An open letter to Ananth Kumar, MP, Bengaluru South
Subject – Suburban Rail Service for Bengaluru
I really do not know how to react to the recent press briefing (January 18, 2018) from Railway Minister Shri. Piyush Goyal with yet another announcement on ‘Suburban Rail Service’ for Bengaluru. I am appalled at your endorsement of such announcement with lofty ideas like ‘elevated tracks’, increased FAR etc. Is this announcement any better or unique from previous ones that have been made from time to time? Do you really believe that by this announcement Bengaluru City will be blessed with Suburban Rail Service?
Sir, the reality is, since 2010, every year we see such announcements from Government of Karnataka and Railway ministers promising suburban rail service for Bengaluru city. Except for a few enhancements and couple of new services to Whitefield, the net progress of such announcements has remained absolutely ZERO. There is not an inch of progress except for empty promises and grand announcements.
In case you have forgotten about earlier announcements, here are a few to jog the memories.
With all these grand announcements, did the Bengaluru city get its Suburban Rail Service? You know the answer very well. A BIG NO.
In this background, do you still want us to believe that the recent Railway Minister’s announcement, miraculously Bengaluru would get the Suburban Rail Service? It didn’t happen in last eight years and why do you think this time around it will happen? I am sure you too know what this announcement signifies.
Let’s take a look at this recent announcement from the railway minister. This announcement has anything but the seriousness it requires. This announcement talks about adding more lines, elevated tracks where land is an issue and railway minister wants Karnataka to increase the FAR to 5. If the railway minister was really interested, by now he would have discussed this matter with Chief Minister or his officers to iron out all the hurdles. If he really meant it this time, both railways and GoK would have worked out all the modalities by now and would have announced a date for official inauguration of the Suburban Rail Service or at least a foundation laying ceremony to kick start the project. No such things have been done. The optics at the press conference itself portrays the reality of this announcement. There was no state government representation in that press conference. It was evident that it was a party function and the announcement was just a ritual that we see every year from your side.
Coming to the meat of the recent announcement, for suburban services to start in Bengaluru city, you don’t need elevated tracks or Rs 12,000 crores to start with. To start the initial services, you need some enhancements on railway side. If the railways and the state government is really for this project, it can start within 6-9 months. The fact that eight or more years have passed since the citizen’s have been demanding this project and no results have bore fruit, is a testimony of how hallow the promises and announcements have been.
In 2012, RITES had recommended starting of 24 suburban services within 6-9 months with a very small amount of Rs 200 crores of investment. Instead of starting with some initial services, more new proposals with more fancy ideas are announced. But nothing gets done after those announcements. This cycle gets repeated every year.
Railway Minister says this project needs elevated tracks. It looks very interesting. But the question is does Bengaluru really need it? The emphatic answer is NO. Till date, railways or the railway minister hasn’t answered why the railways in Karnataka particularly in Bengaluru is in pathetic condition. Why have the city’s three stations (City Station, Cantonment and Yeshwantpur) remained saturated since 2010 or earlier? There has been no effort to decongest the station, or its platforms.
The result: at every station, trains arrive and depart late. Railways got about Rs 3.5 acres of Binny Mill Land in 2013 in exchange for land on Okalipuram Junction expansion. The work began only this year, on that Binny Mill Land. You don’t need any additional land to decongest stations. It just needs some tweaks and an overall plan which the railways doesn’t have.
The reality is, South-West Railways has been led by people who don’t seem to have any interest in development of railways in the state. Adding insult to the injury, our elected representatives don’t even care for it barring a few. None of our MPs, MLAs and ministers have shown any interest to take stock of the situation and ask railways to improve the situation. Just look at the participation of city MPs and MLAs in zonal meeting that takes place regularly. Pathetic, to say the least!
Sir, the time for announcements, empty promises has passed long back. It is time to make this project a reality. It is time to start implementing the project now. Instead of scoring political points with state government, it is time to sit with state government and railways to sort out all the hurdles. The reality is, if you and your government were sincere in this project, by now this project would have been a reality. You and your government wouldn’t have been making just announcements, rather would have been inaugurating the new services and routes every six months.
To conclude, let me remind you about the election promise you made in 2014, here. I’m not sure if you still remember it. But we as citizens haven’t forgotten it. Surely 2019 will come and citizens will get another opportunity to evaluate you and your government on the promises that were made. I sincerely hope that you score 100% on your promise for Suburban Rail Service by 2019. Amen.