PACHU MENON, MARGAO
It is disheartening to hear that fearing public outrage and controversy over the proposed penalty on passengers carrying extra luggage in trains, the Railway Ministry has decided to shelve the move and instead launch a ‘public awareness campaign.’ Once again a political culture that has ‘public appeasement’ at its core has led to the retraction of a well-intended decision that would have otherwise brought some orderliness to the confusion that has described commuting by trains in the country for decades now. In fact, the Indian Railways should have gone ahead strictly enforcing its over three-decade-old luggage allowance rules by slapping up to six-time penalty for carrying excess load in trains unmindful of the public backlash and widespread condemnation of the move on social media. There is absolutely no doubt that passengers carrying extra luggage cause much inconvenience to fellow passengers not only during vacation and other peak season rush but it has ‘evolved’ over the years into a permanent feature of train travel in India. For far too long has the Indian Railways been tagged as the most preferred mode of transport of the masses in the country! Transporting about 18 million citizens daily, India’s vast rail network is the most heavily used system in the world. Although passenger fares on Indian Railways are among the lowest in the world; subsidized by high cargo tariffs, it is claimed that Railways does not recover the cost of operating its passenger services. While roads are the dominant mode of transportation in India today, why should the Railways continue to ‘strive’ to be a drain on the public exchequer! Moreover, as life line of the national economy, the Railways needs to necessarily introduce innovations to its working style guaranteeing better revenue. While not compromising with passenger comfort, it should, however, ensure that rail users strictly adhere to rules and regulations recommended. Hence, it would be appropriate to have the period of the ‘awareness campaign’ followed immediately by stringent enforcement of the resolution.