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Wave goodbye to a tradition

Calcutta, July 29: The Mumbai serial blasts look set to bury a poignant ritual of the Great Indian Railway journey: tearful farewells on the platform, culminating in the long wave as the train chugs out.

The railway ministry wants to bar anyone other than passengers from entering stations as part of a security plan formulated in the wake of the Mumbai train bombings.

“Only bona fide passengers will be allowed on the platforms. Seeing-off will have to take place outside,” railway minister Lalu Prasad said here today.

“Taking a lesson from the Mumbai blasts, we have started working to tighten the security at railway stations. The days of hanging around the station with platform tickets are over,” he added.

That casts a cloud on the fate of another railway institution and money-spinner: the platform ticket.

If non-passengers will not be allowed in, it precludes the need for platform tickets. Railway officials were unable to say what will happen to the platform ticket or when the new system will kick in. A notification has to be issued for the entry ban to come into force.

It was not clear whether the railway will take a leaf out of airports’ book and create an enclosure up to which those accompanying passengers can proceed after paying an entry fee.

Justifying the move to regulate entry, Lalu Prasad said: “Many people enter the platform to see their relatives off or to receive them. But they create a mess. That is why we want to ban the entry of people other than passengers on security ground,” he said.

The railway minister was flagging off the circular railway service between Dum Dum Cantonment and the NSC Bose International Airport.

Other security measures being planned include installation of closed-circuit televisions inside stations for round-the-clock vigil, metal detectors at all entry points and reinforcement of dog squads.

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