SURESH PRABHU’S SELECTIVE SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVINESS AGAIN!

Most of our ministers and politicians have got social media savvy – even those who don’t conform to the prevalent notions attached with the savviness of being socially aware of media’s commoners’ extension.

But not without the routine hues of our so-routine politics – a potent mix of ‘to be/not to be/and maybe’.

And ‘I, me, myself, my work, my constituency, my party and my ideology are always right’ is the basic tenet here as well – something that first comes to the senses that prevail this landscape – something that defines our politics when we look for words to describe it.

That makes our politicians ‘selectively honest’ – be it direct communication or indirect access to people through social media.

So, even if our ministers and politicians have got social media savvy, their activity (or intense activity, like that of Suresh Prabhu, our rail minister) is heavily loaded towards favourable views and cosy knits.

And Suresh Prabhu comes in the front league of such signatures.

Though he looks like one of the most busy souls in our system, tweeting dozens of views and replies every day, he never responds to negative or uncomfortable tweets. I would like to use ‘seldom in place of never’ here, but if I go by my experience, it doesn’t allow that – going by at least two bad experiences that I have had with Indian Railways. One was today and one was sometimes in the past. On both occasions, seeing Twitter promptness of Mr. Prabhu, I tweeted my problems tagging him. I did so multiple times but not even once did Mr. Prabhu respond.

Just a cursory glance through my tweets today and those of Mr. Prabhu will be more than enough to prove the point here. And like it is, and like I wrote in my previous post on Mr. Prabhu’s ‘social media alertness’, it doesn’t matter whether Mr. Prabhu personally handles his social media accounts or he has a team to manage it.

While my tweets are here, Mr. Prabhu’s Twitter handle is @SureshPrabhu. You can go there and check yourself.

tweet1

©SantoshChaubey

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A LOGICAL RAIL BUDGET BUT WHAT ABOUT DEFUNCT WORK ETHOS OF INDIAN RAILWAYS?

Some headlines from the past hour on the Rail Budget 2016 are:

Rail Budget growth-oriented, but revenue target will be a challenge, says industry – Times of India
Rail Budget gets a thumbs down on D-Street for fourth consecutive time – Economic Times
Rail Budget 2016: PwC says investment to be a challenge for Railway amid flat traffic, high costs – Economic Times
Rail Budget 2016: Railway-related stocks fall up to 10% on Dalal Street – Business Today
Big proposals, no fare hike: How Suresh Prabhu avoided the bitter pill in Rail Budget 2016 – Firstpost
On Rail Budget day, Indian rupee hits new 30-month low at 68.72 vs US dollar – Financial Express

These are just few from the lot of analytical pieces written – taking sides based on the parameters taken into consideration – but overall, it is a mixed bag with the obvious question – that asks – how – a how that can unravel every good intention behind a Railway Budget that is otherwise logical and future oriented.

The Rail Budget 2016 started on a logical note – with no-nonsense announcements and proposals. In its initial run, as Suresh Prabhu, the Rail Minister started presenting it, it sounded the most logical Rail Budget in the recent times.

The budget began with more emphasis on improving passenger services and amenities this year – something long overdue – than announcing mindlessly new trains to appease votebanks – but in the end, it came out to be pretty ambitious – and that is the whole point behind raising questions – shadowing the positive senses.

The Rail Budget 2016 is passenger centric, policy change centric and future centric that also intends to be ‘work culture change’ centric. It, in fact, talks vehemently about it.

But given the sorry state of the affairs at Indian Railways, we need to be sceptical. In fact, we need cynical questions here.

Indian Railways is a mammoth organization employing maximum number of people in the world’s largest democracy and claiming a robust outreach network in almost every part of country barring the North-East. It is good that this strategically important last mile connectivity is now a priority of the government. And so, Indian Railways is the lifeline of the nation as the majority here still cannot afford air-travel.

But Indian Railways is a corrupt and defunct organization. Corruption, in fact, has percolated in every wing of its functioning – from tickets checkers or TTEs travelling in trains to booking clerks duping innocent people on ticket booking windows to its officials (in every hue) sitting in its zonal offices to its headquarters in Delhi.

And this corruption is vivid and variegated – from petty offences like TTEs illicitly pocketing money in trains to senior level officers cornering big convenience money in freight handling to big commission in projects.

Unless that culture is not corrected, any attempt to take Indian Railways on a futuristic journey of course correction is impossible.

So, whatever Mr. Suresh Prabhu intends to do with his reformative tools, with newly proposed three freight corridors, with no hike in passenger and freight fare to build on volume, with more and more use of technology in enabling Railways to act more passenger customer friendly, with ways to increase revenue, with plans to build infrastructure including private collaboration, we need to keep in mind that it is about mindset change – a mindset that travels through the floodgates of bribes and other modes of illicit money.

The chronic corruption that has infested every part and every appendage of the huge machinery that Indian Railways is.

A mindset change is a long and tedious process with no timeframe and with no guarantee of outcome. It may happen. It may not happen. It becomes even more complicated when the ‘mindset’ is shaped by corruption as is the case with Indian Railways.

And Mr. Suresh Prabhu is one of its most prime examples. He is very active on Twitter. In fact, his alertness on Twitter is an example for all other ministers to follow – but only as long as it pleases him. He doesn’t like to act on or respond to negative tweets.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NO MORE ‘HALF-TICKETS’!

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.

Suresh Prabhu

Featured Image Courtesy: A themed cartoon by my sister Ragini

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

SURESH PRABHU’S ‘SOCIAL SENSITIVITY’ OF ‘SOCIAL MEDIA ALERTNESS’

TWEETS AND RETWEETS OF NOVEMBER 27 TWITTER POSTS BY SURESH PRABHU:

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
Sapthagiri M ‏@SapthagiriM Nov 27
Neatness that I hardly saw before in railways stations.. Kacheguda right now.. @SCRailwayIndia @sureshpprabhu

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
Ministry of Railways ‏@RailMinIndia Nov 27
NDLS- HWH is part of most congested section, long awaited capacity enhancement work is priority of MR @sureshpprabhu

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
Arvind Agarwal ‏@arvind_agarwal Nov 27
Railways offers subsidised pilgrimage packages.
http://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/railways-offers-subsidised-pilgrimage-packages/story-hbOWgKo7vXLN3YEiPh05jK.html
@sureshpprabhu @RailMinIndia

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
Gowtham ‏@gowthaam Nov 27
Travelling in train after a year in 3rd AC.can see visible difference in cleanliness in coach & beds.Thnx @sureshpprabhu ji & team

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
PRASANTA KUMAR JENA ‏@jena_prasanta Nov 27
@RailMinIndia @sureshpprabhu Fact is bigger the size more difficult to transform. Rly has set a foot in long ambitious transformation path

Suresh Prabhu ‏@sureshpprabhu Nov 27
Debate in LS @narendramodi raises it to greater height.Lets worship constitution as holy book to be followed in spirit by all to progress

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
Parag sharma ‏@paragjournalist Nov 27 View translation
सच में @sureshpprabhu sir आपने जैसा कहा वैसा कर रहे हैं We r on track sir, हम दुनिया को दिखाएंगे, भारत क्या है..

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
DRM Bilaspur ‏@DRMBilaspur Nov 27
30% growth witnessed in the number of passengers at Akaltara Railway Station during fortress check.

Suresh Prabhu ‏@sureshpprabhu Nov 27
Suresh Prabhu Retweeted @GMSouthernrailway
Very important to take care of public health post flooding.IR working on it

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
SouthCentralRailway ‏@SCRailwayIndia Nov 27
@RailMinIndia @sureshpprabhu
More than 60% of the targeted #RainwaterHarvesting pits constructed on SCR
#savewater

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
Ministry of Railways ‏@RailMinIndia Nov 27
Morgan Stanley report on Indian Railways : The Next India – The Return of the Transportation Behemoth

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
Raja ‏@Raja_Sw Nov 27
Still a lot that can be improved in IR. Long road still ahead. But things seem to be improving. @sureshpprabhu @RailMinIndia @drmsbc @GMSWR

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
vadakkus ‏@vadakkus Nov 27
vadakkus Retweeted CPRO Central Railway
The biggest e-commerce entity in India by far, ever since its inception.

Suresh Prabhu Retweeted
SouthCentralRailway ‏@SCRailwayIndia Nov 27
SouthCentralRailway Retweeted General Manager SCR
@RailMinIndia @sureshpprabhu
#EnergyConservation #energyefficiency #GoGreen #COP21 #GreenEnergy

Now, Suresh Prabhu, the Railway Minister of India, is one politician who looks ‘intensely’ busy on Twitter – as his Twitter feed for this day (or any other day) suggests.

And these are just some of a barrage of Tweets on his Twitter page – tweeted (and retweeted) by Mr. Suresh Prabhu on November 27.

And he does so daily.

And the issues that he looks concerned about sound holistic – clean trains and platforms, other cleanliness measures in different railway services, reforms in Indian Railways, the efforts for a ‘turnaround’ story, capacity enhancements, improvement in operational statistics, energy conservation, social obligations like ‘rain water harvesting’ and so on – and the concern of passengers’ well-being – but there is a catch.

See this:

Santosh Chaubey ‏@SantoshChaubeyy Nov 27
@sureshpprabhu – Mr. Prabhu, no response yet. 12581 Delhi time is 12.20 pm. Reached thr at 2.15 pm. N it happens daily wid many trains.

Santosh Chaubey ‏@SantoshChaubeyy Nov 27
@sureshpprabhu – 6th tweet 2day – no response from u who is very active on Twitter. 12581 Delhi time -12.20 pm. 1.30 pm n it is still GZB

Santosh Chaubey ‏@SantoshChaubeyy Nov 27
@sureshpprabhu – 5th tweet 2day – 12581 almost not running – well behind it’s Delhi time of 12.20 pm – the IR shame continues

Santosh Chaubey ‏@SantoshChaubeyy Nov 27
@sureshpprabhu – 5th tweet today – already delayed 12581 is now crawling post Aligarh – looks more misery ahead

Santosh Chaubey ‏@SantoshChaubeyy Nov 27
@sureshpprabhu -my 3rd tweet 2 u 2day-ppl say n u also retweet-but y sum trains get delayd daily-like this 12581-a routine-still no respite

Santosh Chaubey ‏@SantoshChaubeyy Nov 27
@sureshpprabhu People say n you also retweet -but y some trains get delayed daily-like this 12581-a daily routine-today, it’s already 3 hrs!

Santosh Chaubey ‏@SantoshChaubeyy Nov 27
@sureshpprabhu People say, you also retweet – but y some trains get delayed daily-like this 12581-a daily routine-today, it’s already 3 hrs!

These eight tweets were my experimental call to check the ‘social sensitivity of social media alertness’ of our Railway Minister – who by any possible means – looks very Twitter savvy – in using social media as an effective tool of his governance.

But as expected, he did not respond to even a single one – because they were pointing to a well known, universal shame of Indian Railways that all Indian Railways (IR) officials conveniently and habitually deny/ignore/pass – that almost of the trains in India don’t run on time – that travelling by many trains are considered an absolute wastage of time as they run delayed by hours – day after day – just name them and one can count many of them – in every part of the country the Indian Railways is operating in – and that includes almost the whole of the country. There are trains that are cursed to get delayed regularly – the ‘ignorable gems’ in eyes of IR’s apathetic officers.

Here, in my case, I started my train journey at 10:30 PM on November 26 night. Though it is a superfast train (Number – 12581), people warned me of its bad reputation of running late almost daily. But I thought to give it a try, as I wanted to reignite the romance of a train journey after a long time and prompted by ‘prompt tweets’ of Suresh Prabhu, I thought I should take a chance.

But came November 27 morning, and my hopes had some serious beating. When I woke up, I found the train was behind its schedule while at Kanpur and was running late by some 2.30 hours.

Well, I had an important meeting scheduled in the evening and I started feeling sort of unease. But then, I also knew I could not do anything. Various precedents of my yore have told me that one should never trust the trains run by Indian Railways, especially in crisis hours. 99 per cent chances they will fail you. After all, you can gauge sentiments on this line by the fact that a train running one or two hours late is considered ‘on time’ by the standards of Indian Railways.

While my unease was growing, I thought to use it to ‘gauge’ the sensitivity of Mr. Railway Minister. Starting from around 7 AM, I tweeted tagging Mr. Prabhu around 8 times, expecting some response from him.

But it did not have to come and it didn’t come. Either Mr. Prabhu didn’t see any of my tweets, something that is hard to believe going by the kinds he retweets daily, or he conveniently ignored them.

And that clears one thing – the fact that is known widely – that our politicians don’t see or don’t like to see the ‘uncomfortable facts’.

There is nothing wrong in what Mr. Prabhu does with his Twitter page. Even if selectively, he is active there. No one can expect he can do some miracle or can turnaround the massive public organization with massive losses run by the Indian government in such a short time with most of its senior Railway officials turning a blind eye to what should be treated as criminal offences in a civilized society.

We know a ‘totally’ politicised Indian Railways cannot accommodate its vast network of trains to manage ‘running efficiency and timeliness’ with the poor infrastructure it has right now but just to give indications of a positive symbolism, Mr. Prabhu could have responded to my tweets (and should respond even to negative or critical tweets).

What do you say Mr. Prabhu (@sureshpprabhu)?

Suresh Prabhu Collage

Featured Image Courtesy: Collage prepared from screenshots of IR’s website, Mr. Suresh Prabhu’s Twitter page and my tweets

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE BUZZ WORDS BEFORE THE RAIL BUDGET PRESENTATION

Railway’s financial health: Indian Railways is in dire financial straits. It barely earns to sustain itself when it needs huge funds to modernize its ailing and ageing infrastructure. The high operational ratio, with expenditure being the 90% of the earning, will be discussed with deliberations on ‘how the new Rail Minister will approach the problem’?

Tariff hike: Fares would be hiked or not? Will the freight tariff come down? Will the passenger fare go up? Will the subsidized segments of train fares see rationalization?

Cleanliness: With ‘Clean India’ campaign being one of the cornerstones of Narendra Modi’s policymaking, the Rail Budget is expected to focus heavily on revamping the image of Indian Railways, a limping behemoth where even the A-class stations have questionable cleanliness record or where the catering of even the A-class trains like Rajdhani or Shatabdi cannot be relied on.

Clean energy/Alternative energy: Extending the cleanliness campaign, another big emphasis of the Modi government is to increase the share of clean/green energy in India’s overall energy consumption to the global norms. Indian Railways being a major energy consuming outfit, the Rail Budget is expected to lay down vision on the same.

Water conservation: Open taps or leaking pipelines are a common feature of all stations. Also, huge amount of water is used in cleaning trains and stations and much of it is wasted. But there are no specific guidelines water usage. Water recycling is still not practiced by most of its wings. The budget is expected to come with plans for the same.

High speed corridors: The Rail Budget is expected to and should focus on the high speed corridors, preferably on introducing semi high-speed trains and increasing speed of the existing ones. India doesn’t need a Bullet Train corridor now. Burdening its economy with huge-investment white elephants like Bullet Train projects, the one between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is expected to cost Rs. 60,000 crore, should be avoided. And we can expect this from the pragmatic professional in Suresh Prabhu, the Rail Minister.

Freight v passenger tariff trade off: What Indian Railways earns through freight is used to absorb the loss made by its passenger segment – the story of cross subsidy. It stands now at Rs. 24,000 crore. Indian freight tariff is among the highest in the world while its passenger tariff for suburban and sleeper is among the lowest. It is sort of a double whammy. The cross subsidy is eating into Indian Railway’s financial health and the high freight subsidy is making it lose market share to the road transport operators. Balancing these is a tough task, given the sensitivity of electoral compulsions. It would be interesting to see how Mr. Prabhu reflects on the same.

Customer satisfaction: It is always the buzz word, improving on services and introducing amenities. Cleanliness, better booking options, cooking hygiene, cuisine quality, better options on trains, efficient information broadcasts, wi-fi expansion and so on. The fare dynamics is an important part of it. If the fares are increased, it will be to arrange the funds for better amenities. It the fare are not reduced, it will again be to meet the fund requirement to provide a better customer experience. And if the fare are reduced, what else can be said, it is always the most satisfying aspect for most of the customers.

Collaborations: Need to infused fund in Indian Railways and as the government cannot meet the requirement on its own, there should be collaborations on the card – within India, from abroad. Privatization is certainly a sensitive issue but collaborations with external agencies on PPP model can be practiced. Also, the state governments can be made partners in projects falling in their region.

Make in India: Make In India is prime minister Narendra Modi’s flagship manufacturing initiative for India, intending to make India a production hub. But given the poor financial condition of Indian Railways, it should not be expected that the Rail Budget would come with new projects to produce its requirements in the country that it is currently importing.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/