The Railways is trying to put an end to those tiresome quarrels that break out due to oversleeping passengers in the middle and lower berths by reducing official sleeping hours.
According to a circular issued by the railway board, the passengers in the reserved coaches can only sleep between 10pm and 6am to allow others to sit in the seats for the rest of the time. Until the circular was issued, the existing permissible time for sleeping was between 9pm and 6 am.
“Sleeping accommodation between 2200 hours and 0600 hours and sitting accommodation for the rest of the period is provided for the passengers in the reserved coaches having sleeping accommodation,” said the circular, dated 31 August.
The circular, however, makes an exception for certain passengers. “Passengers are, however, requested to cooperate with the sick, persons with disability, and pregnant ladies in case they want to sleep beyond permissible limits,” it says.
The new provision replaces paragraph 652 in the Indian Railways Commercial Manual, Volume I, which provides for sleeping accommodation between 9pm and 6am. “We had received feedback from officials regarding issues between passengers over sleeping arrangements. We already have a rule in place. However, we wanted to clarify it and ensure it is followed,” said ministry spokesperson Anil Saxena. This provision is applicable to all reserved coaches with sleeping accommodation, he said.
Another railway official said the sleeping time was reduced by an hour because there were times when passengers went to sleep as soon as they boarded the train—day or night—leaving the co-travellers on the upper and middle berths high and dry. Conversely, officials said problems also arise when passengers on the middle berths refuse to get up so that those on the lower berths could sit comfortably. “It is a regular bone of contention among passengers. Once, there was a passenger on the lower berth who slept all through the journey from Kolkata to Delhi, while the man on the upper berth had to remain there and others on the middle berth sat perched in one corner of the lower berth through the trip. “All through the journey, they kept taking digs at the sleeping man and even poking him. This happens all the time on trains,” said Sachin Singh, a businessman, who travels frequently between Delhi and Kolkata for meetings.
Officials said that the problem is acute for side berths. The circular has clarified that a person booked on side upper berth will not have any claim to the seat on the lower berth between 10pm and 6am. Ministry officials said the new directive will help Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) to resolve such disputes on board by preventing anyone from taking catnaps beyond the permissible time.