The Paharganj S(l)ide
At the Paharganj side of the New Delhi railway station, something doesn’t quite add up. You would have heard the fabled turnaround story of Indian Railways countless times in the last five years but here is where the story falls flat, reports Avishek G Dastidar.Updated: Mar 09, 2009 02:04 IST
At the Paharganj side of the New Delhi railway station, something doesn’t quite add up. You would have heard the fabled turnaround story of Indian Railways countless times in the last five years but here is where the story falls flat.
The scene that greets you is of facilities under pressure from outdated infrastructure, overcharging porters functioning with impunity, cars stuck forever in the circulating area without help and touts on the prowl right under the nose of officials. In all this mess, a pile of discards next to the parking lot seems insignificant.
Good luck wading through this chaos, because if there are signboards and displays meant to guide you, the hapless passenger, then let’s just say that they are not too conspicuous.
This place, supposed to be the face of India’s railway services to tourists, especially during the Commonwealth Games less than a year away, is a nightmare for those who have to catch a train.
“I have missed my train twice because of the confusion in New Delhi. Once I was stuck in a traffic jam right outside the station gate. And once our taxi could not unload the luggage promptly because of the congestion at the station compound. It was hell,” said KD Sharma, a consultant by profession who took the Kalka Shatabdi on Saturday.
The wide Chelmsford road, on which the station is situated, becomes one of the worst examples of bottlenecks once it reaches the station gate at Paharganj.
With a bus stop, two public toilets on both sides, encroached pavements and a spilling-over Paharganj market eating into road-space, the four-lane road resembles a crowded by-lane of Chandni Chowk. If you are stuck in this jam when you have a train to catch shortly, all you can do is pray.
“Such is the congestion that we have had to deploy extra manpower at the Paharganj side. The number of compliance drives there are also more because it is a tough spot,” said SN Srivastava, Joint Commissioner of police (Traffic).
“We have had brainstorming with Traffic police and the civic body to decongest this area. We had suggested making the road one-way. But because it is right in the middle of the city it could not be done,” said a senior railway official not wanting to be named.
This part the Railways concedes. It is the part where problems arise inside the station premises that it is not willing to own up to.
“I have not seen any signage telling me that a wheelchair is available here. Signage for all facilities are needed where passenger movement is the most and not just where the facilities are actually located,” said A.S. Mahajan, a senior citizen from London on way to Punjab. “Where are the signboards to direct me to the May I Help You counter, like they are in all developed countries. Where is the signboard saying platform tickets are not available?”
Long-distance popular trains like Andhra Pradesh Express, the Tamil Nadu Express and others depart from the Paharganj side. Among premium trains, most of the Shatabdi expresses depart from and terminate here. “Ever since four new platforms were added to the station, the pressure on this side has only increased because trains, too, have increased,” said Raju Meena, a registered porter. “So the number of people squatting on the platform, the lobby, staircases and blocking right of way is more now.”
Thanks to this, the other side of the station the Ajmeri Gate side seems like heaven.
“At Paharganj, we have a tremendous space constraint, unlike at Ajmeri gate. We have been using the infrastructure available there to the full,” said Rajiv Saxena, Northern Railway spokesman. “Our May I Help You desks are manned all the time, and facilities available are all widely displayed,” he said.
As for future plans, he said, “We will overhaul of the station by making a World Class station, which will have integrated and expanded facilities for all services, taking the current constraints into account.”