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India on the move

Indians are on the move. And they are goaded by several factors, including urbanisation, regional economic disparities and higher purchasing power among some sections. Srinand Jha reports.

india Updated: Jul 03, 2009 00:41 IST
Srinand Jha

Indians are on the move. And they are goaded by several factors, including urbanisation, regional economic disparities and higher purchasing power among some sections.

Three decades ago, train travel had been an annual occurrence for an average Indian family — undertaken mostly for purposes of pilgrimage or for meeting social obligations.

That scenario has been virtually turned on its head. Approximately 1.5 crore passengers are today ferried across the lengths and breadths of the country by the 8,984 passenger trains that criss-cross the country each day.

Of these, 604 new trains have been introduced in the last five years alone. But the clamour for more has not subsided.

“Today, the whole of India seems to be on the move and I visualise the demands will multiply manifold in coming years,” said Satish Vaish, former chairman, Railway Board (CRB).

Punjab-bound trains, which fetch farm labour from Bihar have remained packed. Students from UP, Bihar and Rajasthan are travelling more to centres, including Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.

Movement of passenger traffic from the northeastern states has been the maximum ever — up from 53.95 million ticket bookings in 2008 to 76.82 million in 2009 — a variation as high as 42.39 per cent.

“This is because of increased rail infrastructure, including the conversion of approximately 2,000 km of rail line from metre gauge to broad gauge in the region in past years”, ex-CRB Ashok Bhatnagar said.

“Urbanisation, growth in trade and business opportunities and increased purchasing power are among factors contributing to the increased mobility of Indians,” sociologist Imtiaz Ahmed said.

In the past three decades, urban population in India has nearly doubled. In 1971, there were 22 people in cities for every 100 in the countryside. In 2001, the ratio was 38:100. Ostensibly, this trend is caused by large-scale migration from rural areas.

The urban sector’s contribution to India’s GDP has increased from 29 per cent in 1950-51 to 47 per cent in 1980-81 to 63% in 2007-08. The 11th Plan document estimates that the urban sector share in the GDP will increase to 75% in 2021

Today’s generation of Indians are also opting for greater comfort in travel. Between 2007-08 and 2008-09, the highest growth (23.39%) was logged by the 3A category, followed closely (22.64%) by the IA category.