Our wish-list for Railway Budget-2014

Respected Shri D V Sadananda Gowda,
Minister Of Railways,
Government Of India.

Warm regards.

As a citizen of India, I present my wish-list for the forthcoming Railway budget which you are going to present soon.

1) Due to disppointing level of services and facilities provided by varioud government agencies, we, the people of India have lowered our expectations from anything ‘Government’. Indian Railways is one such enterprise. We request you to break that jinx. Make improvements in Railways such that ‘Government’ mean reliable, credible and dependable.

2) A lot of facilities are started with lot of fund allocation, but they are not maintained properly. Different types of coaches, station facilities, technology solutions, web sites, indicators etc are some examples in case of Indian Railways. Request Hon Railway Minister Shri Sadanand Gowda to ensure that all facilities that are started, are maintained properly to attain their intended purpose.

3) Indicators displaying train coach position, time, platforms etc are a real blessing, only if they work properly and consistently. But somehow, due to poor maintenance, they go out of order any day. One can’t depend upon them. Please make them dependable. They can save a lot of time, trouble and stress.

4) Make railways’ public address system meaningful. Train the disgruntled announcers to speak in a tone, volume, speed and language which is understood by listeners. Today, such an announcement is more a noise than anything useful.

5) Decongest IRCTC web site. It is certainly not rocket science to avoid hours of delay one has to face while logging into the reservation site during Tatkal booking beginning hours.

6) Stop the menace of unreserved travelers traveling in reserved coaches. Only a firm, determined resolution is required to curb this. The TCs have to be held responsible for such transgressions.

7) Your previous counterparts created a new class called “Sleeper Class” separate from Second Class with practically no tangible difference. It is obvious that this unnecessary complication has only added confusion to the system and people. Request to abolish this “Sleeper” class or merge it with Second Class.

8) Same is with now-defunct First Class in non-local trains. First Class is a classic example of the failure of government ministries to rationalize the products/services with changing technology or market landscape. With newer AC classes, First Class has lost its relevance. But, like all things English, Indian Railways has failed to update or altogether remove this laughable luggage of outdated, aristocratic Angrez mindset.

Ironically. in Indian Railways’ first class, there is nothing first class except the  fare. The fare is much higher than much better AC classes. The official apathy and lack of clarity has resulted into meaningless legacy being continued halfheartedly.
Make First Class really “First Class” or abolish it for good. Nobody will miss it.

9) Currently, the seat allocation during running train is at the discretion of the TC. Due to this, the reserved passengers who could not travel have no practical way to prove their “no show”, preventing them from getting any kind of refund and the TCs have a field day “selling” such seats to people who have no waiting list tickets also, bypassing the bona fide wait-listers.

This situation can be easily corrected. If Mumbai’s city bus service can introduce handheld machines for issuing each ticket, why can’t railways do? Allocate a unique barcode to every reserved ticket, scan it through a handheld with TC, which will ensure which seat remained empty and was reallocated by TC on the way. This handheld should be connected to the central reservation server, which will dynamically update actual arrival/occupancy status in real time, enabling RAC/Waiting passengers to know the real seat status. This will plug the leakage of unaccounted money going to TCs and will make the system completely transparent.

10) In Chair Cars, some genius Einsteins in the design departments have tried to save some money by providing 1.5 or less hand-rests per person. There is only one hand-rest between the two people in the adjacent seats. This leads to continuous jostling between the two to capture the few inches of the hand-rest. This may be based on the assumption that an average Indian has 1.5 arms. Please get rid of this outrageous assumption. With barely enough space to accommodate one’s body, provide TWO arm-rests for each seat. This seems funny, but the current situation in an AC Chair Car is funnier.

11) Toilets in the coaches need to be checked, cleaned and maintained regularly. Currently, it is not done regularly. I am sure a full budget for manpower, maintenance, cleaning etc is passed and is ‘deemed’ utilized. But this needs to be made accountable.

12) Food provided in Shatabdi/Rajdhani is outright down market. It is of poor quality, bad hygiene and appears as just a formality being completed. The plates and seat trays are storehouses of germs. Please ensure that somebody randomly checks this food and the manner in which it is served. There is certainly a room for improvement.

13) Pantry cars are nothing short of gastronomic disasters in motion. They are dirty, unhygenic and badly maintained by dirtier manpower. Please overhaul food delivery system in trains.

14) The platforms, waiting rooms, bridges, subways or any other common utility areas at railway stations need to be cleaned and maintained properly. Again, same is true as mentioned above for toilets. Giving it to private parties against advertising rights can make this easily feasible.

15) Please simplify the rules for cancelation, refund, break journey etc along with their explanation. Currently, they are worded in such a way that one needs to be an advocate to decipher them.

16) Make fine collection transparent. Currently, fine collection is a money making machine for the officer on duty to make some quick bucks with very little reaching the bleeding coffers of railwayd. Use technology to prevent this leakage.

Here are some suggestions for Mumbai local train service.

17) In Mumbai, the areas inside and outside railway stations are encroached by unauthorized hawkers, causing a lot of congestion and convenience to the commuters. In spite of the enough manpower, this menace goes unchecked. Have courage, will and determination to prevent this encroachment forever.

18) Distinctly separate ladies and first class compartments and coached in Mumbai local trains with some clear visual distinction in the interiors as well as exteriors. In newer trains, this division is very blurred. Due to that there are lot of confusions with new commuters getting into wrong coaches.

19) Also, please ensure visual barricades inside the coaches separating these compartments within the same coach. Currently, ladies/gents first class compartments are separated by steel railings, allowing clear views across each. Same is for first/second class compartments within the same coach. Please get them visually blocked from each other. This will stop a lot of peeping and mischiefs by the onlookers with a roving eye.

20) Install more automatic ticket vending machines. They can be a very good alternative to the burden of highly inefficient and demotivated manpower that the railways is carrying. Please don’t forget to keep them properly maintained.

21) Majority of the Coupon Validating machines are out of order most of the times. This is just one more example of too many initiatives, too little improvement. Please ensure proper maintenance.

22) The ‘lean management’ practice implemented by ticket counters in Mumbai results in sometimes 25 minute wait for a 4 minute travel, because all local/outstation and season tickets are sold from every window. This ridiculously slows down the dispensation.  Please advise somebody to have a sensible correction.

23) Please insist on the personal inspection by everyone who decides on the designs of the coaches and other passenger facilities which affects millions of people. The newly introduced coaches in Mumbai locals have truncated leg spaces and have little consideration for standing commuters who outnumber the sitting ones many times. Advise them to undertake one full journey themselves during peak hours to understand the real problems.

24) A lot of discretionary misuse by TCs can be stopped by using technology and ensuring proper vigilance. Make vigilance accountable.

These are some of the improvements sought. Please ensure their timely redressal.

Thanking you in anticipation,

– A Common Man of India

Where has the money gone? Here it is…

India’s Gold reserves with RBI are approximately Rs.1.25 lakh crores.

But, India is spending almost double this amount every year, on mobile services and handsets. And that is about 2.06% of India’s GDP…

Telecom and Mobile handset industry is where the money from average consumer’s pocket is going. No wonder most of the markets are reeling under slowdown. India spends less on goods and a lot of time and money on talking…

Check some interesting numbers to get a better perspective :

India’s GDP in 2012-13 : Approx Rs 114 lakh crores (Reference :Wikipedia)

India’s Telecom Services sector revenues in 2012-13 : Approx : Rs. 2 lakh crores based on Q4-2012-13 report of TRAI (Reference : TRAI Report for Jan-March 2013 Quarter)

Mobile handset sale of last 2 years : (Reference : Economic Times article here.)

a) 2011-12 = Rs. 31,330 Crores

b) 2012-13 = Rs. 35,946 Crores

That means, EVERY YEAR, approx Rs. 2.35 lakh crores are being spent in India on Mobile services and handsets. That is approx 2.06% of India’s GDP. Considering approximately, 120 Cr population of the country, this works out to about Rs.2000 average PER HEAD PER YEAR….!!!

This means that out of about Rs.90,000 per capita GDP, EVERY Indian is spending average Rs.2000 per year on mobile phones…! Now that is a significant number…! A lot of Indian money is turning into hot air.  This has a very serious possible repercussions on the Indian economy.

1) Notwithstanding the immense communication advantage of mobile and Value Added Services and their contribution to the economy at large, the actual productive usage of these facilities is comparatively lower. Most of the mobiles are used for non-productive purposes (Chatting, Social Media, Group messaging,  Playing games,Listening to music, as a Camera etc.). Along with money, this is wasting a lot of productive time of the country’s populace. The general population, newly exposed to this technological solutions, is behaving like a small child who has suddenly entered a room full of toys. The instincts ‘to be there among the crowd’ is costing the economy a very huge amount of productivity. Unfortunately, this will be realized later than sooner.

2) A lot of this money is going out of the country, as most of the telecom hardware, mobile handsets and accessories are imported. This puts a lot of pressure on the Indian rupee.

3) With many of the family members now having their individual mobile phones, the monthly budget of the average household is very strangely skewed due to mobile hardware and services claiming a significant amount. A lot of essential goods and services are becoming predictably unaffordable due to this imbalance in the household income and expenses. This is one reason why all other markets are reeling under reduced demand.

4) The social impact of ‘the mobile revolution’ is generating a lot of lonely souls, destroying the fabric of relationships. This also gives rise to a lot of psychological disorders. Small children exposed to mobiles early on are reducing time on physical activities and spending a lot of time on mobiles, limiting their wholesome physical growth. All this finally impacts the general physical and mental health of the country and then to the economy.

It will be good if the child gets wiser after playing with the new-found toys for a while and getting back to its normal life.

Otherwise, these toys will prove to be very expensive for the economy in the end.