Saturday, December 23, 2006

A vacation journey
D.Dhanuraj
As Christmas has been nearing, I wanted to be in Cochin to complete some of my works pending. It has been one week in Chennai. I looked at the Indian Railway site for tickets. There is no ticket in any of the trains going to Kerala for next couple of weeks. Then I spent an afternoon searching for the private buses (illegally run) for tickets. They said the same story as in the railway website. Then I tried any ticket to Coimbatore instead to Cochin directly. No way I could expect a ticket. Then I tried with Tamil Nadu state transport. Finally I had to end up with a ticket to Salem in TN state bus. The reasons for the rush are; Holidays and Sabarimala piligirimage. I wondered how much money is pouring into this God's own country from Tamil Nadu only at this fag end of the year. If the former showed the vast contigent of Malayali emigrants in Tamil Nadu ( there are five trains running to Kerala every day including one special train these days), the latter showed how Kerala is ahead in Piligrim tourism.
Then my friends advised me not to go by TN transport buses as it may take more than ten hours from Chennai to Salem. Then I cancelled that precious ticket got ready to take chance in the unreserved compartments of Kovai express to Coimbatore. I went to Chrnnai central station one and half hour prior and interestingly got foreseat in the que. Again there was a rush for the unreserved compartment but luckily I got a birth sharing with a Police woman(she was taking two to produce them in court in Erode) and a business man ( who is on the way for an urgent meeting in Salem) for next seven hours. Again and again I am convinced what a diversity even in a small rail bogey.
Reaching Coimbatore, i went to Coimbatore KSRTC bus stand to get a ticket to Cochin. Thanks to the malayali students in Tamil nadu and Karnataka, I realised that, there is no point in waiting for a bus. I could not understand why do KSRTC keep the reservation to the last fifteen minutes only? Then what is the meaning of reservation? Then I gave Rs 250 to a private bus to complete my trip before night. These private buses again I found are not legaly permitted services. Since there is not enough number of people to bribe the officials and run the private buses taking risk, a few number of influential players makes the money at large. Who is affected? the passengers.......... If KSRTC is not in a position to operate more buses, why don't the Government allow private players to run it legally??
Why does it happen in this fashion everytime? In my last four years frequent travels in India, I have come across the similar situations many times.
I remember Milton Friedmaan writing in his book ' the choose to freedom' about the developmet stages of roads and rail links in US in mid fiftees. Every individual and business firm were given the permission to construct their own rail links and roads in US. Since many ventured into the business, high competition to attaract both business groups and mass to their in built infrastruture helped to reduced the cost of taking private roads. this is in parallel to the boom of low cost airlines and mobile phone industry in India. Now, Indian railway has started priviting the freight movement handled by the private players. I hope this is a beginning in a right direction. if the governement is not in a position to provide the necessary infrastructure( Rs 65, 000 crores is required for next five years), let the private players play a role like in telecom. Why don't we allow the private players to build national highways? Our dream national quadrilateral is progressing like an ostrich. Why? I think we have to think collectively.
By the end of 2007, when I am preparing for another journey, lets hope this arrogant experience is not repeated.

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