Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Hindu
The Hindu
Dhinesh Kallungal

Railways’ policies lead to face-offs between TTEs and migrant workers on trains from Kerala

The murder of travelling ticket examiner (TTE) V. Vinod by a ticketless migrant worker in Thrissur on Tuesday has brought to light the apathy of Railways in addressing the issues faced by both passengers and officials on trains from Kerala to the migrant heartlands in the northern and north-eastern States.

In 2022, a TTE was attacked by a gang of migrant workers on the Ernakulam-Howrah Antyodaya Express for penalising a ticketless traveller.

According to the TTEs under the Southern Railway, the failure of Railways to address the issues on the trains heading from Kerala towards the north and north-eastern States, and the authorities’ “greed” to raise maximum income from a limited number of trains on these routes have increased the face-offs between the TTEs and the migrant workers.

It is estimated that there are around 30 lakh migrant workers in Kerala. However, there are hardly 13 trains a week from Kerala to States like Assam and West Bengal, which account for the majority of migrant population working in the State.

According to K.M. Anilkumar, divisional secretary, Dakshin Railway Employees Union (DREU), with Railways issuing an indiscriminate number of sleeper tickets in waiting list and general tickets, on trains to these States, each coach having a seating capacity of 72 passengers will have 100 to 150 passengers. Passengers with sleeper tickets in the waiting list taken from the railway reservation counters can travel on these coaches. Railways issue around 300 tickets in the waiting list quota. Since the migrants know that they can travel in sleeper coaches with waiting list tickets taken from railway counters, they prefer taking tickets from the counters. 

Demand-availability mismatch

Further, the cases of ticketless/irregular travel are high on these trains due to a big mismatch between the demand and availability of seats, according to Mr. Anilkumar.

In addition, the monthly quota fixed for a single-man special squad is ₹8 lakh. The bid to penalise migrant workers travelling without tickets often leads to friction between the railway staff and migrant workers.

A TTE is in charge of five coaches. In a State like Kerala, where stops are allotted within every 20-25 minutes even for superfast trains, taking a round through all the coaches takes more time for the TTEs. By this time, the trains would have stopped in at least five to seven stops and migrant passengers would have occupied even the aisle of coaches, said N. Ravikumar, chief ticket examiner and joint general secretary of the DREU.

Staff strength has not been increased in proportion to the number of trains or passengers. Also, the sanctioning of Railway Protection Force staff is still based on the standards fixed in 1970.

Penalty as income

Moreover, Railways now treated penalty earnings through TTEs as an income, said Mr. Ravikumar. The coaches would be crowded with six to eight migrants in every row of seats.

The railway staff demanded that Railways should raise the number of trains on these routes in proportion to the demand. At present, from each train on these routes, Railways raised revenue equal to operating two or three trains by issuing a large number of general tickets and sleeper tickets in waiting list. Since most of the migrant workers were uneducated and were not aware of their rights, they would always travel like cattle on these coaches without any complaints, said the railway staff.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.