Mahatma Gandhi’s experience in using Indian Railways

I know passengers who fast while they are travelling just in order to lessen the misery of their life in the trains. – Mahatma Gandhi

I have frequently traveled in General class of Indian Railways during my college days. Every time before I board the train I brace myself for a sleepless gruesome night that lies ahead of time. The train fare from Thanjavur to Bangalore in 2010 was ₹105 for general class, around ₹300 on a sleeper class, 3rd AC was around ₹700. The difference between general and 3rd AC is enormous, almost 7 times more than general. This indifference is quite huge. Recently I started reading Gandhiji’s biography, In it, he had described the pathetic condition of railways and the agony of the common man on 3rd class, back then general class in today’s train was referred as third class. It was not possible for me to accept the fact that over 140 years very little progress has been made in the betterment of life of poor. The timeline that we are talking about here is around 1895 to early 1900’s. Gandhiji has traveled the lengths and breaths of our nation on the train and every time he chose the 3rd class. At one instance in the biography, he tells us that, he made the decision to travel in 3rd class to understand the life of a common man in India. This was after his return from South Africa.

In the Madras case the first class fare is over five times as much as the third class fare. Does the third class passenger get one-fifth, even one-tenth, of the comforts of his first class fellow? It is but simple justice to claim that some relative proportion be observed between the cost and comfort. – Gandhiji’

Its pretty sad that we are seeing the same level of indifference even now in 2016. He frequently talked about the cleanliness of cabin and people. He also noted the poor quality of food that was served on stations by vendors. He said,

Is it any wonder that plague has become endemic in India? Any other result is impossible where passengers always leave some dirt where they go and take more on leaving. – Gandhiji’

I strongly believe that lack of education is the reason for the current state. If people are educated well about cleanliness I am sure people will change. It is also very critical for the elders at home to practice cleanliness at home and when they are outside. If a child is thought so much about cleanliness in school the child receives it well and practices that in school but at home if elders and parents are not doing the same the child’s brain will confuse and at some point the child will make a decision on whom to follow, the teacher or the dear ones at home. In my opinion, this will make the child practice everything as taught in school campus only and not necessarily do the same at home.

I still do travel in the train every week and usually, I prefer 3rd AC or sleeper class. Before boarding the train I sometimes take a look at the general compartment. I travel in the busiest route Chennai — Bangalore. The general compartment is always full and unclean. Sleeper Class is not that clean as well. The only benefit of sleeper class is that it is less crowded. I only blame the people who use the facilities according to their own rule. Indian Railways has improved their coaches and the toilets but the people who are using the facility has not improved. People must change!

My Experiments with Truth: An Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi -

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