Women certainly don’t have it easy when commuting by local trains, but perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at the plight of the few female ticket checkers (TCs) who brave bigotry and real risks every day to perform their duty on the city’s rail network.
And the authorities, unquestionably, aren’t making things simpler. In fact, sources say railway officials have, for some time now, stopped providing security escort to the TCs, citing manpower crunch in Railway Protection Force (RPF). Consequently, you’ll have to strain your eyes to locate a female TC these days, and the ones that are around choose to remain passive on encountering ticketless travellers.
“On most occasions we have to let such commuters go, despite knowing that they are at fault. Many of these people abuse us, adopt a threatening attitude, and when we try to take them to the police station they defy us. We can’t do anything, as there are no RPF personnel with us,” said a female TC aboard a Churchgate-bound train.
The women told MiD DAY they now travel in groups to make up for the lack of professional security. “Earlier when we had RPF personnel with us, errant passengers were intimidated. But now they are blatant in their disregard. In case we ask someone to pay a fine for travelling in first-class with a second-class ticket, they simply say that they didn’t have any idea and refuse to part with the money. They get off at the next station and we have no choice but to let them go,” said another female TC from Western Railway.
The absence of female TCs has also made life difficult for women commuters. Sonali Ramlal, who travels by first-class from Mahim to Churchgate frequently, said, “I have also been observing over the past few days that the TCs are coming alone to the compartments. I have also noticed that they are very non-confrontational and don’t want to argue with rude passengers.”
According to Central Railway (CR) officials, RPF personnel who previously acted as escorts for TCs have been deployed elsewhere in the last two months because of the dearth of staff.
“The personnel now stay on railway platforms and at the police stations. We have been getting messages from the TC staff that they need female constables with them, but we have not decided anything yet,” informed a senior RPF official.
However, railway officials do not openly acknowledge that there’s a problem. Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, WR, said, “There is no update on the matter. The absence of RPF personnel with TCs may have been an aberration.” The CR spokesperson too denied that RPF was not protecting female TCs.