Barmulla-Banihal train: A lucrative ride for beggars

SRINAGAR: The Barmulla-Banihal train service has turned another lucrative destination for the beggars who not only enjoy free rides on the train but also engage in the illegal activity freely.
Both local as well as non-local beggars could be seen thronging the train that has emerged as an important mode of transport for commuters on the 130-kilometer stretch from north Kashmir’s Baramulla district to Banihal in Ramban district.
Commuters say that beggars remain present on every station of the total 17 stations and move with ease from one train compartment to another as authorities have failed to take any action against them.
Javaid Ahmad Lone, a fruit merchant from Spore town who often travels to south Kashmir area for business, said that on an average he encounters more than 50 beggars during a trip.
“These beggars are well aware of the train timings and the stoppage times at stations. Every station adds more to their pockets and no one bothers to stop them,” he said.
According to Indian Railway Act, if any person begs in any railway carriage or at a railway station, he is liable for imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees.
In Ramadan, the number of beggars, mostly handicapped, has increased manifold besides many seminaries wooing the commuters for money.
Furqan Ahmad Dar, a resident of Budgam, told Kashmir Reader that some of these beggars seems to be a part of organized begging syndicate that not only facilitate the entry at the stations, but even help them to board the train.
“During rush hours, a normal person cannot board the train, but these beggars manage it with ease,” he said.
“It seems that the rail has turned a new earning spot for the beggars who often are visible at traffic signals, outside hotels and mosques, bus stands as well as tourist spots.
Many passengers say that some non-local beggars pester them by touching their feet thus forcing them to give alms.
However, SSP Railways Zahid Manhas told Kashmir Reader that that they don’t allow any kind of begging at the railway platforms or inside trains. “We have stringent checks and balances in place. Apart from our staff, the Railway Protection Force personnel also guard each bogey and they do not allow this practice,” Manhas said.