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Bring train travel to its former glory
My niece from Malaysia, my sister and I made an advance booking for
the Podimenike observation compartment to Talawakelle for June 1 with a
return ticket for June 4.
As we got in at Fort, we found a nauseating smell emanating from the
washroom of the compartment. There was no A/C, only fans. The train was
to reach Talawakelle at 2.30 p.m. but reached at 3.15 pm due to a
crossing of another train at Galboda Station which normally crosses at
Rozalle, a delay of 40 mins.
The platform at some of these stations are so low, that passengers
find it difficult to get in and get out, a scene which we saw at
Talawakelle. These shortcomings must be remedied. The present coaches
(Japanese) are high compared to the English one of a bygone era.
The return journey was in a first class compartment as this
particular train had no observation car. The AC was so cold that we had
to cover ourselves with sheets which we fortunately carried. The train
reached Fort at 7.15 p.m., a delay of 45 mins.
From the extreme conditions of this cool A/C we were then exposed to
the extreme heat of the Colombo climate and we were down with severe
cold for the next three days.
The guard of the train is the guardian not only of the train but the
passengers as well. It is his duty to see that the compartments, the
washrooms are kept clean and the comforts of the passengers by
controlling the A/C etc. I may mention here that in the 1950s during
R.D. Rampala’s time (General Manager, then) the trains ran to schedule
and the Railways (C.G.R.) was running at a profit!
Challenges to overcome
We have to learn a lot from the disaster that happened at Kosgama. We
don’t take precautions.
We do think in a haphazard manner. We do not plan our work. We do not
do our work properly. We do not supervise our work properly. We do not
take responsibility for our work and duties. When some disaster or
damage happen, no one is accountable.
There is no accountability in our administration or management.
Inquiries are held. Commissions are appointed. Foreign experts are
brought in. Committees are appointed. But the final result very often is
We are very clever to give excuses. We are very clever to put the
blame on others. We are very clever to give thousands of promises.
We are very clever to fight. We are very clever to arrange press
conferences. We are very clever to address meetings.
We are very clever to go round the world and tell our achievements
and our success stories.
We do not practise what we preach. We take loans from all the
possible countries. We do not try to stop wastage, corruption and
negligence. We do not work. We have maximum possible days of holidays.
Our people in power take treatment from the best hospitals in the
We have the most expensive luxury car models of the world.
We pay compensation to all our supporters with tax payers’ money.
We have to pay very high taxes when we buy a car. But some privileged
people are given tax free vehicles.
To settle a land dispute or other disputes we have to wait sometimes 10
to 15 years. But our parliament is full of very clever lawyers.
All our leaders are worlds best patriots. But hardly anything is
happening to develop our country.
We are in a financial crisis. There is a debt crisis. But all our
leaders are trying to buy luxury cars. We pay millions and millions to
We plan to make Colombo the best city in the world. But nothing is
Unless we correct ourselves the disasters similar to that at Kosgama can
Gods have taught us a lesson. Let us all learn a lesson. Whatever our
religion or ethnicity, political party, age, gender, whether a
government employee or private sector employee, businessman, or a
All of us have to learn a lesson from the recent disasters. This is a
lesson gods taught us.
Hats off to the Ombudsman!
I want to show my gratitude to the Ombudsman and his staff for the
yeoman service they carry out silently but efficiently to the public at
a time when they are helpless and when they realise there is no one to
To make a long story short, everything turned topsy-turvy when we
received a monthly water bill of some Rs 5,000 when our normal bill was
in the range of Rs 300. I promptly met the authorities in the NWS &DB
and tried my best to convince that their officers (meter readers) have
erred. However as usual, the excuses were underground leaks etc.
All this meant that we either pay up or be ready for a disconnection
of the water supply!
It is at this time that it occurred to me the service rendered by the
Ombudsman Office at Bambalapitiya. I still remember how they (Late Mr
Bastiampillai and his staff) came to my help when a similar thing
happened with the same Water Board!
I made my complaint to the present Ombudsman at Bambalapitiya and you
will be surprised to know how quickly the Water Board acted. Not only
they corrected the bills, I ended up getting a credit balance which will
make payment unncessary for a few more years!