Fine is fare and fare is fine


Ticketless travel is rampant in local trains as lockdown has made other modes of travel out of reach; so much so that most people don’t mind paying up when caught

The continued suspension of local train services for the general public has left many struggling to reach their workplaces in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Several people, who travel to the island city from different parts of the MMR, have to wait in long queues for their bus and spend another few hours commuting daily. Commuters fear that the situation will get worse as the government eases the lockdown in stages without allowing the train services for the general public.

So desperate are people for trains that many are willing to travel ticketless and pay the fine.

Travelling ticketless is an offence under the Railways Act, and anyone travelling unauthorizedly during the lockdown is also liable to be booked under the Disaster Management Act.

On Friday, a 34-year-old man was caught travelling without a ticket at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT). When a ticket checker asked for the ticket, he politely said, “Rashid bana do sir mere paas ticket nahi hai (please process a receipt for fine, I do not have a ticket).”

The commuter later told Mirror, “I always keep Rs 500 with me for paying the penalty for travelling without a ticket.”

Last month, he said, he was fined three times at different stations. This is not a one-off case. Ever since the second phase of the lockdown started in Mumbai, hundreds of such cases have been detected by the ticket checking staff of the Mumbai suburban train services. The commuters say that bus services are limited and cannot accommodate everyone and that hiring a cab is not affordable for most people.

I always keep Rs 500 with me for paying the penalty for travelling without ticket

— A ticketless traveller who was fined at CSMT

The Western Railway and Central Railway are detecting on average daily 1,400 cases of ticketless travel in the suburban section.

When told that travelling without a ticket is an offence, another commuter, who was also caught without a ticket, said, “I cannot afford to travel by car or cab. Your need more than Rs 1,000 for a single trip from Dombivali to CSMT.”

As per railway rules, any person found travelling without a ticket will be charged a penalty of Rs 250 plus the price of the ticket.

When asked why he needed to travel during the lockdown, he said, “Other than official work, there are a lot of things to be done to run the household. Four members of my family are dependent on me.”

Another person who was caught travelling without a ticket at the Thane station on Friday said, “My mother-in-law is living alone in Dadar. I am required to inquire about her well-being every day. I need to travel between Thane and Dadar frequently. I do not have a car or bike. I cannot afford a taxi, so travelling by train is the only option for me. Moreover, it is safer and faster.”

More than 32,000 commuters were caught travelling without a ticket on the suburban section of Central Railway in May this year. Similarly, ticket checkers of the Mumbai division of Western Railway caught more than 14,000 people who were travelling without a ticket. Most of them were travelling in the suburban section.

Earlier, when I used to take a train, it took me around a one-and-a-half-hour daily to travel from Ambernath to Mahim, but now the one-way travel time has gone up by an hour, which means I end up spending five hours on travel ­

–Amey Berde, a resident of Ambernath

However, a railway official said a massive drive is underway against ticketless travellers. Apart from that, appropriate action is being taken against those found violating the provisions of the Disaster Management Act.

“Some people simply don’t buy tickets, and we have to levy a fine. There are some who wear identity cards of government agencies but when you take a closer look, the ID doesn’t seem genuine. The number of people travelling without a ticket is rising day by day,” said an official of CR.

According to railway officials, they also come across people who are not aware that buying tickets was essential for travelling even during the lockdown. Some of them thought an ID proof was enough, the officials said.

Amey Berde, a resident of Ambernath who works as a video editor with a Marathi newspaper’s website, travels daily from Ambernath in Thane district to Mahim.

“Earlier, when I used to take a train, it took me around a one-and-a-half-hour daily to travel from Ambernath to Mahim, but now the one-way travel time has gone up by an hour, which means I end up spending five hours on travel,” said Berde.

In addition to time, there is the cost factor. Berde said his job profile is such that he can’t work from home, and he ends up spending Rs 200 daily if he travels via a two-wheeler and Rs 800 if he hires a car.

Similarly, Lalita Sawant, a resident of Airoli, spends hours waiting in a bus queue.

“I end up waiting for more than an hour for the bus,” said advocate Sawant, who travels from Airoli to Andheri thrice a week.

Sawant said that earlier she needed just 50 minutes to commute from Airoli to Andheri, but now it takes nearly two hours because of the waiting time.

“I have to spend around Rs 200 daily just to travel,” said Sawant, adding that she can hardly spend time with family. “These days, everybody’s income has gone down. We are earning less but have to spend more,” Sawant added.

Like Sawant, Kalyan resident Dnyaneshwar Jeughale, who works in the admin department of a store that sells artistic products, struggles to reach his office in Fort.

AAKHIR QUEUE? With limited seats in trains, cmmuters have to queue up for hours to catch a bus; many find the bus and cab fares too high

AAKHIR QUEUE? With limited seats in trains, cmmuters have to queue up for hours to catch a bus; many find the bus and cab fares too high

“Though my company has been helpful in these tough times. With no local services, it becomes difficult to reach my place of work. I travel on a bike from Kalyan to Fort and end up spending money as well as energy. I am worried that if the trains don’t start running soon, what will happen when the monsoon arrives. With the pathetic condition of roads and potholes all around, it would be hazardous to travel,” Jeughale said.

Jeughale said that he tried travelling by bus but found it difficult as the waiting time is too much, plus there is a high risk of contracting coronavirus. The application-based bus services are beyond reach as they have high fares, he said.

“What I realised is that the risk of getting infected in bus was more than a local train as they could not follow social distancing while boarding in the bus,” said Jeughale.

Surendra Prasad, who works for a modular kitchen company, has to travel daily from Bhayandar to Malad. For a distance of 16 km, he spends up to four hours both ways as getting a bus is difficult.

“It takes me two hours to travel one way. Along with time, I am spending more money. I am hopeful that the government soon finds a way to start local train services as the Covid cases have now gone down. We can’t function like this; it’s too tiring,” said Prasad, whose company pays him travel allowance for the bus.

“I travel via bus from Ghansoli to Ghatkopar. Getting a bus is very difficult, and we end up waiting at bus stops for long hours. I tried getting a ticket but wasn’t allowed by the railway administration,” said Manoj Pandey, who works as a gas cleaner. Pandey said he works for a private firm and has to attend to the complaints of gas malfunctioning.

“I travel almost daily and end up spending more time at bus stops waiting for the bus than doing anything else. I request the railways and state authorities that people like me should be considered as essential workers as at times I have to reach urgently and can’t afford a cab,” said Pandey.

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