Once Efficient, Indian Railways Has Lost Its Way: Dinesh Trivedi

In an interview with The Quint, Dinesh Trivedi said there is no point politicising matters amid COVID-19 pandemic.

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Hundreds of special ‘shramik’ trains were run for migrant labourers amid the nationwide lockdown. Indian Railways said that about 80 percent of the passengers were from UP and Bihar. However, some unprecedented incidents made headlines. Several trains lost their way, including a train which reached Karnataka instead of going where it was expected to – Bihar.

In an interview with The Quint's Editorial Director Sanjay Pugalia, Rajya Sabha member and former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi said there is no point of politicising matters during the coronavirus pandemic. However, he added, the chain of command in Railways is not the same anymore due to the Centre having absolute control over almost everything.

Why are these unprecedented incidents happening? Why are train journeys taking so long? Why are trains reaching other destinations?

A passenger from Bhagalpur boarded a train on 20 May and reached the destination on 24 May. The journey usually takes two days to complete. How did it take four days to reach? The workers are not getting any food or drink. It is important to get to the bottom of why a train stopped for 12 hours at a station like Mughalsarai. The central government has changed the entire structure of Indian Railways. In the process of corporatisation, they changed all the boards and broke the chain of command. So not only did the trains forget their path, even the Indian Railways has forgotten its ways. Centre has ruined the cadre system in Indian Railways.

Has the state of the Indian Railways deteriorated because of the failed cadre system and broken chain of commands or is there a political game here?

When people were given only 4 hours’ notice after the nationwide lockdown was announced, everyone was asked to stay wherever they are. It was further said that buses can ply but not trains. I had said in March itself that the Railways should not be shut. The government did not think that there are crores of migrant labourers in the country who need to go back to their hometowns. The Centre did not anticipate the migrant crisis and states are being accused. There should not be any political game or any Centre-State blame game at the time of a crisis.

Everyone agrees that there should be no politics at the time of crisis. But has the central government put non-BJP ruled states on the backfoot?

Mistakes happen but there is never any political intention behind the mistakes. Today, the government is running with the policy of NDMA. That is why the states will have to do whatever the Centre says. The Centre has to give orders only, but the states need to implement it. But before giving orders, the Centre also needs to think whether these directives can be carried out or not. You should sit down and talk to everyone. There should be no scope for blame game later.

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