Mumbai: Chaotic scenes were witnessed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus(CSMT) on Wednesday, with hundreds of passengers waiting for trains to take them home in north India. On the same day, the CSMT-Gorakhpur Antyodaya train was delayed by over two hours and this added to the commotion, resulting in long queues of passengers. A Government Railway Police (GRP) official said there was extra rush as people were going to their native places for summer vacation. The heat added to the woes of the passengers, especially women and children.
“The crowd is huge and most of the passengers are heading to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as they are trying to reach their native places for the summer vacation. The rush will continue for the next couple of days,” the official said. When asked about the reason behind the high footfall, a senior GRP official, who was busy in crowd control at the CSMT, summed up that the problem is the huge gap between supply and demand. “The number of travellers is more as compared to the availability of seats. Especially during summer vacation, many people, who hail from UP and Bihar and work in Mumbai, want to travel to their native places,” he added.
An activist said, “Unlike other modes of transport, Indian Railways prove economical and more feasible as they cover almost all of India. Thus, it becomes the most trusted and sought-after public transport for long journeys.” To travel to UP and Bihar, other modes of transport prove costly, hence those belonging to lower-income groups fully depend on trains, said Subhash Gupta, Rail Yatri Parishad President. In the north, the summer season is considered one of the most suitable seasons for weddings. Also, people prefer to spend the vacation with their family, friends and relatives, which adds to the rush, he reasoned.
A senior rail official said, “Apart from running special trains, we are also attaching additional coaches to manage the rush. How many people reach the railway station and board the train on a general ticket cannot be predicted.” Several special trains for northern India are being run by the Central and Western Railways. For the convenience of passengers, the Central Railway has announced more than 350 summer specials and more trains are on the anvil, said the rail spokesperson.
Trains to UP, Bihar packed like sardines
To tackle the summer rush, the Central and Western Railways are running dozens of summer specials on a daily basis. Not to mention, 50 regular trains on the route. Still, people are struggling to get confirmed tickets and the problem recurs every summer. Even though the reservation system is automated and controlled via online servers, still many times the nexus between touts and officials has been reported. They book tickets in bulk for non-existing travellers and later sell them for high prices.
“Getting confirmed berths in long-distance trains of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, originating from Mumbai, has become difficult due to the huge summer rush. All regular and special trains are running over-packed. Not only berths but also train passages are packed like sardines,” said Deena Nath, 42, who works as a plumber in the city.
To get confirmed tickets, he has been waiting in the queue at the CSMT for the last two days. The man wants to go to UP to attend a wedding ceremony of a family member, which is scheduled on May 2. Similarly, Ramprakash, 40, who works with a Sion-based sweet shop, is also struggling for confirmed tickets for the last two days.
“I have been trying for tatkal tickets for the last three days. On the first day, my token number was 14, on the second day it was 5 but I didn't get confirmed tickets. Today (Wednesday) my token number is 3 hence I am hopeful for getting confirmed booking for Thursday,” he prayed.
Explaining the system developed to avoid melee, a rail official said, “Considering the huge demand, a queue information system has been developed at each and every railway reservation counter. Under this system, every morning a token number is allocated to every passenger standing in the queue for the booking the next day.
Over 80,000 pax daily taking trains to UP, Bihar
According to the railways, around 60 trains daily depart from the city for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar each, with a carrying capacity of 1,000 passengers. Some trains are 24 coaches long, which can carry nearly 2,000 people. According to rough estimates, more than 80,000 people are taking trains to UP and Bihar on a daily basis. However, a video shot by The Free Press Journal on Wednesday revealed that not only coaches but their passages were running fully packed, while passengers had no option but to travel like cattle. People were finding it difficult to even answer the call of nature.
A senior railway official said, “Staff members have been deployed in various sections to monitor the queue formation system at every reservation counter. 'May I Help You' booths are kept operational at important stations while the Railway Protection Force personnel and ticket checkers are deputed for proper assistance and guidance of passengers.” Measures also have been taken for frequent and timely announcements of the arrival/departure of trains.
Besides, the Security and Vigilance Department is also keeping a vigil on malpractices like cornering of seats, overcharging and touting activity, etc, the official added.
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