Artistes, poets, singers, clerics and retired bureaucrats — personalities who have nothing to do with the Railways, except they comprise Mamata Banerjee’s newly constituted Passenger Amenities Committee.
Painter Shuva Prasanna heads the team. Members include a retired police officer, a singer, a former MP and a shahi imam.
Apart from membership of this committee, they have one more thing in common — they are all from West Bengal.
So, does this “all Bengal” club serve as parking space for the minister’s loyalists?
“It is wrong to say artists have no relevance as railway committee members. By that logic, Manmohan Singh (an economist) should not be PM,” said Prasanna.
Banerjee has an equally diverse Passenger Services Committee — quiz master Derek O'Brien is head while members include former MPs and a retired IG.
Some in her ministry don’t share her confidence in the people she’s chosen. “These people are at sea about commercial and technical aspects of the Railways,” said one on condition of anonymity.
O’Brien disagreed lack of specialization was a problem. “Our job is to expand on the consumer experience without getting into technicalities.”
Some ideas floated by the committees: uniformed “train hostesses”, food on trolleys, free magazines and papers.