After introduction of Unreserved Ticketing System in 2005, Tamil lost its place on unreserved train tickets to English & Hindi, leaving lakhs of people, who understood only the vernacular language, in a ‘lost land’
MADURAI: Clutching on to a lifeless piece of paper, she ran like an abandoned child in a teeming multitude of strangers. She had a train to catch, but could not guess which one, as the innocuous train ticket she held tightly in her hands had erected an invisible language barrier she was incapable of crossing.
The English and Hindi letters on the ticket held the answer, but the 67-year-old could read only Tamil. Velammal did make the journey to Tiruchy from Madurai after a Good Samaritan showed him the right train. She found it annoying that she had turned a stranger in her own land for want of knowing other languages.
Narrating her experience to Express, Velammal, a resident of Madurai, who had booked the ticket using Passenger Reservation System (PRS) to visit her daughter, says, “Usually, my daughter accompanies me. But this time I was alone and was unable to figure out which train name was printed on my ticket. It was only after a passenger told me that I had to board the Guruvayur Express, I was able to identify the train,” adds the elderly woman.
Velammal is just one among the lakhs of vernacular literate, who suffer in silence whenever a milestone is rewritten in English or a travel ticket is printed in Hindi.
However, this was not always the case. In 2005, when unreserved ticket issuing was computerised, the tickets were printed in three languages – regional language, Hindi and English. In November, 2005, Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS) was introduced, and along with it the two-language (English and Hindi) formula. PRS too follows the same practice.
While passengers and members of various organisations have submitted petitions to the authorities concerned to introduce Tamil, officials say the software is designed to generate only English and Hindi across the country.
According to Rajkumar Palaniswamy, secretary of Tamil Cultural Centre, “We have sent a series of petitions requesting to include Tamil in train tickets, especially in unreserved tickets. In 2015, we got a response from the then railway deputy chief commercial manager, who said that the UTS was a uniform software and generated tickets only in two-language format.”
“The official also included a statement: At present, there is no possibility for a third language to be included on the tickets. However, the suggestion has been noted,” adds Palaniswamy.
The issue is not limited to tickets. Says Palaniswamy, “Even the reservation charts do not include Tamil language. The passengers who follow only Tamil have to request others to check if their name is on the chart. Other states like Karnataka and Maharashtra have also been requesting for inclusion of local languages in tickets and official forms for the past few years.”
It’s sad that even with so much advancement in technology, the railway administration is not able to print ticket in regional language, he adds.
However, it seems there is no definite rule that the railway follows. “A suburban train ticket bought recently for a single trip from Putlur to Tiruvallur recently had three languages – English, Hindi and Tamil – printed on it. But a to and fro (return) ticket between Chennai Central and Putlur had only English,” notes K Baskar, former member of Divisional Rail Users Consultative Committee, Chennai Division, adding, “There is no clear cut policy available for the number of languages to be printed on the railway tickets.”
According to a railway official, “We have been receiving requests from passengers for tickets to be printed in Tamil for the past few years, but the issue has to be addressed by the Indian Railways and Centre. The suburban tickets are issued at the local station in Chennai, which does not come under the Central server. The UTS and PRS comes under the Indian Railways’ central server that uses a uniform software with the two-language format across the country.”
So, why the two different systems? According to the official, as per the Railways Act, 1989, only the tickets for the lowest carriages have to be printed in three-language format and higher than that like the UTS and the PRS should be printed in Hindi and English. The Act further states: Provided that where it is not feasible to specify such particulars in any such language due to mechanism or any other reason, the Central government shall exempt such particulars being specified in that language.
Requesting the authorities to include Tamil on the list of languages printed on tickets, P Edward Jeni, secretary of Kanniyakumari District Railway Users Association, says, “A huge section of railway users is compelled to depend on others to book tickets. Passengers who travel in unreserved classes are the most affected, as most of them know only vernacular language.”