What's the proposal?
The Bombay HC on Thursday directed the Central and Western railways to send a proposal to the Railway Board to earmark a compartment for senior citizens in suburban trains.
A division bench of Justices AS Oka and AS Chandurkar directed the railways to send the proposal within three weeks, and the board to take a decision within two months from receiving it.
Why the need?
The court was surprised at the affidavit in reply, filed by the western railway, which stated that during peak hours, most of the passengers are working persons and not senior citizens. Amicus Curiae advocate MS Karnik argued that this depicted that senior citizens don't travel in trains, while the economic reports suggest that senior citizens have to work due to the financial crunch.
The bench rapped the railways by saying, "Senior officers are not aware of the senior citizens travelling in local trains. It seems that they never travel in trains."
The court was also informed by Karnik that a recent letter written by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment states that senior citizens find it difficult to get into the general class compartments.
How the matter reached HC?
The court was hearing a suo moto cognizance of a letter written by a senior citizen, AB Thakkar, in 2009. Thakkar had said that entering jam-packed trains during peak hours was a nightmarish experience for senior citizens. Thakkar has sought that the railways should allot a separate coach for senior citizens, similar to the one allotted to the disabled, cancer patients and pregnant women.
What was WR's defence?
The affidavit of western railway also states, "If a compartment is earmarked for senior citizens, the space for general second class passengers would be curtailed, resulting in excessive crowding and accidents."
The affidavit has also stated that WR had, twice (in 1998 and 2005), referred the issue of earmarking separate half coach for senior citizens to the Railway Board, but it was rejected. Recently on June 3, after a PIL had been filed, the matter was again referred to the board for necessary guidelines.