The Railway budget announced yesterday evoked much debate and analysis, as expected. Predictably, it will bring forth mixed reactions — while there will be general cheer that fares have stayed the same, others are going to scoff at the announcement of new trains and a slew of infrastructure to boost rail travel.
But the cynics also need to realise we are all part of the overall system. The government handles the larger picture — formulating policies, presenting the budget, deciding fares and announcing new projects. People, though, need to play their part and respect public infrastructure. Train compartments have rubbish, leftover food, paper and plastics strewn all over, as people don’t bother to wait until they alight and then use the trash bins on platforms. Vandalism is common. We see compartments plastered with stickers of self-styled godmen, touting bogus cures, telephone numbers, goods to be sold and assorted trivia. Despite warnings, commuters continue to run across tracks, even if a foot over bridge is just a small distance away. So many deaths have proved no deterrent to this crime. Add to this, rooftop travel, hanging out of compartments and trying stunts in trains — all certain invitations to death.
Trains witness hooliganism, with gangs of commuters literally hijacking seats for friends or themselves and refusing others to get in. Ticketless travel is still widespread. So is travelling in the first class with a second-class ticket.
But the authorities too still have a lot to do on the ground level when it comes to basic things like sanitation and, of course, the continuing danger zone in Mumbai — the gap between platforms and trains. Grandiose projects have their place, but let us not forget basics that could make travelling safer and easier in the city. Having said that, the people must remember we can’t just rail against the authorities, as we are part of the system as well.