Questioning whether cost of life is more important than working hours, the Bombay High Court Wednesday asked the state government to see if office timings and weekly offs could be changed to reduce rush of commuters during peak hours in local trains.
Asking why timings of most offices are set from 10 am to 5 pm, the High Court said that the traditional formula should be broken by introducing different office timings in some sectors in order to prevent overcrowding of trains. “Change the timings of schools, colleges and government offices,” said a Bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice S B Shukre, who were hearing a suo motu PIL, which was converted out of a letter written by A B Thakker urging reservation of a separate compartment for senior citizens.
Advocate Suresh Kumar, appearing for the Western Railways, said that if this was done, it would help reduce rush in the trains by ten per cent. The court said that offices could be asked to change the weekly offs also in order to reduce overcrowding of trains.
“There is no compulsion to follow a set pattern. This will be helpful to employees of organisations also. Break the set pattern of timing and weekly offs,” added the court. The Bench asked the Advocate General to get involved in the matter and has even sought a response from the government in this regard.
The High Court also asked the state government and municipal corporation to look at running the Central and Western Railways. “Why doesn’t the state and municipal corporation not think of participating in the running of trains. It is your people who are dying. You can do this in certain routes to see if it works. There is no use asking the Railway Ministry. It is happening in your city,” said the Bench.
The court also said that the operation and functioning of trains should be handed over to an organisation similar to what is being done with the Metro.
In order to make the trains safer, the Bench also asked for rubber bars to be installed in place of the steel rods in local trains so that people holding on to the bars have a better grip and do not fall down. The High Court also suggested pushing the bar a little away from the entrance to prevent people from hanging. Kumar, however, maintained that this would be inconvenient for commuters as most people hold on to the bar to climb on to the coaches.
The HC also asked about the procedure followed by the Railways after an accident and was informed that the station master had to sign a memo before the injured was shifted to a hospital. “Human life is at stake. You will wait for a memo to be signed by the station master who sits in a remote corner of the station? This will take atleast half-an-hour,” said Justice Naresh Patil. The Railways, however, said that the entire procedure took less time. “Have you earmarked the nearest hospitals near stations which are accident prone? You should have a list of names of the hospitals and numbers ready,” said the court, adding that railway accidents were usually fatal and such a list was necessary for the Railways to prepare.
The Railways said that a committee was also looking into changing the sitting arrangements in trains by having lesser seats or have Metro-type of sitting arrangements and there would be greater clarity on this next month.
Clean toilets, CCTV in coaches for women
The Bombay High Court while hearing a separate PIL concerning women’s safety in local trains asked Central and Western Railways to ensure providing clean toilets to women besides looking into installing CCTV cameras in coaches.