My notes and musings …

Posts Tagged ‘indian railways

Rule books & passenger guides

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, a group of the Sanghatan’s saathis are planning to go on an exposure tour to the Narmada valley. As part of the logistics for the tour, I was checking on train tickets both online and in the ‘Trains at a Glance’, a passenger guide brought out by the Indian Railways. I found out that farmers travelling to a river valley project can avail a 25% discount. The concession was most probably designed to have people go ga-ga about dams and river projects, and our mission was pretty much the opposite in that we wanted to know how the local communities came together as a Sanghatan and are fighting not just the govt. but an unjust court and a barely perturbed urban population.

In order to get the discount, a certificate from the Block Development Officer (BDO), or the District Magistrate has to be produced before a commercial officer who would then issue an authorization that would allow for concessional tickets to be issued. Most people I talked to said that there was a minimum party size of twenty required for all the discount schemes that farmers could avail. But re-reading the rules in the book and online, I found that that was not the case in this particular category.

Of the eleven saathis in the group travelling to Badwani, seven were from Mishrikh and four from Pisawan. The BDO in the Mishrikh block has changed more than 5 times in the past 3 years. This does not give them sufficient time to realize that they have to work with the Sanghatan rather than oppose or obstruct them. The current BDO was posted in mid June and from what I had heard she was a fairly loud woman who spoke more than she listened. It took me three visits over two days to get this certificate from her office and my experience confirmed what I had heard about her. The BDO in Pisawan is a young man who has been around for more than 4 years now. Over time the Sanghatan has not just become familiar but has also earned his respect and cooperation. So expectedly, getting the necessary certificate from him was just a matter of a few minutes of waiting.

The nearest commercial officer of the railways was located in Lucknow, a good three hours away. The Divisional office of the North East Railways in Lucknow turned out to be a typical govt. office. The concerned person was ‘on leave’, the immediate superior couldn’t care less, the office superintendent told us to wait till the concerned person arrived whenever that would be, and the peons were all united in condemning the babus. After running from one desk to another for a good two hours, we decided to go see the big boss and ask her to get someone to attend to our concession request. Once the big boss ordered that our request be completed before anything else, there were four babus trying to figure out whether there was indeed such a concession and what was needed to be done. The search for the appropriate rule book took almost an hour and to our dismay, it clearly stated that there was a minimum party size of twenty for this category as well. The lesson learnt after a good three days of running around: Passenger guides or websites are not rule books!

Written by Dwiji

Friday, August 15th, 2008 at 10:11

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