SMS complaint system: A Northern Railway brainwave spreads

The 24-hour grievance redressal mechanism through Short Messaging Service (SMS) — to be introduced shortly by the Indian Railways in all its 16 zones — was first launched on a trial basis in the Northern Railway (NR) in November 2009.

A member of the Railways Board (traffic), Vivek Sahai, who was instrumental in launching the system in NR, has now asked all the heads of the railway zones to install the mechanism in their respective areas. They have been asked to dedicate some mobile phone numbers for the SMS service and advertise it widely to make people aware of the grievance redressal mechanism.

Chief Public Relation Officer (NR) Anant Swaroop said that after the Northern Railways, the South Central Railway Zone has installed the system. The system has been designed in a way that as soon as the messages reach the dedicated mobile numbers, the officials on duty forward it to the concerned authority for immediate redressal of the problem.

The problem will be redressed within 90 minutes at any cost, said a Railways Board member.

Simultaneously, the official would maintain a record of the complaints for further study so that the system could be refined. It has been planned that the system will be connected to the computers of all the zones.

How the system helped

* On January 8, 2009, a Kolkata-based engineer Amit Bhansali was travelling by Rajdhani Express when he suffered a heart attack near Aligarh. A fellow passenger then immediately sent an SMS on the advertised number and within 20 minutes, the train was stopped at Aligarh. His life was saved by the railway doctor who took him to the nearby railway hospital.

* A fortnight ago, 25-year-old Shubhashree had left her house in Mumbai and boarded a train to Bangalore. From the train, she told her parents that she was going to commit suicide in front of the residence of her lover in Bangalore. Not knowing how to deal with the situation, her parents sent an SMS to the Northern Railway's grievance redressal mechanism. "It was not a case related to any railway grievance. But on humanitarian ground, I took the initiative and passed the message to the Ratnagiri station in-charge. Upon checking on the particular compartment in which she was traveling, the railway officials detained Shubhashree till her parents arrived," said M S Chalia, Chief Commercial Manager (NR).

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