Mumbai: After dilly-dallying for five days over a request by the Maharashtra government, the Indian Railways on Tuesday permitted women commuters to travel by suburban trains during certain times from October 21.
Making the announcement on Tuesday evening, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said all women would be allowed to travel in the local trains from Wednesday between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and after 7 p.m. till the last train.
“We were always ready and with the receipt of the letter from the Maharashtra government on Tuesday, we have allowed the travel,” Goyal said in a tweet.
In a major ‘Unlock’ initiative on October 16, the state government on Friday had said it would allow all the women to commute by local trains at certain hours starting from October 17.
However, on Friday evening both the Western Railways’ and Central Railways’ refused to oblige without a green signal from the Railway board, and after working out the necessary modalities to permit women commuters.
In a letter to the General Managers of Western Railways and Central Railways, the Maharashtra government said all women with valid tickets/passes would be permitted to travel during certain hours without requiring the QR codes, besides allowing the existing emergency/essential workers.
Earlier on Tuesday, the state government had sent a reminder letter to the Western Railways-Central Railways resulting in the decision.
After the Western Railways and Central Railways shot down the proposal to allow women commuters, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra had slammed the Centre for not permitting women commuters.
State Congress Spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the Railways’ decision was the “result of pressure from the Maharashtra Congress unit” and “we exposed the strategy of Railways’ to procrastinate”.
“The decision on women’s entry in local trains was taken on October 13, the Maharashtra government had sent the letter on October 16, and Tuesday’s letter was a reminder. We will keep fighting against BJP’s dirty politics,” Sawant said.
The state government has requested the two Railways’ to augment the number of services operating at present, to cater to the increased demand.
Women comprise nearly 40 per cent of the 85 lakh daily commuters and the move would help lakhs of women office-goers in the government and private sector, academics and other sectors, who need to travel by the Mumbai local trains daily.
At present, the women are compelled to spend nearly four to five hours daily only in commuting by roads from distant suburbs, taking a toll on their mental and physical health, besides affecting their responsibilities both at home and at the workplace.
The Central Railways’ and Western Railways’ officials had said it would not be possible to permit women commuters without adequate planning amid the Covid-19 restrictions and the extra crowds anticipated at all suburban stations in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad.
The Railways’ claimed they need to know the estimated number of women passengers to enable them to decide how many additional services would be required for women commuters, including ladies’ special trains, besides security and Covid-19 protocols.
From October 19, there was some relief for commuters with the resumption of the Mumbai metro and Monorail services.