| Passengers jostle to board a train at Patna Junction on Friday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
Exorbitant plane tickets and mad rush in trains have turned homecoming for students and professionals settled outside the state into a nightmarish experience this festive season.
Many people working or studying outside the state return home for Diwali and Chhath. Premeditating the festive rush, they usually chalk out plans and book tickets months in advance to travel in comfort.
This year, however, comfort is far from what they are experiencing on their journey home.
Diwali falls on November 13 this year and Chhath on November 19. But flight tickets to Patna from Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore are scarce if not unavailable.
Till November 12, no plane tickets are available on flights to Patna. Those who are really eager to come are booking tickets on flights to Calcutta and then making their way to the Bihar capital by road or by train, said Raman Jha, the manager of a travel agency, Super Travels.
One can still hope to make it home by Chhath but only by shelling out a princely sum. Shailesh Kumar, an executive of Nalanda Travels, said: The usual rate on a New Delhi-Patna flight is Rs 5,000. But it has escalated to Rs 15,000 this season. Seats are available only after November 15.
As a result, many Biharis settled outside are cancelling their homecoming plans. Ravi Mishra, an MBA student studying in Mumbai, said over telephone: I am not going home because flight seats are unavailable or very expensive.
If expensive tickets are anathema to one, travelling by train may not be a prudent decision either. Those arriving by trains recount the harrowing experiences of their journeys.
Trains are overcrowded, reservations are rare and even having a confirmed ticket does not guarantee any comfort.
Vishal Sharma, a student of Sagar Institute of Science and Technology, Bhopal, arrived in Patna on Friday. He said he had travelled for two days by Mumbai-Bhagalpur Express without a confirmed ticket.
I had booked the ticket a month ago but it remained unconfirmed till Wednesday, said Sharma. I had to travel in very uncomfortable conditions and share my seat with fellow passengers.
His case is not isolated. Those with confirmed tickets are also not spared the tribulations of their unconfirmed co-passengers.
Rahul Kumar Singh, a software developer working at Cuttack, Odisha, had to take a circuitous route.
I did not get a reservation on any train travelling directly between Cuttack and Patna. So, I took the Puri-Howrah Express to Calcutta. From the Bengal capital, I took the Poorva Express to Patna, he said.
Taking detours was not the only discomfort Rahul had to endure. I had confirmed tickets for both the journeys. But the trains were overcrowded and I had to share my seat with other passengers, he said.
The Indian Railways is already running a number of special trains to cope with the festive season rush.
B.K. Choudhary, the stationmaster of Patna Junction, told The Telegraph: We are running eight special trains between Patna and major cities.
Special trains from Patna are travelling twice or thrice a week to New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Raipur, Bilaspur and Jalpaiguri.
But the rush is on regular trains as most people are unaware of the special ones, he added. Another special train will travel between Anand Vihar, New Delhi, and Patna from Saturday.