Dec 25, 2013

Complainant Cornered

The Railway Board formulates various rules for the convenience of the travelling public. But the staff generally flouts them and often applies those very rules so literally to the letter as to trouble those who incur their displeasure.
The Railways, like other government departments have their own codes of working. Any interference or even a mere expression of dissatisfaction can land one in hot waters.
“DON’T LOOK FOR OR ACCEPT FAVOURS - INSIST ON YOUR RIGHTS & GET THEM "-so read the placards displayed in the Railway stations. But the moment you assertively insist on your rights, you invite unpleasant situations.
No one likes to be complained against and should the victim be a man of position or pushy, the complainant is likely to be harassed as often and in as many ways possible.
Like an average moneyed man, those who are assigned the job of handling money are also haughty, harsh and harassing. The Railway Booking-Clerks belong to this despicable class of public servants.
Here then read on.

Some years back I was waiting at a small junction station to catch a fast passenger for Jetalsar junction in Saurashtra. The train was scheduled to arrive at 00.22 hours.
All stations have their own working hours and the public notice board giving the details of the timings is put up at every station for the information of the public. The booking office of the station from which I was to commence my journey was to open half an hour before the scheduled arrival of the train and like elsewhere, close five minutes before the train's departure. As during all marriage seasons in Gujarat, there was a good rush of passengers on that day and I happened to be I the first in the tall end of the queue.
According to its own rules, the booking office ought to have opened at 23.52 hrs. When it didn't open even till 00.10 hrs., I made some mild knocks on the window trying to awaken the booking-clerk who could be heard snoring behind it. There was no response. I repeated the knocks. At long last, the window opened and the man on the other side of it bawled out in furious tones "what's all this mad hubbub of knocking---can't you patiently wait like a gentleman?" Drawing his attention to the clock in his office, I politely pointed out that he was unpunctual and late by 18 minutes and that with as little time as 12 minutes only left over to meet the requirements of over 100 passengers, it would cause a lot of scramble and inconvenience to the passengers - many of whom might even miss the train on that wintry night.
"To hell with you, i am not here to take orders from you-go and do what you like." The Station Master who was also in the booking office heard all this coolly.
Many other passengers in the queue also rightly felt that the clerk's attitude towards the tax payers - his pay masters, was cheeky and most discourteous. So, with the backing of few other passengers I left the queue and went into the office and demanded for the complaint book. It was given to me. When I asked for a pen to write, the S. M. there said "rules only require us to give you the complaint book-there are no extra pens here for public use." That was stretching the rules too far.
The gentlemen who had gone with me to jointly complain had no pen on them and. unable to hold on any more, they left me midway. After an hurried unpacking of my baggage, I brought out my pen and recorded my complaint in the Railway register. As I was going to sign it, the Station Master stopped me and said '' rules are rules, I am not to allow you to sign while this complaint is incomplete without your ticket number. The rules also require you to get your ticket from the queue outside. "
I went out to get my ticket. Handing in a tenor. I asked for a second class ticket for Jetalsar Jn. Even though there was enough change to pay me off, the clerk insisted that J should tender the exact amount. That was another rule. I hadn't the requisite amount. Just then, the guard whistled and waved the green light ordering the train to move.
Without getting a ticket and leaving my complaint incomplete, I ran to the guard and requested him to permit me to travel by that train and collect the fare from me at the next halt. The railway rules permit such an arrangement. The guard shoved me into a vacant IInd class compartment. In there i heaved a sigh of relief from the misadventure; not in the least knowing that the worst was still to come.
At the next junction, a Travelling Ticket Examiner came into my compartment demanding to check my ticket. Offering to pay for my fare, I told him that I didn't possess one and that I had boarded the train from the last junction with the permission of the guard.
" You are without a ticket and that too in a ladies compartment. Do you want me to believe that a responsible official like a guard has put you into this compartment?"
" You see, the train was on the move and my little scuffle with the booking clerk at the last junction drained away all my time and because of that I couldn't get a ticket, rather, I wasn't issued one. The guard will surely testify to the fact that it was he who had helped me into this compartment while the train was moving out of the platform. All this while I didn't know that this happens to be a ladies compartment. In any case. I didn't get into this bogie on my own. Let's go to the guard and square it out. "
I wasn't aware that even the guard had leagued with the Booking-Clerk and the Station Master of the station from where I had entrained. When the T T. E. took me to the guard. I found that he had put on a face of estrangement and outright denied my having sought his permission to board the train with the preparedness to pay my fare at the next stop.
" Book this guy for travelling without a proper ticket and charge him with offence of making use of the ' Ladies compartment." ordered the guard. That was indeed a blow below the belt
The Travelling Ticket Examiner prepared an excess fare penalty ticket and made me pay the amount. Done down that way, I had no alternative but to pay and wriggle out of the mess I got involved into. As for the second charge, ' travelling in the ladies' compartment ', they perhaps didn't want to suffer the laborious process of charging me in a Railway Court. so they stiffly warned me and I was Jet go.
Habitual defaulters have a natural flair for remembering faces and they are usually spiteful. They keep themselves armed with cooked tactics to corner those who attempt to proceed against them.
True to this, when after a month I had again to take a train from the very station which had brewed up the trouble for me, the same Booking - Clerk cleanly pocketed Rs. 11/- which I had paid in for a ticket and fired me out as attempting to deceive the Railway. I had again to take it lying low.
Number is strength in everything right or wrong. Had only a band of people from that long queue at the starting station backed my just complaint, I wouldn't have been nagged and penalised the way I was

The callous public apathy towards their own legitimate rights is what fosters in the Railway servants - mismanagement and mischievousness; and consequently, a lone complainant like me fails and gets fooled.