After the spike in COVID-19 cases among railway employees and amid signs of faster virus transmission, South East Central Railway’s Nagpur Division has scrapped Flying Squad constituted for action against ticketless travellers. The decision by division bosses came as a great relief for the ticket checkers who had been battling the scourge of virus, that has struck them quite hard. Apart from scores of positive among the staff, some of the old guard has also succumbed to the virus and hence the task of marshalling trains that are heavily crowded was a task fraught with risk. In midst of the crisis, Commercial Branch bosses had constituted the squad and also given out the programme citing need for conducting surprise checks in view of crowding in the trains. With labourers mass movement to native places from Mumbai region, long distance passenger carrying trains on Mumbai-Howrah route are running jam-packed. The setting up of flying squad gave jitters to ticket checking staff at Nagpur Division as they were already counting the number of infected amongst them. Therefore, the idea of rushing in packed bogies and imposing fines for ticketless travellers made no sense to them at all. Said one of the ticket checkers, the situation was akin to walking into the minefield as the danger was quite apparent. All India OBC Association promptly took up the matter with senior officials and presented their apprehension.
Now, realising the danger, though belatedly, the flying squad programme was cancelled. Besides to minimise the chances of infection and for safety of staff, now Sr. Divisional Commercial Manager (Sr. DCM) V K Kashyap took a compassionate view and ordered manning of trains by division staff on 1+1 basis. Mean, entire train will have one conducted and one ticket checker. Earlier, the division was deploying TCs in 1+2 basis. As of date, ticket checkers from division were manning three passing trains, Mail, Azad Hind and one other special train. But with Azad Hind now withdrawn due to poor patronage, only two trains were required to be manned. And given the huge rush in trains owing to mass emigration by migrants labourers owing to hysteria and closure of work site and high curbs, TCs were sceptical of carrying out routine duties. They said that maximum staff among them are exposed to virus and in city the situation is quite alarming as there is scarcity and beds. Assistant Commercial Manager (Coaching) issued a notice about change in managing of trains on 1+1 basis. Also a circular by ACM mentioned about withdrawal of staff nominated on Flying Squad. Despite division’s order about scrapping flying squad, some of the eager ticket checkers are taking very high risk and moving in jam packed General bogies of Howrah bound trains and hauling up poor labourers for travelling without ticket.