Why commuters’ complaints to Railways on Twitter may have been ignored

Some of the handles assigned the task of looking into complaints have been inactive for over a year. Some handles have no response and, in one, there is a “personal tweet”.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | Published: October 4, 2017 3:31:26 am
elphinstone stampede, mumbai stampede, elphinstone victims, elphinstone tweets, elphinstone complaints, elphinstone goot overbridge complaints,  Relatives of victims at KEM hospital. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

SOON AFTER the stampede at the Elphinstone Road railway station, it came to light that nearly 100 people had expressed concern over the overcrowding on the foot overbridge (FOB) to the Railways on Twitter. Little action, however, followed these complaints. The Twitter handles of the Mumbai division of both the Western Railway (WR) and the Central Railway (CR) gives an insight into why the Twitter complaints may not have been taken seriously. Some of the handles assigned the task of looking into complaints have been inactive for over a year. Some handles have no response and, in one, there is a “personal tweet”.

Apart from the railway ministry (@RailMinIndia) and the Twitter handle of Railway Minister Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal), the presence of the Indian Railways on Twitter is further divided into several railway routes, like the Central Railways (@Central_Railways) and Western Railways (@WesternRly). For specific divisions like Mumbai, the Twitter head is the divisional railway manager (DRM), whose handle is @drmbct. Commuters, normally unaware about these divisions, tweet about a problem in a Mumbai local to the WR/CR; the latter tags the DRM Mumbai’s Twitter handle. On most occasions, tweets till this level are prompt. But as the complaints are further delegated online, the problems begin to surface as several Twitter accounts of junior-level employees handling these complaints have been inactive since a year.

elphinstone stampede, mumbai stampede, elphinstone victims, elphinstone tweets, elphinstone complaints, elphinstone goot overbridge complaints,  Source: Screenshot

For example, one Yogesh Vaidya tweeted to the WR Twitter handle on October 1, asking how long will it take for an FOB to be constructed at the Virar railway station. The WR handle then tagged the Mumbai DRM. A Twitter handle @ACMBCT2, which often responds to tweets in which the Mumbai DRM is marked, then further tagged @SrDENCoBCT and @Srdenestatebct to “please look into the matter”.

Based on the Twitter profiles, it appears both the handles have not been in use for more than a year. While @SrDENCoBCT with a following of 11 people last tweeted, replying to a complaint, on April 22, 2016; @Srdenestatebct with a following of 19 people has been inactive since April 24, 2016, when it last replied to a commuter problem. As expected, there was no response from these handles and, eventually, Vaidya tweeted back a few hours later, saying “No use of raising the issue if no one is going to listen and reply”. That was the end of the conversation. There were several complaints made to these two inactive Twitter handles, like people singing in trains, that obviously went unanswered.

In another case, a Twitter handle @rushie82 tweeted to the WR about him being disabled but being forced to sit in the general compartment because there was no handicap coach. The WR handle tagged the Mumbai DRM following which @ACMBCT2 then tagged @srdombct to “look into the matter”. The problem here is, @srdombct, whose bio reads “Incharge of Operations on the Mumbai division of Western Railways, including suburban operations on western line” with 648 followers, last tweeted on October 14, 2016. There was no response to the tweet from the handle.

elphinstone stampede, mumbai stampede, elphinstone victims, elphinstone tweets, elphinstone complaints, elphinstone goot overbridge complaints,  Source: Screenshot

Things on the Central line are no different. One Hitesh Valmiki Tuesday tweeted to the CR about there being no water connection to the wash basin at Titwala railway station. The CR in turn tagged the DRM central railways, which further tagged a Twitter handle @srdencomumbaicr to look into the issue. Valmiki then thanked the CR handle for the prompt response. What Valmiki did not know, however, is that the CR handle that was set up in October 2016 had not tweeted even once. In several cases, where the railways does respond on Twitter, they do seek details of the complaint from the person tweeting.

When contacted, Mukul Jain, DRM, Western Railway, said, “The official Twitter handle is that of the DRM, which is active. The other handles may not reply but they report to us.” When informed that before going inactive last year, these handles replied to people on Twitter, Jain said, “Please provide the Twitter handles, I will have a word with them.” DRM, Central Railway, S K Jain said, “I have just taken charge today and will have to check the details.”

Apart from inactive Twitter handles and those which don’t reply, there was one which decided to show some gratitude. @CCRBCT often tagged by the Western Railway tweeted on October 18, 2016, “Snapdeal shopping in one word – Simple amazing :-) I found the customer service of Snapdeal to be very nice.”

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