Dinesh Trivedi: Minister of Railways

Have you been following the latest fiasco in Indian politics, regarding the Railways Ministry? Well, here’s what has already happened:

The Railway Minister, Dinesh Trivedi, proposed the annual budget for the Railways. This was lauded to be a very well designed budget by one and all, including other politicians and the media—except for one person: Trivedi’s party chief, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Her gripe? Trivedi had introduced modest fare increases, saying that his first priority was to increase safety in the Railways, and if this means small fare increases, so be it. (Mind that this was the first fare increase in the last nine years! Considering the rest of the economy, it’s a surprise that fares hadn’t been increased before now.) Mamata was not in favor of fare hikes—at any cost (pun intended).

Differences of opinion are great, right? It encourages debate and leads to the best solution. Well, not with Mamata. Her demand? Trivedi should either rescind the fare hikes—or he should step down from his post. Note that even though Mamata’s party is part of the ruling coalition at the Central government, she herself does not hold any post. She is not a Member of the Parliament. Note also that everyone agrees that the Railways budget, as proposed, is exemplary. Instead of a pat on the back, Mamata is still demanding a resignation.

That brings us to the following news. Trivedi is sticking to his guns. The Telegraph reports:

Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi today stonewalled a Trinamul diktat delivered over the phone to resign immediately, hurled back reasoning based on Parliament’s supremacy and insisted that Mamata write to him — all the while adding that he had no problem stepping down.

He also went about discharging his responsibilities as railway minister, holding a meeting with the Railway Board to boot.

In a separate article, The Telegraph reports:

He hoped Manmohan Singh would not ask him to go: after all, hadn’t Singh given him the go-ahead to prepare a “forward-looking and development-oriented budget”?

Trivedi would, anyway, be in Parliament on Monday for the discussion on the rail budget. Which is why he was in his minister’s chair at the Rail Bhavan on a Saturday afternoon, working on a holiday.

“I held a meeting with my board members to prepare my reply to Parliament over the budget. The budget is a serious thing. I am too busy,” Trivedi said.

Way to go, Mr Trivedi! Mamata cannot do anything officially—her credibility would go down to zero in that case. She just wants to flex her political muscle without really doing anything—and Mr Trivedi is simply not bowing down to pressure.

Hopefully the Prime Minister will stick to his guns too. If Trivedi did a good job, there is no way he should be asked to resign simply because his choices were not pleasing to one person.

The worst sentiment, I think, is this:

West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee accused Trivedi of violating the party discipline and posed a question over his allegiance to the party.

She was displeased that the railway minister had not bothered to intimate the party about his budgetary proposals. “He didn’t talk to me, nor did he talk to Mukul Roy,” said a fumed Mamata. Mamata reminded the legislators that no one was above party. “No one is above party. Any effort to trounce the party line will be firmly dealt with,” she threatened.

Really? What is good for the Railways takes a secondary priority to what is more agreeable to the generic party line? Also—why would Mamata need to be consulted? Any consultation would rightly be with members of the Central government, no?

(Note to Mamata: this is how you lose credibility. Please let this go, and handle this magnanimously. You’re the Chief Minister of a state, and have no business wading into these matters! Also, isn’t it time you learnt to be a little more pragmatic? Yes, price rises are hard for a large section of the population. But price increases are necessary for a healthy rail network! Do you even remember what prices were like a decade ago? Railway fares are still pegged at that level!)

Meanwhile—Mr Trivedi, great going.

Of an overefficient (overzealous?) Indian Railways… (Updated)

The Railway Ministry has hit a brainwave: of introducing Side-Middle Berths in their trains – an idea that I am not sure will find favor even in the long run. It’s just a case of overcramping the space!!

Any bets on when the middle berth goes back out the door?

(Link via Such Is Life – from this post, about which I have more things to say, but in a later post.)

Update: Interesting comments have come up from passengers who encountered the new system. See the comments on this post. (Well not the first few; you’ll find the interesting ones as you scroll down.)

Hm. Anyone wants to change the time frame that Suchismita (see comment on this post) put forward (one year) for the middle berth to be yanked back out?

Railways

There’s something about the Railways. No, there’s something about the Indian Railways in particular. In fact, there’s something about being in a non-AC train, and feeling the wind on your face, and hearing the rhythmic sound of wheels on track.

Maybe it has something to do with all the train journeys that I had as a child. Maybe it has something to do with the innumerable questions (and an insatiable wonder) that I had about anything and everything; maybe it has something to do with Baba being able to explain all the wonders of the train (and the world) to a 5-year-old me, and in a way that actually made sense. Maybe it has something to do with seeing a train, and remembering how it is that you know so much about trains in the first place. Maybe it has something to do with remembering the good times, the fun times, spent in Baba’s arms on or near a train.

Maybe, it has something to do with Baba being there.

I had a long train journey with Baba, Ma and Tun, just like the old times, a month ago when I was in India, and before that, a year ago before I came here to the US. A lot has changed since I was a 5-year-old; yet, when I was on those trains, it felt like nothing had changed. It was the same good-old adda, the same relaxed travel, the same… well, the same.

On second thoughts, maybe it also has something to do with having only the happy memories remaining, with only remembering the joys and pleasures of travel, with the memories of having had perfectly perfect times.

Maybe – it has something to do with being very, very nostalgic.

Yes, there’s something about the Railways.

P.S.: This is a post that I started writing a loooong time back (in fact, after the train journey of one year ago that I talked about, above). Only now was I able to finish it.

My latest long train journey was in AC, so there was no wind on the face, and almost no sound either. It was great anyway.