I have been a daily commuter of suburban railways of Kolkata for quite a long time. It is my daily affair to come to the station, buy a ticket, wait for the train for a time that seems infinite, board the train fighting your way in among the hundreds, surviving the physically and mentally enduring journey for half an hour, and again struggle your way out, curse the train authorities, go for work and repeat the same cycle while coming back.
You can spot a number of beggars outside the ticket counters; small children almost pulling your trousers and crying for money. Every time I bought a ticket, I got Rs 3 as change. Seeing the change in my hands, their enthusiasm always got heightened. I could virtually see the excitement in their eyes for getting the money. My sense of guilt didn’t allow me to put the money back to my purse. I gave some to them before rushing back to board the train.
I have noticed something strange in me since the fairs have been revised from Rs 7-10. Now, when I buy a ticket, I don’t get any change back. The children keep crying for money, but my laziness and sense of urgency to catch the train stops me from taking the money out of my purse and give them some.
To my surprise most of the people turned out be as lazy or impatient as me. I don’t see people giving alms near the ticket counter much now-a-days. I have noticed the number of children near the ticket counters reducing. The crowd instead has shifted to the cigarette and pan shops nearby. It was decided that the prices would be increased for the improvement of facilities in the suburban trains and the be kept in multiples of five rupees for convenience to the passengers. I don’t see any significant improvement in the services of Railways. The trains are as unsafe as before and stations remain as dirty as before. Probably the only thing they have achieved is removing beggars from the area around ticket counters, and you can count that as a form of cleanliness isn’t it ?