In what indicates a continued encroachment of travel space reserved for differently abled commuters on the Mumbai suburban railways, there has been a manifold increase in the number of cases of unauthorised travel on Western Railway (WR) and on Central Railway (CR) in the last four years, according to data obtained from Railways.
In 2010, CR registered 8,285 cases of unauthorized travel. The number increased to 26,433 in 2013. Similarly, WR registered 757 such cases in 2010, which went up to 7,904 in 2013. In the first four months of 2014, both CR and WR have already registered a total of 11,922 cases of unauthorised travel.
Following repeated complaints from this group of commuters, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) has stepped up drive to prosecute unauthorised travellers. The Railways collected a fine of Rs 1.08 crore from such offenders during this period.
“We conduct intensive drives in addition to regular checks to remove and prosecute unauthorised travellers from compartments reserved for the differently abled commuters. We appeal people to board coaches earmarked for them and not compartments reserved for women and the differently abled,” said Alok Bohra, RPF’s senior divisional security commissioner (Mumbai division), CR.
According to railway officials, the profile of the unauthorised traveller in such compartments ranges from habitual ticketless travellers, uniformed personnel, commuters in rush or sick commuters.
A parliamentary standing committee on suburban railways, in its recommendations to the Ministry of Railways this year, has suggested relocating compartments reserved for the differently abled to the extreme ends of the train — next to the motor-cab. According to the panel, this will ensure that the differently abled do not have to jostle in crowd from adjacent coaches while boarding and alighting.
Also, with the compartments positioned next to the guard and motorman cab, the train crew will be able to clearly see whether differently abled commuters have boarded the trains comfortably before the train moves.
With the average halt time at suburban railway station being 30 seconds, differently abled commuters often complain of difficulty in boarding crowded compartments.
However, for the railways, the recommendation appears to be a tough choice.
“For security of women commuters, compartments reserved for ladies have been positioned closer to the motor-cab. Also, compartments reserved for differently abled have to be provided across the length of train to ensure an easier access from any part of the platform.” said a WR officer.
Sharat Chandrayan, Chief Public Relations Officer, WR, said, “As compared to the nine-car rakes, we now have more space inside the compartments reserved for the differently abled commuters. We have also provided audio visual signages at suburban stations to help them locate compartments reserved for them easily.”
However, the committee has expressed its “disappointment” and is critical about the “apathetic attitude of the Railway authorities” in implementing fundamental amenities for differently abled passengers at stations.
The Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) has laid out guidelines for railways to make railway stations disabled-friendly.
However, during its study tours at suburban stations in Mumbai, the committee found the guidelines had not been implemented.
Some of the amenities recommended by RDSO include ramps, special coach indicator signages, designated parking lots, non-slippery walkways, disabled-friendly toilets, “May I help you” booths and inter-platform transfers.
The committee has asked the ministry to update it regularly about the progress made in providing these amenities at railway stations.