A nation’s progress depends to a large extent in the national unity. In the national unity of India, Indian Railways play an impor­tant role. Indian Railways, the biggest public sector undertaking in the country and the biggest public utility concern shapes to a great extent the economic destiny of the nation.

Railways came to India when the first 21-mile [34 km] track was opened between Bombay and Thane on April 16th of 1853, when 3 steam engines hauling 20 coaches and 400 people clanked out of Bombay station.

   On an average, Railways have recorded a growth rate of about         4.3% in freight traffic and 3.7% in passenger traffic per annum,  thus linking even die remotest and inaccessible parts of this vast and diverse country. They have rightly been described as the arteries of the nation and a symbol of national unity. As the largest public sec­tor undertaking in the country and the biggest employer of man­power, the contribution of Indian Railways to the national economy and unity can’t be underestimated. Today with a nationwide net work of more than 62,367Kms, Indian Railways have grown into Asia’s largest and world’s second largest railway system under a single management. At present, about 13,000 trains run every day connecting more than 7000 stations and the process of growth and modernization is an ever-increasing process with the system. It is also the world’s cheapest transportation system.

It is, however, much more than a mere mechanized modem sys­tem of transportation. It is an emblem of Indian culture, civilization and national unity. The Indian Railways have contributed, and con­tinue to contribute to the cause of national unity and integration in a number of ways by connecting every nook and comer of the country, taking huddled groups to their destination. It is a tribute to the ideal of Indian secularism. We can see people of all age- groups, linguistic, regional and religious affiliations travelling in any overcrowded II class compartment at any point of time. Various languages are spoken; pleasantries exchanged with total strangers, new friend- ships made and alliances established; food from various parts of the country exchanged, shared and relished. What more proof of na­tional unity could one seek for, if one were to see India as one united entity? One must travel over the broad net work to under-stand what this country is like.

Here, there are no distinctions of caste, creed, sex or religion that divide one human being from another in the ouside world.

Indian Railways, as mentioned earlier is the largest employer of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled men in the country. The Railway Recruitment Boards in all parts of the country select and train people for manning this vast system. People from various regions work as a team on this system, living as members of a single family, sharing each other’s joys and sorrows. They form a community of their own; oblivious to the happenings outside their purview. This is what the net work has brought to the country-a feeling of oneness and unity.

During the past one and a half decade of existence on the sub­continent, the Indian Railways helped us a lot in achieving a re­markable and unparalleled goal of holding India together.