Southern Railways say it has no information about stoppages removed after COVID-19 pandemic
As per the provisions of the RTI Act, the railway activists action against the officers who furnished wrong information.
THOOTHUKUDI: An RTI reply from Southern Railways, which stated that there is no record of stoppages that were suspended, restored, and proposed after the Covid-19 pandemic, has shocked activists as it seems to be hiding data even as the railway officials had revealed such information in writings to the parliamentarians during the General Manager's meeting held at Thiruvananthapuram on March 1.
As per the provisions of the RTI Act, the railway activists action against the officers who furnished wrong information. The issue has escalated in the wake of demands for restoration of stoppages on the railway routes becoming louder across the state. The zero-based timetabling exercise was introduced by the railways during the Covid-19 pandemic to remove more than a hundred stoppages, with an ambition to reduce the running hours.
Recently, Varathan Ananthappan, an RTI activist, sought a reply for the number of stoppages that were removed during the pandemic across various divisions of the Southern Railways. He had also sought information regarding the stoppages that were proposed for restoration and those that were restored after the withdrawal of the Covid-19 restrictions. The reply, undersigned by Dy. Chief Operations Manager/Coaching I & Public Information Officer, Southern Railway Headquarters Office, said they have no information in this regard.
However, when Tirunelveli MP Gnanathiraviam submitted a questionnaire during the General Manager's meeting with MPs under the Thiruvananthapuram division on March 1, demanding the restoration of stoppages operated prior to the pandemic, the southern railways listed the withdrawn stoppages for 12 trains at Kavalkinaru, Melapalayam, Nanguneri, and north Panagudi owing to poor patronage during the zero-based timetabling exercise.
When he demanded the stoppages of Tiruchirapalli-Thiruvananthapuram intercity Express at Eraniel station; Nagercoil Gandhidham Express and Tirunelveli-Jamnagar Express at Kulithurai; Thirukkural SF Express, Howrah-Kanyakumari Express, Nagercoil -Chennai Egmore Weekly Express, Punalur-Madurai Express, and Nagercoil Junction-MGR Chennai central at Valliyur station, the railway officials reasoned that the stoppages were removed as the average tickets sold at these stations are less than the normal.
Speaking to TNIE, Varathan said the railways should have directed the departments concerned if they do not have the information sought. It is disappointing to note that the railway officials had blatantly furnished wrong information, he said, adding that he will make an appeal again.
Kanniyakumari District Railway Users' Association (KKDRUA) secretary P Edward Jeni told TNIE that the reply to the RTI query is controversial since the railways had divulged similar information to the people's representative while denying the same under the RTI Act. The railways must initiate action against the officers who denied public information, he added.