Malda, Oct. 20: Angry passengers ransacked two ticket counters of Malda Town station this morning alleging they could not board the Guwahati-Mumbai Karmabhumi Express as many seats were occupied by para-military jawans.
The passengers, many of whom were poor labourers going to Mumbai in search of work, also alleged that railway employees said they would deduct Rs 30, instead of Rs 15 as cancellation fee for a ticket.
The Railway Protection Force (RPF) said around 500 people could not board the train. Ten persons have been detained for damaging railway property.
The Karmabhumi Express reaches Malda Town station at 8am every Sunday — the only day it runs. The train has a 10-minute halt here. The train, which comprises 14 unreserved compartments, arrived on time today.
Sources said when the passengers tried to get into the train, CRPF jawans who were inside told them they cannot board it.
When the passengers started shouting — they also protested at the station manager’s office — railway employees told them that they would get a refund for their tickets and Rs 15 would be deducted as cancellation charge.
But the passengers alleged that when they went to the booking counter, they were told the cancellation charge was Rs 30 per ticket.
This angered the passengers even more and they broke the glass pane in front of two counters, sources said.
Dilip Mondol, a labourer who had bought Mumbai ticket, said all coaches were filled with paramilitary personnel. “We tried to board the train but there were security forces in all compartments. They did not allow us in. When the train left, we went to the counter for refund. We were told Rs 30 would be deducted instead of Rs 15. This led to the protest.”
Mijanur Rehman, another worker who was supposed to go to Mumbai, said: “We were told by the staff at the station manager’s office that Rs 15 would be deducted from a ticket. But those at the counter were deducting Rs 30 from our Mumbai tickets that cost Rs 400 each. When we protested, the RPF beat us up with lathis.”
Station manager Dilip Chauhan said: “The train stops in 20 stations between Guwahati and Malda and is always crowded. Today, around 500 people, mostly bound for Mumbai, were waiting to board the train but could not get into the crowded coaches. We said their money would be refunded after deducting Rs 15. But there was some trouble at the ticket counters,” he said.
When contacted in Calcutta, R.N. Mahapatra, chief public relations officer of Eastern Railway, said the train was overloaded with CISF and CRPF jawans. “The CISF and CRPF personnel were packed in the compartments and there were about 500 men, mostly labourers, waiting to board the train. The train was overcrowded and most could not get in…. Our officers in Malda made arrangements to refund fares. Money can be refund within two hours of the departure of a train,” he said.
The commandant of the RPF at the station, R.S. Tewari, said the allegations of lathi-charge were baseless. “There was no lathi-charge. Our jawans tried to clear the crowd. That is all. We have detained 10 persons.”