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Saturday, August 1, 2020

special train ~ Chillies special from Guntur to Bangladesh

The beautiful landmarks of Chennai (Madras) used to be LIC building and the majestic Central Railway  Station – for more than 100 days Trains have not been running (other than the special trains for migrants) and that way, the place frequented by thousands daily should be empty !  Balabhadrapuram, Bikkavolu,  Peddabrahmadevam, Medapadu, Gudaparti ~ only East Godavari locals can answer.. .. name of intermediary Railway stations between Anaparty and Samalkot in the Railway line from Vijayawada -  Rajahmundry to Visakhapatnam.   Used to see a loop line and wagons waiting for loading of paddy bags .. ..

Train journey is most enjoyable as one can spend time leisurely eating the choicest delicacies and look through the window the different culture, fields, people and everything as the train chughs past different areas.  Interestingly, Indian Trains have Names besides the Numbers. As you would know, Trains now have 5 digit numbers – earlier they were 4 digits.  I have travelled so many times in this particular train no. 7043 [Chennai Central to Kakinada] – now it is 17643 [Chingleput  to Kakinada] – Circar Express.

The word ‘Circar’ – noun would mean a District or part of a Province. This is a common word to old timers as there was the ‘Northern Circar’  - which was a former division of British India's Madras Presidency, which consisted of a narrow slip of territory lying along the western side of the Bay of Bengal in the present-day states of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. These Northern Circars were five in number, Chicacole (Srikakulam), Rajahmundry, Ellore (Eluru), Kondapalli and Guntur. After changing hands frequently between the Bahamani Sultans, the Mughals, the Nizams of Hyderabad and the French.   In 1765 Robert  Clive obtained from the Mughal emperor Shah Alam a grant of the five Circars. Thus over the years the possession of these places and the geographical pattern kept changing.   The Northern Circars were governed as part of Madras Presidency until India's independence in 1947. 

There are many other special trains too – ‘Grand Trunk Express’ [GT] from Chennai Central to Delhi – understand that this train started running in 1929 and was initially run from Peshawar to Mangalore, taking around 104 hours ! .. .. I thought Rajdhani Express between State Capitals and New Delhi were of recent origin.  But the  first Rajdhani was introduced between Howrah and New Delhi on March 1, 1969.

After this lengthy introduction, Indian Railways carries not only passengers but has many specials for cargo too – the goods trains and more.  IR carries the entire gamut of goods, ranging from parcel traffic and small consignments, agricultural products, raw materials like iron ore and petroleum, and finished goods like automobiles.  Most of IR's freight revenue now comes from such block rakes carrying bulk goods such as coal or cement.  

           Being a fan of Railways, having travelled in trains hundreds of times, I am wondering how travel will look like in a post-coronavirus world? Indian Railways has developed a special ‘post-Covid coach’ for travellers. From several hands-free amenities to plasma air purification system — Railways has designed  new coaches to fight against the deadly virus. Developed in Kapurthala rail coach factory, the post-Covid coach is loaded with several new features.  In tune with the requirement there would be hands-free amenities which include foot operated water tap and soap dispenser, foot operated flush valve, foot operated latches in lavatory door. There will be washbasins with foot operated water tap and soap dispenser option. For compartment doors, the travellers will get forearm operated handle feature.   As copper has anti-microbial properties, the Indian Railways has decided to use copper-coated handrails and latches in train.

Further this is no post on Corona and the response of Indian Railways but on a special train – a parcel train that was run from Andhra Pradesh to neighbouring Bangladesh with a special cargo !!  

The lockdown in its wake has affected the economy – the farmers could not move their produce by road as truck movement has been affected though they are allowed to operate !.  The district of Guntur, as well as its nearby areas in Andhra Pradesh, are popular for Chillies cultivation. In a first, Indian Railways transported a loaded Special Parcel Train beyond the country borders! The national transporter, for the first time, sent a train to Benapole in the neighbouring country Bangladesh with dry chillies from Reddipalem in Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh. Earlier, dry chillies were transported to Bangladesh in small quantities by farmers and merchants in and around Guntur area, using the mode of roadways. That used to cost around Rs 7,000 per tonne.

The officials of Indian Railways approached the consignors and explained the facilities to transport by the national transporter. Accordingly, the dry chillies were transported by the rail network in bulk through goods trains. To move consignment through goods or freight trains, bulk quantity mobilization is required. This means at least over 1,500 tonnes are required to be transported on each train trip. However, to facilitate the movement of dry chillies in small quantities i.e., up to a maximum of 500 tonnes in each trip, the South Central Railways’ Guntur Division came forward and run the Special Parcel Express to Bangladesh.

According to the Railway Ministry, one Special Parcel Express train comprising of 16 Parcel Vans transported Guntur chillies  to Benapole. Each of these Parcel Vans were loaded with as many as 466 Dry Chillies bags, weighing about 19.9 Tonnes. Thus  the Special Parcel Express carried a weight of around 384 Tonnes in total. The Ministry stated the cost per tonne for carrying by the Special Parcel Express was at Rs 4,608/- much cheaper and economical.   Indian Railways further stated that in order to boost parcel train traffic during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic period, the national transporter has taken a series of steps. From 22 March 2020 to 11 July 2020, as many as 4,434 parcel trains have been operated, out of which 4,304 have been time-tabled trains.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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