Ever since the railway budget for 2013-14 has been presented there have been negative  write ups appearing in the social sites and other media forums about the Indian railways. I do not hold any brief for the railways but feel that the other side also should be presented. I have been a railway traveller throughout my life and have been one for nearly sixty year now.rite ups

I have had the pleasure of travelling in long distance trains driven by coal fired and smoke belching engines moving at slow speed and making the typical sound which has now become legendary. The fine particles of burnt coal/ash would go in my eyes and I would reach the destination with red eyes.The dress would have become black and dirty and the face and hair would be all unkempt. The first thing one had to do was take a bath at the destination. One also had to carry enough food and water to last the long journeys. The dining car was unheard off in 99 per cent of the trains.The sleeper berths were non existent. The seats were of naked wood except in First class and to some extent in second class. One would have to bear the pain of seating or sleeping on such berths. Almost every one would have to carry bedding in what was known as 'holdall'. Onward reservation was a matter of luck. But then I was a growing up child and seemed to enjoy the mere fact that I was travelling for six days to reach our home town. Today I can reach there in 36 to 48 hours depending on the speed of the train I choose to travel by.The trains today run on diesel or electricity.

The railways have come a long long way since then. I have not visited my town's railway station since more than last five years for booking my journey tickets. I do so on the internet. I have so far been lucky to even get Tatkal tickets a couple of times. The money has always been refunded into my account whenever I have cancelled my tickets. Yes sometimes the irctc site does become slow and occasionally one has to rebook because an ongoing operation has failed. This style of booking is a boon compared to earlier times. I remember standing in lines many times for more than three hours to book tickets.

The number of trains has gone up manifold but so has the population. The introduction of AC classes on almost all trains has made travelling comfortable especially during the hot Indian summers. There is no need for carrying water or bedding now. It is available in the trains and provided by the railways most of the time. In all my journeys till date I have never come across a dirty bed sheet or a smelling blanket or a dirty pillow. I feel the thickness of the pillows should be increased for more comfort. Compared to earlier times, one travels with much less luggage now and in far more comfort.

The provision of waiting rooms at the stations including AC rooms has also made waiting for trains comfortable. Overall I am sure many would agree that the number of trains running on time is far more than ones that are running late. It must be remembered that lot many trains in India run anywhere between 1000 to 2000 and more kilometers one way. Sometimes maintaining time over such long  distances does  become difficult.

I have so far never lost any baggage due to theft but yes I have heard of passengers who have lost luggage. So do air and bus passengers all over the world. One has to take care of one's luggage and even then if it is lost it surely is a case of bad luck. Blaming the railways is not fair.

The introduction of all India enquiry numbes has helped considerably to get information about train timings at various stations.The enquiry counter on my city railway station is almost always manned and information is being provided. The time tables today are of much better quality and are readable unlike the earlier shabby ones.

In almost all long distance trains pantry services are available. The service and quality of food provided to First AC passengers is very good and it could be because they are few in numbers. The quality of food provided to rest of the passengers has definitely gone down and needs to be improved. Yes the entry of vendors into compartments needs to be stopped as it is a nuisance and can lead to theft taking place.

The cleanliness of the toilets also needs to be improved. However I am of the opinion that it is the passengers who are responsible for creating dirty toilets in the first place and then sit in judgement and blame the railway authorities. Even educated and so called high class persons do not use the toilets cleanly. However the railways need to find a better way of maintaining the toilets in a more clean manner. The inside of the compartments are also not cared for by the passengers. It is quite common to see passengers eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor. So also used water bottles or small children can ease themselves anywhere. The passengers need to have sense of hygiene themselves. The railways must arrange to get compartments cleaned more often.

I have always wondered how I managed to travel in unreserved second class compartments,and managed to reach my destination in one piece. Today also the condition in it is the same. I wish there could be a way of giving more comfort to them. Adding more such compartments could be an answer perhaps. 

Today also one has to grease the palm of the TTE to get a sleeper berth.Today also there is cornering of reserved seats by touts allegedly in league with booking clerks. However there are also options available today to overcome them in form of internet/mobile bookings. Let us not forget these malpractices are existing because we patronise them for narrow self advantage.

The Indian Railways is the fourth largest in the world. It moves more than two crore passengers daily. It is truly India's lifeline. It has come a long way in passenger comforts and quality of service. However it now has to increase the speed of many of its trains and take its on and off board services to a higher order than at present.

Finally one can go directly to one's workplace after a long journey if necessary and not rush to take a bath as in earlier days.Let us enjoy the railways as they are but do  hope that conditions will improve still better.

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