If you are an expecting woman or a breastfeeding mother, then very soon you would be eligible for lower berths on long-distance trains, as the Railways is set to introduce a new quota for women passengers.
Railway officials said women passengers, who fall in the above-mentioned categories, would be offered two lower berths per coach in AC III, AC II and sleeper class. They said there was already a quota for pregnant women, women above 45 years of age and senior citizens.
The demand for reserving berths was made by Bhartiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha member Smriti Irani when she last met Union Railway Minister Mukul Roy.
Irani, who represented Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee (ZRUCC), when asked the Railway officials about the status of her demand at a recent meeting, was informed that it would be implemented soon. Despite repeated attempts, Irani remained unreachable.
“We have asked the concerned department to implement this facility with immediate effect,” Western Railway CPRO Sharat Chandrayan said.
Railway officials said facility to reserve seats under this category will not be available online and bookings must be done manually at the ticket window. They said at the time of booking tickets, the person filling the reservation form would be required to submit medical documents proving that the woman passenger is pregnant.
“We have already added an option for pregnant female passengers in the ticket reservation forms. Just to be sure, women passengers will be required to furnish medical documents proving their pregnancy in case a railway official asks for them,” Central Railway (CR) General Manager Subodh Jain said.
Railway officials expressed their concern over the misuse of this quota. “We know that there are side effects to everything and people will misuse this facility given to pregnant women passengers. To avoid such cases, we will request women passengers to keep their medical reports handy, just in case the railway staff asks for it,” a senior official from CR said.
Subhash Gupta, a member of ZRUCC, said the demand was genuine. “Pregnant women passengers are unable to travel in trains due to heavy rush and it becomes even more difficult for them if they get a middle or an upper berth,” Gupta said.
“It is a good move on the Railway’s behalf. Most of the time, it happens that despite opting for a lower berth, we don’t get any,” said Shama Rajput, a mother of a six-month-old boy. Rajput said she had suffered a lot while travelling to Madhya Pradesh when she was five months pregnant.
Jogeshwari resident Seema Virani, who is four months pregnant, said, “It’s a wonderful gift for us, which we will never forget. I was supposed to visit my mother’s residence in Ahmedabad, but my in-laws were not ready to let me travel, as they were worried that I wouldn’t get a lower berth. But now I can convince them with this news.”
Provision on local trains
On suburban section, women commuters in advanced stage of pregnancy are allowed to board the compartment reserved for handicapped passengers. Even here, a woman commuter is expected to furnish medical documents proving her pregnancy in case she is asked to by a TC, stationmaster or an appropriate railway authority. “We have caught several ladies travelling in handicapped compartments with fake pregnancy reports,” a TC said.