Coolies twiddle thumbs as tech makes travel a breezeUpdated: Oct 31, 2019, 22:47 IST
The downside of technology is all too evident at the first class entrance gate of the busy Gorakhpur Junction as a group of porters sit idle whiling time, gossiping or engrossed in their mobile phones.
Baboo Kori, 40, who used to earn good money porting the luggage of passengers is one of them and blames modern passenger facilities like escalators and lifts introduced by the Railways, and the use of wheeled trolley bags, as the reason for the decline in the demand of licensed porters at the railway station. Another factor is the preference for Platform number 1 and nine for the arrival and departure of trains, the coolies said.
“Even the farthest platforms which would earlier require a passenger to climb up long flights of stairs to reach, is now easily accessible with lifts and escalators installed here. Besides, trolley bags with wheels have made it easy for passengers to carry luggage on their own. So, who would hire a coolie?” says Kori, who has been working as a porter for the last 20 years.
Another coolie, Javed, said that trains arriving on Platforms 1 and 2, or Platform 9 (last platform connected through the road behind the station) have also hit coolies hard, as passengers can easily walk up to the train. “A porter who would earlier earn Rs 500- 600 daily, now hardly earns Rs 200 to 300, which is not enough to support a family in these inflationary times,” Javed said.
But even though their work and income has been hit with technology stepping in at the railway station, porters see a silver lining. “Earlier, when Lalu Yadav became railway minster, many jobless coolies were made gang men at a good pay scale,“ said Kori, as he hoped that his Billah (badge) would someday get him absorbed into another job with the Railways, provided the railway ministry takes cognizance of their joblessness. According to the porters, there are 183 coolies at the Junction, down from 300, as some were made gang men during Lalu’s tenure.
NER chief public relations officer Pankaj Singh said, “Improving passenger amenities is among the top priorities of Railways. Facilities like lifts, escalators are part of it. As far as the interests of the coolies are concerned, the Railways has revised porter charges.”