Aboard Kolkata Rajdhani: I am writing this lying on my berth on the New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express and even though Indian Railways claims that it offers free WiFi on this train, my phone (on which I am typing this) is connected via 3G/Edge. This in itself indication enough what my experience has been with this Indian Railways WiFi-on-wheels pilot project.
The announcement was made years ago and rolled out almost two months back. Two months is more than enough time to get over any teething troubles. But no.
The way this service has been set up is reminiscent of most sarkari projects in our country. More so in the railways. Grandiose in ideas but unwieldy in implementation.
Indian Railways will make you fill in your entire bio-data to give you in exchange free WiFi.
First they make you fill in your entire bio-data to give you in exchange free WiFi. You will have to share your name, complete address, mobile number, email ID, PNR, seat number, coach ID, type of government ID card in possession and number of the ID card. Phew!
In many other places offering free WiFi only the mobile number suffices.
Form filling is what our government wants its citizens to waste their time on and WiFi on Indian trains is no different. And quite like many of our sarkari initiatives, diligent form-filling is no guarantee for delivery of services.
The long wait for the SMS with the all-important password to finally arrive only led to yet another wait for the login webpage to accept my credentials. When after a few minutes it did, I thought I would be on my way cruising on the high-speed information tracks, byt my dreams were derailed right at the originating station.
Even though the signal strength at my berth displayed as ‘good’, websites simply refused to open on the browser and tweets, after multiple failed attempts at being sent, resigned themselves to drafts. I also gave up and switched back to my mobile data plan. Even though I am outside my home network, the roaming costs will not be as deterring as the Indian Railways’ WiFi speed that brought back memories of the dial-nmup days, where every attempt at connecting to the Internet and accessing websites further honed our patience.
Wait! Dial-up was actually better. Even if it was slow, things moved. Here inside the chilling A5 compartment of the 12306 Kolkata Rajdhani everything is swaying with the running train except for the progress bar on the mobile phone browser.