In view of the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease pandemic, railway authorities have put in place strict measures for screening of passengers at Pune railway station. However, citizens using the facility have complained that when it comes to restricting beggars from roaming freely on the platforms and the vicinity, officials have failed to tighten their scanning.
Several passengers have complained to the railway authorities that beggars are seen roaming not only on the platforms but also inside the coaches without masks and nudging passengers for alms, posing danger of transmitting the virus and defeating the whole purpose of the screenings.
Travellers have also alleged that while the authorities are very particular about penalising passengers when they are found to not follow any of the COVID-19-related protocols, the beggars have a free rein even in the presence of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the Government Railway Police (GRP) and face no action.
Commenting on the issue, Sachin Rane, a passenger who boarded the Pune-Amravati train on Wednesday afternoon, said, “I was to travel with my wife and child. When we went to the station, the authorities scanned us and our baggage thoroughly, which we thought is a necessary move during the pandemic. However, as soon as we boarded the train, we spotted a beggar sitting on our berth. When he saw us, he came very close to us and started demanding money.”
“While security personnel were on duty on the platforms, I was shocked to see the beggar inside the train, who did not have any fear of action against him. We somehow managed to ask him to back off and sprayed sanitiser on our berth before sitting,” Rane added.
Following his experience, Rane immediately raised an online complaint with the railway authorities. However, he is not the only passenger to highlight the issue of beggars allegedly moving freely at the railway station and even inside the compartments. SN Rao, another passenger who was to take the Nizamuddin-Goa Express, told Mirror, “This is my first train journey since the pandemic hit us. When I reached the railway station, I was happy to see a lot of security personnel checking and only then letting passengers inside the premises. The platforms were also quite clean. However, my contentment went for a toss when I spotted a beggar begging for money bang in the middle of platform number 1.”
“The beggar did not have any mask or gloves on him. When he approached me, I decided to ignore him. But he came and touched me and started pestering for money. I was quite terrified when he touched me as I do not know if he is infected by the virus or not. What shocked me even more was the fact that security personnel were present on the platform, but no one bothered to take action against him,” Rao added.
Speaking on the matter on condition of anonymity, a passenger who was travelling on the Pune-Darbhanga route, said, “The security personnel were quite strict with passengers, not allowing anybody to halt at the foot-over bridge or even loiter outside the railway station. However, they seemed to be quite lenient towards the beggars, which was quite baffling. Amid the ongoing virus outbreak, authorities should be extra cautious to not allow unnecessary crowd at a busy stretch.”
When Mirror contacted RPF’s Pune divisional security commissioner Uday Singh Pawar for a response on the matter, he said, “We will definitely take serious cognisance of the complaints lodged by the passengers to ensure no trespassers are let loose inside the station premises. I will give instructions to the officials concerned to immediately take action against such people roaming on the platforms needlessly and keep the railway station premises free from beggars.”