The Unreserved Compartment

This post is about my observations and experiences of traveling in an unreserved compartment on an Indian Railways train. This compartment is popularly known as ‘General compartment’. This is the compartment shared by some sections of the lower middle class, lower class and some ‘waitlisted’ upper class passengers. Conditions in this coach are pathetic and reinforces the inequalities existing in our shining India.

Quality of Service – This is the parameter that is conspicuous by its absence in most of our public sectors today. Subsidizing something for the benefit of the downtrodden or the public at large does not mean that you are doing a favour to these sections of the society. They are entitled to the same quality of service that a passenger paying an appropriate market driven fare enjoys. This is when the goals of subsidy are met. Otherwise, it is no longer a subsidy. It is a pathetic service for a pathetic fare.

In the non AC reserved coaches, 3 passengers sit on each of the seats face to face and 2 passengers on the side seats making a total of 8 passengers. In the same amount of area, 10 passengers are supposed to be accommodated in the unreserved compartment. The reserved coaches also have sleeper berths where as the unreserved coaches do not. So, the only assumptions that Indian Railways seems to be making that I can think about is that people traveling in these compartments are slim, malnourished or ‘petite’ and that they are ‘nocturnal’ (do not need sleep). The cushion thickness of the seats for these compartments is 50% less compared to the reserved coaches. Even, this luxury was provided only during the tenure of Lalu Prasad Yadav as railway minister. (Aur 50% cushion thickness dhoge, tho tumhare baap ka kya jaayega).

Well, this was about the physical conditions of the compartment. Now, coming to the enforcement part of it, I think there is no such thing as enforcement of rules because the ticket collector rarely enters this coach. He never entered during my entire journey of 600 kms and I heard from one of the ‘UR frequent traveler’ that TCs never take the risk of entering UR coach. Another interesting fact is that Indian Railways sells more tickets on these compartments than the capacity of the coaches. Thus, even the 10 versus 8 passenger difference that I spoke about is apparent.  You can just sit anywhere you like. In the compartment that I traveled, people even occupied the floor of the train, not to mention the luggage racks. One of the funniest incident that makes me laugh again and again is a request made by a man in his 50s or 60s as I was sitting comfortably on a side seat. He asked me: ‘Can I travel with just one of my _ss on your seat?’ 🙂 🙂 Well, if you are wondering what my answer was. I humbly told him that I have to travel for 9 hours and it would be difficult for me to share my seat. Well, I like the simplicity of his language though ‘civilized’ people may label it as blunt. As John Nash would have said in ‘A Beautiful Mind‘, “I like to expedite the information flow by being direct”.

Of course, there are moments of fun in these compartments. There is also a lot you can learn. How can the ministers, members of the railway board, secretaries of railway ministry be untouched by all this? This is something I do not understand as of today.  I only pray to God to give me the strength and power to change these things around me.

About guptasudhir

Let us revolutionize education in India !
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5 Responses to The Unreserved Compartment

  1. Shashank S B says:

    Hey Sudhira.. Nice one.. I would like to relate the state of unreserved compartment or the “General compartment” to the state of “General merit” category students in India. what do you think?

    By the way, how are you? long time..


    • guptasudhir says:

      Haha….. well i do not approve of this analogy. At the same time, I do not support the present form in which the positive discrimination/affirmative action/ reservation is applied. But there is no doubt that such an action is required. Im fine. In bangalore for another month. Lets meet sometime. I also want to ‘reconnect’ with Vinay. You are the right person for that.


  2. Siddappa Mullalli says:

    Hi Sudhir, I also went through ( and will go through numerous times in future again..:-D) the same experience many times. It was during 2006 Diwali time, I had to travel by Bangalore-Hubli passenger. It took almost 14hrs to cover 400+ kms. Believe me it was so crowded that I had to stand almost 12hrs in the general coach to finally get a seat where I can just sit ( though not comfortably). It was pathetic experience. People were sitting on the floor, some sleeping below the seats on papers, some sitting in toilets etc. It was horrible to imagine.
    Ours is a nation where high population is the root cause of almost 90% of the problems with governance and society. Of course we will have to find solutions for these problems very positively but the question is how ? Some possible solutions/steps that we need to take are:
    1. Population control – bring strict laws and bring the awareness in public in more aggressive ways, like encouraging people to use condoms and sexual education for adults should be made compulsory. Let society come out old conservative ideologies.
    2. There should be zero scope for corruption – take actions to turn the governance transparent. Like RTI, a strong lokpal would fix this issue.
    3. Constructive Education
    I m damn sure that, there will be many more steps, actions need to be taken.
    I hope people like you and others who have strong will to bring change and having high possibility of getting into administrative services, would definitely make some difference in our society. As an individual, a responsible citizen every one ( including myself ) should be part of the change.



  3. The blog is a like an bitter tasted karela, (bitter gourd) stuffed inside a big rasgulla (the simplicity of the web page with a white background with soothing picture frame at top.), which remains untasted while trying to swallow in…Even being non-invaded by the peptic regulators during digestion. This is not a comment in a bad taste Mr. Gupta …however serves a simple prologue to the bitterness of experience in tasting for long. I actually have been in such compartments for the last three months travelling almost more than 18000 kms. And I do find it to be a constant rape to thousands of souls who don’t find any other means of travel (one such aspect is non-availability of tatkal tickets which vanish by 1 to 2 minutes of opening in the irctc website, while the touts and travel agencies confidently bets on them and charge almost around +1000 bucks more for sleeper coaches berths) and also relevantly to the poor who doesn’t even know the looks of sleeper coaches.
    TTE’s from Bangalore to VSKP (Specially from YPR TTE’s to TPTY met one who demanded a SL berth for 2500 rupees) find hardly any need to go to heaven when they leave the mortal world. Though there are exceptions (Met 2 TTEs from JTJ to KJM and requested for berths. They gave one without hesitation for only 65 Rupees as reservation fare in TPTY-Chamrajanagar and made me buy two cups of coffee and have to drink both of them to get change….as he refused even a cup and asking to give the exact amount in change.) I gave him 70 and said i will take Rs 5 while getting down, as I was very tired and needed a berth immediately. He made me sit and when I finally gave him Rs. 5 he gave back 10 bucks and then allowed me to go to the berth.
    Coming back to the UR compartments filled with cockroaches and foul smell from the toilets, With no Mobile charges and hardly any TTEs ( You were right, you didnt find any of them entering for 600 kms, I am still not finding any till 18000 kms completing. My travel is again for 3000 kms coming July 15th from Katpadi Junction at 2 pm.) Another problem is the from Eunuch community (with due respect to themselves) they board the UR compartments and currently they take (not demand) Rs. 10 per person. I even saw them slapping 3 persons (labourers from Bengal and Orissa) from KJM station boarding YPR-HWH express by one heavily built “Mummy” as the others from the team called her/him. They got down at Bangarpet.

    Being a bit political with respect to the world leaders now fighting for domains and spent large number of years for poor and aam-admi such hopeless hypocrisy is not a shame for them because they know the poor can’t complain. And the considerably well to do persons like you and me write blogs and give reply( or just put another signature in reply).


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