Accommodating Reservation Against Cancellation (RAC) ticket-holders in day trains remains a challenge for the Indian Railways as passengers travelling on the side upper berth are entitled to a window seat on the side lower berth after 6 a.m.
Passengers with RAC status are given a reserved sitting accommodation initially. When a berth falls vacant due to cancellation or confirmed passengers not turning up, the Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) will allot them a berth. If no berths fall vacant, the RAC ticket-holders will have to travel till their destination with the sitting accommodation.
Senior railway officials say that the issue of accommodating a third person in the side lower berth remains a grey area in day trains. There have been several complaints on this issue and the TTEs try to address them amicably. Acting on one such complaint, the Central Information Commission (CIC) had directed the Southern Railway last week to furnish complete information to a petitioner in accordance with the spirit of transparency and accountability , as enshrined in the RTI Act, 2005. The case arose out of a petition filed by S. Rajan to the Divisional Railway Manager, Tiruchi, in which he pointed out that he and his wife were given RAC accommodation in seat S3-7 side lower berth from Vridhachalam to Madurai in a day train. When they went to occupy the two window seats in the side lower berth, the passenger on the side upper berth had taken one seat. He wondered how two passengers could sit in one window seat and sought to know what the railway rules said in such situations. Dissatisfied with the reply of the Public Information Officer and the First Appellate Authority, he filed an appeal before the CIC. After hearing both sides, Central Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar asked the railway authorities to provide the information to the petitioner.
Taking a serious view of the Chief Public Information Officer, Southern Railway, Tiruchi, not attending the hearing despite notice, he directed the official to submit a written statement before the Commission explaining his absence.
Asked about the rules, a railway official said sleeping accommodation from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and sitting accommodation for the rest of the period were provided to passengers in reserved coaches. During the day, besides RAC ticket-holders, sitting accommodation is provided on the side lower berth for the passenger on the side upper berth.
However, the passenger on the side upper berth would not have any claim on the side lower berth between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Nonetheless, passengers should cooperate with ill persons, differently-abled persons and pregnant women in case they want to sleep beyond the permissible time limits, he said, quoting a circular.