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Complaints swamp railway bosses

Aggrieved passengers call up top officials of Northern Railway after their mobile numbers are published in newspapers for passengers to call up and complain about virtually everything, reports Avishek G Dastidar.
Hindustan Times | By Avishek G Dastidar, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 16, 2008 12:09 AM IST

Seven top officers of Northern Railway – the crème de la crème of the organization – suddenly find themselves exposed to a lot of unwanted attention.

According to a new company policy, their mobile numbers have been published in newspapers for aggrieved passengers to call up and complain about virtually everything that is not well with the railways. And they are supposed to be available 24X7.

As a result, a Division Railway Manager (DRM), who is the supreme boss of a rail division like Delhi or Ambala or Lucknow, or even the Senior Deputy General Manager, the Number 2 in the organisation, is deluged with complaints like unavailability of tickets, trains running late or refund of ticket fares, among other issues.

“There was even one lady who wanted to know a short-cut to the station since she was late for the train and the roads were choked with traffic. This is, well, unusual to say the least,” said a senior official on the condition of anonymity.

Since the aam aadmi couldn’t care less about the designation and work schedule of public servants, important meetings were interrupted, grave discussions were paused and matters of high-level policy decisions had to wait throughout Tuesday and across North India as mighty officers said “Hello” with a smile.

Earlier, an irate passenger would have to go through a virtually endless series of red tapes, and deal with a legion of deputies, assistants, and other subordinates to see his complaints reached top-level officials. So for these top executives, this is new.

And they better get used to it because Northern Railway General Manager Shri Prakash wants more “people connect” with his officials. “We have deliberately not published the numbers of any junior officer. This is yet another step towards open governance. Public servants, however senior, must be readily available to the public,” Shri Prakash told the Hindustan Times. “If you see anything wrong with our services, just call the senior officers in your area from the spot and action will be taken,” he said.

Knowing that the top boss endorses the new policy, officials are making an effort to adapt. “I am sure we will learn a lot about our ground situations from direct customer feedback,” said an official.

Now, Northern Railway has decided to also come up with a central helpline so that grievances can be attended to immediately, Prakash said.

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