A train of thought. Boarding from Chennai Central.

It was at Chennai Central. I had boarded an AC compartment whose air supply was yet to be turned on. Sweat was pouring down the faces of passengers. Some used hankies for mop up operations, while others used magazines to generate temporary relief in the form of a breeze. In the middle of all this, ironically, a railway employee was distributing pillows and blankets. His state was no different. Only worse for the physical activity he was undertaking.

As he tossed bundles on to the upper berths, he delivered a rather angry commentary on his state of affairs as an employee. He bemoaned his working conditions and the increase in quantum of work without any change in compensation. “They’ve introduced 4 extra special trains”, he said, “but no extra hands to handle the work”. His tirade carried on along the length of the coach. And on course he took a special affinity for his boss, the honourable Minister for Railways, whom he described in anything but honourable terms.

I couldn’t but help feel sorry for him, as he laboured on to finish his job. Is this an insight, I wondered, on the performance turnaround of the Railways? Was the lowest cadre the hardest hit, and paying the price for the profit margins of the company?

And while Laloo’s case study makes waves in management institutes, the man on platform has a different tale to tell. Sadly, in the glow of the Railways’ success story, I don’t think anyone is listening.

4 Comments so far

  1. Whch Main? What Cross? (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

    Lallo’s not just cutting costs but corners too!

  2. tsk tsk (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 5:15 pm

    Intresting read Manoj. But, I have to admit, it always puts a smile to my face when i see a govt employee working hard. Even if its the train attendant.

    We always thought of the railways being overstaffed. I doubt laloo will provide any sops to them for sometime cause he has to raise the technical and safety standards of the railways and also provide new infra like high speed trains and dedicated freight corridors.

    He needs 100 of thousands of crores for that and cant reduce his margins by any great degree for 5-10 years.

  3. MrB (unregistered) on May 22nd, 2007 @ 2:42 pm

    Lalu hasn’t done anything positive for the railways except for juggling with numbers. One successful PIL against the mass-conversion of M/E trains (that’s railspeak for Mail/Express trains) to superfast category is all it is going to take, to bring Lalu’s house of cards tumbling down. The current definition of superfast is outdated (from the sixties or so) and pegs them as any train exceeding an average speed of 55 kmph. Lalu has converted thousands of regular M/E trains to superfast by just adjusting their timetables so that they barely meet the 55 kmph requirement, thereby duping the traveling public to the tune of Rs. 30 per passenger as the “superfast surcharge”. A PIL that asks the railways to use a more modern definition of superfast (of say 100 kmph+) and adhere to some SLA for punctuality (95% of trains running as per their timetable, perhaps?) will kill the newfound revenue stream of IR of duping the hapless passenger.

  4. Curtis (unregistered) on May 25th, 2007 @ 8:38 pm

    Is it typical for the A/C not to be running on these trains? I’m set for to travel by train froom Bangalore to Chennai on a Sunday week after next and am just curious.

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