We need a functional, not pompous rail system
It is perhaps time that the rigmarole of a railway budget is done away with. The railway board ought to manage a professional company and not run a government adjunct. It can seek assistance from the Centre for capital schemes, or better still float development bonds. In a growing economy like ours, the movement of raw materials and finished goods is vital. Hence freight should be the topmost concern. We inherited a good rail system from the British, but in six decades have not realised its full potential. Our exports have increased, but for a nation blessed with seas on three sides and good ports, the Indian Railways has not integrated its system with the flow of goods traffic in and out of the ports. The railways should be able to guarantee a fixed time for goods delivery inland. Passenger movement, given the huge population and low income levels, must be functional and presentable and not pompous. Hassle-free seat reservations, punctuality and safety are more important than Wi-Fi. Travellers require spacious, clean waiting rooms, and not airport lounges. In due course, a thriving economy will be able to provide all this and more.
—R Narayanan, Ghaziabad
Nothing for Mumbai
The much-awaited elevated rail corridor between Churchgate and Virar did not find any mention in the railway budget. Similarly, we did not hear anything about the important Virar-Vasai-Diva-Panvel line, or the CST-Panvel fast track under the MUTP-3 plan. Somehow, the big-ticket rail projects the city is dreaming of have been ignored and this is bound to diminish the interest of private players for such infrastructure development. The railway ministers regularly announce new trains, and the Rajdhani is their favourite. But till today there is no Rajdhani service between Mumbai and Chennai despite the rush on this section. Of course, the railway minister could not announce a direct fare hike so soon after the more than 20 per cent increase last month. But not much resources have been allocated to improve services in Mumbai. While Delhi gets a new rail system, Mumbai hears old promises.
—S Abhisheck Ramaswamy, Navi Mumbai
Irregular rounding off
It seems that the suburban train ticket charge for a child that should be half the adult fare has been rounded off and is equal to the adult fare. For instance, a single ticket for an adult from Khandeshwar to Vashi is Rs10 and this is the fare for a child also. The return ticket fare is also Rs20 for both. This is absolutely unfair. To correct this irregularity, it would be appropriate to round off the fare only on the single ticket and at the base charge. But the return ticket should be twice the actual single fare for a child and this can then be rounded off. Therefore, if the actual single journey fare between Khandeshwar and Vashi is Rs8 for an adult and Rs6 for a child, the single fare can be rounded off to Rs10. The return fare works out to be Rs16 for an adult and Rs12 for a child and should be rounded off to Rs15 and Rs10 respectively. I earnestly appeal to the railway minister to rectify this irregularity urgently.
—Vaidyanathan, by email
Fuelling cost escalation
Apropos of “Freightful run ahead”, the railway minister has delivered a sugar-coated pill. The hike in charges for reservation and super fast trains in fact works out to be (up to 1,000km) five paise per km. The common man travels once or twice a year and may not mind paying a little more per km for the journey. But the 5.8 per cent increase in freight charges with a fuel cost adjustment factor could fuel an escalation in prices of commodities that could hurt more. These revised rates will only offset the increased cost of fuel, and the minister has not made any real allocation for spending on passenger safety, expansion or modernisation.
—N Ramamurthy, Chennai
Populism and necessity
Aiming to bring the railways out of the intensive care unit, railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has struck a fine balance between crafting a populist budget ahead of the general election and the economic necessity of putting the utility’s finances in order. Although the railway budget is not free from an element of populism, that was the hallmark of Mamata Banerjee and her predecessors, Bansal steered clear of rhetoric and headline-grabbing promises. He has subtly linked freight rates to fuel prices for the first time, but has chosen to give passengers some more time before moving to a new pricing system that is designed to insulate Asia’s oldest network from the wild swings in energy prices.
—J Akshobhya, Mysore
Name the schools
The regularity with which little girls are being sexually abused is most alarming. I think the laws and/or their implementation are not ineffective to fix the responsibility for the sheer negligence that leads to such dastardly acts. The absence of any pressure to tackle the issue, ensures that Indian legislators are busy doing, or should I say legislating on more important matters for which deadlines are in place. As I key this message, I see the article headlined “Maken brings licence for hawkers with him” lying on my table. I believe it is quite easy for school managements to ensure the safety of children. But for some crazy reasons they refuse to acknowledge that such a problem exists and that they must tackle this po-actively. This is why I wish that the media would name the schools where such incidents happen as that could compel the schools to wake up from their slumber and act. The schools should also be made to verify the background of attendants, helpers and all other staff, and display this information on the notice boards for the benefit of parents.
—Ms Poornima Mepani
Not in public interest
Apropos of “Maken brings licence for hawkers with him”, the decision by the Union minister for housing and urban poverty to prevent local authorities from clearing unlicensed hawkers is not in the civic interest, but intended to protect the UPA’s vote bank at the cost of the common citizens. The undue interest shown by a Union Minister in what is a local issue amounts to unnecessary interference and could demoralise the local authorities. The process of identifying and marking hawking zones will take time and allowing illegal hawkers to continue with their activities will simply add to the hardships of citizens.
—Kishorkumar J Ved, Mumbai