Shoeshine boys, inseparable from railway stations in the mind and whose hard lives have inspired numerous film scripts, have vanished from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST).
Citing irregularities such as the number of boot polishers exceeding the permitted limit, recently the Railways cancelled the licences of all shoeshine boys at three stations.
Besides the CST, complaints were received and cancellations effected at Masjid Bunder and Sandhurst Road stations.
“There were a lot of complaints against the cooperative society involved in the contract to man shoeshine boys at Mumbai CST, saying they were allowing unauthorised people to work on the station premises,” said Shriniwas Mudgerikar, Central Railway chief public relations officer. “The Railways conducted surprise checks and found the complaints true.” The Railways had allowed 19 shoeshine boys at the CST and up to six each at Masjid Bunder and Sandhurst Road, said officials in the know who requested anonymity for lack of authorisation to speak to the media. They said on inspection more than 30 shoeshine boys at CST and nearly 10 each at the other two stations.
RB Singh, national executive president of the Sant Rohidas Society, a body of associations that manage the shoeshine boys at stations, admitted there had been lapses in the shoeshine contract. “There was some mischief on the part of office-bearers of the association involved at certain stations on the Central Railway. I am approaching the Railway Ministry to sort out the issue and plug loopholes in these activities.”