A day after BJP stalwart and former Punjab Cabinet minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal to set right existing trains instead of bringing in bullet trains, state BJP head Shwait Malik said that in Amritsar alone, the Railways was spending “crores” to improve facilities.
Chawla, who is a former MLA from Amritsar Central, and is known for being outspoken, recorded a video message during her journey on the Saryu-Yamuna Express from Amritsar to Ayodhya on December 22, lambasting the Railways for a nine-hour delay of the train, the poor toilet facilities, and ticket examiners unofficially selling seats to passengers at extortionary rates.
In the video, in which she directly addresses the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleague, she says: “I request you to have pity on passengers. We have suffered during last 24 hours. For God’s sake, you must forget bullet train for now. First you concentrate on already running trains. We have made complaints on the mail of Piyush Goyal and called 139 (helpline). But there is no response. Railway Minister should travel like a common passenger to get an idea of the real picture. There are no ‘Acche Din’ in Railways.”
Contacted by The Indian Express, Chawla said she did not want to make any comment as she was still travelling. Northern Railway officials were not available for comment.
Malik, who is a Rajya Sabha MP, said he did not wish to comment on the video. “She is a motherly figure for me, but I wish to point out that in Amritsar alone the Union government under Prime Minister Modi has undertaken development works pertaining to railways for several hundred crores,” he said.
Malik said Amritsar railway station was undergoing a facelift that had been pending for the last two decades.
“The Modi government has spent Rs 200 crore on railways in Amritsar alone. The Modi government has constructed lifts at Amritsar railway station along with two new platforms. No new platform had been added to the Amritsar station after Independence. We have provided free water and WiFi at the station. We have constructed new railway overbridge in Amritsar. The list is long. Congress has done such a damage to the system that it takes time to recover…When pending issues are taken up, there are teething problems, but there is so much that has been done by the Modi government. The interiors of the city, where Chawla resides, are also being connected to the railway station via a bridge which was a long pending demand,” he said.
Rakesh Sharma, an Amritsar BJP leader and close friend of Chawla, who was also travelling on the same train with her, told The Indian Express, that the journey was a nightmare.
“We had started our journey on December 22. There were many problems. The passengers on the train knew Laxmi Kanta Chawla and they started bringing some issues to her notice. Some of them were taunting Chawla for the poor quality of the journey. We saw a corrupt railways official demanding Rs 4500 from a family for issuing them tickets. The train was delayed for more than nine hours. Sanitation was poor. All this made Chawla make an official complaint. The helpline numbers were not working. We made a complaint regarding corruption of TTE via mail. Next morning, Chawla made a video from the train. It was made on my mobile,” Sharma told The Indian Express.
He said railway officials had responded to the video.
“She received a call from some railway official, but she will disclose it only after reaching Amritsar on December 28,” said Sharma.
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