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Rail seat block cuffs

Calcutta, Dec. 1: Railway police today arrested 15 commuters on the charge of blocking train seats for their acquaintances and not allowing other passengers to sit.

The drive, conducted at stations in Eastern Railway’s Sealdah division, was described by the railways as one of the biggest raids to stop the menace.

The raids were conducted on several local and long-distance passenger trains at Sealdah, Krishnagar and Ranaghat stations. Junior railway minister Adhir Chowdhury had asked the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to conduct the raids following complaints of passenger harassment.

“I have received complaints that passengers with valid tickets and reservations are not allowed to sit. The seats are forcibly blocked by a section of daily passengers. I asked (RPF) officers to take steps to curb the malpractice,” Chowdhury said today.

Five passengers were arrested at Sealdah, seven at Krishnagar and three at Ranaghat during the five-hour raids. The arrests were made in the Sealdah-Behrampore Bhagirathi Express, Sealdah-Lalgola passenger and the Ranaghat-Lalgola passenger, railway officials said. Those arrested were handed over to the government railway police.

Railway officials said similar raids would be conducted on weekdays at other stations. “Similar drives will be taken up in Howrah and other divisions too,” minister Chowdhury said.

Passengers travelling to various destinations from Sealdah and Howrah often allege misbehaviour by a section of commuters who travel in groups and do not allow even those having reservations to sit.

According to officials, the daily passengers block seats with towels, handkerchiefs and newspapers for friends and colleagues who board the train from stations down the line. Often, the commuters play cards on seats and don’t allow others to sit.

“They block seats even when the train is still at the maintenance yard. When passengers board the train from terminal stations like Sealdah and Howrah, they find their seats are already occupied,” a railway official said.

Passengers alleged they are often forced to leave their seats on long-distance passenger trains such as the Howrah-Dhanbad Coalfield Express, Howrah-Dhanbad Black Diamond Express, Howrah-Malda Intercity Express and the Sealdah-Lalgola passenger.

In suburban routes like Sealdah-Krishnagar, Sealdah-Ranaghat, Howrah-Burdwan and Lalgola-Ranaghat, passengers are allegedly harassed on a daily basis by this section of commuters.