The cockroaches supposedly put inside meals during train journeys by CPI(M) ‘insurgents’, as Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee would have us believe, aren’t the only ones trying to destroy the reputation of the venerable Indian Railways. If any of you saw the photograph that was carried on the front page of this paper on Sunday, it’d become clear that one main culprit for the state of Indian Railways has to be its biggest victim: the Indian passenger.
The photograph of the train on its way to a town near Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, was so startling that you had to really strain your eyes to look for the train. But then, it was that startling for most of us, was it? The teeming bodies clutching, hanging, piling, reaching are all too familiar sights if you stand on a small town platform during the time of a festival, as the case with this train and its (overbooked or without tickets?) passengers were. Our point is: festival or no festival, by any stretch of imagination, all the passengers scrambling on to the top and the sides of this train are posing a major hazard to themselves and the train. It would be ridiculous to tut-tut this away as a ‘We are like this only’ situation.
The image of the train and its piled up human cargo remind us of those sepia-tinted photographs of people scrambling to cross into two new countries during the Partition of 1947. In 2010, it’s no longer a sweet image of the ‘chaotic India’ that all of us and foreign photographers can chuckle and gawk at. It’s a downright shame that we have the toys but don’t know how to ‘play’ with them — especially when it comes to our own safety.