The Railway Budget presented in Parliament on Tuesday evoked a mixed response from various stakeholders. While passengers and commuters said “not enough” emphasis was given to the safety, security and hygiene aspect of the travelling experience, railway employees and porters said they were disappointed by the indifference shown towards their interests.
Ghaziabad-resident Ragini Sinha, who works as a consultant in Delhi and is a daily commuter on the Delhi-Ghaziabad route and is concerned about women’s safety in suburban trains, welcomed the provision for recruitment of more women police personnel in the Budget. The Union Railways Minister has proposed that the number of female police officers in the railway force would be substantially increased in order to boost women’s safety.
“The existing railway force has got some women, but they lack good training. I just wish that they are better trained to deal with specific nature of crimes against women,” said Ms. Sinha, adding that the proposed recruitment needs to be done quickly.
Shivnath Rajoria, a retired government official who was waiting for the New Delhi-Patna Rajdhani at New Delhi railway station on Thursday, advocated fare increase and expressed anguish at the politics being done on the issue. “Indian Railways is mammoth and requires funds for its smooth functioning. It’s high time that fares are increased to deliver quality service to the passengers.”
Sabihul Haque, a Patna-based businessman who was waiting for Sampoorn Kranti Express, said the Tatkal charges should not have been increased as it was already expensive.
For Railway porters, the Budget was no different from any other year. Deen Dayal, a porter, who has been working at the railway station for the past two decades was disappointed with the state of affairs. “The Budget was like any other in terms of the indifference displayed towards porters who are the most marginalised segment of Indian Railways. While we ensure the smooth functioning of the railways and facilitate a hassle-free travelling experience, our contribution is never acknowledged by the railway authorities,” he said.
Railway porters have been demanding a government job, medical and housing facilities. “At present, we don’t get anything, except a rest room at the railway station and a one-time railway pass,” added Mr. Dayal.
Railway employees termed the budget “disappointing” as it did not have any substantial welfare schemes for them. Shiv Gopal Mishra, general secretary of All India Railwaymen’s Federation, said the announcement in the Budget about construction of employees’ quarter through public-private-partnership was a “ploy” to surrender prime railway land to private builders and real estate lobbies for commercial misuse.
“The Rail Budget has nothing to sustain or increase the motivation of its thousands of employees. No existing welfare scheme was extended to the next financial year. Unlike the usual practice every year, no money was contributed to Staff Benefits Fund. The Budget has nothing to say on the populist announcement of housing for all employees made in last years’ budget.”