The Not-So-Smart-City: Varanasi Railway Station
This one picture is an apt portrayal of everything that has went off beam in our railway system, or for that matter, our public realms all together. The picture has been taken at 10 o clock in the morning, platform no. 9 of Varanasi Cantt. Railway Station.
Varansi Cantt. Railway Station boasts of being the largest railway station in Varanasi, a city hailed as the cradle of Hindu faith and represented by the Prime Minister of India in the Lok Sabha (General Assembly) of Indian parliament. The picture presents a sorry state of affairs that our public institutions go through. A long queue of people awaits the train to Mumbai, at the peripheral wall of the railway station, in a bid to claim every inch of the floor space the train has to offer. This struggle to travel is experienced by the vast majority of Indians, who have the railways as the single-most affordable resource for long journeys across the country. The struggle begins right from standing in long queues for as long as 12 hours to get a confirmed berth, and continues with the people having to cope with the poor quality of food, water and sanitation in the trains.
These men have no fear at all. They are willing to put their lives at stake just to get that seat in the train that is approaching swiftly to the platform, on chocked up railway tracks that smell of human excreta.
The government has provided the station with giant LED screens that often play those catchy Bollywood songs at the platforms to keep the crowd of lower middle class Indians occupied. The station has screens to display the schedule of trains, but a long queue of 'not-so -digital Indians' can be spotted continuously on the enquiry counter asking for the schedule.
Who is to blame here?
The people, who do not have the cerebral capacity not to put their lives at stake for a seat, while acting upon their daily struggles in a country having 1.25 billion populace?
Or the government, that has the mission to make the city smart, but does not have the foresight to make the people smart?