Huge rush at railway stations, passengers refute Railways claims, share videos
Northern Railway alone claims to have introduced 155 special trains, and the Railways claims it has 2.6 million extra seats for the festive season
“Ensuring family reunions on Diwali! On Diwali's eve, the Railways' staff and officials are standing guard to make sure every passenger reaches home to celebrate Diwali with their families and loved ones,” posted the railway ministry with photographs showing orderly queues of passengers and sparse crowds at stations.
The actual experience of several passengers appears to have been much worse. On Saturday, 11 November, a passenger died in a stampede at the Surat railway station. At least one passenger, Anshul Sharma, with an AC ticket to Ratlam, took to X to thank the Railways for ruining his Diwali. which he wanted to spend with his parents, but was thrown out of the compartment by ticketless travellers, he complained.
Worse, when he sought help from the Railway Protection Force (RPF), they apparently dismissed his complaint with a laugh. His complaint, posted on WhatsApp, elicited the reply that at the next station at Prayagraj (Allahabad), Railway staff would attend to him. Sharma, of course, failed to board the train and was stranded in Surat. Several other bona fide passengers were similarly stranded, he claimed.
“No help from the Police. Many people like me were not able to board. I want a total refund of ₹1173.95,” Sharma posted and tagged railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and the divisional railway manager (DRM) Vadodara.
“The labour crowd threw me out of the train. They locked the doors, and they did not let anyone enter the train. Police said clearly no to help me and started laughing at the situation,” he added. DRM Vadodara responded on social media, urging the railway police to look into the incident.
User Rohini Singh referred to a recent post by Vaishnaw and wrote: "Time for Vaishaw to do another cutesy ‘looking like a wow’ post. Keeping up with trends matters more than simple governance!"
The ‘festive rush’ is an annual feature, with people returning home for Diwali and Chhath Puja from cities in the northern and western parts of India, where they are employed. For the past several days in the run-up to Diwali, passengers have been complaining of a serious shortage of general bogeys and trains.
Many complained that while trains like Vande Bharat, Shatabdi and Rajdhani with more expensive tickets catering to the well-heeled have been running with less than expected occupancy, other trains were few and far between, unable to cope with the festive rush.
Reserved seats or berths were hard to come by owing to the high demand; while thousands of passengers with no reservations thronged stations, there were few trains even as the Railways urged passengers not to come to stations unless they had confirmed reservations.
Passengers lucky enough to board trains found their reserved seats and berths occupied; or discovered that they were hemmed in by luggage carried by other passengers. Fumed Yogita Chulet, one of the passengers, "Why should I pay for reservation...I am not demanding Tejas coach service, just my reserved seat."
Groups of passengers, she alleged, were travelling together and while they may have just four reserved seats, the others were waitlisted, yet all of them were carrying excess luggage.
Several other passengers have posted visuals of overcrowded platforms and trains, leaving people to wonder at the additional special trains and 26 lakh extra berths that Railways claims to have made available for this festive season. The Railways had claimed to be operating over 1,500 special trains across zones to ease the Diwali rush. The extra berths were in addition to those available on regular trains across the network, an official told news agency PTI.
Northern Railway alone, the agency reported, is operating 156 special trains, adding a berth capacity of 15 lakh seats. “156 special trains will make 776 trips with more than 15 Lakh extra seating capacity to accommodate the festive rush,” Northern Railway tweeted.
According to railway officials, 60 special trains are being operated by Southern Railways and additional coaches have been provided in over 10 trains. Besides the special trains, the Railways has also provided additional coaches in existing services to accommodate the festival rush.
Judging by the experiences being shared by passengers, however, the situation this year continues to be as chaotic and messy as ever.