Bengaluru, May 25: The Indian railways has taken the phrase 'cold sweat' too seriously these days since it is giving one to each of its AC passengers too often. There was no hike in the railway fare in the budget session this year, but if this the way we have to pay for it, it better be otherwise.
With temperatures soaring to 47 degrees in many parts of the country, AC reservations in the railways has become nothing less than a Game Theory. With fewer AC coaches, long diatance travelling has to be planned way ahead in time.
But, even if you have booked yourself a berth, think again. This may not be the end to your woes.
Take the case of a couple and their son enrote Bengaluru from Howrah. Meenakshi Gupta (60), Anirban Gupta (67) and Debankit Gupta (33) would remember this journey for life, but all for the wrong reasons.
Travelling by Duranto, when their train reached Vijaywada (in a soaring 50 degrees), they felt that their AC had stopped functioning and that they were sweating profusely. On calling the attendant, he informed that the AC was not able to take the load as it was extremely hot outside.
"We were suggested to close the curtains so that the air flow from the duct got channelise. However, even doing that did not help. We could not go out because of the heat and since there was no air circulation inside, the atmosphere was stuffy and claustrophobic. There were other elderly people, apart from my parents, who could not bear this," said Debankit.
On asking, how much he paid for the train fare, he said,"I shelled out close to Rs 9,000 and agent fee extra to book the tickets and this is what we get. The irony is, there was no ticket checker to help us out in this situation."
Debankit pointed out at other issues too,"the ceiling panel fell off at one point, the charging points did not function, the lights went on and off from time to time. Shame on the authorities, Indian railways is building up a wrong image of the country."
Incidentally, in that very same train, coach B2 was in a bigger mess as the air conditioner was not working at all. "Children and elderly had difficulty in breathing and could not sleep the entire night, " said a passenger.
Divine intervention and Help at hand
The passengers at Kalka bound Howrah-Kalka express had a narrow escape from such a harrowing situation. The AC in the 2A coach was not functioning completely for an hour or so when a passenger called the railway helpline number and registered a complaint.
Thankfully, the person on the other side was prompt enough to tell Jyotirmayee (70 years) that he had landed up in the south zone complaint cell and that she is forwarding the call to the eastern zone.
The call showed results and the AC kicked back into action. It is a different thing that the passengers had already started feeling suffocated.
The power of common man
In a separate incident in a train from Howrah to Siliguri, passengers forced the drivers of the train to pull it back to the nearest Malda station so that the AC could be corrected, which remained non-functional for hours together. "The women in the train took the cudgels in their hands and forced the train to stop. We got delayed, but at least the authorities know that this is not right and they have to pay for it," said Suranjika Sen.
Demanding compensation for the loss of time, the phone calls the harrowing experience of the passengers is beyond question. "It will take ages to resolve the matter, but let us remind the authorities that this is no way of functioning and we are being cheated. We will report to the RTI," said another passenger.
Meanwhile, we wish Indian railways a speedy recovery.