My last minute plan to travel to Secunderabad couple of months back resulted in me searching Indian railways online ticketing system to find any possible train that could land me to Hyderabad’s a result my original search for Saturday ticket landed me without a single ticked from about 6 odd trains, hence i decided on advancing my trip to Friday.
To my surprise i would a train called 'Garib Rath' launched by Sri Sri Lalu even a tatkal ticket with AC 3 Tier cost me just about Rs.700; happy to have confirmed the availability i went about booking the ticket and convey back to my wife.
On first thought my wife and my sis thought what has made me book a poor man’s rich chariot (Garib-Poor, Chariot –Used by kings) train, why travel in a train meant for poor and how can one show that we are poor to get entry into the train. Funny as it a seems i was confronted to answer and analyse the whole issue
Garib Rath is considered to be the brain child of Indian Railways Minister, Lalu Prasad. It’s a fully AC trains with the aim to facilitate the poor undertake train journeys in air conditioned climate. Before analyzing whether these trains can really be afforded by poor we can look into the nomenclature of the trains at first.
As far as my understanding goes about poverty; Poverty deprives people of their security and well-being, Poverty puts people's lives in danger and robs them of their future The very existence of poverty in the 21st century is a scar and blot on our society, the Indian government could not find any other name but chose the name Garib Rath (which means the Poor's Chariot) which is not only insensitive but absolutely outrageous.
Any attempt to rid our society of poverty should be carried out with full dignity and respect for the poor and when the human dignity and respect is missing the anti-poverty program actually works against the poor and adds insult to the injury.
The same thing has actually been done by naming these trains as Garib Rath and it is a matter of shame and surprise that none from the so called intellectuals or social workers community raised voice. But in this case when the government chose to insult the poor of our country, no one cared to write or protest.
There was no dearth of protests or bus burning ceremonies from all quarters when some little know cartoonists at some corner of earth allegedly drew few cartoons on Islam and published them in a newspaper which never ever is read or distributed in India, yet none of the media or people question the minister. It is all fair when a country chooses to insult its own poor and make mockery of them.
The mockery is more clear when one learns the given the fare structure of the Garib Rath, for example, Rs 499 (AC sleeper) between Bangalore and Secunderabad per passenger, a poor man's journey by Garib Rath still seems to be an utopia.
The poor people who can hardly afford to make both ends meet it is indeed un imaginable to think of them travelling in AC coaches. Actually Garib Rath would give much relief to the elite and the middle class of passengers who are already used to travelling in AC bogies.
It is a irresponsible and misconceived idea that the poor would be benefited by the Garib Rath, the poor is actually insulted and made to be laughed at as he can never afford it and mockery is made out of his situation. British Airways brands its economy class as "World Traveller" and that’s the dignity it attaches to its passengers, it had not called it as Backpacker’s Class though the word "Backpacker’s class" is ten times more dignified label than "Garib" or "Dalit".
It is time that we elite people learn to show at least respect to our poor citizens even if we choose not to do anything to help them.As expected my journey to and fro was fine with my wife and sis relieved that there were not even a single Garib soul around us, and the train was surprisingly clean and well maintained where one can hire pillow and bed sheet for a nominal fees of 25 RS.
Though i enjoyed the comfort of the journey my heart still had that sinking feeling in me ,not that i was ashamed but sense of hopelessness i found myself in, considering my thoughts went beyond a plain train travel to understanding mankind and society in general.
Sharanu S Shirol