Calcutta, June 7: Passengers of the 2006 Down Rajdhani Express, via Patna, which arrived at 8 pm at Howrah today, went through a veritable hell over the past 24 hours. Exhausted and agitated, with hungry and thirsty children, most of them had gone without water for 17 hours and food for more than eight hours.
The train, which left New Delhi at 7.30 pm on Friday — two-and-a-half hours late — arrived at Howrah at 8 pm today, more than seven hours behind schedule. The 750 passengers were not served lunch today. The reason: the train does not have any arrangement for lunch because it is scheduled to reach Howrah before lunchtime.
In addition, there was severe scarcity of water, passengers alleged. Even the air-conditioners of the luxury train were not working properly.
“Given an option, I will never travel by this train again in my life. It was simply a horror, ” said Anirban Rakshit, a computer engineer based in Lake Town, who went to Delhi on official work. “One is used to late arrivals and departures of Indian Railways, but these additional discomforts have become common in Rajdhani Express these days,” he said.
Agitated passengers, who said most of them had been last offered water at 11 pm on Friday, pulled the chain twice during the journey — once at Nimcha station for 29 minutes, and next at Durgapur station for more than an hour this afternoon.
At Durgapur station, passengers complained to the station master and other railway officials. A message was sent from Mughalsarai to Asansol station by railway officials asking them to provide lunch to passengers. However, the train did not stop at Asansol, “the reason being that the catering service was not well equipped to provide food to as many as 750 passengers”, a railway official said.
The train finally stopped at Burdwan at 6.14 pm for 13 minutes, where passengers were given food and bottled water. Although railway officials claimed that all passengers were given food — sweets and slices of fruit cake — some of the passengers alleged that they were deprived of even this frugal meal.
For Krishna Mitra, her daughter and two grandchildren, the journey was a nightmare. “The railway attendants were busy arranging food for themselves while we were made to starve,” Mitra, the principal of a college in New Delhi, said. Her daughter, Rini Dey, alleged that her four-year-old son Asutosh was refused water by the attendants a, being a minor, he was travelling without a ticket.
Mamata Dey, who came to receive them at the station, alleged that the railway information system was not working after 5 pm today. “The voice of the automatic answering machine kept on stating that all information was jammed,” Mamata said.
“The railway authorities should be sued. This is supposed to be the best train in India,” a passenger said.
Eastern Railway officials said the train was delayed as tracks damaged by the derailment of the Magadh Express earlier this week were being repaired. “Trains were thus running on caution, and Rajdhani Express today was stopped between 6.15 am and 7.52 am at Buxar,” an official said.
An Eastern Railway spokesperson said: “An inquiry will be held into this. The Patna division ought to have made adequate food arrangements”.