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Vidya Srinivasa Rao
The Indian Railways' online suggestions site and discussion board, http://www.irsuggestions.org, has attracted quite some activity since its launch in August.
Here, people have been writing authorities, joining online discussions and making complaints and suggestions. Railway zones have been provided individual email addresses for suggestions and grievances.
Railway Board Chairman I I M S Rana says, "Seeing things from a customer angle can go a long way in improving Indian Railways and is, therefore, very vital. Seeing every problem from the customer's point of view can make Indian Railways a customer driven, focused organisation."
A railway official told Rediff Guide to the Net, "We have received a huge response as you can see from the discussion board. This will help us improve our services. We have a regular complaints cell but this site has proved to be more effective."
Anil Kumar, who regularly posts useful suggestions, says, "I receive a positive response from them every time."
The discussion board can be used for almost anything, from asking for trains from Bhubaneshwar to Bangalore to even suggesting a dress code for the railway staff.
Some of them use this forum as a platform to vent their frustrations. Sanjay Gupta, a regular commuter on local trains, found this an excellent space to unburden himself. Be it cancelled trains or crowded coaches, he always finds sympathetic ears.
Software professional Kalyani Menon left behind her handbag on the Delhi-bound Swaraj Express. "There was nothing important or valuable in the bag. A friend told me about this site and I posted my grievance on this forum just for a lark. And guess what? Two days later, I got a phone call saying that they found my bag and asked me to retrieve it. I have become an Indian Railways fan. And no, I don't mean the ones that don't work unless you push the blades with a comb," jokes Kalyani.
The railway official says, "We take these suggestion and complaints very seriously. As far as possible we try to implement their suggestions and solve their problems. Sometimes, they make unreasonable demands that cannot be met. In that case we give them a polite response, saying it is not possible."
Aarti Rana, a student who travels extensively, says, "The Internet is available to almost everyone and is cheap to access. The railway has done a very good thing by going online. Earlier people used to feel lazy to go to the station and talk to the officials who wouldn't be at their seats anyway. Now, it's so much easier to voice your opinions and get a response."
Agrees Kumar, "I believe that the Internet is the best thing that has ever happened to us. With more and more services available online, it can save us from wasting time approaching them personally. It's time that other public sector organisations offer their services online."
The railway official says, "We should have done this long ago. It has become much easier for us to handle all the feedback and suggestions. We can forward their emails to the authorities concerned, which is faster than mailing letters to far off places. This, in turn, evokes faster response. It's better late than never."
To post your suggestions and complaints, please visit this site: http://www.irsuggestions.org
Other Services offered by Indian Railways
The official Railways site has all information like trains between important stations, seat availability, fare and PNR status enquiry. Information on special trains and latest developments in the Railways sector is also available.
Booking Tickets Online
Now you can book your train tickets online using your credit card. This service is available on weekdays between 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM and on Sundays between 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Tickets have to be booked at least two days in advance and delivery is through courier. Residents of New Delhi can personally collect the tickets in the station before departure.
Read their terms and conditions before booking the ticket. Also make sure you go through the list of places they deliver the tickets to.
Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Indian Railways Portal
This website contains a list of all the sites related to Indian Railways - official and unofficial. The sites include information on heritage routes to sites on collection of drawings and photos of trains and locomotives.