Businessman offers to run private train to Shirdi

MUMBAI: A devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba has submitted a Rs-50 crore proposal to the union railway ministry to operate a private train between Mumbai and Shirdi.

Rajesh Nihak, a Mumbai-based businessman, recently sent the ambitious plan to railway minister Mamata Banerjee and railway board chairman Vivek Sahai. Under his proposal, the train will have eight to nine compartments, be able to accommodate around 900 followers of the famous saint, and charge roughly the same fare as that of a Volvo bus.

“We have discussed the proposal at length with the railway administration. It is along the lines of the prestigious Palace on Wheels. Against the existing travel time of seven hours, we have proposed to cover the distance in three-and-a-half hours. For Sai’s devotees, it will be a daylong trip-from 7am to 11pm. We are sure our proposal will be accepted,” Nihak told TOI.

“After we conducted a survey, we found that more than 700 Volvo buses are operating between Mumbai and Shirdi and the travel time ranges between six and eight hours. If our proposal is accepted, the comfort level of Sai’s devotees will increase and there will be a drastic cut in the travel time,” he added.

Nihak said he has proposed to import state-of-the-art compartments for the train. “Once our proposal is approved, we will submit details plans to the railways’ Research Design and Standards Organisation, particularly for the approval of the bogies’ design,” Nihak said.

The businessman is hopeful of a positive response from Banerjee and Sahai, both of whom, he says, are Sai Baba’s devotees. “They liked our concept. The railway board will have to take a policy decision on private sector participation in the operation of trains. In the larger interest of Sai’s devotees, I am sure, they will accept our proposal,” he said.

The proposal has got supporters in agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil (who represents the Shirdi assembly constituency) and Shirdi Saibaba trust chairman Jayant Sasane. Both say it is the need of the hour. “Given the number of devotees, the existing railway facilities are grossly inadequate. A special train between Mumbai and Shirdi will be real gift to the devotees,” Sasane said.

Sasane has called on Banerjee and Sahai to demand more trains for Shirdi. “Since the devotees come from all over India, we urged the minister to provide more trains from the north of the country in the rail budget. We are in the process of implementing a Rs 1000-crore plan to meet the requirements of the devotees,” Sasane said.

Sasane said a provision of Rs 100 crore has been made for the development of the temple complex, Rs 300 crore for a super-specialty hospital, Rs 100 crore for a garden, Rs 115 crore for the accommodation of 15,000 devotees, Rs 28 crore for water supply scheme, Rs 90 cr for internal roads and Rs 8 crore for a bus depot. “Our annual income is Rs 350 crore. We are spending most of the funds for development of the township,” Sasane said.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.