A SURPRISE inspection by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) at Bhopal Station on Thursday resulted in the arrest of four outsiders and penalisation of two unlicensed vendors, followed by a demonstration by working vendors in front of RPF outpost Vendors stopped selling tea, coffee, bottled water and fooditems at all platforms on the station, causing inconvenience to long-distance passengers. Although permanent stalls were open, it failed to deal with the rush of passengers.
An RPF team led by its commandant Sarika Mohan conducted the inspection and found four unlicensed vendors on the platform. Two of them were produced before the railway magistrate and penalised.
The action led to an uproar and all vendors staged a demonstration, shouting slogans against alleged corruption and malpractice of the RPF. Former MLA Ramesh Sharma ‘Guttu Bhaiyya’ supported the vendors’ union and alleged that RPF constables and officials of ASI rank regularly extorted money from vendors.
A large number of vendors’ trolleys with food items were found in front of the RPF outpost. “Despite having medical card and licence, RPF detained me and took away my trolley,” alleged licensed vendor Rakesh Jha.
Another licensed vendor Ramkhilawan Jha said despite having a medical card, the RPF slapped Sections 144 and 147 of the IRA on him and forced to pay Rs 1,500 as penalty. Supporting his claim, tea vendor Shan Khan alleged that police took Rs 1,000 from him and refused to give him a receipt.
Showing his permission letter from the railway, authorised parcel agent Mohd Sohail too alleged that RPF staff regularly harassed them for money during loading and unloading of goods. “It’s virtually impossible to continue working single-handed for 24 hours.
As I was sent for medical test, I asked my brother to look after the trolley and on returning, I found him taken away by the police,” alleged 70-year-old Jumman Khan, who has been in vending for over four decades.
Pointing out two RPF assistant sub-inspectors, the vendors’ union alleged they regularly visited platforms in an inebriated state and took away food items without making any payment. “In addition, we are forced to shell out about Rs 90 per day,” a licensed vendor alleged.
Refuting the allegations, RPF commandant Sarika Mohan told Hindustan Times the demonstration was a reaction to the action taken by RPF against illegal practice of selling food items by unlicensed vendors. “Considering past incidences, Bhopal station is a sensitive area and we can not allow any such activities, which is a menace for passengers,” she said. “During my inspections at Vidisha, Ganj Basoda, Guna and other stations, I’ve found this kind of reluctance. If there’s any genuine complain against the staff, the vendors could have made it to me in writing,” added Mohan.
l Sr Divisional Commercial Manager (WCR), GS Awasthi: As per rules, no unlicensed vendors can sell food items at platforms, as it leads to threat of using drugs in foods to dupe passengers.
2 RPF Commandant, Sarika Mohan: Unlicensed vendors are bound to be prosecuted and illegal practice can not be allowed in view of the law and greater interest of passengers.
3 Vendors’ Union: RPF staff harass and extort on a regular basis, even from licensed vendors. If an unlicensed vendor pays money, he is allowed to go scot-free.