Indian Railways may own the world’s longest track, spanning over a lakh kilometres. But it does not have a track record in being passenger-friendly. Perhaps that explains why a strip-search on a 65-year-old woman passenger, who boarded a first class compartment of a Mumbai suburban train carrying a second class ticket, did not cause much shock among the public. Or was it because a younger woman, hailing from North East, was at the receiving end of a ticket examiner’s wrath for the same ‘crime’ in Chennai just a couple of days prior to that? The women ticket examiners are entrusted with the responsibity of ensuring that no one travels without a bonafide ticket. So, they cannot be blamed for taking to task the two women, technically speaking.
Even from a regular railway user’s perspective, the attitude of those ticket examiners was not much in variance with that of any railway staff a passenger might encounter in a journey or a visit to a railway station. One can only point fingers at the three women for going a bit overboard. Because, in the railway rule book, meant exclusively for passengers, ignorance is no excuse for boarding a first class coach with a second class ticket even though no staff can be held responsible for any deficiency in service.
When the victim filed a police complaint against the violent attack in Chennai, the ticket examiner visited the police station accompanied by local union leaders to ‘settle’ the matter, and thankfully, the Mumbai duo was suspended after the family of the tormented woman took up the matter with the authorities. Are ticket examiners empowered to hurl abuses on errant passengers? Does the rule allow for strip search and assault? It is time the railways, which has a habit of ignoring the complaints passengers come up with, tried to make its services more passenger friendly and perhaps teach some humaneness to its staff.