The Railway budget announced yesterday, as expected, has evoked much debate, some dissension and expert analysis. It is the focus of discussion, only overshadowed of course, by the main budget to be presented tomorrow.
While debate will continue to simmer, we focus on local train travel in Mumbai. It is time the commuters take some of the onus off the railways. The government can formulate policy, present a budget, decide to up or keep the fare stable, and announce new projects allocating funds for them. It is up to the people to keep the stations and the compartments of the train as clean as possible. We see large-scale littering at stations even when there are dustbins. Same is the case with train compartments where commuters often throw rubbish, instead of waiting to alight to put litter into the bin.
Vandalism is common. We see compartments pockmarked with stickers of godmen touting bogus cures, telephone numbers, goods to be sold and assorted trivia, all scratched inside the bogies.
Despite announcements and warnings, commuters continue to run across tracks or cross them at a leisurely pace, even if a foot over bridge is just a small distance away. So many deaths and loss of limbs have proved to be no deterrent to this crime. Add to this rooftop travel, hanging out of compartments and trying parkour stunts in trains.
We then come to train hooliganism, with gangs of commuters literally hijacking seats for friends or themselves, and refusing to let others in. Ticketless travel is widespread. So is travelling in the first-class coach with a second-class ticket.
A lot needs to be done by the authorities and it is hugely challenging to commute in overcrowded trains. Air-conditioned trains are needed, especially in humid Mumbai. Having said that, it is up to the people, too, to use trains with respect for public infrastructure. Let us not forget that on a day when the Railway budget is coming in for analysis, we, the people are also part of the system.