This picture of commuters herded into a section of a coach on the MRTS is among the best examples of distorted policing in India. These passengers violated the Railway Act by crossing the tracks, from one platform to another, rather than use the designated subway at Park Town Station.
To be in this situation is humiliating. There is a waiting Police posse that will detain the violators, herd them together and get them on board the next MRTS train towards Velachery, to be produced before a Railway Magistrate for fining. In the train, they are kept confined to a particular area of the coach, as if they had picked someone’s pocket. Many may lose the day’s wage as they spend a few hours attending to the legal requirement, or must at least take a day’s leave from work. I don’t get the sense of this marching, corraling and transportation to a Magistrate, when the fine could be levied then and there.
Moreover, although it is illegal, those caught for this offence have a justifiable reason to be angry. They are not the only people to cross the tracks in this manner. Almost eighty per cent of passengers alighting at Fort Station on the same line, which is just one station ahead, cross the tracks unhindered all the time.
The secret to their immunity apparently is that they are almost all Government servants, working for either the Tamil Nadu Secretariat, or in the defence forces in Fort St. George. Not a single policeman is in evidence in Fort Station, engaged in the enforcement that is going on one station away.
I am outraged the Southern Railway is realising significant amounts of money through fines, apart from tickets, but it does a ridiculously poor job of providing amenities to passengers. Riding a train is inextricably connected to pedestrianisation. People have to walk to train stations and platforms. Why cannot the Chennai Division of Southern Railway instal good facilities including escalators at all its stations for passengers? Must the Railway live in the stone age and, quite shamefully, rely on steep British-era staircases that only the able bodies can use? Why is there no prominent notice at Park Town Station in English and Tamil, warning people that they could be fined a specific sum money and would have to attend court?
The attitude towards commuters demonstrated by the Southern Railway clearly shows that it is a mindset problem. Public transport continues to be viewed not in environmental and efficiency terms, but as a last ditch option, one that caters mainly to the less affluent. This crusty attitude is seriously outdated and deserves to be condemned in the strongest terms.
Straphangers United urges commuters to petition the Southern Railway on the question of facilities for pedestrians, on the suburban and MRTS lines, at ALL stations.
The following officers could be approached with petitions under the Right to Information Act, 2005, seeking information about the levy of fines, amount of fines collected annually at Park Town Station during the last five years, the use to which these funds have been put to and why no escalators are being put up in the suburban and ground-level MRTS stations.
Shri.M.Amarendra, Deputy General Manage(G) is the Public Information Officer (PIO), Tel Nos:22541 (Rly.) and 044-25355305 (BSNL) assisted by Shri.B.Nageswara Rao, Assistant PIO, Tel.Nos:22512(Rly) and 044-25352830 (BSNL).
To say that the Indian Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, lectures international management students when the railway stations are embarrassingly antiquated is nothing more than a joke.