OOP Digital Desk: After a two-year break, the sound of a rumbling train is being heard again at Rashidpura Khori in Rajasthan, a one of its kind Indian railway station.
Rashidpura Khori, in Sikar district, is one of the hundreds of nondescript stations that dot the nearly 1.2 lakh km railway track network across the length and breadth of the country. But the station is run and maintained entirely by the villagers and not the Indian Railways staff.
There are several low-traffic stations in the country where the railways have outsourced ticket sales to individuals and don’t depute staff for the purpose. North Western Railway officials, however, believe that Rashidpura Khori stands apart from others because the operations in this station are an initiative by the people and for the people.
North Western Railway chief public relations officer Tarun Jain claimed that on other station is the country is run by such popular participation.
While senior railway officials in Delhi couldn’t confirm whether Rashidpura Khori is one of its kind, they said, the station could be unique.
A passenger train halted at Rashidpura Khori on 9 December when rail operations resumed after being stopped for broad gauge track conversion in November 2015. The Indian railway station was declared commercially unviable in May 2005 because of meagre traffic.
More than 25,000 villagers from Rashidpura, Khori and Palthana were disheartened but kept pressing railway authorities for resumption of services. The railways relented but with a rider that they have to generate a minimum ₹40,000 every month in passenger fares.
The villagers grabbed the offer and submitted a memorandum promising that 25,000 people would sell tickets and maintain the station. The railways agreed to a temporary halt for one train for three months at Rashidpura Khori as a test case.
People from the three villages formed a committee and collected ₹5 lakh from the locals. A door-to-door campaign was launched to seek cooperation to meet the target set by the Indian railway authorities. The response was overwhelming. The committee motivated people about using the railways instead of buses. Strict checks were maintained to ensure none travelled ticketless.
The target was achieved in less than three months. The railways decided to continue the service. With time, five more trains from Churu to Jaipur and one between Churu and Sikar stopped at Rashidpura Khori.
When services resumed earlier this month, Mahendra Kumar of Palthana was appointed as the ticket seller. Kumar, a primary school teacher, buys tickets from Sikar station. He earns 15% commission on sales. Other villages took charge of maintaining the station. They are paid from the commission.
The fare to Laxmangarh, the nearest station from Rashidpura Khori, is ₹10, while the one to Churu is ₹20. Bus fares are at least three times higher.