MANGALORE/CHENNAI: It is a pestering problem that Indian Railways is unable to put a lid on despite its best efforts. While sighting of cockroaches or rats in trains is accepted as normal, what regular business travellers who prefer AC coaches must contend with is bedbugs who are on the prowl in the darkness.
Ensconced in the linen and blankets given to passengers travelling on AC two and three-tier coaches, bedbugs become active once lights go off and passengers hit the sack. Cimicidae or bedbugs are small parasitic insects and refers to species that prefer to feed on human blood. Almost invisible to human eye, these bugs, once they have fed on human blood, bloat to the size slightly smaller than the sac of a mosquito in a similar state. The most commonly infested places are the mattress (98.2%).
Enduring these bedbugs on board AC coach A2 of 12686 Mangalore-Chennai Express on Wednesday last, Ramesh Chandran, regional head of a leading cosmetic company, was not bemused.
"I prefer to travel by AC coach as I can reach my destination fresh and get on with my work on arrival there," he said, adding that bedbugs gave him a harrowing time. "One cannot go to work in a fresh frame of mind having spent the night without sleep," he said. Similar was the complaint of H P Mulki and his wife Snehaprabha, who travelled from Chennai to Delhi in AC coach recently. "We had to endure cockroaches, rats and bedbugs and the whole journey was a nightmare," he said.
This is not a phenomenon restricted to Southern Railway alone. Even J L Shenoy, a retired engineer who travelled to Mumbai recently on Konkan Railway, endured these pests. "It is stressful to travel in these conditions," he said.
Acknowledging that early detection and treatment are critical to successful control of pests, V J Accamma, chief public relations officer of Southern Railway, told TOI that they have been getting lots of complaints. "I am from Kottayam and travel often to Chennai and know the problem firsthand," she said and urged the Railways to take action against departmental staff or contractor concerned for shoddy linen maintenance.
James Sebastian, PRO, Palghat division, said primary maintenance of each train is vested with respective railway stations. The case of bedbugs in the AC coaches of trains 12686/65 will be investigated and action will be taken, he added.