S. Vydhianathan

Vendors, beggars make commuting by fast trains an ordeal

Vestibule helps unauthorised passengers move from one compartment to anotherWaitlisted and unreserved passengers occupy every available space Southern Railway's indifference adds to passengers' woes

CHENNAI: Of late, complaints from passengers of daytime super-fast express trains are on the rise. Travel by Brindavan Express, Kovai Express and Vaigai Express used to be a pleasure as they covered the distance in a short time and had onboard facilities such as drinking water and catering. More importantly, only passengers with reservation commuted by them.

But commuting by these trains has become an ordeal as "unauthorised traders" and beggars board as they please. The problems begins the moment the train leaves the originating station. Unauthorised vendors and beggars soon enter the train and it becomes a "mobile supermarket." Fruits, flowers, mini toys, stickers, video and audio compact discs, life-sized posters of leaders, junk food and books are all sold. Then there is a sudden stream of handicapped persons, women with children in their arms and singing mendicants seeking alms. Vestibuled compartments come in handy for the "unauthorised passengers."

Most of the coaches in these trains are supposed to be reserved. However, waitlisted passengers and passengers without reservation occupy every inch of available space. Travelling ticket examiners admit that it is a big nuisance. But they cannot take action as the vendors represent a powerful lobby.

`Business dharma'

Interestingly, the vendors follow "business dharma." They operate in segments and do not violate their jurisdiction for fear of being penalised by their respective associations, according to a railway official.