After repeated complaints from handicapped passengers travelling on the suburban trains about the compartment authorised for them being used by others, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) began conducting an intensive drive to check this practice along the Western Railway on Friday.
RPF officials say that on the very first day, staff registered 227 cases of unauthorised passengers travelling in the handicapped compartments.” Over 227 passengers were caught boarding the coach reserved for handicapped passengers,” said Mahim Swamy, Chief of RPF, Western Railway. On Saturday, this number was 150. He added that WR authorities have also been requesting the passengers at the platform not to enter the coach.
If the staff involved in the drives are to be believed, most of these coaches had been occupied illegally by female commuters. “Though these coaches are reserved for handicapped persons and pregnant ladies, most of the offenders were women who did not fit these categories,” added the staff member.
Passengers, however, have a different story to tell. Most claimed that during peak hours, the unreserved compartments don’t even have place for them to stand in, forcing them to board the reserved coaches. Poonam Sinha, a Virar resident who works in Charni Road was asked by the RPF staff to disembark said, “I have to wait for over half an hour to board the ladies coach, because it’s too crowded. The reserved coach is right next to it and almost empty, so I board it and stand near the door.”
To boost the drive, WR authorities have deployed staff from divisions other than the Mumbai division staff as well. Jitendra Karelia, President, Disability Advocacy Group, said, “This is our Diwali bonus and gift. The RPF is doing a wonderful job by helping us travel comfortably in the coaches reserved for us.”
No of passengers caught till Saturday: 150
Fine collected: Rs 30,750
Passengers to be produced in court: 56