Pros and cons of Indian Railway

The first railway line in India was opened for public use on 16 April, 1853 between Mumbai and Thane over a distance of 34 km. Further extended to Kalyan on 1 may, 1854 and to Khopoli on 12 May, 1856. Today Indian railway system is the main artery of the country's inland transport. Railway form the life line of the country, its contribution to economic growth and integration of nation is so much that it could be called as the backbone of surface transport system in India.
Running 55,000 coaches of 10,000 trains daily, all over the country, the Indian railway provide the cheapest and most convenient mode of passenger transport both for long distance and suburban traffic. The phenomenal growth of Indian railways has taken place in the post independence era. At present, India has the second largest railway network in Asia and fourth largest in the world after USA, Russia and China. But India tops the worlds leading countries with regard to passenger/ km carried. December 2012 transported over 25 million passengers daily (over 9 billion on annual basis). In 2011, Indian railway carried over 8,900 million passengers, annually more than 24 million passengers daily.

It is the largest public sector undertaking of the country comprising a vast network of 7,500 stations spread over a route length of 65,000 km with a fleet of 9,231 locomotives, 59,713 passengers coaches and 2,29,381 wagons as on 31 march 2012. About 22,224 km or 34% of the route-km was electrified as on 31 march 2012. A huge army of over 1.4 million employees are ceaselessly active in running and maintaining the railways, making it the largest employer of man power in India. Indian railways are always functioning, be it day or night, winter or summer, peace or war, flood or famine, fair weather or foul. According to D R Khullar 'to think of India without the railways conjures the bleak vision of a nation that is stagnant and immobile'.

Statistics describe all the glory and progress of Indian railway, both quantitatively and qualitatively, during the last few years, but this system is still plagued by number of problems which require immediate attention. A lot has been done, but a lot more is yet to be done. Some of the major problems are:

Safety Indian railways have been in the news albeit for wrong reasons. Compared to other countries, the frequency of train accidents in our country are much, this is because of outdated technology and poor condition of tracks. Nearly 25 percent of the total railway tracks in India are over aged and is due for replacement.

Slowdown in Revenue Growth The railways are increasingly becoming a transporter of bulk commodities for public sector and are consistently loosing to roadways. Most of the national highways run parallel to railways and are consistently snatching revenues from the railways.

Manual Scavenging  Railway tracks of India are everyday receiving human excreta from 1,72,000 open toilets. After the orders of supreme court on 2005, to prepare a time bound scheme for the total eradication of manual scavenging. In this green initiative, were proposed the introduction of bio-toilets (by 2019 all coaches will be installed with bio toilets) to replace the existing direct discharge toilets.

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