If you are blissfully sleeping while travelling by a long distance train and are suddenly awakened by the smell of burning camphor or incense sticks, would it scare you? Apparently, there have been instances of Sabarimala-bound Ayyappa Swamy devotees performing daily worship inside the train by lighting incense sticks, alarming travelling railway personnel.
This year, the South Central Railway (SCR) has issued a public advisory, urging devotees travelling in these pilgrim special trains to Kerala not to perform ‘aarti’ as part of ‘puja’ by burning camphor and lighting of match sticks/ incense sticks inside the coaches since carrying inflammable materials and lighting fire in any form in trains or other railway premises is strictly prohibited.
“Such acts pose grave threat to safety and may result in fire hazards endangering human lives and railway property too. These activities constitute a punishable offence, for which the offender is liable to be punished with imprisonment up to three years or a fine of ₹1,000 or both, besides being liable for the loss/ injury or damage caused,” said the official communique.
Sabarimala special trains, incidentally, are being run after a year’s gap, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. These special trains being run from Thursday are originating from various stations spread over the zone – Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Kacheguda, Kakinada, Tirupati, Nanded, etc – and will be stopping at several stations en route.
“We have issued the alert to make the train journey safer for all passengers as there were such incidents in previous years. We used to carry close to two lakh passengers in many specials from within SCR zone alone between mid-October and January-end before COVID. Last year, it was zero. Many pilgrims prefer trains because it is economical when compared to other modes of transport and convenient too besides being safe for a 30-hour journey,” said a senior official, wishing to remain anonymous.
About 19 specials have been planned so far this year and these are a mix of AC, sleeper and general compartments with the fares ranging from ₹2,800 to ₹2,000, ₹800 and ₹400 depending upon the preferred mode of the travelling coach. Senior officials also informed that the railway personnel would ensure COVID protocol is ‘strictly’ adhered to, with intensive checks to be taken up by the Railway Protection Force and commercial branch officials.