To whomsoever it may concern,
I heard that Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu inaugurated a web portal to register complaints to Railway customer relations. Is it any good? I was actually planning to sue them to refund the money which I paid for a ticket to Guwahati.
I know, long shot. But hear me out first. I will give you a brief idea of what all happened in last one week. Let me know if I’m wrong.
15th June 2017, 6.30 AM, at Angadippuram Railway station
I reached the station to stand in the queue in front of the Ticket Reservation booth.
I tried to book a Tatkal ticket from Palakkad Jn. (PGT) to Dimapur (DMV), but even though I was first in the queue, the guy in the booth said I will be 1st in Tatkal waiting list for 3-AC. He said he can book a premium Tatkal ticket for around 8000 INR. (If I had that much amount at disposal, I would have booked a flight ticket from Cochin to Guwahati, and travelled by train to Dimapur.) I declined his offer and decided to go back home. I had to, I was starving.
I tried to book the Sleeper ticket via IRCTC website on my laptop and as usual site froze.
As there is only one train (Kanyakumari-DBRG Vivek Exp) connecting Kerala and Nagaland, the next feasible way is to go to Guwahati and then catch any intercity train to Dimapur.
17th June 2017, 6.30 AM, at Angadippuram Railway station
History repeats itself.
Again the guy in the online reservation booth said that I am on the waiting list. This time, 5th for 3AC and 7th for 2AC. Instead of going home and trying my luck at winning the jackpot sleeper Tatkal via IRCTC site, I decided to stay back and get it done from there itself.
This time I was 27th on waiting list. I enquired about the second train (82642 KCVL-GHY SUVIDH) scheduled for 18th. The official said it is a “special” holiday train and hence the rates will be premium. I was so desperate for a ticket and I said yes. It cost me 3330 INR.
The cost for booking a 3AC tatkal ticket from Palakkad to Nagaland was 2935 INR. Compare that with the “special” sleeper ticket from Palakkad to Guwahati. But I was damn hopeful that the train would be so “special”.
While packing the rucksack, I received a text message saying the departure of train 82642 is rescheduled to 19th June with 18 hours’ delay.
Thank you, Railway. You guys rock!
19th June 2017, 12:30 PM, at Palakkad Junction railway station
There was a poster stuck on the Information Centre booth saying the KCVL-GHY SUVIDH will only arrive by 3.30 PM. Thank you again. Waiting room in the second platform was full of people waiting for the same train. Illiterate people who never understood the message and those who said they never got any message, were staying in the station for past 24 hours. A muslim mullah who was going home even asked me whether the train is air conditioned as he paid more than double the price for the ticket. I said no, but added that the train is said to be special with special ticket rates.
Finally, the Suvidha Express arrived. I will remember the moment I stepped in as one of the most depressing moments forever. Nothing ‘special’, as promised, about the seats and other facilities. Everything is at least one or two decades old.
Train left Palakkad Junction in hardly 5 minutes, leaving me no time to prepare my mind for the worst 4 days of my life.
Now let me start with the facilities we were offered for the premium rate we paid. We had fans which require “kicks” to start. The entire coach had not even a single plug point. In this era when the Prime Minister is concentrating on digitalization to make a new Digital India, everybody, even all the tile workers who sat beside me had huge PDAs. But no charging port. Thanks again.
If that is not so important for you guys, then let me point you in the direction of more basic needs. The washrooms (toilets) were worse than shit-holes of slums. The only Indian Toilet which had water and which was better than the other 3, had a hole on the door. So initially when the ladies went inside to free their bladders, husbands or fathers stayed outside to guard their privacy. Special train in deed. Those officials who are responsible for this utter crap special train fraud should come stay in these coaches for 4 tiring days. I bet they won’t survive without puking all day long.
I travelled for 4 days and not even one TTR confronted me or any of my fellow travellers. Maybe the TTR was hiding in embarrassment. I do remember one guy dressed in black coat walking away within the bounds of Andhra/ Telengana. I was waiting for the moment to confront the guy with the ticket and lash out all my anger. But the guy never showed up again. Lucky him!
Now about the security and privacy.
Gutka, cigarettes and booze were available as per requirements. Yeah, not exaggeration. I’m very sure that many of those who were heading to Guwahati after all the tedious daily wager jobs smoked pot, had Gutka and were singing once the train crossed Odisha border. Women who were in the coach must have seen worse. Neither them, nor their better halves raised voice. Maybe in their town, these guys must be the most civilised of all. Apart from 2 railway cops who flashed torch light at everyone sleeping during the 20th night, I have never seen a cop trying to ensure safety or privacy inside the train. Special train, so special.
21st June 2017, around 9.30 PM
We had to literally shout at a homeless man who was trying to create more chaos. At one point he tried to sleep on the berth above the berth where a teenage girl with bandaged leg was sleeping. Her father and two fellow passengers raised their voice and one even went to hit him with his chappal.
The unending jouney
Like I said before, the train was rescheduled with 18 hours delay, forcing us to change our plans. Okay, I was planning to mount on any intercity to Dimapur and then, had to travel 70km on road to Kohima, which was not possible because of the way the special Suvidha express took me to Guwahati. I don’t socialize so quickly, but I had all the time, right? Everybody who travelled in the 8th coach was desperate.
- The manual labourers who were going home for Ramzan won’t react for obvious reasons. They were from much worse conditions, but they were all worried about the hard earned money they paid and worries about the extra days they lost from their small vacation.
- A family with a girl whose one leg was bandaged. I have already mentioned the hardships faced by ladies. Also they had to almost carry the girl out of the train (at Malda, I suppose) at midnight. The updated schedule was a mystery for all.
- A family with a man who was walking with the support 2 crutches. They were on their way from CMC Vellore, after some long treatment and highly paid injection on his hip.
- Some Assamese families with ladies and kids. I have mentioned how they suffered.
- Soldiers who were supposed to join for duty at Kishanganj outpost by 21st
- An engineering professor from Allahabad university and his wife.
I never knew that special trains run when Railway officials feel like allowing them. The train halted every now and then, for more important trains to pass by. At Bubaneshwar and Burnpur the names that I still remember. Apart from stations, it was halted at numerous rural crossings and we spent hours with nothing to do.
22nd June 2017, 4.10 PM
We reached Guwahati and I bid farewell to those who suffered the “special” train with me.
I should have touched the platform, knelt down to kiss the mud and shout “Achche Din Aane Wale hain”. But as I was withholding everything in my tummy for past 4-5 days without the final act of digestion (yes, defecation), I ran into the Palthan streets to find a hotel to check-in.
PS: Dear Railway officials, please stop boasting that 43% of the ticket price is borne by common citizens of this nation, as if it is some seasonal offer. Last I checked, being a tax paying citizen of India, it is my privilege to earn tickets at subsidised rates.
PPS: To buy the ticket to travel 3,292km on rails (to reach destination 32 hours late), it cost me 3330 INR. Not on 3/2AC, but on a sleeper berth with second sitting standards. If I paid 940 INR (the normal ticket rate) or 1140 (the Tatkal rate) and earned a sleeper ticket, I would have tried to forget the hardships just like that. But for 3330INR, I deserved better.
Railway is known as the lifeline of the nation. Lifeline, my foot.
PFA, all the photos and screenshots to prove the credibility of my story.
The long halts at God knows where>
The premium soft cushioned berth where I slept. So broad enough such that I could lavishly keep my 60L rucksack, backpack and the messenger bag near me. 😀
Berth No.24 >
Those who suffer from coronary diseases and Pregnant ladies should restrain themselves from the seeing the most premium Indian toilet of the Suvidha Express. Thank God, you guys don’t have to bear with the special aroma.
23rd June 2017, 6:41 PM
Somebody from Assamese Railway Division office, who don’t know English, called me and spoke to me in half Hindi. It seems they sent the complaint to their division and nobody has yet gone through the details mentioned in the complaint. I hope he understood when I asked him to send the complaint back to the Head Office.
24th June 2017, 10:37 AM
I received a text message from “VM-IRSMSA”, saying my complaint has been attended to and is now closed. Yeah, CLOSED !!
I clicked on the given URL and it says the Assamese division send it over to Palakkad Division.
I wonder why!?
3rd July 2017, 12:53 AM
After a day, the official twitter account of Ministry of Railways responded positively and account of Palakkad Railway Division replied to it.
God knows who all manage these accounts.
Anyway, nobody has contacted me afterwards. The mail I sent to the customer care of irctc.co.in also remains unattended.