The railway ministry is helpless about the discomfort of railway passengers in reserved compartments who are outnumbered by passengers without tickets or with tickets meant for unreserved compartments
Last month, my friend’s daughter went on a trip to Corbett Park, which was organised by a Pune-based nature trail group. Although they had booked a Second Class (ordinary) reserved compartment, most of the 30-hour journey was spent in utter discomfort, with people without tickets insisting they share their seats with them and some even sleeping on their upper berths throughout the day. This teenage girl along with the organizers was forced into a verbal duel before the man vacated the upper berth, when she finally wanted to sleep at the night on her rightful berth that she had paid for. The ticket collector, when confronted during the day, showed helplessness and did the disappearing act.
Such instances have become nightmare for railway passengers across the length and breadth of India, as they happen in practically on every train journey. The Second Class (ordinary as well as air-conditioned) reserved compartments have become equivalent to unreserved compartments with beggars, illegal hawkers and illegal passengers literally overpowering the law-abiding citizens who book their tickets in these compartments.
RTI Anonymous took up one such case of harassment that was posted by a citizen, on its website. He requested RTI Anonymous to invoke the RTI (Right to Information) Act to find out if any rules exist under which the Indian Railways can take action against such harassment. (RTI Anonymous is an online service, through which, any Indian citizen can file Right to Information (RTI) applications anonymously (www.getup4change.org/rti/).
Each one of us would be able to identify this particular case and feel disgusted that the Railway Board and railway security department of the ministry of railways confess through the RTI reply that they cannot take action against such crime being done in broad daylight under the nose of its own bandwagon of ticket collectors.
Grouse of the complainant
This complainant travelled from Guwahati to Delhi on train No. 14055 Brahmaputra Mail in 2AC class on 9 December 2011.
Ritesh Singh, member of RTI Anonymous who filed the RTI application on 8 January 2012, also recorded the background by describing the inconvenience of the complainant during the journey.
The RTI application states the first person account of the complainant: “At Rangiya station, as many as 60 unregistered hawkers and beggars entered our compartment. Boot-polishers, handicapped beggars, even eunuchs entered in large numbers. The situation continued all the way from Rangiya to Patna. The TTE (Travelling Ticket Examiner) with a group of friends was sitting in our compartment, relaxing and having tea and specially prepared snacks ordered without payment from the pantry. On a complaint being made to the TTE, he and his friend replied that it is a daily occurrence. The TTE pleaded that if a complaint is lodged, senior officers will make him a scapegoat and pretend as if it was a one-time aberration. The hawkers, beggars, and eunuchs pay off the rail attendant, rail staff, and railway police. The paying passenger is short-changed. Due to the large number of hawkers, many passengers especially children had food spilt on them, or passenger luggage damaged or stolen and other incidents.
“After a while, another group of TTEs came and sat there. They were from other coaches... This group of TTEs also kept asking the pantry staff for tea and snacks. Another tall man appeared from somewhere... He was drunk and was staring at the passengers. I informed the TTE but he expressed helplessness. I reminded him that if he wants he can call the Railway Protection Force. The TTE then whispered to me that he cannot do much as the man was a constable and had been allotted a berth in an ordinary reserved compartment but wanted to enjoy in 2AC so was present here, occupying any vacant berth. The passenger on berth number 30 also appeared from police or a similar force as he had some kind of understanding with the tall man. Both were in civil clothing... The tall drunk man learnt that I had complained about him and kept staring at me even more.
“Then in one stretch of the journey when there were no other occupants, the tall man pulled the curtain. My mobile phone was behind the curtain connected to the socket for charging... At the end of my journey, I collected my mobile phone and charger also. Only on reaching home I realized that mobile phone had been tampered with and was damaged. What else can be expected of a drunk policeman being deliberately allowed to travel in a class which was not for him? It is the duty of railways to stop undeserving persons from entering the compartment. They need to do so without any complaint from any passenger. I experienced how police behave like goondas and wreck vengeance on citizens who complain about them. All over the country every year, there are large number of such incidents but no action is taken.”
Queries in the RTI application
* Whether Indian Railways have made an estimate of bribes obtained by rail staff and rail police separately for allowing and facilitating unlawful entry into the train and the compartment and waiting halls, of anti-social elements with the specific aim of molestation and rape of passengers? If no, why not, and when will such estimate be made available? If yes, what is the figure for the latest year for which estimate is available? Figures needed separately for the north-east region.
RTI reply: The desired information is not maintained by Security (Crime) Branch.
* Whether Indian Railways has made an estimate of the revenue loss on account of rail staff and rail police travelling in the class for which they are not officially entitled? If no, why not, and when will such estimate be made available? If yes, what is the figure for the latest year for which estimate is available? Estimate figures need to be given separately from different classes of travel that is 1A, 2A, 3A, SL, 2S, unreserved, etc.
RTI reply: No reply was provided.
* Whether arrangements have been made for frisking, checking, and background checks of hawkers, beggars, eunuchs, etc entering the compartments to rule out militants, arsonists, miscreants, criminals, and to prevent bomb attacks, etc., particularly in Maoist-affected and disturbed areas?
RTI reply: Frisking of the passengers and their luggage is being at important railway stations by GRP (Government Railway Police)/RPF (Railway Protection Force). Important mails and express trains passing through valuable sections are being escorted by RPF/GRP. The unauthorized hawkers are not permitted to cater in railway stations/trains. If found during checking they are being prosecuted under the provision of the Railway Act, 1989.
* In the incidents of the journey in compartment A1 in train No, 14055 Brahmaputra Mail that started from Guwahati on 9 December 2011 related above, how could the cost of mobile and other damages for lack of privacy, etc, be recovered and in what time frame after claim is filed will amount be released?
RTI reply from joint director, Traffic Commission, Railway Board: As per Section 100 of the Railway Act, 1989, the Railways are liable to pay compensation for loss/ damage of luggage booked and for which a receipt is given for luggage which is in charge of the passenger. Compensation would be paid only if less or damage is proved to be due to negligence of the railway or railway servant.
* Whether Indian Railways has made an estimate of annual theft of baggage of passengers which would include both reported and unreported incidents? If no, why not, and when will such estimate be made available? If yes, what is the figure for the latest year for which estimate is available?
RTI reply from DIG, railway security, PIO, Railway Board: Policing on the Railways is a state subject and therefore maintenance of law and order in the Railways is the statutory responsibility of the state governments concerned, which they discharge through their Government Railway Police (GRP). Therefore, the cases of crime in the Railways are reported to, registered and investigated by GRP of the concerned states. Indian Railway does not maintain such information in the desired format. The applicant may approach the GRP of the concerned state to obtain the information if needed.
* In train No, 14055 Brahmaputra Mail that started from Guwahati on 9 December 2011, how many berths were vacant, not booked, and booked but no show, in each sector of the journey in coach A1? Of the reserved berths, how many were paid from government accounts, which include rail passes and PTOs, as well as other government sources? In each sector of the journey, how many persons were occupying space in the coach for which they were not entitled, including TTEs, police personnel and other government staff?
RTI Reply: No reply was provided.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at [email protected])
Beirut was the place where the east and west mingled easily and even the very conservative Arab from neighbouring states would feel free here. The 55th part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business
It was early morning, when I was getting ready for the office when Mike from Commodore called to say that a Capt Krishnan Nair was in the hotel and would like to meet me. Apart from exporters from India, we had many airline crews staying there, including Air India.
Though I had seen many crew members in the hotel during my brief visits, I had not established any contact with them. It was therefore a surprise that Capt Krishnan wanted to meet me.
When I met him a few minutes later, it turned out that Capt Krishnan Nair had really nothing to do with Air India, except that he took their flights often. He was, in fact, managing director of Leela Lace a well-known textile manufacturer, who was on a fact finding mission en route to Europe!
Though I spent most of my time and energy in promoting engineering goods and services, when enquiries came for other items, I passed them on to respective export promotion council or suggested that the person to meet the Indian Embassy commercial secretary, VP Singh, a well-educated, Arabic-knowing IFS officer for his advice.
As we got to talking on the subject, I realised that as Beirut was the most fashionable centre of the Middle East, there should be no reason who I should not involve in our Indian Women’s Cooperative Society to do some marketing. Immediately I got in touch with Pratibha Patel and Pushpa Dewan, and asked if they could organize a display of the materials. Meanwhile, this young and dashing Capt Nair managed to persuade an upcoming film star and leading fashion model, Gladys Aboujoude to come and wear the various lace dresses that he had brought with him.
Twenty-four hours later, we had a beautiful show with Gladys wearing the dresses and walking up the ramp! The hall was overcrowded with lots of local merchants and was a great success, well covered by the Daily Star, the only English newspaper in Beirut!
The cooperative was already marketing the Indian silk scarves, which I had helped them to get, on a consignment basis, from Artwork Exports Pvt Ltd from Calcutta. I believe Capt Nair was able to get a few contacts after the exhibition.
When I reached the office the next day, after collecting the mail from the GPO, I found a lot of enquiries for various items in Saudi Arabia, and the usual complaints of importers asking for delivery of documents without payment due to delay in shipments. Most importers paid off the dues, but, very often they would turn around and asking for some special discounts. I was thinking of a short trip to Jeddah and Riyadh, when I met an old friend, Musa, a member of an aristocratic family in Iraq, who had similar association with a member of the ruling family in Saudi Arabia. He welcomed me to visit him in Riyadh.
I took the trip to Jeddah and met our Ambassador and Bijli, the commercial attaché, both of whom had become close friends. As a matter of practice, I always kept in close touch with the embassy, and freely exchanged my notes and reports with them. So, when I told him about the royal unofficial visit to India, he was totally taken aback, and only when I assured him of my close relations with Musa, we discussed the issue after which a top official message was sent to our prime minister. The visit was a grand success and on his return Musa showed me the framed welcome address by the community in Bombay.
After this visit, our connection with the Saudi Embassy in Beirut became much closer and they were very cooperative in accommodating our requests for visit visas to all our exporters, provided a letter from the EEPC accompanied the application! We made the major breakthrough in supplying steel drums for their refinery in Jeddah, made by Steel Containers, a government of India undertaking.
Encouraged by the response, I made even more contacts in Riyadh, where Musa had a small aluminium window making and steel wool plants. Unfortunately, we could not make any headway in our supplies, as India was short of the metal itself and used steel window sections instead, which, the rich customers in the Middle East did not want to use.
The Lebanese people looked European in physical appearance, and had a beautiful blend of eastern, oriental and Arab hospitality, all rolled into one! Friendly and hard working go-getters enjoyed their life to the full. Government offices closed latest by 3pm which many establishments followed, though shops and other business houses dealing with both east and west worked longer hours. Beirut was the place where the east and west mingled easily, and even the very conservative Arab from neighbouring states would feel free here.
The population of Lebanon was about 2.5 million people; a similar number of Lebanese emigrants encircled the globe and their remittance, back to the country was large, for which reason the Lebanese lira remained a stable currency in the Middle East.
The only problem that people faced was the large number of Palestinians in country; they were welcome to stay and even work, as long as they did not take law into their own hands, which, because they carried arms, occurred once in a while causing trouble to the ruling government.
Yet, the people always remained cheerful and hospitable. If I remember correctly, it was Laila who began the first ever hijacking of a plane which emanated from Beirut International Airport. No one could visualise that this would be the beginning of many to follow in the years to come.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected])
Maharashtra government and Adarsh Society are questioning CBI's authority to probe the case nearly a year-and-half after agency started its investigation
Mumbai: Even as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday filed its charge sheet in the Adarsh scam, the Bombay High Court allowed Ministry of Defence (MoD) to submit its response within two weeks to Maharashtra government's claim that the central agency had no jurisdiction to probe it, reports PTI.
The Maharashtra government and the Adarsh society filed their affidavits before the court questioning the agency's authority to probe the case without its approval, nearly a year-and-half after it began the investigation.
They contested the propriety of the CBI probe on the ground that neither the state government nor the High Court had handed over the investigation to the premier investigative agency.
The affidavit submitted by the counsel for the state government AY Sakhare said the state had not made any request under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, to CBI to investigate the scam. The agency derives its powers from this Act to investigate cases.
The division bench comprising justices SA Bobade and Mridula Bhatkar allowed the MoD to intervene in the public interest litigations (PILs) in the Adarsh scam after its counsel Kevic Setalvad opposed the state government's claim that Adarsh land belonged to it and that CBI cannot probe the scam.
He pleaded before the court to allow MoD to intervene in the matter which was granted.
Counsels for Adarsh Society and state government Shekhar Naphade and AY Sakhare opposed MoD lawyer's plea to intervene in the matter, saying the Adarsh Inquiry Commission had already settled the issue of ownership of the land in state's favour.
The judges said the court would have to examine whether any order was passed earlier asking the CBI to probe the scam.
It was on a recommendation from MoD that the CBI had launched a probe in the Adarsh scam.
The affidavit filed by Ruprao Deshmukh, Joint Secretary in the Home department, said, on CBI's specific request the state had made available the records and extended all cooperation to the premier investigative agency.
The affidavit said the Adarsh Inquiry Commission appointed by the state to probe alleged irregularities in construction of the building in upscale Colaba had submitted its interim report in April and that it will take appropriate action after receiving the final report.
After hearing the arguments, justices Bobade and Bhatkar directed the MoD to file an affidavit in response to Maharashtra government's stand within two weeks and adjourned the hearing on the PILs till 18th July.
The court allowed the MoD access to all documents to enable it to file its reply.
The court was hearing PILs filed by social activists Simpreet Singh and Pravin Wategaonkar seeking monitoring of the probe by the High Court and invoking provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the case.
The agency had registered a case in the scam on January 29 last year under IPC sections including criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and showing forged document as genuine, besides sections pertaining to Prevention of Corruption Act.
Former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Congress leader KL Gidwani, top-ranking retired army officers Lt General PK Rampal, Major Generals AR Kumar and TK Kaul, retired brigadiers RC Sharma and MM Wanchoo are among the accused.
The FIR also names Subash Lala, the then principal secretary to Chief Minister, former principal secretary of the Urban Development Department Ramanand Tiwari, former municipal commissioner and IAS officer Jairaj Phatak and fellow IAS colleague and former Mumbai collector Pradeep Vyas as accused.
The late mother-in-law and sister-in-law of Chavan had flats in the society. Chavan was Revenue Minister between 2001-2003 and had dealt with files pertaining to the ownership of land. He is alleged to have recommended allotment of 40% flats in the building to civilians and also changed the development plan to favour the society which was said to be meant for Kargil widows and war heroes.
The MoD had ordered a CBI probe in the scam on the recommendation of the Army Chief following a preliminary inquiry.
Besides CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax department are also probing the irregularities.
Apart from Chavan, two former Maharashtra Chief Ministers Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh are under the lens for granting clearances in violation of norms.