Safety Cess on Train Fare
There was a time when the Indian Railways always had a surplus budget. But of late it has decided to be fashioble by having a deficit most of the time. In the past, the Indian Railways could have never thought of making the public pay a special cess for safety. Safety was something that the Railways was expected to guarantee within the fare that one paid for train journeys. And safety was indeed the norm on train travel. Train accidents were almost unknown. There were practically no engineering lapses that could cause accidents. Things have changed very drastically in recent years. The extension of the railway network has been carried out with remarkable speed. But the quality of work not being the same, there has been a very pronounced tendency to cut corners here and there on the quality of equipment used. And since railway services can be only as efficient and swift as the tracks permit, a great deal of train safety would have to depend on the tracks. Lately, one has begun to notice the odd substandard railway sleeper or learn about bits of defective railway tracks that have caused train accidents and the resultant loss of lives. And rather than introducing stringent quality checks on the laying of tracks, the Indian Railways are proposing to introduce a safety cess on train tickets that will rake in about Rs 1.20 lakh crore. However, calling this a safety cess could be ill advised because one could always ask whether the Indian Railways had ignored passenger safety in the past, since it had levied no such cess.