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Type of Debate:               BUDGET (RAILWAYS)

Title:      Combined discussion on the Resolution regarding 3rd Report of the Railway Convention Committee; Budget (Railways) 2013-14; Demands for Grants in respect of Budget (Railways) 2013-14; Supplementary Demands for Grants in respect of Budget (Railways) 2012-13 and Demands for Excess Grants in respect of Budget (Railways) for 2010-11 (Discussion not concluded).

Date:     11-03-2013

Thank you Mr. Chairman Sir, for giving me this opportunity to speak on the General Discussion on the Railway Budget.

At the outset, I would like to congratulate the hon. Railway Minister, Bansalji, who has recently taken over the charge. Under the circumstances, he has given a very balanced Rail Budget; and I want to congratulate him for that.  I hope and I   am confident that under the leader of Bansalji, the Railways will enter into a new era of development.

          Sir, since I represent the people of Mumbai, I want to begin by associating myself with what my colleague, Sanjay Nirupamji earlier spoke because we share the same problems in the constituency.  But beyond that, I would like to start my submission by highlighting the problems faced by the Mumbaikars.  We all constantly use the phrase that ‘the Railways is  the lifeline of the Mumbaikars.’  Of the total railway commuters in the country, almost 50 per cent, that is, 60 lakh commuters, use suburban railway services in Mumbai. It is due to its extensive reach, obviously.

          The Mumbai suburban railways  suffers from severe overcrowdings.  Over 4,500 passengers are packed into 9-car rake during the peak hours as against the normal carrying capacity of 1,700 passengers only.  Now, this has resulted in overcrowding; and it is one of the biggest causes of accidents. It has resulted in what is known as the Super-Dense Crush Load of 14 to 16 standing passengers per square metre of floor space.

          Now, obviously, this results in deaths of many commuters. Some passengers fall off the overcrowding carriages. This is one reason.  When we talk about trying to have doors in the railways, I do not think that would work because this is the only way of commuting for the people of Mumbai.   They  hang out from the doors, somehow travel on the roof.  People even fall off into the tracks while getting into the compartments. This is a very big issue, which needs to be addressed.

          I also want to say that the hon. Railway Minister has taken into consideration all these factors; and it is the first time where a Minister has actually looked into the basic amenities, facilities and safety of the passengers.

          The second issue is about the passenger amenities. During the peak hours, in most of the suburban railway stations, there is a stampede like situation because most of the foot-over-bridges are so narrow and the crowds are so tremendous that people mostly cross the tracks to reach to the other side and thus again causing deaths amongst the commuters.

          There  basic facilities and amenities  need to be improved in the stations. The number one being toilets for women and I say this over and over again whenever a Railway Budget is presented that there should be clean toilets and clean drinking water for women, who have become one of the largest commuters now,  many travelling to work and back or travelling to college and back. So, this becomes a very important thing. There is an urgent need to upgrade passenger facilities, particularly in the suburban stations. I know the Railways have taken up a few projects in Mumbai to revamp railway stations. But what happens once the station is revamped? Nothing has been done about the approach to the station. So, to develop the area, developing in and around the station is very important and if a PPP model also can be used for that purpose, that would be very welcome.

          Elderly citizens are facing huge problem in alighting the trains or catching the trains in the suburban routes. There is no place. There is pushing. Therefore, a separate compartment for the senior citizens, I think, is very, very important. In regard to provisions for escalators and ramps, which the hon. Minister has taken care of, what has already been done is a big  relief  for women, for senior citizens and the disabled, which will help them tremendously.

          There are hardly any amenities in smaller stations. So, I request the hon. Minister through you to look into these issues, especially of foot-over-bridges. Another very important issue is about the slums on railway property and this has been taken up with the Ministry as well as with the Prime Minister for rehabilitation of slums on Central Government lands. This includes the Railways. I would request the Railway Minister to please take cognizance of this because we do not even get NOC from the Railways to provide them basic amenities like water, toilets and drainage. You  call them illegal encroachers but they are Indian citizens first and I think it is the right for every citizen to have the basic amenities to be given to them. Therefore, I request the hon. Minister to ensure that NOCs  to provide them with these amenities are given on an immediate basis.  We also need a comprehensive policy on this.

          Another issue is the women’s safety. That is the most important issue and I had put this forward to the Ministry as well. When you speak to a woman and you ask her, what is the most vulnerable time of the day you feel unsafe, she says when I am coming back from work. When I come back in the evening or in the night from work in a train, I feel most vulnerable. I spoke to many young girls and they say we only put on our walkman and we walk with our heads down because there are eve teasers standing there; there are criminal kind of people standing there but we have nobody to go to. We do not feel a sense of security. The hon. Minister has said that he is going to recruit more women in the Railway Police and we welcome that. … (Interruptions)

MR. CHAIRMAN :  No interruption, please.

SHRIMATI PRIYA DUTT : We require more. We require these women, especially in the ladies compartments when women travel alone at night. So, I request the Railway Minister to please take note of this.