like scribbling profane graffiti on toilets in trains and behind bus seats. That s how much we respect our women. Arent we all walking epitomes of hypocrisy?

We will never have clean trains and a perfectly functioning Indian Railways until we realise that people are paying for their tickets and they deserve decent service in return. And that the railways is but ours and that we also have a duty to keep trains clean.

The next time we all board a train, lets strive to make a difference to everyone s journey. Lets wait in a queue to board or alight, lets not spit on the platform, lets flush the toilets and most importantly, lets remember not to damage or steal anything.


  1. Lovely post, which reflects the thoughts and disappointments that every one of us have had with the IRS. Respect - for having voiced it out so well!! :)

  2. Nice post, especially encouraging everyone to begin the change within themselves because that's what we all need instead of pointing fingers and complaining.
    I had also read an interesting post on a friend's blog here regarding Indian Railways & how contacting them via SMS made a difference.