Having paid a premium price to travel in air-conditioned comfort, passengers aboard the Hapa-Howrah Express took offence after discovering freeloaders of the furry and scurry variety in the coaches.
Refusing to continue on the interspecies journey with bounding rats, passengers extended the train’s stipulated 15-minute halt to beyond an hour at Bilaspur station Monday.
Irate passengers got off the train after it entered Bilaspur, 125 km east of Raipur, around 4.30 pm.
Marching with their complaint of rats jumping on berths, luggage and even nibbling at their food to station master S Chattopadhyay, the passengers said they would not allow the train to move if railway officials did not get rid of the rats.
During the standoff, the passengers of AC coaches A-1 and B-1 pulled the emergency chain on four occasions and many sat on the platform in a flash protest.
The passengers finally relented and allowed the train to move after railways staff sprayed insecticide in the rat-filled compartments and used other sanitation equipment.
Chattopadhyay said Tuesday, “The problem lies with the originating station, where hygiene and sanitation need to be ensured. We have conveyed the reactions of the agitated passengers to authorities at the originating station in Gujarat and the terminating point in West Bengal.”
South East Central Railways (SECR) spokesperson Santosh Kumar said all 23 AC coaches in the zone had special glue boards with rodent baits. “Rats are mostly found in
AC coaches because of their proximity to pantry cars. There are practical problems. The SECR has received just one (such) complaint in the last one year because our cleanliness mechanism and pest control means are strictly adhered to.”