The great Kolkata Metro ride
India’s first city to get metro services. More than three decades back. Calcutta boasted of being the only city in India to have the metro service,until a few years ago when Delhi joined the club. I have been living in the city for 5 years and so cannot comment on the state of services before 2005 but over the last five years i have seen how metro services have come spiraling down. For the last two years i have not been a daily metro passenger (and thank God for that), but the occasional rides proved to be nightmarish. So i would like to share with you all my experiences of the great Kolkata Metro ride 🙂
When i came to Kolkata, i put up at my Pishi’s place in Jadavpur. My college was in Central Kolkata. “Commuting from south to central daily on a bus would be a harrowing experience, take the metro from Tollygunj” was the warning sounded by my Pishemoshai. And so i obliged. A 10 minute auto ride from 8B bus stand (which was an experience unto itself) would take me to Tollygunj metro station, where i would take the metro to Central. Later when i shifted to Triangular park the station changed. I boarded at Kalighat.
There was a specific pillar on the platform which i earmarked and used to wait there everyday for the metro(it was where the door of the second metro compartment used to open). Waiting there i used to enjoy the various ads, telefilms,songs they used to play on Incoda TV. I remember missing 3 trains one day for they were showing Rahman sir’s songs 🙂
Barring the first year (when Bham used to miss college for his “WBJEE” preparations) we used to board the same metro. Whenever we started from home for the metro station we used to text each other and after reaching the metro station (he boarded from tollygunj) Bham used to text me the time when the train would start from there, accordingly i would board the train from Kalighat! I will never forget those ” 9.55AM first compart first door” sms’s 🙂 And the return triip used to be equal fun. Linz, Uttam, Sumitash, Bham and me would walk together upto Central. Uttam used to take the Dumdum metro and us tollygunj. It was masti galore on the platform. We played hide and seek, Choyachuyi, commented on horrible fashion faux-pass, funny looking people and of course the lack of AC. Trains hardly ran on schedule (that never bothered us because we got more time to spend together).
The sanity of the metro authorities came under question when they decided to start ladies’ coaches! It was such a foolish decision. That trial week was nothing short of mayhem and chaos! Ladies compartments ran empty while there was no breathing space in general compartments. Within a week, authorities repealed their decision. To add to the woes, the Ac’s in the trains did not work, neither on the platform. Ticket punching machines refused to work, despite the presence of more than 5 ticket counters only 2 worked resulting in huge queues. These problems only aggravated of late.
After Ms. Bannerjee adorned the chair of Union Minister of railways she also added to the woes of the Kolkata Metro! Her predecessor had refused to give a go ahead to the Metro Extension project( Lalu always adopted a step motherly attitude towards Bengal and intentionally held up projects for this state’s benefit). People of Calcutta waited for their rightful turn. And when Mamata was given the mandate to fulfill our dreams (which 36 MP’s of CPIM could not do in five years) she was in a hurry to make her manifesto a reality. Her hurry cost Kolkata Metro her identity as a customer friendly carrier.
On August 24 2009 Mamata Bannerjee, Union Minister of Railways, inaugurated the extended metro track. There were no new rakes. Increased route length meant more passengers, but she did not have new trains. Result : Metro runs brimful, people suffocate inside and lack of AC makes their journey even more perilous. Long queues at ticket counters reach almost the roads, train schedule runs haywire! Almost all stations have malfunctioning ticket punching machines. Plus there are no fire fighting equipments at the new metro stations. The trains tend to slip backwards at an elevation on the tracks between Kudghat and Tollygunj stations.
The rate of suicides on metro tracks is on the increase. This has been a problem for Kolkata Metro since eternity. No solution seems to be emerging. Everyday metro commuters suffer because of suicide in some part of Kolkata. Even the security checks while entering the metro stations are a sham! They hardly check. And the police is clearly biased. they selectively harass the sections of religious minorities who were signs that give away their religious beliefs.
Last year I was at Delhi for 2 months. The kind of arrangements there and the services really made me envious of Delhi Metro! Albeit Calcutta metro is 3 decades old. But had there been proper maintenance we could have beat Delhi hands down any day! And now that we have a friendly government at the center we can truly scale heights.
Wish our Railways Minister is listening. We need the zeal and the will to restore Kolkata metro to its original glory.