Around one lakh commuters,who travel daily by jammed local trains during peak hours,have nothing but disappointment from the railway budget presented by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in Parliament today. Commuter organisations,which have been for two decades now chasing the railways for increasing frequency of the Pune-Lonavala local trains are left fuming. Commuters say it is no use having four members of Parliament (MPs) representing Pune district.
Since 1989,we have petitioned the Central Railways Pune office,Mumbai office and the Union Railway Minister many times. Several meetings have been held with the Central Railway officials. We have tried to impress upon them the need to start additional local train service to cater to the needs of growing commuter populations. The railway officials promise that they would forward the petitions and feelings of Pune commuters to the Union Railway Ministry. This has been going on for years,but nothing is happening, said Gulam Ali Bhaldar,president of the Chinchwad Pravasi Sangh. Bhaldar said the actual reason behind the raw deal given by railways,year after year,to Pune local commuters is the fact that there is nobody who could take up the issue in all seriousness with the Union Railway Ministry. We had two MPs from Pune all these years. They did nothing. Now we have four MPs, he said. Bhaldar said his organisation would now hold protests and also carry out a signature campaign to press their demand.
Incidentally,last month newly-elected Shirur MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil and Maval MP Gajanan Babar told this paper that they would raise the local train issue in the Lok Sabha and also with the Railway Minister. Babar in fact said he had already forwarded the demands of Pune commuter to the railway ministry.
Harsha Shah,president of Pravasi Sangh,said, Local trains ? Do the railways officials in Delhi know that there is something called Pune-Lonavala local service that has been running in Pune for three decades. If they had known,they wouldnt have been so apathetic towards the plight of the railway commuters.
Sarang Kamthekar,district deputy chief of the Shiv Sena,who had forwarded the list of demands on behalf of his party and Babar to the railways,said they were mighty disappointed with the railway budget. We had sought increase in frequency of local trains and also additional rakes which has been the long pending demand of the city commuters. Since nothing has been done by the railway,our party MPs will now raise the issues in Lok Sabha and personally meet the Railway Minister to highlight the issue, he said. Kamthekar said their demand for a direct train to Jaipur and Jodhpur also has been ignored by the ministry. Considering the number of people from Rajasthan living in Pune,a direct train to Jaipur and Jodhpur is a must. Otherwise,people from this state have to change a number of trains before they reach their destination, he said.
If organisations are angry with the railway budget,commuters are equally seething. I have been travelling by local trains since my college days. There is no change in the number of trains that ply between Pune and Lonavala though the commuter population has gone up manifold, said T Ravindran,a resident of Sangvi. If you travel in the morning and evening hours,you will notice how difficult it is to travel by a local train. Several commuters hang on to footboard and in the process risk their lives. But is anybody bothered? asks Ajay Raut,a resident of Chinchwad.