Taking to the fast-track in Andhra Pradesh
Hiring trucks or helicopters to ferry supporters to rallies is passe. Parties and leaders in Andhra Pradesh are now hiring trains to make their rallies a success. The liberalisation of the railways’ policy is proving to be a great success for both.
“The novelty of helicopters is gone. You can take your people on a free trip on a train for a fraction of the cost of hiring a helicopter,” says M.V. Mysoora Reddy. He hired a train to carry over 5,000 people from his constituency, Kamalapuram, to Hyderabad, a distance of 450 km, when he quit the Congress to join the Telugu Desam (TDP) last month.
The ruling TDP started the trend. For last month’s mega “Vijayabheri” meeting in Hyderabad, the party hired 24 trains to transport people from different parts of the state. The bill was Rs 1.2 crore.
The Congress and its ally, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, too have climbed on to the bandwagon. Congress leaders from the coastal districts hired five trains to bring people for Sonia Gandhi’s meeting at Vijayawada last Friday.
“Trains are the most cost-effective way of carrying people and that too in comfort,” says a Congress leader. He says many villagers were travelling on a train for the first time and they enjoyed the experience.
Booking a train is now as easy as buying a ticket. It can be done by either through the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) or the railways directly. IRCTC cannot organise trains at short notice, so politicians usually apply directly to the railway authorities and use their clout to get a booking.
“The demand for trains is outstripping supply. This is peak time, when the railways run summer specials to meet passenger rush. So sparing trains is becoming difficult,” says Nandoori Srinivas, regional manager, IRCTC.
While the politicians are happy, the people are suffering considerable inconvenience. The 24 specials for the TDP Vijayabheri, for example, delayed many trains.