Lalu’s budget welcome but what about safety, ask passengersFebruary 26th, 2008 - 5:10 pm ICT by admin
New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) Concerns about safety and cleanliness, not to mention good food, persist. But Railway Minister Lalu Prasad’s budget giving concessions to women senior citizens and women students were widely welcomed Tuesday. Among the highlights of the budget are 50 percent concession on tickets for senior women citizens and AIDS patients, free season tickets for women students up to graduate level, increased concession for undergraduate students and green toilets in 36,000 coaches. Besides, the minister introduced Garib Raths and announced fare concessions.
In the AC First Class, there will be a cut in passenger fare by seven percent, in AC two-tier by four percent, in AC three-tier by two percent and in sleeper fares by five percent.
While most are calling it a “women-friendly” budget, many are concerned about safety issues — the very factor that discourages many women from travelling alone in trains.
Ayesha Sen Chowdhury, a lawyer in New Delhi, said she was happy at all the concessions bestowed upon women travellers but doubted that many would avail of the offers unless security was looked at with utmost importance.
“If concessions and benefits are meant to add benefit to women travellers or encourage them to use trains, then their concern of security should be equally addressed,” Sen Chowdhury told IANS.
“There have been so many cases of sexual harassment in trains… in recent times there were two cases of molestation in the women’s compartment of a Mumbai local train. Safety is a major concern for women. Unless that is addressed, these concessions will not make much sense,” she said.
Social researcher Santosh Kumar Patra said it was a good step to give concessions to senior women citizens and AIDS patients. “But what about security arrangements?” he asked.
“There are so many cases of theft, molestation and throwing passengers from running trains. The minister needs to address it with more efficiency.”
Patra said he would like to see better food and cleanliness. “Let’s see how long the government takes to introduce waste free green toilets.”
Referring to the introduction of 10 fully air-conditioned Garib Raths, Pragya Vats of ActionAid, an international development agency, said the move would make train travel affordable for millions.
“This is indeed good news. Introduction of more Garib Raths and the cut in fares by five percent across the board will go on to make train travel affordable by all,” she said.
Ram Chandra Tokas, a regular train traveller, was appreciative of the fare cuts.
“I see the budget as a good people friendly budget. The cut in passenger fares will certainly help tens of thousands of travellers. I think, a cut in First AC tickets will give competition to low cost airlines,” Tokas added.
Students in particular were happy.
Kasturi Sharma, a second year student at Delhi University, said: “I go home, in Assam, every six months. The concessions for girl students are a boon.”
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