It is very difficult – pushing a massive organization like Indian Railways move to a healthy financial concoction that would cure its ailments (and ills) to make it ‘lifeline for India’, not only for its toiling common men and ‘not so toiling’ other folks, but for the enterprise of the Government of India as well.
And that is much more troublesome than ‘easier said than done’. It is, in fact, an assignment of ‘unachievable’ proportions with ‘almost’ chances of failure.
And we expect a reform-oriented Rail Minister like Suresh Prabhu will have that it mind.
That is why he is trying all, relevant reforms and ‘even those measures that almost would call irrelevant’.
Obviously, I am here talking about the Janta, the common folks, the Aam Aadmi (the common Indian, and not the ‘Aam Aadmis’ of the ‘Aam Aadmi Party’).
It is now a well established fact that a train journey, in its AC First Class, may cost you more than a roundup by a flight.
So, a compulsion of not getting bookings elsewhere, a sense of romance with train journeys in relative comfort of stretching your legs and lying down and availability of time shall make Indian Railways a natural choice for a ‘normal cost of flight’.
And that makes ‘Indian Railways’ at par with airlines – at least in that sense. But, it was so even before Suresh Prabhu.
So, Suresh Prabhu tried this one.
From April 2016 onwards, Indian Railways will charge full fare for child passengers 5 to 12 years old instead of the half amount that it charges now. Now, this is similar to what air carriers do – no concept of similar concessional tickets – so, no more child ‘half tickets’ in trains. Let’s see when it comes to senior citizens – the only age-group left untouched so far.
So, in one go, Mr. Prabhu has inscribed his name in the annals of related journals as a reform-oriented Rail Minister who went the extra mile to instil some ‘life’ in India’s connectivity ‘lifeline’.
Even if at the cost of ‘making life troublesome’ for many for whom Indian Railways is the only option or the most preferred option to travel!
The proposed measure will certainly not affect those who choose Indian Railways for ‘different reasons mentioned above’ and who can afford being airborne.
Now, we need to see how it will play out when this ‘full fare for 5 to 12 year old’ is rolled out and the debate will start intensifying in February next year when the next Rail Budget will be presented given the fact that even if perennially ‘delayed’, Indian Railways is still the lifeline for almost Indians and ‘half ticket’ is an issue that will have populist echoes and social (and electoral) repercussions.
It is, in fact, so socially ingrained that, apart from being a social and financial need in travel plans of many families, it has become part of our popular culture as well – the 1962 Kishore Kumar classic ‘Half Ticket‘ is just an example.
Like a true ‘Aam Aadmi’, we are compelled to accept whatever our policymakers propose for us, especially when the next parliamentary polls are over three years away.
Anyway, let’s see what happens!
That reform measure is still 109 days away. Till then enjoy this ‘Half Ticket’ song.
Featured Image Courtesy: A themed cartoon by my sister Ragini
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/