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Trashed for good deed

- Youth threw wrapper in bin for Metro staff

A college student was allegedly humiliated at Girish Park Metro station a few days ago for doing what any responsible citizen would: find the nearest dustbin to throw a chocolate wrapper into.

Mayank Bhartia’s “fault” was using the “private dustbin” outside the stationmaster’s office, a transgression deemed serious enough for three Metro officials to rebuke him in public and allegedly threaten to slap a fine of Rs 500 if he argued further.

And to think that the 19-year-old was trying to do exactly the opposite of what carries a fine of Rs 500: spitting on or littering the station premises!

The college student said he walked away speechless after the officials insisted that the dustbin he had used was “only for Metro employees”.

Nobody from Metro Railway has yet apologised to Mayank for his humiliation or answered the question he had asked the officials on August 3: “Is there a public dustbin anywhere at the station where I can throw trash?”

Mayank had entered Girish Park at 11.15am that day after his CA class and “looked everywhere for a bin but found none”. Someone in his place might have then looked left, right and up before giving the chocolate wrapper a mind and direction of its own. But not our conscientious 19-year-old.

“I spotted a bucket outside the stationmaster’s office with some empty paper cups in it and the natural thing to do was throw the wrapper into it. Who could have imagined that a Metro employee would yell at you for doing that?” said Mayank, a resident of Kestopur.

Two other faces emerged from the stationmaster’s office and joined their colleague in rebuking the young man.

“I tried to reason with them, saying this was the only dustbin I could find. They threatened me with a fine of Rs 500 if I continued to argue my case,” Mayank recounted.

Since Metro stations don’t have dustbins or trash cans for public use, many are prompted to toss anything they need to get rid of on the tracks.

Waste thrown on the tracks — even a piece of paper — are a safety hazard when they come in contact with the electricity-carrying third rail but Metro Railway would rather deal with that than arrange for something as basic as a bin.

“We have noticed how passengers at railway stations dirty the entire area around a dustbin. Paan stains and leftovers make the place look dirtier and unhygienic,” said Rabi Mahapatra, chief spokesperson for Metro Railway.

Calcutta’s transport lifeline only has to rewind to July 20 to realise that a dirty dustbin might be a better idea than a safety scare.

More than 2,000 commuters were caught in a stampede in near darkness at Chandni Chowk station that evening after a snag in the third rail triggered sparks, a loud sound, smoke and then a blackout. The culprit was apparently a stray object that came in contact with the “current collector”, a rod-like part that draws power from the third rail to the train.

“A Metro train runs on 750 volts of power. Even if a small plastic packet touches the current collector, it can cause sparks and thick smoke,” an official said.

A private agency has been contracted to keep Metro stations clean, just as at the airport and malls across the city. But while facility management firms at malls are required to keep a close watch on the bins and clean the area around them every half an hour or so, Metro Railway’s no-dustbin policy is akin to throwing the baby with the bathwater.

The transport lifeline prefers keeping its stations clean by penalising offenders. In 2013-14, it earned Rs 9,28,250 from penalties in 3,124 cases of “nuisance on Metro premises”.

Metro last week scoured the platforms and mezzanine floors of six of the busier stations for a place to throw a wrapper without being a nuisance, but found a bin in only one of them. Of the six stations this reporter visited —Tollygunge, Kalighat, Maidan, Esplanade, Chandni Chowk and Girish Park — only the second one has a bin for public use provided by a soft drink vendor.

Esplanade has a larger bin that is tucked away in a cabinet, away from public view. Try not to use it lest an official catch you in the act like Mayank was.