The original patron saint of the aam admi, now in her incarnation as Union Minister of Railways, was supposed to pick up her predecessor Lalu Yadav’s legacy and go ‘coo-jhuj-jhuk’ with it. Well, in a way Mamata Banerjee has, as she followed up on her promise made in her Railway Budget speech earlier this year and unveiled the new ‘Duronto’ trains earlier this month. Literally Bengali for ‘furious’ — in the sense of ‘the fast and the furious’ — the trains are supposed to be faster than the Rajdhani Express. The problem is that some thinking about passenger comfort has been sacrificed under the rails by the return of the dreaded ‘third side-berth’.
For those unfamiliar with this horrible feature that was discontinued, Ms Banerjee’s insistence on re-introducing the three berths where there were two on the side of the train compartment — as opposed to the three-plus-three in the more ‘room-like’ space on the other side of the aisle — is akin to fitting another seat in the existing space between the window and the middle seat of a plane. Just to make it that much more attractive to the more humble passenger, the economy class of a ‘Duronto’ train ticket is Rs 55 cheaper than that of a normal AC three-tier that doesn’t have any third side-berth. Woe be the unlucky passengers who got the shorter straws and have to spend a night on these truncated side-berths.
The other meaning for ‘duronto’ is naughty. While Ms Banerjee’s intentions seem to have been good, she may have just invited a bit too much in too little a space. Some passengers do think she’s been quite ‘duronto’ actually.