ANDHRA PRADESH

Porters call the shots at parcel office

monopoly in service: Railway porters packing two-wheelers at Secunderabad railway station.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTO: K. RAMESH BABU

K. Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy

Passengers pay exorbitant packing charges for transportation of goods by rail

HYDERABAD: When A. Mallikarjun, a chartered accountancy student had to relocate to Vijayawada recently, he was taken aback when railway porters informed him that the charge for packaging his two-wheeler for transportation by rail would be Rs. 200.

“This was in addition to the Rs. 210 charged by railway parcel service, which turned out to be almost Rs. 400,” he grumbles.

Taking advantage of the urgency and need of passengers, licensed porters at Secunderabad Railway Station parcel office are collecting exorbitant fares for packing two-wheelers to be transported by railway parcel service. Though the namesake packaging requires only low-cost materials such as gunny bag, waste paper and hay, they charge anywhere between Rs. 150 and Rs. 200 a vehicle.

“When I asked why the charges were so high, I was told to do the packing myself,” he says. In a hurry and left with no other choice, Mr. Mallikarjun parted with Rs.170 after some haggling.

The Secunderabad parcel office handles a minimum 25 two-wheelers a day. Employees who are transferred or those who want to take their vehicles to their homes for temporary purposes are typical customers. Although one books a two-wheeler with the Railway parcel service, the department does not handle the packaging part, which is exploited by the licensed porters.

Despite a strong need for a packaging section, the South Central Railway (SCR) officials have not made any arrangement. Nor have they come up with a stipulated price list, like in the case of luggage carriage service in railway stations. Due to the SCR’s nonchalant stand, parcel service users have no choice but to let the licensed porters handle the packaging part.

M. Sivanarayana Reddy, who had to transport his bike to Markapuram in Prakasam district, echoes the opinions of several railway customers, “It is okay to collect a modest amount for packaging. But let the Railways which has a monopoly over the service have a fixed tariff for packaging,” he suggests.

The Chief Parcel Supervisor, K. Janardhana Rao, accepts that porters should not collect such inflated rates. “They should charge a maximum of Rs. 40 and not demand more from passengers. We are taking action whenever there is a complaint,” he maintained. “We are aware that such a problem exists but our duty is only to make parcel bookings. Any remedial measure should only be taken by SCR authorities,” he said.