A musical initiative for rail passengers

Next time, when you find a group of people singing songs and playing music in your compartment, don’t think that they are doing so to earn some money to make two ends meet and don’t also bother to give them anything.

The singers and the other members of the party could very well be Railway Protection Force (RPF) jawans trying to create awareness among the rail passengers about the dreaded ‘zeherkhurans’ (the drug-and-rob-gangs) through songs and plays so that they may not become their victims.

A team of the RPF jawans posted with the North Eastern Railway have been given musical instruments such as harmonium, dholak and tabla in place of guns and rifles and it has been trying to alert the rail passengers about the activities and modus operandi of the ‘zeherkhurans’ through folks songs and plays in the speeding trains.

“The members of the team not only sing songs to create awareness among the passengers, they also dress up as the members of the gangs and stage plays inside the compartments so that the passengers can understand about their way of operating”, said RPF officials here.

“The jawans behave like the gang members…they try to offer eatables to the passengers and try to befriend them just like the gang members do”, they said.

Musical team

The officials said that the decision to form a ‘musical team’ was taken at a meeting of the senior officials after the railway’s attempt to capture the gang members failed to yield satisfactory results.

Zeherkhurans especially target trains bound for the north Indian states from metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and industrial centres like Ludhiana, Surat and have become a big headache for the railway officials.

The gang members board the trains, befriend the unsuspecting passengers, especially those from the rural areas returning home after earning some money, and offer them biscuits or cold drinks laced with sedatives and make away with their belongings and cash after they become unconscious.

Around 50 cases of zeherkhurani have been reported from Allahabad, Kanpur, Varanasi and some other areas in Uttar Pradesh in the past six months alone. Recently the police busted a gang, which used to add sedatives in sealed food items after tampering with the bottles and offer the same to unsuspecting passengers after befriending them.


Hygiene priority on train menu

The waiters serving you food in trains will no longer be untidy and shabbily dressed.

Clean shaven with neatly cut nails and wearing crisp, ironed uniform with name badges —this is how the waiters will soon look.

Rattled by the increasing number of complaints, the Indian Railways has finally drawn up a plan that involves basic personal hygiene for its cooks and waiters in pantry cars.

Sources said the plan needs to come in effect immediately and railways have been asked to start working towards implementing it at the earliest.

Besides cleanliness and hygiene of those handling food, the new policy by the railway board will allow you to taste regional cuisines, book a meal on the train and takeaway menus.

The draft policy document has created a new post of a manager of a captain in each pantry car who would be in charge of the staff working in the pantry car.

“All the staff, especially waiters, supervisors and manager should be in proper and clean uniforms. The cooks and waiters should cut their nails, a visible badge and will have to be clean shaven. The uniform can be similar in a car and can be decided by the licencees. The presentation of the dishes served has to be of a high quality,” it added.

If an offence or an irregularity is reported five times, there is a clause of termination of contract. “Caterers have suggested that punishment should be on the basis of severity of the offence,” it added.

A back-up team has also been kept ready in case trains are introduced on a short notice or when a contract is terminated. The policy document also calls for redesigning of pantry cars in Duronto trains and repair of defective equipment in all train kitchens.

“Priority has been given by the ministry of railways and the board to improve catering services. The plan has been decided after interactions between the railway minister, the board and the licencees on how to improve services. All railways are expected to follow the policy and send a monthly report to the railway board,’’ said Kamlesh Gupta, additional member (tourism and catering), railway board.

The cost of food may go up a bit. A system of collection and disposal of garbage has also been formulated, warning against disposing in train vestibules or out of windows.

The plan also lays down instructions for the railway police and TTEs to curb unauthorised hawkers and vendors.

Regular passenger feedback and compiling monthly and quarterly reports have been included in the plan.


Rail staff to get SMS on signal failures

With the aid of communication technology, North Central Railway (NCR) has taken steps to provide instant information about signal failures to railway employees for prompt action. This would ensure better safety for train passengers. Through the system, SMSs can be sent to the signalling staff when a problem occurs.

NCR chief public relations officer Sandeep Mathur told TOI that data loggers attached to the signalling system record every event. The signal failures are also recorded in the data logger which sends information to the staff through SMS. The system is functional in the Agra division of NCR and would soon be implemented in the Allahabad and Jhansi divisions, Mathur said.


IRCTC to refund e-ticket fare within days of filing claim

E-ticketing customers will not have to wait for months to get refund of fare for trains cancelled as Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has devised a new system that will ensure payments are transferred to the customers’ account within days of filing the claim online.

If the train is marked as ‘cancelled’ in PRS due to breaches, floods or accidents, full refund is permissible in case the ticket is cancelled within three days of the scheduled departure of the train.

In case of e-tickets, such cancellations can be done by the customer via the internet.

A senior IRCTC official said, “Previously, IRCTC customers had to file a Ticket Deposit Receipt (TDR) form online. IRCTC then forwarded the claim to the railway department concerned to process the refund. The refund amount was then credited back to the same account through which payment was made after receiving the same from the concerned railway department. The entire exercise of processing the TDR was time-consuming and the customer could expect the refund at least a month from the date of filing the claim.”

In the new system, the refund can be credited in their account, if the claim is done online within 72 hours from the date of cancellation of the train. Once the claim is filed, the fare will be refunded into customers account within four to five days.

An official said, “Many customers, who had bitter experience due to abnormal delay in refund process, had stopped booking the tickets online.”

The refund process is much easier if the ticket is booked from the Passenger Reservation System counter. The money is refunded immediately on submission of forms at the counter.

KD Sharma, a resident of Chembur, said, “We had bitter experience with refunds when we had booked tickets during the monsoon to travel to Goa by Konkan Railway. Hence, we had decided not to book tickets online especially while travelling during the monsoon, as the Konkan railway route gets disrupted frequently during that time of the year leading to cancellation of trains.”

Krishna Shah, a Ghatkopar Resident said, “IRCTC should make the process even more simpler. Why should they wait for the person to register the claim online when the train has been cancelled? The money should automatically get credited in the account from where the booking was made in the first place.”


CR beams live TV into six local trains

The Central Railway (CR) has recently introduced six local trains equipped with LCD TVs airing real-time content to enhance the travel experience in suburban section. The CR had introduced two such rakes on Republic Day this year, but the LCD TVs on these trains only aired static content in which data was fed by pen drives.

According to sources, the day is not far when all local trains on the CR will be equipped with LCD TVs offering audio-visual entertainment. “The tendering process is on for installing LCDs on the rest of the trains. Within a month, the tenders will be floated,” said a senior official from the CR commercial department.

The railway awarded an initial contract on application basis to Fortune Creation Media for the installation of LCD TV sets on 24 rakes, 23 old nine-car rakes and one 12-car new Siemens rake. But till date, the TV sets have been installed only on eight rakes.