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])
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