Indian Railways is the fourth largest railway network in the world. It is one of the most important modes of transport. It provides services to its passengers as well as economic transportation in the country. It ferries various commodities and fuels in industrial, consumer and agricultural segments across the length and breadth of India. Management of Railways is therefore important for the development of overall transportation in the country. With increasing demands of people and improvement in technology, railways as a discipline are not seen as static but as an ongoing process of development by the government. Let’s find out is Indian Railways doing well under the Modi government?
Each political party’s manifesto includes programmes and schemes for improving the railways in India. However, not all promises are fulfilled. The status of railways in India could be tracked by analysing the improvement by different governments.
Indian Railways before 2014 –
The decade of political stability before 2014, wherein the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power, it is important to note the changes brought in railways within a decade. The physical performance had been considerable. Compared to 2004-05, originating freight loading increased by 74.4 percent. 712 trains were extended and frequencies of 306 trains were increased. The track km increased by 38 percent and the route km by only 3.1 percent, indicating a thrust on doubling rather than new lines. The number of accidents dropped sharply by 48 percent from 234 during 2004-05 to 121 in 2012-13 and 87 up to December 2013. However, this performance lags far behind when viewed against Railway’s own vision 2020. For example, vision 2020 had projected an originating freight loading of about 150 MT incremental loading annually which was not achieved.
Despite a fairly impressive performance in physical terms, there was a persisting dissatisfaction with the Railways performance amongst the public. There were several reasons for the same such as poor quality of service in terms of cleanliness, punctuality, courtesy and disaster management; inadequate capacity on the passenger front, and the eagerness to introduce new train services.
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Therefore the partial success of UPA government in Railways made the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government aware of the need of improvement for Railways. 2014 elections, therefore saw the coming up of NDA government with its manifesto which included the strategies and promises to improve the condition of Railways in India.
Election Manifesto of NDA for 2014 Elections –
The election manifesto of NDA government in 2014 included certain strategies for improvement of Railways sector. It stated the following points in the manifesto:
“Indian Railways is the lifeline of the country. It will be modernized, strengthened and upgraded to serve passengers as well as the country’s economy. This will be done in a planned manner focusing on national development, rather than political exigency.”
- Hinterland will be connected to the ports through strategic new Rail networks.
- Agri Rail network will be established – with Train Wagons designed to cater to the specific needs of perishable Agricultural products like milk and vegetables as well as lightweight wagons for salt movement.
- Tourist Rail – including Pilgrimage Rail.
- Railways Modernization, inducting of state-of-the-art technology.
- Special focus on developing skilled human resources to meet future demand.
- Prioritize Safety and invest ina long required overhaul of stressed infrastructure, strict norms, and warning systems.
- Modernize and equip all stations with requisite infrastructure and public utilities.
- Convert all unmanned crossings into manned crossings in a phased manner.
- Initiate R&D for indigenous railways, coach design, and signals.
- We will launch Diamond Quadrilateral project – of High-Speed Train network (bullet train).”
However, it is important to check the fact that how many promises included in this manifesto, have actually been fulfilled. This makes us wonder the improvements that are actually brought under the Railway sector since 2014 under the NDA government.
STATUS OF RAILWAY SECTOR SINCE 2014 (UNDER NDA) –
If we compare the status of Railways under UPA government and under NDA government, we come across sharp differences between the two. Indian Railways did track laying work, which includes laying new tracks, doubling the existing lines, and converting narrow gauge to broad gauge, 11.5% faster during the NDA’s initial three-year rule than the Congress-led UPA government. The Railways has laid 7,666 km of tracks during 2014-17 (NDA’s rule), which is 794 km more than the UPA’s between 2009-12. Therefore, a considerable change has been brought under the NDA led government.
However, the question arises how far the promises of the manifesto has been fulfilled under the Railway sector. For achieving the promises of the manifesto, certain facilities and programmes have been introduced under NDA government. Some of them are:
- Indian Railways launched three social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. It provided public grievance system to travelling passengers along with medical, security and other emergency assistance.
- It launched All India security and passenger helpline as 182 and 138 respectively, for emergency or to seek help during travel.
- It launched a scheme namely, ‘SMS Gateway’ enabling passengers to get SMS on the status of reserved tickets.
- New generation system put in place which can book 7200 online tickets instead of 2000 tickets per minute and can attend 2,00,000 inquiries instead of 50,000 per minute.
- Reservation quota of two lower berths per coach in sleeper class enhanced to four lower berths per coach for senior citizens and women.
- MoU has been signed between India and Japan for Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project.
- Indian Railways commissioned 2828 Km of broad gauge lines, highest ever in 2015-16 against an average of 1528 km from 2009-14.
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However, with all these achievements, Indian Railways under NDA government still faces certain drawbacks/failures. Its opposition strongly argues about the fact that the number of accidents in railways has been increased. The question about the accountability of the deaths caused due to railway’s lack of security. They often argue that the NDA government tries to overshadow this lack of security with schemes such as bullet train and ignore the core issues of Railway security. Also, not all promises have been fulfilled, stated under the manifesto and needs to be looked after. Therefore, the status of Railways has been changing positively as well as lack of security seems to be an important issue.
What NDA government to look into to make Indian Railways even better –
As railways are the most important mode of transport for its passengers as well as the economy, the maintenance of Indian Railways should be of utmost importance. The schemes introduced under NDA after 2014 are considerable achievements and should be credited. However, the area they lack behind is the actual implementation of the schemes. Therefore, steps should be further taken in the implementation of the schemes for the convenience of its passengers. On its infrastructural aspect, Indian railways should keep improving with the upcoming of technology and new demand of the citizens. The government should start improving Railways altogether for the development of the country and not just for the sake of including false hopes for the public in their manifestos.
Therefore, Indian Railways are an important aspect of the country and should be properly worked upon.