Indian railways is one of the earliest railways in the world. It is one of the few railways that had celebrated 160 years of its incorporation. Railways in India started in 1853, long before it had spread in many European countries. The achievements of the railways in the subcontinent is surpassed not by many countries. Today, India hosts more than 100000 kilometre of railway line and more and more distances are being covered by the railways daily. The daily number of trains that crisscross the country amounts to a whopping 20,000 in both passenger and freight trains. In a year, the total number of people who use the services of railways amount to a staggering 5 billion people. Incidentally, railways is the largest employer in the Indian Union and the importance of the railways can be gauged by the creation of a separate budget for the railways alone. The practice started before the First World War when the control of all the railways was taken over by the erstwhile British government.
Importance that was rightly given to the railways was visible from the fact that the parliament had seen two separate budgets that were being tabled every year. One, the regular annual budget of the country that had the projections for the expenses and which detailed on the ways to earn the money to be spent. The second budget was tabled by the railway minister who would give a detailed roadmap for the railways in the next year. The rates and charges of the railways affects economy of the country in a huge way, as everything from letters to goods to perishable items are all transported through this medium. One cannot separate the growth of railways from the growth of the country. It is an important service for the people of India, as the travel fare in buses and other private vehicles are not possible for the huge chunk of people who live in this great country. The number of people who are directly employed by the Indian railways amounts to almost 15 lakh people. The number of people who make a livelihood based on the railways can be an equal amount of people, if not more. In view of all these things, it is to be noted that the railways is truly the lifeline of India.
Although an old organisation, Indian railways had reinvented itself many times to be relevant in the present day. The first trains were steam engines which ran between Mumbai, then called as Bombay to Thane. The railways modernised with the passage of time as it was visible with the adoption of Diesel engines which were more efficient and faster. Then the railways had also moved on to the electric trains as they were non-polluting and easy to start and stop. These were but some of the modernisation efforts that were taken up by the railways. Even on the rails, the olden narrow gauge, gave way to meter gauge and now broad gauge is the standard line that is being laid all over the country.
However the narrow gauge exists in the hilly regions like Shimla-Kalka railways and metre gauge exists in the Ooty or Nilgiri railway line. These are rightly declared as the UNESCO world heritage sites as they run on the steam engines that were brought to the country over 150 years ago. Today, the modernisation efforts of the railways is far reaching and introduction of bio-toilets that utilises only a little of water, electrification of all compartments and coaches, advanced security features in the coaches to prevent mishaps are only a few to start with. However not all is rosy in the picture of railways. Indian railways suffer from a plethora of problems like poor collection of expenses due to wastage of resources and due to a large number of ticketless travels by people.
Moreover pillaging of trains is an inherent problem as people damage or steal things from the trains. There are also incidents of people stealing the railways lines and selling them or using them for iron. The safety features of railway is yet to up to the international standards and the convenience that we get in the indigenous trains are nowhere near the services that are being offered worldwide. In short, even as Indian railways has many feathers on its cap, it needs to be improved.