Is Indian Railways on Tracks?

Indian railways is going to post a profit of 60,000 crore Rupees in the present financial year. Anybody and everybody will feel elated with wonderment because this is happening possibly for the first time in the history of railways after independence. Railways are leviathan and perhaps the largest employer, next only to security forces, in the country. Till recently it was considered to be an honour to be employed with Railways. Despite reporting such huge profits the Railways are the classic example of dirt, filth and squalor all around. Platforms are overcrowded and dirty. Substandard and stale eatables are sold with gay abandon, nobody is their control the violators of law. Obviously it is done in complicity with the authorities, who are responsible to maintain the order and upkeep of the railway stations.
However, owing to many factors, the railways, despite huge potentialities, never reported even ‘no profit, no loss’ situation. Everybody had assumed that it was impossible to get profit. Increase in fare and freight was taken for granted. In such background if the behemoth Indian Railways is showing profit then our first reaction is in disbelief but welcome; nevertheless.
Railways are a public transport system. Even if it is not giving profit, the government cannot keep its hands off because the motive of profit comes at the last as far as public transport is concerned. What, in fact, has to be in order of priorities in the railways is the safety of passengers and necessary amenities. The time has changed; even those going to pilgrimage want comforts unlike in the olden times when it was considered to be a matter of virtue to undergo hardships and discomforts during teerthyatra.

These days a large section of travelers is willing to pay for the safe and comfortable journey. There is no doubt that certain facilities have been increased in the Railways like e-ticketing and general information on internet. Punctuality in running of trains is also maintained. In some AC compartments bathrooms and bed rolls are well kept up. There are reports that in some select trains and some compartments more facilities like service by hostesses in the fashion and style of airlines will be provided in the railways too. This will certainly make the journey more cheerful. But at the same time, the journey in AC three tiers and Sleeper class has become more uncomfortable, particularly for those unfortunates who are allotted side berths. I do not know why three berths have been carved out in sleeper and AC three tier compartments. It has made the journey crowded, congested and painful. In fact, the Research and Development section of the Railways should have thought of devising such berths in the sides which could at least be as comfortable as the inside ones. But instead of improving upon the already inconvenient journey they have thoughtlessly added one more berth and compounded discomfort for the passenger of the whole compartment in general and the allotees of side berths in general. Secondly, the Railways are busy making money by undesirable means; like distribution of tickets on Tatkal on hefty charges, which pinches the passengers.

The railways must keep itself in tune with the changing times. In the present time, when everybody is awfully busy and has hectic schedule it is well nigh impossible to plan the journey months in advance and that is what railways want. Under compulsion people go for Tatkal which also is not available most of the times. This leads to corruption and touts make hay while the passengers suffer. This problem can be solved by augmenting the infrastructure i.e., by increasing the number of trains and berths. But this is easier said than done. This requires long term as well as short term planning but the way the things are going on, it seems, the railways are not geared to it. Therefore, every tall claim of earning profits is meaningless and should be taken with a pinch of salt.