Passengers complain of lack of planning in handling crowds
A mad rush to the polling booth is a rare sight, especially when it is the elections to the local civic bodies. Yet, for the crowds that thronged the Koyambedu bus terminus or the Egmore railway station on Sunday trying to reach their native towns and villages, no trouble seemed big enough to stop them from casting their votes. The Egmore railway station receives an average daily influx of 70-80,000 passengers. But on Sunday, the station, which serves as the primary gateway out of the city for trains heading southward into the hinterland of the State, recorded at least 10-20 per cent more passengers. Many of them were heading home to vote in the Municipality and Panchayat elections.
“The railway staff selection exam was also held today and it has worsened the situation. Many wrote the exam in the morning and are heading back to their hometown in the afternoon. But despite the huge increase in crowds, there are still only two booking counters,” said Felix Diwakar, who was going to Tiruchi. The Vaigai Express departed nearly 30 minutes late as the train had to wait till the backlog in the ‘open ticket' queue got cleared.
Mr. Diwakar pointed to the long queues and dysfunctional fans and said that adequate measures must have been put in place anticipating the passenger influx. A similar scenario played out at the Koyembedu bus terminus where passengers blockaded six mofussil buses on Saturday night. They complained that adequate bus services were not available for those wanting to go back to their hometown to participate in the election process. The police intervened and additional services were operated throughout Sunday, a Transport Department official said.
“People have become more conscious about their right to vote,” said V.Easwaran, who is from Tenkasi. “Especially in the case of a pachayat, each person casts four to five votes – electing all the officials from the Ward Councillor to the Panchyat President. Even my illiterate mother understands that a polling booth slip can bring about change. Since cities like Chennai have a large migrating population, additional transport options must be available to help those who are interested enough to go back to their hometown just to vote.”
The Central railway terminus was also packed on Sunday, but for an altogether different reason. At least five trains were rescheduled due to the rail roko under way in Telangana. “Though we have tried to give adequate information to passengers about the change in departure timings, many are anxious and prefer to wait at the station for hours,” said Deputy Station Manager E.S.P.Rajaram.
He admits that though the station is supposed to be an A1 grade terminus (stations that generate earnings of more than Rs.15 lakh daily), it lacks many basic facilities. Emergency medical help or crowd management systems are nowhere to be seen. The main passenger information display boards have not been working for months. “A proposal to develop Central into a world-class station at a cost of Rs.200 crore has been around for long. But for now, many other major terminuses are far better,” Mr.Rajaram added.