Namma Railu - The Citizen's advocacy campaign, it all started here 5 Years ago with that famous 'Praja Train Day'. It was May 8th, 2010 to be the precise day. That one train ride completely changed the lives of many of the Praja members and advocacy campaigns that Praja members have undertaken. Today after 5 years into, I can only say it is the case of 'Glass half full or half empty'.
In these 5 years, the exepreince was, at times very hopeful, exiting, thrilling and at times most frustrating, all in all everything one can hope for in advocacy campaigns. In these 5 yrs, Namma Railu team has met scores of Urban Planners, Babus, Ministers at state and center, Railway Ministers, railway officials, Politicians, MLAs, MPs, Part Workers and most importantly scores of ordinary citizens across Bengaluru and surrounding towns whose lives are going to be touched by this project. Only 2 people have not been met today - The Chief Minister of Karnataka and Prime minister of India. It is not that we didn't tried, even after repeated request we were not granted the opportunity to meet them.
So far most noteworthy accomplishments of this advocacy campaign is,
- GOK agreed with Namma Railu Proposal and entrusted DULT for preparing feasibility Report in 2011.
- RITES submitted its Technical Feasibility report to DULT in July 2012 which endorsed the PRAJA proposal on this.
- In 2013 March, the then CM Jagadish Shettar gave the in-principle approval but had to be kept in abeyance due to 2013 state election code.
- In July 2013, the new Congress govt gave its approval to Phase-1A and issued a gazette notification to that effect.
- In Nov, 2013 finally after Praja's persistent follow ups and pressure, GOK sent the formal proposal to Railways for their approval.
- RITES has submitted it DPR for Phase-1A to DULT. A meeting is being scheduled next week to discuss this report.
The current status unfortunately is Railways is sitting pretty on it. It has neither given its approval nor rejected it. This has given the perfect alibi for the state government government to do nothing.
There are many sweet and sour moments in this campaign, which I will leave to my esteem NR team members to share.
A brief synopsis of that May 8, 2010 train ride to Hosur
In the summer of 2010, Praja-RAAG (Research, Analysis and Advocacy Group) team members decided to hold their monthly Praja meet on the newly introduced commuter rail service train running between Yeshwantpur and Hosur. That train ride on May 8th, 2010 later turned to be a revelation and opened up a new chapter in advocacy campaign for Commuter Rail Service in Bengaluru. This is how Praja-RAAG founder, Mr. Pranav Jha describes that train ride experience:
“…On the morning of May 8, 2010, Five of us – Muralidhar Rao, Pranav Jha, Manjari, Naveen and Satya – traveled on local commuter train to Hosur to experience firsthand the feasibility of the Commuter Rail System (CRS). Ah! Ufff!. What an eye opener. Easily, the best Praja meeting of all. I am so lost for words here. So would be IDS, Murali, Naveen and Manjari you bet…”
“But all in all, after watching clean and empty train, and nice little stations, all so close from the busy corridors and suburbs of Bangalore, we were wondering why this magnificent option was underutilized while we all debate public transportation.”
Though the discussion on using trains for daily commute was going on since 2008, this ride experience suddenly brought the new energy and ideas to pursue further for commuter rail service in Bengaluru.
The ride was then followed by the meeting with the then Government Of Karnataka’s Infrastructure Development Department (IDD) Chief, Principal Secretary, Mr. V. Madhu. Meeting with Mr. Madhu proved to be a challenge thrown at Praja-RAAG to come up with a formal proposal for CRS in Bengaluru. The challenge was accepted and a formal project nicknamed ‘Namma Railu’ was initiated by the Praja-RAAG members, Sathya Sankaran, Capt. Naveen Chandra, Sanjeev Dyamannavar and myself. The team then authored the formal proposal titled “Call to Action Report for Bengaluru Commuter Rail Service”. Prof. T. G. Sitharam, Chairman, CiSTUP, Bengaluru, wrote the foreword for the report.