"Elections And Weddings": Railways' Reply Amid Viral Videos Of Crammed Trains, Chaos At Stations

Elections Edited by Updated: Apr 23, 2024, 1:39 pm

Social media platforms are flooded with videos and images of overflowing trains well beyond capacity.

Amid a deluge of viral videos exposing the chaotic scenes inside packed trains, the Indian Railways has cited the ongoing Lok Sabha elections and weddings for the unprecedented congestion. With 411 million passengers undertaking train journeys across India in the first three weeks of April alone – marking the highest footfall ever recorded during this timeframe – the usual surge in travellers following summer vacations has been exacerbated by the onset of the wedding season and the elections, according to Indian Railways (IR) officials.

This surge has led to logistical challenges, stretching IR resources thin and inundating social media platforms with videos showing people stuffed inside coaches, resorting to any means to travel. Comparatively, passenger trains accommodated around 370 million travelers during the same period last year, and 350 million in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic altered travel patterns drastically, causing a sharp decline in passenger numbers between 2020 and 2022.

“Indian Railways carried 411.6 million passengers between April 1 and 21, out of which 33.8 million passengers were ferried in just the last two days – April 20 and 21 – when this rush has picked up pace,” a Railway Board official was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.

The increase in passengers has led to railway stations across India, especially those servicing routes that see seasonal rushes like Delhi, Patna, Kolkata, Darbhanga, experiencing an unprecedented influx. Passengers, desperate to travel despite having unreserved tickets, have inundated trains, encroaching not only into reserved sleeper class coaches but also AC coaches.

Social media platforms are flooded with videos and images of overflowing trains well beyond capacity, with hundreds of individuals crammed onto floors, in aisles, and even in toilets. Long queues outside compartments as people attempt to force their way onto already overcrowded coaches, are leaving thousands of travelers stranded, unable to reach their destinations.

The situation escalated politically when opposition leaders shared these videos. In one instance, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and senior party leader Rahul Gandhi shared a video, likening train travel to a punishment. In response, a railway official accused the opposition of posting “old and faulty” videos and misleading the country.

To address the surge in demand, Indian Railways announced a significant increase in train trips, up by 43%, and the deployment of a record number of additional trains. A total of 9,111 trips are slated for the summer season, a substantial rise compared to the 6,369 trips offered in the previous summer of 2023, marking an increase of 2,742 trips. The Western Railways accounted for the highest number of notified trips (1,878), followed by North Western Railways (1,623), South Central (1,012), and East Central (1,003 trips).

Despite these efforts, the ground reality remains chaotic. Officials were questioned about the potential impact of increased high-speed train operations on the decline in regular passenger trains, to which they asserted that such a correlation was unlikely.