Report by Badal Tah, Rayagada: During an annual inspection by Sri Umesh Singh, General Manager, East Coast Railway at Rayagada railway station, a memorandum was presented by members of several civil society organisations namely Sri Rakesh Himirika of Odisha Bikalanga Mancha(Forum of persons with disabilities), Rabindra Patakhandala of Odisha Suchana Adhikar Mancha(Forum of RTI Defenders), Ajay Ratha of Rayagada Nagarika Mancha, Gopi Sahu of Private Bus Owners’ Association, N N Padhi of Senior Citizens’ Association, Bidulata Huika of Odisha Adibasi Mancha, Dipak Prusty of Odisha Union of Working Journalists, Jogesh Das of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangha, Sashi Bhusan Hota of X-Ray & Radiology Association, Badal Tah of Society for Fast Justice, Subash Panda of Rayagada Sambadika Sangha, Gobinda Ratha of Rotary Club, Mahesh Mohanty of Chemists & Druggists Association, Siba Narayan Gouda of Zilla Sambadika Sangha, Manak Jain of Marwari Yuba Mancha, Ajay Maharana of Youth Walkers’ Club, Satya Narayana Gantayat, a freelance writer & Columnist from Rayagada Sahitya Sansad.
Several advocates including Additional Public Prosecutor named Rabi Prasad Mohapatra & many Municipal Councillors under the leadership of Dr.Niranjan Buxi-Patro, Vice-Chairperson, Rayagada Municipality were prominent signatories to the memorandum which contained three prime demands. “Though informed by the local railway authorities, we had to wait for almost two hours since 7 AM just to submit a memorandum which reflects the colonial attitude of the railway bosses at higher echelon”, said Prof Dr.Niranjan Buxipatro.
The first demand was to ply a day bound train from Rayagada to state capital Bhubaneswar as there is no such train from Rayagada which has emerged as a strategic business hub and industrial hub over a period of time. The second demand included creation & reservation of jobs for the local youths and the PWDs as Rayagada railways booking counter does not accept even the reservation slip in Odia which has recently got a status of classical language. The third demand entails provision of proper civic amenities like commuting facilities from one platform to the other for PWDs and the senior citizens. For example, Hirakhand Express from Bhubaneswar very often is stationed at platform number-II creating immense difficulties for the aged, sick and PWDs. The third demand also included proper sanitation facilities, proper two-wheeler stand, functioning LED-digital boards indicating the bogie numbers, etc.
Boarded in a special train having all AC bogies and a pantry car, General Manager Singh was followed by a cavalcade of officers like Divisional Railway Manager Smt Chandralekha Mukherjee, Secretary to GM Sri S K Purohit, F & CAO Sri S K Mitra, Chief Operation Manager Sri G C Ray, Chief Personnel Officer Smt Manju Ray, Chief Commercial Manager Sri B P Swain, Chief Electrical Engineer Sri A K Pandey, Chief Track Engineer Sri D R Samsundar, Chief Bridge Engineer Sri D P Lal, Chief Medical Director Dr. K C Sahoo, Chief Mechanical Engineer Anil Kumar Sharma, Chief Transportation Planning Manager H K Dutta, Chief Security Commissioner Atul Pathak, Chief Signal & Telecom Engineer Upendra Sethi, Chief Signal Engineer Abhimanyu Patel, Chief Safety Officer S S Mishra, Chief Material Manager N D Rao & Chief Administrative Officer R B Dubey alongwith scores of supporting staff.
As per the press release, this seemed to be a lightening visit and all the chiefs under the leadership of GM were in a hurry as they had to inspect the entire Rayagada-Vizianagaram-Visakhapatnam section of Waltair Division in a single day. Hence, inspection hardly went on for an hour or so as the team left Rayagada in a hurry to inspect the track in the mid section & interact with the gangmen between Ladda & Jemadeipentha, visit Parvatipuram Railway Station and inaugurate Parvatipuram Adarsh railway Station, major bridge between Bobbili & Donkinivalsa, unmanned railway crossings between Gotlam & Vizianagaram railway stations & interact with the gangmen there. At Vizianagaram he was supposed to check the health unit, OHE depot, route relay interlocking facility thoroughly. He was further supposed to inspect railway colony in Kottavalsa & commission an integrated water supply system.
“Though the major thrust of the inspection was passengers’ amenities, cleanliness, maintenance & safety and station mirror of Rayagada railway station boasts itself as “A” class station, it is hardly a daily affair. The ramps for PWDs were just constructed yesterday. The canteen people were seen with clean dress with gloves & masks only for today. The two wheeler stand is still in shambles. The LED digital lights showing compartment numbers blinked only for today. Same was the case of sanitation. The lavatories in the waiting rooms got a stamp of cleanliness. The information retrieved through RTI Act reveals that signal wires with expiry dates were used extensively in this section leading to a scam of crores of rupees”, said Sri Rabindra Patakhandala, State Convenor of Odisha Suchana Adhikar Mancha.
“Hope the bosses at higher hierarchy in this orchestrated visit will take notice of these anomalies. This is possible when community inspection by the local denizens is dovetailed to this kind of official vigil system; but this seems to be a day dream as the entire district admn & media were kept in dark about this important episode. The Public Relation Officer(PRO), which is a hangover of British rule, intervened while civil society members were interacting with the DRM and in stead, acting as Protection & Rescue Officer. This is a tip of ice berg in the context of relation between the railway staff as public servants and the public at large”, said Smt Bidulata Huika, State Convenor, Odisha Adibasi Manch.
Though the pre-written press release claimed that various representations were made, in fact, this was the only memorandum after the press release in Rayagada. However, as usual, the GM Singh assured that the demands would be looked into & the station would be PWD friendly. DRM Mukherjee said that the work in the two wheeler parking had begun and would be completed within a week.