September 25, 2009


KOLKATA,20th SEPTEMBER: First she announced that she would ‘change everything’ about the Indian Railways. Then she, with great fanfare, and at great cost, ‘spend more,’ overtly or otherwise, is after all the neo-liberal economic mantra, ‘flagged off’ train after old-coach-laden tired-looking train, with the loco running staff standing petrified in horrors and apprehensions of various kinds. The Bengal Governor was ‘pleased to be’ present, as always, on every occasion, as were the squads of various central ministers of differing rankings, plus the Trinamuli ‘intellectuals.’

Then, more recently, she did something that would call for, we confess, real courage, if desperation can be equated with courage in these distressing times for her as the web-and-waft of the jockeying for the mayoral positions for the Siliguri Municipal Corporation surely gets her nervy and worse.

She brought out condemned coaches of the various Delhi-Howrah-Delhi trains, had the exteriors painted in horrifically garish ‘psychedelic’ colours -- reminding us of the days when an anarchist ‘hippie’ culture had ruled the roost in capitalist Europe and the US -- and gloatingly passed off such a poor, dilapidated ensemble of a train as the ‘irrepressibly fast’ duronto in Bengali, express train that would run non-stop to and fro Delhi-Howrah, except for fuel stoppages.

The very first run proved a disaster. The creaking coaches would not be moved initially. A new engine was brought in, with no results. An engine of another more popular Delhi-bound train was uncoupled and put to push the ‘irrepressible.’ This time a snail’s pace was observed – only up to the local Dankuni station, an embarrassingly few kilometres away when the worn-out train gave up the ghost.

That yet another engine managed to pull the train staggeringly away in some manner to Delhi, well behind schedule, does not detract from the fact that the chieftain is playing dangerously, recklessly with the lives of passengers, safety be damned, and this was especially evident when one saw that after the third time ‘flag off,’ the train pulled irrepressibly away ignoring a Red signal – or was it a symbolic gesture on the minister’s part?


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