- The dire need to bring management in Indian Railway system. The new CAG reports smashes the catering service and services to passengers of Indian Railways.
Why railway is preferred?
- Among the most affordable transport systems in the world, India’s railway network carries millions of people every day, the remotest destinations.
Significance of Indian Railways
- Railways and roadways are the two means of transport over the land. Roads can be built in the hilly areas also whereas railway lines cannot be laid easily.
- The railways have advantage over the roadways that they can carry a large number of passengers and large and heavy loads to long distances.
- Also journey by train is more comfortable than by bus or car especially for a long distance.
- India has a large network of railways throughout the country. We have trains from one corner of India to the other corner.
- Total length of the railway tracks in India is about 63000 kilometers. About 7800 trains carry about eleven million passengers to their destinations every day.
- Our railway network is the largest in Asia and the second largest in the world.
- Our goods trains transport about 6 lac tonnes of goods from one place to another daily.
- Goods produced elsewhere, like vegetables and fruits not grown locally are made available through this reliable mode of transport, therefore its reliable.
- This economical transport system enables the local growers to get adequate returns for the efforts from extended markets.
- The freight charges are very reasonable therefore the cost factor added to these produce for transport do not increase the cost beyond reasonable limits.
- In a country like India, people go thousands of miles away from their native village or town to earn their livelihood. Their only means of coming back during leave is the Railways.
- Railways provide the cheapest and most convenient mode of passenger transport both for long distance and suburban traffic.
- Railways have played a significant role in development and growth of industries.
Rising issues within railway system
- The Railway system is caught in a time warp, unable to scale up its services to global standards and hobbled by inefficient management.
- the deterioration in passenger services has been repeatedly identified, it has only grown worse.
- The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on catering services for the year ended March 2016 provides further evidence that little has changed in the system.
- Food is unsuitable for human consumption, contaminated and recycled items is being served, packaged articles past their use-by date, and unauthorized items are sold on trains, all endangering the health of passengers.
- Gross violations are all the more blatant because the administration has instituted a mechanism to penalize agencies such as the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation and invites passengers to file complaints.
- Evidently, instances such as a Rs.1 lakh fine levied on the IRCTC for the presence of a cockroach in food supplied on the Kolkata Rajdhani Express three years ago have not resulted in any significant reform.
- Private sector participation in food supply provided any relief for the problems linked to departmental catering.
- The first and foremost reason for the Operational Inefficiency is being devoid of modernization.
- The periodical diesel price hike has hit the railways hard.
- This cannot be achieved without modernizing the railways with new generation high efficient components.
- The Indian system is running with the kind of technologies which Europe and America scrapped off 20 years ago, although Indian Railways is carrying 30 times more passengers every year.
IR can reduce its fuel bill by improving the fuel efficiency of its locomotives. There are several ways in which this could be achieved. The railways in other countries have been upgrading technologies to improve energy efficiency such as:
- Upgrading to more usage of modern rolling stock with lower energy consumption.
- Introducing regenerative braking a system that harnesses the energy produced during braking,
- transferring it back to the power supply grid, and thereby allowing other trains to use it.
- By reducing carbon footprints and cashing on the carbon credits earned can bring in further financial benefits for the railways.
- By reducing diesel consumption- Stepping up to liquefied natural gas, CNG on a large scale, so as to reduce consumption of diesel oil.
2016 Report on Railway cleanliness
- Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) conducted a survey at three A1 railway stations and one 19 A category railway station of the Jaipur.
- None of them could feature in the level 1, as the best level is allotted just to those which maintain perfect hygienic conditions.
- In terms of cleanliness, the railway stations at Ajmer and Jodhpur also found place in the same category as that of Jaipur.
What needs to be done?
- The process of identifying caterers, fixing prices, and ensuring quality control is transparent and needs to be monitored by external auditors or else the recent unveiled catering policy will not make any difference.
- Independent oversight can potentially improve other aspects of service as well, such as the quality and maintenance of linen, which the CAG has found to be shockingly substandard.
- The setting up of a long-pending Rail Development Authority to recommend tariffs and set standards could help.
- In the area of passenger services, reform has to contend with the ‘open access’ character of rail travel in the country, since coaches are open to unlicensed vendors who sell food,