The ghettoisation of sleeper coaches: The two Bharats of Indian Railways

“Overcrowding is not allowed in AC coaches, people adjust in sleepers.” This unwritten policy of the Railways means that those who cannot afford an AC ticket will have to travel in the dangerously crowded general and sleeper coaches.
The ghettoisation of sleeper coaches: The two Bharats of Indian Railways

This story is part of a series on the Indian Railways, curated by Maria Teresa Raju, with reportage from the five southern states.

On a regular working day in August 2023, Parvathy Nambiar, an undergraduate student in Kozhikode’s Devagiri College, fainted inside a packed coach of the Parasuram Express train. Parvathy was making her everyday journey from her hometown Koyilandy to her college when the overcrowding on the train caused breathing difficulties for her. Her mother Sheena told TNM, “She fainted on the train and vomited after reaching Kozhikode, that was the last day she travelled on the Parasuram Express.” Ever since, Parvathy has relied on buses to get to college. 

This is not an isolated incident. In the four months between November 2023 and February 2024, reports said that 18 women passengers fainted inside the Parasuram Express under similar circumstances. The Parasuram Express, which has 16 general, three sleepers, and two AC coaches, can accommodate roughly 1,500 persons. But during peak hours, the train carries more than 3,000 passengers, a regular passenger told TNM.

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