INDIA. The Indian Railway’s recent decision to lease train coaches of long-distance trains to private contractors has begun to have a negative impact on the fishing trade in Maharashtra, with contractors refusing to accept the seafood parcels on the trains.
In September last year, the Ministry of Railways decided to lease out coaches to private players “to tap the potential of the tourism sector and to leverage the core strengths of the professionals of the tourism sector in tourism activities like marketing, hospitality, integration of services, expertise in development, identification of tourist circuits, etc.”
According to the policy, coaches may be leased for a minimum of five years and for as long as the coaches are in service. The lease is as per the desired configuration of interested parties.
Besides, the outright purchase of coaches can also be done. Minor refurbishment of coaches is also permitted. The railways will levy haulage charges, nominal stabling charges, and lease charges.
However, this has put the fishing community of Maharashtra involved in exporting seafood parcels to other states by train. In the recent incident, the seafood parcels were offloaded from the Uttarakhand-bound Dehradun Express train (19019 UP) at Palghar station by private parcel bogey operators.
The 19019 UP train originates from Bandra Terminus in Mumbai and is bound for Haridwar Junction (HW) in Uttarakhand. The train halts at Palghar Station, where fishermen from Satpati fishing village load their fish supplies for transporting them to the cities of North India, including Delhi, Meerut, Saharanpur, and Dehradun.
This arrangement has been going on for the last several years. However, now all of a sudden, this chain is broken, putting the fish traders in a fix since the supply is perishable despite being stored in ice boxes that cannot be shunted from one train to another. Also, there are no clear guidelines on how the seafood parcels can be sent to other states.
These fish suppliers belong to Satpati fishing village in Palghar District. The Satpati Machhimar Vividh Karyakari Sahkari Society Limited, a local fishermen’s co-operative society, has written a letter to the Parcel section of Indian Railways to restore the seafood parcel service on these bogeys immediately. They have pointed out that offloading seafood parcels is a discriminatory practice.
Besides, the “Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kriti Samiti (AMKS)” President Devendra Tandel sought the Union Minister of State for Railways’ urgent intervention to resolve this dispute. The Samiti has also demanded that a departmental inquiry be held and punitive action against errant private bogey operators be taken.
The fish supply is categorized as floating fish feed under section 9 A of the IRCA Goods Tariff No. 45 (Part I, Vol I, II) and is not prohibited.
“If seafood parcel service is not restored immediately, a massive agitation will be staged at Palghar Railway Station,” Vinod Patil, Palghar District President of AMKS said. A reply to an email sent to the Western Railway seeking clarification is awaited.