The biggest public-sector undertaking — the Indian Railways — needs to urgently impart some lessons in good behaviour to its employees, so that they learn to treat railway passengers with respect.
In February this year, a couple had been pushed out of a moving train by Railway Protection Force personnel at Muzaffarnagar, resulting in the tragic death of one of them. They had valid tickets to travel to Sahranpur and had been wrongly directed to the Shatabdi Express by a railway employee.
On seeing that they had no reservation for the Dehradun-bound Shatabdi, two RPF men began hurling abuses at them and, unmindful of the fact that the train had started moving, pushed them out of the train. While the man, Rajeshwar Tyagi, fell on the platform, his wife, Santosh, slipped into the gap between the platform and the tracks and was crushed under the wheels of the train.
The railway staff must ensure that people without valid reservation do not enter reserved coaches, but this is certainly not the way to enforce rules.
A reader, Rajesh Kumar Sharma, writes about how he and his wife were abused and ill-treated by the travelling ticket Examiner (TTE) because they did not have their original identity cards with them. He and his wife had gone to Ahmedabad and while on their return journey by Ashram Express, they found that Sharma’s pocket had been picked and his wallet, containing their original identity cards, his driving licence and money, had been stolen.
On being informed of this (they had the tickets and photocopies of their ID card in the bag), the TTE humiliated and abused them and asked them to either get off the train or pay a penalty of Rs. 2,700.
Imagine being stranded in some small railway station without any money and an ID card that is now so essential for travel by train. Seeing their plight, their co-passengers helped them pay the penalty.
In order to curb the misuse of railway reservations and also for security reasons, the railways has made it mandatory (from December 1, 2012) for every passenger with a reserved ticket to show proof of identity. Those who fail to show the proofs of identity will be treated as ticketless passengers and charged accordingly, the railways has said.
But surely, there is no need to abuse and insult those passengers who are unable to produce original IDs. Besides, thefts are common in our overcrowded railway stations and the railways cannot overlook that. Sometimes passengers lose their tickets even as they are boarding the train. It’s really deplorable that instead of being sympathetic to their plight, the TTE misbehaved with them.
SN Anand: Can a railway passenger hold the railways liable for the harassment caused by a TTE and seek refund of the penalty collected illegally by him? I would like to know if such cases have been filed before consumer courts.
Yes, you can hold the railways liable for the actions of its employees and the consumer courts have dealt with many such cases. In Mrs Shipra Sengupta Vs GM (Commercial), Southern Railway, (Transfer petition No. 4 of 2004, decided on January 3, 2006) for example, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission asked the railways to refund the penalty of Rs. 3,806 collected from the passenger and in addition, pay Rs. 25,000 as compensation. In this case, a senior citizen was humiliated and detained by a railway employee and made to pay a penalty for not showing a ‘valid age proof’.
At that time, the railways had not even specified what constituted a valid proof of age. Pointing this out, the apex consumer court had criticised the railways for harassing a woman — also a senior citizen — travelling alone.