Indian Railways to pay Rs. 2 lakh to doctor for 1996 stolen luggage

Indian Railways has been asked by the apex consumer commission to pay Rs. 2.01 lakh compensation to a lady doctor whose luggage was stolen while travelling by the UP Kushinagar Express in 1996.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) held the Railways liable to compensate the woman for theft of her luggage, saying there was failure on the part of the ticket checker to ensure that no intruders entered the reserved coach she and her daughter were travelling in.

“Undisputedly, the complainant (doctor) and her daughter were travelling in a reserved coach and it was the duty of the TTE (ticket checker) to ensure that no intruders entered the reserved compartment.

“Since apparently there was a failure on the part of the TTE to prevent entry of unauthorised person in the coach during the night, the fora below were right in holding the petitioner liable for deficiency in service to the respondent (doctor) in this regard,” a bench presided by justice Ajit Bharihoke said.

The NCDRC’s order came while dismissing the Railways’ appeal against the orders of the Uttar Pradesh State Consumer Commission and the District Forum which had held the state run enterprise responsible to compensate the complainant, Dr Shobha Agarwal.

In their appeal, the Railway’s had contended that there was no negligence on their part and unless the goods were booked with them, they are not liable to pay the compensation.

It had claimed that the doctor was responsible for taking care of her luggage.

Rejecting the contention of the Railways, the NCDRC said no interference is required in the orders of the state consumer commission and the district forum.

The district forum had directed Railways to pay Agarwal Rs. 2.01 lakh as compensation, while the UP state commission had dismissed its appeal against that order.

Reliving the glory of Indian Railways

Indian Railways is reminiscent of holidays – the summer sojourns to grandparents’ place, engines chugging through hills and tunnels, the incessant call of the chaiwallah and happy conversations with co-passengers. However, this institution has played a much grander role in the life of India and its people, binding its vast length together, right from the period of the East India Company to the present times.

The Railway authorities are now rekindling those fond memories with a beautiful collection ‘160 years of Indian Railways: An exhibition of selected photographs.’ On view are rare black and white and sepia-toned shots of railway stations of yore, engineering marvels of bridges and tunnels, fascinating locomotive workshops and our national leaders enjoying train rides.

The photographs have been thoughtfully arranged in themes. ‘Indian Railways in the making’ shows large factories where coaches are constructed, wheels and axels manufactured and sheds where beautiful steam locomotives are resting. Also shown are railwaymen at work – a points man setting a track in order, a light man lighting the rear lamp of a locomotive and even an elephant helping move a large bogey!
The ‘Railway bridges and tunnels’ photographs are breathtaking. The three-arch open Renund Khad bridge stands dauntingly over the deep Kangra valley, Himachal Pradesh. The Yamuna Bridge in Allahabad is opened to traffic in 1869 and the Pamban Bridge – India’s first sea bridge connecting Rameswaram to Pamban island – is inaugurated in 1914.

Equally impressive are the pictures of railway stations. The New Delhi Railway Station, photographed around 1960, is cleaner and much less chaotic with a row of tangas neatly parked outside. The Madras Central Railway Station has large hoardings of Murphy Radio installed over it. The architecture of the Srinagar Railway Station is unmistakable with cottage like sloping roofs and the Guruvayur Station looks like an ornate gateway to the temple town.

The section on ‘Passenger amenities’ makes you wonder: ‘where did these disappear?’ The waiting room of the Lucknow Railway Station looks like a palace hall. The dining car attached to a train could be taken for an upmarket restaurant with chivalrous stewards serving aristocratic guests, and an efficient postal delivery system runs alongside the passenger trains.

The most enchanting photographs, however, remain those of our national leaders taking the Railways. Mahatma Gandhi on his way to Bombay in September 1944, Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurating the Children’s train at Bal Bhawan, Delhi and a tired looking Bhagat Singh squats at the Lahore Railway Station and Rabindranath Tagore – who wrote six poems of Gitanjali on a train – looks out of his train window, in a pensive mood.

Don’t miss this exhibition. It is on till June 2 at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, CV Mess, Janpath.

Published in: on May 30, 2013 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

The growth, evolution and floundering of Indian Railways

From the construction of the first railroad in India that began in 1850, and the first train that was run on April 16, 1853 from Bombay (now Mumbai) to Thana (Thane), to the unimaginable growth of the railway network, the country’s biggest Public Sector Undertaking has come a long way. But at every stage in its evolution, Indian Railways have faced a new set of problems and raised fresh controversies.

Whatever those problems or issues that confront the system there can be no gainsaying the fact that it remains a showpiece within the country and outside. Never mind the upkeep of the assets or rolling stock, along with China and Russia, the Indian Railways top the list of being the largest network. Carrying well over a million passengers every day and moving about 1,000 million tonnes of freight per year, the very fact that the operations have continued for over a century and a half stands testimony to the strength of the systems.

Largest employer

In terms of employment generation, the Railways provide jobs to about 15 million people, not to talk about the indirect employment. Long before the government of India took up the massive National Highways expansion and upgradation programme, the Railways virtually connected every corner of the country and put in place an effective and efficient network to move people and goods across the country.

When the British decided to launch a railway system and network, the objective was entirely different — to maximise political and commercial advantages along specific routes and to provide for both administrative convenience as well as holidaying. But today the norms are different. In addition to expanding the existing network and providing better connectivity, the focus has been on offering more comfort, greater speed, and modernisation of the systems.

The Railways now have a complex system of suburban systems, the Metro rails, the zonal railways, inter-city trains, and the long distance expresses, not to mention the slower intra-regional passenger trains.

From the time of Independence, successive Railway Ministers have done their bit to expand and modernise the systems. From an entirely metre gauge system, it went on to broad gauge as well to gain speed. Finally, it was decided to adopt a unigauge system for easy travel and connections. From coal-fired locomotives, it moved to diesel and then a massive electrification through an overhead electric traction.


Now, the Railways have moved on to super-fast trains, the Rajdhanis and Durantos. Of course, they have not yet reached the age of bullet trains or the special elevated corridors. Plans are being firmed up for these special corridors and semi-bullet kind of inter-city trains. But that will take time.

The Ministry controls the whole show, but the Railway Board takes care of the day-to-day operations. This is the only PSU that has a budget of its own. Like the general budget presented annually to Parliament by the Finance Minister, there is a Railway budget presented by its Minister every year.

The Ministry also has a few smaller undertakings related to the Railways — the Indian Railway Construction company or IRCON, the Container Corporation of India or CONCOR, the Rail India Technical and Economic Services or RITES, IRFC, CRIS, and the IRCTC that handles the catering and the online booking system. The Indian Railways have planned joint ventures to take up the massive Western and Eastern Corridors that will link New Delhi with Mumbai and Kolkata respectively. Several manufacturing units such as the Integral Coach Factory, the Rail Coach Factory, the locomotives units and several other such units like the Wheel and Axle plant, come under the Railways too.

The challenges

It must be to Nitish Kumar’s credit that an objective and professional White Paper was presented to Parliament under the NDA regime. That was when the Railways seriously introspected and identified avenues to save precious resources and invest wisely on projects. But the decisions taken during his tenure paid dividends when his successor Lalu Prasad took over and he cornered much of the credit for the now famous turnaround in its fortunes. The State Governments had to share costs for all new projects and metro rails to ease the burden. Even then, there has been a marked downslide in the Railways, which the present incumbent, Mr. Bansal, is trying to reverse.

The Railways have to become lean and mean, competitive and efficient. The operating ratio, now almost 90, has to come back to below the 80 level. Second, they have to compete with the airlines for one segment of passengers, and with road transport for the movement of goods. Third, despite talking about the potential for private sector participation for years, the Railways have not managed to attract private investments, mainly because they have not been able to spell out a clear policy. Given the need for such massive doses of investment, it is about time that the Ministry and the Board sit with the private sector to make it attractive for PPPs.

Centre committed to development of inter-country rail linkages

The government of India is committed to the development of inter-country rail linkages and in furtherance of this policy supports the development of Trans-Asian Railway Network, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said here today.

This network would provide a major land corridor for transport of people and goods across the frontiers of the member countries, Bansal said while speaking at the 7th meeting of Railways of South and South East Asian Countries.

Bansal said that one of the important key objectives of the Government of India is to assist the neighbouring countries to develop their rail infrastructure and credit facilities have been extended to some of these countries.

He said one of India’s initiatives is to provide a gratis training programme for the railway personnel from the member countries. He announced that in keeping with the wishes of the member countries, the Government of India has decided to extend this programme for a further period of five years.

The Railway Minister further said that Indian Railways have thrown open its Research Development and Standards Organisation (RDSO) for joint research projects involving the railways of the region.

Bansal emphasised that regional cooperation and trade is a beneficial mode of economic development and Railways have a great advantage of being socially the most benign mode of transport.

In his speech Chairman Indian Railway Board Vinay Mittal said that the annual meetings of railways of South and South-East Asia have provided an effective forum for sharing experiences and for launching important cooperative initiatives in the rail sector.

Work on Eastern dedicated freight corridor project begins

Tata Projects Ltd., the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, along with its partner Aldesa of Spain, has started work on a section of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) project being implemented by the Indian Railways for faster evacuation of freight.

Tata Projects has been awarded the contract to construct a 337 km double track line and 14 km of single track line between Bhaupur and Khurja in Uttar Pradesh.

This section, involving an investment of Rs.3,300 crore, would be completed in four years.

This World Bank-funded project was won by the Tata Projects-Aldesa consortium, and this is the first major contract awarded for this ambitious project.

“Tata Projects will leverage its execution expertise and Aldesa will provide its technical expertise of mechanical track laying for high speed trains to create a world class freight corridor that will significantly reduce goods transit time and help grow the economy,” Tata Projects said.

“This project is an important milestone towards modernisation of India’s railways freight transportation,and, we, at Tata Projects, look forward to pioneer new initiatives that contribute to the development of India and accelerated growth,” said Vinayak Deshpande, Managing Director, Tata Projects.

The DFC is an ambitious programme which involves construction of two corridors which are the Eastern Corridor from Ludhiana to Dankuni covering a length of 1,839 km and the Western Corridor from Dadri to Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Mumbai, covering 1,499 km for promoting a seamless movement of rail freight traffic.

The DFC has been designed for 32.5-tonne axle load as compared to the current carriage tracks of 22.5 tonne axle load which is on a par with the standards in America, Russia, and China.

The dedicated freight network is a key infrastructure project for Indian railways as it will segregate the passenger network from freight network.

The corridor will also increase the speed of freight trains up to 100 km per hour.

Mysore Railway museum will soon have model of steam engine

The Mysore Railway Museum is home to some warhorses which have done the length and breadth of the nation. The museum, set up by the Indian Railways in 1979, is the second such museum after the National Railway Museum, New Delhi. A model of a steam locomotive engine will soon be installed here. A toy train has also been a major attraction for children.

There are four indigenously designed steam locos, including one of the last steam locos, but they are non-operational.

Among others, what’s on offer for visitors is an exhibit on old mechanism, wherein trains chugged by burning combustible material, usually coal, wood or oil, to produce steam in a boiler. Both fuel and water supplies were carried on the locomotive, either on the locomotive itself or in wagons that it pulled.

Steam locomotive was synonymous with rail transport in the 19th century. As far Indian Railways was concerned, steam ruled the roost from 1853 till the middle of the last century, he said.

Kashi said the model of a steam engine was designed at Mysore divisional workshop. The model is fuelled with kerosene and installed at Mahrani’s Saloon, which is a prized possession of the museum.

A 6m track has been laid adjacent to the saloon to run the model. “The steam engine will certainly entertain the visitors, especially children,” he said, adding that they will install the steam locomotive engine in a month.

. The museum recently installed a new toy train run by diesel. The new train is fitted with three coaches, and each can accommodate 24 children. The earlier toy train was battery operated, and had two coaches.

The museum also has other coaches, equipment and records relating to Mysore State Railways, Indian Railways and railways in general.

The museum has a footfall of 200 per day. The entry fee is Rs 5 for adults and Rs 2 for children.

Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’ – India’s most luxurious train

Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’ – touted as India’s most luxurious train – is a joint venture between Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation Ltd (RTDC) and the Indian Railways.

The train will run every Sunday between October and April from Delhi. It will travel across three states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Consisting of 35 coaches, the train has a ferrying capacity of 82 passengers in one trip. The train has on board a spa, gymnasium, specials suites, deluxe saloons and two restro-lounges which make the journey truly a ‘royal experience’

When this train started operating, the journey costs were $4,130 (Rs.2,14,760), one had to shell out $1,600 (Rs.83,200) per day more if one travels in the special suite.

The train will go to Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Khajuraho and Agra. And the journey will culminate in Varanasi,” RTDC chairman Pramod Sharma said. The entire journey would be completed in seven days.

“This train is better than ‘Palace on Wheels’ as it is more spacious and grander. It has every luxury which anyone would want,” said Sharma.

So far, the service has been really good and the crew is really hospitable. It would be too early to say anything about the train as the journey has not even started yet,” an Australian tourist Kent Vodan told IANS while the train was at Safdarjung station.As the train started its maiden trip in 2009, there were 61 foreign tourists on board.

Indian Railways: Ten facts you would want to know

The Indian Railways (IR) carries over 25 million passengers daily which is perhaps more than the entire population of Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania put together.

The Indian Railways (IR) carries over 25 million passengers daily which is perhaps more than the entire population of Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania put together.

Introduced in 1853, the first passengers train in India chugged from Victoria Terminus (now CST) to Thane on a 53-km route, 25 years before China laid its rail network.

The IR is also the largest employer in the country and the eighth-largest, globally. With an employee-strength of over 1.4 million, it is larger than number of people employed at the top three industrial groups-Tata, Reliance and Birla.

The CST caters to 33 million passengers annually and is the only terminus in the world to be listed as a monument of global heritage by UNESCO.

Mumbai’s local trains are amongst the world’s few to have 15 coaches. Shanghai’s local trains come close with 12 coaches.

The Himsagar Express that covers a distance of 3,573 kms from across the entire country, from Kanyakumari in the south to Jammu-Tavi in the north can be compared to the tenth longest network in the world extending from Emeryville to Chicago covering 3924 kms in the US.

Even after recent hike, fares on long distance journeys on the IR can be considered cheapest in the world. For instance, 1,500 kms journey on Delhi-Kolkata route by Kalka Mail costs around Rs 250. A similar journey would cost ten times more on any budget train in Europe which boasts of strong rail transport.

There is no railways station in the entire Asian sub-continent which has a longer name than Venkatanarasimharajuvariipeta station in Tamil Nadu.

Ever since its origin in 1853, the rail service in India never turned back making it one of the oldest track in the world.

Another attempt to put Matheran rly on heritage list

Central Railway has decided to revive its efforts to get Matheran Light Rail (MLR) inscribed on the World Heritage List prepared by United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

Matheran was connected with Neral station by constructing a unique two-ft narrow gauge railway track by Abdul Hussain, son of Mumbai-based business tycoon Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy. The construction started in 1904 and the toy train had its first run in 1907. The trains take about two and a half hours to traverse the 19.97-km route with 221 curves.

Asenior railway official said, “MLR, which is in the western ghats, has the credentials to deserve the world heritage site tag as the toy train criss-crosses on a two-ft-wide narrow gauge through the difficult mountainous terrain. Its stations, too, because of their distinct design have an old-world charm.”

“If this happens, it will transform the economy of the tiny hill station, besides bringing Matheran into prominence globally.”
Indian Railways first submitted a proposal for listing of MLR in 2005. However, the 26/7 deluge later that year washed away almost half the tracks. After enormous efforts, CR managed to restore the toy train service, making it re-operational in February 2007. A Unesco team had visited Matheran in 2009, but MLR failed to make a cut.

While the Kalka-Shimla Railway line in the Himalayan Range, which was opened on November 9, 1903, made it to the World Heritage List in 2008, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway too got itself inscribed in the list in 1999. The Nilgiri Mountain railway in the eastern ghats too has found a place in the list.

The official said, “We are keen to run MLR efficiently even though it is a loss-making route. We are trying to reduce the losses by running shuttle services during monsoon and attaching luxury coaches in the train.”

On December 22 last year, 3,099 passengers travelled by the toy trains with CR earning 1.71 lakh in a day, setting a record for mountain railways in India.

2012 – A tough year for cash strapped Indian Railways.

Cash-strapped railways faced a tough year financially which was compounded by indecisions and policy delays as the national transporter witnessed four ministerial changes because of political compulsions.

While the Railway Ministry came to the Congress fold after a gap of about a decade-and-a-half after the withdrawal of Trinamool Congress support to UPA, the government looks set for a hike in passenger fares, which had remained stagnant over the years.

The railways witnessed a widening gap between operational cost and passenger earnings while freight revenue also fell below the target in 2012. Railways earned Rs 67,879.95 crore till October as against the target of Rs 70,147.74 crore, 3.23 per cent less than the budgeted provision.

In view of this shortfall, the plan outlay for the current fiscal has been downgraded from Rs 60,100 crore to Rs 55,881 crore.

Currently, the railways have 347 ongoing projects for new lines, gauge conversion and doubling but shortage of funds has forced curtailing of allocations for majority of them.

The year witnessed commissioning of the much-delayed Rae Bareli coach factory. Besides the factory, the railways also announced setting up of a wheel factory at Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s constituency.

The year began with Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi proposing about 15 per cent passenger fare hike in the Rail Budget. However, it was rolled back as Trivedi drew the wrath of Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee.

Trivedi was aiming to mop up about Rs 4000 crore from the fare hike. He was, however, replaced by Banerjee loyalist Mukul Roy, who remained mostly absent from the ministry and ran the key infrastructure department for nearly seven months from Kolkata.

Though many West Bengal-centric projects including Kanchrapara rail factory, beautification of stations and opening of passenger reservation centres in the state were initiated during Roy’s regime, the much-needed move to hike passenger tariff was put in the back-burner.

After the withdrawal of Trinamool support in September, Congress’ C P Joshi was given additional charge of the ministry for about a month. His brief tenure saw the revival of the proposal for setting up of Rail Tariff Authority (RTA) to suggest tariff hike in passenger and freight rates.

Pawan Kumar Bansal, who became the fourth minister in a year to occupy the Rail Bhavan, has been giving ample hints of raising the fares realising the dire financial needs of the national transporter.

“If passenger fares will be hiked then it will not be for the sake of raising fares, it will be done to improve passenger amenities,” he had said after taking over in October.

Both ministers of State for Railways – Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and K J Suryaparakash Reddy – have also strongly advocated raising of passenger fares to generate funds.

Reviewing the performance, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked the railways to expedite the process of setting up the Rail Tariff Authority.

Singh has also asked the ministry to finalise bidding documents for two big ticket projects – locomotive factories at Madhepura and Marhora in Bihar.

Though seven routes have been identified for undertaking feasibility survey for running bullet trains at 300 kms per hour speed, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route is to be taken up by the railways as a priority.