I still maintain that the rail ministry was mishandled all these years. Look at the men and women who were ministers here—Nitish, Laloo, Mamata, Dinesh, Mukul and so on. Did they have the business acumen to handle such a major portfolio? And none of them belonged to the state of Punjab which has set an example for the rest of India. It seems that not raising the railway fares was their only achievement. This is not the way to run the railways. It’s a business, look how the airlines hike their fares day-to-day, some even hour-to-hour. And then the people demand punctuality, safety, comfort, good meals and so on. Thank god I have stepped in, and the situation has improved dramatically.
Mind you, I didn’t have anything to do with my nephew, Vijay Singla, who’s now a temporary guest of the CBI. That boy had business and profit running through his veins. He’d been making some wonderful suggestions to make Indian Railways the best in the world, but I had not paid much attention. You know, there are silly things like conflict of interest which affected our progress. He was always arguing that the only way to make railways profitable was to make it a deluxe service. You know, Laloo, Mamata and co boasted they never raised passenger fares and look at the state of affairs. I made a small beginning and will continue to do so because I have the blessings of Madam and the prime minister.
Vijay often had long chats with me. Everything about the railways must be expensive because that’s what mattered in India, he said. Look at the number of luxury cars now on the roads. People pay thousands of rupees to watch silly IPL matches, making the BCCI richer and richer. The Railway Board’s prestige must also go up. So why not set a price on promotions for entry to the Board? What is Rs 10 crore in India, it’s peanuts. I am proud of the fact that senior railway officials were keen to enter the Railway Board and prepared to pay for it. They now have the right kind of ambition which was lacking earlier.
Mind you, these were all Vijay Singla’s plans...he never told me he was going to implement them. Indeed, we have to look at them from the ‘vision’ point-of-view. If the officer concerned paid Rs 90 lakh to Vijay, it must have been from the national progress point-of-view. As the new Railway Board member (electrical), Mahesh Kumar would have rejuvenated the working of the railways, providing it with some much-needed shocks.
Some of my colleagues are making fun of me—they say it’s time for a new version of the old Bollywood film Mama Bhanja. Let them make fun, but I will have the last laugh. After all, I and Vijay have only kept the flag of Punjab flying.
The Mumbai-based satirist is the creator of ‘Trishanku’; E-mail your secret diarist: vgangadhar70 AT gmail.com