Mumbai: Despite space crunch, MP wants more shoeshine boys at stations

Railway officials feel that there already are too many shoeshine boys at the city’s overcrowded suburban stations; they say that many of them are touts and a nuisance at railway platforms

A Member of Parliament (MP) from the BJP wants more shoeshine boys at the city’s railway stations. Though this might seem like a laudable demand, officials from both Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) say that they have received a number of complaints from commuters on the nuisance created by these shoeshine boys at the city’s overcrowded railway stations.

With commuters having no space to breathe, how can railway stations accommodate more shoeshine boys on their premises? File pic for representation
With commuters having no space to breathe, how can railway stations accommodate more shoeshine boys on their premises? File pic for representation

Shetty has made a couple of representations to Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on what he says is the need to increase the number of shoeshine boys at railway stations in Mumbai. “Over the years, the number of people travelling in local trains is going up, but the Indian Railways has stopped employing more shoeshine boys at railway stations since 2010,” Shetty told mid-day. Apart from writing to the ministry, Shetty claims that he has also written to the Indian Railways on the same issue.

Nuisance
These shoeshine boys are known for creating a ruckus sitting at the platforms and station premises. They constantly slap their shoeshine kits and try to solicit business from passengers. Sources say that this has made many commuters complain to railway authorities. “We don’t have any control over these people, as they are not employed through any railway examinations.

Since 2010, as per our policy, we have not issued any new working licences, other than to those who have (already) been given licence badges,” said a WR official. Shoeshine boys sport these badges on their dark purple-coloured uniforms. On WR, there are around 140-odd official shoeshine boys who have been permitted to work.

“However, these people also sublet their batches and work in shifts, which is not permissible,” said another WR official. According to him, railway officials have carried out drives to check the genuineness of these shoeshine boys, but even those who are not legitimate come back every time after they have been turned away.

Sources said there are chances that these shoeshine boys might be involved in other unscrupulous activities like selling rail tickets or acting like agents for passengers. Every time officials try to curtail their numbers, political pressure steps in to scuttle the move. Initially, the railways had decided to remove these shoeshine boys, but, later, they decided to restrict their numbers and not employ any more of them.

The CR has around 180 such shoeshine boys working at railway stations on their Main and Harbour lines. “At a time when people are moving to machines for shining their shoes, it doesn’t make sense to employ more shoeshine boys,” said a CR official.

Manning ATVMs
Apart from this proposal, Shetty also wants visually and physically challenged persons to be employed for issuing tickets from ATVMs (Automatic Ticket Vending Machines) at railway stations.

Presently, retired railway employees wearing fluorescent green jackets work as attendants at ATVMs. With Coupon Validating Machines (CVMs) getting scrapped, more people are turning to ATVMs.

The railways will introduce around 800 more ATVMs across suburban stations in the days to come. Railway officials feel that Shetty’s idea to employ the physically challenged might be a good one, but they need more clarity on the issue.

140
No of official shoeshine boys who have been permitted to work on WR stations

180
No of official shoeshine boys who have been permitted to work on CR stations

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