A few days ago, the Union Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal presented his first budget in Parliament. On closer inspection, unfortunately, it has left most of us cold for we had far greater expectations from the Minister than just some humdrum facts, figures and price increases. We wish Mr. Minister had conferred with us on what Indian Railway really needs. Had he incorporated our recommendations into his budget, every expert, parliamentarian and aam aadmi would have hailed it as the best one ever since the invention of the Steam Engine in 1781. Not only would the budget have, in a giant master stroke, erased the combined losses of Rs. 24,342 crores accumulated over the years, it would have also ensured that our Railway leapfrogged to the 22nd century way ahead of schedule.
But that’s ok. We are confident that once the Minister sees our proposals to make Railway better, he is going to implement them immediately. So, as a service to the nation, we hereby make public our list of recommendations. You will notice that these multi-pronged measures are expected to effectively deal with expansion of passenger capacity, passenger comfort and rail safety. Revenues sourced from both passenger and freight services are expected to go up ten-fold if not more, with only a marginal increase in expenses. The best thing is – No Fare Increase need ever happen!
Henceforth, all trains, no matter how fast or slow, must be referred to as ‘ultra superfast express’. Taking a leaf out of the French train naming convention, where such trains are simply called TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse, or Very High Speed Train), Indian Railway should title their trains as Tatkal-Tivrata or TA-TI for short. Three trains that can be shortlisted for immediate name change – Poorvanchal TATI, Dakshin TATI and Shan-e-Punjab TATI.
Moreover, this change should not just be limited to name only. The locomotives pulling these trains must now bear new speedometers where a “0” should be penciled in after each number on the dial. So a train running at 40 kms. per hour earlier can now be deemed to be doing 400 kms. per hour, easily beating the fastest trains from Japan, China and continental Europe. The fastest Indian train, the Bhopal Shatabdi TATI, can now be expected to gush at over 1000 kms. per hour, comprehensively shattering the sound barrier.
An innovative approach to Effectively deal with Safety issues plaguing our railway is also being proposed. It is radically simple – ‘Non-Stop Horn’. Non-stop tooting by the train engine is expected to keep the driver, passengers and everyone in a 25 km vicinity of every train wide awake and ever watchful. Even experts on our panel agree with this assessment. “Genius solution!” remarked Mr. A.K. Acharya, one of the experts we interviewed. “Why couldn’t anyone think of this solution earlier?” he added questioningly. Mr. Acharya is Senior Vice President at Hasbro Toys where he manages the toy train sets division.
Unlike the moribund policies of the past, our proposals ensure drastic changes to mop up Additional Revenue from Freight, too. Goods trains should now bear open-air seating on their roofs, opening a brand new revenue stream for the government. Ticket price can be kept in line with 3-tier Non-AC. A ladder to climb up to the roof, and an umbrella could be provided to passengers at nominal costs. However, to contain costs, no bedding or pantry services should be made available.
Passenger Capacity can also being augmented in other unique ways without incurring huge additional rolling stock expenditure. For example, all train toilets can be disbanded with immediate effect. These spaces can be refitted as sleepers and chair cars. In lieu of public conveniences, each paying train passenger could be provided a complimentary earthen lota each, which they are free to use as they wish, and take home if they so desire. Given that all trains make frequent unscheduled stops along our nation’s picturesque countryside, passengers will have ample opportunity of simply hopping on and off to answer a call of nature at their convenience. In fact, most train passengers we interviewed for this report heaved a sigh of relief at this proposed benefit, including those who were seated 100 feet around train toilets and had been holding their breath for several hours. Honourable mention must be made of the late Rama Devi, a passenger interviewed on the Patna-Indore Express seated a mere ten feet from the train toilet, who managed to mumble “Revolutionary idea!” before sadly succumbing to the odours in the bogey.
In case of dire emergency, or whenever one feels like doing it, the ‘chain’ could always be pulled to instantly stop the train and fifty others behind it.
One frequent lament is that Passenger Comfort has taken a back seat in the past several budgets. It must be brought back as a key focus area. To that end, we proposed a repainting of the interiors of all bogies to be carried out on a war footing. A dual-tone colour scheme is being proposed. From the ground to a height of 3 feet, all train surfaces shall be painted a shade of reddish-orange. Surfaces above that height shall now bear the inviting shade of dark brownish-greyish-black. The new paint scheme can be given an attractive new title, say, ‘Bhartiya Rail Rangoli’. Regardless of what it is called, this new colour scheme can be expected to uniquely complement the millions of passengers who enjoy oiled hair and paan, and like to touch and feel things around them constantly.
All politicians (every single one, sans exception) that we have discussed our plans with have gushed at the recommendations. In fact, many are so confident that the Railway Minister will accept these proposals without as much as batting an eyelid that they are already cancelling their impending flight bookings and opting to take the train instead. “I will use my rail quota myself instead of giving it away to my in-laws,” said Kumari Selja, when asked for her thoughts. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerji tweeted “Best Railway proposals ever. Will personally sack Railway Minister if he doesn’t agree with them”. She later deleted the tweet possibly realizing that her party was not part of the government alliance any more.
Clearly, the future looks blindingly bright for Indian Railway. 22nd Century, here we come!