BROTHERS AND SISTERS,
A gentleman from Delhi writes: “I had taken some screens and tents from a Muslim gentleman for the refugees. He has now gone away from here. Where should I keep them now?” He is a gentleman and that is why he is asking what he should do with those things. He is right. Since that man has gone away, should we appropriate those things to ourselves? But I do not have any arrangement for keeping them. This matter concerns the Home Department. The Sardar should have been consulted. Or the matter should have been referred to anyone who is handling it. Or Neogy Saheb¹ who has been appointed for the purpose should be consulted. If he can find the whereabouts of that Muslim gentleman, these things or their worth in money will have to be sent to him.
A few young men from the Aligarh University came to me. Some students from West Punjab and North-West Frontier Province also study in that University. They could not reach the University and those who are here cannot leave the place. Why should they not be able to move freely? Now that Pakistan has been formed, does it mean that the Muslims should go there and the Hindus and the Sikhs should come here? The students wish to collect the blankets, etc., from Muslims and distribute them among Hindu and Sikh refugees who are facing hardships in the camps. Their intention is good and the refugees need them too. If they receive these things, it would also be an expression of love from Muslims. But really speaking, they should go to Pakistan and ask the Muslims why the Hindus and the Sikhs have to leave their homes at all. I have with me a whole pile of papers full of complaints. Those complaints are not unfounded. Of course I do feel that some exaggeration is quite possible in them. But even if there is exaggeration, there is substantial ground for those complaints. Why should the Hindus run away from their places? Call them back. Why should they not come and live in their own places? If the students are able to do this we can show to the whole world that we had never indulged in mutual fighting. Then we shall regain our honour which is sullied today. This is what I have told those boys. They have agreed to what I have said. God alone knows what they are going to do later on.
But what I want to tell you today is something very important. I think that while I was in Bihar people used to think that since they had won freedom there was no need to buy tickets for travelling by train. Not only this. They sometimes indulged in acts of high-handedness and coercion. People did not indulge in mutual fighting in those days, but now they think that having won their freedom they need nothing more. I wrote quite a bit on the subject and it did have some effect and such practices were given up. But now for the past few days the situation has so developed that all over the country people have started travelling without tickets. Even well-to-do people have started thinking that they have become the owners of the trains. The railways certainly belong to us now; but the practice of ticketless travelling has resulted in a loss of Rs. 8 crores. And Rs. 8 crores is no small sum. Even Rs. I crore is no small sum. How difficult it was and how many people had to go round when we had to collect Rs. I crore for the Congress! I too went round from house to house with the others to collect the funds. With great difficulty we were able to collect that amount. The people of our country are so poor. Today we spend a crore of rupees in no time. If we get it we don’t even notice how it is spent. We still do not know how to spend. We spend just because we have been put in charge of the work. If people start having free rides in trains or do not buy tickets when travelling in connection with work, it is a kind of violence. In my view it is plain robbery. At this rate India will be reduced to utter poverty and we shall be left without railways or anything else. Then we shall feel sorry wondering how we can travel. Eight crore rupees do not make a small sum after all. In former days the railways could earn interest on their capital out of their earnings. Millions of people travel by trains. If everybody pays his fare the railways can earn quite a lot. There used to be ticketless travellers even in those days; but not in thousands as today. There used to be inspectors on the trains and the accounts used to be properly kept. But now the situation is such that the guards and the drivers are attacked. Expenditure is going up day by day. Trains cannot be run for charity. The railway employees cannot agree to forgo their salaries because the passengers do not pay their fares. What will they eat if they do not have their salaries? Thus the expenditure on railways is millions and it also earns millions. The railways incurred no loss in former days. Earnings from third-class passengers used to be considerable, because the expenditure on them used to be little. But I was pained to hear yesterday about the loss of Rs. 8 crores. Nothing good can come to us if there is going to be such looting from all sides. On top of this we indulge in mutual fighting and killing and plundering. These things do no good to anyone and result in loss of crores of rupees. When people are asked to leave their homes and go away to Pakistan, they surely do not go without taking anything. They have to be fed and clothed. We have to incur all that expenditure for nothing. After all, India is not a country of the rich that it can go on spending at this rate. That is impossible. Hence even if there is a single person travelling by train, let him not travel without paying his fare. He must pay his fare. During the British days, police constables and other officials used to swallow up considerable amount of money. I know about this because I have been a third-class traveller. In those days when I had gone to Hardwar² for the Kumbh Mela, I found that nobody could get there without paying some extra money to the station master. In this way, thousands of rupees went by way of bribes. Now I feel that everybody has become quite honest. The station masters, signalmen, inspectors, guards, etc., should take only their legitimate dues and live only by that. They should not grab money from people. The passengers should consider the railways as their own property. They should keep the trains clean. They should not spit and smoke in the trains and should not pull the chain without real need. And not a single passenger should travel without ticket. Then I would be able to say that we have attained true independence. Here there are not thousands of people to hear me, and so who would carry my words to those hundreds of thousands of people who travel by trains? Had I been a railway manager or a railway minister I would have given orders to people working under me to tell the passengers that though they would not be physically manhandled, the railways belonged to them and the railway officials were their servants, they would not be permitted to travel without paying the fares. Even if the train is passing through a forest, the railway authorities would stop the train right there. If the passengers still did not come round they would order the driver to detach the engine from the train and drive it away. Then there would be no occasion for abusing people or using force against them; the train just would not move till the passengers paid the fare. This method should be followed as long as the passengers travel without tickets. After all, it is not proper to board the train without tickets, to indulge in violence and stop the train just anywhere one likes. What I have told you is happening in India. But I have heard that in Pakistan too people travel in trains without tickets just as here. And why should they not do so? After all we were all born in the same environment, have eaten the same salt, then why should not the same things happen there as here? But if things continue in this manner, both the countries will go bankrupt. If we travel by train without buying tickets, take bribes wherever we can and go on beating up people, we will end up as robbers. The respect we have acquired by becoming independent will be completely lost. Hence let as many people as possible and the Minister listen to what I am saying, because I am saying as an experienced man, that if this trend does not stop you will have to stop running the trains. The trains will not move and in the trains that move no passenger will be allowed to travel without paying his fare.
Prarthana Pravachan—II, pp. 7-11
- 1. K. C. Neogy, Minister for Refugees and Rehabilitation, Government of India
- 2. In April, 1915, for volunteer service organized by Hriday Nath Kunzru, under the auspices of the Servants of India Society
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