Indian Railway : 22nd Century Up!
(The Times Of India News Service)
New Delhi : February 26, 2013 : The Union Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal presented his first budget in Parliament today. Experts, parliamentarians and Aam Aadmi are universally hailing it as the most glorious rail budget ever made since the invention of the Steam Engine in 1781. This farsighted budget has, in a giant master stroke, erased the combined losses of Rs. 24,342 crores that Indian Railway has accumulated over the years, and transported it to the 22nd century much ahead of schedule.
The measures announced today are expected to effectively deal with expansion of passenger capacity, passenger comfort and rail safety. Revenues sourced from both passenger and freight services are expected to treble, with only a marginal increase in expenses. No fare increase was proposed.
In a bold and far reaching move, the Minister announced that every train, no matter how fast or slow, will henceforth be referred to as ‘Ultra Superfast Express’. Taking a leaf out of the French train naming convention, where such trains are simply called TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse, or Very High Speed Train), Indian Railway will title their trains as Tatkal-Tivrata or TAT-TI for short. Three trains have been shortlisted for immediate name change – Poorvanchal Tat-ti, August Krantikari Tat-ti and Shan-e-Punjab Tat-ti.
Interestingly, this change will not just be limited to name only. The locomotives pulling these trains will now bear new speedometers where a “0” will penciled in after each number on the dial. So a train running at 40 kms per hour earlier will now be deemed to be doing 400 kmph, easily beating the fastest trains from Japan, China and continental Europe. The fastest Indian train, the Bhopal Shatabdi Tatti, is now expected to gush at over 1000 kms per hour, comprehensively breaking the sound barrier.
“We are world beaters once again!” announced the Minister amid the din of thumping desks in the Lok Sabha.
An innovative approach to effectively deal with safety issues plaguing the railways has also been proposed in the budget. “Safety is paramount. I have a 3-word answer to deal with accidents due to signalling and human error (or Aam Aadmi Mishtake). Respected Madam Speaker, the answer is ‘Non-Stop Horn’”, declared the Minister. Non-stop tooting by the train engine is expected to keep the driver, passengers and everyone in the 25 km vicinity of every train wide awake and ever watchful. Experts agreed with this assessment. “Genius solution!” remarked Prof. A.K. Acharya. “Why couldn’t anyone think of this solution earlier? Was the government asleep?” he added questioningly. Prof. Acharya is Senior Vice President at Hasbro Toys where he manages the toy train sets division.
Unlike moribund policies of the past, the current budget proposes drastic changes to mop up additional revenue from freight. Goods trains will now bear open-air seating on their roofs, opening a brand new revenue stream for the ministry. Ticket price will be kept in line with 3-tier Non-AC. A ladder to climb up to the roof, and a raincoat, will be provided to passengers at nominal costs. However, to contain costs, no bedding or pantry services will be available.
Passenger capacity is also being augmented in other unique ways without incurring additional rolling stock expenditure. The Minister announced that all train toilets are being disbanded with immediate effect. These spaces will be refitted as sleepers and chair cars. In lieu of public conveniences, each paying train passenger will now be provided an earthen lota which they are free to use as they wish. Given that all trains make frequent unscheduled stops along our nation’s picturesque countryside, passengers will have ample opportunity of simply hopping on and off to answer a call of nature at their convenience. Most train passengers interviewed by this reporter heaved a sigh of relief at the new benefit, including those seated 100 feet around train toilets and had been holding their breath for several hours. Rama Devi, a passenger interviewed on the Patna-Indore Janshakti Tat-ti, seated a mere ten feet from the train toilet, managed to mumble “Fantastic news!” before succumbing to the odours in the bogey.
The Minister made it clear that, as always, in case of dire emergency, or whenever one felt like doing it, the ‘chain’ could be pulled to instantly stop the train and fifty others behind it.
The Minister lamented that passenger comfort had taken a back seat in the past few budgets and was eager to bring it back as a key focus area. To that end, he proposed a repainting of the interiors of all bogies to be carried out on a war footing in the current fiscal. A dual-tone colour scheme has been selected. From the ground to a height of 3 feet, all train surfaces will be painted a shade of reddish-orange. Surfaces above that height will now bear the inviting shade of dark brownish-greyish-black. The new paint scheme is being called ‘Bhartiya Rail Rangoli’ and is expected to uniquely complement the millions of passengers who enjoy oiled hair and paan, and like to touch and feel things around them constantly.
Politicians cutting across party lines gushed at the “best railway budget ever”. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerji tweeted, “Best rail bhaajet : beeg ween for TMC”. Later, however, she retracted the tweet, possibly after realizing that her party was not in the government any more, and called the Minister a Maoist.
Earlier in the day, before the budget was even presented, there was an air of exhilaration pervading through the Parliament. Many Members of Parliament were seen locked to their iPads cancelling impending flight trips. “I will use my rail quota myself instead of giving it away to my in-laws,” said Kumari Selja, when asked for her expectations from the budget. The minister, considered to be single until now, however refused to divulge any details on the ‘in-laws’ despite persistent questioning.