It is no exaggeration if I begin by saying that Indian Railways is one of the largest rail network in the world. According to this website, Indian Railways run 14,300 trains that ferry an average of 13 million passengers and 1.3 million tonnes of freight, every single day. From a public enterprise that plays such an important role in the lives of common Indian public, it is but natural to expect them to be a responsible public authority.
But the reality is far apart.
I won’t be too wrong to say that each one of us has one time or more found oneself a victim of either personal or luggage theft during a rail journey. We all had to bear the brunt of the lax attitude and security of railway staff. The situation gets more frustrating when we realised that there is absolutely no efficient system in place to stop such robberies. Of course, there are railway guards and TTE whose duty is to provide safety to passengers, and prevent robberies from taking place. But how effective is their vigil? And how duty bound are they to their responsibility? The answers are unclear.
But all is not negative. We do come across certain cases where time and often the Railways have been pulled up for their casual attitude; and made to compensate a passenger for the loss of luggage while travelling.
One such case that I would like to quote is from an article that talks about how Indian Railways were ordered by the NCDRC to pay Rs. 2.01 Lakh as compensation to a lady doctor who lost her luggage on a train journey. According to the article, “Classifying a rail passenger as a consumer, the NCDRC held the Railways liable to compensate the woman for theft of her luggage, saying there was failure on the part of the ticket checker to ensure that no intruders entered the reserved coach. The consumer panel rejected the contention of the railways that there was no negligence on their part and unless the goods were booked with them, they are not liable to pay the compensation. The railways had claimed that the passenger was responsible for taking care of her luggage.”
The article also elaborates a case by the same bench passing a judgement that, “One has to presume that passenger would take reasonable care of his luggage. But, he cannot be expected to take measures against intruders getting easily into reserved compartments and running away with goods, when the railway administration is charged with the responsibility to prevent such unauthorized entry. We have entered the 21st century and we cannot carry on our daily life in the same age old fashion with bearing brunt of indifferent service provided by public authorities like Railways. People expect in the 21st century a modicum of efficient and reliable service, which provides at least safety of person and property while traveling in reserved compartments”.
The website of Indian Railways also carries information stating that passengers now have a facility to lodge a complaint in running train. “Forms to lodge FIR/Complaint to Police are now available with the Coach attendants, Conductors, Guards, RPF train escorts in Running Trains and with RPF Assistance Posts, RPF Post / Outpost at important Railway stations. The affected passengers are requested to fill in the forms with relevant information and hand it over to the above mentioned Railway Officials/RPF Personnel. The same shall be promptly forwarded to the GRP concerned for further necessary action.”
Above points make it abundantly clear that Indian Railways are getting vigilant, and are trying to stop the menace of thefts. But the measures are not enough. What do you think should be done to stop this problem? Can we, as passengers, do something about it? Let us know your comments and suggestions by replying to this post or sharing on our Facebook page.
In the meantime, if you or any one you know has been a victim of rail theft, log on to Power to Consumer and let us know.
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Photo credit: Madhiarasu via Flickr CC