Mumbai

The rail coach that passengers maintain

Feeling of community: The coach has a diary with details of its regular passengers, who get free assistance with buying their season tickets and accident insurance cover.  

Mumbai: Compartment C3 on the Panchavati Express that, uniquely, is maintained by its passengers, observed its tenth anniversary on Wednesday, with celebrations at both Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) in Mumbai and at Nashik station. More than a thousand regular passengers on the superfast train — which runs between Mumbai and Manmad, in Nashik district — past and present, participated in the rituals, and 90 passengers made the anniversary trip.

Called the ‘Adarsh,’ or ideal, coach, it is a First Class chair car that accommodates 70 passengers. It has a number of distinctions that make it stand out from all other coaches that the Indian Railways runs.

The passengers take an active part in the maintenance of the coach. Aside from the regular cleaning by the Railways staff, passengers ensure that there is no garbage in the coach. “If required we ourselves clean the coach with a broom and also do dusting,” says Bipin Gandhi, a regular traveller on the route.“Our passengers don’t even throw a chocolate wrapper in the coach and now it’s their habit that they keep things clean around themselves everywhere.” Passengers also make sure to switch off lights whenever they are not needed to save energy. Pest control is done regularly. The coach has a well-equipped first aid box, a diary with names and details of its regular passengers, who get free services assisting them not just with buying their monthly season tickets but also with accident insurance cover.

The concept came from Mr. Gandhi, in his capacity as president of Rail Parishad, an NGO. Mr. Gandhi says it took some time for him to get the Railways to subscribe to his idea of a coach where the passengers were directly involved in the upkeep, before it was sanctioned in 2007. “The Railways authorities use to laugh at me,” he says, “but now I feel blessed that I have achieved my goal. There was a need of awareness among the passengers and I thought, why not start with one coach?”

The coach only permits First Class season-ticket-holders to travel in it, and has a number of rules even they must observe, like set timings for reading and meditation, a ban on the use of cellular phones for part of the journey, and a ban on alcohol, tobacco and card-playing.

“We don’t call them passengers,” Mr. Gandhi says, “they are the members now.” There are 400 such ‘members’ currently, and on the special occasion, Om Prakash Tiwari, another regular commuter and general secretary of Rail Parishad said that the NGO gave certificates of loyalty to around 50 people who have been members for all ten years.

The feeling of community is strong, with members’ birthdays and anniversaries celebrated on journeys. In 2013, Nashik residents and regular passengers Shyam and Sarika Jadhav got married in the coach — the first-ever wedding ceremony in a train coach in India, according to the Limca Book of Records — with nearly 110 guests and a pandit performing the rituals.

The coach has got into the record book on two other occasions, in 2012 for its cleanliness and in 2015 for its members writing 100 letters to the Indian Railways and getting acknowledged for each letter. Many of the suggestions have been implemented and more are in many are in pipeline to be implemented by the railways.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 6:09:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/the-rail-coach-that-passengers-maintain/article17746120.ece

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