Pankaj Sharma / Zee Research Group
The more you change it the more it remains the same! Indian Railways has earned the dubious distinction of topping the list of complaints registered officially against its functioning during the last 12 years.
According to a ZRG study of data tabulated by the Directorate of Public Grievance (DPG) under the Cabinet Secretariat, 16 per cent of total complaints registered against all public service entities during the last 12 years happened to be against the Railways.
DPG works to resolve grievances raised by citizens against Central government departments and organizations. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) monitors the complaints received at the directorate.
The data analysis further revealed that while in all 88,989 complaints were lodged between 1999 and June 2011, the maximum 14,389 were against Railways, followed by 9,247 against state owned telecom companies. State owned banks, Provident Fund Office and public service insurance entities followed with 8787, 6175 and 5782 complaints respectively. Of all the complaints, 24,169 complaints were redressed, 5677 were those where no action was required, while the rest are yet to be re-dressed.
Railways, which are the largest employer in the country, recorded 11.58 per cent growth in freight and 7.8 per cent growth in passenger traffic during 2009-10. The Railways ferries at an average 14 million passengers a day.
Chairman Railway Board, Vinay Mittal refused to comment on the development. Former Railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav (2004-09), who claims to have reformed the Railways into a competitive service company, ducked the query on mounting complaints against the ministry.
Former Railway board chairman JP Batra, however, said that the number of complaints did not reflect poorly on the performance of Railways. He said complaints were seen as customer feedback and acted accordingly. “Feedback from passengers always helps in improving the service. We have faced flak for rude behavior of cleaning staff, ticket collector and inadequate facilities,” he admitted.
Expecting no improvement in functioning of government departments, Prof Sriram Khanna, of Consumer Voice said, “Railways does not care about customer needs. Their attitude towards customer service has been poor and no improvement can be expected in the near future.”
“Training and retraining of Railway employees towards people management is the only way to curb the complaints. However, emphasis needs to be on selecting the right candidates. Ill trained official does a disservice both to the customer as also to the organization,” added Batra, former head, Railway Board.
“Telecom may be second among the number of complaints lodged but state owned MTNL and BSNL have shown improvement in customer services due to competition. They also had to lose tremendous market share due to their casual approach. However such numbers should awaken the government,” Khanna of Consumer Voice added.
Individual services apart, the DPG data study revealed that Uttar Pradesh (UP), Delhi, West Bengal (WB) and Maharashtra registered maximum number of complaints. A record number of 12219 complaints came from UP, followed by 10841 from Delhi, 9582 from WB, and 8150 Maharashtra respectively.