Consumer forum says railways can’t get away saying coaches are maintained by private contractors

Bedbugs in trains may have infuriated passengers often, but not many would have done anything more than grumble or vent their anger on the staff. But one family has gone to a consumer court and extracted compensation from the Railways for failing to keep the coach free of bugs.

The district consumer forum awarded Rs. 15,000 as compensation, besides refund of the fare.

Sam Jacob Abraham of Perambur, his wife and daughter had confirmed tickets for travel from Chennai Central to Ernavoor by an air-conditioned coach of Alleppey Express on April 17. After boarding the train, the family found the seats to be full of bedbugs and that there was no water in the compartment. Immediately, they complained to the Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE), who allegedly did not do anything.

As a result, the family had to go without sleep until reaching the destination. Mr. Abraham sent a complaint to Southern Railway, but there was no response. He filed a consumer complaint for a direction to the railway authorities to refund the fare, along with interest, and compensation for deficiency in service.

However, the Southern Railway contended that his allegations were false and that there was no complaint from anybody. It maintained that the water tank in the coach had enough water and that the coaches, maintained by private agencies, went through disinfection treatment only six days prior to the date on which the family travelled.

Rejecting the Railways’ contention, the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Chennai (North), comprising its president R. Mohandoss and its member A. Dayalan, said the Railways were unable to say anything about the presence of bedbugs. If an A/C coach was maintained in such a way, one could imagine how pathetic the situation would be in other coaches, it concluded.

“The Railways cannot wash their hands by stating that the coaches are maintained by private contractors. The Railways’ stand shows lack of supervision”. The forum members went through photographs given by the complainant and held that the presence of bedbugs in the coach was quite evident. “This would definitely have caused discomfort to the complainant and his family members,” they said and directed the Railways to refund the fare of Rs. 3,039 and awarded Rs. 2,000 towards cost.

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