The coin vending machine at the Madurai railway station has eased the pressure of coin shortage on passengers as well as railway staff.
The machine put up by Karur Vysya Bank, near the unreserved ticketing counter has been useful in ensuring a continuous supply of coins. The vending machine spews coins in the denominations of Rs. 5, Rs. 2 and Re 1 when currency notes are inserted. Passengers who are short of coins are advised by the counter staff to get coins from the vending machines.
“Every day we are given coins for Rs. 200 as we come for duty. Apart from these coins, the coins received from passengers are good enough for rotation. With the ticket fare rounded off to Rs. 5, the problem for small change has been solved for now,” a clerk said.
The five weighing machines kept at the railway station also help the railway authorities acquire coins at regular intervals.
“However, the problem starts only when someone hands over Rs. 100 for a single platform ticket (of Rs. 5). Obviously, we cannot give back Rs. 95,” he points out.
The vending machine functions between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. A security guard is posted during working hours mainly to stop the misuse of the machine. “We get a group of 10 to 15 traders coming to the city by the Shencottah passenger every morning. They form a queue here and draw coins. I ensure that they do not take coins for more than Rs. 10,” the guard, S. Krishnan, said.
The guard has been authorised to allow the tea vendors and two-wheeler stand staff to make use of the vending machine. “After all, they help the passengers,” he noted.
For small shopkeepers, the people who fall back on alms-seeking for their livelihood are a source of coins.
While the general perception is that alms-seekers sell the coins for a commission, a few of them who are seen near the Sri Subramaniaswamy Temple at Tirupparankundram have a different story.
Subramanian, who has been around for four decades, says he earns around Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 a day. But the collection is very poor on Wednesdays and Thursdays. “I have to make up for those two days with the five days’ collection,” he added.
Many alms-givers come with currency notes. “They hand over Rs. 10 or Rs. 20 and ask us to share the money amongst ourselves. The coins are mostly spent on tea and food as the shopkeepers request us to give them only coins,” he adds.
Murugesan, who also subsists on alms, says he has to spend more these days. “Apart from tea and beedis, I have to spend Rs. 10 for bathing and Rs. 5 each time I use the toilet,” he points out.
They sleep on the pavements, but when it rains, it costs them Rs. 40 each to find shelter.