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In a resounding victory for civic engagement and the transformative power of media, the Kolkata Metro Railways has announced an extension of its operating hours by one hour, effective May 24, 2024. 

In an age where information is abundant but trust in media is dwindling, the need for severe students in media is more critical than ever. The role of the press is foundational to a functioning democracy, serving as the watchdog, informer, and educator of the public. 

In a resounding victory for civic engagement and the transformative power of media, the Kolkata Metro Railways has announced an extension of its operating hours by one hour, effective May 24, 2024. This decision, which shifts the last metro service from 9:40 PM to 10:40 PM, comes in response to a concerted campaign by concerned citizens of Kolkata. This achievement addresses a critical need for extended public transportation and underscores the pivotal role of media and social platforms in effecting change.

The campaign began on June 26, 2023, sparked by the frustration of Kolkata’s residents over the early cessation of metro services. This frustration was particularly acute among working professionals, students, and late-night commuters who found the current schedule insufficient for their needs. Recognizing the broader implications for public convenience and safety, these citizens petitioned the Metro Railway authorities to extend the operating hours.

One of the most compelling aspects of this movement was its comparison with other major Indian cities. For instance, the Delhi Metro operates from 5:00 AM to 11:30 PM, while the Chennai and Bengaluru Namma Metros run from 5:00 AM to 11:00 PM. These extended hours provide their residents with safe and reliable public transportation late into the night, setting a standard that Kolkata aimed to meet.

The Kolkata Metro, as India's first underground metro network and the only one operated by Indian Railways, holds a significant place in the city’s public transportation system. The extension of its operating hours brings numerous benefits:

  1. Support for Working Professionals: Many working professionals in Kolkata often work late shifts or overtime. The extended hours will alleviate their reliance on less reliable and sometimes unsafe alternative transportation options, providing a convenient and dependable mode of travel late into the night.
  2. Enhanced Safety and Security: Late-night commuters, particularly women and students, will benefit from the safer travel environment that the metro provides. Extending the metro timings will reduce their vulnerability to potential threats and ensure a more secure travel option during late hours.

The success of this campaign highlights the power of social media and civic engagement. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and local news outlets played a crucial role in amplifying the voices of the campaigners. Social media galvanised public support and pressured the authorities to address the issue. The wide-reaching discussions and coverage in news outlets made it clear that extending metro hours was not just a convenience but a necessity for the city’s residents.

The announcement by Kolkata Metro Railways on May 24, 2024, to extend operating hours was met with widespread approval. This decision marks a progressive step in addressing the evolving needs of Kolkata’s residents and emphasizes the importance of a responsive public transportation system.

This episode is a powerful example of how the media, often regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy, can facilitate substantial social change. By championing this cause, the citizens of Kolkata have not only achieved a tangible improvement in public services but also demonstrated the potential for collective action to drive meaningful change. The successful campaign sets a precedent for future civic initiatives aimed at improving urban living conditions, showcasing the indispensable role of media in advocating for public interest and shaping policy to serve the community better.

Let's hear it from Ajaay Mittal; the man is an EE 30 under 30. He is exalted as the Water Hero by the ministry of Jal Shakti, India. Besides, he is also the ambassador of One Young World, The Trillion Trees Platform and founder of Each One Plant One.

  1. What inspired you to start the campaign to extend the Kolkata Metro's operating hours?

Once, while travelling back using public transport, I missed the last metro. In contrast, I remember travelling in Delhi via the metro much later at night. Curious, I looked up the metro timings in other cities and found that cities with metro systems built much later than ours have extended timings far beyond those of the Kolkata metro. I realized that extended metro timings are essential for the convenience of all citizens, which motivated me to start this petition.

  1. Can you describe the initial steps you took to get the campaign off the ground?

  This journey has been quite a ride. Initially, I thought it was a no-brainer: I'd write to the metro authorities, and they'd consider my request. However, my emails went unanswered. I wondered if it was just my perspective or if people needed this. So, I launched an online petition. The response was overwhelming; people wrote to me, and the comments on the petition were very encouraging. Soon, a few media stories followed, and many people started discussing it.  

  1. How did you use social media to gather support and raise awareness for your cause?

Social media was the backbone of this campaign. A lawyer learned about the campaign through traditional and social media and contacted me. I shared all my information, and he then filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in court. Although social media and media coverage created some pressure, there was no action from the metro authorities. The PIL increased the pressure, leading the metro authorities to consider starting a trial. However, as initially requested, we have yet to achieve our primary goal of extending regular services until 10:40 PM.

  1. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the campaign, and how did you overcome them?

The challenge has been the slow pace of progress, which is incredibly frustrating. It's disheartening that such a simple and obvious request, which would benefit many people, is not being addressed. Despite all the pressure, the metro authorities have yet to provide regular extended services, and this delay is often exasperating. I have written numerous emails, submitted a request on the Prime Minister's portal, contacted the railways, and tweeted multiple times to the PM, the Railway Minister, and metro authorities. It is frustrating that, despite these efforts, there has been no progress. However, many people still reach out to me, appreciate the initiative, and express how they would benefit from this extension.

  1. Were there any key moments or turning points that significantly boosted the campaign's momentum?

I believe the online petition and the media coverage were pivotal in gaining momentum for the campaign. The lawyer filing the PIL provided a significant boost. This added pressure, but we still have to fight until the metro services are regularly extended, not just a trial. I will continue to push for this, and I am confident it will become a reality.

  1. How did you coordinate with other concerned citizens and groups to strengthen the campaign?  

I feel fortunate to have received strong support for my campaigns. This isn't the only issue I've taken up; I've also addressed other concerns. Some I succeeded, some are still works in progress with some success made. Sometimes, one success leads to another goal, as the larger aim always has a positive impact. The backing I received on social media and media support helped raise awareness and draw attention to this issue. Everything has been driven online.  

  1. What role did traditional media (newspapers, TV) play in amplifying your message?

Traditional media played a crucial role, in my opinion. While social media is a powerful channel, traditional media adds authenticity, credibility, and broad outreach. I believe the synergy of social media and traditional media is most effective. Social media facilitates conversations and gathers support, while conventional media lends established credibility to causes. Authorities also tend to take issues more seriously when covered by traditional media.  

  1. How did you engage the authorities and get them to take your campaign seriously?

I wonder if they have taken the campaign seriously at all. I've sent emails and even called their metro office to arrange an in-person meeting to understand their challenges in extending this service. I don't see myself as an activist against the metro; instead, I view this as an enhancement of the excellent service the metro railways provide to the city. If we can resolve this issue, why not? And if there are concerns, how can we elevate them to the appropriate authorities to ensure the citizens' best interests are prioritized?

  1. What was your reaction when the Kolkata Metro Railways announced the extension of operating hours? 

When I learned about the extension from a mentor who shared a video, I was initially frustrated but thrilled. There was caution, though, as it was only a trial service with uncertain timings. Despite some doubts, I focused on the positive: at least there was progress in the right direction. I was highly overjoyed and even made a video about it, which went viral. The response was overwhelming, with many people celebrating the extension and sending me messages of support.  

  1. What advice would you give to others looking to use social media for civic engagement and social change?

I believe all of us identify issues that can improve our cities. In a vibrant democracy, beyond just voting, our role as active citizens is to bring these issues to the forefront. Support naturally follows when we choose issues that genuinely interest the public and resonate with others. People's support can catalyze significant changes; it's the most potent force in any democracy. Take ownership and champion the issues you care about; there's nothing to lose. Keep expectations modest, be patient, but always believe in the power to effect change.