KOCHI: The timely intervention of the Union Railway Ministry, under the twitter-friendly Railway Minister Suresh Babu, saved a Kochi student who felt threatened on a long distance train bound to Ernakulam.
Priti D, a student of a law college here, had boarded the Dharti-Aaba Express from Rourkela after her vacations when a railway housekeeper came and occupied the lower berth seat across from her.
“In the first place, I didn’t think he was supposed to sit here after his work,” said Priti. “Then he began to stare and make me uncomfortable. There was hardly anybody in the compartment; a family had just got off. I didn’t know what to do.”
She said she didn’t want to create a scene fearing there wouldn’t be anyone to help. “His friends kept dropping by and making comments,” she said. “The situation was getting frightening, especially as it was getting dark.”It was just a little after the train had left Rourkela and the fraught situation continued for nearly five hours.
Priti called her father on video chat and told him about her predicament. Worried, he sent her railway helpline numbers. “But the connection was very poor and I was unable to get through,” she said. “When I finally managed to do so, the person on the other end could not hear me clearly because the connection was bad and I was speaking in a low voice. I didn’t want the housekeeper to know I was seeking help.”
She then remembered how the Railway Minister and the Ministry were very active on Twitter. “I have heard many stories about how the Minister promptly responded to travellers’ woes,” she said. “I tried my luck and tagged the Railway Ministry’s handle ‘RailMinIndia’.”
Soon, the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) of Vijayawada who was alerted of the incident asked for her contact number and told her help would come immediately. To her surprise, two TTEs came to her compartment in half an hour and inquired about the situation.
“They were very supportive and asked the housekeeper to leave,” she said. “They took a written application from me where I cited my grievances. After some time, an SI came and asked if I had any other issues. The housekeeper was let off with a warning after they consulted me as to what action I wanted to take against him.” Priti says she is glad the railways has risen with the times.
Speaking on the incident, Dhanan Jayulu, DRM Vijayawada, says tweets regarding sexual harassment are quite rare on the railway handle but they deal with such cases immediately. In Kerala, according to a top railway official, most of the twitter complaints are regarding punctuality of trains.
The Railway Ministry recently said the Railways gets over 3,000 complaints on twitter daily and they try to solve all of them immediately through a dedicated team.