While Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s cyber interaction with citizens — a YouTube talkathon organised by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting — was a smart and novel attempt at engaging people in a way that none of his predecessors did, it ended up looking like a typical Indian train.
It was much publicized and eagerly anticipated, with constant announcements from the I&B Twitter handle, but by the time it started — delayed by about 50 minutes — everyone was tired and just wanted to get it over with.
“It seems that #AskMR has been cancelled without notice and no refund applicable?” quipped one user.
On his part, Mr. Prabhu avoided tricky questions such as whether CCTV surveillance of women’s coaches could affect privacy or whether a longer advance booking period of 120 days would benefit agents more than regular consumers.
The questions he fielded included those about new trains, solar energy, cleanliness, and food standards, besides a video question on bullet trains by author Chetan Bhagat.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a vision for railways...people in India take a lot of interest in railways...there were a lot of expectations but there was limited time. I have only been Minister for three months and in that time I think I have done the best I could,” said Mr. Prabhu.
He said Indian Railways would use its resources, including stations, land, tracks, etc to generate solar power and “contribute” to the promotion of green energy.
A large number of questions under the hashtag #AskMR were on bullet trains and cleanliness of platforms and trains.