Late last evening I was joined by Bhattacharya, GM HR of the refinery, who had arranged all for me in the guest house. I was told that the Rs. 12,000 crore turnover company, NRL, employs just 850! It’s bottom-line, I am sure, would be the envy of many corporates. The refinery also discharged its corporate social responsibility with utmost respect to the society and its constituents, developing team spirt and healthy living through sports, education, village programs and building of toilets and school infrastructure. The speed of the team is the speed of the leader, it is said. Therefore, Mr Padmanabhan is due a large share of the kudos that the team of NRL justly deserves.
I wished I had at least a spare day to spend more time in that wonderful environment. If I wait to start after breakfast I will be drowned in the traffic of trucks on the highway. Therefore, I set off as usual at 4.30 am, with the sky already lit. The drive from the refinery to via Guwahati to the border at Srirampur was a breeze. In just over three hours I was sailing through Guwahati. The roads were very good and traffic sparse. However, it took me some time to get through the hustle of school and office shift traffic in Guwahati. In another two hours I was at the West Bengal border. Since I had just another 250 km to go for the day to New Jalpaiguri and the eyes were a bit weary, I decided to drop in at the Alipurduar ORH for a cup of tea around noon.
Aneet Dulat IRTS, Chief Commercial Manager, North Frontier Railway was my colleague in the railways when I worked in South Eastern Railway. He had arranged ORH accommodation in Alipurduar, New Jalpaiguri and Guwahati. On the approach to New Jalpaiguri I stopped for fueling and the weather suddenly changed. I became terribly windy and the power supply got cut off. Thereafter, I experienced severe squally weather, sometimes even unable to drive. Fortunately, that didn’t last long and in a half hour it cleared up. At New Jalpaiguri arrangements had been made in the Railway Electrification ORH, where I reached after driving 721 km in 11 hours 45 minutes that day. It is a relatively new ORH and the accommodation was very comfortable. Due to the weather power was quite unsteady for a few hours. The boys at the ORH agreed to wash the Champion, who thoroughly deserved the attention she got later in the evening. I got enough time to rearrange stuff inside the bags and luggage inside the car.
New Jalpaiguri is an important terminus of the railway, for both freight and passenger traffic. Before gauge conversion this was a critical break of gauge terminus. Passengers coming from other parts of the country by Broad Gauge had to board a Meter Gauge train for Silchar, Guwahati, Lumding, etc. similarly, freight used to be transshipped at this point. Therefore, a senior Area Manager is posted here. When the incumbent came to meet me he told me that the post had been upgraded and re-designated as Station Director. This, to my mind, has been a completely ill-conceived idea. Instead of the railways delayering, it is engaged in building additional layers and diluting responsibility. The work of the Station Manager has been kicked up to the Station Director.
The cook at the guest house gave me excellent egg curry with potato sabji and rotis. A filling, hot meal. Before the repast I had time to evaluate options to reach Leh. The route via Manali seemed to be closed due to road repair works and the news emanating from J&K were disconcerting. I had to take a call before I reached Noida in the next two days. I prayed for HIS intervention and show me the way, as it were.