Mumbai: The face of the Indian Railways, a TC (ticket checker) has to be diplomatic and polite while catering to passenger needs, yet vigilant and strict while on his primary job of penalising ticketless travellers. One will mostly find passengers complaining against honest TCs who refuse to accommodate their unjust demand. Thank the system for little mercies!
The Free Press Journal introduces you today to Mohammed Shams Chand, who has worked with the Central Railway (CR) since November 2014, and is one of those TCs in the city who have recovered the highest fines so far. In the last 11 months alone, Chand has caught more than 7,000 ticketless passengers and recovered Rs 56.53 lakh, the highest individual total in Mumbai Division of CR this year. The 41-year-old TC has worked at Dadar, considered one of the busiest stations of CR’s suburban section, Mankhurd station and also served on long-distance trains. He has been working in the Special Open Detail Batch of CR’s Mumbai division since November 2018.
Q: During the pandemic, how have you dealt with maskless commuters?
It’s a big challenge as passengers never leave a single opportunity to fight with the TC and never accept their mistake. So before we penalise them, we first take their maskless photo as proof.
Q: What is the value essential in a TC’s job?
The most important value is having enough patience and keeping our temper low while dealing with passengers as, every minute, we come across people who are frustrated and ready to argue. Secondly, we need to have good communication skills so that we can counsel them better.
Q: …And what is most challenging?
There are new challenges every day. Every passenger is different and each has his/her own way of reacting when caught. Some are soft spoken, many are aggressive and some are ready to pay promptly. Making the passenger know his fault and counselling them is a big challenge. Each day we have to deal with people whose behaviour is unknown to us. Studying their behaviour and understanding their psychology in no time and dealing with them accordingly is a big challenge.
Q: Do TCs need to have intuition and sixth sense?
What we think, we express with our body language. Even if someone tries to hide, we can notice it in a second. Just as one is observed and under the scanner in an interview, we TCs do the same. In the initial stages of our job, we are inexperienced. Over a period of time, we develop skills and the knack to study behaviours. So it’s not sixth sense, it’s experience.
Q: What are the three best excuses ticketless passengers have given?
Sometimes people are genuine, but 99% of the time, they do make excuses. They often cite family emergencies like a relative hospitalised or a family member’s demise as the reason why they forgot to buy the ticket. Some also say that TCs never checked their tickets when they actually bought them. Some even say they didn’t know where to buy a ticket. Forgetting the pass at home or long queues two some basic ones.
Q: What kind of harassment do you face?
We are the railways’ frontline staff, standing in the crowd and facing it directly. So it’s very difficult when we have to speak to a mob. Passengers are purposely harsh and aggressive with us, assuming that the on-duty staff has to speak softly in all circumstances. But it’s not so, as there are rules made for the security of on-duty staff, too. We also try to answer all passenger queries, from delayed trains due to technical errors or diversions to questions about thefts and no water in toilets.
Q. Has any passenger fled on being caught?
I personally haven’t faced this situation but have heard from my colleagues of passengers pushing them onto the tracks or on stairs. In an extreme case, we lost the life of a colleague. I would like to say that we are performing our duty on behalf of the Railways and we do have a family behind to take care of. Please treat the TC as you would like to be treated by him.
Q: How do you balance your sense of duty with empathy for someone who has genuinely forgotten to buy a ticket?
When we are on duty, we have to follow the rules. There’s no space for empathy. And the Indian Railways have provided so many facilities to passengers to purchase tickets that I feel there should not be a reason to travel without ticket.
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