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Railways are out of reach for the dead!

Railway Minister Lalu Yadav has little on offer for common people who want to transport their dead.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2006 11:35 IST

Railway Minister Lalu Yadav, who leased luggage brake vans to private operators with much fanfare and is minting money, has little on offer for common people who want to transport their dead.

Bereaved families have to now cough up thousands of rupees to transport their dead by road.

"Before Lalu Yadav decided to privatise the brake van, transportation of bodies used to cost between Rs 300 and Rs 600," said Nanda Govind, president of the Confederation of Tamil Nadu Malayali Associations. For the same distance, the cost of taking a body is now 10 times more. And by road it is even costlier.

The last journey of famous footballer VP Sathyan from Chennai to his Kerala hometown by road cost Rs19,000. In the process, some take to haggling, pleading and - at times - simple old fashioned bribing in a desperate attempt to bring down the cost.

The railways have a system called "under-guard", wherein the first and last coaches of a train are partitioned to accommodate the flag-waving guard. If the official relents, a body can indeed be transported under his munificence, as the Malayali Association recently found out.

Not very long ago bereaved families thought the system was not so bad. "Railway authorities not only allowed the dead to travel in peace but also their next of kin were given the much needed reservations under emergency quota," said CMK Reddy, president of the Telugu Association.

"In fact, sometimes, officials obliged families by agreeing to carry the body in the under-guard's space as a discretionary measure," Reddy pointed out.

According to the present policy, space on brake vans which can hold up to 12 tonnes are private property. The additional space - which is within the purview of the guard - for four more tonnes has been reserved for excess luggage and perishables.

Sadly, those who have already perished rarely come under this category. Good Samaritans from Southern Railway had attempted to procure more space for the dead but the Central Railway Board shot it down.