Every february of a financial year we have a comedy show in the name of railway budget. This ritual has become a show to prove that the government and more particularly the railway minster is one among the poor and downtrodden. He/she always cares for the poor. The railways has now become an instrument of appeasement. I still regret the fact the British left India. They really were visionaries in every aspect. Be it the railways, seaways and airports they did a marvelous job. Infact our politicians have looted far more what the British stole from India.
The railway ministry has defacto been marked to either the state of Bihar/Westbengal. How else can u justify the fact that the railway ministers are only from these two states for the past 10 years. The railway budget is a real shame on this country and its intellectual thinking. The southern states are the worst affected due to this poor leadership. The successive governments need to share the blame for this thinking. In all the successive budgets there is no real road map to create a solid infrastructure. The infrastructure immediately required are
1. Conversion of existing meter guage lines to braod guage
2. Electrification of all major and minor lines
3. Creation of new lines
4. Creation of a dedicated freight corridor
5. Improvement of suburban lines
6. Improvement of passenger amentities.
There is no point in our GDP growing at 8-9% if our trains can't reach a 500 km destination in time. The usual dialogue of deficient money in creation of infrastructure is no excuse. The NDA government had a vision when it had put a cess of one rupee to initiate the golden quadrilateral and other highway development projects. The UPA government headed by a distinguished economist and having many self styled economic experts,former RBI governors have no clue in creating this infrastructure.All that they can keep saying is that "GDP will grow at 9 % this year. Inflation will come down later this year".
As a layman i have few questions. The government has so much of money in the form of pension funds. Can't the government lend it to railways to create this infrastructure for our country. We are no new customers to World Bank, IMF. Cant' we get money from them to improve profit earning sectors and infrastructures ??.Another option is putting a additional cess of one rupee to create a reserve for the railway infrastructure. If the government can create a worthy infrastructure, I will be happy to pay the cess when i buy one litre of petrol.
Another favourite option will be to develop infrastructure in the public private partnership. Few new sectors/ railway tracks can be compltely left to the private players. Just imagine having a dedicated and separate railway line from Chennai to New Delhi completely built, managed and operated by private players. Let the railways run its trains on the tracks it created and private players run their trains in their own tracks.This is the sort of creative thinking that is missing from our government.
Another laughing point is the new trains that are announced in every budget.All the major railway tracks are running beyond their capacity. Best example is the Chennai Egmore-Madurai segment. This highest profit earning sector of the Southern Railways does not have double broad gauage line in majority of the distance. Still the railway minister is least bothered about this segment. The administration virtually can't run any more trains in this segment. The railway minister for the sake of being populist announces list of trains which are implemented after few months or worst are not implemented.
The passenger amenities in all the major railway stations and trains show us that we are still a developing and third rate country. After some years even the African nations will be better off than our railways.The toilet still stinks and the compartments are still shabby. The reserved compartments are no less than general compartments just proves the status of our railways.The food being served by the IRCTC is another worrying point about the railways. Even the private players have not improved the quality of our system.
So will we see improvements in the system from this year??. One can confidently say that the answer is a big NO. As our railway minister is facing elections in her come state later this year. She will announce big and major projects for her home state. Majority of the trains will run through howrah junction. All other states will continue to cry. Nothing more can be done to this. After all we are in India and this Indianism.