Passengers tussle to board the Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express at Tatanagar station last week. (Animesh Sengupta)
Five minutes or 300 seconds can be enough for 40-odd passengers to board the New Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express from Tatanagar if norms are followed.
If not, there is complete chaos.
Savita Agarwal, an elderly passenger, who fainted on February 1 while trying to make her way into the B-4 coach of Rajdhani Express at Tatanagar, was a victim to the arm-twisting of norms inside the prestigious train.
She was not the only one. The entrances to the B-4 coach — out of its 64 berths, around 40 are reserved for passengers from Tatanagar — witnessed a free-for-all. Then, finally, the chain was pulled to give more time for everyone to clamber in.
Why chain-pulling on the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express that travels via Tatanagar from Monday to Friday has become a regular feature is a horror story in itself.
What goes on inside the air-conditioned coach is carefully planned mayhem as travellers with tickets on the waiting list reportedly connive with the TTE and escort party — RPF and GRP jawans — to manage seats. Luggage is carefully kept near the entrance to obstruct the passage for bona fide passengers.
Though the phenomenon is around a fortnight old — during the last two weeks chain pulling took place five times — railway authorities are keeping mum.
“The railway is to be blamed for the chaos that Tatanagar witnesses of late. Travellers with waiting list tickets should be stopped. Such passengers board the train and find a suitable berth with the help of TTEs whom they pay money,” pointed out a hassled passenger, who did not want to be named.
Another passenger Pawan Khemani pointed out the obvious.
“If the chain is pulled all the time, it will take a toll on the train’s punctuality. A stoppage of five minutes is enough for passengers. But, difficulties are knowingly created. The railway should take up this issue seriously,” he said.
Rajendra Prasad, the officiating station manager at Tatanagar, admitted to the chaos that the passengers of the high-profile train faced every weekday but added they were working around the problem.
“We have received a directive from South Eastern Railway headquarters today (Sunday) which says that anyone found blocking the door of a coach will be liable to pay penalty. The train ticket examiners have been authorised to charge up to Rs 500,” Prasad told The Telegraph.
Prasad said they would initiate a drive to ensure that people with a waitlisted ticket did not travel on the train.
“It is not allowed. We have also issued necessary instructions to the staff concerned in this regard,” he added.
But who will monitor officials inside the coach on whether the well-meant instructions are followed?
As Tatanagar officials may find out in the days to come, it isn’t easy to bell the cat in a five-minute stopover.