Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Of Arnab Goswami and the Railways Budget

The ever sanctimonious Arnab Goswami of Times Now can chalk up yet another dubious distinction: his on-air bullying of Dinesh Trivedi made the hapless Railways Minister an object of sympathy.

Shortly after presenting the Railway Budget to Parliament, Trivedi found himself under public attack by  that virago of empty populism, Mamata Bannerji, chief of the Trinamool Congress, his party.

It was an awkward situation to be in, but Trivedi soldiered on, appearing at a bruising Press Conference and on all the news shows to answer questions about why fares had to go up minimally after being frozen nine years.

He appeared on Times Now for more of the same but found himself confronted by Goswami in his familiar pose of Grand Inquisitor for "The Country!" Goswami expressed no curiosity about the budget; he focused entirely on Trivedi's political discomfiture as if it were a high matter of State.

When Trivedi refused to comment, Goswami got ugly mean. He clearly wanted Trivedi to leave in a huff, and once even suggested it. You could almost see him preparing to let loose with his favorite cry of "SHAME!" as his guest took off his ear piece -- but it was not to be. Trivedi stayed put and was let go at long last while an anonymous crawler writer had a final dig. 

And now for something completely different  ....

Trivedi merits no sympathy. He's made a hash of the Railway Budget, hiking fares paid by the poorest people substantially more in percentage terms than those for the higher classes.

And as all his predecessors have done, he presented an unimaginative, bureaucratic budget for a system that brings to life the great romance that is India.

With a little imagination, the system he presides over could be a gold mine instead of a perpetual drain on the taxpayer. It could be brought up to Swiss standards of cleanliness and performance using nothing but its own revenues.


By developing railway stations as retail hubs.

The larger metropolitan stations could easily have malls built on the real estate they own. They could have hotels, fine restaurants, recreation areas and communications centers.

Oh yes, and all of them could have lavish toilet and bathroom facilities built and maintained to world class standards.
 There could be a brand new line of Dining Coaches offering quality cuisine.

All of this revenue producing business SHOULD be franchised out, with contracts having a proviso for automatic cancellation if maintenance standards drop.

Such development of Railways property would produce a massive flow of perennial revenue. It would create millions of private sector jobs spread around the country and be a substantial bump up for tourism.

Why, I can foresee a day when the presentation of the Railway Budget will be newsworthy more for the announcement of exciting holiday packages rather than for fare increases.  

No comments: