The Modi Years – How Bharatiya Railway Has Improved Under NDA Government (Part 1)

Bharatiya Railway is the primary mode of long-distance transportation and movement of world’s second most populated nation of Bharat. Scores of people when required to travel from one place to another; in the eve of any festival, in the need for any work, in the zeal of touring places or even amidst chaos and unrest; their first choice of transportation are the chains of rail coaches running over the metallic tracks crossing through various geographical stretches and cultural nucleuses flowing like a river providing life to millions.

Bharatiya Railway is like an artificially manufactured river system of the country passing from the remotest of the areas to the densest of the gatherings, carrying the human development, growth and prosperity and providing livings to millions. No wonder the Bharatiya Railway is called lifeline to the nation.

Representational Photo – Sabde/Indian Express

Bharatiya Railway has been integral to the development and progress of the nation for well over a century now. It is the fourth largest railway network in the world in terms of size, with 67,368 Km of route running throughout the nation and the biggest employer in the country. It is world’s eighth largest employer with 1.308 million employees as of March 2017. And Bharatiya Railway runs 29,200 passengers and freight trains every day across 7,349 stations all-round the country.

Railway is one of country’s most significant institutions and one of the only large-institutions which grossly affects the everyday life of average civilians. Hence, it’s exceedingly important to effectively run the institution and provide sustainable developmental opportunity to it. Proper handling of the railway is most of the time seen as the reflection of government’s overall performance. The better the railway, the better the government.

Therefore, it’s important to know how, this government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has performed in the handling of Bharatiya Railway.

Security

Security of the passengers has been the central issue for the Ministry of Railway in all governments till date. There was once a time when travelling in Railways was very risk prone and derailments were frequent, since then our country has reached at far better position but still the safety record of railways is not as good as should be. The NDA government under PM Modi has taken this issue of safety on portentous and substantial terms.

The Railway ministry has seen three different ministers taking charge under this government but with Piyush Goyal taking charge in September 2017, safety has become the top priority for the Ministry and the results are visibly clear in terms of record. The Modi government has provided the best ever and record safety to passengers with accidents reaching to record low of 73 in the year 2017/18. Comparing to the safety records of UPA-2 of 118 accidents in the year 2013/14, this government’s handing looks prudent and laudable.

Thanks to a ‘Zero Accident’ policy, there has been a 63% reduction in fatalities from 152 in 2013-14 to 57 in 2017-18, according to the Railways, cites a Hindustan Times article.

Another top priority of the government on safety terms has been the removal of Unmanned Level Crossings throughout the country. Unmanned Level Crossings (UMLCs) have been dangerous throughout the years and no other government took the issue with weighty hands.

According to an answer submitted in Lok Sabha ‘Elimination of UMLCs has been a top priority for Railways as level crossings are a safety hazard for both rail and road users more so for road users. As on 01st April 2014, there were 8948 UMLCs on broad gauge (BG)’. Since then the work to remove all UMLCs on the broad gauge (track width 1,676mm) started and the results were visible.

The number of UMLCs on BG which were 8,948 in 2014, nosedived to 3,479 by 2018 as made clear by a Lok Sabha answer providing perspective on UMLCs present in 2018. As of 2018, the situation of Unmanned Level Crossings in the country was significantly better – ‘as on 01st April 2018, there were 5792 unmanned level crossings (UMLCs) out of which 3479 were on Broad Gauge (BG), 1135 on Meter Gauge (MG) and 1178 on Narrow Gauge (NG).’  

To reduce the number of accidents, massive upgradation work has been undertaken and there is a 50% increase in track renewal, from 2,926 km in 2013-14 to 4,405 km in 2017-18 informs HT. The average number of UMLCs eliminated per year during the current government is 20% more than what were eliminated during UPA-2 (2009-14). And the government under ‘Mission Zero Accident’ is planning to eliminate all UMLCs from broad gauge by March 2020 and the target seems to be pretty much achievable looking at the government’s prudent and handy approach.

The number of accidents and the casualties caused also decreased as a result of these policies. In the year 2015/16 Railway recorded around 29 accidents resulting in 57 deaths at UMLCs, which by the year 2917/18 decreased to 16 accidents and 33 deaths from UMLCS, according to an answer submitted in Lok Sabha.

Many other steps are taken for the safety by this government as implementation of all 106 recommendations of the High Level Safety Review Committee (HLSRC) under the Chairmanship of Dr. Anil Kakodkar. As of 2017 “Self-Propelled Ultrasonic Rail Testing (SPURTZ Car) is under procurement and trial of Ultrasonic Broken Rail Detection System is underway. Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) is under implementation on Suburban/High- density Routes”, as informed by the Ministry of Railway in 2017.

The Ministry also brought into notice in 2017 that they have “Decided to switch over to 100 % manufacture of Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches as these have numerous advantages over ICF coaches including higher speed and safety especially during derailment and collisions. Completely switch over to LHB coaches production from 2018-19.

Bharatiya Railways under NDA government of Narendra Modi has provided better safety and security with best ever safety records. Despite some loopholes and setbacks in 2015/16 the government has improvised and improved in short time.

Fulfilling the promises

In the previous government, there was feeling of no-sustainable action seen on ground for ensuring cleaner and better functioning of Railways in the hoi polloi. Before this government “there was a persisting dissatisfaction with the Railways performance amongst the public. There were several reasons for the same such as poor quality of service in terms of cleanliness, punctuality, courtesy and disaster management; inadequate capacity on the passenger front, and the eagerness to introduce new train services” cites an Election Tamasha column.

Although development in railway sector was continuous in every previous government but apart from infrastructure minor parts of development like improved cleanliness, better enhancements, more convenience in travels and prudent sustainable plan for futuristic development was missing. Modi government came into power on promises to provide solution to various such predicaments and to provide sustained panacea to all Gordian knots.

NDA gave promises of improving infrastructure, renovating stations and building a network of Diamond Quadrilateral of high speed rails. Big steps have been taken to full fill these promises. The foundation for the first high speed rail network has been laid in the form of Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. Other promises included prioritizing safety and security and removal of unmanned railway crossings on broad gauge, which has been done as promised in a phased manner. The promise of inducing new tourist trains to increase tourism through railway has also been kept.

The promises that remains unfulfilled are the development of a separate Agri rail to meet demands of Food/Agri products transportation and enhanced co-operation between agriculture and railways. The promise of ‘Special focus on developing skilled human resources to meet future demand’ remains unaddressed till date and work on development of separate Rail Education system requires attention.

Improved Interactions

Previously the sudden crashing of official railway website, low on networks and down on servers, no acceptance of digital transactions and no means of instant/online ticket bookings posed heavy challenges to passengers travelling. No preceding governments took up the initiative to clear the muddled and befuddled situation of railway bookings. This government, however, not only took the initiative but also delivered in improving the passenger interactions with railways.

Some minor yet impactful enhancements were made by the Ministry of Railways for ensuring better convenience. From 03 November 2017, the service of providing information to passengers through SMS regarding status of delayed trains started. At the start the service was available to around 250 trains including Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Tejas, Gatiman, Jan Shatabdi, Duranto and Garib Rath.

The m-Aadhar was accepted as one of the prescribed proof of identity for rail travel making it immensely easier for passengers to travel now. Railway launched All Bharat security and passenger helpline as 182 and 138 respectively, for emergency or to seek help during travel. New generation system put in place which can book 7200 online tickets instead of 2000 tickets per minute and can attend 2,00,000 inquiries instead of 50,000 per minute.

A new mobile app ‘IRCTC Rail Connect’ was launched with all ability to carry essential functioning. Aadhar linked accounts were allowed to book as many as 12 e-tickets using the app. A new app called ‘Rail SAARTHI’ was launched for rail e-ticket bookings, unreserved ticketing, complain management, clean my coach request and for passenger inquiry.

These types of apps put travelling, counselling and bookings on the tip of your fingers, with increasing ease and transparency. The decision to accept UPI/BHIM transactions in railway bookings took ease of interactions to a whole new level.

The government has done decent and laudable job in ameliorating pellucidity and unambiguity in railway proceedings. It has heightened the orderliness thus, making it more efficacious in functioning. It has enhanced the security ensuring better safety of the travelers by various means and by providing solutions to the imbroglio lightened the stressed railway proceedings.

Fulfilling the promises made for railway sector on all fronts has put this government in the league of selected few. This government has made it clear that the old days of jumbled congeries is gone and a new era of transpicuous prudent development has arrived.

(Featured image for representational purpose only. Source)


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About the Author

Yogendra Thakur
A student and two time state topper in Astrophysics and Art of Lecturing. Primary focus areas are Indology and Economics.