Neglected and Vulnerable
Historic Jammu city had its old Jammu station built in around 1897 but was abandoned after the partition of India as the railway link to Sialkot, 43 km away now in Pakistan, was broken. The station was also linked with Wazirabad and Narowal stations both of which are also in Pakistan. The line from Jalandhar City to Mukerian was constructed in 1915. The Mukerian-Pathankot line was built in 1952. The construction of the Pathankot-Jammu Tawi line was initiated after the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 only when army faced hardships in swift mobilization of troops, arms and ammunition as after partition Jammu had no rail links until 1971, when the Indian Railways laid Pathankot – Jammu Tawi Broad Gauge line. The new Jammu Tawi station was opened in 1975 and in 2000 the old railway station was demolished to make way for an art centre. Since then railway tracks between Jalandhar and Jammu Tawi have been doubled, electrification of railway track completed in 2014 as the entire Jalandhar-Jammu section, Jammu Tawi station and sidings have been completely energized to 25 KV AC line and approved for electric traction in August 2014. Swaraj Express now gets an end to end WAP 4 engine from Jammu Tawi to Bandra Terminus while Himgiri Express now gets an end to end WAP-7 engine from Jammu Tawi to Howrah. WAP – 4 is a common electric locomotive used in India to haul the longer, heavier express trains (24-26 coaches) that were becoming the mainstay of the Indian Railways network and the WAP 7 (Wide/broad Gauge AC Electric Passenger, Class 7) is a three-phase AC electric passenger locomotive. It is the most powerful passenger locomotive in the Indian Railways’ fleet as it is a passenger variant of the WAG 9 freight locomotive with a modified gear ratio to pull lighter loads at higher speeds. It is capable of hauling 24 coach trains at speeds ranging between 110-140 km/h, depending on the MPS (Maximum Permissible Speed) of the sector and is now largely used by Northern Railways .
But despite all these modernizations by Indian Railways on this section, tragic part is Jammu railway station is still the same with only three platforms to cater to 49 trains daily, 33 terminating and originating from Jammu only. In addition to these daily cargo and oil trains are also arriving with supplies for whole state of Jammu and Kashmir. Importance of this railway station can be gauged from the fact that the daily footfall of passengers is around fifty thousand (fifty thousand) but the infrastructure has remained same since 1971 even after a lapse of 47 years. Main rush is of pilgrims of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi and this footfall increases during festive season and Shri Amarnath Yatra when additional trains are run to cater to the festive rush. With over a crore passengers travelling annually one can imagine the kind of revenue this railway station is generating for railways but the condition and facilities at the station speak otherwise. With small overcrowded waiting room which can never fulfill the volume of passengers, no restaurant on the platform or railway station complex, an important aspect for additional revenue generation is missed out. With passengers coming out outside railway station in search of toilets, restaurants, transportation or hotels but all these missing facilities are a bitter shock for them. Fact is there is no public toilet outside the complex and the one constructed by some NGO don’t have the water connections which speak about the seriousness of the railway authorities. Non functional lifts, missing parking or for that matter non entry of any vehicle on upper part of railway station further adds up to the woes of aged, disabled or patients as they have no option but to climb down the stairs to reach for any kind of transportation. Missing Government rate list of passenger fare for different destinations which results in fleecing of money by drivers at their own whims and fancies. There can be only two reasons for this: either authorities are sleeping or hand in glove with the auto rickshaw and taxi unions. Coming back to platform some very interesting observations are there, persons allotted with railway stalls have sublet these stalls, missing i-cards by vendors or employees, use and stocking of gas cylinders on platform, missing firefighting equipment are just few things waiting for a disaster.
Scarcity of water is another important issue. With 33 long run routine trains as well as additional passenger trains operating from this station as such all these trains have to fill up their water tanks and for this purpose two pumping stations were there but in one of the underground pumping station petrol leakage from adjacent petrol dumping site has polluted the water with the result full load on the other operational pumping site and obviously it’s not possible for the lone pumping station to cater to the demand with the result half or quarter filled trains departing and in between journey water gets finished causing acute hardships to passengers. Another noticeable aspect is ticket booking, while the passengers find it hard to get confirmed tickets, office of Station Master is found to be busy in facilitating quota booking to the extent that SM’s office seems like booking counter and sometimes even SM at booking counter for speedy quota filling before chart is prepared. This whole ticket booking episode requires a thorough probe. Right now railways has many plans on papers like increasing present 3 platforms to 8 after shifting existing goods yards to Bari Brahmana , construction of another entry point from Narwal side, construction of an overhead foot bridge to connect all additional platforms, even construction of a subway connecting these platforms but all these schemes are right now like ‘Moongari Lal kae haseen sapney’ only as Bari Brahmana yard construction will take another two years to complete after which only additional platform construction can begin.
One of the major issues of this station is security as not long ago terrorists had issued a letter of warning to strike at this station but the kind of lapses one sees it seems authorities are not too bothered. There are four major legal entry points-two towards railway colonies and two in front of the station, one in and one out, along with numerous porous entry points like unmanned nullah, no boundary walls, no fencing and these entire lapses raise the question mark on seriousness of security preparedness. Few operational CCTV cameras, defunct scanner and X-ray machines further add to the headache of security persons to check so many passengers. Railway employee vehicles are without security stickers, no raised police pickets to blunt any attack, no security verification of staff of hotel inside the complex as well as shops are other major security concerns. Local families residing on footpaths for days together without any objection are another major concern. To add to the existing security woes right now there is no parking contract with the result anyone can come and park vehicle at whatever parking is available. With no entry for vehicles except the ones carrying senior citizens, vehicles enter parking – pay the fee and are than allowed to enter from wrong side to even parking reserved for railway employees. Two agencies are right now responsible for security; RPF (Railway Protection force) and GRP (General Railway Police) which is part of Jammu and Kashmir Police. GRP is right now short of manpower to man this much passenger flow and RPF has another story as their men right now have been called back for Kumbh Mela duty leaving this station easily vulnerable right now. Virtually no facility or proper shelters for policemen on duty standing there even in rain. With the trains entering so slowly the station, there are too many unmanned points for drug peddlers or smugglers to exploit. All these glaring lapses are very much in the knowledge of higher officials but no corrective plan has been put in place. Right now, it seems higher authorities are waiting for something to happen.
No accountability is the hallmark of Jammu and Kashmir and railway station though under Central Government is no exception. Open drains, dumping ground right in front of railway station just mocks the PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and passengers/tourists coming from all over India are presented with heaps of garbage, building material , no public utilities, no assistance booths , no one to guide, no one to protect, broken shabby roads, it’s just free for all. With Jammu – Poonch, Manali – Billaspur – Leh line proposed, establishment of Railway Division at Jammu is the need of the hour to streamline every aspect of Jammu Railway Station and for which railway authorities had initiated the survey but right now the proposal is stuck between two BJP MPs, one asking to establish at Jammu and other directing to establish at Udhampur which is not feasible as per railway ministry and with no immediate solution in sight like many other projects this is also in limbo thereby denying thousands of job opportunities to Jammu and Kashmir youth. Are the authorities and elected representatives serious for development of Jammu Railway Station and the answer right now is no and it seems people of Jammu will have to wait for a world class railway station for a much longer time. Government was sleeping for 47 years and they are still in doze mode only.