Indian Railways: Top-rated development in last two years. True or False?
The NDA government kicked off their survey of the last two years of their government according to which modernization of Indian Railways tops the list. This is a very happy news for the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu who is trying to implement ways to reform the face of the railway network in India.
Indian Railways is one of the largest railway network in the world comprising of about 115,000 km of track over a route of 65,808 km and 7,112 stations. It is also world’s seventh largest utility employer with number of employees over 1.376 million and runs Freight wagons, Passenger coaches and Locomotives.
Very recently, at the end last month from May 26, 2016 to June 1, 2016 was celebrated as the ‘Rail Humsafar Saaptah’ to mark the completion of two years of Prime Minister Modi’s government. Each day from May 26 to May 31 was celebrated with one theme each. May 26 was observed as ‘Swachchta Diwas’ and efforts for intensive cleanliness drive on all stations and trains were undertaken. May 27 was observed as ‘Satkaar Diwas’ in which officers would be deputed to inspect all catering establishments and drinking water facilities at stations and in trains to ensure that all the trains having pantry cars are inspected and catering units at stations are checked. May 28 was celebrated as ‘Sewa Diwas’ involving each train, other than sub-urban commuting trains,were monitored by an officer between 10 AM to 4 PM. These nominated officers traveled by these trains and interacted with passengers in all classes and ensured that amenities, as required, were provided and grievances were redressed. May 29 was celebrated as ‘Satarkta Diwas’ on which punctuality and ticket checking drive were undertaken. May 30 was celebrated as ‘Saamanjasya Diwas’ where teams of concerned officers inspected all the railway staff colonies along with representatives of recognised unions who undertook to cleanliness drive in the colonies for their upkeep and maintenance. Also each zonal railway planted at least 1000 trees in each division. May 31 was observed as ‘Sanyojan Diwas’ as a day when all GMs and DRMs held meetings and seminars with all major freight traffic customers to advise them about the various reforms and policy initiatives on the freight traffic side and to ask them to improve rail transportation. Lastly, the week long celebration ended on June 1 which was observed as ‘Sanchar Diwas’ with observation as a day of communication holding meetings with media representatives.
This week-long celebration of NDA government should be validated perhaps because a substantial development is clearly noticed. Modi government’s budget plans for Indian Railway seems worth the modernization actions undertaken. Lets see the various changes made in different sections of railway.
PASSENGER AMENITIES & SERVICES AND SYSTEM
The railways launched all India helpline no.s’s 138 and 182 to report complaints and unsavory incidents, respectively. A ‘Customer Complaint Web Portal and Mobile application (Android/Windows based) was launched. E-catering services were introduced in 134 pairs of trains with a view to serve meal to the passengers at their seat by placing order through a phone call, SMS or website. E-concierge services were started at 22 stations. Also, first ‘Green DEMU’ train was introduced on Northern Railway to run between Rewari- Rohtak section. Six pilgrim tourist trains were introduced in the last year to cover Hindu pilgrims centers, Jain pilgrim centers and Sikh pilgrim centers. E-enabled Project Monitoring Information System (PMIS) was launched in April, 2016. Drone video-graphy has been introduced for ongoing projects. This will enable close monitoring of various projects on Indian Railways. Wait-list woes are one experience that unites all India for sure. I’m sure it has happened with all of us that we had to cancel our important plans because of a long waiting list in much needed trains. Well, railways has found a new solution to resolve this problem by introducing ‘Clone Trains’ to accommodate passengers in waiting list with seats which will run after an hour of scheduled train’s departure. This feature to be facilitated on high-demand routes.
Indian Railway took steps to make railways bio-friendly to contribute in environment preservation by introducing Bio-toilets which will lessen the pollution on train tracks by converting the waste into environment-friendly substances that won’t corrode the tracks. Around 10,159 bio-toilets already been fitted by March 2015. Steps are also taken to use Solar Energy. 30 KW Solar Plant has been commissioned at roof top of Rail Bhawan at New Delhi. Katra Station is now solar powered. Railways signed MoU to set up its own Railway Design Center in collaboration with National Institute of Design (NID). Three separate MOUs were signed with the states of Orissa, Jharkand and Chhatisgarh for critical coal connectivity projects to improve transportation of coal. In 2014-15, 1983 km of railway lines have been commissioned and 1375 km of railway electrification completed. This is the best ever performance of Indian Railways. Indian Railways and Ministry of Water Resources to jointly work for creating logistics hubs with rail connectivity on National Waterways. Indian railways commissioned around 4800 kilometers of broad gauge track in last two years which is a record performance. As compared to this, Railways have been commissioning at an average of about 1,530 km per financial year in the previous five years of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). In addition, 2,132 railway over bridges and under bridges were completed at an average of 1,066 per year, as compared to an average of 763 per year in the previous five years. Also, Indian Railways eliminated 2,433 unmanned level crossings in the NDA’s last two years.
The much awaited Lumding-Silchar Broad gauge section was inaugurated giving seamless broad gauge connectivity to Barak Valley of Assam with the rest of the country. Meghalaya comes on the rail map with the flagging off of the first ever train from Guwahati to Medipathar in Meghalaya by the Prime Minister. He also laid the foundation for a new line to take rail connectivity to Mizoram’s capital Aizwal. Director train connectivity started from Delhi to Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh. The first ever perishable cargo center set up Adarsh Nagar station in Delhi to help farmers.
HIGH SPEED TRAINS
Looks like speed is the new mantra for our present government’s Make in India plan by roping in countries like Germany, Japan and Spain with plans of High Speed Trains like Bullet and Talgo trains. Reports of study by Japan for Bullet Train on Mumbai-Ahemdabad corridor were received in 2015. This is the biggest investment announcement that came from Rail Minister Prabhu that a high-speed train (Bullet train) to be introduced at a cost of Rs.97,636 crore. The train will cover a distance of around 508km in approximately two hours and will be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). China has also undertaken the study of introducing Bullet Train on New Delhi-Chennai corridor.
High- speed Spanish Talgo train’s first trial run conducted successfully on Bareilly-moradabad line in Uttar pradesh on May 29, 2016. Talgo trains are lighter and faster therefore are energy-efficient and can help save extra-energy by 30 percent. These trains can run at a speed of 115 kilometers per hour over curves without decelerating the speed. During this first trial run it covered 90 kilometers in 70 minutes.
As a measure to restructure the Indian Railways, Minister Prabhu constituted two new directorates: Mobility Directorate, which will look at the mobility plans and identify and prioritize train corridors for raising speed, and, Non-Fare Revenue Directorate to focus on areas for enhancing revenues by 10% to 20% from non-tariff sources. He is also exploring advertisements as a way of revenue.
During 2014-15, the Railways’ total earnings were Rs.157880.50 crore, registering an increase of 12.16 per cent over the previous year. Also carried 1097.578 million tonnes of revenue earning freight, showing an increase of 4.18 percent over the previous year. It has succeeded in achieving the 91.1% target of operating ratio in 201415 which is an improvement over 93.6% achieved in 2013-14. The government is also to impose ‘Krishi Kalyan cess’ of 0.5 per cent on service tax on all AC class tickets, freight and parcels, implemented from June 1, 2016 onward.
Amid the one year of Modi’s term, Ministry of Railways has claimed several new beginnings and key reforms, but are now and then reportedly put to question, as to whether or not are really the present government’s improvements or credits usurped for someone else works. As per reports, by media and government, we as citizens of India, really aren’t at a position to know the highlights and reports are true to present times or a later publication of earlier achievements. But the one thing we can truly claim is that, these reports or highlights have been brought to the citizens notice only recently, for which, at least the credit goes to the current ruling NDA government and hope it fulfills all the potential plans and make Indian Railways a world-class railway network.