In February 2019, while addressing a group of Indian Railway probationers at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Ram Nath Kovind, President of India shared his thoughts on how sweet memories of railway journeys always find a space in one's heart. While it's special for children, even others widely depend upon the rail medium to visit friends and family and stay connected.
Indian Railways, considered, the common man's choice for long travels isn't the most feasible possibility for the first citizen of the country. However, on June 25, Ram Nath Kovind was able to fulfil this dream of his— visiting his hometown and birthplace—during his tenure traveling by the Presidential Saloon.
The Presidential Saloon, a special train with two luxurious coaches equipped with a well-staffed kitchen, dining room, conference/lounge room, and bedroom ferried Ram Nath Kovind and his family to rural Kanpur from Delhi. The train that started at Safdarjung railway station in Delhi on Friday morning, made two stop-overs at Jhinjhak and Rura of Kanpur Dehat and reached Kanpur Central by Friday evening.
According to a press release by the Indian Railways and updates on the President of India Youtube page, during the stopover halts, the President wished to interact with old acquaintances from his school days and early social service days.
While addressing an audience at the Jhinjhak railway station, the President spoke of his journey from the small village of Paraunkh to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and expressed that he is there to seek the blessings of his people. He also reminisced his days of waiting for long hours to catch a train at the very station and also paid a tribute to some of his close friends and mentors from Jhinjhak who have departed due to age-related illness or the pandemic.
At the Rura station, the President expressed that although he visited Kanpur nearly five times during his tenure, he was unable to visit Kanpur Dehat (rural) every time and coincidentally, with the help of the Railway Ministry's swift efforts, his wish to reach his hometown through train was made possible.
The President also took this platform as an opportunity to spread awareness of the Covid-19 pandemic and made an appeal to wear masks, practise social distancing and go for vaccination in the wake of the upcoming third wave.
Presidential tradition of undertaking train journey
Ram Nath Kovind's choice of the mode of journey was also is in line with the tradition of a number of Presidents who took to train travels to connect with people in various parts of the country. The last time a President travelled by train was in 2006 when Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam boarded a special train from Delhi to Dehradun to attend a passing out parade of cadets at the Indian Military Academy (IMA).
"The service of the Presidential Saloon which was in use since independence had been discontinued on the instructions of the Hon'ble President. This saved the exchequer crores of rupees annually utilized in the making and maintenance of the Saloon," as per a report by Livemint.
Records show that the country's first president, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, often undertook train journeys. Soon after taking office as the President, he visited his birthplace, Ziradei in Siwan district, during his visit to Bihar.