By Wajahat Jilani

The wheels are in motion, at least as far as my new blog is concerned. The same though cannot be said about the Indian railways. I beg your pardon; it is now called ‘The ram-shackled Indian railways’. Don’t get me wrong. For as sarcastic as my tone may sound, I whole heartedly agree with the assessment of the Indian Finance Minister, Mr Jaitley.

The mode of transport for millions of Indian commuters, the rail is a symbol of what has tragically gone wrong with the Indian narrative.

Although the ticket prices seldom increase, they are disproportionately low. The fact remains that the quality of service is dismal, at best. Travelling in an AC 2 Tier, on a super-fast train you are likely to be greeted by smudgy bed sheets, greasy towels, stale food, disgusting smelly toilets and impolite staff.

The hue and cry about fare hike is baseless simply because the fares in India are far too low to run the service in the way it should be run. Those saying this hike is not needed are living in a fool’s paradise.

But what is lost in the hue and cry is the real question. The Indian consumer does not mind paying more for a better service. But given the track record, he does not believe that the more he pays, the more he benefits. The cycle is non-existent. The quality of service will only deteriorate, or at best remain stagnant. He isn’t receiving the service for whatever amount he is currently paying, He asks ‘How is 14% more going to make the difference?’

The Indian railways is ‘ram shackled’ not only because of lack of funds but also because of the lack of efficiency, lack of forward thinking, lack of planning, lack of good management and most importantly lack of political will.

“India must decide whether it wants a world class Railway or a ram shackled one.”
– Arun Jaitley

With due respect sir, Indians would love a world class railway. But first, we wish to see some basic improvement. Dream of world class railways is a distant one at the moment. Indians will come to accept this hike and will one day praise you, if and only if we get our penny’s worth. So far we’re not used to such an event. What we are used to are politicians making tall promises in power and criticizing the same as they journey to the opposition. Both the BJP and the Congress are two wheels of this hypocrisy.

With that in mind, I humbly submit, that the Indian passengers are tired of the ‘Jo chal raha hai , chalne do’ attitude. We want improvement in return.

Also, a small request to you Mr Finance Minister, would you please give me a suitable date to make my booking on the ‘world class railway’? I can’t wait!

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind