From A Correspondent
Dibrugarh, Dec 28: An investigation carried out by The Sentinel has brought to light many glaring details about the North East Frontier Railway in general and the recently iugurated Shatabdi Express, in particular. The first such express of Assam that was launched this year amidst much fanfare, and extensively promoted for its safety and comfort, has failed to live up to the expectations, the investigation reveals.
While travelling by the train from Dibrugarh to Guwahati on December 22, the passengers were seen struggling to recline their seats, and were also facing issues with the footrests as they couldn’t move them up and down. Upon being inquired, the supervisor assigned to the C6 compartment attributed the problem to uvailability of spare parts. It must be noted that the journey from Dibrugarh to Guwahati is more than 8 hours long, and in the absence of these basic amenities, the passengers are apparently deprived of the comfort that the Indian Railways promised to offer through Shatabdi Express. The problems aggravated on December 26 in the Guwahati to Dibrugarh Shatabdi Express, as there was no supervisor present in the C5 compartment of the train, and much worse, the food was of sub-standard quality. The evening tea was so unfit for consumption that the passengers returned it the moment they took a sip. The catering department miserably failed to provide quality food – a prerequisite for a comfortable long-distance journey.
The Guwahati Railway Station was also found to be a cause of many inconveniences to the passengers. Apart from the shabby and unscientific condition of the toilets, the station was laden with boisterous coolies or porters who were not just inhospitable to the passengers, but also didn’t wear their badges. They didn’t even follow standard rates for their services, and charged exorbitantly high from the tourists coming from other places. Moreover, many station officials also showed a casual attitude towards their work. During the investigation, it came to our notice that they avoided informing the passengers, despite their contact numbers being present in the reservation forms, if any train was running late and as such, would depart behind time. As a result, the passengers were seen waiting from around 4 a.m. at the Banipur Station on the wintry morning of December 22, whereas the Shatabdi Express departed only at 8:30 a.m. – more than 3 hours after the scheduled departure time. Also, the officials at the Railway Enquiry who were contacted on the night of December 21 to find the expected time of departure of the train seemed completely uware of the timings. Contrary to this, our investigation team easily found out the arrival timings through the mobile application - something indicative of the railway officials’ lack of commitment to their duty.
While it’s true that the present union government is actively pursuing the ‘Act East Policy’, but such dire conditions of the North East Frontier Railways would not help the centre realise its objective. Hundreds of passengers coming to Northeast prefer railways over airways, and such services would certainly disappoint them. Besides, Guwahati being the gateway to the Northeast, its railway station must be given much more attention. As it is the first point of contact for the passengers travelling from other parts, the government wouldn’t want to create a bad impression of the place in their minds.