The new service accepting railway complaints via mobile short messaging services (SMS) has unleashed a monster on unsuspecting railway officials.
Ever since its launch this month, Northern Railway has been receiving an average of 250-300 text messages per day — close to 6,000 in 18 days.
Sadly, most of the so-called complaints are either about nothing or at best, funny.
Passengers can text their complaints to 09717630982 and they are attended to within 90 minutes.
“People want to know the direction to parking lots, crib about the quality of announcements, music played at stations, even bargain about prices of food available,” said a senior official in charge of the complaint centre.
Owing to the mobile phone revolution, the service has turned every passenger into a potential, on-the-spot complainant.
“The number of messages is overwhelming. In fact, people started sending messages about problems in Chennai and Hyderabad as well,” said Vivek Sahai, Northern Railway general manager. “We had to ask the railway ministry to do something about it.”
In may cases, complainants do not mention specifics like station or train name, so they can’t be followed up. “The general nature of complaints are quite funny,” Sahai said.
Three officials man the computer that receives texts 24/7.
“We forward the complaints to divisions concerned and follow up within 90 minutes.”
There are bright spots too.
Last week, a man with his family parked themselves in the cabin of a pantry car by bribing the pantry manager. At night, the manager started drinking.
The man objected, saying the manager shouldn’t drink before his family. “A ruckus followed. So the passenger sent an SMS to us,” the official said.
Officials intercepted the train at Ludhiana, ran a medical check on the pantry manager and took him away. “The whole matter took just 40 minutes.”