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The mass in the mass rapid transit system.
Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
While residents of east Delhi and neighbouring Ghaziabad happily boarded the Metro on the new line that opened in Anand Vihar on January 7th, 2010, a substantial number of commuters have started complaining of overcrowding in the rail service. “The Metro has become too cramped. It’s now like an air-conditioned Blueline bus,” says Ravi Kumar referring to the city's bus network notorious for its inefficiency. He daily takes the subway to Chawri Bazaar in old Delhi.
As Delhi Metro’s managing director E. Sreedharan announced the opening of at least one line every month till September 2010, the number of users will only increase. Some are wondering if the Metro can introduce exclusive high-priced coaches where the overcrowding could be checked.
“I’m ready to pay more for my comfort,” says Madhu Sethi who commutes from Rajouri Garden to Barakhamba Road. “Everybody who has to go from Dwarka to Noida uses my line and it gets damn suffocating. Besides, some people are so unhygienic. They probably don’t take a shower.”
The most common problem due to overcrowding in the Metro is dizziness. “I feel pukish,” says Ruchi Jha, a radio jockey who commutes from Vishwavidyalaya to Akshardham. The problems multiply if the commuter is a woman. “Men cling on to you,” says Aarti Saxena, a shop assistant who daily travels from New Ashok Nagar to Rajiv Chowk. “My commute has become as much a suffer as it is a safar (Hindi for travel).”
Most people The Delhi Walla talked to do not mind paying extra for travelling in a less crowded compartment. “I want that kind of a coach,” says Adaa, who commutes from Mayur Vihar Phase I to Patel Nagar. “Only decent people would board it then, and hopefully they would be educated enough to realise that they are in an enclosed space and so won’t fart.”
There is no universal agreement. “I do not want first classes,” says Raj Bahadur who sells lemonade outside Barakhamba Road Metro stop. “I cannot pay a high amount.”
In Bombay, the local trains have pricier first class coaches. “They are different from the general coaches,” says Parul Singh, an office-goer in that city. “You have cushioned seats rather than wooden ones, and you don’t have to rub shoulders with fisherwomen.”
Would Delhi Metro introduce such a privilege? “Segregation doesn’t go with Metro services, which have uniform prices the world over,” says Metro spokesperson Anuj Dayal. “Metro is a mass rapid transit system for the masses.”
The first class coaches in Bombat locals don’t make the commute hassle-proof. “In peak hours, compartment in both the classes are equally overcrowded,” admits Ms Singh. “We don’t have to imitate Bombay,” says Dipankar Gupta, sociology professor in Jawaharlal Nehru University. “Every Delhiite who pays for the Metro ticket should get an equally good service.”
Long lines outside the ticket windows
Hurry-hurry people; Anand Vihar metro station
On the platform; waiting for the train
Are Madams comfortable?
This too shall pass