Lallu Prasad Yadav picked a bollywood theme of his fifth Railway Budget. Chak de Railways, he exclaimed. In his presentation of the Union Railway Budget, he recited:
Sab kah rahe hain humne gazab kaam kiya hai,
Karoron ka munafa har ek shaam diya hai,
Phal salon yeh ab dega, paudha jo lagaya hai,
Sewa ka, samarpan ka, har farz nibhaya hai.
Was there a real reason for taking so much credit? Well, Indian Railways had a profit of Rs 25,000 crore in the 2007-08 fiscal year. Lallu Prasad Yadav, the Union Railway Minister, came up with some innovative and some absurd ideas for improving the Indian Railways.
He is the one you must thank when you get buttermilk and khadi on trains, and tea-wallah serves you in kulhads instead of plastic teacups.
Instead of raising fare, he made the trains longer. Slowly but surely, in the past four years, he added 3000 additional coaches, and got extra Rs. 2000 crore in revenue.
“We are not idling our surplus but are investing it for augmenting the rail capacity to sustain the financial turnaround. In the last four years, the plan size of the Railways has increased from Rs. 13000 crore to Rs. 30000 crore. In short,” he continues,
“Nayee kathni, nayee karni, nayee ek soch laye hain,
Tarakki ki nayee parasmani hum khoj laye hain.
“Sir, in the glorious history of the Railways in independent India, it is the first occasion when Return on capital invested in railways will reach an historic level of 21%.
Goal par goal daag rahe hain, hum har match mein,
Desh ka bachha bachha bolay, Chak de Railway.”
Continuing on his passage on the poetic path, Railway Minister informs the House, “Sir, rail passengers are our revered guests. Atithi Devo Bhav has been a tradition in our country for centuries. Goddess Lakshmi has been exceptionally considerate on us during the last four years. We have brought about several important changes to make the travel experience of our guests pleasant, comfortable and secure.”
Lallu may not use a computer, but he is the one who introduced e-tickets. We have automatic vending machines on platforms –six thousands of them. If you are wondering about mobile access, Lallu is ahead of you.
There is a phenomenal growth of mobile phones in our country, and presently about 30 crore mobile phones are available with the people of India. This number is expected to increase to 50 cr by the year 2010. We are therefore exploring the option of issuing reserved and unreserved rail tickets through mobile phones.
Mumbai vasi can now travel with a Go Mumbai Card, a rechargeable monthly or season pass. Though a fully computerized Railway Inquiry Call Center appeared to be ‘Mungeri Lall ke Hasin Sapne’ to many, Lallu has made it a reality. Presently, this service is being used daily by 2 lakhs passengers and it is expected that this number will increase to 5 lakhs by next year.
Just like in the airplanes, starting March 2009 all night and express trains have relevant information displayed in each coach: the remaining distance, likely time of arrival, time to the next station.
Toilets on the trains will also see an upgrade. Several designs of discharge free Green Toilets have been developed to address the problem of hygiene, cleanliness, and pollution. Fifty major stations will be equipped with escalators and elevators. By 2010 coaches made of stainless-steel will appear.
- Sleeper class fares reduced by five per cent
- Automated ticket vending machines at 250 stations
- 50 big stations to have lift and escalators
- Rs 49,250 crores invested on new projects
- 560 platforms to be extended to accommodate long trains
- Free season tickets for female students until graduation
Indian Railways run more than 11,000 trains every day, seven thousands of them are passenger trains. The network composed of more than hundred thousand kilometer of track. Railways ferries fourteen million passengers from close to seven thousand stations across the country.
Call it funny, or poetic, the Union Railway Budget does showcase its strengths. Lallu has already made the trains longer. But can he make the memory of a ride last longer.
[This post is based on the Union Railway Budget.]