The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked the Railway authorities to consider providing space to senior citizens in local trains on humanitarian grounds just as women have the privilege of travelling in special compartment.
“You (Railways) please consider this on humanitarian grounds as elders cannot board or get down overcrowded trains in the peak hours. Some space should be reserved for them,” observed a bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka. Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh told the court that the issue of providing space to senior citizens was under the consideration of the authorities and he himself was taking a keen interest in this matter. Thereupon, the bench posted the matter in January 2015 beyond Christmas vacations.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation, which urged for a direction to the authorities to reserve space for elders in local trains. The PIL was based on a letter written by A B Thakker, a senior citizen, to the court.
Earlier, the Western Railway informed the court that it would not be possible for them to provide a separate compartment for senior citizens in suburban local trains. The Railway affidavit said it would be difficult to provide a separate compartment for senior citizens because most of the people were office-goers travelling from suburbs to town in the morning peak hours and vice versa while returning home in the evening.
Separate compartments have already been provided by the Railways for women and disabled after getting the approval of the Railway Board. There is also a separate luggage compartment for commuters to carry their belongings, the affidavit said. Reserving a separate compartment for senior citizens would necessitate reduction in space for the travelling general public. Earmarking bogies for first class and disabled occupies 31% of the space of each rake. Additionally earmarking compartments for senior citizens will curtail space for second class general passengers, the affidavit said.
Despite increasing coaches in local trains from 9 to 12, the crowd during the peak hours had not come down and still about 400 commuters travel in each coach, the Railways contended.
The railways said that already some space is reserved for senior citizens in the last row of every bogie, while the petitioner contended that it was very difficult for the elderly commuters to board the overcrowded trains. The PIL prayed that the elders should be provided a separate cabin or they may be allowed to travel in disabled compartment of local trains.