Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fence sitters.

Owing to recent ire, the railway ministry has stopped the idea of the 9-berth AC 3 tier trains. Good show! Kudos to a responsive government that takes the people's suggestions seriously.

If you aren't clear yet, the AC 3 tiers coaches of the Indian Railways had introduced a Side middle berth making the sleep really painful.

On the 21st of February 2009 I was travelling Hyderabad to Chennai by the Chennai Express. I was warned that while the Side Middle berth has been withdrawn from being ticketed, it's physical existence hasn't been removed yet.

So I went to the station and observed coach B2 indeed was ticketed for 64 seats (8*8). However, when I walked in, I observed that the most prominently displayed numbers are still based on the side middle system (8*9).

I went to the Dy. Superintendent of Hyderabad station and pointed this potential problem. He brushed it aside by saying the Train Ticket Examiner will resolve all the problems.

As luck would have it, I was shown the right numbers written in a innocuous corner. As more passengers streamed in, I was attempting to help them observe the innocuous numbering rather than the prominent ones. Of course, humans as we are, are bound not to trust others.

It was clear by now that none of the railway authorities were cooperative. The attendant manning the coach could have helped resolve the confusion. However, he chose to answer my question of whether it is 64 or 72 berth with an "I don't know Sir". That clearly gave me an indication that a few good men were banking on the ignorance of the mass to sell the 8 extra berths they may potentially get.

A railway attendant was even walking by telling another to place a blanket for the side middle berth. When I stopped him to say that berth doesn't exist, he even said it does!!!! Unfortunately I didn't have the angle to see his name.

My co passengers were convinced by this time, that I am a whistle blower, a person who can't take bull shit. A friendly co-passenger even came by and said he was convinced by what the attendant said and so the side middle berth was indeed his. Another passenger traveling with family of wife and 2 children had readily expected to eat whatever was being provided. So much for fence sitters.

The TTE, a fine gentleman, finally clarified my doubts and stated the coach was meant for 64 people and the numbers were not prominent because the railway men still want to use the coach for 72 on a later leg of the journey. Having made it clear, I was happy that a few good men were not making illegal money selling 8 extra berths. No attendant was anywhere near me after that. Had he colluded with the few good men, I would have been ready to halt the train and draw ire from the rest of my co-passengers without the feeling of guilt!

The point I was surprised with is, why the fence sitters choose to sit on the fence or get easily convinced by some idiot's logic? It is true that the railway men are trying to deliberately create a confusion by numbering stuff wrong. It is true that the side middle berth has been withdrawn. Whatever it might be, why can't a passenger believe a co-passenger ahead of any one else in the train?

A few days after this, I bought a copy of "Games Indians Play" and can relate every word what is written.

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