How passengers are taken for a ride by the Indian Railways 
I travel a lot by train in India. I have been using Shatabdi Express trains in two different parts of India lately. On the Southern Railway route, it has been the Chennai-Bengaluru and Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysuru Shatabdi trains, all of which provide a ‘No Food’ option in addition to the usual veg or non-veg. As per observations and chats with the passengers and crew, about 30% of the passengers on these trains opt for the "No Food" option. The savings are substantial, Rs200-250 plus GST, and for half that amount of money you can pick up much better meals and beverages on the platform at Chennai, Bengaluru and Mysuru.
 
On the Northern Railway route, it has been the New Delhi-Ludhiana and the New-Delhi Amritsar Shatabdi trains, which do not provide the "No Food" option. As a passenger you are forced to opt for veg or non-veg, wherein breakfast is tolerable but dinner is most certainly inedible, and not worth the Rs200-250 one pays, plus the GST charged. It is estimated that 30% or more of the passengers return the food untouched.
 
The quality of hygiene and food handling is suspect on both trains, though marginally better in the South, and as for the oil content - it is rumoured that the excess oil used is as a standby for the generators roaring away at either end of the trains. I have enough photographs of water being stored in toilets and food being stored next to garbage bins; in addition, plastic crockery and cutlery used is given a ‘dry-cleaning’ using a dirty rag within the line of sight of the passengers.
 
All this and more, generate among the​ catering and​ serving staff nothing but contempt for the passengers being force-fed this swill on the Northern Railway routes.​Public grievances result in catering staff, who get the phone numbers presumably from pliant railway officials, calling up and threatening this writer. Life goes on.​ Meanwhile, Indian Railways continues to collect compulsory food charges, despite multiple announcements about making food optional on these trains.
 
One big reason is that the corruption in catering services keeps the senior babus well supplied with good food. I have also seen what they are served in their homes as well as in their saloons and during travel.​
 
Game of Free Insurance?
 
‘Free’ insurance is provided to all who book Indian Railway tickets online through IRCTC. This costs the Indian Railways 92 paise per passenger, of which there are millions who book online over IRCTC every day: one estimate puts it at about 2 million tickets booked online every day. That's about Rs1.8 lakh paid as insurance premium on our behalf to a variety of private insurance companies every day, about making it about Rs75 crore per annum. The payout is supposed to be Rs10 lakh per death, if claimed, if nominee details are filled out. Otherwise, there is no payout unless legal heir is established. Assuming a figure of about 300-500 insurance liable deaths per annum ​ on Indian Railways, that is about Rs5 crore at best.
 
​And please be aware of how difficult it will be to collect. If at all.​
 
The rest, about Rs70 crore, is money for jam. But even that is not enough!
 
The trick here is to get the passenger to place the nominee details on the policy. IRCTC and therefore the Indian Railways have an interesting trick here - instead of collecting the nominee details at the time of the passenger making the booking, ​they ​wait till a ​working ​day later, after the​ charting is done and the waiting list, seat or berth number is allotted,​ not just is confirmed, to ​provide the contact details of the passengers, to the insurance companies, who then wait one more working day to send an email to the passenger to ​collect the nominee details. By this time, unless the journey is more than ​two days​-and-a-half, the journey is over and providing or collecting nominee details is of no use to anybody.
 
Assuming about 20% of the travellers are on waiting lists that get confirmed (tatkal, quotas and more make up the rest), it means that 20% of passengers get the message to add a nominee AFTER the journey is over. God help them (or their nominees) ​if they suffer an accident in this period.
 
​Where does that collected money go? That is also why no government insurance company is in the list, by the way! The joys of privatisation of insurance!​
 
No safe exit at Delhi station
 
Bridges collapsing over railways lines has been covered in some detail lately. The truth is that railway passengers are like sacrificial lambs being thrown to the wolves. A trip to the New Delhi railway station teaches you so much more about the attitude that the Indian Railways has towards it passengers than what any amount of expensive consultants or foreign trips or grandiose plans can.
 
It is fascinating to see the multiple reasons why and how life is made difficult for pedestrians and commuters at New Delhi railway station.
 
# The "local trains", or EMUs as they are known here, are brought on to island platforms in the middle instead of the more easily accessible Platform 16 and 1 at the edges and closer to the Metro and the buses respectively.
 
# The walking path from Gate No 1 and 5 of New Delhi Metro Rail underground station to the escalators and entry to the New Delhi railway station is heavily barricaded by Delhi Police as well as broken pavement, making it impossible to walk safely.
 
# Exits from all the escalators and stairs are heavily blocked by auto-rickshaws and black-yellow cabs whose drivers are apparently exempted from any of the NO PARKING rules applied to private cars and cabs.
# The embark and disembark points for buses are about a kilometre away from the platforms on each side, Ajmeri Gate and Pahargunj, and as expected, soaked in filth and human waste.
 
# Of course, the innermost lanes on both sides are "reserved" for the minor VIPs; the bigger VVIPs and VIPs and Railway people have their own "State Entry Road". Which is where, by the way, at one time there used to be a cycle parking. Now there is no cycle parking.
 
# On the Ajmeri Gate side, the entry for drop-and-go has been barricaded shut, so people are forced to enter the pay-and-park area-which is where they end up if not careful about using the other entry lane meant for premium parking which is even costlier!
 
It really does not matter to people which formation is in power, nor are they bothered about whether Indian Railways is under the Ministry of Railways that is stuck in a colonial mind set. Delhi Metro, which gives up all responsibility at its turnstiles, Delhi Government (selected) which appears to be at war with Delhi Government (elected), Municipal Corp of Delhi (MCD) or New Delhi Municipal Corp (NDMC), which appear to be busy setting up their games or any of the hundreds of sponsored touts hanging around.
 
It is just that the same people spot that other railway station access and exit points in other parts of India appear to have improved while the Delhi options have come crashing down.
The fault lines of India are in Delhi. Too much mis-governance, too little progress, too many "authorities" cancelling each other out.
 
And it is all visible in the way we run our railway stations in Delhi, for, 99% of the people who use the facilities, only to be told how hundreds of crores of rupees have been wasted again.
 
(Veeresh Malik is an activist from Delhi, who continues to explore several things in life.)
 
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COMMENTS

P S Krishnan

5 months ago

@Veeresh Malik, Agree with you on all the points, especially the insurance part. I experienced this today. Here's my email to ICICI Lombard sent by me today on the insurance scam

"Dear Mr Bhargav Dasgupta & ICICI Lombard

I had opted for an Optional Travel Insurance with ICICI Lombard through IRCTC. This insurance was for my travel between 4.12 pm on 8th July 2018 till 5.20 am on 9th July 2018. I have today, as of 9th July at 2pm after close to 9 hours after completing the journey received the nominee updation forms from ICICI Lombard. How can a traveler update a nominee updation form after completion of a journey. If there were any claims to be made would ICICI Lombard honour the claims or reject it on account of lack of nominee details, the blame for which would lie with ICICI Lombard for sending nominee updation details post journey

Please do not provide me a stock response like "We are very sorry for the inconvenience and this was an oversight, etc, etc". I need a direct and honest answer failing which I keep escalating this at all levels including to IRDA, Ombudsman, PMO, Finance Ministry, ICICI Lombard's investors, incl International Investors. I am an activist and have had tremendous success in bringing several such miscreant organisations to book

I would therefore appreciate a honest response with a clear roadmap of how you will not resort to such cheating in the future"

REPLY

DeepakSB

In Reply to P S Krishnan 5 months ago

Congratulations for your escalation of Nominee issue for Railway tickets booked thru IRCTC.

Please keep your fingers crossed.IRDA/Ombudsman do not answer or resolve such issues for an individual person.

These organizations are most autocratic and customer UNFRIENDLY.

IRDA/Ombudsman will ask you to report to zonal offices of insurance co.s and wait for 30 days.

IRDA/Ombudsman still in 19th century!!!!

PMO,Finance ministry also sailing in same boat.

Railway ministry if escalated thru twitter/published railways email IDs-keep guessing reply !!!

Shankeran MV

5 months ago

Yes, food issue in Shatabdi express is pathetic. More so the staff operating catering is often rude. Mysore Chennai Shatabdi is late every day and reaches late. However after the introduction of No food options, many opt for that in Mysore- Chennai Sector. TTE are toothless and have no say in this regard and everything is 'Chalta Hai' attitude! Honorable Minister, are you listening!!

Dr D V PUNWANI

5 months ago

Have you shared this with Shri Goyal and PMO?

Vivian Fernandes

5 months ago

The full fare from Delhi to Jaipur by AC chair car on the Ajmer Shatabdi is Rs 970. The fare with 50 percent media concession is also Rs 970. Why? On the latter, the basic fare is indeed half, but dynamic fare and meals charges are included. On the former they are not!

REPLY

Veeresh Malik

In Reply to Vivian Fernandes 5 months ago

Why media should get a concession beats me.

Vivian Fernandes

In Reply to Veeresh Malik 5 months ago

I am sure a lot of things beat you including why the earth goes around the sun and why it is elliptical, not square. Never too late to learn.

Cyrus

5 months ago

Surprisingly, Reservation system does not automatically allocate lower berths to Senior citizens. I had to book twice to try my luck at getting a lower berth, but failed in both attempts.

Cyrus

5 months ago

Another Scam... If RAC is not confirmed and sleeper class passenger is forced to travel sitting, the difference in fare between sleeper class and chair car is not refunded.

REPLY

DeepakSB

In Reply to Cyrus 5 months ago

Can someone -expert in railway laws and audit clarify on this.Is this differencr between chair car and sleeper class payable to passangers in such situation ? If yes than how to claim this difference ? If ticket was booked online-railways have passangers bank/credit/debit card details!!!!!!!!!!! Railway can refund this excesss fare !!!!!!

DrRajesh Bheda

5 months ago

Their dynamic pricing scheme is another fraud. Delhi mumbai Duronto express train no 22210 had 410 seats vacant after the train had left delhi still the railway was charging extra for tickets under the surge pricing rules. When the seats are lying vacant how can there be surge pricing.

DeepakSB

5 months ago

Dear Mr.Veeresh Malik......Thanks for your article on state of affairs at Indian railways.

Passengers-irrespective of class (1 st AC,2 tier AC,3 tier,sleeper class etc.) are taken for a royal ride and passengers and also MEDIA also NOT interested to complain.

Awaiting feedback from other readers of this moneylife blog on this issue.

Mumbai suburban and also other suburban passengers in other cities are at maximum inconvenience due to attitude,in-efficiency,un accountability and corruption of railway administration.This is going on irrespective of which government is IN POWER.

JUST SHOWING PASSANGERS CONSCERNS ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND PRESS IS JUST A SHOW BUSINESS BY RAILWAY MINISTERY AND ITS OFFICIALS.

REPLY

Veeresh Malik

In Reply to DeepakSB 5 months ago

Media gets and accepts a 50% concession! Some media.

SC seeks time frame for appointing Lokpal
The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Central government to spell out the steps needed to be taken for the appointment of a Lokpal and the time frame that each step will require to be completed.
 
A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R. Banumathi sought the details as Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said the selection committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet shortly to decide on the next step.
 
The court said the competent authority will file an affidavit indicating the steps and the time each step will take in the course of the appointment of the Lokpal.
 
Venugopal told the court that the Joint Secretary of Department of Personnel and Training was the competent authority.
 
Giving 10 days to file the affidavit, the court directed the next hearing on July 17.
 
Appearing for NGO Common Cause, senior counsel Shanti Bhushan referred to Section 3 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 that says "on and from the commencement of this Act, there shall be established for the purposes of this Act a body called 'Lokpal'".
 
Pointing out that over four and a half year have passed since the law came into force and there was no Lokpal, Bhushan urged the court to take recourse to its powers under the Constitution's Article 142 and appoint a Lokpal till one is appointed following the laid down procedure.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

Ashok Visvanathan

6 months ago

The govt likely will provide a time frame , that will see the Lok Pal created just before the Lok sabha elections.

Mumbai’s BDD chawls to get a makeover under Tata Projects consortium
MHADA has awarded a Rs11,744 crore contract to the consortium of Tata Projects and Capicit’e Infraprojects and CITIC for the redevelopment of the 90-year old Bombay Development Board (BDD) chawls, numbering 121,  located at Worli in South-Central Mumbai, and accommodating residential and commercial societies.
 
The work order has been issued to the Tata Projects, a spokesman for MHADA said and added that the work will start within a month. MHADA has already appointed two of Mumbai’s leading private construction companies to revamp the BDD chawls in Naigaon and Lower Parel earlier.
 
The mega project includes the construction of 86 buildings for rehabilitation (22 floors), 10 residential buildings for sale (76 floors), and one building of 30 floors for commercial sale, on a plot measuring 94 acre, to rehabilitate 9680 families, with additional construction of 2.60 crore sqft . With this, the state government will get 13,000 additional houses to sell in the open market. Construction of around 720 units in a transit camp is also a component of the project.
 
The project has been given 4 floor space index (FSI) against the existing FSI of 1.33. BDD chawls are ground-plus-three structures, with around 16,557 flats of 180 sqft area. The project, to be completed in 5 phases, is expected to be completed in 8 years. It will provide employment to over 10,000 people. The project will be executed through a special purpose vehicle (SPV), in which Capacit’e Infraprojects will have 37.1% share worth Rs43.57billion. Share of Tata Projects in the consortium will be 36.9% and CITIC Construction will have 26% share.
 
The families associated with this redevelopment will get 500 sqft tenements in place of their existing 180 sqft tenements and will have access to improved quality of life and the region is expected to witness large scale changes in the social upliftment of the neighbourhood. 
 
“It is one of the most important projects for Mumbai and a model project for chawl redevelopment,” Vinayak Deshpande, managing director, Tata Projects, said. “This is one of the largest single value infrastructure projects in the country. Execution of this skyline changing, socially beneficial project shall help Mumbai become a world class city. This project is also a testimony to Tata Projects’ focus on developing high quality social infrastructure, while maintain high standards of safety,” he added.
 
For this project, Tata and ACC, two Indian companies, were in the race and two construction companies from China and Lebanon had also evinced keen interest to undertake the redevelopment work. Finally Tata Group bagged the contract.
Under the old BDD chawl project, initially 80 rooms were constructed between 1921 and 1925 to address the housing shortage and subsequently over 50,000 tenements were constructed on reclaimed land. During 1947 there was mass influx of people in Mumbai from various rural areas of India. So BDD devised a ‘Master Plan For Bombay’, which was  intended to end sanitation problems, alleviate industrial development and relieve traffic congestion. 
 
BDD chawls were public chawls as opposed to the private ones built by landlords and mill owners. The public agency then ensured that there was a master plan for these chawls, there were wide open spaces between chawls which became community spaces, they were provided with basic amenities, and the density remained low with ground plus four storey structures.
 
The chawls are a feature of the then industrial “Bombay”. The idea to redevelop these chawls was first mooted in the mid-1990s. For one reason or another, it did not take off. Indeed, the chawls sit on prime real estate in the city.
Mumbai lost its best chance in decades in the 1990s when the powers-that-be parcelled out portions of nearly 600 acres of textile mill land, not contiguous but largely in one section of the city, to private bidders who then built grandiose commercial and residential towers abutting congested old roads and creaking infrastructure. If only the one-third formula — a third each to mill owners, BMC and MHADA was brought into effect, the story of central Mumbai would have been different.
 
Cities have but few chances to redevelop. Every wave of technological and commercial development or changes in their economic architecture offers such a chance. How cities or specific areas are redeveloped, how meaningful they remain for residents, whether they offer a decent standard of living for all, how their landscapes weave into people’s lives, these questions are associated with any redevelopment. Now how much strain this mega project puts on the infrastructure is yet to be seen.
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COMMENTS

Silloo Marker

5 months ago

Having lived quite close to the BDD chawls, I have seen these simple chawls and their residents at close quarters. This huge project will change the lives of people of quite modest means who occupy the BDD chawls at present. Do hope this goes through without hitches even if it does take eight years to complete it.
It is true that Mumbai lost its chance to really redevelop the large mill land-lands as planned originally, dividing the acres of mill lands into three parts. One-third of the land was meant to re-house the mill workers who lived in that area and whose lives were precarious with their employment disappearing with the fall of the textile sector. One third was to be given to the city for developing scarce open spaces for the citizens. The owners were to keep one-third to be developed according to their own plans. Nothing of the kind happened unfortunately and all the mill-lands were used only to build expensive commercial and residential complexes. One can only guess who else benefited from this change of plans.
At least the BDD chawls residents will enjoy some of the long-promised benefits of redevelopment of their area which lies so close to Worli sea-face, a prime location.

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