Why Chennai’s suburban rail passengers are struggling to get their voices heard


Chennai suburban rail - the third largest in the country in terms of numbers who commute
Folks thronging one of many suburban railway stations in Chennai. Pic: Laasya Shekhar

“I really feel like I’ve gotten so used to all the problems with Chennai’s suburban rail that I don’t even really feel like complaining about it anymore,” says Sivaraman, with a half hearted smile as he waits on the Thiruvanmiyur railway station in Chennai, to board the practice to Chennai Seaside station after a day’s work. When requested if he has ever tried lodging a grievance about all these ‘points’ that he refers to, he stated he has carried out so a number of occasions however no change has been made.

Nonetheless, the 54-year-old, who has been utilizing the suburban rail in Chennai repeatedly during the last three many years says that he’ll proceed to make use of the native practice service, as it’s an “reasonably priced” mode of transportation for a lot of day by day commuters like him. This opinion by Sivaraman was echoed by a number of different commuters.

With 2.5 million passengers utilizing the suburban trains day by day and 401.7 million passengers yearly, Chennai’s suburban rail system is the second largest in India by way of its size and third largest by way of commuters served after Mumbai and Kolkata. Nonetheless, the native practice providers have been within the information repeatedly for numerous points starting from lack of security for commuters, violence in opposition to girls, poor infrastructure amenities, lack of parking areas in railway stations and so forth.

Learn extra: The story of how Chennai’s suburban rail commuters bought usable bogs

Most typical grievances

One of many complaints that we hear generally from commuters, each women and men, is over the dearth of safety personnel on platforms and railway stations on most days. Soudamini, who works as a workers in a textile store in Velachery says that when she returns again to Taramani at evening after a day’s work, the platforms are often empty apart from a couple of different commuters and typically, there are additionally males clearly drunk.

“Typically, even in the course of the day these stations is usually a little scary, particularly for ladies for the reason that basement areas of the stations the place we’ve got to stroll are darkish within the absence of correct lighting. And more often than not, there may be not a single police personnel in sight and this provides to our concern,” provides Soudamini.

J Ranganathan, Secretary of Kanchipuram Rail Commuters’ Affiliation additionally says that there’s not a single outpost of the Railway Safety Drive (RPF) on the twelve railway stations on the Chengalpattu-Arakkonam route.

Suburban rail - Thiruvanmiyur MRTS station
An empty platform in Thiruvanmiyur MRTS station. Pic: Korah Abraham

One other frequent downside arises because of the delayed arrival of trains, which impacts college students and workplace goers most critically. “So far as the Kanchipuram part is worried, it’s the solely single monitor within the Chennai division. This implies two trains can’t move one another on the identical time and this causes a variety of delay,” says Ranganathan, who additionally provides that the Kanchipuram Rail Commuters’ Affiliation have been demanding for his or her part to be transformed into double monitor for a number of years now.

Aside from these, there are poor parking amenities within the stations, unhygienic bogs and even no bogs in some stations, lack of consuming water amenities, all of which trouble commuters. However what one can do about these issues and the way can these points be dropped at the eye of the authorities?

Criticism redressal mechanism

In line with Ranganathan, one of many fundamental faults of the grievance redressal mechanism of the Chennai suburban railways is that it has failed to succeed in commuters; most will not be conscious of the existence of such a mechanism itself. So what is that this mechanism? 

“The avenues to voice your grievances are multifold,” says an official from the general public grievance cell of Southern Railway’s Chennai division, citing:

  • Criticism registers in each station

Each suburban rail station in Chennai has a grievance register. It’s both out there on the ticket reserving workplace or on the station grasp’s workplace. Any points or grievance that the commuters want to flag may be entered on this register, which is sort of a cheque ebook with every web page having a serial quantity. A duplicate of the grievance may also be given to the complainant. These registers are periodically despatched to the central grievance officer of Southern Railways, who’s answerable to them. However the register can solely be utilized by passengers and that too after displaying their tickets.

For points that require rapid consideration, passengers can dial 139 , which is the toll free variety of Indian Railways. This may join the caller to the railway helpline, which in flip would move on the message to the involved division, following which rapid help could be rendered to the passengers. For instance, within the case of a theft or harassment, if you happen to name the toll free quantity, they might instantly alert the RPF of the closest division who would attain out to the involved passenger instantly.

Commuters may register their complaints via electronic mail by sending complaints to adrm1@mas.railnet.gov.in or pgcell@mas.railnet.gov.in. All these mails will attain the general public grievances cell of the Southern Railways and are then handed on to the involved division. The standing of the grievance and the motion taken relating to it’s additional communicated to the complainant.

Passengers may make use of the Rail Madad web site or the app for any sorts of inquiry, help and grievance redressal. Whenever you open the web site of Rail Madad, you will see numerous choices reminiscent of “Prepare Criticism”, “Station grievance”, “Monitor your concern” and so forth and relying in your necessities and grievances, you may choose the choice.

In line with R Ananth, Further Divisional Railway Supervisor (ADRM), Chennai division, passengers could make use of the Rail Madad platform as effectively for rapid redressal of their grievances. “As soon as a grievance has been registered, you’ll be notified of a time restrict by which the grievance might be redressed. The time restrict can range from half-hour to even two hours relying on the grievance,” says Ananth.

Screengrab of Rail Madad web site.

The ADRM says that the complaints are additionally sourced from social media, particularly via numerous handles reminiscent of “Railway Seva”, “DRM Chennai” and so forth and that a number of the complaints are even taken up and responded to straight by the ADRM himself. “Every day, we obtain round 25 to 40 complaints on Rail Madad and round 10 to fifteen on social media. Many of the complaints are concerning the delay in trains and if its wet season, about water seepage and points, water clogging in stations and so forth” says Ananth.

What really occurs

Whereas each railway station is meant to keep up a complaints register below the foundations, in actuality, these registers will not be out there in all stations, say members of varied passenger associations. T Sadagopan, President of Tamil Nadu Progressive Shopper Centre, says that many of the complaints relating to Chennai’s suburban rail are shared with journalists and media homes fairly than railway authorities, as a result of commuters really feel that could be a more practical method of getting their grievances redressed.

“For a standard man, recording their complaints at these registers on the railway station is a big activity. Once they method the station grasp or different officers for the register, the officers often ask a bunch of questions and check out their greatest to influence the passengers to not lodge the grievance; in lots of instances, passengers ultimately surrender,” says Sadagopan.

Murugan, a member of the Thiruninravur Rail Passengers Welfare Affiliation says that an enormous chunk of the commuters who use the suburban rail providers are day by day wage labourers, distributors, workplace goers and college students, who both don’t have the time or the endurance to undergo the efforts to lodge a grievance through electronic mail or apps. Lots of them aren’t even conscious concerning the current mechanisms in place.

Changing MRTS stations into vibrant areas

On being requested concerning the issues of security with regard to the MRTS stations in Chennai within the Velachery – Seaside part, Ananth says that one of many major causes for that is that the construction and format of the stations are such that there’s a lot of desolate house below these stations that are left unused and more often than not, as a consequence of lack of exercise, these areas grow to be vulnerable to anti social actions.

“We’re arising with a plan to develop these stations into extra vibrant locations, for instance, deliver in additional retailers and stalls and develop them commercially and switch them into hubs of exercise. And on the identical time, we might be naturally strengthening the presence of RPF personnel as effectively. Although I need to say that these adjustments would require a while,” provides the ADRM.

Lack of conferences with citizen our bodies, passenger associations

There are numerous passenger committees, such because the Divisional Rail Customers Consultative Committee (DRUCC), Suburban Rail Customers Consultative Committee (SRUCC) and Zonal Rail Customers Consultative Committee (ZRUCC), which act as a bridge between the passengers and railway authorities to enhance the working of the system. However the jurisdiction of every committee is completely different.

For instance, DRUCC takes care of the problems of a selected division, on this case, the Chennai division. This contains, all of the trains operating via the Chennai division, together with suburban trains and the common passenger and categorical trains. SRUCC is a committee that particularly addresses the problems confronted by passengers utilizing the suburban rail, whereas the ZRUCC seems into falling below the jurisdiction of varied zones reminiscent of Southern Railway, Jap Railway and so forth.

The members of those Committees are chosen from numerous sections of society and are additionally nominated by Members of Parliament (MP) ,Members of Legislative Meeting (MLA), two or three members from numerous registered railway associations just like the Kanchipuram Rail Commuters Affiliation, folks from the agriculture sector, banking sectors, members from folks with disabilities associations, and many others.

“The tenure of those committees is often for a interval of two years, after which a brand new committee might be fashioned. Nonetheless, in sure instances it will also be prolonged by yet another yr, for instance within the present state of affairs of the pandemic, most of those committees couldn’t operate correctly, so naturally there might be an extension,” says Ranganathan, who additionally provides that the committees operate in response to the bylaws fashioned as per the foundations determined with the assembly with railway authorities.

The committees have periodical conferences with the Divisional Railway Supervisor (DRM) or different senior railway officers to debate the problems confronted by commuters within the respective division/zone. The conferences of DRUCC takes place as soon as in three months and that of SRUCC takes place as soon as in a yr. Nonetheless, Murugan, who can also be a member of the SRUCC, says that it’s been greater than a yr since SRUCC has had a gathering with the officers.

“The final assembly of SRUCC was held in 2019, earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic. SRUCC is the first committee which discusses points associated to suburban railways however the issue is that even earlier than COVID, we used to fulfill with the authorities a couple of times in a yr. Provided that we get to fulfill the DRM or the officers not less than quarterly, lets get to see outcomes,” says Murugan.

He additionally goes on so as to add that Railway officers maintain altering which makes it harder to unravel issues. “So if we give our complaints to 1 officer on a selected assembly, on the subsequent assembly, we discover ourselves head to head with another officer. This implies we’ve got to begin recounting the outdated complaints another time and the cycle goes on like this for months and years collectively.”

In line with Sadagopan, every service supplier ought to conduct quarterly conferences with shopper organisations — within the case of railways, they need to hear NGOs and passenger committees. “Even the District Collector and the Madras Transport Company, which runs the general public bus service in Chennai, conduct common conferences with voluntary shopper organisations. What’s stopping the Railway authorities from doing that?” asks Sadagopan.

The ability to make choices and allocate funds

The allocation of funds for the Chennai suburban rail community relies on the price range determined by the Central Railway Ministry, which members of the passenger associations and even a number of the authorities really feel is usually not sufficient.

“All of the powers relating to fund allocation are vested with the Railway board. The Normal Supervisor of a division decides solely on the funding of areas like cleansing of railway premises, contract associated to the cleansing and so forth. However on the subject of funds relating to extra trains, monitor doubling, building of infrastructure and the remaining, it must be determined by the Railway Board,” says Ranganathan

Often the Normal Supervisor of a selected division or MPs advocate funds to be allotted for his or her divisions or constituencies. This advice then has to undergo the scrutiny of the Railway board and the Ministry, solely after which they may earmark the funds and announce it within the yearly railway price range.

“I’ve raised a number of RTIs relating to the doubling of tracks between Arakkonam to Chengalpattu and I bought a reply stating that no MPs have requested for this but,” says Ranganathan, who additionally provides that the elected representatives must take initiative as effectively and transfer the proposals to the railway board chairman and anxious basic supervisor of that jurisdiction. “MP’s must also make an effort to seek the advice of commuter associations earlier than assembly with the railway board authorities.”

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