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How a tweet to @sureshpprabhu @RailMinIndia helped 80-year-old Madhavi Singh

After my earlier experience with tweeting @SushmaSwaraj about a genuine problem faced by an Indian in Berlin and being promptly responded to, I had developed some faith in Social Media as an important tool to seek help from and send feedback to various ministries and govt. departments.

Kudos, hats off, salute, naman, and heartfelt gratitude to the ministers, and officials in various government departments who take SM messages seriously and act promptly and earnestly upon them. They certainly work with a sense of mission in a desensitized society that has institutionalized ‘chalta hai’ and ‘bhagwan bharose’ attitude.

My faith was further strengthened by a recent personal experience of mine.

My sister’s jethani  Smt. Madhavi Singh (80+ in age) was to travel to Howrah by Vibhuti Express (Train no 12334) from Maduwadih, Varanasi, on 13th December 2015 on a ticket with PNR No. 2757605780. She was travelling in the AC coach AB2.  She had not been keeping well and had two personal attendants travelling with her since she needed help to get up and move around.

The train, owing to foggy conditions was inordinately delayed, and my sister, who was to receive her at Howrah Terminus, was concerned that it may arrive at one of those platforms where you have to walk quite a bit before reaching the parking lot.

I have been reading stories on social media about how the Ministry of Railways and the Minister Shri Suresh Prabhu have been promptly responding to the tweets and SM messages and have been helping distressed passengers. The train that was supposed to reach Howrah in the morning was still at Patna Junction around 7.30AM on 14th November 2015. This alarmed me and I decided to tweet to @RailMinIndia @sureshpprabhu. Since the message was long I sent them a series of tweets with all the details about Madhavi Singh including her phone number and the kind of state she was in. I also forwarded the tweets to @drmhowrah.

I was a bit unsure if my tweets would elicit any response, thanks to an Aaptard’s misinformation campaign that the Railways have been indulging in ‘fake’ PR exercises. These Aaptards, the followers of Kejariwal, the crook, are such devious and bastardized scoundrels. They are the scum of Indian politics. They lie blatantly and indulge in skullduggery of all kinds.

It took about 15 to 20 minutes and there it was, a response from @RailMinIndia. It was not just a response , it was some kind of an action taken report. The officials had already tried to contact Madhavi Singh but her number was not responding. This alarmed me and I called up the number immediately. It was picked up by one of her attendants. She had gone to the toilet and the attendant had not responded to the ringing phone. I tweeted back to @RailMinIndia and was asked what kind of help will she need. I told them that she would require wheelchair support at Howrah. I was told that the needful was done and even in the normal course such support was available and the Station Superintendent was supposed to take care of it.

This was very reassuring and pleasant. I told my sister in Kolkata about it who was going to receive Madhavi Singh at Howrah. The train was delayed by more than 12 hours. It reached Howrah around 8 PM instead of 8AM on 14th December. Since I had asked my sister to enquire about the wheel chair support at Howrah station help desk who might have received some message, she made the enquiry. The help desk had no message and they were not even bothered. They asked her to get a Coolie who will get a wheel chair. She called me up and told me about this. It upset me quite a bit.

I began to think that the Aaptard might have been right after all. This idea rankled me the most. I sent some angry tweets tagging  @RailMinIndia @sureshpprabhu and @drmhowrah. These tweets were not responded to. My sister had already organized a wheelchair and a coolie. I had lost faith now. I woke up early in the morning and posted some more angry tweets. The anger was primarily because of my concern for this government. Modi is the last hope of nationalists like me. The idea of the failure of his government is intolerable. That’s why the anger and frustration is greater.

My sister called me from Kolkata early in the morning to inform me that there indeed was a person present there with a cart at Howrah station when the train actually arrived. This was a matter of great satisfaction for me. I promptly went to tweeter, thanked and apologized to  @RailMinIndia @sureshpprabhu  and @drmhowrah and deleted all my angry tweets. The promise made by @RailMinIndia was kept.

This experience of mine also threw up a few important issues: -

  1. @RailMinIndia had stated in one of the tweets that the Station Superintendent is supposed to provide such help in normal course. That was not the case here. The Howrah help desk did not provide any help. It was not even informed.
  2. However all the responses to the tweets came form @RailMinIndia and not from @drmhowrah, who could have confirmed through a tweet that the matter was noted and action would follow.
  3. How could a travelling passenger communicate with the Station Superintendent to get such support? Will it not be a better idea that the Coach attendant and TT take such requests from the passenger and pass it on to the destination station?
  4. Do the Railways have a system in place to deal with such situations? Everyone cannot tweet to @RailMinIndia. There must be other means to convey a specific request. If there is already a system in place, the passengers must be educated and informed of that.
  5. Generally, we don’t find the Station Superintendent (SS) in his seat. At a terminus that’s away from the main one, I have seen locked offices of SS.
  6. Though the officer came with a cart, Smt. Madhavi Singh could not climb on to it. Thanks to my sister having organized a wheelchair with a Coolie, she was able to make it to the parking area.

The big positive take away from this experience is that there are people in the Railways Ministry who are concerned about our tweets and SOS messages. That’s a welcome development and an example of ‘acche din’. The fact that someone out there is listening to us is so reassuring.

However, I feel this should lead to systemic and ‘cultural’ changes that could impact the normal passengers on ground. The help desk and other staff that come in direct contact with people should be chosen carefully after a proper attitude and aptitude test. They must be sensitized and trained to take pleasure in helping passengers and the good performers should be rewarded and awarded to encourage them. Every rail terminus and station should have a mechanism to receive passenger feedback and every railway employee should have an identity badge with his/her name. That will help passengers give the Railways positive as well as negative feedback about the performance of its employees.

Rajesh Kumar Singh